The Phantom of the Opera, written by Gaston Leroux, is the novel that started the interest in the Phantom of the Paris Opera House. Christine Daae is an actress who has been receiving singing lessons from what she calls “the Angel of Music”. It is really the Phantom, who frequents “box 5” and lives in the underground of the Opera House. He quickly becomes obsessed with young Christine and tries to force her into becoming his wife. At the same time, another member of this “love triangle”, Raoul de Chagny, tries to catch Christine’s attention and save her from the clutches of the Phantom. Overall, it was a great book and I enjoyed reading it. If you saw and enjoyed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, you would like reading this too.
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built is the 10th novel of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. Smith writes a number of book series simultaneously, but Detective Agency is his most popular, with an HBO series even premiering a few years ago.
This is a fantastic series, and Tea Time is perhaps my favorite yet. The books are as much about the characters and their lives as the cases they solve. They are fresh, charming, and beautifully-written, and I highly recommend them to anyone who needs a little something to slow down their fast-paced day.
This novel follows Catherine Morland as she leaves her country home for the first time to travel to Bath during the social season. This coming of age story follows Catherine’s transformation from a child into a young woman over the course of a season at Bath.
Even though this novel wasn’t published until after her death, Northanger Abbey was the first novel Jane Austen ever wrote. Because of that, it shows more cynicism and satire than most Austen novels, especially in regards to women’s duty in society, social acceptance, and the conventions of the novel.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a novel written by Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez. It takes place in a small fictional village Macondo in Latin America and centers around the Buendía family, the patriarch of which, José Arcadio Buendía, founded Macondo. The novel is about the many fantastical and unusual events that took place in Macondo, and its effect on the many members of the Buendía family. It is really an interesting book and it is a great example of the genre of magical realism, which García Márquez is a genius of. The interesting part is that the entire book is a metaphor for the colonization and subsequent modernization of Colombia.
Despite all this, I would recommend this book with reservations because I don’t believe it’s for everyone. It is very easy to become frustrated with this book and give up reading it midway through. It is over 400 pages long, and the pace does seem to slow down in the middle. Also, every male Buendía is either named Aureliano, José, or Arcadio (sometimes even a combination of the three). This makes it increasingly difficult to keep track of who’s who. There’s a genealogy chart in the beginning of the novel, so you may find yourself constantly flipping to it to refresh your memory on how everyone is related. And, like the title of the novel suggests, the book spans 100 years and 7 generations of the Buendía family. But, if you could get past all this, it is a really good book and you should read it.
The President and Congress have been massacred, the government taken over by religious zealots. Population is decreasing because of war and infertility. Women have become second class citizens. Based on Genesis 30:1 – 3, where Rachel gives Jacob her maid to bear children, women are valued based only on their potential ability to bear children. This is Offred’s story of her time as a Handmaid, her recollections of her life before, and the odd relationships she forms in her small world. Like other of Atwood’s novels, this could be a warning of what could happen to us.
I have to confess at the outset that I’ve never read Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women, though I can identify a grouping of the names Jo, Amy, Meg and Beth as the title characters of that much-loved classic. What journalist/novelist Geraldine Brooks has accomplished with this loving work of fiction is to successfully imagine the wartime experiences of the absent father of the March girls, as he struggles to survive the horrors of the American Civil War while his family endures on the home front. In the process, her protagonist provides a looking-glass, in the form of an extended journal, not only into the war itself but into the history of America in the decades immediately preceding that conflict.
Peter March is a compassionate yet naïve man. A New Englander, his travels in the American South as a young man and his first-hand witnessing of the hideous inhumanity of the institution of slavery have molded him into a committed abolitionist by the age of forty. At this relatively advanced age, he enlists as a chaplain in the Union Army and goes off to war, a war that he sees as a necessary crusade against a terrible evil. In between disturbing accounts of the aftermath of battle, we learn that he was a close acquaintance of Thoreau and Emerson and that his wife, Alcott’s Marmee, was in every way his equal in her dedication to the cause of abolition, to the degree that their family become players in that famed conduit to freedom, the Underground Railroad.
