Throwback Thursday [7]: The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

IMG_7606 GOODREADS SUMMARY | Warner Books | Hardcover, 171 pages | Publication Date: April 13, 1992 | Adult Fiction | Romance | Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


I’ve never seen the film. I’ve never had the interest to read this book. Buoyed by the thought that I could probably read it one sitting, I decided to forge on ahead. All I can say is, wow. 

Robert James Waller was able to reach me in ways I cannot express. It was in the way he made me feel like I’ve been reading my books wrong all along. When an author tells you that words have taste, and when he tells you that you’re looking at the world in general all wrong, you need to start paying attention.

It was in the way he immortalized Robert Kincaid; a photographer who saw the world with a different set of eyes.

“Eventually, he began to see that light was what he photographed, not objects. The objects merely were the vehicles for reflecting the light.”

 It was the artist in him that gave me the impression that he felt more; saw more.

“He liked words and images. “Blue” was one of his favourite words. He liked the feeling it made on his lips and tongue when he said it. Words have physical feeling, not just meaning, he remembered thinking when he was young.”

He was a simple man; a traveled, worldly man who saw the changing world as something that he could never be a part of. He is a part of a dying species so rare that to know him is more than an honour.

There is a wildness in him that you can’t tame. A need to be free, that to anchor him to one place would be criminal.

“Don’t you see? I love you so much that I cannot think of restraining you for a moment. To do that would be to kill the wild, magnificent animal that is you, and the power would die with it.”

Robert James Waller also introduced me to a love story that was destined but yet, it wasn’t meant to be. It was as if Francesca and Robert waited all their lives to fall in love. And when they did, it was the kind that consumed them whole. They became two halves of a new entity. Not partly Francesca, not partly Robert.

“Well, we’re really not inside of that being. We are that being. We have both lost ourselves and created something else, something that exists only as an interlacing of the two of us. Christ, we’re in love. As deeply, as profoundly, as it’s possible to be in love.”

I’ve always complained about the impossibility of love at first sight; how incredulous it is. I am the cynic who thought it ludicrous. But after reading this book, I’ve gained a different perspective. It could happen. But it takes a certain kind of writer; someone who is wholly attuned to the cruel beauty of falling in love. Someone who knows how to write an impossible love story and will not apologize if it doesn’t end well. A writer who can persuade a reader through their words that no, it’s not impossible. If you find a writer like that, I suggest you hoard their books. Because you and I both know that I’ve never been a fan of adultery or cheating; nor would I try to convince you to read this book knowing that it features a couple of characters who disregard the dictates of time when it comes to falling in love.

Much of the not-so-good reviews for this book jeered that Waller lauded adultery, and that there is no excuse for cheating whatsoever. While I tend to agree on the latter, that is not the case for the former. I say, if you’re hung up on the adultery in this book, then you’ve missed the point entirely. It is not about that. It is about a couple of people who had fallen in love when they least expected it. It is about what they chose to do knowing that they’re two adults who’d been given the chance to be happy together? Or be responsible and live apart? Francesca and Robert did that in a matter of days – a week. But the love they had lasted a lifetime.

“In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.”

They never saw each other again after that week, nor did they attempt to contact each other since. But in their hearts, their souls, their minds, theirs was the forever kind.

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Throwback Thursday [6]: Envy by Sandra Brown

IMG_7544 GOODREADS SUMMARY Double Day | Hardcover, 480 pages Publication Date: July 31st, 2001 Adult Fiction | Romance | Suspense Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


It was a draft of a Prologue; nearly forgotten in a slush pile of Matherly Press. If they were a bigger publishing house, it would probably have ended up in little pieces of confetti. But Maris Matherly-Reed believes in a long-standing tradition of giving all prospective writers a chance. She believes that a writer, regardless of skills, deserves to be given the light of day. So she was going to ignore that the writer did not send in his or her query according to the guidelines. She was going to ignore that the writer didn’t even leave their contact information.

Had it not been for Maris’ innate ability to home in on an outstanding read, Parker’s novel would perhaps, have remained unwritten. Had it not been for Maris’ gift, a spool of revenge – fourteen years in the making – would have probably remained unraveled. When she found the wheelchair-bound writer, she was sure she’d never met a more egocentric, ill-mannered person. But the more time they spend working on finishing his novel, the more she gets pulled in on his web.

Another engrossing read by Ms. Brown. It didn’t take long for me to finish this one off. As usual, the entanglements of the mysteries in this book is out of this world. Something that was both easy to solve and at the same time, intricately woven. I especially loved the book within a book aspect. Basically, Parker wrote a story about his sordid past and submitted it to Maris’ publishing house with the intention of luring her into his web of revenge. Unfortunate for her, since she hadn’t a clue that she will spark off the flames that has long been smouldering inside of Parker.

