Posts tagged ‘BBC’

The Three Books of Thanksgiving Weekend

So a four day weekend means I can read a lot – in between making Thanksgiving dinner, shopping, watching a very sad football game (OSU v. Michigan)  and playing with my two year old of course.  Luckily the books I was reading were fun and easy reads that made this weekend all the more enjoyable. Reading with some coffee and a leftover slice of chocolate pecan pie is all the better

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan: Book CoverThe Forsyte Saga, Volume I. The Man Of PropertyBefore I Go to Sleep

1. “Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan, Published 2011:

This is much more of a summer read but it was overally pretty good. The story is about three generations of women in one family all during one month in the summer spent in the family’s summer cabin in Maine.  There are fairly common themes here: Catholic guilt, disappointed parents, alcoholism, recovery, bitter grudges, and redemptive love.  So really everything that most families have and hold dear.  I enjoyed this book overall but the end really, really pissed me off.  I understand that Sullivan probably thought she was being poignant but I think she just got lazy and quit.  That said, 370 of the 380 pages are pretty enjoyable.

2. “A Man of Property” (Book one of the Forsyte Saga) by John Galsworthy, Published 1906:

My disclaimer here is that I have been reading this book for some time, I only finished it this weekend. The story of Soames Forsyte and Irene (and her lover) is pretty well known so I will just say the writing is superb and I look forward to reading the rest of the Saga. I love turn of the century literature so this was a great find.  If you want to skip the book, the BBC 2002 production of this book is equally as good.

3. “Before I Go to Sleep” by S.J. Watson, Published 2011:

I read this book in a day because as soon as I started it I had to know how it ended.  Christine suffers from a rare kind of amnesia. She can remember her life up until her late twenties but she cannot retain her day-to-day memories. In fact, she has no recollection of the last twenty years. She wakes up each morning with a man she cannot remember beside her in bed and when she looks in the mirror she realizes she is actually in her late forties.   Each day, her husband, Ben, must walk her through her life – that she was in an accident twenty years before and she suffered a terrible head injury. At the urging of her doctor, she begins keeping a daily journal which she hides from Ben in the back of her closet. Each morning, after the initial shock of her loss of time, Christine receives a call from her doctor and he tells her where her journal is. And each day she must reread the journal to find out what has happened to her and what her life has been for the last twenty years.  However, at some point in her journaling she writes “Don’t Trust Ben” without further explanation.  It literally gave me goosebumps and it was worth staying up late to finish.

Sadly, it is back to work tomorrow and back to not eating pie but until then I will be nestled in watching the rest of the Forsyte Saga…and probably eating more pie.

For more reviews on these books see:

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November 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm 9 comments

Prostitutes are people too – The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, Published in 2002

Read this book. Yes, it is long.Yes, it is bawdy and explicit and really just gross in parts but still it is worth it.

The novel is set in Victorian England – this is important because it allows the author to use the setting as a character itself, set hard against the women that the Victoria Era so repressed and ill-defined.   I will say I do expect an apology from the author for his technique in the first couple of chapters.  His beginning “watch your step. Keep your wits about you, you will need them” is just the start of Faber’s silly attempts at drawing you in as a reader in this “let me show you London, visitor” or “come hither gentle reader” kind of annoying way.  It is off-putting and I don’t understand it. But thankfully, it ends.  Either Faber got drunk and forgot how he started the novel OR his editors said “stop this, we won’t pay you to rewrite these pages, but carry on with the story about the hookers.”

The story itself is long so I will limit my description to the largest facet of the book.  Sugar, who has been a prostitute since she was very young, is arguably the main character. Arguably because in 800+ pages there are a lot of characters.  Sugar is well read, well spoken, will do anything in bed for the customer, and after her great customer service is completed she is penning a novel about how she kills these customers in a fantasy-revenge tale.  She also has severely bad and flaking skin, which makes her an odd choice for all of her customers, needless to say she is good at her job.  Fairly early in the book (so meaning pp. 300) Sugar  is taken in by William Rackham and becomes a kept woman.  She helps William become a successful business man, while he deals with his wife Agnes – whose mind is unraveling.  So Sugar becomes this business advisor who then has to turn on his whim and become the whore again.

But here in lies the rub, the women in William’s life actually do need more than he can give or withhold or how his limited mind can define them – sorry William.  Agnes does not understand her body, why she bleeds monthly (she believes she is dying), or that she has birthed a child with William.  Agnes is so locked in childhood ignorance that she cannot reconcile with her adult body.  You find out early in the novel from the narrator that unbeknownst to anyone Agnes has a brain tumor as well.  But her regular visits from the doctor who probes and molests her do, as only Victorian medicine can, indicate that her womb is traveling around in her body and must be stopped with opiates – obviously, I mean how else do you deal with traveling organs if not to slow them down with heavy sedation?  So on one hand, the author has given us Sugar who was forced to become a prostitute by her own mother and on the other hand we have Agnes who knows nothing about her sexuality and this has played a large hand in her loose grasp on reality.  And the importance of balance becomes so evident. Because who is more captive to her circumstances? The educated whore or the ignorant housewife?  Believe me, I simplify. William’s poor daughter also plays into this dichotmy but to say more would spoil the novel.

Throughout the novel, Faber uses men as tools, oppressors or successful imbeciles.  But while they are caricatures of men in life, they do serve to make this novel meaningful for the female characters.  It seems that in the end while all of the women characters have been bending and turning and smiling for salvation from the men in their lives ultimately they save themselves and each other.  And frankly, coming from a male author I like that. I like that a lot.

By the way, BBC liked the novel as well and made it into a miniseries calling it a tale of “love, lust, desire and revenge.” Sexy, huh?

June 26, 2011 at 3:44 am Leave a comment


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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