“Happiness is a dandelion wisp floating through the air that I can’t catch. No matter how hard I try, no matter how fast I run, I just can’t reach it. Even when I think I grasp it, I open my hand and it’s empty.”
Oh wow look at me, here is a young adult contemporary coming of age novel that I DIDN'T HATE. Who am I? I guess most of the time when I do pick up YA, I'm disappointed, so I've come to expect the worst. I picked this one up solely for the immigrant story in it, and while the focus wasn't too much on it, I still enjoyed it very much.
It's not a perfect story, not a perfectly structured book by any means. Truthfully I found many things that I did not like, BUT, I found even more things that I did like.
I could do without a very Insta-lovey chapter. It wasn't bad, but hey it still made me roll my eyes.
“One of the things I hate most in life is people telling me to calm down, as if I’m some out-of-control lunatic who isn’t entitled to have feelings.”
Julia, the main character, is a power house (well she is actually a mess, but what a powerful mess).
From the very first page, the narration lured me. I knew that me and Julia will get very much along! Julia is stubborn, willful and doesn't have time for your bullshit. She loves books, she loves learning and she will not settle down for anything!
The book explores a lot of themes, and in a sense it's the downfall of it. It tried to be too many things at once. All of these subplots, while cohesive, could make up a whole other book.
I personally wished that there was a lot more focus on immigration part of the book (the book is advertised as an immigrant experience book, and while there was an aspect of it there, it wasn't quite what I was looking for). I am not your perfect Mexican daughter is a coming of age novel first, and everything else second.
“I love the smell of old bookstores—paper, knowledge, and probably mildew.”
“I watched her die many times. In my way, not in hers. In sunlight, in shadow, by moonlight, by candlelight. In the long afternoons when the house was empty. Only the sun was there to keep us company. We shut him out. And why not? Very soon she was as eager for what's called loving as I was - more lost and drowned afterwards.”
I picked up Wide Sagrasso Sea at a thrift store purely because of the cover. How could I not? It was the most gorgeous and alluring thing I have ever seen. I read the cover and I was intrigued, but skeptical (it is a story of the mad woman in the attic, a presumed prequel to Jane Eyre). I've never heard of Jean Rhys, I feared it might be one of those contemporary fluffy re-tellings of an already known book. I could not have been more wrong.
Turns out Jean Rhys is a well known literary genius and this book, ahh this book is a masterpiece. Fair warning though, if you are a fan of Rocherster's in Jane Eyre, maybe don't read this? Because after, believe me you will not be.
I am trying very hard to separate two books, two so very different pieces of literature. Two sides of a coin I didn't know I needed. But, even if Wide Sagrasso Sea casts an ugly, deep shadow on Jane Eyre's Rochester, I will not trade reading it for anything.
If you're read Jane Eyre already, you know that it reads very much like an autobiography. Characters feel real, the setting even realer and you've left with the feeling that these people really lived, really excited. Wide Sargasso Sea takes that to the next level. If before things felt real, now they are three dimensional.
The writing styles could not be more different, the settings are like day and night. Wide Sargasso Sea is blazing with colors, heat and mad passion, while Jane Eyre is bleak, cold and collected. And yet, and yet Jane and Antoinette (for there was never Bertha, Bertha was a selfish whim of Rochester's) could not be any more similar.
“I have been too unhappy, I thought, it cannot last, being so unhappy, it would kill you”
I am honestly stupefied how a book so short, merely 170 pages could hold so much. The themes it explores, the messages it sends - all the while creating round, tortured characters that feel so very real. At all times I was mesmerized and terrified by this book. At all times, I, as Antoinette herself, felt an unending doom loom over the story.
If there ever was a book to hold discussions over in a book clubs it's this one. The reverse racism, the domestic neglect, alcoholism, prejudices of community and pressure to belong, to fit in. And most of all, the driving force of the story - a woman, so lonely, so forsaken, that she would do anything to be touched, to be loved. For being a classic Wide Sargasso Sea, is so very modern in its regard to women and their sexuality.
“She’ll have no lover, for I don’t want her and she’ll see no other.”
Needles to say that I need more Jean Rhys in my life. Maybe Wide Sagrasso Sea is one time wonder, but I have to know for myself. In her I found something that I've been looking for a very long time. She's sparse with words, but she paints an explicit picture. She holds the details, making the reader's imagination bloom and fill the blanks. She's forward and blunt and I absolutely love that.