In the war, March receives one lesson after another that forces his eyes to see the inescapable fact that cruelty is not confined to one culture alone, and that the South was sadly not singular in its practice of viewing the African as an inferior member of the human race. March suffers grievous wounds of body, mind and spirit, and his eventual return home from war cannot be termed victorious. There is no glory in war and no satisfaction that evil has been vanquished. There isn’t even the consolation that he has allowed his better nature to prevail.
Geraldine Brooks is inspired in her retelling of one man’s travels through one of the darkest nights of our shared history. This is by no means a light, pleasant tale but then again, neither is the story of our country.
When Teddy Daniels arrives on Shutter Island to investigate an escaped inmate from the maximum security prison for the mentally insane, he slowly begins to discover that there are questions that run deeper on the island than what happened to Rachael Solando.
I don’t want to reveal anything about the plot because the book is much better if you go into it without knowing what will happen next. But Lehane has managed to craft a book with one of the smartest and most exciting plots that I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t wait to read each subsequent chapter and when I wasn’t reading I was trying to untangle the plot.
I’ve heard good things about the movie, but I definitely recommend reading the book first. I haven’t read anything else by Lehane, but that is something I plan on changing. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a thrilling story that will keep them on the edge of their seats.
With the 41st Division in the Southwest Pacific: A Foot Soldier’s Story is a no-frills account of an infantryman’s service in the southwest Pacific in WWII, a theatre of war that has never drawn anywhere near the volume of literature (or Tom Hanks movies) as D-Day or Marine operations in the central Pacific. Catanzaro’s narrative covers his full three years in uniform, but he focuses on his division’s combat experiences on Biak, a small island off the northwest coast of New Guinea. Occupied by over 12,000 Japanese troops in 1944, Biak’s three airfields were essential to US plans to retake the Philippines. What Douglas MacArthur anticipated as only a three-day battle turned into a three-month struggle, with American troops battling the equatorial environment as well as Japanese defenders holed up in honey-combed coral caves.
I selected this book because I wanted to learn more about Biak in anticipation of attending a reunion later this summer of WWII veterans (of my father’s battalion) who fought at Biak. Catanzaro’s book not only served that purpose but also provided interesting insight into other aspects of army life in WWII. This is no Goodbye Darkness (the benchmark for WWII memoirs), but I recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about U.S. Army operations in the southwest Pacific.
E. Arnot Robertson’s Ordinary Families, originally published in 1933, depicts the life of a family living on the east coast of England whose life revolves around sailing. Events are depicted through the eyes of the second youngest daughter, Lallie. The author is especially good at showing the ways in which a child, although acutely observant, doesn’t always fully understand the adult significance of what she sees. The author is also excellent at distinguishing the personalities of a large cast of characters. The sequence of events, some sad, some funny and some with unanticipated consequences, over time gradually reveals how ordinary family life isn’t really ordinary and how the internal life of family members isn’t always obvious even to other members of the family. Robertson was a very popular and successful novelist during the 1930s and 1940s, and she also sailed with her husband and family. Her Four Frightened People is also a great read.
I have previously read Saturday and Atonement by Ian McEwan, and am amazed by his ability to write an entire novel covering only the course of a day or so. His grasp of human nature is flawless, and his insights into his characters’ minds, rather than the plot of the book itself, are often what drive his novels; On Chesil Beach does not stray from this style.
The book introduces Florence and Edward on their wedding night in July 1962, both virgins and from different backgrounds, but nonetheless, they exclaim their love for one another. Edward is eager for what is to come later in the night; Florence, however, is terrified of and disgusted by sexual intimacy. The novel focuses on the discovery of their different attitudes towards not only sex, but their philosophies on life, and how rash decisions, impatience, and misunderstanding can change the course of one’s future.
It has been rumored that a screenplay is in the works, which concerns me. Although Atonement was a good film, I generally think that Ian McEwan novels, because of their internal nature, would make terrible movies.