Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wrap-Up: Mount TBR Challenge 2013

The Mount TBR Challenge attracted me this year as a way to chip away at my massive TBR list--the books I own but haven't read.  I attempted to read 12 of those books this year, and alas, it looks like I only read eight, while continuing to purchase new books.  So much for whittling the list!  The books I read were:

The Assault by Harry Mulisch
Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The favorite?  Austerlitz--lovely and wistful and sad, and so very unusual in the way it is told, as a slowly meandering unfolding of memories.  I've just made it sound boring and depressing, and it's anything but.  It actually gets more suspenseful as it goes on, and I couldn't put it down once I saw where the narrative was going.  I read most of it on a train through Germany and the Czech Republic last summer, which adds to the specialness.

Thank you Bev at My Reader's Block for hosting this challenge.

Wrap-Up: Chunkster Challenge 2013

For the Chunkster Challenge, I committed to reading four chunksters (books of 450 pages or longer) this year.  But it turns out I read six!  These were:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The favorite (and the biggest surprise) was Les Miserables.  It is so very long, and I had always heard it described as near-torture, that I had some trepidations going in.  But this book hooked me immediately by starting off with the life of the good Bishop of Digne, with whom I am now in love.  

There is no least favorite;  there were no disappointments;  I enjoyed them all.  Actually, in this blog you will rarely read of disappointments, because I rarely continue reading a book I dislike.  I'm not in school, haha.  

Thanks Wendy and Vasilly, for this enjoyable challenge!

Friday, December 20, 2013

2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon

I've been a member of the Classics Club for two years now, and I've been reading away, but I've never participated in a Classics Club event.  I've never joined in on a readathon, because I never seemed to be free all day on the day.  But the stars seem to have aligned, and this year's Classics Club Readathon will be on January 4, 2014, and I have nothing planned!  No travel and no visitors expected--yay!  Now I just have to decide what to read...

Classics Club

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Wine of Solitude

In finishing The Wine of Solitude, I have read all the Nemirovsky in my collection.  I can't overstate how much pleasure this writer gives me.  In this, her most autobiographical book, she evokes the Kiev of her childhood, which she hated, but which with its air full of summer dust and the scent of lime trees sounds lovely to me.  She convincingly recreates a childhood that leaves her unable to trust or to form attachments, and her choice of the high road at the end of the book feels well-earned. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Remains of the Day

Add Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day to the long list of books-I-was-exposed-to-in-my-youth-and-failed-to-appreciate.  Not that I read the book back then, but I saw the movie in college and found it rather dull.  I wonder now how this book could ever be filmed without being dull;  it's mainly one man's mental suppressions.  I must see it again and find out.

But I now know, having also read Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World a couple of years ago, that reminiscence is a powerful tool in this author's hands.  In both books, the narrator tells the story of his life in flashback.  The narrator in The Remains of the Day is a butler looking back on his years of service to a disastrously foolish nobleman. The narration starts out in a very self-satisfied tone, and as it goes on, the narrator can't help revealing more and more of the reality of events, which is less and less flattering to himself.  At the end, we feel that we finally understand the the man's life and choices, and we feel him facing it at last.  The revelations are so subtle, so carefully and elegantly revealing, that it's like listening to him mentally unfolding his memories.

I have one more book by Kazuo Ishiguro on my shelves--A Pale View of Hills, which also features a narrator recounting memories.  I'm very interested to see how like these other two it will turn out to be.  Ishiguro is obviously very interested in the phenomenon of memory and how we use it to rewrite our lives.  I'm strongly reminded of W. G. Sebald, another writer obsessed with memory.  I read his Austerlitz last summer and fell heavily for Mr. Sebald, more of whose work I also want to read.

Classics Club
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Selected Stories by Stefan Zweig

I read this collection of novellas over the last two days.  I seldom read anything that quickly, giving myself up to reading for hours at a sitting, rather than just over meals or while my younger kids swim or attend scout meetings.  These kinds of stories are such  pure pleasure for me--set in the early 1900s, in European cities, and delving deeply into people's passions, heartbreaks, and life-altering decisions with clear-eyed sympathy.  Reminiscent of Dinesen's atmospheric, mysterious, heartbreaking, multi-layered tales within tales. 


George Eliot's Middlemarch examines the busy life of a manufacturing town in the north of England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  A great number of characters, storylines, happy and unhappy marriages, births, deaths, hidden sins, financial struggles, political movements, and societal changes fill its 838 pages.  I generally enjoy these massive, complicated stories of societies seen through the eyes of several families when they are told with humor and insight, as Middlemarch is. 

Two characters' stories get the most thorough treatment, and they seem almost to be male and female foils of each other.  Dorothea Brooke is an idealistic but naive young woman of good family, and Tertius Lydgate is Middlemarch's new doctor, ambitious to break new scientific ground in a research hospital.  They share some obvious similarities--both are careless of others' opinion of them, and filled with a desire to improve the world.  Both also make disastrous marriages which thwart their ambitions to do great good.  But one ultimately finds a satisfying outlet for those ambitions, while the other settles for a severely limited horizon.

What I couldn't quite get a handle on with Middlemarch, was the book's attitude toward women.  The author/narrator frequently makes asides on the weakness of women and the submissiveness of ideal wives.  I read these as tongue-in-cheek, coming from a female author.  And Dorothea has an interest in architecture--she draws plans herself for cottages for the poor.  But no positively portrayed female character, even Dorothea, seems to have, or want to have, opinions or interests or desires other than their husbands'.  They regard it as their highest good to subordinate their very thoughts to his, and their duty to suppress any thoughts or desires which conflict with his.  The only character to not only think, but act, contrary to her husband's wishes is the monstrously selfish Rosamond. 

