Monday, November 21, 2011

The Picture of Doian Gray

Finished The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. This was my Halloween read for this year. I wish Wilde had written other novels. His prose is such a delight. Dorian's friend Lord Henry Wotten, a.k.a. Harry, is the key to Dorian's demise. Throughout the novel I saw him as a representation of the devil himself, hence "Harry." Also, towards the end, when Dorian is turning over a new leaf, he tells Harry of a young village maid named Hetty who he had planned to run away with, but instead leaves untouched. This immediately made me think of Hetty in Adam Bebe.

The novel is funny, exciting and gruesome at points. I enjoyed it very much. There were times when it reminded me of Hawthorne's story Rappaccini's Daughter, since nearly everything the beautiful Dorian comes into contact with is destroyed.

Salting Roses

Finished Salting Roses by Lorelle Marinello. A young woman who was raised by her "uncle" after he finds her as a baby in a coal bucket on his front porch, learns that she is the kidnapped daughter of wealthy man and is now heiress to a fortune. She's not too happy about this turn of events. She struggles to grasp the idea that everything she believed about her family and origins is false.

Gracie is a twenty-five year old tomboy who works at the grocery store in her small hometown and looks after her uncles Ben and Artie and her Aunt Alice, all of whom raised her, and all of whom are growing old. The shock of learning the truth about her past sends Gracie into a tailspin, as does the handsome Northerner who acts as liaison between her and her various relatives who begin to arrive to influence her decision of whether or not to accept the fortune. Some of the regional southern dialog is amusing, as are many of the characters. A decent read if you enjoy chick lit.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Oriental Wife

Finished The Oriental Wife by Evelyn Toynton. The title may be a bit misleading until you garner it's relevance a little ways into the novel. In the end it makes complete sense. What does not is the summary on the inside jacket flap, which is also used as the description on Amazon,

"The Oriental Wife is the story of two assimilated Jewish children from Nuremberg who flee Hitler’s Germany and struggle to put down roots elsewhere. When they meet up again in New York, they fall in love both with each other and with America, believing they have found a permanent refuge. But just when it looks as though nothing can ever touch them again, their lives are shattered by a freakish accident and a betrayal that will reverberate into the life of their American daughter. In its portrait of the immigrant experience, and of the tragic gulf between generations, The Oriental Wife illuminates the collision of American ideals of freedom and happiness with certain sterner old world virtues."

The characters are not children when they leave Germany, nor do they flee, although their parents try to later. I don't see the thing that shatters their lives as a "freakish accident." This description seems ill informed and written in haste, as if gleaned from cliff notes. It does not begin to touch on the deep feeling of the characters, their very human flaws or the poignancy of this story. In essence I think it negates the weight and significance of the work.

That being said, the book is weighty with sorrow, but it's sorrow that needs to be known. One character, who emigrates to New York grieves daily of the small sorrows in the newspaper, a young mother of two who throws herself in front of a train, the death of a panda at the zoo. This is transference of grief that he cannot possibly express, for people he loved who were murdered in the Holocaust.

I was struck by how the main character Louisa, a German Jew, attended boarding school in Switzerland in the thirties, living amongst German, French, English and even Japanese girls her age, just a few years before World War II.

Ultimately this book is about misplaced loyalties and their consequences. A melancholy, but very rich read.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

South of Superior

Finished South of Superior by Ellen Airgood. I requested it from my local library and was number 82 on the list. I thought it would be months until I would have it in my hands, but it was only a few weeks. My library ordered 30 copies of it! Set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it is the story of several lost people who find a place for themselves in the tight knit town of McAllaster. Here the residents know everything about everyone. There is a very strong sense of community, and while one person may not like another, they'll be there to lend a hand if it's needed.

Madeline Stone moves from Chicago to McAllaster to live with two elderly sisters and to help take care of one of them. In this small place she uncovers her own past as a cast off child and her future as a painter and business owner. There are many quirky characters, which I always enjoy. These people exude stubbornness, thrift, wisdom and grit. The characters are far from typical and a real pleasure to know. I enjoyed this book.