READING UPDATE : PUDDIN'HEAD WILSON, A MOST WANTED MAN AND CALL IT EARTH

 

Hello readers! Today I will share with you what I have been reading lately. It's been a while since my last reading update, hasn't it? I've got three new novel reviews to share: Puddin'Head Wilson by a North American author Mark Twain, A Most Wanted Man by British author John le Carre and Call it Earth by Croatian author Ivan Lutz.  Moreover, I'll thrown in two outfits with the same blue pleated skirt for those of you who aren't really into books (so that we still have something to talk about). 

PUDDIN'HEAD WILSON, A NOVEL BY MARK TWAIN, 4/5

When I first picked up this novel, I almost gave up. I read a few pages and I wasn't really feeling it, so I left it be. However, the next time I picked it up, I couldn't stop reading. I ended up reading the entire novel in a few hours. The novel is named after one of its protagonists. Puddin'head being the nickname of a lawyer who turns into an investigator. There's a funny story behind that nickname, but I will leave you to find it out for yourselves. There is a lot of humour in this little novel, but also a lot of sadness. Honestly, this novel was so much richer and interesting than I expected. I thought it will be another of Twain's clever but essentially not very serious novels. 

However, Pudd'nhead Wilson proved itself much more serious, dark and tragic than anything I'd expect from Twain's writing, but all the better for it. In that sense, the book was a pleasant surprise. I was honestly very saddened and moved by this story. There is a detective element to this novel, but on overall this book seems to revolve around the topic of slavery. Anyway you look at the story, you can see that it revolves around slavery. The detective/lawyer/court drama subplots are important for the story, but the main plot is the switch of identity. The switch of identity is not just a class one, it is also a racial one. 

 In that moment when Roxane (a white skinned slave) decides that it was better to kill her child and herself then to risk the horrible fate of being sold 'down the river' some day, I was reminded of Toni Morrison's Beloved novel. Roxana, however, opts out of that fate and that basically creates the plot of this novel. When Roxana decides to put on some fancy clothes on herself and her baby ( as an act of tenderness before attempting suicide and murder), she realizes that there is another way to save her child. Roxane sees what she needs to do to save her son-   switch him with the master's child (both of them being infants of the same age and colour making it impossible for anyone but her to tell the difference). A cruel act, but Roxy pardons herself by the difficulty of her position and her maternal instincts. From that point on, there are quite a few twists and turns as well as a lot of brilliantly sarcastic social commentary.

Despite being written in recognizable Twain's style and filled with humour, this novel digs much deeper then any other work of Twain's I have read so far. Puddn'head Wilson reveals the true horror of slavery. For all its sarcasm and humour, this is a profoundly serious and sad novel. The plot as such was entertaining if somewhat predictable. Not that there weren't quite a few surprises on the way, but I found it easy to predict the ending. I could see most of the plot unfold in advance. That being said, I still enjoyed the plot. The events seemed logical enough. Indeed, I  enjoyed seeing the story unfold. Some descriptions were a bit too sentimental for my liking, but I could see how they fit the story and Twain's style. What I enjoyed most about this book were two things: the successful character study and the insightful social commentary. Pudd'nhead Wilson was a well portrayed character and I greatly enjoyed his calendar 'writing' that served as a wonderful introduction to every chapter. I think this novel can serve as a warning against slavery. It is probably not up to today's standards in matters of racial discussion, but there is no doubt that it was progressive for its time. I do recommend this book. It is filled with some wonderful social commentary and wisdom. 



A MOST WANTED MAN, A NOVEL BY JOHN LE CARRE,  2/5 
I know, I was surprised too. Having read and enjoyed le Carre's writing in the past, I had high hopes for this one. Sadly, I didn't enjoy this book at all. I could not bring myself to feel for the characters, no matter how much I tried. The book was full of stereotypes and the plot was (for most part) completely predictable. A Most Wanted Man felt like an uninspired rewrite of his other works, just set in a different setting. 

The characters didn't seem to make any sense. The novels opens with a young Turkish boxing champion who lives in Hamburg with his widowed mother and hopes to get German citizenship. He starts to be followed by an extremely skinny and tall young man Issa who eventually ends up at his doorstep begging for help. His widowed mother decided to take this young beggar in. This young man is revealed to be a Chechen escaped convict Issa but many things about him do not make sense. His real name isn't Issa, at least that is not the name written on his documents. It appears his father was a Russian military man who left him a fortune in an English bank. Issa detests his late father, but wants to make contact with the bank so that he could donate the money. However, many things about Issa and his father do not make sense. There are many questions raised, but unfortunately, the novel didn't see it necessarily to answer them. Issa may or may have not been tortured on multiple occasions in the past, may have or may have not committed some crimes- even his religious beliefs aren't completely clear. Issa's monologues never really make complete sense, there is this feeling that he has completely lost his mind. The young Turkish man and his mother soon disappear from the picture- just when one learns something about them. Next a young female German lawyer who wants to protect  Issa steps on the scene and a middle aged English bank owner who is sympathetic with her cause. What happens from there is a story of espionage, albeit not a very interesting one.

