The Luck of the Bodkins // by P.G. Wodehouse

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//published 1935//

It is possible that my favorite part of any Wodehouse book is the first sentence.  I love the way that Wodehouse’s genius comes through from that very first moment, already completely hooking me and drawing me into his next romp.

Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.

I have blathered on a length about my love for Wodehouse in earlier posts.  He’s brilliant, and everyone should read his works, no matter what your usual fare is.  While The Luck of the Bodkins wasn’t my favorite Wodehouse (honestly, Albert Peasemarch was driving me crazy), it was still great fun, and an easy 4/5.

Dragonsdawn // by Anne McCaffrey

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//published 1988// This is the full picture for the cover of the paperback edition I read//

The adventures of Pern continue!

So, McCaffrey’s books started sort of in the middle of the timeline of Pern. Her prefaces always indicated that the original settlers of Pern came, via spaceship, and settled the planet.  Over the centuries, their roots were lost.  Dragonsdawn deals with the story of those original settlers, and it was possibly my favorite Pern book to-date.  Also, about two fifty pages into this book, I suddenly realized something.  These books are sci-fi!  What!?  I don’t usually read a lot of sci-fi, so I think that may be why I didn’t really realize that that was what was happening, haha.  Whoops.  The dragons threw me off, too.  Who puts dragons in their sci-fi?  Well, McCaffrey does, especially when those dragons are actually genetically engineered from tiny fire lizards.  SCIENCE.  (Well, sort of.)

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Love this artwork by Michael Whelan – Sean, Sorka, and fire lizards.

As with all of the Pern books, it was a little difficult to get into the groove of Dragonsdawn.  There were a lot of different characters and no reference sheet.  The main thing that McCaffrey does that makes sense but also makes things complicated for someone with a poor short-term memory, is sort of “sets the stage” by introducing EVERYONE in the first chapter, just a few paragraphs about each person/group of people, what they’re doing, why they’re here, etc.  So Dragonsdawn begins with everyone on the spaceship just because they get to Pern, and her first chapter sort of meanders around the spaceship, checking in with everyone who is going to be a major player in the story, briefly touching on what they’re doing right now, and how they ended up on this spaceship to begin with.  It’s great, but it’s also confusing, because now I have to remember these fifteen different people when they show up a few chapters later.  (Was that the guy who was good with computers, or was that the fighter-pilot guy?  Wait, did that girl meeting the kid in the conservatory, or was that the one who was the famous genetic engineer?)  It doesn’t help that McCaffrey frequently skips several years at a time, so just because this person was a kid the last time I saw them, doesn’t mean that they’re going to still be a kid in the next chapter!

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From an Asian cover of ‘Dragonsdawn’

Still, there are plenty of online references to help me if I really get lost, and it usually only takes me about the first quarter of the book to get most of the people sorted out in my head.

We find that the people heading for Pern have every intention of settling there and eventually  making do without the technological conveniences they have always had in their previous life.  Pern is 15 years of traveling away from the other main planets settled by humans, and the new settlers are interested in starting again with a simpler, freer life – one free from the wars and power-hungry governments of the planets they have left behind.  It is possible that part of the reason I so enjoyed this book is that I completely emphasized with these settlers – I’ve always been a bit sad that I was born in a time period too late to simply load up the wagons and head west for new land (even though being born then means I probably would be dead now at the ancient age of 33!).

Anyway, at first, everything seems to go according to plan as the settlers land on Pern and begin to spread out.  But eight years later, the deadly Thread begins to fall – a phenomenon that no one anticipated and no one knows how to handle.  It was thoroughly engaging to read about a problem that I already know how future generations handle.  I’m actually someone who enjoys knowing the ending of a story (although no, I don’t skip to the end on new books!) and then seeing how we get there, so I really liked reading about the origins of the flame-breathing dragons and their riders.

There is a lot of additional drama from a crafty individual attempting to utilize Pern for her own advantages, and one of my favorite characters dies quite tragically (I may or may not have gotten choked up over that), but everything came together for a gripping tale that I really, really enjoyed.  Most of the Pern books take me a bit of time to work through as they are rather hefty and sometimes a bit dry, but I could hardly put Dragonsdawn down, and actually stayed up until midnight one night finishing it off!

