Sunday, July 20, 2014

Garman and Worse by Alexander Lange Kielland (SPOILERS) , part 2

I finished Garman and Worse finally the other day.  I had anticipated reading a lot while I was on vacation at home to US to see family.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get ANY reading done until the plane ride home.  I usually get a lot done on vacation, but this one didn’t really lend itself to reading for some reason.  Probably because I was with family. 

This book was so much more then what I wrote about in my last post.  Focusing on one aspect that I didn’t really see coming was what it said about the life of women during the time period, the book was published in Norway, 1885 .  There are three young women whose lives we experience.  Our first women is Madeline, at first a feisty young women we think is going to make a love match with a fisherman.  But of course, this wouldn’t do.  She is from a merchant family and can’t lower herself to this level.  She is sent to live with the rest of Garman clan in town.  Here she is taken under the wing by Fanny, Madeline’s cousin-in-law.  Fanny uses Madeline to prop herself up by making her feel at once befriend and also someone of a lower order.  They both fall for Delphin, who though he wants Madeline, let’s himself be flattered into an affair with Fanny.  Madeline secretly catches them coming from an assignation and falls apart.  Though she turns down a minister’s marriage proposal, she ends up being tricked into the marriage as she struggles to deal with Fanny and Delphin’s deception.  Delphin runs off when he hears of Madeline’s engagement and Fanny is left to continue her little games with others.  The fact that Madeline is tricked into marriage so easily for someone who knew what she wanted, shows what being in “society” could do to woman.  Of course there is remorse at the end for what could have been.  At the end of the book she sees her first love, Per, and his wife together and the life they have set up for themselves.  She can’t resist running to Per when she knows he is alone and apologising for not being stronger.  He is very upset by this and you can see that he still loves her. 
The second young lady is Marianne, who sews for the Garman household.  We learn that she was once very beautiful and though she tried to rebuff one of the young men of the household she was impregnated by him.  He was sent off for bring shame to the family.  She lost the baby, but was always none as the “fallen” woman.  In a bigger community she might have been able to go somewhere else for employment.  But, her brother and father worked for Garman and Worse as boat builders, so she was stuck working for the family that was part of her downfall.  She is very ill and eventually dies.  I can hardly bring myself to tell you how that all ends, so you’ll have to read what happens at her death and burial. 
The last and only redeemed young lady is Rachel Garman.  Throughout much of the story I didn’t like her because she was cold and demanding.  I found myself more caught up in Madeline’s story line.  At the end though, you find that she is the only one that actually comes out well.  She had very demanding ideas of what kind of man she wanted.  She thinks that the local school teacher who has religious aspirations will be the one.  He will get in the pulpit and let the sinners know what they should do and she was going to be so proud and then marry him.  Lucky, for her, the head of the church gets a hold of him first and warns him off the topic of his sermon.  Rachel is mad about what she sees as a character flaw in the teacher and goes off of him.  All this time there has been Tom Worse in the background.  He is the grandson of the Worse that started the firm with the original Garman.  Tom though has set himself up in his own business, I was never able to get it very clear but I think that when his dad died the firm was taken over by the Garman’s with the Worse family still receiving some, but not much, of the profit.  Anyway, when Rachel’s father dies she is placed in the guardianship of Tom along with her younger brother.  Her older brother took over the business, so I assume Rachel’s dad must have figured he had enough to do.  In Tom, Rachel has found an ally.  Rachel goes to him because she feels restless.  She doesn’t know what to do with herself and doesn’t want to just get married and be a wife.  Tom encourages her to go to a friend of his in France and see if she can find any employment that she will enjoy doing.  This is what is so amazing.  He doesn’t just say, oh you silly thing go do some charity work.  He wants her to choose what she is to do.  She does find her passion and her business acumen (which appears to be better than her older brother).  By the end of the book Tom and Rachel get happily married, and I felt at least someone’s life ended happily!

I also read Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, before I left for the States.  That will be another blog post though.  So now I’m starting another Norwegian book The Family at Gilje by Jonas Lie.  I also read a good review of Berlin: Imagine a City by Rory MacLean, so I’ll see what that is like.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Garman and Worse by Alexander Lange Kielland

I finally finished Gosta Berling.  It was magical to the end.  It is a book that should be read by more people.  In fact the copy I read I had ordered through Interlibrary Loan but I've decided that I need to own a copy.  I'm trying to be more careful with buying the books, since storage is scarce, but I had to own this book!

So I've now gone back to the book I was reading when Gosta Berling arrived.  Kielland is a Norwegian writer.  I had written down in my notes to read him at some point.  I find authors from all sorts of places, so I can't remember where I had read about him.  I decided to start with this book and was able to get it free for my Kindle.

