The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: A Book Review

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Along with her The Blind Assassin, this is one of the most convoluted and elaborate novels I have ever read. The story is too cloudy to understand that it requires your powers of concentration, especially if you are not analytical enough to grasp its complexity, the style I have proven Atwood bears the hallmark of.

Instead of analyzing it in a broader literary context with intellectual bravado since everyone can turn to Wikipedia, I’d rather review it in a manner of  what I found out in her writing styles: I’m envious of her skilled mastery for turning into beautiful prose her train of thoughts or whatsoever plays  in the figment of her imagination. Furthermore, she is an unfathomable female writer who can be as genius as any writers mostly celebrated in world literature.

This novel from the first pages to the last is strewn with vivid, beautiful, elegant, graceful, sumptuous sentences which I enjoyed reading rather than   gripping its main idea. The sentences are so lyrical that I chanted them again and again. They melt in my tongue like sweet, dark chocolate, or smell good like a garden,  full of a variety of colorful flowers hovered  above by a swarm of butterflies.

Under an unlikely scenario, if there were still such a world that men were superior to women over skills in writing stories or any literacy pieces, and Atwood were into such a literary show-off ,surrounded by supercilious writers looking down on her feminism, I bet my life that Atwood could dominate or catch up with them at any cost of literary bouts. Don’t dare her write one because this her The Handmaid’s Tale has proved me   wrong that there is something Atwood could make her rather genius. Her novels may appear complex, much more if she writes a simpler or more intricate one. In other words, there is nothing to find fault with her more; it’s crystal clear that she is an extraordinary writer. Roll down the red carpet and pay homage to Her Majesty.

Now, I freely  acknowledge that reading another Atwood’s books could be challenging since I have now the clearest idea of her writing style. Sometime in the future, if I have a great deal of time, perhaps when I reach my mid-life , no longer preoccupied with how to embellish my life with youthful experiences, hers would be one of those books I want to read again and again.As American musician and filmmaker, Frank Zappa put it , so many books, so little time to read.There are still thousands of  books in the world I haven’t read yet.

Also, the best course of technique I should use when I happen to read Atwood’s other books  and others books which have little resemblance to her style  would be a matter of full concentration ( regardless of  how poor my reading comprehension skill is .) Then, I will seat myself at a coffee table with a voluminous dictionary and colorful highlighters scattered around , par for the course in my reading repose. Ho-ho!

P.S . It is now being adapted for a TV series  broadcast live on  Hulu.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

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Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson: A Book Review

 

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Reading another Marilynne Robinson’s work is another heavenly and fulfilling achievement. Her novels are arresting because they deal with family situations, imbued with suppressed  feelings we may relate to , conveyed in unconventionally recoiling ,but  creatively poetic prose- her writing style  which turns out to be acceptable  in literature.

For me, Robinson is one of the writers I have known so far whose prose is so powerful that I could be overwhelmed with the covert feelings. No wonder I had been looking for this novel for a long time. In fact, I don’t even brush off the idea of why Gilead  has been the pandemonium among literary readers on Goodreads whenever her name is being brought up. I wish to find it at an affordable price and in pristine condition.

Since her novels Home and  Lila had a great emotional impact on me , I have found that there seems to be preternatural effects while reading her work. I am not sure of her other works, but three of hers are enough to bear witness to my delusional claim. The hidden and adamant emotions tend to ooze out despite they are coated with her unorthodox or unconventional prose. Unorthodox or unconventional prose because Robinson writes sentences beyond literary rules. Compare hers with Irish writer Colm Tóibín‘s in his impressive The Master for instance. For this reason, reading her novels may appear to be hard, heavy, nose-and-brain bleeding except her Home because I was so into it and lost track of time, the springboard for my interest in reading another Robinson works. Thus, reading her works may require a matter of multi-tasking concentration. I wonder if native speakers get what I am jabbering about.  Nevertheless, I could feel the ghostly restricted atmosphere of the story: the gloominess, the sadness, the sense of loss, the joyfulness, the hatred, the desires – all the feelings that have   been harbored for a long time because of the past that should have been left behind the presence.