While I highly recommend reading these books in published order the first time around, I do think that sometime I will read them in chronological-ish order at some point in the future.  I’m currently reading Renegades of Pern, and it covers random points in time from before the first (published) book, Dragonflightand apparently ends after the sixth book, The White Dragon.  It would be fun to read those first six books, and then Renegades, and really get a better feel for how everything meshes together.

ANYWAY.  Point is, Dragonsdawn was a very enjoyable read, one that I liked so much that it really gave me a mid-series boost and reengaged me into the world of Pern.

From the Archive: Gift From the Sea

I’d forgotten how much I loved this book!  Originally posted 1 June 2012.

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by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

published 1955

This book was written by the wife of Charles Lindbergh (still working on his The Spirit of St. Louis, by the way), and it is a collection of reflections from a journal she kept during a two-week stay at the seashore.  Incidentally, it was an amazing book.

She writes mainly to women, and she writes beautifully of the amazing burden and joy of true womanhood, of the yearning to care for those around us, and the constant, haunting fear that what we are doing is worthless.  Woman’s work, especially at the time of her writing in the early 50’s, was not as ‘concrete’ as traditional man’s work.  It is hard to keep the strength to carry on when you cannot always see ‘results.’

Each chapter is a seashell that she has found, and by examining the shell, Mrs. Lindbergh examines an aspect of life.  She speaks profoundly on the incredible importance of spending time in solitude, for reflection and regeneration, despite the fact that society looks askance at those of us who would prioritize time alone:

How inexplicable it seems.  Anything else [other than solitude] will b e accepted as a better excuse.  If one sets aside time for a business appointment, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement, or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable.  But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone, one is considered rude, egotistical or strange.  What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hid the fact that one practices it–like a secret vice!

This woman lived through an amazing time, seeing firsthand the emergence of women from their previously primary place in the home to a driving force first in society and then in the workplace.  And while Mrs. Lindbergh considers herself to be a feminist, and she rejoices at the new-found freedoms and opportunities available to women, she wonders whether, eventually, the price to be paid will be that of true femininity.  She warns against the potential of castrating our whole society in a sexless and dull thing–not sexless in the sense of no sexual intercourse occurring, but in the sense of women and men being regarded as the same being, interchangeable, with no inherent differences.  A fear, I may say, that has been fully realized.

She speaks at length of the beauty in spending time creating–writing, painting, baking, canning, quilting, gardening–all these things are scorned by women as ‘old-fashioned,’ yet Mrs. Lindbergh wonders if the reason that so many of her peers felt so empty and isolated was because their times of solitude, rare as they were, were full of non-creative work.  This is even more true now, in 2012.  How much time do we spend truly creating?  Instead, we use our minds as little as possible; our times of relaxation and solitude have become times of mindlessness and vice.

The answer is not in going back, in putting woman in the home and giving her the broom and the needle again.  A number of mechanical aids save us time and energy.  But neither is the answer in dissipating our time and energy in more purposeless occupations, more accumulations which supposedly simplify life but actually burden it,  more possessions which we have not time to use or appreciate, more diversions to fill up the void.

Mrs. Lindbergh then moves on to discuss relationships, using several shells to illustrate the various steps through them. She grew up in the first generation of open ‘sexual liberation,’ the 1920’s being a precursor to the even wilder 1960’s, in which affairs and extra-marital sex were somewhat lifted of the sense of taboo that had surrounded them (for good reason) in previous generations.  But this woman, who remained steadfastly married to her good and faithful man, through much turmoil and strife (including the kidnapping and murder of their first child), reveals part of the secret of longevity of relationships: contentment and the acceptance of the tides.

When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment.  It is an impossibility.  It is even a lie to pretend to.  And yet this is exactly what most of us demand.  We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships.  We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror of its ebb.  We are afraid it will never return.  We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity–in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.  The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even.  Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.

Isn’t this beautiful, really?  Life is constantly changing.  Our problem is that we do not wish to flow with the change, that we refuse to see that there is beauty in every stage.  And then, because a relationship is not the ‘same’ as it was when we first felt love, we abandon it, seeking another relationship to give us that feeling again, rather than seeing that the feelings and stages that follow will be just as valid and just as beautiful as the feelings we had at the first.

Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle on the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid.

I have rambled on at length about this book, but it was truly beautiful and full of lessons worth learning.  And while Mrs. Lindbergh did not dwell long on what I know to be the true fulfillment of life and contentment–God–she did touch on it lightly throughout, reminders that prayer and communion are also a foundational part of life.

I highly recommend this book.  It is not long and reads very easily.  This book is one of beauty and life, a rare gem.

From the Archive: A Company of Swans

Sometimes, it’s fun to revisit books I didn’t like at all.  :-D  Originally posted 27 June 2012 on tumblr.

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by Eva Ibbotson

published 1985

This story started well…  good plot, interesting characters, although the story was, from the beginning, a bit heavy on the “all conservative people are total jerks who are blind and refuse to see the world as it is” malarkey.  Still, things moved along, and the heroine, Harriet, runs away from the truly nasty people who comprise her home and joins a ballet troupe headed for the Amazon.  (The story, by the way, is set in 1912.)

And again, things go along interestingly as you get to know a few of the other girls, and see what ballet means to different people, and of course you meet The  Man with a Past and he is charming BUT at this point, the story begins to devolve into a very boring romance novel, in which the two main characters are constantly misunderstanding each other (to the point that you wonder HOW, in the long run, will this relationship work if they can’t even have a SINGLE conversation without both people walking away with completely different ideas of what just happened??), and then The Man has to kidnap Harriet to keep her from being kidnapped by someone else, and even though this book is no way graphic, suddenly the two of them are just sleeping together and that is somehow supposed to be romantic, but it’s not, because they STILL don’t understand each other, and so the idea of them sleeping together, besides the obvious, Hey, you aren’t married reflex, also makes you twitch because it’s just not romantic for two people to have sex when neither of them has the remotest idea what the other is thinking about the situation.

Then there are even MORE misunderstandings and MORE confusion and I really had to make myself finish this book because it got more and more unrealistic and ridiculous because Harriet ends up back in England where her father and aunt imprison her in an attic and keep all of her clothes so she can’t run away again and Harriet decides to just starve herself to death because she can’t go on living and when I was able to recover from stabbing myself in the eyes with pointy objects and continue reading, The Man finally rescues her and then, Oh happy ending they get married and all is well.  Or something like that.  Sheesh.

So yes.  2.  Which is a shame, because, like I said, it started well.

Houses of Stone // by Barbara Michaels

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//published 1993//

So a while back I read the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, and loved it.  I also read her Vicky Bliss series, which was also enjoyable but not quite as much fun.  Turns out, Peters is a pen name for Barbara Mertz, who also wrote books under her own name AND the pen name of Barbara Michaels!  Good times, good times.  Anyway, this is my first book to read under her Michael’s name.  While a decent outing, I simply didn’t like the main character, which left this book at an overall 3/5 for me.

Karen is an English professor whose specialty is 19th century female authors.  Her one claim to academic fame was finding and publishing a small volume of poetry by a women whose pen name was Ismene.  Karen has yearned to find out more about Ismene ever since, but without much hope – until her friend, a book dealer, discovers a partial manuscript that appears to have been written by the same woman.  Karen is wildly excited about the opportunity to get her hands on the manuscript and learn more about Ismene.  Unfortunately, some of her academic colleagues are pretty interested in the same thing.  As Karen continues to learn more about Ismene, the manuscript, and the house where the manuscript was found, she finds strange accidents and incidents are occurring with startling frequency.  Are they coincidence?  A product of Karen’s over-active imagination (filled with Ismene’s Gothic tale of horror)?  Or is there something more frighteningly supernatural occurring?

I had a few problems with this book.  The first is Karen herself.  UGH.  Frankly, she’s just a bit too bitchy for me.  Most of her dialogue is a constant refrain about how downtrodden women have been tormented by the restraints of the patriarchy for centuries, and it got pretty old pretty fast.

“[My nightmare is] the old buried-alive theme – a classic feminist nightmare.  I know what brings it on.  Frustration. …  The dreams started after I saw the manuscript.  Once I get my hands on it they’ll stop.”

