Friday, April 22, 2011

2011 summer reading continues well into autumn

With Autumn defiantly under way, summer reading should have been finished but I was on a roll and the more I read the more I wanted to read... 

As Catcher in the Rye is on many of the “must read” lists and I thought that it was time that I checked it out. It is a story of a boy that gets thrown out of high school and spends what seems like forever partying in NYC. I was slightly disappointed as I obviously didn’t get why people found this book so compelling because, as a piece of literature, it is no big deal. But understanding that art never operates outside the context/culture that it was created in, it is easier to see the impact of this book and to see how its perspective was a new one. The character’s spent four days plus ranting on how bad his life was and fake the people around him were and I guess that at the time, things like that weren’t really talked about. It is hard to see him as the first anti-hero and rebel.

The Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brookes discusses Women in Islam and provides a close up of the lives of many women in the middle-east and as with other similar books I was left not knowing what to think about one of the world’s largest religions. I shared Brookes’ struggle with why well educated women give it all up for marriage Saudi style and why a whole generation of females could regress back to fundamentalist Islam after the progress of many of the trailblazers of the past but maybe I am missing the point!

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” is the opening line to Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and indicates that it is about unhappy families. It is essentially about the scandalous family lives of the Russian elite and how these scandals impact on the families around them.

Prior to reading the book, I had this expectation that this book would only about superficial aspects part of the lives of the characters but I was quite surprised by how human it was. For example, Levin’s and Kitty’s reaction to their brother’s death brought a tear to my eye and their reactions during their wedding ceremony were believable. The end I found a little disappointing and too existential but I am glad I did make it that far.

Its length does make it a big read but it is worth it.

Tolstoy seems to cram quite a lot in to 800+ pages and covered application of Christian values to every-day lives, the role of women in society and societal expectations. It also covers agronomy and early forms of sustainability, industrial relations on farms as well as suicide.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm was the final book of the summer. Having loved 1984 I loved Animal Farm’s allegorical style and Orwell’s depiction of the pre war Stalinist era. I thought it was an accurate depiction of human nature and how political theories begin as positive change but soon go downhill as greed and self interest increases.


I loved the various characters in the book; Millie could easily be a Barbie on four legs and Squealer could be a spin doctor. I laughed when pigs started walking on two legs and their mantra "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” is so true.

It is easy to see why this cleverly written book is considered such a classic as it says so much about humans and how we organise our selves.

The Plantation by Di Morrissey is a tale of family secrets and dramas. It is a story that covers several generations and it was set in Malaysia (or Malaya as it was known in the past) as well as Australia. It is a very easy read while keeping readers guessing of why things happened the way they did right up to the very end. It did make me want to go back and explore more of Malaysia. Note to self: book trip to Malaysia ASAP!!!

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