The book was published in 1885, and is set during that time it feels.  The title is taken from the shipbuilding company of Garman and Worse which is owned by the main characters.  The Consul Garman, is running the company primarily.  His brother, Richard, travelled around being irresponsible and comes home with a daughter in toe.  He takes up residence in a lighthouse and raises her very happily there.  When he becomes aware that his daughter Madeline is becoming a woman and interested in a local fisherman, he sends her back in to town to stay with his brother's family.

This has a feel of a Victorian novel where you have lots of characters of all walks of life.  Class is important here, which I'm finding interesting as it is the same as in English literature of that time.  I'm really enjoying it and will let you know how I get on with it.

I was in my favorite "local" independent bookshop (not so local to me but my sister-in-law) Much Wenlock books.  Anna, the owner, was telling me about a website called My Independent Bookshop.  You can put together a list of books you like and can get recommendations based on these.  People can look at your recommendations in your "bookshop".  If you set it up to be attached to a independent bookshop and you buy a book, they receive a percentage of the money.  Have a look for yourself.  I've named my bookshop "Cosmic Dawn's Books", so if you are interested have a look.  Let me know if you sign up and what your bookshop is called so I can have a look!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Saga of Gosta Berling part 2

Wow, I love this book.  It is a bit of magic.  I never thought I liked adult fairy tales, but now I know I do. 

I have to take that back a bit, I quite like Syliva Townsend Warner's books I've read like Lolly Willowes.  It starts out a normal story of not much happening.....which is the kind of books I like...and then turns into a fairytale. 

Back to Gosta, I'm about half way through now.  The translation is so good, I can imagine that it must be very lyrical in Swedish.  Each chapter is like another story of Gosta and his effect on women, but not in a Don Juan sort of way (though it is clever that the beautiful, powerful horse in the story is called Don Juan).  It is hard to describe without it sounding airy-fairy.....because it is anything but.  The stories are quiet dark and the magic sneaks up on you as you are reading. 

One of the stories is about a girl (Anna) has been promised by her family to marry someone, but has been taken in and entranced  by an older man.  The family ask Gosta to go and take her away.  Instead they are smitten by each other and while driving past the house of the family (with Don Juan as their horse) they are set on by black wolves.  When they try to head back the other way and pass the house again, they are again set on by the black wolves.  They give up and Gosta drops her off at the families house. They are happy and Gosta realises that he can't have her.  Anna feels that God sent the wolves to make sure she made the right choice....later she isn't so sure if it was God or not.

My writing doesn't do it justice as the story is so lyrical you are swept along like you are listening to a folk song.  It is making me think that I might give Angela Carter a read after all.  We have a lot of her books in the Uni library I work at and they obviously teacher her ever couple of years.  So I might just have to give it a go.

On another topic...does anyone have a good app for blog writing?  I've downloaded one or two but they never let you write very much.  I have an Iphone and a Kindle fire and either one I download doesn't let me scroll down for writing, only for looking at the page....if you see what I mean.... 

Ah well....happy reading!!!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Selma Lagerlof The Saga of Gosta Berling

I like to go through the Pulitzer Prize winner occasionally to look for writers I might enjoy but haven't heard about.  I started this when I read started Knit Hamson.  I found this time the first woman who won in 1909.  She also fits into my Scandinavian reading scheme too.  I'm looking forward to trying this.  I'm reading her bio at the moment.  Sometimes I do this with new books, but sometimes it is good to go into it blind.  She sounds really interesting so we will see how the book

Monday, March 24, 2014

What I've been reading

 I see that my poor blog is still here so I thought I would try and have a go again.  This is more for me then for anyone else, so I know what I've been reading.

I've become more interested in German writing and cultural history of the wars and between.  I think this is a result of the English going ON and ON about WWII.  It seems every day they are commemorating something to do with the war, which is commendable, but does get a bit repetitave.  There is so much more we should be remembering.  Many of the expats I from many different countries feel the same way, so it isn't just me.  Especially, as you can imagine, the German! 

Anyway, I came across a review of Gunter Grass' Peeling the Onion.  I decided I had to read it and wasn't disappointed.  He is an amazing writer.  He is so lyrical and his description of telling his life story as slowly peeling back the layers of an onion is very evocative.

This led me to read his The Tin Drum  which I found I could only read in small snippets at a time, as it was too powerful to read in one long session.  I had to stop and think through all of the imagery and try to understand what he wrote.  Again, he is so lyrical that it isn't hard to read...just very thought provoking.  I've allowed myself some time before trying to read another one of his books!

I've been reading more Muriel Sparkes which I'll hopefully write about more later.  So I haven't given up working my way up through the years of English women writers.  I've started Virgina Woolf's Jacob's Room tonight, so we shall see how far I get through.  We are off for a weekend away in Wales so I hope to do some reading and writing.  We shall see how it goes!

Anyway.....happy reading!