But perhaps we shouldn't expect perfect consistency from authors.  Certainly the psychological insights of this author toward her characters in general are wonderful and one of the great pleasures of reading Middlemarch

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Small Hand and Dolly

These two novellas by Susan Hill, The Small Hand and Dolly, come packaged in one volume by Vintage Books.  Susan Hill is the author of The Woman in Black, and also of a series of police procedurals.  I generally enjoy her ghost stories,  but I think I prefer The Woman in Black, which is a full-length novel, to these two.  All are the type of ghost story I love:  English setting and not extremely shocking or gory.  These two, while nicely atmospheric, are perhaps a little too tame even for me.  Worth a read, though, if you like the type. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Anna Karenina

I loved War and Peace, so I brought high expectations to Anna Karenina, and I wasn't disappointed.  Reading Tolstoy, more than anything, leaves me with a warm feeling toward Tolstoy.  I do try, when reading, not to assume too much about the author, but again and again found myself mentally nodding:  yes--he understands, about this or that character's thoughts, fears, frustrations, spiritual struggles.

Anna Karenina tells parallel stories about two couples, or rather, a triangle and a couple:  Anna, her husband, and her lover;  and Kitty (Anna's sister-in-law), and her husband Levin.  Anna's sterile marriage and disastrous adulterous relationship are contrasted with Kitty and Levin's marital and spiritual growth.

Tolstoy really does do a remarkable job of getting inside characters' minds--men, women, and children.  I caught myself wondering if he had asked his wife, for instance, exactly what it's like, physically and emotionally, to struggle with breastfeeding.  He seems to understand the mental exhaustion of a mother with many young children and an irresponsible husband.  And this is a man, writing in the 1870s!  He captures the stress and frustration of an introvert forced to spend large amounts of time with argumentative people.  He takes us inside the minds of all three members of the triangle--and I couldn't imagine any of them acting in any other way than they did.  Their choices all seemed inevitable outcomes of their personalities.  Even Anna's young son, the victim and onlooker, is fully realized.

Spiritual struggle is a major theme in Anna, as it was in War and Peace.  From this angle, too, I felt the skill of the characterization.  Levin is the character I would have expected to wrestle with questions such as the meaning of life and the existence of God.  His development from agnostic to believing Christian is treated in depth, and doesn't feel like prosletyzing.  Again, I wondered if Tolstoy was remembering his own experience, as it seemed to unfold so naturally.

Was Leo Tolstoy a warm, wise, and understanding man?  There's no way to know for sure, of course, but that's how I think of him now. 

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath

Reading Of Mice And Men in high school pretty much killed any interest I might have had in reading any more Steinbeck.  "Boring and depressing" was my teenage reaction to that novel.  But the older I get, the more often I discover the beauty, or the skill, or the power in some work that I didn't appreciate back then.  The Last of the Mohicans is an example--hated that in school, but loved it when I read it again a couple of years ago with my daughter.  Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is one that, being by Steinbeck, I wouldn't have opened, except that James at Following Pulitzer reviewed it so glowingly last year that I was moved to put it on my TBR list.  (And my father loved it, which should have made me give it a chance a long time ago!)

Anyway.  Now I love it too, and better late than never, I suppose.  It's the story of the Joad family of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, whose farm is repossessed during the Depression.  They take to the road, hoping to find work picking fruit in California.  My two strong takeaways from this book are the very moving characterizations, and Steinbeck's apparent desire to get a social message across--the crying need for social safety nets such as unions and government programs.

Surely it's a sign of skillful characterization that I actually grew to love this family and suffered along with them through all their trials.  They were by no means angelic;  they were more interesting than that.  Ma Joad's iron will is tempered occasionally by self doubt.  Tough son Tom's quick temper is balanced by his integrity and passion for justice.  Ex-preacher Casy, who has given up Christianity, eventually performs an act of self-sacrifice that is obviously meant to be Christ-like.  I felt I was on a journey with these complex and interesting human beings, and was sorry to part with them at the end.

It's clear that Steinbeck was pro-union, and it's really hard to dispute, reading this book, the need for migrant workers to have some bargaining power when they faced starvation wages, squalid living conditions, and blacklisting by large farm corporations if they objected.  I think it's easy to forget that within living memory, without government safety nets, Americans sometimes starved to death.  (James, the blogger mentioned above, made this point in his review last year also.  It's such a large theme in the novel that I don't know how anyone reading it could fail to be struck by it, and I certainly was.) 

After finishing The Grapes of Wrath, I watched Ken Burns' documentary Dust Bowl.  I'd highly, highly recommend that as a companion to this book.  It provides a detailed but accessible explanation of the "dust bowl" phenomenon and its origins--a man-made ecological disaster.  And it includes plenty of photographs, which I was constantly mentally matching to characters in the book.  I also watched the 1940 movie starring Henry Fonda.  Although the film is a truncated version of the book, and left out some important but controversial-for-the-time elements, the casting was genius and the acting superb.  Watch it too.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Random Number Survey

I saw this meme over at Howling Frog Books (it was originally created by Melissa at Harley Bear Books), and it looks like fun, so I think I'll play.  Here's how it works:
1. Pick a number.  
2. Go to your bookshelf and count that many books until you reach your number. Answer the question with that book.
3. Count the same number of books from where you left off and answer the next question.

4. Repeat until you finish the survey

I chose the number 10, and found every tenth book from my biggest literature bookcase.  (I don't know why the spacing is wonky below, and I can't seem to fix it, sorry!)

1.  Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen:   What do you think of the cover?    

I love this cover.  Many of my classic literature covers have paintings from the relevant period, and this one is well chosen.  The slimmer, more erect girl on the left is obviously sober Elinor, and the lounging, plumper, tousle-curled girl on the right is emotional Marianne. 

2.  The Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory by Jorge Luis Borges:  Write a review in 140 characters or less.

Two dreamy, hypnotic, fascinating, inventive story collections from late in Borges' life. 