Was there anything I liked about this novel? Well, the ending was refreshingly (or better to say appropriately) depressive and it seemed to make sense. The tragic ending is probably the only thing I liked about this book because it felt real. I do feel for the message of this book- if it is meant to be a warning against our Western governments that rob us of human rights and privacy under the pretense of fight against terrorism. I'll add one star for that and for (what I felt to be) a realistic ending. Apart from that, there is really nothing to remember this book for. Honestly, I was quite disappointed with this novel. 



CALL IT EARTH, A NOVEL BY IVAN LUTZ 4/5
This is a novel by a Croatian author but I read it in English because this book is only available in English  on kindle. Call it Earth is an easy and fun read. I gave it four stars because I enjoy it, but it is not exactly what one would call 'literature'. Some science fiction works can be quite profound- this isn't one of them but it is a fun read. At about 200 pages, it's quite short. I think it could have been even a bit shorter without losing anything. This novel tells a story of a generation ship. Featuring an Irish man Brenna as a protagonist, the story follows the fate of people on board this generation ship. The novel starts with the launch of the ship and the destruction of planet Earth and then it moves into a more distant future. Therefore, the society found on the ship is quite different from the one that existed on Earth.

I found it interesting how the ship was divided into castes, with one caste (the North Wing- the scientist caste) being almost inhuman and covered in mystery. Brenna himself belongs to the soldier (army) caste known as the Members of the Order. Their job is to protect the ship and keep order, often using as much force as they deem necessary. It seems that when Member of the Order act violently, this is tolerated by everyone and perhaps even expected. At times, I felt like all this talk of violence was a bit overdone and too similar to bad Hollywood action films. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to read about the life on the ship and Callan Brenna's life in particular. It seems credible that a society living in a ship for many generations would be shaped by its environment and undergo many social and psychological changes. As the story progresses, we get to learn how the population of this generation ship functions. In that sense, the world building is done in an intrusive and natural way. Yes, there were a few needless digressions along the way, like the journey into the history of captains that didn't add much to the picture or a few introductions into stereotypical characters that didn't serve the story anyway. Nevertheless, on the whole, the world building was well done. Moreover, I found the concept of duty and honour to be well developed and nicely tied up at the end even if some things about the ending didn't make sense.

For me personally the biggest weakness of this novel is the protagonist himself. It is not often that I dislike the protagonist and end up liking the novel anyway. I found Brenna to be endlessly irritating at times. Most of the time, Brenna is sexist, annoying and full of clichés. I don't mind a flawed hero but for most part Brenna seems like he enjoys being a jerk a little too much. There's a difference between being a flawed hero and being a d***. Moreover, I just didn't find Brenna credible. He's an alcoholic and pill abuser, but somehow he manages to connect all the pieces when nobody else does. His photographic memory was a fun twist for both the plot and his character, but not everything about that made sense either. I kind of still liked Brenna's moment of 'awakening' and fighting back at Igor, even if some of the things didn't make sense, that was a fun scene to read.

The story is really quite good but characterization just isn't. Brenna isn't the only problem, the side characters were often poorly developed as well and often either stereotypical or undeveloped. The captain somehow made sense and some of the characters from the North Wing, but all the others felt like extras which is a shame because there was potential there. For example, I expected that something would happen when religious figures like the depressed Christian priestess Anna or the sporty iman were introduced but in the end they proved to be completely obsolete characters. I don't see the point of bringing in these characters if you're not going to do anything with them or fit them somehow in the story. Yes, they get to play a role but they do it badly and it makes no sense. Most minor characters could have been left out and nothing would be lost. It feels like the author was going through the motions when he wrote them. There was potential for some other female characters to provide a valuable insight into functioning of the ship, if not anything else, but for most part the female characters seem to be too badly written to make any sense. That's the shame because except for some irksome details, the writing is really very good.

The most interesting characters for me were (strangely enough) the inhuman scientists everyone seemed to hate. I loved the sinister atmosphere created around them and how we got to see more of their world and purpose with time. There was also this brilliant (if a bit sentimental) scene of an elderly couple who is allowed to make one last call to their son Igor (a day before one of them dies) but his parents are unable to communicate with Igor because he is completely emotionally detached from everything at that point. Those two characters only appear once and shortly but were better portrayed that many other minor character that reappeared without a proper reason.

To conclude, this story is well written but don't expect too much character development, insight or complexity. Call it Earth is more a space opera then a serious SF novel, even if there are some interesting concepts in it with a lot of potential. If you don't mind a few annoying clichés and stereotypical moves on part of the writer, you might enjoy it a lot. I think that four starts is a fair mark for this novel but that is taking into consideration that it not an overly ambitious novel, mind you. Not every science fiction novel has to be very serious or philosophical. Personally, I found a lot of things that annoyed me, but they were mostly details. On overall, Call it Earth a very readable and quite enjoyable science fiction novel.

OUTFIT #1: PLEATED BLUE SKIRT, SILK BLOUSE, BEIGE COAT, BLACK BOOTS AND BAG




OUTFIT #2 PLEATED BLUE SKIRT WORN WITH A TARTAN JACKET AND BOOTS



Is there anything more beautiful than almond and cherry tree blossoms? Best to enjoy them while they last. What have you been up to? Have you been reading anything interesting? Write in the comments.

