Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Classics Club Spin #5 Announced!

The Classics Club Spin #5 selected on 
Monday, February 10, is #20!!

 This means I will be reading 
The Stranger by Albert Camus

I admit to feeling a bit intimidated by this title, though I'm not sure why! 

Of course, if I was planning to learn French and read the original version, that would be REALLY intimidating! 
(And I'm certain would require WAY more than 50 days!)
I am not planning to do that, by the way! ;)


          This picture might explain part of my hesitation...

Here are some of the different covers for this book:


However, the one with which I am most familiar 
and I shelved the most while working at Borders 
is this one: 

On Goodreads there are currently 253,859 ratings and 7,234 reviews for an average of 3.91! That's good, right?

It is only 123 pages long. Another plus, right?!?

If all goes according to plan, I will post a review right here by April 2!

Check back to see if I make it!!

Which work of classic literature would you choose to read next?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Classics Club Spin #5

Okay, okay, okay. Yes, I have quite a listing of "classics" I wish to read and/or re-read. And, much like Carolyn, Kay, Cecila, and Ariel, other co-hosts of the Literary Wives Club, I feel it would be a good thing to "succumb to peer pressure," as Carolyn so aptly states, and "just do it."  

I will also publish my listing of classics and take my chances on the Classics Club lucky spin this next Monday, February 10 (gosh, that's tomorrow, isn't it?) to see which one I will be tackling first. 

Actually, it was kinda fun putting this list together!

Those books about which I am relatively neutral:
1. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
     Nobel-prize winning author...
2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
     Have yet to read one of his novels.
3. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
     Just keep seeing references to this one all over the place and am definitely curious!
4. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
    Loved An American Tragedy when I read it at the age of 15. 
5. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
     Fascinated by the concept.

Okay, the ones I rather dread, but for whatever reason wish to read:
6. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
     I feel as if I really should read this if I haven't yet...
7. The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein
     I want to read something written by her, but really have no idea what to expect.
8. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
     I'm sure this is going to gross me out, but I think we all need to read it...
9. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
     So many references that I feel I need to have at least read it.
10. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
     Loved The Grapes of Wrath, but have never been attracted to this one, though I feel I 
     should read it.

Those I cannot wait to read:
11. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
     Feel I should read it so I can understand the references made to it.
12. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
     Loved the movie and would like to read the book, which is virtually always better, 
     in my opinion!
13. The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes
     Love Hughes, and want to read what he had to say...
14. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
     Love his short stories and this will be the first full-length novel of his for me to have 
     read. (The Last Tycoon doesn't count, since it was unfinished.)
15. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
     Yeah, I know. Unbelievable that some English/literature teacher in my past never 
     got to this one, but I am very curious.

Free Choice:
16. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
     Read this at age 15, loved it, and am anxious to see how I feel about it now, some 
     42 years later! :)
17. The Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter
     First read when I was 13. I loved it then and am anxious to see how it resonates 
     for me now.
18. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
     I like his writing; so intense and emotional...heartfelt!
19. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study by W.E.B. Du Bois
     Have always said I wanted to read something he'd written. I admire his 
     accomplishments with regard to the NAACP, etc.
20. The Stranger by Albert Camus
     Very curious to see what I think of this one! Have wondered about it for many years!

What classics are on your TBR list? Are you participating in any similar challenges?

Let me know...maybe we can be "reading buddies"! 

Have a great week, everyone! I've been sick and am looking forward to hopefully 
re-establishing my regular routine this week!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Literary Wives #7: The Inquisitor's Wife by Jeanne Kalogridis

Image courtesy of MacMillan Web site

           St. Martin's Press
           St. Martin's Griffin
            Publication May 2013
            ISBN: 9780312675462
            ISBN: 0312675461
            400 pages

Welcome to the Literary Wives Virtual Book Club for 2014!

We now have a Facebook page for those who would like to participate and/or follow along.

Our first read for 2014 (February) is an excellently written historical novel about the Inquisition in Seville in 1481. 

Jeanne Kalogridis did just what I want a writer to do, particularly in historical fiction: make me "feel" as if I am actually in the time and place, and she certainly accomplished that, though her depiction also felt universal and/or timeless. Persecution of other human beings would, unfortunately, appear to be unstoppable. This novel does an excellent job of describing the events and political machinations in Seville in 1481 that led to the expulsion of those openly practicing Judaism religious rites, as well as many deaths and much torture for those simply accused of being conversos. (Note: no proof was necessary!) I found my own heart racing at times while reading this book! Wondering what was going to happen to the characters, and needing to know asap! Not many writers can do that to me. 

I probably would not have read this particular novel if not for participation in the Literary Wives Online Book Discussion Group. Not due to lack of interest overall, but lack of time to read all the books in which I am really interested! (I'm sure many of you can relate...) I am very glad I did not miss this one! I would compare my reaction to this book to that of Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt and Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton. These comparisons simply relate to my reaction to the subject matter and such accurate writing skills more than anything else.