3.  The Lady With the Dog and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov:  How or where did you get this book?                                                                                                                                                                                                               I got it from Amazon, because I wanted to read "The Black Monk," which is one of the stories in this collection.  I was a little disappointed because I thought it would be a creepy/gothic type of thing, but it was more about madness, which I should have known given the author. 

4.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens:  Who's your favorite character in this book, and why?

Joe Gargery.  He has such sweetness and dignity, and no pride or resentment. 


5.  The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:  Recommend this book to a fellow blogger you think would like it. 

Actually, this kind of stumps me.  I've never seen Sherlock Holmes books reviewed on a blog,  nor detective fiction, on the blogs I mostly frequent. 

6.  The Small Boat of Great Sorrows by Dan Fesperman:  How long ago did you read this book? 

Probably three or four years ago, I don't remember exactly.  It was a used-bookstore find, a thriller with a postwar Sarajevo setting that appealed to me.  

7.  A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway:  Name a favorite scene from this book (NO SPOILERS).

I read this book in high school (!) which is so long ago that I barely remember it.  Only one scene remains in my memory, so it must be my favorite--the childbirth scene, with Catherine having dreadful pains and sucking on the "gas" that they gave to laboring women at the time.  It terrified me. 

8.  The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill:  Open to page 87 and pick a random quote to share (NO SPOILERS).

"She had--an expression.  Happy.  You don't see people look happy, just plain happy, do you?  They look worried, they look worn down, they're frowning, or maybe laughing out loud... but this was--just happy.  I remember it."

9.  An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro:  How did you hear about or discover this book? 

The Houston Museum of Fine Arts has a book club of sorts.  They announce a book on their website, you read it, and then go in for a tour, which they have tailored to the book.  This book is about a painter in postwar Japan, and the tour included a lot of Japanese art, with a docent-led discussion of both the art and the book. 

10.  Strange Tales by Rudyard Kipling:  If you could redesign the cover, what would you do?

I'd make it more like the cover of the book that I have, which is not the one shown.  The one I have is a Wordsworth Edition, Strange Tales series.  it has what looks like a pencil drawing called "Death shakes the dead leaves" by Robert Mathias.  A skeleton is hanging on to a tree, a wind is blowing, leaves are flying, and both tree and skeleton are bowed.  It's eerie and fabulous.

11.  To Build a Fire and Other Stories by Jack London:  Name your least favorite character in this book and why.

The title story in this collection is the only one I've read, and it has two characters--a man and a dog.  I'd have to say the man is my least favorite character, because he makes some really bad decisions. 

12.  Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:  If you like (fill in the blank), then you should try (your book).

If you like magical realism, Spanish literature, or explorations of the dark side of human nature, you should try this book.

13.  David Golder by Irene Nemirovsky:  Name one cool thing about this book (under the dust jacket, map, font, photograph, etc.). 

What I like about the edition I have (pictured) is that it's one of the set of Nemirovsky's books published in Britain by Vintage.  The US-published ones look different.  I found this one in a used bookstore.  They all have the title in that swirly font, and a swoony period photo.  I love them. 

14.  1984 by George Orwell:  Where is it set, and would you ever want to visit that world/place?

The dystopian future, and good Lord, no. 

15.  All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque:  Who is it dedicated to?

It's not specifically dedicated to anyone, but it has this rather moving paragraph before page one:  "This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure for those who stand face to face with it.  It will simply try to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas was another travel find:  the apartment building where we stayed in Berlin last June was located next to a cafe/bookstore.  My daughters and I spent a couple of happy afternoons browsing the books then drinking tea at the tables outside.  This place, called Buchkantine, had books in both German and English, and Cloud Atlas caught my eye because I've been a David Mitchell fan since reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet last December.  It's really nice to pick up and read a book purchased while traveling--like extending the trip a little.

Cloud Atlas is a series of memoirs, told by various people, in various literary genres, from various time periods in the past, present, and future.  Each tale is connected to the next in some coincidental way, and each is interrupted but picked up and finished later in the book.  Big themes such as reincarnation, voracious consumerism, and humans' desire for power, are explored.  The importance of choosing between good and evil, in large and small ways, comes up again and again.

Each is done in a different literary genre or style.  These include a 19th-century ship passenger's diary, a series of letters from a young wastrel in 1930s Europe to his lover, a thriller set in 1970s California, a contemporary narration of a British publisher's misadventures in a nursing home, and a dystopian tale set in future Korea.  The core story is set in post-apocalyptic Hawaii, and seems to represent a possible outcome of humanity's eternal quest for power and domination;  after this story, each of the others is picked up again in turn and finished.  

I enjoyed this book tremendously, because of Mitchell's skill.  Every character's voice, and every memoir's literary style, is absolutely unique and superbly executed.  The two stories set in the future really need some knowledge of history to understand all the references (a Korean character in the future calls a piece of furniture "il-jongian" the way we would call a sofa "victorian").  I love that.  Oh, and a Soul in the same tale is the term used, without irony, to refer to a credit card implanted in one's body.  The British publisher's misadventures had me laughing out loud (he refers to his fellow nursing home patients as the Undead).  The charming but selfish music student in 1931 Europe has a wonderfully waspish/vulnerable way of speaking which put me in mind of a lot of 1930s English fiction.

It's the kind of book you want to keep going back through to compare early passages with later ones, to catch nuances you missed the first time, to make connections that occur to you late in the book.  So glad I picked this one up in Berlin.

Chunkster Challenge

Friday, August 30, 2013

Wrap-Up: Language Freak Summer Challenge

Well, I have to thank Ekaterina at In My Book for a really enjoyable challenge.  It came at the perfect time for me, as I'm trying to improve my German by reading.  The challenge was to read as many books as we could in a language in which we are not fluent by the end of the summer.

I read Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen and Anne Frank's Tagebuch.  (Those reviews, auf Deutsch, are here and here.)  I hadn't read Harry Potter before, but it was an easy read and good practice for me.  And I acquired some fun vocabulary--dragon, goblin, monster, troll, etc.  Anne Frank's diary was much more difficult, but I had read it in English years ago, so that helped.

