Saturday, 30 June 2012

Gender and Power in 'Tis a Pity She's A Whore'

For my A-level English we studied love in English literature and one of the texts we looked at was the John Ford play 'Tis A Pity She's A Whore'. As the title might suggest it is quite an offensive play, but also very interesting. I might have to warn the reader unfamiliar with this work: it deals with an incestuous love and ends in death.
Giovanni has returned from studies and finds himself passionately in love with his sister, Annabella. Although Friar Bonaventura tells him it is wrong, Giovanni convinces Annabella the church condones their love and she requites his love. They sleep together and Annabella finds out she is pregnant. She is forced to decide to marry one of her many suitors, Soranzo, since she cannot be with her brother. Soranzo finds out she is pregnant and locks her up. When her nurse reveals to Soranzo's friend it was Giovanni who impregnated Annabella, Soranzo and his friend plan their revenge. Although Annabella warns Giovanni of the danger, by writing a letter in her own blood, he accepts a dinner invitation. Before the dinner, he kills Annabella and enters the dinner with her hearts skewered onto his dagger. In true tragedy fashion, everyone except one dies at the end. The last line of the play says of Annabella 'who could not say, 'Tis pity she's a whore?'
Well, I think everyone can imagine how awkward it was to read parts of this play during the lesson. Critics have usually been very harsh in their comments on this play, not only because it deals with an incestuous love, but also because there seems to be no condemnation of Giovanni and his actions. According to critic Mark Stavig:  "Instead of stressing the villainy, Ford portrays Giovanni as a talented, virtuous, and noble man who is overcome by a tumultuous passion that brings about his destruction." Giovanni is the one who courts Annabella, who tells her the church agrees when it does not, who eventually murders her. Yet it seems that Ford believes that a man can do nothing against passion and that what he does when in love is not his fault. Annabella however is clearly judged in the play. 

Ford dedicates his final line to her being blamed for everything. There seems to be a tradition in the literature of love that presents women as both powerful and weak at the same time. Sexual and passionate women are presented as dangerous to men and society. What men do under passion is therefore not their fault, but the fault of those women they are passionate for. Had Annabella not been so beautiful, Giovanni would never have loved her and therefore everything is her fault. This places women in an impossible position in literature. On the other hand, to modern audiences, it is clear that Annabella has no control or power whatsoever. 

In the second scene, where Giovanni and Annabella confess their love, it is very clear that Giovanni has the upper hand. Giovanni takes her by the hand and talks of their love, still fraternal, yet quickly changes into a passionate love declaration. He says her 'lips would tempt a saint', again implying that women have the power to corrupt men. He then offers her his dagger, so she cans tab him if she will not love him. Not only is this dramatic irony because he stabs her eventually, but it also shows, surprisingly, the lack of power that Annabella has. Never could she, a woman, stab her brother, a man. Not only because she loves him, both as a brother and a man, but also because all her life she has been taught to be obedient to men. She doesn't even reach for the dagger, but only asks him more questions, as if she needs him to tell her what she is supposed to say. There seems to be some kind of resistance from Annabella when she says: 'You are my brother Giovanni.' She seems to realize that it is wrong, yet when he lies to her saying that the church approves, she completely caves in. 

Society has trained Annabella to accept authority. Here we have her brother, clearly an authority figure since he is male, but he enforces his argument by bringing in the Church, even though he lies about it. The Church is another source of authority for Annabella. 'Tis a Pity' is very much a reflection of its time. Another play from the early 1600s, 'The Duchess of Malfi' shows the same kind of power struggle between a sister against her brothers supported by the Church. The widowed Duchess marries a man she loves, yet her brother is obsessed with her and together with the Cardinal, he plots her death. The Duchess herself has no control over her own destiny and is punished for following her love, whereas the men aren't. 

What do you think? Do you think that in a modern play Giovanni would be the one who is condemned or would blame still fall on Annabella?

Friday, 29 June 2012

'Get 'Em Out by Friday'

Gain New Blog Followers

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: Birthday Wishes -- Blow out the candles and imagine what character could pop out of your cake...who is it and what book are they from?

This one is difficult. If someone jumps out of your cake, does that means he is a present and that I can keep him? Because that would change my answer completely. If however, it was someone I could have a chat with, I would have to choose someone else. But I will just get on with it. 

I guess I wouldn't mind Faramir from the Lord of the Rings jumping out of my cake. I had to think about this one long and hard, but I have my reasons. First of all, how funny would it be if he jumped out of a cake in full armour? Secondly, he seems to be genuinely nice and kind and he loved knight tales as a kid. Thirdly, his character makes me cry, both in the books and in the movies, and I would just rush in to give him a massive hug. Finally, he's not that bad looking ;)

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 by Freda's Voice.

This week I chose 'The Glass Palace' by Amitav Ghosh. I picked this book up in a secondhand store recently because I am going on a holiday on Tuesday and desperately need something to read on the beach. I saw the cover and thought it looked amazing.

'There was only one person in the food-stall who knew exactly what the sound was that was rolling in across the plain, along the silver curve of the Irrawaddy, to the western wall of Mandalay's fort.'
The setting is set, suspense is created and I love it. I'm always interested in novels set in the South-Eastern Asia and span generations. So much has happened in that region in the last 100 years and its culture is fascinating.

'For a while Mandalay became a city of ghosts.'
I realize this is a really short F56, but I thought it was amazing. I think this is a great way to show that a city is gripped by something. It is a brilliant metaphor that all readers understand.

So, how about you? Who do you want in your birthday cake? (Why does this sound wrong?)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Booking Through Thursday

btt buttonThis week's Booking Through Thursday's question is:

Who taught you to read?

