Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: A Book Review

I admit that reading romantic novels , except pink  ones, is not my cup of tea. I may be such  a consummate misogynist or misandrist, or  I just believe in the Filipino  bromide  , “Walang Forever .” ( laughs)  In fact, I have no any clues about Nicholas Sparks’s best-selling novels yet except their movie adaptions. I do not even include them in my required reading.  Nevertheless, there are two love stories that always remind me of whenever I think of this kind of genre: the classics Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Brontë and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Both  novels are the outcomes of  the writers’  desires  to paint the picture of what was love like in a suppressible generation. But when it comes to modern ones, so far, among the ones I  have read, this Me Before You is the one I would say is the catalyst of my elusive finickiness and  the springboard for  a new genre on my list instead.I did not expect to have read a book that would make a difference to   my reading preference. I hate you Jojo Moyes.

As a matter of fact, I did not find this book romantic as what I had expected. It is not similar to the ones you are giddy about in that you are almost gaga for the  main characters, typical of teenyboppers’  reaction. Oh, my gosh!  I feel like fainting! Instead , the book is  enveloped  in  bipolar atmospheres.  Lou Clark ,on the one hand, the main character is a funny lady who loves wearing weird getups. Will Traynor ,on the other hand, a  quadriplegic man who  emits gloomy ,sombre, and dour responses around him. It is a matter of black and white. Romantic? No. My heart broke for Will. I was just being amused by Lou’s  dramatic but optimistic and humorous dramas.So, it is  as though the love that prevailed is compassion. Furthermore, honestly speaking, I am fully aware of the controversial issue on euthanasia, the desire of a patient to end his/ her  life on account of unbearable  body pains and feeling of uselessness.  I  was subjectively reading it  in light of my pragmatic view. My opinion? Again, it’s  a question of white and black.

Rather, its other themes are  realistically compelling  like Lou’s relationship problem with her boyfriend and family.Anyone out there except me may relate to her  love story. And for those self-proclaimed ” bread-winners ”  financially depended on by their ” poor ” families, Lou Clark be like. Hahaha  Besides, if you are a certified book worm, you will nudge at your chair in excitement because both the main characters discuss  different literary books I have read  such  as  Red Queen , Flannery O’Connor’s stories , to name a few. Oh, it  makes sense after all, indeed.

The themes would be inconsequential if it were not Jojo Moye’s  riveting and  beautiful sentences. She really knows her stuff. The pacing and prose  are natural  without  any smidgens of  conspicuously  patched  drafts that she had gathered for a long time.  That’s why I did not feel bored. I just kept on turning the pages  though as I was watching an  a la Mary-Lennox-and Colin-Craven  scene in the  Secret Garden.

Surprisingly, Jojo Moyes  was able to hold  me in  her unconscious target to  be teetering on the edge of  what we call  ” emotional attachment.” Its ending cracked the carapace  of my tough heart. I blinked my tears away, but I have learned  the same lesson again and again : Life is a choice. If you don’t think so, hang in your drama. Bow.

Trivia:

Jojo Moyes was inspired to write the story on euthanasia based on late American rugby player Daniel James who  took his life at the Dignitas clinic on 12 September 2008.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really 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.)

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.)

 

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien: A Book Review

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“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.”

Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

I had just finished reading All  Quiet On The  Western  Front by Erich Maria Remarque ( 4 stars ) when I decided to dig it out although my mind was almost riddled with bullets of war stories , but this collection of stories by Tim O’Brien has awoken me more to the real miseries experienced by soldiers in the battle. Unlike E. M. Remarque’s- neat, moving, and straightforward without any padding pettifoggery, Tim O’Brien’s is steeped in war experiences –deeper, more pathetic, miserable, and  detailed. On the other hand, the thing they have in common with is that both of them made writing as the instrument of releasing their pent-up feelings the war brought about.

Tim O’Brien’s stories – not to mention about his fellow soldiers in the war- stuck in my throat. I could not express how sorry I am for how burdensome the things they had to carry. Also, I could not help imagining the brutal, “man-made” miseries befell him, along with his fellow soldiers. I was very, very sorry for them. In fact, reading his stories seems like listening to a soldier undergoing a cathartic therapy, smoothly narrating his traumatic experiences.

I liked Tim O’Brien’s craft of writing. The only problem with it is that some stories are redundant. They have been mentioned in the other stories.

If I were a soldier, aside from the things indispensable in the war, a bookworm like me would not mind adding to my load the following items such as: my very thick and hefty Longman Dictionary; my favorite books; my own toothpaste and toothbrush; and my mosquito net. Gee, my life getting drafted into army would turn to hell.

As far as I remember, I read from BOOKRIOT that it is one of the books young adults must read in their twenties. Yes, we must.

Once again, my sympathy goes out to all soldiers around the world. I am NO TO WAR .

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

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket #1) by Roald Dahl: A Book Review

IMG_20150116_225754Upon seeing its movie adaptation, there were two distinctive flavors combined remained in my tongue and caused me to crave its book:

(1) Bitter. I savored Mr. Wonka’s bitter childhood story – how he was motivated to build the best chocolate factory in the world.

(2) Sweet. It was sweet of Charlie Bucket , the hero, not to leave his family despite the big opportunity to be a legatee of Mr. Wonka. However, I was disappointed when these parts are not mentioned in the book. In other words, the original story could have been padded , probably to make it more substantial. Anyway, it is neither here nor there. I still liked it. There are still three reasons it raised a notch.

(a ) I enjoyed its prose- magical. Every sentence was well-written. I believe that it could be a reference or part of studies in English and Literature. Besides, the story is tinged with too much emphasis on comparative degree as well as synonyms of the adjectives.

“ He’s crazy!” they shouted .
“ He’s balmy!”
“ He’s nutty! “
“ He’s screwy!”
“ He’s batty! “
“ He’s dotty!”
“He’s daffy! “
“He’s goofy!”
“He’s beany!”
He’s wacky!”
He’s loony!”

Hahaha! Presto! I loved it! The sentences are lusciously melting in my mouth. Writing such style could be a piece of pie for students.

(b) R. Dahl is witty and ingenious. He used chocolate as the instrument in teaching moral lessons, not only for children but also for parents.

Some critics said that this is not much of a good read for children. Not that I know of ! On the contrary, those critics may not know how to think of like a child anymore. Only genius children-in my opinion- have the apt to do so.
Sometimes we have to bear in mind about what the American psychologist,
Erik Ericson said: “ Try to become a child again.”

At last I have read it. Ready for the BFG! ^^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars