Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Back Reviews Reel: May 2014

For some odd reason my reads of three years ago told without exception sad, if not depressing stories. My first read in May 2014 was Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys, a much acclaimed English classic from 1939 that surrounds a lonely Englishwoman in Paris. Also the 1974 Austrian novel Beautiful Days by Franz Innerhofer was far from a cheerful read evoking the horrors of the author’s own childhood on a mountain farm in the 1950s. Before You Sleep by Linn Ullmann, first published in 1998, is another story of the scars that even small childhood traumas leave on a soul, but at the same time it’s a family history of three generations coping with the vicissitudes of life. While Before You Sleep was only faintly surrealistic, Mood Indigo by Boris Vian turned out to be a chef-d’oeuvre of French surrealism that first appeared in 1947. The story of love and friendship takes a splendid turn from sunny and clear to overcast and gloomy. And last but not least, I read The Church of Solitude by Grazia Deledda, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1926. The protagonist of this late novel is a young Sardinian woman who had breast cancer – like the author herself who even died from it eventually.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/144073.Good_Morning_Midnight
The novella Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys is the sad story of Sasha, an Englishwoman in her early forties who lives in a cheap hotel in Paris of the 1930s. After her return from a disheartening visit to her family in London, she feels lonely and lost in a world that seems to have nothing to offer to her but struggle, misery and grief. For years she has scratched along in Paris doing jobs that she never managed to keep and borrowing money from friends and acquainances. Despite all, she keeps up wealthy appearances frequenting the city’s many cafés and night clubs. There she drinks heavily and has only frugal meals. On lucky days she attracts the attention of someone to invite her, but she is painfully aware that her youth and her beauty are fading.
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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2999766-beautiful-days
The story of Beautiful Days by Franz Innerhofer is basically the fictionalised account of the author's own horrible childhood on a mountain farm in the Alpine regions of Salzburg during the 1950s. In shocking detail he evokes his love-less, even cruel biological father, who took him into house and family much rather as a free farm hand than as his son. He has to work hard for his living and he is only allowed to go to school when it suits the father or the teacher starts pestering. Beatings and abuse are daily reality and weigh terribly on the sensitive as well as intelligent boy. Growing older he considers suicide as an acceptable way out, but then he becomes a teenager stronger than his father and he forces open his way into a better life.
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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1085376.Before_You_Sleep
The Norwegian novel Before You Sleep by Linn Ullmann surrounds three generations of the Blom family. In the 1930s one of them followed his heart and left Norway to live in the USA. He got married, had two daughters, managed to keep afloat during the Great Depression... and died unexpectedly just when things were getting better. His family returned to Norway and all that seems to be left of this episode of family history is a faded photo and a couple of stories. But the narrator realises that the experiences of her ancestors, notably of her mother, shaped her character and made her inclined to tell lies to protect herself from pain. The reconstruction of her family’s and her own past adds up to a meditative story with a faintly surrealistic touch.
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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18332486-mood-indigoReduced to its essentials, Mood Indigo by Boris Vian is an ingeniously surrealistic novel about love and friendship. Twenty-two-year-old Colin enjoys a dream-like existence without pain and sorrow. Still, he is a sensitive and warmhearted man attracted to beauty and pleasure, notably Jazz by Duke Ellington and the meals prepared by his cook Nicolas. When he falls in love with Chloë and makes her his wife, his happiness seems boundless. Alas, already during their honeymoon fate takes a disastrous turn: Chloë catches a life-threatening infection that makes a water lily grow in her lungs. Only the perfume of – outrageously expensive – fresh flowers brings her relief and he gladly sacrifices his entire fortune to buy them. It’s all to no avail.
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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2489.The_Church_of_Solitude
The Church of Solitude by en-NOBEL-ed Grazia Deledda is set in rural Sardinia, Italy, in the 1930s. The female protagonist is only in her late twenties, but she has just returned home from hospital where the surgeon removed one of her breasts because it was cancerous. She knows her odds for a long life and has accepted that she’ll never have a husband and children. With the exception of her mother nobody knows what’s the matter with her and so suitors as well as match-makers regularly drop by at her house with the adjoining small church consecrated to the Virgin Mary, Mary of Solitude. In the church she prays to Mary of Solitude to be spared the suffering which they all cause her with their constant pestering. All she wants is peace and quiet.
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1 comment:

  1. Oh my, that is a sad lot of stories. But I have read and loved Mood Indigo plus enjoyed the movie. This week I finished The World To Come by Dara Horn. Talk about a sad story. My Tiny Book Club will be discussing it today.

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