This is actually a pretty difficult question. My first reading memories are my father reading me stories. When I was 2, he started reading me 'Brief aan de Koning' for the first time, which is a book meant for teenagers. Of course he cut out everything he thought was too scary, which means that everytime we read it again I rediscovered the story. So I never really just had picture books or typical toddler books but immediately got into the good stuff. ;)

But I think that, as with most people, there was a definite drive within me to read. We moved to the Netherlands when I was 4 and I went straight to primary school. Teachers and my parents never stopped telling me that on the first day I immediately went over to a book lying on the floor, picked it up and started reading.

So, how about you? Who taught you how to read?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Waiting for Wednesday: The Racketeer

The RacketeerI am really bad at this meme because I never keep up with release dates and usually buy books when I find them in a secondhand bookstore. But, surprise surprise, I have an answer for today! Waiting for Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine!

Title: The Racketeer
Author: J
  • ohn Grisham
    Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
    Release Date: 23. October 2012

  • Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered.
  • Judge Raymond Fogletree just became number five.
  • His body was found in the basement of a lakeside cabin he had built himself and frequently used on weekends.  When he did not show up for a trial on Monday morning, his law clerks panicked, called the FBI, and in due course the agents found the crime scene. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies—Judge Fogletree and his young secretary.
  • I did not know Judge Fogletree, but I know who killed him, and why.
  • I am a lawyer, and I am in prison.
  • It’s a long story.

  • John Grisham
  • I really like the synopsis of the book. It is a crime novel, with a bit of thriller element. I quite like court dramas, so I think I should enjoy this one. Also, I really like John Grisham's writing style and most of the times when I see his books in a store I'll buy one. I am slightly pissed off though because while browsing through his list of books and he has a book called 'A Painted House'. I have a story idea that involves a painted house so I rushed to find a synopsis and thankfully it's completely different from my idea, but still. On a side note, Grisham looks a bit like an old James Bond, don't you think?  

  • So, what are you waiting for this week?
  • Tuesday, 26 June 2012

    Review: 'St. Mawr' by D.H. Lawrence

    I really enjoy the way that Lawrence writes and after having read 'The Rainbow' and 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', I decided to start this shorter story.

     St. Mawr is the story of a splendid stallion in whose vitality the heroine finds the quality that is lacking in the men she knows. It is also the first of Lawrence's writing to be partially set in America, on a ranch in Arizona. 

    I did really enjoy this story, even though at times I felt it was simply a very long extended metaphore. The protagonist, Lou Witt, is a young woman who starts to feel trapped by society and  by the lack of vitality in men. When she sees the horse St. Mawr this is highlighted for her and she becomes more and more frustrated, especially with her own husband. I do recognize myself in this message, although I would extend it to all of society, not just men. There seems to be at times a lack of vitality and enjoyment and too big of a focus on acting a role for society.

    I loved the symbolism of the horse and nature. The stallion represents so many different things, not only to Lou but also to the reader. He is free, wild and cannot be tamed. He doesn't adapt to his master's rules or expectations. He presents masculinity and vitality. These are the qualities that Lou is desperately looking for in other humans and even in herself. That is also why she is attracted to the stable boy who looks after the horse. He has the same lively mystery as the horse, yet he is hostile towards Lou and everyone else who represents society. This going against the norm entrances Lou. The struggle within herself and within society is a main theme in the novel and all of it is linked back to the horse. 

    I also really enjoyed the banter between Lou and her mother, Mrs. White. The latter is very much the more assertive of the two and much more independent. She likes society, yet she is not as connected to it as her daughter is through her husband, who is, by the way, a very amusing but utterly ridiculous and weak character. Mrs. White is not married and she is the one who recognizes what Lou really wants. The final part of the story takes place in Mexico, which I found quite extraordinary. I don't know many early 20th century novels that are set in South-America. Lou's life there is a struggle, yet she finds it a true struggle, one against nature, not against society. 

    I truly enjoy the way that Lawrence writes. He is very descriptive and when I read his writing I feel that he enjoys capturing life. And I think it is amazing how many strong female characters he has. This is all due to the fact that his mother had more education that his father, which must have elevated her in his eyes. He uses a lot of words and sometimes he takes a very long time to write something very simple, but it is beautiful.

    I give this story...

    3 UNIVERSES!!!

    I think it would be unfair to give this story anything higher because it is a short story. But I truly enjoyed it. The characters were interesting and complex and the imagery of the horse was complex enough to last for the entire story.

    Teaser Tuesday: The Turn of the Screw

     For Teaser Tuesday, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading, I chose 'The Turn in the Screw' by Henry James. 
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
    I reviewed Henry James' 'What Maisie Knew' yesterday and decided to get started on another one of his books: 'The Turn of the Screw'. I have refused to look up any kind of synopsis or summary because I want to be completely open and surprised. Here is a teaser:
    • 'At that moment, in the state of my nerves, I absolutely believed she lied; and if I once more closed my eyes it was before the dazzle of the three or four possible ways in which I might take this up.'

      Ooh, I want to know who 'she' is and why she would want to lie. And I usually have trouble finding one way to deal with something, so I would not complain if I found myself with four!
    • 'Instead of succumbing I sprang again to my feet, looked at her bed, and took a helpless middle way.'

      I am assuming the 'she' from the teaser above is still involved. I am also assuming she just offered out protagonist some entertainment involving her bed. Also, looking at the first teaser, why would she first lie and then offer herself to him. I can almost understand why he is taking the middle way.
    So, I am actually really looking forward to this book. I think it looks pretty entertaining from the teasers! Also, the cover makes it look a bit like a ghost story. So, what are you teasing us with today? Leave a link so I can come and visit!