Housekeeping, aside from being in the Guardian’s 1001-Best- Novels-You-Must-Read-Before-You-Die list, is included by TIME magazine as one of 100 Best English-language Novels since 1923 to 2005. Lila and Home   have been added recently by the Guardian if I am not mistaken. Comparatively and subjectively speaking, Home is my favorite. I cried over it a lot. I felt the withered or dormant emotions Robinson wanted her readers to blow up. I felt the cathartic tears flowing down my cheeks. It was a therapeutic experience. The story is psychologically realistic after all. Besides, it really reminded me of my cold conflict with my father then. However, with respect to creativity, magical mastery for writing a novel, Lila and Housekeeping stand out. They have proven Robinson’s unparalleled, incomparable writing skills- her ability to dramatically animate the story despite it is covered with bricks of “suppressible” prose, and that is something I would say Robinson’s trademark. Gotcha?

The big challenge for me next time since Robinson is known for her heavy prose is how to finish her novel. I admit that it took me a few days before I managed to finish it given that it is not that as ambitious as her other works. I was like an adventurous book traveler lost in a chimerical book land trudging through different places to reach its revealing denouement. Good grief! I made it, but the experience is not traumatic. Rather, the proverb,” The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” popped into my mind, and I mustered enough courage to do so. There it is! Eureka! Marilynne Robinson is a gifted writer, indeed, someone all literary readers should celebrate about. So, count me in!!!

Ironically, Gilead ( 2004), Home (2008), and Lila ( 2014) are supposed to be a trilogy , but I first read Home and Lila consecutively. Housekeeping is Marilynne Robinson’s first novel.

When I reviewed Robinson’s Home before, I predicted that she would belong to my roller or  walk of favorite writers. It was like letting her first pass through the hole of my needle before she meets my standard. Taray! (laughs) However, after reading her Lila, her application for that is still pending. (Figuratively laughing) To put it bluntly, I have aversion to reading books dealing with religious convictions no matter how good they are. Apparently, most of Robinson’s novels are steeped in religion or faith. Who won’t forget Rev. James and Rev. Boughton? Ok fine! I am biased! (laughs) Nevertheless, Housekeeping is another stepping stone for me to explore Robinson’s great mind. I have learned that there is no such a perfectly standardized novel. What matters most is the deep connection between a reader and a story, and that’s something I will learn to practice on my writing styles. As what Virginia Woolf put it, “ A book has a soul.”

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)

Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard : A Book Review

22328546When I tried to flip though the first pages ( since I don’t want to read PDFs), I noticed that the story seemed to be new to my taste :  I thought stealing was the theme. So, I talked through my hat that it could be the moral talk of the town. Is stealing really morally bad? It’s not a question at all.  With this  arousing idea, I  let myself  dig it  whenever I  couldn’t read a real book on a bus , or I didn’t want to bring my  bag full of the books I haven’t read yet. As the story went deeper, there were ambivalent revelations I had feared to read cynically. First, I found the themes, settings, and backdrops   garden-variety such as the love-story scenes, the climatic conflicts, and indescribable places beyond imagination, which could have been mutated from the ideas of other famous fantasy writers, and so on.  I’m almost familiar with them in other YAs I have read or in the movies I have watched. Nevertheless, what I liked about the book is its unconcealed but  irresistible  romance among the three main characters, theme on social stratification between the SILVER and the RED, and the unexpectedly tremendous  impact  upon me at the ending. Duh, I still can’t get over it.

In a world full of accessible and vicarious  information  where people tend to have the same ideas from one place to another, from one  generation to another, we tend to be almost familiar with the same work of different authors. Consequently, we look for something new whenever we are sick and tired of it. No doubt the culture  in different aspects changes. No doubt something unique stands out among the others. This case happens to a wide reader when he/she has read the same story over and over again. Let me now stop blathering. So when it comes to reading books, specifically romantic YAs,  for instance, I am almost familiar with the same settings such as a man meets a lady by accident. Then, they will fall in love with each other until they  have reached the  complete blissfulness . Of course, the climatic conflicts they will  go through is  the  love triangle.  The supporting-actor man will comfort the  main-character  lady , but he turns out to be a bad ass. But some YAs endings are so tragic that you may need a diaper for your unbearable flow of tears. Since the book is intended for young audience, nowadays, the theme should be about a la Edward –of-Twilight style- enchantingly dour and tough. Gee, for sure,  you may be tired of it if you’re no longer a teenybopper.