Did you know?  Only feminists have nightmares about being buried alive.  It’s because they’re constantly thwarted in their professional, private, emotional, and social lives.  That was only the first mention of the theme – on page 41 – but it was repeated constantly.  Women are so downtrodden and desperate to be heard that the only way they can speak is through vague Freudian messages.  My gosh.  It was like sitting through a constant lecture on 19th century female authors.  I was even subjected to a speech on why Austen is an underground feminist whose only aim in writing was to point out what dirty dogs all (ALL) men are.

At one point, Karen is telling her friend about the actual story Ismene has written.  She is explaining how she is trying to figure out when the manuscript was written by reading for clues in the story.

“The original Gothic novel,” [said Karen], “began with The Castle of Otranto in 1764, and reached its height in the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe thirty years later.  They were certainly overburdened with dastardly villains and vapid heroines, ancient castles and Deadly Secrets; but the Gothic romance represents a significant development in the history of the modern novel.  The images of imprisonment and danger represent the social, intellectual and economic frustration of women in a rigid paternalistic society – ”

“Spare me.”  [Her colleague interrupted.]  “I’m not knocking literary criticism, but I just don’t give a damn about analysis of that sort, be it Freudian or feminist.  The only thing I care about is whether it’s a good read.”

ME TOO.  As someone who loves to read, and who loves to read a story without attempting to extrapolate “the true meaning,” I hate listening to lectures explaining symbolism and imagery.  If there isn’t a letter from the author stating “HERE IS WHAT I WAS ACTUALLY SAYING: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE SUBTEXT OF MY STORY” then I’m really not interested in someone else’s opinion of that (theoretical) subtext.  And basically this entire book was an explanation of the subtext of every book ever written by a woman.  So boring.

Meanwhile, in between lectures the actual story tooled right along and was quite interesting.  Karen and her friends are gathering information about Ismene and exploring the old mansion where the manuscript was found.  Eerie happenings that go from peculiar to frightening to life-threatening abound.  But the ending felt weak – some events were left unexplained entirely (especially the more supernatural events), and for the rest, well, everyone gets a piece of the blame pie.  Instead of being one bad guy, turns out that pretty much each thing was caused by someone different.  Ismene’s story itself is suddenly wrapped up in a very bizarre turn of events, and I don’t know, I just felt let down by the conclusion, especially after I’d endured a few hundred pages of Karen’s rather arrogant attitude –

The [laundromat] was doing a brisk business.  She had to wait for a machine.  As she stood tapping her foot impatiently, she saw a familiar face.  It was bent over a book, but she recognized the tight-clustered black curls and heavy horn-rimmed glasses …  the librarian – what was her name?  Tanya something.  The glasses must be an affectation, an attempt to look older and more authoritative.  Most women fo that age wore contacts.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just being weird here.  Except I’ve worn glasses pretty much my whole life, and prefer them to contacts because I find the more convenient and comfortable, yet Karen immediately snap-judges Tanya.  She did that with everyone, immediately plunking them into a category and then complaining about the way men always do the same thing to women.

So, like I said – in the end 3/5 for a decent premise and some engaging moments, but a little disappointing in the end.  I still have the rest of Michaels’s works on the TBR, though, so I’m sure we’ll come across another one soon, hopefully with better results.

Nerilka’s Story // by Anne McCaffery

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//published 1986//

This was a shorter, easier read than many of the earlier Pern works.  For one, it is a parallel story to Moreta – it is the tale of a minor (but important) character from that book.  For seconds, it isn’t about a dragonrider at all, but about the daughter of a Lord Holder.  This means that Nerilka’s tale is delightfully free of the complications of remembering so many names!

As I’ve mentioned before, I really like it when McCaffrey treats us to multiple books about the same people, as it is much easier to get into a groove of who’s who.  Nerilka’s Story takes that a step further – basically, I don’t think you would even understand the story if you hadn’t already read Moreta.  Nerilka is also the first McCaffrey book I’ve read that is written in the first person, which was an interesting change from McCaffrey’s straight third-person narratives to date.

Nerilka’s father is the Lord Holder of Fort Hold.  When the epidemic sweeps through Pern, Lord Tolocamp stays true to his selfish, prideful character, and refuses to offer help or much-needed medical supplies.  Nerilka, shamed by her father’s actions, runs away to help where she can.

