The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Friday, 23 May 2008

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Several people had told me about this book, including one colleague who loves it and practically knows whole sections by heart, so when a friend offered to lend it to me, I took them up on the offer.
It is a highly poetic and rhythmical book, where the language takes centre stage. The patterns of the text and attention to detailed description appealed to my snapshot imagination, which is probably why I love photography and Haiku poetry. I liked the slow unfolding of the story which alludes to something catastrophic happening later on.
However, I did not connect to anyone in it enough. I didn't not care, but I wanted it to wring me dry when it finally unfolded (because I did like the characters) and it didn't. I found it sad, but there was only one small detail that caused a bit of a gulp, and that was in a strange place amongst a whole lot of angst that should have floored me as a reader. I've been floored for a lot less in other books. Perhaps I knew too much about it before I read it.
My overall impression though, which is what I will take away with me is the language, the repetitions, the playful details that construct a tangible, accessable world that so many other books fail to do. In this it is warm, rich and satisfying. The imagery that it constructs is what lingers, the heady, damp and pungent part of India, the small details, seen mainly through the eyes of two children, their anxieties and observations, and their memories as adults.
Bookbrowse have written a guide for readers groups:-

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Beloved by Toni Morrison

To the first book...
I had read another by Toni Morrison so I was already familiar with her writing style, dream-like and lyrical, with strong female characters, complicated women in a mixed up world. I had recommended Song of Solomon to a friend, (Pilate being one of those vivid characters who has remained in my imagination ever since) and she had found Beloved and lent it to me with a plea,
"Tell me what its about!".
The cover is not the original, but from the film, black with an ethereal woman in dark clothing, whose face is turned away from us. This cover emulates the contents, a dark, disturbing tale set in a dark disturbing time. I was shocked within its first few pages by the story's beginnings and the early introduction of a dead baby, who was killed by her mother, and now appears to wreak violent revenge with its furious disturbances, in a house containing 3 female characters, all intriguing, mesmerising even, in their own right.
Toni Morrison weaves a blanket of dark threads that form a coherent overall shape (more so than Song of Solomon I thought) even if the meaning of the story remains ambiguous. The language is rich and beautiful, and the backdrop of slavery in nineteenth century U.S.A. is not over-milked, therefore throwing the reader further off kilter when its cruelties are spoken of. The effect is unsettling, moving and continually intriguing.
The core of this story, however, is Who is Beloved? A ghost, a girl lost, or both?
I found the following links interesting and helpful...

Hay on Wye, April 26-27th 2008

I went to Hay on Wye for the first time recently with my lovely friend and her sister (not for the festival, just for the books). It was a great weekend and I was like a kid in a toy shop, having to restrain myself from the armfuls of books that I was gathering in each shop. I came home with lots anyway. It was fun getting lost amongst the cavernous shelves of the various shops (The Hay Bookshop, Hay Cinema, Booths and Hay Castle), and also to share ideas with the people I was with. You could spend days in every shop. I now have to be very good because my 'to read' list is out of control. I do love it though.

I must also recommend The Old Black Lion Inn on Lion Street where we stayed. It was excellent value and Hay on Wye is a great place to converge for book lovers.

It was during this visit that the idea for this blog was born, an apt birthplace. We hope to visit again, maybe next year.

Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye