"Religion, Society, and Nature! these are the three struggles of man. They constitute at the same time his three needs. In Notre-Dame de Paris the author denounced the first; in Les Misérables he exemplified the second; in this book he indicates the third."
This is taken from the preface to Les Travailleurs de la Mer. Having read Les Misérables and Notre Dame, I really felt like completing a philosophical trilogy upon starting this book.
Short summary: Gilliatt is an outsider in a small village on the island of Guernesey. One day he falls in love with the beautiful Deruchette. Deruchette is Mess Lethierry's cousin, and he loves her above everything, next to his steamship called Durande. On day his captain, Sieur Clubin, intentionally causes the Durande to shipwreck so he can run away with a fortune. Lethierry is devastated. Witnesses assure, however, that the machine of the ship is unhurt and still on the cliffs. Deruchette says that she will marry the man who can bring her father's machine home safely. Gilliatt smells his chance, and sets out for the dangerous cliffs. He works for weeks, starving himself, defying storms and even a kraken, and finally manages to return the machine home. On the very same night, he hears Deruchette declaring her love to another man, and knows he does not want to marry her while she's loving another, but Lethierry tells him she should be his. He selflessly helps her and her lover to marry without her uncle's knowledge and they run away to England. Gilliatt returns to the ocean and drowns himself.
The last sentence of this German translation was gorgeous: I looked up the English and French version, but they weren't nearly as striking. When both the ship with the newly-weds and Gilliatts head are out of sight, the last sentence says: Und nichts war mehr, als das Meer. I LOVE that.
Although the translation from 1866 (the same year Hugo published his book) is well done, this edition is very poorly edited, there are lots of interpunction failures and spelling mistakes. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book a lot. Not as much as the 'first two' in this 'trilogy', but still Hugo's brilliant voice and his view on the world shimmered through clearly. I could smell the salty winds, I could feel the sand on my skin, just like Gilliatt's willpower and desperation.
East of Eden is, in my opinion, a masterpiece in literature. Spanning a period of over twenty years with look backs to the time of the civil war, it tells the story of the Hamilton and Trask families. Always interchanging the focus characters in between chapters, Steinbeck manages to create an incredible proximity between the reader and the people in the story. Without becoming cardboard characters, they all for one possess specific treats which make their actions credible. This doesn’t mean they don’t develop, though. We can follow Cal, for instance, fighting against his own badness. He wants to be good like his twin brother in order to gain his father’s love. Steinbeck smartly confronts us with the question if boundless goodness really is the best way to go.
And just like Cal, all of the characters have their hidden insecurities and weaknesses. Cathy, who is impersonated evil in this book, has her weak and fearful sides. Self-confident Will Hamilton eventually admits to himself he sought success as a businessman because he couldn’t just join the poor yet happy way of life his siblings and parents lived, but wanted to help them financially and save them. Aron is the widely loved angel who wouldn’t hurt a fly, but in fact lives in a fairy tale world because he wouldn’t be able to cope with the harshness of reality – and proves so by running away when he gets confronted with it against his will.
Samuel Hamilton, the good soul that would always be there to help others without asking anything in return but a friendly smile, has great presence throughout the book, even after his death. Lee always reminds him, tries to be like him. Sam’s fresh look onto the world and his urge for inventing things inspire Lee. And Lee in turn inspires others, Abra in particular.
This book gives a great, great view on interpersonal relationships, on personal development throughout the years and on the inevitability of life. It shows us what is really important instead of making lots of money or having lots of friends. It shows us that everything that happens in our lives will leave its traces and form us, but also that we can stand up against things and move on: Timschal.
Pheeeew. How am I going to write a review about this? The book left me in discomfort and still I think it's beautiful.
A father and a son wander through a burned America. The sun has disappeared, everything is grey and covered with ashes. Only a handful of people seem to be left alive. Many of them are so desperate that they would kill and eat other people. We never experience what exactly has happened - if it was a natural disaster or a nuclear war or something else.
The man and his son call themselves "two of the good ones". The boy's biggest sorrow is that they would never kill somebody. He would rather die than eating another human. The boy is personalized goodness anyway. It was heartbreaking reading the dialogues and the boy's worries expressed in those. The dialogues are very minimalistic and I think that I was made them so strong.