Ekaterina encouraged us to write our reviews in the foreign language, too, which intimidated me, as I haven't written anything in German since college.  But I did it, with a lot of sweat and effort, and much consulting of online dictionaries, lol.  I also enjoyed very much connecting with a couple of other students of German and reading their work.  And I got some helpful comments on the Harry Potter review from a native speaker, which was wonderful. 

Looking forward to next summer's Language Freak challenge...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

From The Ruins Of Empire

From The Ruins Of Empire by Pankaj Mishra was purchased in, of all places, a bookstore in King's Cross Station in London, where we had gone to see Platform 9 and 3/4.  While the kids were taking each other's pictures, I wandered into the bookstore and was attracted by this nifty cover. 

Basically, it's a look at the Victorian era through the eyes of some of its victims:  the Asians.  The Victorian era, which is generally thought of in the west as a time of expansion, invention, and progress, was experienced by Asians as the dismissal and devastation of their ancient societies.  What many westerners don't know is that this juggernaut of change triggered intellectual movements in various Asian societies.  Asia experienced a cultural renaissance forged by some of these thinkers who attempted to form responses to the financial, cultural, and military onslaught of the Europeans.  Pankaj Mishra focuses on three such people:  the Persian Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Liang Qichao of China, and the Indian Rabindrinath Tagore. 

Al-Afghani was an early espouser of pan-Islamism (Muslims uniting culturally and politically against European occupiers).  Al-Afghani used Islam to attempt to unify the people of Muslim countries, without much material success.  But he influenced such later figures as Saad Zaghlul, who led a nationalist movement against the British after WWI, the Salafis, an (unlike Al-Afghani) puritanical and Arab-centric sect, and Rashid Rida, who inspired the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Liang Qichao thought regretfully that China's traditional Confucianist culture was not ruthless enough to succeed in the cutthroat new world made by the Europeans.  China needed a "benign despot" to unite the Chinese people in order to better resist the onslaughts of the British.  He found republican democracy too chaotic and too vulnerable to incompetency to be successful.  His heirs were the New Culture movement, made up of young intellectuals, factory workers, and clerks who despaired of preserving old ways and wanted to completely remake Chinese society in Europe's ruthless image.

The section on Rabindranath Tagore was a revelation to me:  I knew him only as the author of beautiful spiritual poetry.  Tagore wrote and traveled tirelessly, trying to inspire Asians to hold on to the "moral and spiritual power" of their traditions against the exploitations of Eurpeans, and trying to find common ground with Americans.  He wrote a novel called The Home and the World (reviewed at Howling Frog Books!) dealing with the tension between old and new worlds in India.  Near the end of his life in the 1930s, he was appalled by the violent and militaristic trends in Asia, particularly Japan. 

As a look at a period of history through the eyes of the underdogs, this book is a lot like Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which is US history as experienced by women, minorities, and the poor.  Both books should be required reading for high school, or at least college, students. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Ich habe Anne Franks Tagebuch auf Englisch gelesen, vor dreissig Jahre, als Teenager.  Dieses Mal lernte ich mehr uber die Geschichte der Zusammenstellung des veroffentliches Buches.  Auch, weil ich dieses Mal als eine Mutter das Buch gelesen haben, war meine Perspektive verschieden--ich merkte, und war ergrifft von, verschiedene Dinge.

Erst lernte ich, dass Anne das Tagebuch selbst uberarbeitet.  Im Radio hat sie gehort, dass nach dem Krieg, Uberlebenders Darstellungen wurde begehrt sein.  Sie schrieb fruher Textstellen um, um mehr interessant zu klingen.  Auch schrieb sie Textstellen dazu, in spater Eintragen.  (I know there's something wrong with that sentence;  I just don't know what.  Help?)

Annes Vater, Otto Frank, hat auch das Tagebuch herausgegeben.  Er strich Textstellen uber Annes sexuelle Gedanken und Gefuhle, ihre Gedanken uber die Natur ihrer Elterns Ehe, und andere.   (In spater Ausgaben des Tagebuches, haben diese Textstellen nachgestellt sein.) 

Was fallt mir auf, in dieses zweites Lesen?  Erst, naturlich, Annes Beziehung mit ihrer Mutter.  Annes Einstellung schaut mir jetzt sehr extrem an;  sie erklart sich unabhangig ihrer Eltern;  ihre Mutter ist "keine Mutter"!  Sie hat "keine Eltern;"  sie musst "selbst aufziehen!"  Der alleiniger Beweggrund, dass ich finden kann, ist dass ihre Mutter ist "Taktlos," und hanselt Anne.  Bestimmt, die Franks verstand nicht Annes Stress, und wahrscheinlich wahrnimmt ihr kommen in Pubertat nicht--uberhaupt, warum setzen Dussels Bett in Annes Zimmer?  Vielleicht findet sie Erleichterung vom Stress in extremer verbaler Ausserungen.

Auch findet ich Annes kleine Liebesaffare mit Peter sehr egreifend.  Es war so ruhrend, und so typisch, Annes wachsend Gefuhle fur Peter--sie weisst, dass Peter schluchtern und weniger intelligent als sie selbst ist, und in normaler Leben wurde sie ihm nicht interessant finden.  Aber sie fuhlt einen Mix aus Mitleid und Kameradschaft, und beginnt seine blaue Augen zu merken.  Und die Beiden wurde innerhalb Monaten tot sein.  Es bricht mir das Herz. 

As always, corrections from German speakers are appreciated--I know there's lots to improve here.  Also:  can anyone tell me how to get umlauts in Blogger?

Language Freak Summer Challenge

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Beginnings and Endings

This week The Broke And The Bookish invites us to share our top ten favorite book beginnings or endings.  Since I often decide whether to read a book based on its opening, I'll share some of my favorite beginnings.  Some are obvious, others less so.  How many can you identify?  (Answers at the end).

