Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens *****

A close second to Great Expectations as my favorite Dickens novel, I thought I'd re-read this gem since it's been at least 14 years since I have previously.  A couple things struck me this time, one being the horrible conditions in France for the poor at the time of the revolution.  If you really consider it for a moment, how bad would it truly have to be for a people that had never known another system of government other than monarchy to decide that they didn't care what they got, they just couldn't stand living the way they were anymore.  I know that Dickens wrote with a bit of British bias about the French, especially since England was scared to death at the time that it's populace would rise up against King George also.  I'm sure the average English peasant wasn't treated that much better than the average French one, though. 
Another observation is that the horrible inequality of the haves & the have-nots can be deadly.  It's hard not to compare, just a little, to what is going on in the US right now with the rich getting so much richer while the people with the least are treated more harshly all the time.  The debate as to whether the rich should be taxed more becomes pretty moot when the "huddled masses" are angry & downtrodden.  One quote stuck with me:
Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms.  Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.
No, I don't think we're on the verge of an anarchistic revolution.  But I do think that our politicians need to remember why a certain government benefit is called Social Security--it keeps our society secure. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna ***

Two posts in one day!  Wooo hooo!  I'm trying to make up for some lost time here, since I've been a real slacker recently.  I got a new Kindle for my birthday this year (my old one had a very unfortunate accident that we won't mention...) & I was excited to see that if you join Amazon Prime you can access the Kindle Lenders Library, which means I can read one of those titles a month for free.  Pretty nice, especially since I've been locked out of my library account & can't borrow any ebooks at the moment (don't ask about that either, it's a long story involving fines.  I'm basically a mess right now.).  I didn't consider the titles, just went with the first one that looked decent to me & that's how I ended up with this book.
The setting is 1975 in rural northern Ireland & Jamie McCloone is mourning the loss of his beloved Uncle Mick.  At 41 years old he's rather set in his ways, but loneliness & the demons from his past force him to try to find some companionship.  Lydia Devine is tired of being her mother's keeper.  When an invitation to a school friend's wedding comes in the mail she realizes that finding a date for the event could be the beginning of a new life for her.  Both Jamie & Lydia's lives intersect when their well meaning friends suggest they look at the "Lonely Hearts" ads in the local newspaper.  With a series of comedic-& sometimes almost tragic-errors, the two lonely 40-somethings slowly make their ways towards each other.
The descriptions of loneliness & also of the hideous conditions in Irish orphanages are some of the best parts of this book.  It's painful to think of any child having to go through what the main character does as a child, but when you multiply that by 100's & realize that most of the orphans didn't ever get a forever home like Jaime did, you realize what a tragic place Ireland was for many people. 
I was a little irritated by what seemed to me like the stereotypical accents & typical characterizations of the characters, but that was easy for me to get over as I read the book.  Overall I recommend The Misremembered Man.  Not a great work of literature, mind you, but a touching story about family & finding them where you can.

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander ***

Again my apologies for taking so long to post.  Is it just me, or are blogs just not as popular anymore?  I think Facebook has taken a lot away from them, but in a way that's such a shame.  You only get a few characters on Facebook & there's really no way to adequately describe how you felt about a book on there.  But technology & life go on, & where Facebook now is I'm sure there will eventually be something new.  Things never stand still & change is always going to be there.  I guess I might as well make friends with it!
Goblin Secrets won the National Book Award for children's literature this past year, so I thought it would be a great choice to give a try.  I didn't find it great, but it was very interesting.  It takes place in an alternate world where I have to admit I get very confused.  There are goblins there, but their version of goblins aren't what I think most of us think of as goblins.  They used to be people, but were transformed somehow (it doesn't tell how that happens in the book) & most people fear them.  But they don't seem to do the humans in the book any harm, they simply are traveling performers.  There's a great deal of clock-work characters running around too, which was also rather confusing to me.  I think the most confusing thing right now is that it's been quite awhile since a read the book & I'm only left with vague impressions, & therefore can't really give a good description of what the book was really about. 
Yes, this is one lame review!  But I do hope that this doesn't deter anyone from reading the book.  Like I said, it wasn't bad, just very different.  It's kinda like reading a Tolkien book & entering Middle Earth in only about 100 pages.  Probably good for the younger set, if they can let go of their fetters & just enjoy the ride.