The book is one sequence of hope and despair - a struggle of surviving without knowing why it would be even worth to survive. What is it that makes the man so willing to get forward - what motivates him? Is it just the fear of giving up? I think he does it for his son. He doesn't want the boy to feel the same despair as he. He wants to give the boy the feeling there is still something to fight for. And that's what keeps the boy upright indeed. That's what eventually will make them both die as two of the good ones.
Although this book was written before Harper Lee's world famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird, it takes place after the events described in that. Jean Louise Finch (Scout) is now a grown-up girl of 26, she has left Maycomb, Alabama and lives in New York.
Once a year, Jean Louise returns home for a two-week visit - that's where the book starts. In this visit, she is confronted with things that shock her deeply. In her father Atticus's documents, she finds a pamphlet referring to the "Black Plague". Jean Louise follows her father and her childhood friend to the Citizens' Council meeting where Atticus introduces a man who delivers a deeply racist speech. Jean Louise is horrified and feels betrayed by her father - who had always taught her that all people should have the same rights, but now seem to represent an entirely different point of view. Jean Louise and Atticus talk about the issue in his office, and to Jean Louise's horrification, Atticus admits openly he doesn't believe black people are ready to receive full civil rights, including the right to vote, as white. Jean Louise is raging because of her father's betrayal, feels lost and alone, curses at her father, returns home and starts packing her things to leave Maycomb forever.
When she is about to leave, her uncle Jack arrives and slaps her in the face - bringing her back to reality. He tells her she has always been idolizing her father, believing that his opinions would always be the same as hers. He tells her she should begin seeing Atticus as a man of flesh and blood, and that Atticus was attempting just that in their earlier conversation.
She returns to Atticus's office and apologizes - but Atticus tells her he is very proud of her. He had always hoped she would grown up to stand up for her own ideas of write and wrong. Jack or Atticus (I fail to remember) tells her persons like her are needed to make significant changes in the world's ideas of racial equality.
Harper Lee shows a variety of emotions and ideas on the post-war racial issues and puts those into the historical context an incredibly accurate way. The fact that this is still highly topical today (with the refugee crises everywhere in the world, the attacks on black people by police officers etc.) made me connect to the story very deeply. Beautifully written.
I bought this book as a part of the Popsugar 2016 reading challenge, as „the first book you see in a bookstore“. The beautiful cover of this German edition caught my eye immediately. The blurb also sounded interesting, and the comparison with Agatha Christie, whose works I love, made me really curious for the book.
Two things up front: the blurb gave me a very different impression of the story than the story I actually got, and I don’t see any resemblance with Agatha Christie (as, for example, there is no murder mystery at all).
Ariel and Zeva are teacher and student in Artificial Intelligence in Boston. Ariel is invited to speak at a conference in Amsterdam, and he and Zeva plan to spend a romantic weekend over there – far away from everyone they know. Zeva will travel via Brussels, Ariel will arrive in Amsterdam and pick up Zeva from the train – but Ariel never appears.
The story starts with Ariel in an old cab, driving to a hotel in the English country, somewhere really far from London. Due to the heavy mists, his connection flight from London to Amsterdam was cancelled, and all airport hotels were full, at least, that is what Ariel later recalls, when he asks himself if he was involved by the choice of hotel at all.
In his desperate attempts to reach Zeva (his mobile phone doesn’t have any signal in the hotel, nor does the landline work), Ariel soon finds himself in the companionship of a strange family that has been staying in the hotel for an unknown amount of time. The way they behave and the things they say appeared almost surreal to me. Ariel ends up in a whirling roller coaster of events and emotions that seem too bizarre to be true – and still he, with his academic, mathematic way of thinking, tries to find logical explanations for all of it.
I was grabbed by the story right away, and was fascinated by all of the unanswered questions the author leaves the reader with. For me, the amount of obscurity I was left in just balanced on the ledge to irritating.
Synchronous with the disappearing fog, things get clearer for Ariel – and the reader. The clue was unexpected, yet satisfying (“logical” in a way). A very nice, fresh read - unlike everything I've read so far!