    Monday, 25 June 2012

    It's Monday, what are you reading?

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at BookJourney!

    What I did this/last week:

    What I plan on reading this week:

    'Le Morte d'Arthur; by Sir Thomas Malory

    Le Morte d'Arthur is a compilation by Sir Thomas Malory of Romance tales about the legendary King ArthurGuinevereLancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table

    I'm really excited for this one because I love all of the tales surrounding King Arthur and his court. They are some of the best knights tales I know and the transition from Anglo-Saxon culture to Christianity is represented really well. Also, it is written in a very historic way, which means there is a lot of 'and then'. So it's going to be a challenge as well!

    'Midnight's Children' by Salman Rushdie

    Saleem Sinai was born at midnight, the midnight of India's independence, and found himself mysteriously 'handcuffed to history' by the coincidence. He is one of 1,001 children born at the midnight hour, each of them endowed with an extraordinary talent - and whose privilege and curse it is to be both master and victims of their times. Through Saleem's gifts - inner ear and wildly sensitive sense of smell - we are drawn into a fascinating family saga set against the vast, colourful background of the India of the 20th century.
    I started reading this one almost 2 years ago, but somehow I lost track of it. So now I am going to start it again and I am actually really looking forward to it. I love Indian history and what I remember from it, I really enjoyed its writing style and narrative!

    Shakespeare:'Macbeth', 'Hamlet', 'A Midsnummer Night's Dream' and 'King Lear' 

    I want to reread all of Shakespeare's classics, not just those above! I won't read all of these next weel obviously, but I want to get started this week! I just chose those above because I really like the covers! Shakespeare is an amazing playwright and his characters are so diverse and interesting that I will have a great summer!

    So, how about you? What are you reading??

    Review: 'What Maisie Knew' by Henry James

     I borrowed this book from a friend because I had read about its interesting narrative in David Lodge's 'The Art of Fiction'. I haven't read a lot of Henry James yet, so I was definitely in for a challenge. When I read the synopsis I thought, as a child of divorced parents, that this would either be very interesting or a string of cliches that would leave me bored. What intrigued me was that F.R. Leavis apparently called this book 'perfect'. He is a harsh critic, so this kind of praise is noteworthy. 

    After her parents' bitter divorce, young Maisie Farange finds herself shuttled between her selfish mother and vain father, who value her only as a means for provoking each other. And when both take lovers and remarry, Maisie - solitary, observant and wise beyond her years - is drawn into an increasingly entangled adult world of intrigue and sexual betrayal, until she is finally compelled to choose her own future.

    Maisie is a very interesting main character. The story is told from her perspective, which means that as a reader you get her interpretation of situations and people. Yet still James tells you enough to be able to know what Maisie doesn't understand. As she grows up, her perspective changes and she knows more than she lets on. As she slowly becomes the centre of the battle between parents and step-parents, she starts to question such things as morality and why her parents behave the way they do. Although a reader might regard all the adults in her life as evil and weak, she turns their actions into '‘the stuff of poetry and tragedy and art'. This is what saves her from becoming just as vile as the adults.

    After finishing the novel I did some research and I was surprised to find out that the majority of critics feel the novel only spans 2 or 3 years. This would mean that at the end of the novel, Maisie would be 7 or 8. While reading I felt that Maisie achieved early adolescence towards the end. Her perceptions of her surroundings become much more detailed and the intense questioning of her morality by Mrs. Wix, her governess, would also imply that Maisie reached an age where some kind of reflection could be expected of her.  For James, the development from childhood to adolescence was very important in many of his novels and in 'What Maisie Knew' the development of Maisie is crucial to the plot and narrative. Because of her innocence the novel doesn't become dreary or depressing, but a journey on which the reader discovers the capabilities of humans to love, disappoint and hate.

    The novel is a discussion of a huge number of issues and themes: the cruelty of parents to children, the richness of experience, love, hate and responsibility. To her parents, Maisie is a tool to annoy the other, either by keeping her away from the other or refusing to take her back after the agreed time. Neither of them seems to have a true grasp of their responsibility as a parents and both of them demand their freedom back int he final part of the book. Because we see their actions through Maisie's perspective, we see the love with which a child always approaches its parents, even if they commit moral crimes against her. I feel that perhaps here James is making a point about the strength in children, their natural ability to see what is good and to forgive. Maisie knows that her parents aren't perfect, yet she can also see their vulnerability and pain, especially towards the end.

    A very interesting role is played by Maisie's stepparents. I feel that James might have had a slight grudge against women, since neither Maisie's mother nor her step-mother are seen to really care for Maisie. Her step-mother, Mrs. Beale, starts out s her governess, yet works her way into her father's household. At the beginning of the book you do feel as if she truly cares, yet she seemingly becomes more manipulative. Whether this is due to Maisie seeing and understanding more I do not know, yet towards the end Mrs. Beale has become a negative influence in Maisie's life. Sir Claude was the character that seems to ask for most pity from the reader. Maisie comes across as strong, as resting in herself. Sir Claude seems utterly lost and afraid, especially towards the end. He has no control over the situation and is unable to protect Maisie.

    The conclusion of the novel left me utterly bereft. Somehow I felt that just like her parents, we had abandoned Maisie. How will her life continue, will she be scarred by what happened to her or will she become a better person by it? Yet this is not a criticism of the book, but praise. I wish we could have continued Maisie's narrative, yet it is simple the truth of life that you cannot know how it ends and that you lose track of people. There will be a filmsoon, which takes the story out of England and sets it in modern day new York. Her parents are no longer socialites but a rock star (the mother, for a change) and an artist. I am slightly ambiguous towards this movie. It might be really good, it might be utterly terribly and Hollywood-cliche. But I will definitely see it, because the book deserves it. 

