Tender is the Night

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I read Tender Is the Night just after finishing Schindler’s Ark – I badly needed a change in setting after reading almost 400 pages on the holocaust.

The story begins just as in The Great Gatsby. A newcomer to the French Riviera meets a clique of rich people and discovers their world of wonders. What happens after however is a far cry from what you can imagine.

Expectedly, the exquisite words Fitzgerald uses help create an ethereal world. One memorable event for me is the dinner scene at the beginning, which felt like a dream. I remember feeling exactly what Rosemary felt at that point. It was intense, almost magical. There are also some scenes of immense poetry between the story’s lovers. My favourite scene is the one with Dick unable to play a tune on the piano because Nicole is within earshot. His inability at doing so is a powerful mirroring of his state of mind.  (I don’t wish to give away any spoiler)

I was also impressed with the degree of freedom Fitzgerald allowed himself in writing the book. His style feels even more idiosyncratic; he uses dashes, inverted commas and ellipses whenever he wants to. One can mistake him for somebody gone a bit crazy with the pen, but he’s quite like a Picasso in fact. The leitmotifs he uses throughout the book along with the clues sprinkled here and there show that he is in charge of the story and has a clear idea of what he wants it to convey. Besides, it is for this reason that I think Tender Is the Night is better enjoyed upon one’s second reading and onward.

While I really liked The Great Gatsby, I still thought Fitzgerald was an author who played it safe, despite himself or not. What I mean is, I thought, maybe because of the time he lived in, he would not be too adventurous with taboo themes. But I was mistaken. Badly. There is one particular scene in the book where the term ‘Daddy’s Girl’ takes a completely different meaning, and I was really surprised upon reaching it.

If I was impressed that much with Tender Is the Night, then why did I rate it only 4 stars on goodreads? That’s mainly because Fitzgerald’s writing sometimes makes some passages so abstract and confusing that I found myself staring at a page, trying to make out what was happening in a scene. This somehow correlates with my above statement; the beauty of the book is better appreciated when you read it for a second time.

If asked, I would say I prefer The Great Gatsby over Tender Is the Night. The latter is technically the better book though. However iconic Gatsby’s story is, it is his [Fitzgerald’s] last book that shows how ahead of his time he was. For Tender Is the Night is not just a story rich with intricacies; it is a veritable lesson on the craft of writing by a master storyteller.

It beggars belief that this book was published in 1934!

Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s Ark

”The resistance claimed that ten thousand murders on a given day were within the capacity of Auschwitz Two. Then, for the Łódź area, there was the camp at Chelmo, also equipped according to the new technology. To write these things now is to state the commonplace of history. But to find them out in 1942, to have them break upon you from a June sky, was to suffer a fundamental shock, a derangement in that area of the brain in which stable ideas about humankind and its possibilities are kept.”

Just Read: Bell Jar

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It’s past midnight and my second night at home (i’m on holiday), but I just want to leave a quick note about one of the best books I’ve read.

I’ve just finished The Bell Jar.

This book is so deeply personal that I don’t want to call it a ‘masterpiece’, even though this was the first word that sprang to mind. For calling it so would be a misdemeanour to Plath and her book in my opinion; I absolutely love Bell Jar because of the purity in Esther’s narration – her account is made all the more intimate when we know that she is a semi-version of Plath herself.

But, regardless of its autobiographical aspect, the book is indeed a masterpiece. The vocabulary is superb and I read somewhere that Plath used to attend creative writing courses, which can be felt throughout the book, especially with regards to the structure of her paragraphs. It doesn’t really surprise me that she made the most of these classes, given that she was a very brilliant student who won a scholarship for Cambridge. Her bell jar analogy besides is one of the highlights of this book. The fictional side of the book is just as impressive.

During my reading of the book, I felt as if the world around me was banal, cold and senseless, because I could relate so much to Esther and not so much to anybody else. It was a delight to delve into her world every night. Because of how well-written it is and what it is about, I feel that Bell Jar is a once-in-a-lifetime book that was written way ahead of its time.

Perfect on every level.

Goodbye Harper Lee

A rare picture of Harper Lee and Truman Capote together.

Time goes by really quickly. In two and a half months I will complete my second year at university. I still remember when I was in my gap year and wondering how I would fare all alone in a foreign country…

After graduating from high school in February 2013, I decided to take a gap year in order to grow more as a person. Whilst I was always reading the news and learning some things here and there, I wanted to reach another level. That’s how I set myself the challenge to read the best books of all time. Around July I had read some 10 classics before I discovered the Folio Society, which marked the beginning of a great love affair. At that time joining members had to buy four full-priced books. The four I chose were: Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, The Picture of Dorian Gray and To Kill a Mockingbird.

In September 2013, when I was supposed to be in university if I had not taken a gap year, I read To Kill a Mockingbird after finishing Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Given how tedious reading the latter book was, To Kill a Mockingbird was a breath of fresh air. It was an absolute pleasure to read this little gem. Harper Lee’s death made me reminisce a lot about the book. It reminds me of how I wondered if Boo Radley did exist, of Scout being innocence personified, of how she witnessed the hatred adults can breed, of her shenanigans together with Jem and Dil, and of the righteous Atticus Finch. Whilst reading the book I was also unaware of all the novels awaiting me in the coming years; I was young in the mind back then.

I must confess one thing though. In 2014 and 2015 I read a lot of unforgettable novels: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Anna Karenina, Labyrinths, Disgrace, and Inheritance of Loss, among many others. I ended up thinking that To Kill a Mockingbird was not that great of a book; it lacked the allegories of Lord of the Flies, the magic realism in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ book, the horrors of Disgrace or the idiosyncrasies of God of Small Things, and I dismissed it as a little simple book meant to convey a message. The two years that elapsed, I guess, blurred my memories of it.

With Harper Lee’s death yesterday, I somehow felt that To Kill a Mockingbird died (I know it hasn’t,but…). I may be overdoing it, but it is the first time an author whose book I have read has passed away; the books I read are either by people who are already dead or by others who are, touch wood, no close to dying anytime soon. As stated above, her death reminded of many things and ,most importantly, of how I felt when I opened and closed the book every time I would pick it to read. I also realised that the best books oughtn’t be the most complex or multi-layered ones. That’s pretty much what I wanted to say, besides the fact that I am grateful to Harper Lee for having written one of the warmest books I have ever read. To Kill a Mockingbird was a shimmer of light at a time when I was starting to pave my way through some of the greatest and intimidating works in literature.

Harper Lee (1926-2016)

”When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh.”

Just Finished: One Hundred Years of Solitude

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Click on the pic for better resolution.Wordpress messed up the details.

I finished reading this wonderful novel two days ago,but was too lazy to take a pic of the book and write a post,hence why I’m doing it only now.

Continue reading “Just Finished: One Hundred Years of Solitude”