Fahrenheit 451, the temperature paper needs to start burning. The story takes place in about 50 years from “now” (in which “now” is 1953, when the book was published). Books are banned, because they make people unhappy. Now, being a book lover, this is a really strange sentiment, but on a second thought, and taking it broader than just novels, it actually might be true. Today, in 2016, we live in a mediocracy. If I consult myself honestly, I have to admit that I probably would be happier if I wouldn’t know as much as I do; if I wouldn’t been able to reflect on events happening in the world. Because of my education and the knowledge I gained from books, I know both what would be a good and what would be a bad world.
In the world of Fahrenheit 451, people are kept shallow on purpose. TV shows are hollow, as well as conversations (which 90 percent of the time deal with TV shows). The characters in the TV shows are called “family”; living rooms are equipped with surround screens. People have in-ear radios they listen to all day. It isn’t really that bad, but fact is we live in a world with 50” TV screens broadcasting a lot of trash, most of the people in public transport are staring at their mobile devices, and half of them wears ear plugs, too. In that aspect, Ray Bradbury had an astonishingly accurate vision of the near future.
But the book focusses on someone who wants to break this habit. Guy Montag wants to think again, wants to read books again and learn from them. He longs for the ability to reflect and make his own decisions, instead of following the masses. This is a very brave endeavor, not only because he risks to be killed by the authorities, but also because it comes along with a certain responsibility. After all, if one thinks for himself, you are the master of your own actions. It is an easy and safe feeling to just do and think what everyone else does and thinks.
This book made me think about if I’d be like Guy, or a “follower”. The theme still fits to present-day, which is what this classic makes a classic :)
An old house in a tiny village on the northwest coast of Tasmania... the Poet's Cottage. A family history, a brutal murder, secrets and lots of mystery. The recipe for a great story if done well - and Josephine Pennicott did it greatly.
There are two alternating stories - one set in the present with Sadie as main person, and one story set in 1935/36, which is told by Birdie Pinkerton, a friend of Sadies murdered grandmother Pearl. Birdie wrote a book on Pearl years after her death, and it's fascinaThere's an old house standing in a tiny village on the northwest coast of Tasmania... a house that is called 'The Poet's Cottage'. The house has ever authors to it ever since... and so it comes that Sadie moves there with her teenage daughter. Influenced by the ghost stories that still go around the little fisher's town, Sadie is triggered to find out the truth about the death of her grandmother, who was found murdered in her own house in the 1930s. The book is about a family history, a brutal murde and it contains secrets and lots of mystery. The recipe for a great story if done well - and Josephine Pennicott did it greatly.
The book consists of two alternating stories - one set in the present with Sadie as main person, and one story set in 1935/36, which is told by Birdie Pinkerton, a friend of Sadies murdered and grandmother Pearl. Birdie has married Pearl's husband after Pearls death, after having been in love with him forever, and wrote a book on Pearl years after her death. Because Birdie is personally involved with Pearl and is not free of suspect, It's fascinating how the reader has to doubt the full truth of this part of the book.
I loved the character of Pearl and I think the author did a great job on her. I could visualise her so well and I somehow felt sympathy for her, even if she was extremely eccentric, egocentric and rather mean... But one could feel that there was a lot of sadness behind this mask. It was lovely to lose myself in the 1930s - I could hear the jazz music and see the gents and ladies dressed up sipping their cocktails, flirting and talking gossip...
A funny thing to note her is that I was reminded of Daphne du Mauriers "Rebecca" while reading. In the author's afterword (which is great to read as I, the city girl, learned there are indeed villages like Pencubitt, and there really are stories like Poet's Cottage), Josephine Pennicott mentions Du Maurier is one of her favorite authors.