    I give this book...

    5 Universes!

    I think this book is absolutely fantastic. Never before have I seen a child being taking this seriously in a book that is essentially about what people are really like. James gets into the nastiness of how people can be and even makes the reader part of this exploration. Yes, Henry James' writing style is difficult to read at times, but the trick is to just continue reading and not give up! 

    Sunday, 24 June 2012

    Scenic Sunday

    Just discovered this meme while browsing through my blog list and it looks nice!! It's hosted over at Scenic Sunday!

    I took this picture when we visited  the All Saints’ Church in Tudeley, Tonbridge, Kent last year. It has 12 stunning windows by Marc Chagall and I'm a major Chagall lover. 

    The windows were installed between 1967 and 1985, the latter being the year in which Chagall died aged 98. The windows were commissioned by Sir Henry and Lady d’Avigdor-Goldsmid as a tribute to their daughter, Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid, who died aged 21 in a sailing accident.

    Chagall was amazing at using colour to tell a story. The different colours highlighted the different parts of biblical stories and it gave the church a very warm feeling, despite the blue. I chose the picture above because you can sort of see the effect that the coloured windows, when hit by the sunlight, have on the plain stone!

    Friday, 22 June 2012

    Friday's Angels

    Gain New Blog Followers

    This week's FF question (hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee) is:

    Q: If you could "unread" a book, which one would it be? Is it because you want to start over and experience it again for the first time? Or because it was THAT bad?

    Well, since you give me the choice between two, I will chose two books!! I wish I could unread Harry Potter and stat all over again! I simply loved it so much and it really introduced me to the pleasures of reading. But I think  I would also have to go back a couple of years in age so I could once again have the pleasure of growing up with the characters in the book. So maybe I'd want to reread 'The Shadow of the Wind' because it was simply amazing!

    A book I want to unread because I disliked it is 'Twilight'. It is not even that I hate it that much, it is just that I could have spent my time reading other books that were worth my time. That would again have led to me not having to watch the movies to compare them to the book or discuss the negatives of the book with other people. Oh well, it was a conscious decision, so I can't really blame anyone else for that!

    Because I went to the Carlos Ruiz Zafon event yesterday, I chose his 'The Prince of Mist' for today. Book Beginnings is hosted by 'Rose City Reader' and Friday 56 is hosted by 'Freda's Voice'.

    'Max would never forget that faraway summer when, almost by chance, he discovered magic.'

    I love this opening. I'd love to discover magic this summer!

    'Outside, the sky was losing the purple hue of dawn and the first rays of a blazing sun pierced the forest that extended beyond the walled garden.'

    Zafon uses the weather as a way to emphasize a shift in atmosphere during the story or to reflect the mood his characters are in. I quite like it and it really helps me to create an image in my head while reading.

    So, how about you? Any books you want to unread?

    Last Night: Carlos Ruiz Zafon in Foyles

    So, last night I went to the Foyles Event for the launch of 'The Prisoner of Heaven' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It was simply amazing to see the author behind the books and hear his explanation for why they are the way they are. It was also interesting to hear other people talk about the books, especially 'The Angel's Game'. That was probably my favourite Zafon book. But let's get underway with some things I found very interesting:

    • Research: Suzi Feay asked him whether he had done a lot of research for the setting of his novels: Civil-War in Spain. He told us he believed that research is only good to a certain extent. He gave historical fiction as an example. Some authors do so much research they simply throw facts at you for 300 pages, yet at the end the reader still doesn't have a feel for how the era actually was. Therefore, Zafon says, research should only be used when it can be put into the form of storytelling.
    • His work: This got me very excited! 'The Prisoner of Heaven' is the third installment of what will be a 4-work saga. He told us that each novel is different and that each can be a gateway into the world of the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books'. The reason they're different is because they are written from the perspective of different characters. That is one of the reasons why 'The Angels' Game' is so dark, because it follows David Martin's descent of madness. 
    • Weather: Apparently he gets a lot of criticism on him describing Barcelona's weather as gloomy and temperamental. According to him, this is because people go to Barcelona in the summer, when it's hot. But the weather in Barcelona changes fast, unleashing apocalyptic amounts of rain within 5 minutes, only to return to sunshine afterwards. This question lead into a discussion of the London drought after which Zafon made the following, epic, comment: 'In California, even the water is fake.' 
    • Literary References: Something I myself had recognized as well and was picked up on last night were the many literary references in Zafon's books. Not surprisingly of course, because books are very important in the books. One of the major references is 'Great Expectations' in 'The Angels' Game'! Zafon calls this 'playfulness with the reader', because it adds to a reader's experience. At the same time, it doesn't devalue your experience if you don't know the books. He said it was like a 'haunted hotel', the ghosts of novels will only appear if you know them, otherwise you will simply have a good night.
    • Women: Suzi Feay asked him what the many women who died and disappeared in his books said about him. Zafon told us that the books are in essence about Daniel trying to rescue his mother from death, trying to remember her face. It is the ghost that haunts the story. Also his books are set during the '50s and he got a lot of his inspiration from Victorian Gothic novels where terrible things happen to poor women all the time.
    • Characters: He said his favourite characters were probably Isabella and Nuria Montfort. The former is key to the entire saga, apparently especially to the new one, and the latter is a beautifully tragic character. The one he relates most to are David and Fermin.They are all parts of himself because, as an author you always pour something of yourself into the characters.
    • Translation: He said he tries to be very involved with the translation into English by Lucia Graves. He also acknowledged the difficulty in translating since there are simply words in languages that cannot be translated. He also recounted a moment where a Korean translator had  contacted him with a question about the novel and he had wondered how the translation could ever work if the translator did not get a crucial plot point. 
    • Screenwriting: What I didn't know was that Zafon was a screenwriter in L.A. He felt he bought his freedom with 'The Shadow of the Wind' and never wants to see a movie amde out of his books. He knows the industry and has no illusions about it. He also feels that 'it's fine for novel to stay a novel'. He wants everyone to be able to use their own imagination to recreate the Barcelona he describes and feels that this is worth much more than any money he'd make out fo movies.
    A lot more things were said, but I think these were the key things. I found it really inspiring and cannot wait to read 'The Prisoner of Heaven' in Barcelona in July! I had wanted to ask him whether his views on religion changed after he wrote 'The Angel's Game' since Corelli's character could be interpreted as the Devil and I found the conversations Corelli had with David about religion very interesting. I didn't have the opportunity to ask him, but he did say tht he thought the Devil was the most interesting literary creation. 