So when I noticed the blatant commonality, I was almost stooped to terminal boredom. I was somehow disappointed, and lost my interest. I wanted to X the PDF and find something new to read. Besides, I am sick and tired of the same   settings and backdrops  that have gone down in world literature. In fact,  the prose appears  not to be well-written but “ simple” , to put it mildly. Victoria Aveyard may have wanted  to reach out to all kinds of  readers   since it is a YA.  So, I should blame it on my literary standard.

To distract my careful scrutiny and make this book susceptible to my negative criticism, V.  Aveyard wants to impress me  by her  ingenious plot twists. She may have come up with a theme I as her audience might find new, fresh, and original. (I wish I were right. You may cite some literary works   from which she may have drawn impression. ) To be unique, the center of the theme is the social discrepancy between the Silver and the Red. The Silver are superior to the Red.They are powerful and the privileged, the god, but the Red are considered the dredge of society.All the rage in the story is the blood distinction. Your blood can be traced: If your blood is silver, you’re a Silver. You should not live in a world apart from the inferior- the Red whose blood is red. In short, the theme is literally about social stratification.  So, the book is shed with silver and red blood which curdled my blood.  

There is something somewhat different in this book despite that I did not feel these so-called “ romantic-excitement scenes”. The love triangle among the main characters is suppressible but irresistible, which somehow  gave me a little thrill. Hihihi Let me chortle in this coquettish way. In fact, I didn’t predict  the conflicts that would  center around them wherein the supporting  man turns out to be a protagonist despite the fact that I  could have predicted it too. Therefore, I was trapped! I wanted to cry bloody murder that I was betrayed too as the book has mentioned many times the quotable line:

Anyone can betray anyone.

When I was close to its ending, at that time, I lost sight of my finickiness. All the hell let loose. The clash of the Silver   revealed  the real drama of the bogus drama. I felt the adrenaline rush in my veins. I had this burning sensation of rage  as did the main  character: I also wanted to REVENGE , and now I am ready to do so in  the book 2: Glass Sword.  Grrrr!!!

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I  got angry.)

The Sea by John Banville: A Book Review

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Enjoying the book with a cup of coffee

The last time that I had the  chance to  catch a glimpse of a sea was when I went back to my birth place last month . I took advantage of my one-week leave of absence of which my boss had approved despite the fact that I still had some students I had to attend to. The sea is located in northern Luzon, part of the Babuyan Channel. It is almost   close to the western part of the North Pacific Ocean because its waves are  terribly huge and fast , (perfect for surfing freaks).  Its vast  stretch of  blackish sand as what a friend of mine described is as powdery as the white sand of Boracay beach, one of the best beaches in the world according to a travel magazine.

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Our early arrival at the beach

The public beach  my families , friends, and I visited was not usually crowded with tourists. So, I enjoyed the place  because we could make the most of it without too much social exposure as if we were the only ones cast away in that deserted island.

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My cousins waiting for the huge  waves to be dashed against.(laughs)

 I liked the sea a whole a lot because I enjoyed playing with the high waves although I did not know how to swim. I basked in the quite scorching sun while listening to the  splash of the waves ebbing  and watching my little cousins playing in the water and in the dirt, trying to build a castle or bury  themselves.  When we left the place – in fact, I did not want yet-  I promised myself that I would return  given the fact that it may not be the prettiest beach I have ever been to. It is not about the landscape beauty but the spirit of my childhood memories I had left there before my family and I decided to move to Manila when I was still very young.

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Cottages made of bamboo woods and straw of dried pawid, special leaves which are used for roofs in our hometown . We were lucky that there were not even a few tourists at that time. 🙂

Reading The Sea novel is like looking back on your  past life in a sense that you don’t want to reminisce about it or you pine for it.  You cannot move on in your life because of the bitter memories you have not been able to get over yet. So you feel like your present life is worthless and empty   because that past is connected to how you are going to face the life ahead of you. Nevertheless, you are driven to lead the life you have chosen because of the nostalgic memories you wish you could experience again. So, reading   it is so emotionally “  stuffed-up” that I  was at loss for how I could  let out a scream ,that all I wanted was to finish it and MOVE ON because THIS IS LIFE!

To  break through into his own masterpiece, John Banville  came up with  a novel containing jumbled themes like  a combination of  the feelings that  took place in different time and space . One is in the past which could be an ambivalence of sweet-bitter memories while the other one is in the present.

