Saturday, February 7, 2015

Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas

by Patrick Modiano

Suspended Sentences is a collection of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano’s three novellas: Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin, all translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti. Afterimage is about a young man who follows a photographer around Paris and catalogs his photographs; Suspended Sentences tells the story of a young boy and his brother and the people they were entrusted to after their parents left to work for the circus, and; Flowers of Ruin is also the story of a boy who remembers a part of his childhood, his father, and a murder mystery that transpired at the time.



Of the three novellas, I liked Afterimage and Suspended Sentences; the last one was a chore to read.

*

All three novellas explored very hazy plots and vague characters. It appears to be a common theme in the three stories. At first, the nebulousness of the characters was intriguing, but by the third story, I felt like I was at the end of my wits.

The book started out strong with Afterimage, which I would consider as my favorite novella from the lot. Francis Jansen, a photographer, takes a photo of the unnamed narrator and his girlfriend, Colette, whom he approaches in a cafĂ© somewhere in Paris. They strike up a conversation, ending up with the narrator taking up the job of cataloging Jansen’s photographs, which were in a heap in his apartment. Thereafter, certain coincidences – as the narrator himself calls them – come to the fore: Jansen became involved with a woman named Colette, our narrator’s girlfriend’s namesake, and later, he realizes that his name is Francis Jansen.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Reading List 2015: February

... And I thought January would never end! Is it just me, or January really does feel like the longest month of the year? It's the month that stretches out to forever, and now that it's finally February, I can heave that little sigh of relief.

Yes, February! A brand-new reading list for this month!


A recap of January's reading list is in order, however, so here we go:

  • Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano - Three novellas from the 2014 Nobel laureate for literature. 4/5
  • Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool - The book club's book of the month. Very heartwarming story, indeed. 5/5

And now, for my February books:

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

by Richard Flanagan

Perhaps I should disclose at the outset that over the years that I’ve been reading, I’ve developed this little inner button that goes on whenever I’m about to read an award-winner. It makes me predisposed to like a book because it wouldn’t have received accolades if it were no good, yes?

That’s what happened when I got myself a copy of the 2014 Man Booker prize winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. That little button blinked like mad, and with good reason – Flanagan (and all the other shortlisted titles) trumped my bet for the Booker, David Mitchell’s latest novel, The Bone Clocks. So I knew, at the back of my mind, that I would be in for a real treat. Should be.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North did not disappoint.


The book is both a war memorial and a love story, but I’m inclined to say that it’s more of the former. As Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans, now a famed war veteran, writes the foreword for a book about the atrocities that transpired at what is now known as the Death Railway (also, "Burma Railway," "Burma-Siam Railway," "Thailand-Burma Railway") during the Second World War, he recalls his own painful experiences as the commanding officer of a battalion of Australian prisoners of war (POWs) who labored in “the Line” under the Japanese Imperial command. His memories narrate for us the struggles they endured in the Siam-Burmese jungle where the railroad was to be constructed, how his men succumbed to various diseases that ate at their bodies and minds, and how the Japanese officers accepted no excuses that would exempt dying men from labor, among many others.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Speak

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is one of my “dare books”* at the book club in January of last year – it was one of my good friend’s worst least favorite books for the year and I (un)fortunately drew it as one of the books I was supposed to finish reading within the year. But even before I got dared to read it, I already have a copy of the book, having bought it for a discounted price at a local bookstore some months before. For whatever reason, though, I couldn’t muster the inspiration to read it. Until the dare happened.


Before she could even begin her freshman year in high school, Melinda Sordino had already ostracized herself: she busted an end-of-summer party to which she and her best friend were invited by calling in the cops. As a result, people shot her dagger looks wherever she passed them in the halls, and she doesn’t parry them; instead, she maintains her silence. She ignores the negative talk and withdraws deep inside herself, where she keeps secret something that she could never, ever have the courage to disclose to anyone – the reason why she called the police on that fateful summer party.

*

When I first asked some friends about Speak, they mentioned that it was a highly spoilery book. If you didn’t know it yet, I hate spoilers. They diminish my reading pleasure because I already know, in the back of my mind, the reason behind things, the moving force behind the characters’ actions (or omissions). Years would pass before I would read the book, though, and sometime during the interim, I discovered – inadvertently – the major, major spoiler about Speak. In hindsight, perhaps that was why I put off reading it for the longest time. (Also, someone told me it was adapted into a movie [?] and the lead character was portrayed by Kristen Stewart. Haha.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Navigating Early

by Clare Vanderpool

Navigating Early is such a warm and touching story, it’s impossible for it not to stay with you for a long time after you’ve read it. It’s mainly about friendship, but it’s also about love, family, loss, and acceptance. Set in post-World War II United States, it illustrates how in life, there are no coincidences – “just miracles by the boatloads.” Navigating Early is the first book I’ve read for the new year, and nothing could be more perfect to start off the reading year than a wonderful book such as this.


Jack Baker is a lost boy: his mother has just died, and his father, a naval officer who came home from his tour of duty to bury her and put the family's affairs to order, has decided to uproot his only son from their flat little world in Kansas and put him in an exclusive boarding school in coastal Maine. To say that Jack is a displaced, floundering boy would be an understatement. He’s the newcomer in school, his father is a thousand miles away, and only the fading memory of his mother gave him strength to go on.

And then he meets Early Auden, that strangest of boys who keeps to himself all the time, who reads numbers like a story and insists that the number pi never ends, and who listens only to Billie Holiday when it rains. They inadvertently form a bond that takes them on a journey on the Great Appalachian Trail to find Pi, who went missing, and the Great Bear. In the process, they find and discover many other things that will teach them the greatest lessons in their lives – they find themselves, among others.

*

I related very well to what Jack was going through, with the loss of his mother at an early age. Losing a parent is one of the most heartbreaking things a teenager could possibly go through. His father, a soldier, was a stranger to him; he was distant and seemingly unfeeling towards his only son. So I sympathized with Jack and his plight, his displacement, and how he attempted to cope.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reading List 2015: January


... Because I love picking books to read for the month! :)



But before my reading list for the first month of 2015, here's a recap of my December reading:

  • Twelfth Night: or, What You Will by William Shakespeare - My very first Shakespeare play. Not too bloody. Heh. 4/5
  • Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman - Volume 6 of the Sandman series. Just as awesome as the previous ones. 5/5
  • Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman - Supposedly a retelling but I didn't find anything really new. 4/5
  • The Sleeper and The Spindle by Neil Gaiman - The retelling of the year. 5/5

I know, I did promise to read the entire Sandman series before the year is over, but at some point while reading Brief Lives, the seventh installment, I felt that I needed to cleanse my palate. I will still read the rest of the series this year, and this time, it will serve as the ice-breaker when I've had too much literary stuff between my ears.

Now, for my January reading list:

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