    Do you like Zafon's books? Are there any questions you would have asked him?

    Thursday, 21 June 2012

    BTT: Quotes

    btt button

    This week's Booking Through Thursday's question is:
    'Do you have a favourite quote from a book?'

    First I read the question and got all excited. And then I got all worried because there are so many different quotes I love! So here's a top three in no particular order:
    1. 'Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.' -Gandalf

      I love this quote. It is so ... wise. I think you should be very careful in dealing out a punishment you cannot turn back. That's why I am against the death penalty. Also, Peter Jackson used this quote beautifully in the movie, it made me absolutely fall in love with Gandalf.
    2. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”  - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
      Books reflect their writers, who unintentionally pour something of themselves into their books. This quote exactly explains why I am so into buying second-hand or antiquarian books. There is  a history to them. People have held them in their hands, poured over them and somehow I feel like there is a connection between me and them because we both loved the same book!
    3. 'If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I should not seem a part of it. ' -Emily Bronte

      I mentioned this in my "analysis" of the love between Heathcliff and Catherine in 'Wuthering Heights' and I can't get it out of my head. It is simply beautiful and for me it seems to go to the utter core of what love is about.
    So, how about you? What are your favourite quotes and why?

    'Wuthering Heights': the Ultimate Love Story?

    Wuthering.jpgI have recently finished reading 'Wuthering Heights' and it once again became clear to me why I love this book so much. The love between Heathcliff and Catherine is simply breath taking, especially in comparison with other famous English couples. Take, for example, the love between Jane Eyre and Mr. Heathcliff. There is passion and love there, but somehow it is still too civilized. It fits in perfectly with the fairy tale of a poor girl falling in love with a rich secluded man. It is almost the same between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in 'Pride and Prejudice'. I just wanted to show you the following excerpt from 'Wuthering Heights':

    'I cannot express it, but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is, or should be and existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this would have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning, my great thought in living in himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods; time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don't talk of our separation again - it is impracticable.'

    Cathy is here trying to explain her love for Heathcliff to Nelly, her nurse, and I think it is one of the most heart-felt and true love declarations in English Literature. Catherine sees Heathcliff as a continuation of her soul. They are one and the same, the pain one feels is also felt by the other. In a way, it is not very romantic. It is almost as if they are two prisoners bound together, unable to either escape their prison or each other. Therefore, the death of either would mean the demise of the other, mentally. If you ask me, the scene of Heathcliff screaming out for Cathy after Lockwood saw her in a dream. He was never sociable to begin with, but he has become even more cruel and secluded since her death.

    I also love the comparison she makes between her love for Linton, her fiance, and Heathcliff. By comparing both of them to nature, Emily Bronte implies that love is a very natural thing, even if it is given to two different people. Yet the 'foliage' she mentions withers and dies eventually. She is attracted to it because it is so fresh, pretty and lively, yet all of that will fade and nothing will be left to love. Her love for Heathcliff is the 'rock' on which she has built her life. Without him, there is no way for her to continue. Her choice between the two has also been interpreted as a choice between nature (Heathcliff) and culture (Linton). Will she choose what is acceptable or what her heart has always told her is right for her.

    Another crucial element to a true love story: they are star-crossed. From the very beginning, it is clear that the two are from different classes and could never be together. But it is also clear that the two need each other. We therefore get the situation that the two will endlessly spin around each other, always interfering in each others lives. That's why there relationship is so passionate. They are constantly on the edge of losing each other and their desperate fights, to which Linton and everyone else are victim, are the result of this.

    Don't get me wrong, this book is not a cheesy love story. It takes some time to get used to the writing style, the changing narratives can be confusing and it took me some time to realize the love between Catherine and Heathcliff is actually love and not deep-rooted dislike and a fancy for arguing. They are bound in a way neither of them truly understands and just like it drags them down, it makes victims out of all those around them. They love each other desperately and they have to get some relief from this pain by hurting others.

    What do you think? |I'd love to hear your thoughts on Heathcliff and Cathy and on love couples in literature in general!