The story has three settings: Max’s, the main character,  childhood memories of the Graces—a wealthy middle-class family living in a rented cottage home, the “Cedars”—during the summer holidays; the months leading up to the death of his wife, Anna; and his present stay at the Cedars cottage home in Ballyless—where he has retreated since Anna’s death.(Source: Wiki)

Obviously, John Banville has  proved his exceptional writing skills. He experimented on the rhetorical devices he thought would work. Yes, it had a significant impact upon  me. I was carried by   his literary “tricks”; I was bothered by the characters “neurotic needs”,  but as usual what matters to me   now is what is new to the story, probably one that is as “loose” as  light books.  In fact, I   learned that it became controversial because   it was not even praised a lot upon winning the Booker Prize in 2005. It was even described by Boyd Tonkin as “possibly the most perverse decision in the history of the award”.( Source:Wiki) In the end, others supported Banville’s statement that:

“Whether The Sea is a successful work of art is not for me to say, but a work of art is what I set out to make. The kind of novels that   I write very rarely win the Man Booker Prize, which in general promotes good, middlebrow fiction.”

Yes, Mr. Banville. I agree.You deserved it.

P.S.

John Banville and Kazuo Ishiguro must be  frenemies. In 1989, his novel The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize but lost to The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Again, Ishiguro was among the shortlisted in 2005 for his novel Never Let Me Go, but at this time, Banville won for his The Sea.

Now I wonder   whether  Never Let Me Go can be paralleled to the work of art  Banville bragged about.Let me see. 🙂

Rating: 3/5 stars ( I liked it.)

Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables #1) by L.M. Montgomery: A Book Review

12959529_10206307364744801_1558231329_oI was just a plain simple-minded student, ignorant of the things existed around me; I did not understand why I was in school . Day by day, I began to understand that I was there to study because someone was teaching us how to count 1, 2, 3 and how to read A,B,C . But still I sat there with my mouth agape, wondering why I had to study, staring at my other classmates how come they were so good at answering the questions traded by our teachers, why they were at the top of the class and  lauded by a faculty of teachers and a circle of unknown friends. I even thought then that my presence with my classmates inside the classroom was enough to complete the day. Eventually, I realized that I had to read , memorize, and partake in the class. Otherwise, I would have been ridiculed by the haughty students and abominated by the self-proclaimed highly educated teachers who ostentatiously displayed their credentials. In the end, I had  discovered what I really was in the eyes of the society:  I was an average student or less than that after all. Overtime, laced with the concept of the educational system, I tried to explore the uncharted territory of  how to develop myself intellectually. I tried to read, but it happened that way. I just wanted to read whatever reads at my disposal. When I got tired of the same books, I would borrow my friends’ or visit anyone I was acquainted with whose house was furnished with bookshelves. I would stay in their houses the whole afternoon after my school, rain or shine. However, despite my full effort, I still did not know then how to study nor write an essay efficiently. Fortunately, at that time, some Philippine TV stations capitalized on broadcasting Japanese animations. One of them was the adaptation for Anne of Green Gables. You know what happened? You might call me shallow or puerile then, but I don’t mind. In light of this animation, I decided to help myself on how I should be a good student. I tried to do the tricks as what Anne Shirley does, and which my bright classmates may have done scrupulously. I had to read the books in advance and commit their contents to my memory. Consequently, I could keep up with my classmates after all. I could answer my teachers’ questions because I had studied them. Thanks to the sympathetic character of Anne Shirley. My study tactic then was Anne-of-the-Green-Gables Approach.(laughs)

Anne of Green of Gables is a beautiful story. Through the character of Anne Shirley, the loquacious orphan who happened to be adopted by Mr.and Ms.Cuthbert, either young or adult  readers  can learn a great deal of things about life. Not that you will become as talkative as she is. Not that you will become as exaggerated and hyperbolic as she is , for she always imagines  everything around in different perspectives. As you know her favorite philosophy is, “ There is scope  for imagination.”  And not that you will learn not to be content with your physical appearances ,for she hates herself like her name  being spelled Ann without e,  her sharp elbows, freckled face , and  “carrot hair” as  her future husband Gilbert Blythe puts it. Not that you will be as clumsy as she is, for she has done many mistakes. Not that you will be as cowardly and pessimistic as she is, for she cannot face the reality of life.