The most fascinating thing about this book is that it is a true story. In 1837, two young African princes were sent to the Netherlands as a gift to King William II, as part of negotiations between the Ashanti king and the Dutch. Although slave trade was officially forbidden, both parties were still interested in the "recruitment" of African men in order to work for the Dutch in the Dutch Indies. The crown prince and his nephew were are to the Delft to receive education, and it was planned that they would return to Ashanti as black missionaries eventually. One of the princes, Kwasi Boachi, tries his best to adapt the Dutch culture, whereas the crown prince, Kwame Poku, is unable to do so. The two, who were inseparable when they first left their home country, grow apart. The story is told by the 74-year-old Kwasi, who is writing down his memoirs in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). He tells his story, and the reader accompanies him through his struggles, his wish to assimilate and his desire to belong to the majority - the whites - but although most people treat the princes kindly and they are welcome guests of the royal family, it becomes poignantly clear that they are considered an attraction rather than friends.
After completing his education, Kwame returns to Africa and wishes to live with his people again. But he has forgotten his native language, a fact which disappoint his uncle, the king, so much, that he denies Kwames return. Kwame desperately tries to remember his language, but this only leads to a state of delirium, and eventually he commits suicide. He was an outcast as a black guy in the white Dutch culture, and he was an outcast as a Dutch educated person among the Africans.
Kwasi, however, continues education in Weimar, Germany, and becomes a mining engineer. He is sent to the Dutch East Indies and hopes to become successful there. However, he is faced with racism as he had never really experienced it - by the hatred of a former class mate, but even more by a more internalized feeling of the Dutch authorities: that a black man is of a minor race, who should never have the authority that a white man has. Therefore, Kwasis success in business is inhibited systematically. Instead of being his own boss, he has to work as a secretary for his former class mate, who humiliates him (i.e. Kwasi has to take his meals with the servants), his letters to the government remain unanswered and when he finally receives the land he was promised to get to grow coffee, it is hardly usable. When he asks his workers why they wouldn't give their best for him as they do for his neighbor, they answer 'Well, that's easy; the neighbor is white'. And like that, Kwasi has to spent 50 years of his life in a country that is not his own, among people who don't accept him and among whom he is just an outcast.
The story in all is poignant and shows a deeply rooted racism in the Dutch colonial time. Arthur Japin did a very important job by writing this novel. Thanks to the book, the forgotten story of Kwasi and Kwame became a part of the collective Dutch memory. He even managed that the head of Badu Bonsu II, a Ghanaian prince was executed and decapitated by the Dutch and then shipped to the Netherlands, was returned to Ghana in 2009 - 172 years after the execution. Japin needed ten years of research for the book, but with great success. Kwasi finally is a part of the Netherlands now.
Berlin, 1958. 15 year old Michael Berg gets ill on his way home and is nursed by a woman named Hanna Schmitz, who lives in his neighborhood. When he sees her putting on her stockings, he falls in love with her. After he's cured from his illness, he visits her again. They end up sleeping with each other an an erotic affair develops between them. After some time, Michael starts reading to her.
Their affair lasts a summer - over time, Michael feels more attracted towards his school mates and is torn between his feelings, but always goes to Hanna. One day, she is gone without a word. The feeling he has betrayed her with his school mates never goes away.
He meets her years later in court. Michael is a law student following a process of concentration camp guards. Hanna is accused for deliberately joining the SS and not having saved women from a burning church where they were locked in on their journey from Auschwitz to the west. Hanna confesses everything, which is then misused by the other accused women. They say Hanna was the leader of it all and wrote the report. When the judge wants to take an handwriting test, Hanna admits she indeed wrote the report.
It is then that Michael realizes that Hanna is illiterate and ashamed of that fact. So ashamed, that she'd rather spend the rest of her life in jail than to admit she can't read nor write, which would be enough proof she couldn't have written the report. Michael is torn again: should he talk to the judge or even to Hanna and try to convince her to tell about her handicap? He decides not to.
Michael has two big problems with Hanna and her past. First, he feels guilty for her deeds as a concentration camp guard because he has loved her. I think this is difficult to understand for non-Germans. German people, especially those living short after the war, bore a great weight of collective guilt on their shoulders. Loving someone who had been in the SS almost meant the same as having been in the SS yourself (at least, that's how Michael feels).
Second, he reproaches her for what she had done to him: after their affair and her sudden leave, he never was able to have a functioning relationship again. He compared all his partners with Hanna and she always took part in his life. His marriage only lasted four years. When Hanna was in prison for a couple of years, he started to record tapes for her, reading aloud the books he loved. It was this ever presence in his life (and her leaving him without a word, giving him the feeling he had treated her wrong) that he accuses her of, too.