    Wednesday, 20 June 2012

    Waiting for Wednesday: 'The Prisoner of Heaven'

    I haven't been doing this meme in ages, but I am really excited about this next book. Waiting for Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

    'The Prisoner of Heaven' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    Publication date: 

    It begins just before Christmas in Barcelona in 1957, one year after Daniel and Bea from THE SHADOW OF THE WIND have married. They now have a son, Julian, and are living with Daniel's father at Sempere & Sons. Fermin still works with them and is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. However something appears to be bothering him. 
    Daniel is alone in the shop one morning when a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters. He spots one of their most precious volumes that is kept locked in a glass cabinet, a beautiful and unique illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. Despite the fact that the stranger seems to care little for books, he wants to buy this expensive edition. Then, to Daniel's surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words 'To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future'. This visit leads back to a story of imprisonment, betrayal and the return of a deadly rival.

    I am such a Carlos Ruiz Zafon fan because his books are simply full of amazing imagery and combine some of the greatest themes in literature: love, friendship, honour and betrayal. And who can resist a creation such as The Cemetery of Forgotten Books?

    Tomorrow I am going to the Foyles Event where Zafon will be interviewed by blogger Suzi Feay about this book and I am so excited. I don't even think that I can rationally explain the excitement coursing through my body. I will actually get to see this man! Now all I have to do is somehow get the money to buy the book afterwards.

    So, how about you? What book are you dying to read?

    Tuesday, 19 June 2012

    Teaser Tuesday: 'The Italian'

    Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Should Be Reading

    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    'The Italian' by Ann Racliffe is a book I am severely struggling with at the moment. So much that I am wondering why I ever chose to read it. So I thought perhaps picking out two teasers and seeing your reaction would remind me why I chose it and perhaps push me into starting it again. So, here we go!

    • 'On looking from the lattice, she perceives a person perched on a point of the cliff below, whither it appeared almost impracticable for any human step to have climbed, and preserved from the pre-twilight did not permit her immediately to ascertain whether it was Vivaldi, and the situation was so dangerous that she hoped it was not he.'

      Ok, this might be the perfect example of why this book is difficult to read. This sentence is very log, stretching multiple lines, yet the subject matter is simply that Ellena sees someone on a cliff and hopes it's not the man she loves. This could be explained in a much more straight forward way, yet that is not the Victorian Gothic style.
    • 'Vivaldi understood all the delicacy of her scruples, and though they afflicted him, he honored the good sense and just pride that suggested them.'

      And I achieved in immediately found another quote that explains the difficulty I am having with this book. We are told about her perfect morals and values over and over again and it leads all of her actions and decisions. She refuses to give into her love for Vivaldi and just acts unrealistically!
    So, what do you guys think? Are these simply the features of a Victorian Gothic novel and should I stop complaining or this writing style really as extravagant as it comes across to me?

    Monday, 18 June 2012

    Review: 'Love's Labour's Lost' by Shakespeare

    Not too long ago I decided I wanted to read some of Shakespeare's lesser known plays and I decided to start with 'Love's Labour's Lost' (expect a review of 'Cymbeline' in the near future).  Whereas most Shakespeare plays have sources, 'LLL' is one of the few that seem to have been all Shakespeare's creation, 'The Tempest' is another one of these. 

    H.R. Woudhuysen calls this Shakespeare's  'most flamboyantly intellectual play' and I simply have to agree. The plot centers around King Ferdinand and three nobles, Berowne, Dumaine and Longaville, who all swear to only devote themselves to study and neglect all other earthly pleasures, such as women. Yet their oath is doomed to fail since a Princess and her ladies are on their way to meet with the King. Of course the men immediately fall in love. Forced to camp outside oft he castle walls, so the men can keep their oaths, the women decide to play tricks on them. As typical of Shakespeare, there are masks and confusions and plays-within-plays. But the story comes to a rather tragic end as the princess has to return home where her father has suddenly died. The men swear to wait a year for their ladies to prove their love and the goodbyes are said.

    I did really enjoy this play. The intellectualism of it just contrasted perfectly with the typical Shakespeare wit. The play starts with maybe my favourite scene as we see the four men deciding on their oath, when suddenly Berowne realizes the full impact of giving up on women. This scene is also where maybe my favourite quote from the play comes from: 'If study's gain be this, and this be so, study knows that which yet it doth not know. Swear me to this and I will ne'er say no.' -Berowne It definitely inspired me to try a bit harder in my exam revision. As in all Shakespeare plays, there is a hilarious side-plot that sometimes threatens to overshadow the actual plot. In this case it is a overly flamboyant Spanish swordsman, Don Adriano de Armado, who falls in love with a country wench. He writes her the most ridiculous love letters I have ever read and is continuously made a fool of my his clever page, Moth. 

    My favourite character though, is Holofernes, a schoolmaster, who erupts onto the scene halfway through the play. I think this is why Woudhuysen thought the play flamboyantly intellectual. 
    Just look at this:'Most barbarous intimation! yet a kind of insinutation, as it were, in via, in way, of explication; facere, as it were, replication, or rather, ostentare, to show, as it were, his inclination - after his undressed, untrained, or rather, unlettered, or ratherest, unconfirmed dashion - to insert again my hand credo for a deer.' -Holofernes  He uses his Latin as a way of impressing others, completely missing the fact that it makes him look ridiculous. Having studied Latin myself, I found this highly entertaining. 

    The Princess and her ladies were also very amusing characters. I have started to notice a pattern in Shakespeare's comedies, where the ladies seem to always toy with the men who fall in love with them. Be it innocently or unawares, or very consciously as in 'LLL'. It is done with so much wit and intelligence that I felt the ending almost betrayed the play. It almost seemed to rash, as if Shakespeare didn't know how to end the play. On the other hand, it was the perfect way to draw these people of noble rank, who had been busying themselves with study and love games, back to the real life, forcing them to make real love pledges. It is also a highly unusual ending for Shakespearean or Elizabethan theatre, so if you are, like me, doing an A-level English exam on Wednesday, this might be a good play to use as wider reading. 