Instead, Anne Shirley , during my feminine teenage,  taught me how to break the old tradition when children had to hold their tongues. There is nothing wrong if you reason out as long as you do it politely. However, applying it directly to my parents did not work; they were sticks-in-the-mud and the avatars of old traditions.  (laughs) In addition, Anne Shirley taught me to appreciate all the beautiful things in the world. When I look at a tree, it is not just the idea of the fact that it is a tree, but its state of being a tree. When I see a lake with its sparkling reflection, I don’t just describe it beautiful, but in its degree of beauty. When I wake up in the morning, I do not just think of its real existence as it usually happens every day; instead, I feel its connection to my existence. Can I just call her Monet-ian? ( giggles) However, it is sad to say that we are now living in a revolutionary era when the old patterns of beauty are overlapping with the beauty of technology. We can no longer distinguish what is beautiful in our environment.

Anne Shirley was one of the   influential   literary characters in my teenage life. Her character as an eager and enthusiastic learner proves that everyone, no matter how average your IQ is , can be a bright student if you are motivated to teach yourself. So, it has been my philosophy in education that all students have the potential to excel in any academic subjects. Everyone is special. It is just a matter of perseverance. However, in the context of psychology, it cannot happen without the ensuing moral support of the significant others.

As a matter of fact, Anne Shirley taught me to be no slouch when it comes to writing an essay in English. I was not confident enough about it yet. I tried to write and write in my own style despite my limited English vocabulary. I was even weaned on her quixotic style of poetry.

Another thing that I will not forget about this animation is its sentimental  theme. Marilla and Mathew Cuthbert, both sister and brother who  have been stuck in a time warp, will be emotionally transmogrified by Anne’s  delightful presence at the Green Gables. Ms. Cuthbert is known for being a stickler for her lifestyle while Mathew,a shy old man who seems to have never been used to socialization. Anne Shirley is the iconoclast in an idyllic  place that has left behind the modern era.

Finally, as what we teenagers who watched its Japanese adaptation  in the 1990’s, all the rage to the story is the intimate friendship between Anne and Diana  Barry and the suppressed but irresistible promising  romance  between Anne and Gilbert Blight.

Aside from its themes, what I liked about the book more is its well-written prose. All the sentences of how the author describes, narrates the story  are  perfectly matched with Anne Shirley’s exaggerated characters. I tend to cringe at the author’s intention, but it makes sense. Probably, L.M Montgomery   represents Anne Shirley because , apparently, she based this novel on her said rural life experience.

Whenever my college friend and I dropped into a second-hand bookstore before, the first thing she would ask the cashier about was  its sequels. She would not buy anything except this because she wanted to finish all the series first. So, after reading it, I understand now why she is so fond of it.  Now, it is my turn to do the same way. In fact, I have still been looking for them:Anne of Avonlea #2, Anne of the Island #3, Anne of Windy Poplars #4, Anne’s House of Dreams #5, Anne of Ingleside #6, Rainbow Valley #7, Rilla of Ingleside #8

When I have finished them all, for sure, I could join The Anne of the Green Gables Club out there. Could you let me in? 🙂

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

Man in the Dark by Paul Auster: A Book Review

3136288It is weird that when I see Paul Auster’s works included on the list of best novels of all time according to a magazine site, I have the compelling hunch that they are nifty reads.Also, when I see his images on Google, his physical aura of literary skills , his deep stare at the camera tends to pierce me as if everything stops moving just like the two of us in a motionless world. It is as though staring back at him renders me powerless, frozen in awe. Thereby, I start having been borne upon the idea that whenever I spot his books heaped on a mountain of books, there is a feeling that the author is a sacred cow to whom every book vulture should pay homage. And me? I am wildly and outrageously glad to jump at them as if I should kowtow to them even if all book vultures milling around the place cringe at my losing sense of decorum. What do they know? They may be in the dark that the books I long to gorge myself on are freshly nutritious. How do I know? They may not know that I have wolfed on one of his works- Timbuktu. ( The title has nothing to do with the title of my blog.) The book gave me the appetite that Auster is a gifted writer. There is something in his style that left a good aftertaste in my mouth then. So, no need to wonder why perhaps I am one of those book vultures who bear that desire to scavenger on his other works.

