Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Book For July

I have been wanting to read a Joanne Fluke novel since I've heard so many good things about them. And let's face it, I'm a sucker for good mysteries. And food. I love suspense novels, I read all of the original Nancy Drews and most of the Hardy Boys before leaving elementary school. High school ushered in my love of Agatha Christie and Dan Brown's novels got me through college. So I'm pretty excited to read some of Joanne Fluke's work.
Joanne Fluke is famous for her mystery series that features all food titles. I asked Shiloh's advice and she said that the stories are excellent and the recipes that are included with each novel are delicious! So seriously, what could go wrong? A fun, suspenseful read and a great new recipe as well. I love it!
So without further ado I will announce the book for July: The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. It's the first book in the Hannah Swenson murder series (and can be found in most libraries and book stores). Happy Reading!

Update: Some have issued concern over this months chooser. True, it is technically Shiloh's turn to make the selection, but she has deferred to me and will have my spot next month. Other than that small change, the order is still the same.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Discussion for A Room With a View

Let me start by saying that in this one particular case I'm actually glad I saw the movie before reading the book. It made the book and the people and places so vivid in my mind. But it did so much more than that even.

Forster is so descriptive and well, even at times florid that you can lose sight of the real thread of story by getting caught up in the supporting characters and places. Having seen the film I knew the outcome of course, so I was able to keep that in mind even through the descriptions. Indeed I must say that Forster writes character even better than Austen or Bronte or Henry Fielding. These characters are engaging and compelling and really very easily steal the show from poor Lucy. And let's face it, until the last few chapters George and his father are barely mentioned enough to qualify them as protagonists, although they were always there, hovering over the top of the story. But how do you not get caught up in the brash Eleanor Lavish, the jovial Mr. Beebe, tiresome Charlotte Bartlett, the sometimes irritating Miss Alans, judgemental Reverand Eager, silly Freddy and on and on and on. Next to these characters Lucy and George seem almost boring. Almost.

George is classified by most as difficult, but then dismissed and extended some measure of sympathy because of his upbringing. I didn't find him difficult, just confused. A father who isn't religious and quite eccentric and a mother who died when he was young. It's hard for him to reconcile where he should fit in society when his father refuses to officially be part of it, and yet continually exposes him to the people who are a part of it. His confusion and moodiness are understandable. And yet when we do get glimpses of his passion and personality, we see that it would actually be easy to fall in love with him.

As for Lucy, I love that Forster made her very ordinary. Her looks are mentioned only once as "...a young lady with a quantity of dark hair and a very pretty, pale, undeveloped face." Meaning, I think, that she was pretty enough but not striking or stunning in any way. Indeed, Forster makes it obvious that people are draw to her, but they're each drawn to her for something other than her looks. The Miss Alans and Charlotte Bartlett saw in her a proper Victorian lady, much like themselves in earlier years. To Cecil and his mother she was someone who could be molded into their idea of a perfect wife, daughter-in-law, mother and society matron. In fact, it seems that only the Reverand Mr. Beebe & George appreciate her for what's inside, the fire and the passion the they detect down deep. Although they each have quite different motives.

I think it helps the reader understand and empathize with Lucy better that she's ordinary and comes from an ordinary family. Conventional people with a few progressive and modern ideas. They might be anyone from any family. Funny, attractive enough, but not striking, quirky and amusing in their own way. I had to laugh at Cecil's condescending thoughts about the furniture in the drawing room. All I could think of was that it must be the equivalent of modern day Ikea to late Victorian England.

The only disappointment I had about this book was the last chapter. It felt like it fell a little flat. Sure it was wonderful that the passionate lovers had finally married and were on their honeymoon in the very place they met a year earlier. But it was disappointing to hear that Lucy's family had disapproved & that Mr. Beebe had basically dropped them. I guess I just expected them to happily embrace Lucy and George (after they got over the shock) because they all wanted what was best for Lucy and for her to finally live with same passion with which she played the piano. You'd think they could recognize that this was the only way Lucy was going to become that extraordinary person. As for the revelation the Charlotte may actually have had more to do with their eventual relationship than we initially thought possible, I would have thought this would have produced a more sympathetic reaction from the lovers. But no, they decided to stay irritated at her.

Over all I loved the book. And I enjoyed Forsters descriptions and writing style. He didn't waste time trying to educate his audience, he expected them to know what he was talking about. Like all of his allusions to Greek and Roman Gods or when he deemed Sir Harry unworthy of a description. He just expects you to know. And as a reader I appreciated that. I also like that you could almost detect a bit of his sense of humor throughout the book. There were moments when you could almost sense Forster rolling his eyes or smirking or shaking his head in dismissal.

But as usual I've droned on for ages longer than I needed to. I'm excited to hear what the rest of you thought.