It was, in all honesty, transparent. But I enjoyed it immensely, just the same. I couldn’t put it down. It was another one of those intricate knots that I had a great time untangling.

This book was written in 2001. Some of Sandra’s characterizations here will either be frowned upon, or jovially rejoiced – depending on which character you’re talking about. For instance, you have an ambitious critic who uses her body to get ahead in an otherwise, male dominant industry. It’s a classic case of objectification. Then, there’s Maris. She’s whip-smart. But when it comes to her husband, she’s easily placated. Sometimes, easily bested. I also found some of her male characters here to be sexists with their slighted remarks and condescending mannerisms.  Bookish people will appreciate the insight to how the publishing industry works. From critiquing, marketing, and how small-time houses get swallowed by the big publishing companies, Sandra Brown shows the backdoor of how the machinery works. Really interesting stuff.

I really enjoyed this book, and really glad to find some more unread Sandra Brown in the basement of my house. I didn’t buy this new but I know I’ve had it for a while.

Note:

Throwback Thursday was a feature on my blog that I’ve started back in 2012. It’s a periodical post where I review books from the not-so-distant past.

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Throwback Thursday [5]: Nothing by Janne Teller

Nothing by Janne Teller
Original Publication Date: 2000
Version: 2008 Edition, 227 pages
The other day, some motorist drove over and killed a skunk around my neighbourhood. Now, depending on which way the wind blows, you could smell the funk of the splatted skunk permeating the air. You won’t be able to drive by without getting a whiff until you’re sick to your stomach. So then I got to thinking: why were skunks created anyway? No really, what is their purpose? Seems to me that other than being a nuisance – what with their super funky defence mechanism – there really wasn’t anything advantageous to having them. If they don’t exist, would there be a cataclysmic change in the food chain? I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for their existence but right now… I got nothing. 
This book questions the point of everything, of existing, of living, of being. It also tells a dark story of a herd mentality feeding a fear until all that’s left is savagery.

The Gist: One day, seventh-grader Pierre Anthon lost the will to go on living. No. He doesn’t kill himself. He stopped his world from revolving. He climbed the plum tree and stayed there, watching life passed him by. All the while screaming the futility of doing anything at all. His schoolmates then decided that they needed to get him off the tree because they soon realized the truth of his wisdom. First, they threw rocks at him, injuring him until he had no choice but to get down, actually, he fell down. But the next day, he was back in the tree. 

By some stroke of youthful brilliance, the kids figured that Pierre Anthon needed to be reminded of all the things that are important. One by one, the kids at school brought out things the things they hold dear until a heap accumulated. But they couldn’t get him off the tree nor would he reward them with silence. So then the kids did the unthinkable. 

The Review: Pierre Anthon is the epitome of my life on days when I feel like waking up serves no purpose to the world. He voiced out every single defeatist thoughts that ever came across my head. And by golly, this boy was much more insightful than the rest of us, albeit, a little disturbed.

About Everything:
It’s all a waste of time. Everything begins only to end. The moment you were born you begin to die. That’s how it is with everything.”
About Life:
“The Earth is four billion, six hundred million years old, and you’re going to reach one hundred at the most! It’s not even worth the bother.”
“In a few years you’ll all be dead and forgotten and diddly-squat, nothing, so you might just as well start getting used to it!”
About Falling in Love:
“First you fall in love, then you start dating, then you fall out of love, and then you split up again…”
“…And that’s the way it goes, time and time again, right until you grow so tired of all the repetition you just decided to make like the one who happens to be closest by is the one and only. What a waste of effort!”
Ladies and Gentlemen, he’s thirteen years old…and the most profound pessimist I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting – sort of.
And yet if you really think about it or allow him to get into your head, you can’t help but heed the truth of his words. After all, we’ve been there. We’ve asked every single existentialist questions about life, about our purpose and the purpose of living, period. 

This is essentially what happened in the book; what prompted the kids to try and get him off the plum tree. Wanting to prove him wrong, they started to collect the things that mattered to them. But it didn’t take long till they decided they weren’t good enough. They then decided that another person gets to pick which things they hold dear, which then prompted the weird (a dead snake in a jar swimming in formaldehyde) and the morbid (exhumed dead body). 

This book is a combination of all the things that are wrong when you put a group of scared kids together. It’s like Michael Grant’s the kids of Fayz and Lord of the Flies. It was cruel and dark and inconceivable. 

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Throwback Thursday [#3]: Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Publication Date: 1891
Version: I’m not sure. But it looks pretty old. 

Let’s not wax poetic here; Tess of D’urbervilles is as nasty as the story of Catherine and Heathcliff. Happily ever after? Scoff. You’re not going to find that here. This is Thomas Hardy at his benign self. Well, I guess it depends on how you’ve perceived the man himself.