1.  All this happened, more or less.  The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true.  One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn't his.  Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war.  And so on.  I've changed all the names.  I really did go back to Dresden with Guggenheim money (God love it) in 1967.  It looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces than Dayton has.  There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground.

2.  Call me Ishmael.  Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.  It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation.  Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth;  whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul;  whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet;  and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hat off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

3.  August, 1931--The port town of Veracruz is a little purgatory between land and sea for the traveler, but the people who live there are very fond of themselves and the town they have helped to make.  They live as initiates in local custom reflecting their own history and temperament, and they carry on their lives of alternate violence and lethargy with a pleasurable contempt for outside opinion, founded on the charmed notion that their ways and feelings are above and beyond criticism.

4.  I marmeladed a slice of toast with something of a flourish, and I don't suppose I have ever come much closer to saying "Tra-la-la" as I did the lathering, for I was feeling in mid-season form this morning.  God, as I once heard Jeeves put it, was in His heaven and all was right with the world.  (He added, I remember, some guff about larks and snails, but that is a side issue and need not detain us.)

5.  Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block?  Of course I can explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block.  I'm not a bloody idiot.  I can explain it because it wasn't inexplicable.  It was a logical decision, the product of proper thought.  It wasn't even very serious thought, either.  I don't mean it was whimsical--I just mean that it wasn't terribly complicated, or agonized.  

6.  While my memory is fresh I am going to describe exactly what I saw and heard on the occasion, less than a week past, when I encountered a man who was walking about just like you and me--despite the inconvenience of having been brutally done to death.  

7.  "Ah, you ladies!  Always on the spot when there's something happening!"  The voice belonged to Mr. Mallet, one of our churchwardens, and its roguish tone made me start guiltily, almost as if I had no right to be discovered outside my own front door.  

"New people moving in?  The presence of the furniture van would seem to suggest it,"  he went on pompously.  "I expect you know about it."

"Well, yes, one usually does,"  I said, feeling rather annoyed at his presumption.  "It is rather difficult not to know such things."  

I suppose an unmarried woman just over thirty, who lives alone and has no apparent ties, must expect to find herself involved  or interested in other people's business, and if she is also a clergyman's daughter then one might really say that there is no hope for her.

8.  It was the egret, flying out of the lemon grove, that started it.  I won't pretend I saw it straight away as the conventional herald of adventure, the white stag of the fairy tale, which, bounding from the enchanted thicket, entices the prince away from his followers, and loses him in the forest where danger threatens with the dusk.  But, when the big white bird flew suddenly up among the glossy leaves and the lemon flowers, and wheeled into the mountains, I followed it.  What else is there to do, when such a thing happens on a brilliant April noonday at the foot of the white mountains of Crete;  when the road is hot and dusty, but the gorge is green, and full of the sound of water, and the white wings, flying ahead, flicker in and out of deep shadow, and the air is full of the scent of lemon blossom?

9.  My father asked me to be the fourth corner at the Joy Luck Club.  I am to replace my mother, whose seat at the mah jong table has been empty since she died two months ago.  My father thinks she was killed by her own thoughts.

"She had a new idea inside her head,"  said my father.  "But before it could come out of her mouth, the thought grew too big and burst.  It must have been a very bad idea."  

The doctor said she died of a cerebral aneurysm.  And her friends at the Joy Luck Club said she died just like a rabbit:  quickly and with unfinished business left behind.

1.  Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  2.  Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  3.  Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter.  4.  Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse.  5.  It's A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby.  6.  The Unburied by Charles Palliser.  7.  Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.  8.  The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart.  9.  The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Well, I'm not as young as I used to be, and a month of traveling, while tremendously fun, really wore me out.  We've been back for two weeks now and I'm pretty much recovered.  My reading has slowed lately, not only because of jet lag, but for a couple of other reasons.  One is that I'm doing a lot more language study these days.  I'm still reading and working on improving my German, but I've also started studying Dutch--while in Amsterdam last month I discovered how similar it is to German and picked up a textbook and a dictionary, and am working through the text.  I'd love to be able to start reading in Dutch, too.  Where I live, there is virtually no chance to attain spoken fluency in either of those languages, but to be able to read them gives me a lot of pleasure.  The other language I'm studying is Arabic (reading and pronouncing only at this point), something I've neglected during the years my children were small.  Which leads to my other reason for less reading time--Ramadan has begun, and during this month we emphasize prayer and fasting over other pursuits.  I've certainly not stopped reading, though, and will be posting as I finish stuff.  It's good to be back!

Here's a poem I like, from a book I picked up while traveling.


by Georg Takl (1887-1914)
Trans. Michael Hofmann

Laden with berries the elderbush;  placid the childhood
lived out in its blue hollow.  The quiet branches are brooding
over the bygone path where lank, brownish grass
whips in the wind;  a rustling of leaves

like blue water tumbling over rocks.
The blackbird's soft plaint.  Speechless,
a shepherd follows the sun as it rolls from the autumnal hill. 

A blue moment is nothing but soul.
A timid deer peeps out from the forest's edge, while ancient bells
and sunless hamlets merge tranquilly with the valley floor.

More pious now, you know the meaning of the dark years,
chill and autumn in lonely rooms;
and in sanctified blue, luminous footfalls echo away.

