IVANA'S HOLIDAY READING RECOMMENDATIONS
Hello dear readers and fellow bloggers. I hope you have had a lovely Christmas celebration (if you celebrated it yesterday that is). If you plan to spend this weekend with a book and aren't sure what book to pick, you have come to the right place for I prepared some holiday reading recommendations for you. Today I'm back with a holiday rereading list that features seven novels and one play. I tried to include something for everyone, there are classics on this list but also thrillers, SF and crime novels. If you don't have the time to read my book reviews, you can just check the titles or come back to this post when you are ready. Scroll down to see more.
THE FORGER, A NOVEL BY EDGAR WALLACE 3/5
PUBLISHED IN 1927
The Forger hasn't aged well in some ways, but it is still an entertaining book to read. In terms of the writing style, The Forger is a classical murder/crime mystery. Not much attention is given to the characters themselves, there is little if any character development so that might be disappointing to a demanding or ambitious modern reader. On the other hand, someone might actually enjoy that as it makes for an easier read and you don't have to think too much about the characters, you can just focus on the story. The characters still do appear alive because the writing itself is pretty good. While there is no in-depth psychological analysis of characters, but there are some clever dialogues that give life to some of the characters, so they are not completely flat. The story starts as a mystery. Someone is forging money and many suspect Peter, a handsome, silent and rich man who has recently married beautiful Jane. Now, Jane finds Peter handsome but knows nothing of him- he didn't make much of an effort in courting her apart from giving her father a rather large sum of money. So, it seems Jane married him out of loyalty to her father. Jane's feelings are somewhat complicated, despite being bored by Peter she also finds him attractive. However, soon Jane realizes that her husband might be a criminal- but somehow she starts to love him more and more. Jane's falling in love with Pater seems to happen with no effort on his part. The sudden love does not make much sense nor is it elaborated on in the course of the story. Maybe it does make some sense on second thought. Jane feels a sense of duty to Peter and this progresses to love. It is certainly not unheard of. Peter is in love with Jane, even if he doesn't know how to show it. However, the love aspect of the story is still a bit weak and I imagine that many a modern reader will find it unconvincing.
Even though some aspects of this book were not very engaging, I have to say that on the overall I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. In particular, I liked the honestly of the writing and its brutal view on mankind as being primarily driven by money. It was refreshing to see such honestly in writing. Moreover, I liked the subtle irony and sarcasm of this novel - at times so subtle that it might go unnoticed. Furthermore, the superintended Bourke of Scotland Yard is a brilliant character and it would be great if we got to learn more about him. I enjoyed Bourke's description of detective work (to be a good detective apparently it is important to believe in the rottenness of mankind). Moreover, Bourke's growing friendship with Jane was interesting and made her actions more credible. Even if her 'sudden' love for her husband didn't seem credible, it was still moving and I enjoyed the fact that the wife was so proactive- not at all your typical damsel in distress. At start of the novel, Jane seems passive but soon she transforms into an active heroine. You could say that Jane and detective Bourke are the ones running the show. Poor Peter seems to be the damsel in distress at times and lovely Jane his knight in a shining armour. In that sense, this novel was perhaps a bit ahead of its time. It's a shame that the characters weren't more developed and that the story was a bit predictable in some ways. Still, The Forger was a fun read. I do recommend it.
HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS, A NOVEL BY AGATHA CHRISTIE 4/5
PUBLISHED IN 1938/1939
SWIFT AS DESIRE, A NOVEL BY LAURA ESQUIVEL 5/5
PUBLISHED IN 2001
“Love is a verb. One demonstrates one's love through one's actions. And a person can only feel loved when someone else shows their love with kisses, hugs, caresses, and gifts. A lover will always promote the physical and emotional well-being of the person he loves.”― Laura Esquivel, Swift as Desire
THE WHITE PLAGUE, A NOVEL BY FRANK HERBERT 4.6/ 5
PUBLISHED IN 1982
MISS JULIE, A PLAY BY AUGUST STRINDBERG 5/5
WRITTEN IN 1888, FIRST PREMIERED IN 1889
I loved the psychoanalysis of the characters in this novel. It was quite convincing and logical. Nevertheless, the characters were more analyzed then developed through the course of the story. Their emotional and mental state of characters is examined, but many of them still don't seem completely real. At times you feel they are more character studies or patient studies then characters in a novel. By that I mean, the characters didn't seem to develop with their actions, relationships and the story. Rather they were examined, we got to see glimpses of their life- but I didn't have the feeling we saw them as whole. They seem more types and sketches, then well rounded individuals. However, the portrayal of women in this novel was still quite impressive. It was certainly interesting to read about them. I loved how the author examines and studies the emotional and psychological states of her female characters. The plot is a bit all over the place. It moved quite slowly in the beginning and then once Jay is introduced, it seemed to move too fast for my liking. Many questions were left hanging in the air. At times the novel feels more like a collection of philosophical short stories featuring the same protagonist then as a novel.
“She was now afraid to yield to passion, and because she could not yield to the larger impulses it became essential also to not yield to the small ones, even if her adversary were in the right. She was living on a plane of war. The bigger resistance to the flow of life became one with the smaller resistance to the will of others, and the smallest issue became equal to the ultimate one. The pleasure of yielding on a level of passion being unknown to her, the pleasure of yielding on other levels became equally impossible. She denied herself all the sources of feminine pleasure: of being invaded, of being conquered. In war, conquest was imperative. No approach from the enemy could be interpreted as anything but a threat. She could not see that the real issue of the war was a defense of her being against the invasion of passion. Her enemy was the lover who might possess her. All her intensity was poured into the small battles; to win in the choice of a restaurant, of a movie, of visitors, in opinions, in analysis of people, to win in all the small rivalries through an evening.”