Alec D’urbervilles. You could say he’s evil. You could say he was every bit as tortured as he is misunderstood. You could even say that for one tiny second, he was probably in love with the idea of Tess – the country bumpkin, innocent, easily swayed. How could he not been tempted by her beauty alone? But man, oh man, did Thomas really have to do this? Did he have to show the raping of an innocent in the woods, albeit done in a fade-to-black method? I say, YES, yes, indeed. How else would a reader identify the worst of his character other than committing the gravest of violations against a woman? What would you rather he do? Kill the neighbour’s cat? That would make him a psycho not a freaking disturbed horn-dog…or a weak, selfish man. But was that really his purpose? I don’t know. Whatever it was, this seemed to have stuck with me the most. I don’t know why I keep finding myself reading classics such as this; giving myself a douse of a scalding reality in the form of literature with the most controversial topics – controversial at the time of publication, anyway.

Let me be honest here and say that for the first part of the novel, I was in love with the idea of Alec and Tess myself. Can you blame me? He was a sweet English gentleman who showed great discipline and restraint, not to mention he was kind at first. But what’s a good literature without a good villain?

Tess didn’t really have good prospects after Alec. In fact, it seemed like her life went to hell in a hand basket right after that. Hell, why would Hardy give her a happily ever after? That’s just…crazy. Besides, if you’re expecting that, then you must be out of your mind. Door number two has Jane Austen. Please proceed calmly and in a single file manner.

Anyway, Thomas gave me hope in the person of Angel Clare. I knooooow. I tried not to roll my eyes either. What kind of a sissy name is that? And how the hell was I supposed to salivate over the possibility of a good romantic read when the other male lead is called, Angel Clare? Are you serious? I’m obviously not a fan of either man; one was a dubious, selfish, evil sex maniac and the other…ANGEL CLARE. Enough said. Sometimes, love makes a man weak – too weak and Angel Clare was too in love with Tess. I never saw an iota of strength from him until the end.

Tess. Some say she was a victim (of course she was!). Some say she got what she deserved. That was the nature of the society in Victorian era. She was shamed. Her family was unforgivable. They threw her under the proverbial bus in the person of Alec D’urberville. She struggled and fought to find a better life but sadly, it wasn’t in the cards.

Despite my flippant opinions about its characters, Tess of D’urbervilles was one of those torturous, glorious, novels that left me feeling like my brain has been fed to the point of gluttonous oblivion. Thomas Hardy wrote what’s real, yo. The good, the bad and the ugly about his time.

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Throwback Thursday [Two] Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Original Publication: 1955
Version: 2005
As a mother of a ten year-old girl, this book was hard to get through. And being a passionate reader that I am, I sometimes have a hard time distancing myself from what I was reading. Going into this book, I just knew that I had to try harder than usual. 
Quick synopsis: Lolita is a story of a man’s obsession over a twelve-year old girl and his subsequent sexual relationship with her. He used every power he had over the girl to satisfy what was a disgusting curiosity that quickly turned into lust, packaged in the guise of love. I’d give you an en pointe play-by-play but I don’t want this review to be overdrawn. 
Humbert Humbert was an unscrupulous, morally-bankrupt man who took advantage of a girl who was too young to know that she’d become a victim of a manipulative sick bastard. We can all sit here and argue that though this book has been published ages ago, the lingering effect and scars left is the sad reality of child sexual abuse. 
I do want to place some of the blame on Dolores but it’s difficult when she was only a twelve year-old girl when HH caught her eye and that right to the end, she could no longer see the truth. As for HH, the weakness of a man is his ultimate demise and it couldn’t be any truer than what was depicted in this novel. 
Nabokov focused on Humbert’s characterizations, leaving his readers very little insight into Dolores. As such, I found her to be a child through and through – one that never matured even if she grew to be woman in the novel. It’s unforgivable to romanticized such a relationship and reading this book in Humbert’s voice practically glorified the idea of Lolita.

My opinion: This book is heralded as one of the classics – controversial and a courageous portrayal of a man’s immoral love for a young girl. The narrative voice of Humbert tried so hard to capture the audience’s understanding and sympathy through complicated but beautiful prose. In the end, I felt what was expected: utter disgust at the impropriety of the relationship, overwrought with the need to understand and disappointment with the failure to do so. 
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Throwback Thursday [One]: Quiet Days in Clichy by Henry Miller