It was really fun to hear the same tale from a different perspective, and Nerilka made an engaging and interesting narrator.  Her story is not always a happy one (deadly pandemics don’t usually make for cheery storytelling), but it is one of courage and self-sacrifice.  Nerilka is willing to give up her status and privileges in order to do what she believes is right.  In classic fairy tale style, she receives her just rewards for her actions.

Nerilka’s Story also gave better closure to the story of Alessan, the Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold, who was a main character in Moreta, but kind of faded out at the end.  I was genuinely glad to hear what ended up happening with him when all was said and done.  Nerilka did a much better job of looking forward to where Pern was heading following the epidemic.

All in all, I’m still enjoying the Pern novels, some more than others.  But all of them are solid reading, and the world with its complicated socio-economic system and history is really impressive.  Still about a dozen or so to go, so you can anticipate even more Pern coming your way!

The Crane Wife // by Patrick Ness

//published 2013//

//published 2013//

There are books that don’t make sense to me, and it really annoys me.  Those are the books where it feels like the author is trying to hard, trying to be clever, and comes across as extremely smug.  The people who do (or at least claim to) understand those books are even worse…  I can’t tell you how many people have completely patronized me over my sort of ::shrug:: attitude towards Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events…  books that I found to be fine but…  pointless?  Apparently I’m too stupid to understand the point?  I’ve had a lot of people willing to tell me that I’m too stupid to understand them but, interestingly, not a single one willing to actually explain them to me.  Ah well.

The point is, there are also books that don’t make sense to me, but it’s okay.  There is a depth and a magic to them, and I want to read them again (and maybe again), trying to glean the next level of understanding from them.  The Crane Wife was definitely in this latter category.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though I didn’t really get it at all.

Based on a Japanese myth and a song by The Decemberists, Ness has crafted a story that is genuinely beautiful.  I picked up this book because I loved Ness’s A Monster Calls so very much.  While The Crane Wife did not touch me at quite the same level, it was still a book I found myself thinking about days after I finished it.

George is a middle-aged shopkeeper in London.  He owns a small print shop.  Divorced with an adult daughter, American by birth, unassuming and quiet, George lives a rather dull and lonely life.  And then, one night, he hears a cry.  In the garden is a crane, her wing pierced by an arrow.  George saves the crane’s life.  The next morning, a woman enters his shop, and George’s life changes completely.

This is not a story of mystery.  We know from the outset that Kumiko must be the crane – but why?  And how?  Ness left me feeling disoriented much of the story – is magic real or is it not?  Is there going to be some kind of logical, scientific explanation for everything that’s happened?  Is Kumiko really the crane?  Which story is real – the story of George, or the story Kumiko tells?

Interwoven with the story of George and Kumiko is the story Kumiko is telling with her artwork, and the story of George’s daughter, Amanda, who has a whole litany of troubles of her own.

I literally cannot describe this story, and don’t ask me to explain it, either.

‘A story must be told.  How else can we live in this world that makes no sense?’

‘How else can we live with the extraordinary?’ George murmured.

‘Yes,” Kumiko said, seriously.  ‘Exactly that.  The extraordinary  happens all the time.  So much, we can’t take it.  Life and happiness and heartache and love.  If we couldn’t put it into a story – ‘

‘And explain it – ‘

‘No!’ she said, suddenly sharp.  ‘Not explain.  Stories do not explain.  They seem to, but all they provide is a starting point.  A story never ends at the end.  There is always after.  And even within itself, even by saying that this version is the right one, it suggests other versions, versions that exist in parallel.  No, a story is not an explanation, it is a net, a net through which the truth flows.  The net catches some of the truth, but not all, never all, only enough so that we can live with the extraordinary without it killing us … as it surely, surely would.’

And yet, despite the fact that I have no words to create a sensible review, this book was hauntingly beautiful and thoroughly engaging.  The development of relationships  between Kumiko and George, Kumiko and Amanda, and even George and his family/colleagues is extremely well done.

In a way, this is a story simply about being human, and what that means.

There were parts of the story that had me rolling my eyes a bit – I almost didn’t make it through the first chapter after I had to spend several paragraphs with George in his bathroom in the middle of the night as he urinates.  I mean, really?  There is such a thing as too much background to what’s happening.