It is no secret that there are many autobiographical references in this novel. The female protagonist Lilian is based on Anais Nin and her lover Jay on Henry Miller. Other female characters are based on women Nin came in contact with and known. I have to say that Nin seems to be a much better writer than Henry Miller. Her writing is beautiful, soft and philosophical. Perhaps the plot lacks something, perhaps this book seems unfinished but it is miles above some of the Miller's writing- at least from what I've read of him so far. Nin's writing is more intellectual and interesting than Miller's. The only thing they have in common seems to be the same kind of nervous energy, but right now Nin seems like a more promising author to explore. I really want to read more of her!
The simple but poetic narrative flows effortlessly and seeing things from a perspective of a dog makes perfect sense since all the characters in this book have animal helpers. I forgot to wrote, there are quite a few players in this novel and they are all playing a supernatural game that takes place in October and involves a magical portal of some kind. Jack is actually a good guy in this book, a guardian trying to stop the old gods returning to Earth. The humour in this novel is wonderful. I can very well imagine Zelazny chuckling while he wrote it. I can definitely see why this novel was one of his five personal favourites. If you want to read what the others are here is a link to an interview (that I recommend reading IT anyway because it's really interesting and provides a great insight into the writing process of this great writer): https://web.archive.org/web/200802160...
A Night in the Lonesome October is so filled with literary references that I had to do some research and read a few articles to figure most of them out. Some of them were obvious to me (for example the character of Count being count Dracula or Jack being Jack the Ripper) but I need help to figure out others (such as the good doctor being doctor Frankenstein). I was so amused by the literary references and the humour of this book that it came almost a surprise to me that there was a plot- and a good one as well. Towards the end, things get more sinister (and interesting). Oh, I absolutely loved it all: the plot, the characters and the writing. A Night in the Lonesome October reminded me why I'm such a fan of Roger Zelazny's writing. I'm so happy I picked it up.
What it is about? About the everlasting conflict between the past, the present and the future, about human society, parenting and revolutions. On the surface it is a story about an alcoholic writer Victor Banev, a citizen from a totalitarian state ruled by the all powerful Mr. President. Victor Banev returns to his hometown (a depressive and claustrophobic place where it has been raining non stop for a couple of years) on a plea of his ex-wife who wants him to help her with their daughter Irma who has become difficult. After a brief conversation with Irma, Victor sees what the problem is. Irma is an intelligent and brilliant teen, but she acts strangely, not appropriate for her years. Irma thinks logically and without emotion. There is something disturbing about Irma's calmness and Victor will soon find out that all teenagers and kids in town are like that- they enjoy reading and are very smart, but they show no emotion towards their parents. Her mother is confused, Victor agrees to help and plans to write letters to get Irma admitted to a boarding school but he needs to think first. There is a lot going on in Banev's head, revealed in inner monologues and less often- in dialogues with people he somewhat trusts. When dialogues do happen, they seem to flow naturally.
Victor tries to make sense of things but his thoughts are interrupted by a constant flow of events and mysteries, not to mention his own rather extreme drinking habits. There is a leper colony in the town. Very early in the novel, Banev tries to save one of those leper people from an attack of some sort, but he is knocked unconscious in the process and the leper man is kidnapped. He himself seems to be have contradictory feelings towards the leper people (also known as slimies and four eyes because they have yellow circles around their eyes). After this incident, a young boy helps him get up, he turns out to be a friend of his daughter Irma and is also rather symptomatic towards the lepers. He contradicts Victor when he calls them sick, claiming they are more healthy than them. This young boy named Bol-Kunats, Irma's friend, follows Victor home, argues with the doorman who happens to be his father, uses Victor's telephone and then invites the writer to a meeting with the town school's students. This meeting is the best part of the novel for me, but I won't get into it to avoid spoilers. All I'm going to say is that it really made me think- about education, about youth, revolutions eating their children and so on.
Lot of people advise Banev to leave the town, but something makes him stay. He tries to makes sense of things, as a series of strange events linked to slimies unfold. Banev himself remembers the four-eyes people from his youth and childhood, but senses that things are somehow different now. Back then Banev disliked them like most, but still it is obvious he didn't hate them and he doesn't hate them now, neither he approve of them being mistreated. The slimies live in a former leper colony, nobody is allowed in but slimies can go out. It is clear that something doesn't make sense there. What are slimies up to? What are town people up to?
Golum, the head of hospital for slimies, says their disease is genetic and not contagious. Golum clearly likes Victor, but he doesn't tell him much, not at the beginning of the novel at least. The town's adult population is terrified by slimies, considering them to be the cause of all the bad but the kids and teenagers seem to like them. Why? Nobody knows, least of all Victor. Nevertheless, the town's teenagers simply adore slimies, that including Banev's daughter Irma.
Nothing is black and white in this one. A man can be a drunkard but still be a good person. Children may be cruel but still lead us into a better world. Or can they? I feel like this novel raises more answers than it answers, but I loved it. What did I just read about? What did it all mean? Is it a dystopian novel as such or is a metaphor? What did the authors want to say with this one? Was it a social commentary? Was it a philosophical novel? Was it about something more specific? Was it about life in the Soviet times or was it a warning for future time?
Personally, I would have preferred the novel to end where it was originally supposed to end, with the beautiful duckling line but I suppose that the changed ending also makes some kind of sense. I'm not sure how I feel about the ending, but I do know that the novel was a terrific read.