Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Awakening by Kate Chopin ****

I've read somewhere that The Awakening is one of the first books about women's lib. I'd have to agree with that, though it doesn't have the positive connotations that later works would have. I do think that it is a very realistic portrayal of what you might call a mid-life crisis, though Edna, the main character, is only 29. I feel like I'm having one of those crises right now and I'm 40, but I've justified the similarities by saying to myself that people didn't live as long back then (1890's) so 29 might have been mid-life, and also that I'm hopelessly delayed in all things in general so this would be no exception.

Edna is, as I said above, 29 years old, married to a man that adores her and has two sons aged 5 and 7. Edna doesn't adore her husband, she just married him because he came along at the right time and was the right man to marry. They live in New Orleans but are on vacation on Grand Isle when the story opens. They are comfortably well off, with a nanny and servants. During the vacation Edna has an "awakening"-she suddenly feels the shackles of her life and wants to throw them off. This coincides with her relationship with a young man, Robert. They fall in love on the island but do not act upon it.

When Edna returns to New Orleans with her family she can't stand her existence anymore. She takes up painting and drawing again, old hobbies that she hadn't indulged in for years. Her husband leaves for an extended business trip to New York and while he is gone, she suddenly finds herself free. Her children visit her mother-in-law and her obligations are only to herself.

I'm sure this book has been analyzed to death and I know many people probably won't agree with me on my interpretation of it, but I thought the book was very good, even the ending. I won't give it away, just that it is true to the time and true to the character. It can't be put in the context of our current social situation--so much has changed in our world in just 120 years. I can empathize with Edna's ennui. I admire her ability to pull herself out of it, even if the struggle exhausts her.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne ****

I've resurfaced. To say I've had a heck of a time recently would be an understatement. I don't know if it's my age, my hormones, or just the time of year, but I was down in the dumps for the whole month of December & didn't know if I was going to be able to pull myself out. I've read that the early 40's are the most depressing time of most people's lives, so maybe this is just my new periodic normal. If it is, it sucks. I didn't read. Anything. Which shows how bad off I was. Even when I'm not actively reading a book I'm always reading something: a magazine, articles online, something. But not this time.

I'm glad to relate that I think I've snapped out of it. I hope like hell that I don't snap back into it, but I'm realistic if I'm anything. If you see a large break on here again, that's most probably what's going on. So bear with me, please.

On to the book--

I've been going through the Dover Publications catalog & looking at the books they offer in a new light. I had an AHA! moment & saw that most all of their items are copyright free. Which means something wonderful: Project Gutenberg. You see, I've got this doggone Kindle that I have a love/hate relationship with. I love the instant gratification of reading material, but hate the lack of sensory input, ie. the feel of the pages, the smell of the book, the heaviness or lightness of the tome. But when I get free ebooks from Gutenberg, well...I start loving the little devil again.

A.A. Milne, of Winne the Pooh fame, wrote a mystery book back in the 20's. And even though I kinda figured out what was going on before the amateur detective did in the book, I liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot.

The usual suspects are gathered at a British country estate in the roaring 20's for a lovely summer weekend. They do the usual stuff that those folk liked to do: golfing, playing on the bowling green (?), anyone for tennis, that kind of stuff. Oh yeah, & then a dead guy shows up & ruins the lovely weekend & I say!, let's figure out what happened, what?

There's all sorts of cool stuff like secret passages, a flamboyant actress, people doing mysterious things in a pond in the dead of night, & the really smart fella that just happens to show up just at the right time & figure the whole thing out. I'm amazed they didn't just kill off all those really smart fellas in England back in the day--they could have gotten away with so much crime without them!

It was a good book to get me out of my funk. If you get in a funk yourself & need a little nudge to get your ass back in gear, I suggest this chestnut. Jolly good show!