    Evidence has been found that Shakespeare wrote a sequel play, 'Love's Labour's Won', yet it has been lost. Some, such as Woudhuysen, suggest that it was an alternative title for 'Much Ado About Nothing' or 'Alls' Well That Ends Well', but I just love the thought that perhaps somewhere out there there is a manuscript of 'Love's Labour Won' flying around that no one has found yet.

    Overall, I give this play...

    I truly enjoyed this play. It both challenged me and made me laugh out loud. The plot was typical Shakespeare and the ending was an interesting twist. The characters are memorable and although some of the jokes may be a bit more difficult to understand, it is definitely a play worth reading. 

    'Henry V' at Shakespeare's Globe

    This Friday I had the real pleasure of seeing 'Henry V' at Shakespeare's Globe. This is one of unfortunately many Shakespeare plays I haven't read yet, so I was rather excited to see what it was like. And boy was I blown away.

    First I have to, of course, applaud Shakespeare for once again writing another amazing play. The 'Once more onto the breaches' monologue is one of the best I have read. It touches the national pride every human being feels for the place he lives. I am not even English but I would have gladly defended it after this speech. Shakespeare is one of the few playwrights who get it completely right. He finds the perfect mix between suspense and comedy. First he gives us an intense war speech, rousing the hearts of the public, and then he makes us laugh hysterically at Bardolph (Paul Rider), Nym (David Hargreaves) and Pistol (Sam Cox). Full of innuendo's, they break the building tension at the right moments because I think the audience would combust with suspense otherwise. 

    The play, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, was characterized by a mix between realism and imagination from the very beginning. Brid Brennan was perfect as the chorus. She prepared the audience for the journey they were about to take. Personally, I loved the fact that we were asked to imagine the stormy seas and the horses and soldiers, which made the audience part of the play. On the other hand, the play was very realistic. The Globe did an amazing job on the make-up, to such an extent that when an actor with a head wound crawled across the stage I was initially convinced it was real. The battle scenes were very well staged, making good use of props, music and light. The first time the canons went off the entire audience jumped. I went to see it with a friend who could not get over the amazing clothes. The capes, armors and other costumes were perfect and were also really handy in allowing the audience to see the difference between the French and the English.

    Jamie Parker as Henry VI am always blown away by the incredible acting at the Globe. It seems that when actors take on Shakespeare's roles in his own theatre they gain something extra. They take up eye contact with members of the audience, interact, respond, thereby creating a vitality and actuality that makes every audience member forget they have been standing for three hours. Jamie Parker was amazing as Henry V. At the right times he was strong and commanding, the perfect leader for the English troops. At others he seemed questioning and vulnerable, allowing the audience a look inside the character's mind. He was supported by a brilliant cast, all of which were able to stir the audience. They throw themselves into it, physically and vocally, drawing in the audience. A very amusing scene was the final one between Henry V and Princess Katherine (Olivia Ross). The battle had just finished and now it was time for wooing. It was great to see the actors have fun with it and the misunderstandings caused by the language-barrier between the princess and the king made the man behind em lauhgh so hard he started to snort like a pig. Very amusing.

    All plays at the Globe end in a dance/song and this time I desperately needed that. The play had been so powerful that we could definitely use the stamping and clapping to shake it off. I can also imagine it is great for the actors, who put so much intensity into their performance. It was fun to see how they slowly turned back into themselves again.

    I would strongly recommend this play to anyone who enjoys theatre, not just Shakespeare. Even if Shakespeare isn't your cup of tea, there is so much in this play to enjoy that everyone should love it. I walked out of the Globe pleading with my father to go see it again. The acting was amazing, the staging beautiful and the writing, as always, brilliant.

    Review: 'Death of a Salesman' by Arthur Miller

    I had to study this play for my English exam, which made me throw it in a corner once the exam was done. I fished it out of the corner yesterday and realized that it is actually not that bad. I really liked some of the characters and I agreed with Miller's message about capitalism.'Death of a Salesman' is the story of Willy Loman who refuses to come to terms with the fact that he has failed at achieving the American Dream. As he slowly loses touch with reality, we see how his family has to suffer under his expectations. 

    The play is structured in a very interesting way. It is mostly told through the perspective of Willy and takes place during one night and the following day, yet there are flashbacks in the middle of the scenes. This means that a scene could start with Willy and his sons and then be continued as one of Willy's memories. Although this can be confusing at times, it perfectly represents Willy Loman's mind. Also, Miller personally felt that the past is never behind us and constantly influences our decisions and actions. This is perhaps clearest in Biff Loman, his oldest son. 

    Biff has not been able to fulfill his father's expectations in life and therefore feels he is a failure. He has also been disillusioned by his father's affair and starts to realize how empty the American Dream is. Willy's belief in capitalism was completely transferred to his younger son, Happy, who fails equally. He doesn't understand how empty his dreams are, unlike Biff who seems to realize his future lies outside of the city. 

    Overall, I think the play has a very tragic tone. Linda, Willy's wife, especially is just such a sad character. She is extremely loyal and for her Willy's deterioration is the worst. At the beginning I thought she was silly for believing in him so much, but I started to realize that she is actually very strong. She bares the entire brunt of Willy's illusion and her life is shattered when Willy dies.

    The suspense in the play is created by the fact that all the characters are troubled and are unable to communicate with each other or break free from what is restricting them. For a day and a half, all their lives come together again and they are faced with each others problems. I realized towards the end I was happy for Willy that his suffering had ended and I even believed that Linda might find a way forward. But the devastating impact made by a system that continually pushes you to be better without offering any kind of alternative are made very clear.