Original Publication Date: 1956
Version: 1994 Publication
Format: Paperback, 154 pages
If you’re not familiar with Mr. Miller’s works (as am I), you’ll have a hard time discerning whether what you’re reading is his memoirs or if it’s fiction. Seemingly, this book was like a day in the life of Miller – a struggling American writer in Paris, honing squandering his craft through booze and women.  There’s very little plot to speak of. It was sex, booze, sex…and more sex. The most cringe-worthy being, sex with a minor. But this is the 1920’s Paris – where everything goes and you’d get a pat on the back for violating a minor simply because you’re a writer.
I started Tropic of Cancer many moons back but had to quit before I got to the ‘good parts’. Back then, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to dive in to his world – where a woman is only good for one thing, and one thing only: SEX. But I realized that sooner or later, a girl needs to pull up her bloomers and conquer the rest of the literary world. And what better way to venture out to the dark side but read Henry’s works?
I’ve had this image of old Paris in my head – beautiful, classy, grand and worthy of being aptly named, The City of Love. But then again, maybe I’m being naive; because Miller’s representation of Paris was far from it. In his words, I imagined Paris to be the cradle of the decline of morality as we know it; where the streets and cafés are inhabited by prostitutes. He managed to sullen the beauty of the city through his words. If I sound like a judgemental prude, then I apologize. I’m just calling it for what it is. But just remember, my opinion is not a fact. It’s neither right nor wrong. The way I see it, reading someone’s novel is like looking at an artist’s work: What’s beautiful to some may be nothing but ugly and meaningless bauble to others. 
I was amazed by how little his opinions about women were. To Miller, we’re nothing but soft caches of flesh for which he could stick his you-know-what in (yes, I do realize that perhaps Henry Miller’s works are not appropriate for someone who can’t even say “penis” with a straight face, but I’m broadening my reading horizon here – bear with me).  This man is also very generous with four letter words; those that would fill up a swear jar (*unt,*ock,*uck…you get the picture). 
This bitty is not a review. I can’t pretend to sit here and critique a guy who’s known for his legendary misogynistic writing. Admittedly, Miller’s ability to write so crassly was both the source of my admiration and disdain. He has little regard for emotions of others and yet he gets just the right air for what he’s trying to accomplish: Complete detachment from his characters. 
A lot more could be said about Mr. Miller. Heck, love him or hate him, the man wrote the most realistic of fictions. What I can say, however is that, had he lived in our times, he’d probably get a lot of flack from feminists everywhere. But who’s to say he hasn’t been?
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Introducing: Throwback Thursdays and Other Blog News

Once upon a time, I was a big reader of gothic novels. And it’s not the comtemporary kind either. I was stocked with Daphne du Maurier‘s books and of course, the prerequisite, Brontë sisters’. But that’s not all I was interested in; from time to time, I can be seen with an autobiography of some obscure quasi celebrity. Lately though, I’m afraid I seemed to be stuck with young adult and romance. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you and I know how vast the literary world is. I thought it was high time I broaden my reading spectrum.
So I decided to create a new feature on the blog called, THROWBACK THURSDAY. This is where I allow myself to read a classic once a week and write a brief note of what I thought of it. I started a book last week by Henry Miller as my initiation to this venture. And let me tell you, I was a bit awe-struck by how different it is; there are no coy looks exchanged between boys and girls, no mind games between men and women on a quest to one-up the other. This book was as adult-themed as can be and aside from some rough stops and starts, I managed to enjoy the brief moment of fulfillment when I finally finished an age-appropriate book. Quiet Days in Clichy was worlds different from all the other books I’ve ever read, for sure. 
It’s not that I’m weaning myself from YA; I just want to have a versatile selection of books at home. I feel a twinge of guilt every time someone would ask what type of books I read. Don’t get wrong, I am not embarrassed to be reading books geared toward the teens audience, but sometime in one person’s life will come a realization that you can’t be living out a life that you’ve missed out on. And this, my fellow book lovers, is why I love reading YA so much. It’s to make up for the teenage life that I never had [sniffs]. 
Anyway, I still love YA and love all the scintillating thrills of reading a good romance novel. But I’m diving into the deeper end and who knows, maybe I’ll finally find my niche that’s actually appropriate for this mom of 2, wife of 1, 37 year-old book nerd. 🙂
In Other News…

Last week marked the last time that the blog participated in In My Mailbox. I will be implementing HOARDERS, Books Edition which means that I will not be posting my book hauls every week. In order for me to give the meme’s title justice, the haul has to be enormous. And yeah, I realized that mine has been usually big as it is, but I decided that I needed to do my own thing. This change has nothing to do about whatever happened in the past and I stand by my opinions about The Story Siren. 
Another reason why I’m not doing this weekly is that, I find that my schedule has been booked solid and I can no longer find the time to do book haul posts weekly. I know that having this post weekly gives the blog regular traffic but I haven’t really been posting links of my IMMs to The Story Siren’s blog and am still garnering hits. I think I have awesome followers who regularly checks the blog anyway. 
Coming Soon to a Blog Near You! 

SHELF ENVY! Specifics to be revealed soon. 

Talk to you all later! 
-Joy-
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