In his Timbuktu, the first thing I noticed was his light sentence structure- very well-written and prosy. At the same time, the concept of the story is philosophically interesting. I apologize for the spoiler. Timbuktu is a dog who has deeply intimate relationship with a hard-pressed, terminally-ill writer. At the end , I assure that you will find it heart- breaking . Alas, I never got the chance to write my review of it ; at that time , I still was not active on Goodreads and was ignorant of blogging. You may find the story common, for you have seen it in movies or TV dramas, but you will be amazed at what I call ‘ Auster’s simply brilliant work’. If you have not started reading his other works yet, I believe that Timbuktu is the springboard for discovering his talent. Go for it!

Now I have given a try at his Man in the Dark. I was a little astonished to find out that his writing style in this novel bears complete resemblance to his Timbuktu. I do not have the foggiest idea if his other works do likewise. Here I felt the lightness of his sentence structures, how he must choose the right words, phrases, or sentence structures ditto. So I enjoyed reading the novel without cease, without putting it aside if there were odds and ends I had to futz around first. When I was done with them, I would throw myself into it forgetting the world I was in. No wonder I did finish it all at once given the fact that it only consists of 180 pages.

Concept of the story:
August Brill is a seventy-two-year-old widower. He recovers from a car accident at his daughter’s house in Vermont. To kill time, he watches films which he criticizes since he is a retired book critic. He does it with his granddaughter who has the same interest. When he cannot sleep, he lies in bed in the dark staring into the ceiling and trying to tell himself stories. At the same time, in doing so, he cannot remember his wife and the heinous murder of his granddaughter’s boyfriend, Titus.

I may be familiar with the setting that there is “a minor story in the story”, but for me, I do not look at that perspective; rather, I find the essence of the story mind-boggling. For instance, what is the relevance to the dystopian settings that the World Trade did not fall apart, that the U.S did not fight with Iran, instead the 2000 election results caused secession, that the state after state pulled away from the union and a bloody civil war broke out? I mused over this essence, on the way to work by bus, during my 10-minute break in school, or even during my processing inside a john. That is why it took me a few days to review it. Unfortunately, I was at my wits’ ends. Sorry, folks, I even have my hands full. Maybe you could help me squeeze it out of me. You may claim it not to be a brain surgery at all. ^^ Anyway, I may come to that literary epiphany sometime in the future. For this reason, therefore, Auster injected this enigmatic idea into this story that only he could expound what those ideas in question mean all about. Indeed, he is remarkable. I wish I had attended his launching this book ( Man in the Dark ) if I were American. In a pig’s eye!

Given that I found “the minor story” somewhat bothering, I could not divert my emotional attention from the main character’s role which may be the crucial part of the story. In that part, I immersed myself , feeling my tears welling up in the cups of my eyes, reminding me of two people whom I deeply love: my mother who already departed the world and my father, a widower too, whom I have been cold with. Likewise, in the end, it is all about life, life, life as famous writer Ethan Hawthorne’s sister Rose Hawthorne put it, “ As the weird world rolls on.”

Now I have devoured two of Auster’s books although I am still assimilating their substance thoroughly. When I visit the heap of books in the mountain, I will not hesitate to scrounge on his other works, notably The Book of Illusions and The New York Trilogy. I can’t wait for them! ^^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I  really liked it.)

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My own paperback copy  published by Picador ^^

Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska: A Book Review

6a00e5535ff83b88330148c8234d63970cEven up to this day, in the Philippines, fathers are still considered as the head of the family. No matter what happens, he is the one who decides against anything concerning familial problems. It is neither the mother nor the eldest child. It is just him none other than anyone else in the family. There are some cases that a father figure tends to be authoritarian and dictatorial. No matter what you opine of is not acceptable for him. Your opinions and suggestions will just go in the ear and out the other. He imposes draconian rules whether you like them or not. So all you have to do is shut your mouth and live with intestinal fortitude. Otherwise, he will hurl abuse at you, or if you are a son, he will make a man of you by punching you in the chest or stomach. The classic one? He will redden your ass with his flagellant belt. If you happen to be a girl, he will turn your face black and blue with his iron palm. Do I sound  exaggerated? Take it for granted if you are in the same boat. I guess you understand what I am talking about. If you remonstrate with me, well, luckily, you never have this kind of father. Neither do I.