The soft rattle of an open casement;  the sight of
a neglected graveyard on the hillside brings tears to the eyes.
Memories of once-told legends;  but the soul will sometimes lighten
when it recalls joyful people, burnt golden days of spring.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Girl With the Golden Eyes

(My last post on vacation--home tomorrow!)  This collection of three stories by Honore de Balzac didn't grab me as I expected it would.  Each ends with rather a shocking twist, which I normally like, and each has the sort of gothic mood that I also enjoy.  I think it was the overblown-ness of the characterizations that bored and irritated me:  dozens of pages devoted to why a girl is the most perfect specimen of womanhood ever created, or why an opera singer's skill was the most sublime in human history, or the like.  I'm probably not being objective here, and it surely has more than a little to do with the fact that I'm a bit worn out from traveling and ready to go home.  If anyone wants to tell me what I'm not appreciating, feel free!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prague Tales

(Still on vacation!)  Prague Tales (no image available) is a collection of stories written in the mid-nineteenth century by Jan Neruda, and set in Mala Strana, the "old city" neighborhood of Prague.  Full of slices-of-life and colorful characters, this was a fun read.  Apparently, the Chilean author Pablo Neruda took Neruda's name as his own after reading  "The Three Lilies,"  one of the stories from this collection.  The only thing that rubbed the wrong way somewhat was the extremely negative portrayals of the occasional Jewish characters.  Commentators generally put this down to Neruda's depicting Mala Strana residents' attitudes, good and bad. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Still on vacation, but I've finished Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald.  I first heard of this author over at dovegreyreader scribbles, and was intrigued enough to buy this book sometime last year.  I knew going in that Sebald's works often concern memory, what it means and how it plays out in human lives.  Sebald reminds me a bit of Borges with his dreamlike narration, and a bit of Dinesen with her layering of stories within stories.  Austerlitz is complex and often puzzling, and so many memories are related at such great length, that for the first quarter or so of the book, I kept asking myself, where is he going with this?  But then it all falls into place, and it's heartbreaking, and I couldn't put it down till I finished it. 

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Assault

I'm on vacation this month, but still reading as much as I can.  I do want to stay connected, and will be posting, but posts will probably be shortish, like this one.

The Assault, by Dutch author Harry Mulisch, impressed me more than I thought it would.  Early in 1945, a Dutch collaborator is shot to death and his body left where it fell in front of a house.  The house's residents, fearing German reprisals, move the body to a neighboring family's doorstep.  That family, all except the youngest son, Anton, is executed.  The effect of this trauma on Anton's life, and the gradual revelations of everything that happened that night, and why, make up the story.  I appreciated the symbolism (Anton becomes an anesthesiologist as an adult, and forms the belief that patients experience all the trauma of their surgery but are unable to respond and unable to remember afterward, for instance).  I also enjoyed the intertwinement of good and evil motives, on the part of both the Dutch and the Germans, and how the combination of these motives led to what happened on the fatal night.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen

Ich wollte Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen, das erste Harry Potter Buch, zu lesen, weil es leicht und vertraut ist.  Weil die Satze kurz und einfach waren, konnte ich unvertraue Worter von dem Zusammenhang verstehen.  Also, hier ist meine erste Kritik auf Deutsch.  (Meine Kinder sind sehr begeistert, dass ich schliesslich ein Harry Potter Buch gelesen haben!)

Das Buch ist die Geschichte von Harry Potter, ein Junge, der weisst nicht, dass er ein Zauberer ist.  Ein Waise, Harry wohnt mit seiner Onkel und Tante, die ihn nicht sehr viel gern haben.  Das Leben ist eintonig fur Harry bis, im Alter von elf Jahren, bekommt er eine Einladung, Hogwarts-Schule fur Hexerei und Zauberei zu einschreiben.

Harry ist ein neugierig, intelligent, und mutig Junge.  Er und seine Freunde Ron und Hermine haben viele Abenteuer an Hogwarts, und Harry lernt einige von den Geheimnisse seiner Vergangenheit.  Und wir treffen sein Erzfeind, Voldemort ("du-weisst-schon-wer").  

Was mir besonders gefallt, war der Kreativitat der Autorin.  Sie hat die Welt von Zauberers faszinierend und sehr ausfuhrlich gemacht.  Es gibt Geschopfen:  Kobolde, Riesen, Menschenfresser.  Es gibt Rahmen:  Hogwarts Schule, Gringotts Bank, die Laden, worin Harry Schulbedarf kauft (Zauberstab, Zauberumhang, Besen, Kessel, etc.).  Es gibt Regeln:  kein Drachen-besitzen, kein zaubern zu Hause, kein Flugen ausser der Flugstunde.  Viel Spass.

German-speaking readers, please do correct my mistakes!

Language Freak Summer Challenge

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Two Books About Literature

As I've been toying with the idea of grad school, I've done some reading in the field of literary theory over the past few weeks.  Two books I've found both helpful and enjoyable:

Critical Theory Today by Lois Tyson
From the back cover:  "Critical Theory Today is the essential introduction to contemporary critical theory.  It provides clear, simple explanations and concrete examples of complex concepts, making a wide variety of commonly used critical theories accessible to novices without sacrificing any theoretical rigor or thoroughness."  This is probably the most helpful book I could have read--a genuinely interesting refresher.

Six Walks in the Fictional Woods by Umberto Eco
From the back cover:  "We see, hear, and feel Umberto Eco, the passionate reader who has gotten lost over and over again in the woods, loved it, and come back to tell the tale... Eco tells us how fiction works, and he also tells us why we love fiction so much."  This book is a series of lectures given by Eco on how authors write and how we read.  Although the first chapter was a bit esoteric for my taste, Eco's genial humor and incredibly wide-ranging taste in reading matter made this short book a fun read.

Essay Challenge

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Les Miserables

Les Miserables is the first book I've read by Victor Hugo.  At over 1200 pages, it's taken me several months to finish.  My reactions during those months have fluctuated between absorption, admiration, boredom, and excitement.  There's a lot of everything in it--adventure, philosphical lecturing, history, social commentary, war, romance. By the time I finished, I had formed an almost affectionate impression in my mind of Hugo as someone who just couldn't bring himself to leave anything out.

The story is mainly that of Jean Valjean, a man who served 25 years hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread when his family was starving.  He and the many other suffering poor in the story are the "miserable ones" of the title.  He comes out of prison a hardened criminal, and the book, with many (many!) digressions, tells the story of his spiritual redemption. 