    I give this play...


    As I said, it's not my favourite play. I couldn't really relate to any of the characters, but I found it interesting. Miller really achieved mixing past and present and thereby recreate Willy's minscape.

    Sunday, 17 June 2012

    Review: 'Lady Susan' by Jane Austen

    I read 'Lady Susan' ages ago and recently stumbled upon it again while perusing my bookshelves. I have always loved Jane Austen because her novels seem so human and real, especially in contrast with a lot of modern books, whose characters don't seem to act natural. They make decisions that seem unrealistic and seem to feel certain emotions to strongly and others not at all. Jane Austen's novels have characters that could have really existed. Take 'Pride and Prejudice'. The way the sisters interact is completely believable. Naturally, the two older ones who are closest in age are cllose, the youngest is terribly withdrawn and the middle two constantly battle for attention. Also, a female author who writes the following has to be amazing: 'There is a monstrous deal of stupid quizzing and common-place nonsense talked, but scarcely any wit'. That's a small word as to why I love Jane Austen.

    'Lady Susan' is a short epistolary novel (see my post 'Epistolary what?') which means that in a way the reader's exploration is restricted. We do not know everything, there is no omniscient narrator who tells us what all the characters are thinking. Instead, we have their letters to each other, which offers us an insight into their games. 'Sense & Sensibility' was also originally written in this form, then called 'Eleanor and Marianne', but Austen changed it into prose as the epistolary form became less popular. I personally didn't mind reading the story trough letters, especially since the letters were always written from the perspective of the character, rather than simply a first-person narrative in present put in a letter. This way, a letter from Lady Susan might make you think one thing, yet the following letter by her sister-in-law Catherine Vernon would shed everything in a different light. This made the novel an entertaining read.

    Lady Susan is a widow who is looking for a husband for both her and her daughter, whom she dislikes, whilst still flirting with a married man. She considers herself rather fashionable and smart and likes to play with men. Her letters therefore are rather witty and funny to read. She is very unlike the stereotypical 19th century female lead in a novel since she has no problem being domineering and taking advantage of others. Her daughter Frederica is neglected and terrified, especially when she finds out who she is to marry. The plot thickens when Frederica falls in love with the man lady Susan had intended for herself.

    I really enjoyed the book as it has a very clever plot.The constant toying with others and scheme-making leads to a very satisfying end. Throughout the novel you can't help but take a fancy to Lady Susan. She seems to know exactly what men want and she has no problem playing into the stereotypes of 'hurt mother', 'poor widow' or 'seductress', whatever suits her cause best. Frederica is very much a minor character, a pawn in her game, yet she comes across as very humble and sweet. My favourite character was probably Catherine Vernon. She was very decisive and forms Lady Susan's opponent in the novel. They circle around each other, each trying to interfere in the others plans and she comes across as genuinely kind, especially to Frederica.

    I give this book...

    4 Universes!!

    I could read this book again and again. It is witty, charming and touching all at once. Austen had written a very clever story with intriguing characters.

    Friday, 8 June 2012

    Friday, I'm in Love

    Gain New Blog Followers
    Congrats to Alison Can Read and Parajunkee on the 100th Follow Friday. There is no question this week around but you get to present a blog you really enjoy, so I chose:
    Carabosse’s Library

    There are so many brilliant blogs to choose from which made it really difficult to pick one!

    But not only do I love the background on her blog and her button but I also enjoy her reviews! So, check her blog out!

    Today, the book I'll use for Book beginnings (Rose City Reader) and Friday 56 (Freda's Voice) is 'Amelia' by Henry Fielding. I quite like Fielding, so this should be good, hopefully. 
    THE VARIOUS ACCIDENTS which befel a very worthy couple after their uniting in the state of matrimony will be the subject of the following history. The distresses which they waded through were some of them so exquisite, and the incidents which produced these so extraordinary, that they seemed torequire not only the utmost malice, but the utmost invention, which superstition hath ever attributed to Fortune;

    Yup, sounds good. It looks to be the perfect mix between the funny and the tragic. 

    She trembled, turned pale, and discovered how well she understood me, by a thousand more symptoms than I could take notice of, in a state of mind so very little different from her own.

    Amelia and Captain Booth are talking about love and trust me, if I was talking bout love with the one I loved, I would most definitely be trembling as well!

    I always punch myself for not participating in TGIF, so this week: I AM!
     Cast Your Own Story: If you could use existing characters from some of your favorite books to create a new story, who would be in it?

    I am really bad at remembering books when I have to. This is one of the reasons why I might fail my English exam. It also leads to me taking ages to answer this question. 

    It would definitely have to be set in a forest because I love forests. I would imagine a group of wary warriors having to travel through the dark forest (imagine it a bit like Fangorn from LOTR or the Forbidden Forest in HP) in order to get to the Mountains in which they have to slay a dragon. In the male corner we would have maybe Gimli and Legolas, because their arguments (especially in 'The Two Towers') make me laugh. Otori Takeo from 'The Tales of the Otory' by Lian Hearn. He is intelligent , quick and can walk across a nightingale floor which could come in handy if you're warriors. 

    For the females, we'd have Momo from Michael Ende's 'Momo'. Although she is only a child, she is very strong and courageous and she can listen, really listen. She could solve whatever problems we ran into. I'd also be quite happy with Hermione from 'Harry Potter', she is brilliant, so navigating our band of warriors through the forest shouldn't be a problem for her,

    How about you? Leave a link in the comments!