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!


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Anna Kavan "I am Lazarus" - Spoiler!

The short story "The Brother" is another stunner. The narrator talks of being a sickly child, well taken care of by his mother while his brother is hardy and beautiful. He tells us that he has great regret about his treatment of his brother. He was always quarrelsome and hid behind his illnesses to be unkind to his brother and his friends. The brother was kind and always tried to bring a smile to the narrators face, though he was never rewarded with one.

The love the narrator got from his mother, he was entitled to because he needed to be taken care of, being sick often and unable to get around. "I was puny, weak, incapable of tying my own shoelaces without gasping for breath, my complexion was sallow, my hair stringy and dull, my manner lifeless or boorish and petulant (72)". He says he never really noticed the wear and tear his care was taking on his mother. He was entitled to this care, why should he worry how hard it was on his mother.

He gets a bought of flu and gives it to his brother, though he assures us that his brother was only mildly effected by the illness. As they are recouping in study, in the same room which hadn't happened for a long time, his brother initiates a conversation. "...(he was) begging my pardon if he had hurt me in some way, and asking if we could not make an effort to get on better together, if only for mother's sake (75)." The narrator says that he wanted to make amends, that he felt a "softening towards him (75)", but he was suddenly taken with a seizure. The mother wants to go get the medication he needs, they have none in the house, but the brother decides to go. The narrator encourages this plan of action and the brother goes in to the cold winter weather.

The brother gets pneumonia, his mother commands the narrator attend the death bed. The narrator feels she is uncharacteristically sharp with him.

The fearful sound of his breathing was so loud that it seemed to be inside
my head. I had the sensation of participating in the agony of a man being
tortured to death, and my shudders became so uncontrollable that I was
afraid of falling upon him. At last words came; clear, and yet not like
human speech at all, they came from so far away.

It's a pity.

It was like listening to a voice speaking across oceans and continents. And
after a long delay, very softly, so that none of the others heard, followed two more words.

For you. (76)
What does he mean? He pities the narrator, then the truth is revealed when his mother comes in later to see him in the study. He senses that he can no longer rely on her comfort so does not even look at her as she comes in.

The silence between us became intolerable and I stammered something intended
for consolation, saying that at least we still had each other.
Yes, you are all that is left now, she said in a low, grave tone, while
her eyes appeared to be studying me with the same unnatural and dispassionate
consideration that I had bestowed on the tablecloth.
And suddenly, as she stood there looking at me so quietly and steadfastly
in the quiet room...I realized everything, my own blindness, the horror.
It was not I but my brother whom my mother had loved all along. He was the
treasure of which I had robbed her for all these years and of which I had deprived her for ever.

As if she knew what was in my mind she remarked:

You were always stronger then he was, and now you have managed to get rid of him for good (78).

How chilling is that??? All along he thought that because of his frailness he had been able to keep all of the love of his mother. When she asked the brother not to try and make amends with him it wasn't to keep the narrator from getting upset but the opposite. When the narrator would make rude remarks to the brothers friends, she asked him not to bring them around not to appease the narrator, but not to embarrass the brother. He has skewed the whole situation his whole life.

Is this what we do? Do we really know how people feel about us, or do we just see what is convenient. I think the brother all along had been protecting the narrator from knowing the mother's true feelings, and that is why the pity. Now that the brother was dead the narrator was going to know that he wasn't the center of his mother's love and devotion. The theme of this book is how the mind works, and I think that his seizure is timed to keep him from making amends with his brother. His mind wouldn't let him make this move, the move that would have kept the family together. An excellent 15 minute read!

Kavan, Anna. I am Lazarus. London: Peter Owen, 1978.

iPhone helps again

I'm lying in bed typing away on my phone. Might not be as quick, but if I write that is what is important!

So what am I reading? At the moment I've seperated my reading into daytime and nighttime. I'm reading Gunter Grass's "The Tin Drum" and "The Box" in spurts. "The Tin Drum" is so thought provoking I can only read a chapter a week almost. He writes so lyrical that even if the subject matter can strain, you flow along with it.

I'm also reading "I am Lazaris" by Anna Kavan. She is so good, but again challenging. All of these are work reads. I carry them with me and read when I can process what I'm reading. This book has short stories about the effects of mental health on everyone. Kavan suffered from depression and spent time in an Asylum. She writes so true of the feelings of the sufferers, but not a rose color view. She writes in one of a doctor, in charge of an Asylun of soldiers, who has his own agenda and tries to make all the patients fit his plan. When one patient can not conform he is brought in for a session where he is told to talk and confront what is in his head. The patients mind and body can't take the pain and anguish and he ends up dying on the couch. The doctor has no feelings, saying he thought that might happen and basically shrugs the death away. Her stories highlight how hard it is to be on both sides of the situation, but especially of the misunderstanding of those who have not experenced it. (Kavan was writing in the 1930s on).

Lastly my Mom bought me a Kindle, so I downloaded "A Tiny Bit Marvelous" by Dawn French and "Role Models" by John Waters. These are my bed bed time reading. After reading my last Dervla Murphy book and not sleeping thinking about the worlds problems, i decided I needed something a bit lighter before lights out.

So what are you reading during the day?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Where have I been?

I was embarrassed by some comments to posts I made a long time ago. I'm sure I've not posted in a it is time to either close the blog or get to I'm going to get to writing.

I've been reading more books by post-WWII English women writers. I've always like the era around the war both just before and just after (not so much during the war). Elizabeth Cadell and Mrs. Read where writers I've enjoyed in the past. I've written on here about Anna Kavan who I really like, though I need to get on with her next book. But the writer I want to talk about today is Muriel Spark.

I read "Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" a couple years ago. I loved it and decided to read more of Spark. I've read the first two "The Comforters" and "Robinson". The first is a bit awkward, though it was really a good read. I must admit I started it and then put it away for a few months and came back to it. "Robinson" was compelling though. A plane wreck leaves three survivors living with a loner who owns the island. The man disappears and the three survivors then start turning on each other believing that one of them is a murderer.

The book I'm reading at the moment is "Memento Mori". It is about a group of people who are interconnected, though from different classes, dealing with getting old. The main characters are in their 70s and 80s. Spark challenges you with not only how their minds are aging, but also with your misconception that the elderly didn't have a life before. You find out that many of them had affairs in their younger years and they have memories of lost loves. I'm finding it interesting and a bit disturbing. We will see how it goes, I'm about half way through at the moment.

I'm also reading Elizabeth Bowen's "Hotel". I've just started it so no real impressions yet, except that I'm enjoying reading it.