But on the whole, this book was delightful, haunting, sad, yet strangely uplifting.  Like A Monster Calls, which is by no means a happy book, it manages to explore sadness in a way that reminds us that much of life can be sad, yet not hopeless.

At the end of the day, I book I didn’t really “get” completely, but still enjoyed, and would be happy to pick up again someday.  4/5.

A Nose for Trouble by Jim Kjelgaard

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//published 1949//

Well, I am almost through my stack of Kjelgaard books.  I’ve saved my two favorites for last – Snow Dog and its sequel, Wild Trek.  However, I was excited to read A Nose for Trouble, as I had never read it before – I found it on Paperback Swap not long ago.  While this story of adventure and poaching was a decent read, it didn’t rise to the top of my favorite Kjelgaard books by any means.

Our story centers on Tom Rainse, who is returning to his home up in the mountains after an indeterminate amount of time for unspecified reasons (Kjelgaard is, if I’m honest, never big on back stories).  Tom isn’t planning to stay long (for unknown reasons), but changes his mind when he discovers that there is a lot of drama going on in his previously quiet mountains.  Times are changing.  For generations, the mountain folk have lived their quiet, hard lives, hunting and trapping as they needed to for food.  Now (in the 1940’s), game regulations are becoming a thing, with specified seasons for different animals, in an attempt to preserve game for future generations as well.  The mountain folk are not open to this kind of interference from the government, and resent the game warden, Buck.  However, Buck has bigger things on his plate than the few deer and rabbits that the mountain folk are shooting out of season – big-time poachers are beginning to realize that they can make a lot of money by harvesting as much game as possible to sell in the cities, and a ring of poachers, headed by a man known as the Black Elk, are shooting everything they can in Tom’s area – and they’ll do whatever it takes to protect their interests.

This book had a little more drama than a lot of Kjelgaard’s books, with a couple of attempted murders and a lot of angst between the mountain folk and the game warden.  Tom, who has spent time outside of the mountains and understands how the world is changing, believes in the work the game warden is trying to accomplish, and gets caught in the midst of the fight between the warden, the Black Elk’s gang, and the antipathy of the mountain folk towards both parties.  Throughout, Tom is able to work to catch the Black Elk thanks to the assistance of his bloodhound cross, Smoky.

While the story was decent, and Tom a likable protagonist, the plot was rather loose and fairly unbelievable.  I enjoyed it as a one-time read, and would like to get my hands on the sequel, Trailing Trouble, but overall not one of Kjelgaard’s strongest works.  3/5.

From the Archive: ‘Animal Farm’

Originally posted 25 February 2012 on tumblr.

51iSxG6+ixLby George Orwell

published 1945

I hadn’t read this book in years, since early high school, maybe.  I accidentally checked out some anniversary edition, so there were almost as many pages devoted to introductions and prefaces as there were to the actual story.  However, in one of them, a writer was lamenting the fact that Animal Farm is always read in English class now, not for History or Social Studies.  It’s used as an example of an allegory.  Look at the imagery.  How did Orwell get his point across about human activities?  etc. etc. etc.

But when this book was written, it wasn’t being read by bored middle-schoolers in English class.  It was being read by adults, by people who had been completely taken in by Stalin’s words and “vision.”  Orwell was one of the few writers who stood up and declared that what was happening in Russia was very, very bad.

It was amazing to read this book sort of “in context” as I have been reading so much about World War I, Czar Nicolas, the Russian Revolution, Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin.  This book really came together for me and I loved it in that horrible, creepy, shivery kind of way.  The book is brilliant.

Orwell was a socialist.  He believed in Socialism, believed in the writings of Marx.  But he also saw that what was happening in Russia was not true Socialism.  Animal Farm does not denounce Socialism.  Indeed, the speech given by the old pig who represents Marx is beautiful, poetic, inspiring.  Perhaps part of the depth of passion that fed Orwell’s writing flowed from the fact that he saw something in which he strongly believed being misused and misrepresented.

You should read this book.  It is a tale of tragedy and horror.  It is not a story that ends happily.  But it is a story of depth and thoughtfulness, as the rules are rewritten and the pigs become the very humans they strove so valiantly to overthrow.

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

 

Quote

For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word “Book’s” with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds the shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker.

-Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, 2003