That story is compelling.  Valjean, coming out of prison, is an outcast from society.  No inn will feed or shelter him.  He is advised to go to the Bishop's house.  The good Bishop takes him in, Valjean robs him, and the Bishop forgives him.  He sends Valjean on his way, along with what he stole, and tells him: "Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man... you no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good.  I have bought your soul to save it..." 

Part of the reason the Bishop's words are so moving is that Hugo has spent the last 80-odd pages telling the man's life story.  We know the Bishop, and we are pretty much in love with him;  he is that sweet and good a human being.  The Bishop will not appear again in the novel, but thanks to the mini-bio we understand, before Valjean gets to the Bishop's house, what a force for goodness he is about to come into contact with. 

Hugo does this again and again in the novel--provides huge chunks of backround history before introducing a character or before a major plot event.  Sometimes it's effective, as just described, and sometimes it's merely boring, as when a 50-page description of the battle of Waterloo, including extensive discussion of both Napoleon's and Wellington's personalities, precedes the introduction of two soldiers we will not meet until much later in the book.

There are, of course, lots of wonderful quotable lines, some of which are on the picture above, if you can make them out.  A couple of my favorites:

From a description of the Paris sewers:
This sincerity of filth pleases us and soothes the spirit.  When one has spent one's time on earth suffering the windy outpourings which call themselves statesmanship, political wisdom, human justice, professional probity, the robes of incorruptibility, it is soothing to go into the sewer and see the mire which is appropriate to all this.
Character description:
In the matter of prim hypocrisy Mlle. Gillenormand could have given points to an English miss.  She carried prudishness to the point of imbecility.  Her life was haunted by a terrible memory:  a man had once seen her garter.
Another character description:
For the rest, he had never succeeded in being as fond of any woman as he could be of a tulip-bulb, or of any man as of a manuscript.  When he was well past sixty, someone had asked him, "Were you never married?" and he had answered, "I forget."
As I said, this was my first Victor Hugo.  I've enjoyed it enough to consider adding some of his other work to my TBR list--and that list is much too long already.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Language Freak Summer Challenge

As I had anticipated, 2013 is turning out to be much more busy than 2012 was, and I don't want to add to my mountainous TBR list.  But I love being connected to other readers, and therefore love a challenge I can participate in without doing anything I'm not already doing.  So here's another one:  Ekaterina at In My Book is hosting the Language Freak Summer Challenge.  We are asked to read one or more books in a foreign language during the summer: 

The idea is simple: read books in a foreign language, enjoy it and be proud of yourself! I will collect whatever you want to post about your experiences from now till the end of August and hopefully we will all have some progress in languages by the beginning of September!

Happily, I am reading in German pretty much all the time--not that I am fluent (if only!), but I'm trying to improve.  I'm not going to commit to more than one book, because I am very slow, and also because I'll be traveling for a good chunk of the summer.  Hopefully I'll get through two, though.  My current German read is Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen

Language Freak Summer Challenge

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Open Letters

This collection of essays by Vaclav Havel, written in a dry, even deadpan style, testifies to the courage of the playwright, dissident, and first president of independent Czechoslovakia.  Havel spoke the truth to tyrants, again and again.

His writing influenced not only the Czech independence movement, but those of other Soviet-bloc countries, including Poland's Solidarity movement.  These documents dissect the peculiar nature of the totalitarian system Havel lived under, and reveal the train of logic that inspired the dissident movements. 

I read ten of the 25 pieces in this collection.   Of those, two stood out most.  

"Dear Dr. Husak," an open letter to the then general secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist party, is an appeal on moral grounds to relax the iron grip of totalitarian control of all culture and ideas in Czechoslovakia:  
So far, you and your government have chosen the easy way out for yourselves, and the most dangerous road for society:  the path of inner decay for the sake of outward appearances;  of deadening life for the sake of increasing uniformity;  of deepening the spiritual and moral crisis of our society, and ceaselessly degrading human dignity, for the puny sake of protecting your own power.
"Reports on My House Arrest" shows the price Havel paid for writing things like the above.  It is a dispassionate, detailed account of the harassment inflicted on him by the police during 1978 and 1979, culminating in his arrest later in 1979.  He seems to want to set down every detail, from being watched, to being unable to receive visitors, to having his car and home vandalized, as a record:
When I shop, they now stick so close to me that if they were to slip their arm into mine we'd look like lovers.  At the post office, they boldly read my correspondence over my shoulder, and once they snatched the letters out of my hand and recorded the names of my correspondents (not very useful, since most of them only sign with their Christian names).  
This is, for me, Havel at his most interesting.  Harder for me to get through were pieces like "The Power of the Powerless," a very abstract yet very precise description of the peculiar nature of the totalitarian systems of the Soviet bloc countries.  He makes a good case that these dictatorships were unlike any others in history.  Sadly, writing that is long but not engaging, even if very important, quickly becomes a chore for me to read.  

There was a lot in this collection for me to love and learn from;  anyone interested in the period or in Havel would probably find much of it interesting and enjoyable.  

Essay Challenge

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's Monday--What Are You Reading?

Sheila at Book Journey hosts this weekly meme: "This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from!"

Here's what I'm reading:

Hugo's opus about the "miserable ones" of this world.  It's not just about misery, though.  It's about sin and redemption, and doing right, even when that means great personal sacrifice.  It's also an intermittently page-turning adventure story.  The opening chapters about the good Bishop of Digne  are unforgettable, and set the tone for the rest of the book.  I'm a little more than halfway through.

Playwright, dissident writer, and independent Czechoslovakia's first president, Vaclav Havel wrote essays that influenced not only the Czech independence movement, but those of other Soviet-bloc countries, including Poland's Solidarity movement.  To be honest, I'm finding the style a bit dry, but the impact these essays and letters had, and the courage it must have taken to write them, was enormous.  These documents dissect the peculiar nature of the totalitarian system Havel lived under, and reveal the train of logic that inspired the dissident movements.  