As a social science student, I have learned that the common reasons why a man is  perceived to be the head of the house are based on distorted culture molded by ancient teachings particularly such as of Confucianism and Christianity. Men are superior to women. Men are biologically stronger than women. So with these patterns of learned ideas, we learn that we, I mean you , should pay homage to us men. Bravo! Thanks to those misleading bodies of teachings! We are always put on the pedestal. Consequently, we peoples in the world tend to be incorrigible. No wonder there is no world peace. (charot!)

The good thing is we are creatures of human expression. We can express our disappointment in human ignorance through literature. And this is what Anzia Yezierska must have intended; she wrote Bread Giver that deals with the clash between the Old World and the New World. The consequence? A masterpiece everyone deep-seated should read.

Anzia Yezierska was a Jew immigrant in New York in the 1900’s. She may have been one of those immigrants, along with her family, escaped the pogrom in Russia and was stopped at  Ellis island from entering the US  when the American President was still in the air whether it should adopt the immigrants or not. (I just read this information from Nicholson Baker’s book Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization.)One thing I am cocksure about Yezierska: As an immigrant, she went through the pressures of American dream in New York where she and her family ventured in to survive. In her novel, Bread Givers, although it was said to have been drawn deep inspiration from her immigrant experience, she wrote a story dealing with what kind of culture she may have grown up with- her father’s patriarchal authority, struggles with feminine independence, and grinding poverty. So this novel will make you tear your hair and your toes curl.

The only thing you might notice in the book is Yezierska’s writing styles. The sequence of the stories is not similar to other surreal books you love to bury yourself in. Every scene is so fast that you will end up in a hanging position as if you want to read more at full length. Probably, you are used to much description.  Nonetheless, for me, it is not that a big deal.

Yezierska’s setting begins with endless scenes crawling with miseries which are so annoying, frustrating, soporific, and heart-breaking that I carp at her intention. So, amidst of reading it, I predict that the ending of the story could be like a-happily-ever-after denouement. However, as the story goes deeper, the more foolishly miserable the story becomes until I come to the point that it might be a disappointing story after all. In the end, the story turns out to be more interesting because of the main character‘s determination to surpass all the struggles. On the other hand, I did not like the way Yezierska wrote the sequence of the events: fast and slapdash.

The hallmark of this book is its quotable and witty dialogues. You can be serious about the philosophical dialogues among the characters, but you will end up finding them funny. However, be ready for the character of Mr. Reb Smilonsky. You might go mad at him  that you might feel like  engaging him in a debate over  religion and life. As a Jew, he is always preaching to his children( Masha, Bessie, Fania, and Sarah, the narrator)  the teachings of the Old Torah especially the statement that , “ Women can’t go to heaven without men.” Or “ Only through a man can a woman an existence.” In other words, he teaches the traditional Jewish culture that men are superior to women. So there are times that I put  this book down for a moment gnashing my teeth as though I can no longer stand listening to a character, a byword for hypocrisy, megalomania, and grandeur delusion.

Another highlight of the book is the grammar structures of the sentences. Anzia Yezierska’s English must be old –fashioned since she was a Jew. I cringe at the sentences, but they convey substantial tones and emotions. I am predisposed to anger, annoyance, and empathy, so I am no bothered at them at all. Every scene  tends to carry  me away.

Most importantly, I really liked the book -despite that it may not be among the crème de la crème of critically acclaimed novels  – because  it is scattered with different themes: hypocrisy, wrong culture, feminism, Americanism, human Independence, and determination.

Bread Givers is not the only one I have read dealing with immigrant life in America. My heart broke when I first read The Jungle  by Upton Sinclair. I was also astounded at The Assistant by Bernard Malamud  which the TIME magazine included in its list for 100 Best Novels of All Time since 1924.Last year. I ranked My Ántonia by Willa Cather first in my top ten favorite books in 2015. For non-fiction, I read Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory which narrates his education life in the US as a gringo and the other one, ‘Tis by Frank McCourt  on his  life adventure  in America. For local books, I read Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart: A Personal History  and Bulosan: An Introduction With Selections .All  of these  books bear the same concept: American dream. No wonder reading just the likes of them have a significance impact   upon readers like me.

Next time , I will read The Big Sleep  by Raymond Chandler. Hooray!

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)