 
Thank you for reading and visiting. Take care!

Comments

  1. I like Marc twain. I remember reading him way back, in school.
    I am excited to do some reading this month. A friend of mine is letting me borrow a few books.

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  2. I Haven't Thought About Puddin' In Years!! Way Cool!! Sending Vibes My Blooming Friend

    Cheers

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  3. He leído a MARK TWAIN, y a John Le carre pero no conocía libros. Parecen muy interesantes . Los tendré en cuenta ene especial el ultimo. Te mando un beso y estas muy linda con ese conjunto.

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  4. A Most Wanted Man wasn't one of my favourite Le Carre books - I'm a huge fan of his writing. The film however, with Philip Seymour Hoffmann is well worth a watch. x

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  5. Hello dear Ivana, I hope you're enjoying your Friday!

    Thanks one more time for another creative post related to art and to literature. I've read both John Le Carre and Mark Twain but not these specific novels. I remember I liked their books but that was many years ago so maybe these recommendations are a good way to take them back :)

    I think I could borrow these two options from the library, but maybe not these editions and that's sad because the art in the covers is really good!

    Oooh and hope you enjoyed the blooming trees, this is my favorite season to enjoy spring *_*

    Enjoy the weekend, friend!
    Pablo
    Hey Fungi

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I enjoyed the blooming trees and I'm still enjoying them. :)I hope you find some editions you will like.

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  6. Sempre interessanti i tuoi recap sulla lettura e quelle foto con gli alberi in fiore sono meravigliose!
    Kisses, Paola.

    Expressyourself


    My Instagram

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  7. Wow, two authors I rarely hear about. Although, Huck Finn has always been a favorite. Even the fan fiction from it, I have enjoyed (but that's another story) Twain seemed to be a heard of his time, a time or two..at least. Great reviews! Love the blue skirt!

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    1. Thanks. I didn't know there was Mark Twain fan fiction but I guess that's not too surprising because he is a popular author.

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  8. Wow, so many books. The name Puddin-Head makes me think of something my brother would say. He named our cat that (this became a long battle between us because I didn't like that name at all). Love the photos of you with the blooms. Very inspiring! Thanks for the wonderful reviews too!

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    1. :) I can understand why you didn't like that name for your cat.

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  9. Gorgeous photos. My great grandmother was a fan of Twain and Le Carre :-D

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  10. In spite of having read quite a bit of Mark Twain - my Dad was a fan so I was surrounded by his books from an early age - I don't think I ever read Puddin'Head Wilson. Nor did I read this particular John Le Carré, but judging from your review and Vix's confirmation, I now know to avoid it if I come across it in a charity shop! xxx P.S. How gorgeous are those blossoms!

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    1. Thank you. I have a lot of Mark Twain books at home because husband is a fan, but not this one. Before picking it up in the library, I haven't heard of it either.

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  11. You wear that skirt well! None of these sound like the kinds of books I'd enjoy - although it's a shame you didn't like all of them! I hadn't heard of that Mark twain book before, so thank you for sharing, although with it being so tragic I don't think I'd read it myself.

    Hope you're having a good weekend :)

    Away From The Blue

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  12. Dear both of the books are seems to be very interesting- I never read any of them.

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  13. Kada sam vidjela naslovnicu sjetila sam se da sam čitala knjigu Najtraženiji čovjek, prije možda 10 godina, ali u potpunosti sam zaboravila o čemu se radi. Jako mi se sviđa tvoj outfit i ove fotografije pored procvalog drveća su predivne.

    New Post - https://www.exclusivebeautydiary.com/2021/04/viktor-rolf-bonbon-vs-hugo-boss-scent.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Možda si je zaboravila jer knjiga i nije bila toliko zanimljiva, barem ne meni. :)

      Delete
  14. Mark Twain is a very good writer. Good choice!

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  15. Both books sound interesting. I wanted to start reading more novels this year.

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  16. I was curious about Call it Earth, as I am doing a "read the world" challenge, making me look for authors I haven't heard about. But, unfortunately, this is not a book for me, the plot is not something I would care about and the main character seems a bit off too.
    Love the pictures though. xx

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    Replies
    1. If you're looking for a contemporary Croatian author, you cannot go wrong with Miro Gavran. He is the most translated Croatian author.

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  17. I have not read any of these books, but "Call It Earth" sounds somewhat up my alley. I enjoy your reviews, Ivana, thank you! And that blue skirt is wonderful!

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  18. It's always a pleasant surprise when you make another attempt to read a book you couldn't previously get into and the story just reels you in. It's a shame that A Most Wanted Man was a disappointment. I'm a fan of John Le Carre as well and it sounds like this book was a half hearted effort.

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    1. Yes, that's exactly how I would describe it.

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All your comments mean a lot to me, even the criticism. Naravno da mi puno znači što ste uzeli vrijeme da nešto napišete, pa makar to bila i kritika. Per me le vostre parole sono sempre preziose anche quando si tratta di critiche.

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