I am quite the wuss when reading--very little blood, guts, and gore. just can't handle it; it stays in my head and freaks me out! :) I was fearful that this particular book might prove too gruesome for me, but I could handle the rough stuff Kalogridis included. (For which I was grateful and breathed a sigh of relief when finished!) However, I believe details and the overall story of all three of these books will never leave my mind. They are indelibly inscribed into my memory, and I think that's a good thing. I appreciate knowing more about history, and I feel it is never better learned than through the perspective of a person. I so appreciate the amazing talents of these historical fiction authors! There are too many to name here. 

I was unaware of the purely political and financial motivations of Queen Isabel for the Inquisition in Seville. I don't know how much monetary motivations played into the Inquisition overall, but according to Kalogridis and her research, it was the main factor in Seville. I had no idea about Old Christian vs. New Christian at that time, nor of the persistence and constancy of persecution of Jews, seemingly everywhere and at all times in the history of our world! I never cease to ask myself..."Why?" Why must we humans persecute each other? I am still hopeful that humanity overall is capable of "beating" this "disease"! Surely we will reach a point in "our story" when we no longer persecute each other, period...no matter what the criteria! 

Another reason I might not have read this book is that I personally no longer have any attraction to "organized religion" overall, believing as Christopher Hitchens did, that "religion poisons everything." Since I try not to concentrate on negativity in my life, I purposefully don't read much of what I consider to be negative. However, with that said, I am glad I am motivated to expand my horizons occasionally and read what I might have otherwise avoided; it helps me further clarify my own beliefs and expand my knowledge base.

In short, as you may already know, I don't summarize each book, but prefer to present my own reactions to it. Summaries can be found elsewhere quite easily. 

Now to the "wife" questions and my thoughts...

1) What does this book say about the experience of wives or about the experience of 
     being a wife?

Okay, I'll just say this first. Marriage typically includes sex--(traditionally) monogamous sex. But poor Marisol never gets to experience that in the course of this book, though she does come close, and not necessarily in a good way. I absolutely loved the scene where she opens the "other" door in her bedroom and sees not a closet, as she believed it to be, but her own husband, still drunk, holding a candle for light, stark naked with quite an erection. "I parted my lips, fascinated, and held my ground: part of me wanted nothing to do with Gabriel, but another part of me longed to be touched by a man... I [was] praying that he would take me then, while hoping just as fervently that he would not." So very realistic! Especially for a 17-year-old female, someone with absolutely no sexual experience whatsoever--the attraction and the aversion! But no sex for her! 

For Marisol, as an Old Christian, suspected of being a converso, being a wife was simply a "protection" perpetrated upon her by her father. He (mistakenly) thought by forcing his daughter to marry Gabriel, she would be protected from the newly instituted Inquisition laws, sparing her any possible imprisonment and specifically, her life. As one would expect in 1481, a "wife" really had no rights other than those assigned/allowed by her husband. She was still basically considered property of the man and he could do as he pleased with and to her. A wife was to obey and acquiesce, no matter what.  

2) In what way does this woman define "wife"--or in what way is she defined by "wife"?

Her relationship with Antonio was as much that of a true wife as any, certainly much more so than with Gabriel. In my opinion, a wife should be able to love and respect her partner, as well as expect the same in return. That certainly was not and (in my opinion) never would have been the case with Gabriel. He was purely motivated by greed, obsession, and manipulation. (Admittedly, I could easily imagine doing great harm to this man and being quite satisfied doing so...) And we can conclude Gabriel was controlling Antonio and Marisol's relationship from afar once they were separated geographically, so without his interference, I believe (perhaps I just hope) that they would have had a completely happy and mutually beneficial partnership as husband and wife. Marisol was totally defined by her role as "wife" to a great degree, although she quickly learned to match wits with those who would manipulate and control her, until she finally discovered the truth. Admittedly, I was uncertain who was going to live or die in this novel, but I was glad she would live to establish a new life. 

I felt Marisol extended her life beyond the typical role of "wife" and it was a good thing she did, because I don't believe she'd have had a chance of living had she not done so. Even if you aren't certain you'd like to learn more about this era and the Inquisition, I would highly recommend this book as an enlightening and uplifting read. I respect anyone who endured such humiliation, torture, even death, and retained their sense of self-respect, morality, and most of all, compassion. 

Check out the other bloggers' reviews as well: 

Ariel of One Little Library

Audra of Unabridged Chick

Carolyn of Rosemary and Reading Glasses

Cecilia of Only You

Kay of whatmeread

Image from Diane Ackerman's Web site
Plan to join us for our next read, 

The Zookeeper's Wife, a War Story 
by Diane Ackerman. 

Reviews to be posted the first Monday in April. 

I am very anxious to read this one, having had it recommended to me by so many people!