I have put away writing this review for months, because I couldn't figure out how I felt about this book. I loved reading it. I did. But I am also not entirely satisfied with legitimacy of it.
It basically comes down to one big problem I had with it - it's written by a very privileged, very white woman, who may or may not have any business writing a non-fiction book about Mumbai.
But people can write books about whatever they want despite who they are or where they are from. Very true. It doesn't always have to be own voices book, it doesn't.
But I kept thinking "what if it was?". What if a person who's actually seen these things, felt these things wrote a book like that? How much more emotional would that have been? How much more real, more truthful and with that terrifying it could have been.
Because I know I should have felt things. The atrocities I've read about in this book should have stirred something in me, but they didn't. I felt like an observer, and not a participant. I was appalled, yes, but I wasn't indignant, or angry. And I sure as hell should have been.
When I was reading the book I couldn't honestly tell that the author wasn't intimately and personally familiar with all of those things. I didn't know that the author was not of color. I didn't know that the author wrote her whole book based on research from the library, because she decided that a trip to Mumbai would affect her weak health too much. All of that came from the author's note. And all of that killed the book a little.
I applaud Katherine Boo for writing a truthful post word and explaining herself. I do. I applaud her writing skills and for making me feel like she knew what she was doing. And I think she did. But, an important story like this deserves more than just a library research. It deserves a stronger voice. A voice that demands justice, not only a voice that tells a story.
To say that I wasn't expecting to love this as much as I did is an understatement! From the very first pages, I knew that this would be the one. The IT book, the perfect summer read, a powerful feministic punch to the face. Yes, yes and yes!
I liked Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows alright, but it lacked something for me, so I was a bit apprehensive going into this. But, I needn't have worried.
The three sisters from the story are as different as it gets: a rebel, a very by-the-book and one that is torn between two worlds. And somehow I was able to relate to all three of them at once.
I say that this is a perfect summer read, because of how easy it reads, how engrossing it is, and because of the hot Indian summer setting, that perfectly correlated with my 100 degrees Florida one. BUT, the topics of this book are far from a fluffy summer read. They are heavy. They are raw and they are so important!
Normally, I don't deal well with the topics this book was exploring. Normally I get stuck up on my own opinions and storm away if the book doesn't share them. But Balli Jaswal made me think. Not change my views completely, no, but open a window of possibilities for other views. And for that this book will be among the ones that have changed me forever.
It's also safe to say that this book has started my thirst for immigrant stories. For own voices stories! I felt a tug when I read Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, but after this one, it is unquenched!
I cannot wait for more from this author!
Well, I just finished my first Alice Hoffman novel.
I dislike when books hype me up and then let me down.
I loved the first half of this book so much that I put a hold on Practical Magic at my library after just a few pages. I found the writing chanting, and like nothing I've ever read before. And then, somewhere towards the middle the spell broke.
The plot stagnated, things got awfully repetitive and the writing, instead of being enchanting became way too flowery. I could not wait to be done with the book! Thankfully things did get better for me in the last half, but by then it was a bit too late for me to re-invest myself into it.
I can't pinpoint the exact moment when I lost interest. I was reading it and enjoying it one moment, and the next - I was not. Books are magic, even if sometimes it's not the good kind.
I also found myself unable to connect to any of the characters deeply, or invest in them emotionally. I only really liked Haylin, and his story arc was the only one to evoke some feelings in me. My least favorite character was Vincent, hands down. Why? He left his dog! He abandoned him at his sisters' and went to live off somewhere in France, frolicking around in fields of flowers! (okay, it sounds really stupid out of contest, but it's kind of what happened). And never once he thought about his dog again. And I just can't like people who abandon their dogs. Sorry, not sorry.
I also found it annoying how certain things were repeated over and over again. For example, the way Franny looked. Almost on every page (not kidding) we are told something either about her red hair, her red boots or her black clothes. Most often we are told about all three at once.
Wait, what color was her hair again??
The main thing that might have killed the book for me was, that most of it was set in New York in the 60s. I'd have known that if I bothered to read the blurb on the cover, but no, I don't do that. And New York in the 60s is a subject I have absolutely no interest in.
I will still read Practical Magic , because I'm curious to see how that one plays out, and honestly hoping that plot will not be too similar. And because it won't be set in the 60s, so I might like it more.