I've never read any of the Harry Potter books in English.  But in German, this one is enough of a challenge that it's taking me quite a long time to get through.  This is the first book (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone).  I'm almost halfway through now, and have gotten into enough of a "groove" that I can get through a chapter or so a day.  As always, I don't know every word, but I've improved enough that I can understand the story without resorting to the dictionary too often. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Top Ten Authors That I'd Put On My Auto-Buy List

The Broke and the Bookish invites us today to share our top ten authors--authors we love so much that we would buy anything new they wrote, no questions asked.  Here are some of mine:

Irene Nemirovsky
Russia and France in the early twentieth century are the vividly evoked backdrops of her stories about family, maternal, and romantic relationships and histories.  Most of her books seem to have strongly autobiographical elements, and it's hard to read them without her own tragic life in the back of my mind.

Primo Levi
This author wrote very eloquently about his experiences in Auschwitz, but he also wrote many collections of short stories, which are wonderfully humane and creative.  I've read what is available in English in the US, but there are more not published here and/or untranslated that I'd love to get hold of.

Jared Diamond
An anthropologist who wrote the fascinating Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and The Third Chimpanzee.  His new book, The World Until Yesterday, is out in hardcover, but I'm waiting for the paperback.

Vikram Seth
Not only would I, but will I, order his next book as soon as it comes out:  he is rumored to be writing a sequel to A Suitable Boy.  Can. not. wait.
Isak Dinesen
Dinesen's stories are layered, often one inside another.  Her themes are usually gothic, occasionally supernatural.  Her settings are always moody, storm-swept, nineteenth-century Europe.  Almost everything I love to sit down on a gray day with.

Ursula LeGuin
One of the very few fantasy/sci fi writers I enjoy.  Her Lavinia is an especial favorite of mine.  Her novels usually explore themes of displacement and alienation, of societies widely separated in time and space.  Not every one of them works for me, but they're unfailingly interesting and I would always try a new one.

Edward Said
A Palestinian-American professor at Columbia University who wrote passionately but by no means uncritically about the Palestinian people, their history, and the suffering and choices they now face.  He has been described as their most powerful voice.  Both eloquent and scholarly. 

M. R. James
He wrote the kind of ghost stories which I consider absolutely perfect--the kind often called "cozy."  Often with a scholarly setting or narrator, and a ghost with its origins in forgotten antiquity.  Gently creepy and sometimes amusing.  There isn't one I didn't enjoy and I only wish there were more coming.

Jane Austen
My first love in classic literature.  I've read all of her books, a few many times.  Her razor-sharp observation of her social class, seasoned with dry wit, is a pure pleasure to read.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Essay Reading Challenge


Well, here's another challenge that will allow me to read books I already own.  Carrie at Books and Movies is offering the Essay Challenge.   Here are the rules:
Welcome to the fifth annual Essay Reading Challenge! If you’re an avid essay reader, or just want to expand your reading horizons a bit, this is the challenge for you. If you’re thinking, “What would I read?” – check out this post: Recommended Reading for the Essay Challenge – and “Why read essays?”

~ This challenge runs from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013.
~ If you read a book of essays, that book can also apply to any other challenges you are working on.
~ To sign up, choose a goal of reading 10, 20, or 30 essays, and then write a challenge post.
~ Copy your challenge post’s link into the Mr. Linky on this main challenge page.
~ You don’t have to list your essays ahead of time – just have fun reading throughout the year.
~ This main challenge page will stay in my header for the whole year. Come back and link any reviews you write.
I'm going to commit to ten essays, although I'll probably read lots more, as I have on my TBR list two essay collections--one by George Orwell and one by Vaclav Havel. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jane Eyre

I must be one of the few holders of an English degree who has never read Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte's iconic plain-governess-loves-brooding-employer story.  Somehow or other it was never assigned to me, and I never felt any inclination during the past 25 years to read it on my own.  But now I have read it, and my reaction is:  what took me so long? 

I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I would.  I was expecting something darker and more labored, maybe more tedious than what I found, which was actually a very cerebral love story, told by a narrator who knows she has a good brain and calmly insists on using it.  Victorian literature keeps on surprising me. 

The love between Jane and her employer, Mr. Rochester, doesn't hit them like a thunderbolt.  They neither of them find the other attractive at first, but they do find each other interesting.  They have long, amusing conversations through which their love grows:
"Not three in three thousand raw schoolgirls would have answered me as you have just done.  And then, after all, I go too fast in my conclusions:  for what I yet know, you may be no better than the rest;  you may have intolerable defects to counterbalance your few good points."  

"And so may you," I thought.  My eye met his as the idea crossed my mind...
Melodramatic events keep them apart for a while.  We don't know what happens to Rochester during this time, but for Jane it's a period of hardships and patience.  She wanders, starving and begging for a time, is taken in by a pious and studious family, is courted by the son, St. John Rivers, finds a teaching position which she enjoys. 

Just as we observed Jane's love for Rochester growing as she understood him better and better, we also follow her growing friendship with St. John, and see how knowledge of his character teaches her that she could not be happy married to him.
You should hear him himself on the subject:  he has again and again explained that it is not himself, but his office he wishes to mate.  He has told me I am formed for labour--not for love:  which is true, no doubt.  But, in my opinion, if I am not formed for love, it follows that I am not formed for marriage.  Would it not be strange, Die, to be chained for life to a man who regarded one but as a useful tool?
Not that Jane Eyre is without elements of mystery and fantasy.  The night before devastating events separate her from Rochester, she dreams of a child, and relates her belief that dreams of infants or children are always portents of disaster.  And her ultimate reunion with Rochester is effected through an apparently supernatural event. 

This is a melodrama, a romance.  But the romance is between intelligent, interesting, and morally courageous people who make mistakes and learn from them.  

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