Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Back Reviews Reel: May 2013

The blogging month of May 2013 saw me publishing another five reviews of more or less important novels, three contemporary ones (one of them by a Nobel laureate) and the only two nineteenth-century works featured here on Edith’s Miscellany to date. I started with Puffball by Fay Weldon that added a slightly feminist touch to my contents although it’s rather a popular than an exceptionally deep novel. Following up was Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë, a character driven book with an unspectacular plot from the pen of a quiet writer whose work is often overlooked because of her more famous writer-sisters. Then I moved on to The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin that actually is only a well-known short story about the dangers of gambling and seldom published in a single edition today. The last two books in the archive of May both deal with immigration. The first is The Chef by Martin Suter that surrounds a Tamil refugee in Switzerland who is partner and cook of incredibly effective aphrodisiac meals in a catering business. The second is The Passport by Herta Müller, the German-Romanian Nobel laureate in literature of 2009, and tells the story of a Romanian family doing everything in their power to finally get their passports to leave.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/135047.PuffballThe story of Puffball by Fay Weldon focuses on the Londoners Liffey and Richard who have been married for seven years. Dreaming of a country home and life, girlish-naïve Liffey proposes Richard a bargain: she will go off the pill and have a baby, if Richard agrees to move to a country cottage. Richard believes that his wife only bluffs and will want to stay in town after all, but he soon realizes that she has been serious. They rent Honeycomb Cottage in Somerset and find that country life isn’t quite like they expected. Commuting to London every day turns out be an unbearable odyssey for Richard, so he stays in London during the week leaving Liffey in their lonely home with just a few neighbours around who only pretend to be friends. Then Liffey becomes pregnant and a whole series of unpleasant events follows suit.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7160173-agnes-greyThe nineteenth-century classic Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë surrounds the well-educated daughter of a poor English clergyman who strives to make her living in a socially accepted way, i.e. as a governess or a teacher. But being a highly sensitive girl of eighteen she doesn’t seem to be cut out for such a career and in fact she doesn’t even last a year in her first position thanks to the set of unruly and pampered children. She is luckier in her second position because the girls are almost her own age and yet she has difficulty to adapt to their ways. When her father dies, she is forced to quit and help her mother to make a living. They start a school together, but the true happy ending is still to come in the person of a young philanthropic vicar Edward Weston.

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www.goodreads.com/book/show/27067102-the-queen-of-spades-and-selected-worksThe protagonist of The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin is Hermann, a young officer of the engineers in the Russian Army, who likes to watch others gamble and never plays at cards himself. Then a friend tells him the story of his grand-mother who lost a fortune in Paris when she was young and was told the secret of three winning cards to recover what she lost and even more. The story engrosses Hermann so much that he can’t think of anything else but making the old Countess share the secret with him. The almost eighty-year-old refuses and even laughs at him, so he threatens her with a pistol. She dies from the shock and the night after her funeral appears to Hermann as a ghost revealing the secret at last. The young man follows her instructions and risks all his money at cards…

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17232843-the-chefThe Chef in Martin Suter’s novel is the Tamil refugee Maravan who works as badly paid kitchen help in a posh restaurant in Zurich. One night he cooks a traditional Indian dinner for his Swiss colleague Andrea and she spends the night with him, but being a lesbian she doesn’t really understand why. Later she figures out that it had to do with the dishes that the Tamil cook served her. Her assumption that they were aphrodisiac soon turns out to be right and she suggests that they team up to start their own business, a catering company called Love Food. Hesitatingly Maravan plunges into the adventure because he needs more money to support his family in Sri Lanka, but before long the company slowly slips into the abyss of politics and dirty business. Questions of moral and responsibility arise concerning their business as well as their private and family lives.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2050211.The_PassportProtagonists of the novella titled The Passport (literally translated from German into English it should be Man is Nothing But a Pheasant in the World) are the members of a miller family in a German-speaking village in Romania in the 1980s. Mr. and Mrs. Windisch and their grown-up daughter have been waiting for their passports and visa to Germany for years. Many neighbours already left or are about to leave, while the necessary permissions of the Windisch family still keep being delayed by the officials. They handed over considerable bribes to the involved officials, notably to the mayor, the militia man, the post-office woman and even the (Catholic) parson. However, the men want more. They want sex in return for the yearned for papers and Windisch sickens at the thought of having his beautiful daughter sell her body like his worn-out wife had to do to survive in the Soviet gulag after the war.

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