I think this novel is rather difficult to understand at first glance. It is a short novel, only 200 pages, but you have to dive into Michaels world view to really understand him. The writer writes beautifully, but doesn't give the reader all the information; you really have to do some work with the book and maybe even give it a second read.
'Caliban's Hour is based on 'The Tempest' by William Shakespeare. It is a sequel as well as 'the other side of the story', for 'Caliban's Hour' tells the story of Caliban, the wild creature that only has a side role in Shakespeare's play.
It's twenty years after the magician and rightful Duke of Milan Prospero and his daughter Miranda have returned to Italy from the island they had been living on for a couple of years. Miranda is now queen of Naples and the mother of three children. The creature Caliban has managed to leave the island and has come to Naples to take revenge for the treatment Miranda and her father have given him back then. Prospero has already died a natural death, so Caliban visits Miranda in her bedroom in the castle. He tells her he has come to kill her, but first she has to listen to his story.
And his story is a tragic one - from his birth up until that moment. His mother was a supposed witch. The people from her village had sent her out to the sea, pregnant and with a cut-off tongue, but instead of drowning, she landed on an island. Caliban was born on this island and therefore never had the chance to meet other humans. His mother was his everything, his God; he feared and loved her at the same time. He was still a boy when she died, and he was all alone with his island. He had never learned to speak, as his mother could only produce some grunts with her handicap. Language is a very important theme in the story - things were just things in Caliban's world, he knew what they were for, and it was good that way. He didn't have a name, but he didn't need one to know that he existed. He was there, on his island, and knew how to survive.
Some years after, the banished ruler of Milan Prospero and his little daughter Miranda land on Caliban's island. They had come there after Prospero was overthrown by his brother and exiled from the city. Prospero manages to attract Caliban, who is anxious but also curious, and very eager to connect to other people again; to have a family. It is Prospero who teaches him words. This might be the thing Caliban hates Prospero the most for, since with those words came the lies. The newcomer behaves like he is the ruler of the island now, and Caliban is inferior to him. This is something Caliban can't really understand - wasn't he born on this Island, and hadn't he always lived here on his own? - but he doesn't revolt out of respect for Prospero, and of hope that Prospero will recognize him as a son. Prospero teaches the wild creature a lot about science and culture, and finally gives him a name. He is called Caliban because Prospero had told his daughter the creature is a cannibal, and Miranda could not pronounce it correctly. Caliban strongly hopes and works for their recognition, but it turns out Prospero only wants to use him as a slave. Caliban stays a wild animal and his eyes. The bitter feelings Caliban has are heartbreaking. Caliban loves the beautiful Miranda, but she has learned to see him as an animal, not as a man. Nevertheless, she has always treated him as a friend, but when he touches her once, just because he longed to be close to her, she tells her father. Prospero gets furious and beats Caliban, who didn't even know that he had done something wrong, until he is crippled. Caliban doesn't manage to get away from his master, however, and he would stay their slave until they are finally saved from the Island. When they set sail to Italy again, they leave him behind. And to top all of their actions, they act as if they would do something good to him by doing that.
His peace was never to return. He had learned that there were creatures that were better than him (at least they think so), that he was just an animal with barely a right to exist. How could he ever love himself again? He was abused both physically and mentally, betrayed and left behind.
After finishing his story, Caliban is ready to strangle Miranda, but her daughter, who has overheard everything he had told her mother, jumps in between. She promises to go with him if he would keep her mother alive, for she has heard the story, and believes Caliban is not the monster her mother and grandfather believed him to be. They leave to live on the island again, where some of Caliban's pride can hopefully return to him.
I love the emotional load this story had. Caliban's sad bitterness comes to life so well on the pages. It's an important message Tad Williams is bringing here. It's exactly how the 'wilds' were treated by the European travellers who came to America and felt superior to everyone who was living there. But it most of all is a tragic story of longing for love and recognition and of the disappointment and loneliness that follows.
By the way, the person who called the book 'Die Insel des Magiers' ('The magician's island) In German clearly hasn't got the message.