Book 2, “The Beautiful and Damned” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, reviewed

This is a hard book for me to review since all throughout and even after finishing, I’m not sure how much I really like it.

I love jazz age fiction, I loved Gatsby and I love Hemmingway and Waugh novels and the way they can so wonderfully capture the restlessness and excess of the middle-to-upper classes of the time. Stories of the “lost generation” or “the bright young things” as they were called in England, always seem to convey a wonderful combination of melancholy and frivolity that intrigues me. Meaninglessness and bathtubs of gin… what could be better, amIright? It was the beginning of modernity as we know it and I just want to put on some stockings, stick a feather in my hair, listen to some jazz, and use the words “frightfully” and “dreadful” as often as I can.

“The Beautiful and Damned” exemplifies this perfectly but with a bit of a darker edge to it.

It’s the story of a young man, Anthony, and the captivating and beautiful woman he marries, Gloria, who float around New York City in the 1920s drinking, partying, and spending more money than they have with the expectation of inheriting a very large sum when his grandfather dies. However, when the money does not come through (because the grandfather, a staunch prohibitionist, disapproves of their frivilous lifestyle and cuts them out of the will), Anthony and Gloria are ruined and spiral into a hateful and destructive marriage where they crumble into debt and alcoholism.

Depressing, right? I know. Which is why I said that I may not have thoroughly enjoyed it as much as I wish I did. I mean, it’s January– the sun seldom appears, everything is muddy and dark, I’m always grumpy and here I am reading existentialist diatribes like this:

“For it seemed to me that there was no ultimate goal for man. Man was beginning a grotesque and bewildered fight with nature– nature, that by the divine and magnificent accident had brought us to where we could fly in her face.” (page 220)

It got to be a little too much. Can you blame me if once in a while, I closed the book, threw on some Lady Gaga and danced around my apartment wearing every hat I own?

It was beautifully written though; Fitzgerald’s prose is poetic and his protagonist, Gloria, the classic “Belle Dame Sans Merci,” was a complicated and fascinating character– a character which I could write much more about because she kind of drove me crazy but it will make this review too long and I’m already bored. Maybe at some point when I have too much time on my hands, I will write a rant about the “Belle Dame Sans Merci” archetype but not right now. Anyway, many critics say that she was based on Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. Eesk, what a handful she musta been!

I do recommend this novel but maybe read it with a sunlamp on you or some tropical music playing in the background just to take the edge of.

Hope you’re reading is going well! Feel free to share!

Love,

Library Lyndsey

Does cocaine make you do things fast; or “Sarum,” a review

Religion, agriculture, politics, regency, war, trade, architecture, food, laws, class systems, feudal systems, economics, literature, art, feminism, ancestry, modernity… there is pretty much nothing this book didn’t cover about the history of England. What an amazingly fascinating but oh-so-long read! (Seriously long. I read like I was on cocaine and it still took me 2 weeks to read it. Does cocaine make you do things fast or is that speed? Obviously, I didn’t learn much about the affects of illegal drugs.)

Anyway…

Starting out with the story of our paleolithic ancestors moving south for a warmer climate and eventually landing in what we now call Salisbury, England (or Sarum as it is referred to in the novel), each chapter then acts as almost a short story, that flows through the centuries and follows the generations of the original paleolithic family that settled there, as well as Saxon and Norman families that are also huge influence in Britain’s history.

In each chapter the author always sets up the cultural, economic, religious, and political atmosphere of that particular time in history but mixed in with captivating stories of the people that were directly or indirectly affected by the times. Merchants, knights, kings, slaves, archbishops, canons, magnates, servants, farmers, masons, mill owners, bishops, clergymen, sailors– all classes of people spread across the pages with all sorts of stories to tell of love, marriage, betrayal, affairs, deaths, friendships, rebellion, conformity, etc.

The thing I appreciated most about the novel was the vast array of characters that Rutherford created. Although he was brilliantly sneaky in how he was able to educate the reader about the history of England through fictional plotlines, his characters were remarkably human and the stories he told were often touching and sometimes heartbreaking. He also created some amazingly strong and wilful female characters that stood out to me the most. Not all his female characters were rebels of course, but the ones that were made me cheer on the sidelines and appreciate him including them in his stories.

Rutherford is a great historian and a great storyteller. I recommend this to anyone who wants to take on an epic read and has a thirst for history. If you don’t want either of those things, stick to your Archie comics. Just kidding. I love Archie.

Phew! Book 1 of the #50BookPledge done. I’mma choose some shorter books for the next few, methinks.

Cheerio,

Library Lyndsey

Book#1: “Sarum”

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Happy 2013, e’eryone! Welcome to the year of Lyndsey’s #50BookPledge. It’s gonna be a wild ride full of great literary adventures and hopefully very few nervous breakdowns!

Ok well to start out with, I’m cheating a little. I started Sarum before 2013 but to be fair, the book is 900 pages and I am only half way through it. So I’m declaring that it counts as Book#1. My blog, my rules. Is that ok?

So there you have it. I now declare 2013, the year of the 50 books, begunneth.

What’s your first book of 2013?

Love,

Library Lyndsey

End of year thoughts and such

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!!

It’s been a busy past few weeks. My mama was in the hospital, then it was Christmas and holiday time and even though I finished “Wolf Hall” a few weeks ago now,  I didn’t have time to write a review for it. So much has happened since I finished it and I dove write into “Sarum,” etc. etc, excuses, excuses… anyway, I don’t know that I can write a proper review that would do the novel justice now.

But the good news is that I will be reading the sequel “Bringing up the Bodies” soon so I will make sure to write a thrilling review for that to make up for it. I know you’re upset. Dry your eyes. It’ll be ok. Here’s a picture of me blowing out the candles on my birthday cake to cheer you up. You’re welcome.

Image

On to bigger things… SARUM! (did you hear the angels harmonize as you read that?) I am halfway through this fascinating book and I am loving it and learning so much about British history. What a perfect holiday read. I’ve always felt the holidays were meant for epic things: Star Wars or Indiana Jones marathons, reading the entire Chronicle of Narnia series, eating as much candy in one sitting as you possibly can, or reading a 900 page novel that sweeps the entire history of England. What could be better?

Furthermore, reading a novel that basically starts at the very beginning of our (or maybe I should say “my”) ancestor’s history offers a lot of perspective. And perspective is such a key thing to have when starting the new year. For example, I feel really lucky to have running water and the right to vote.

But seriously folks, I do look back on 2012 and feel very lucky. I have a great collection of family and friends that I adore and I was able to go on a few incredible trips, which were amazing. And I am feeling really hopeful for 2013. Afterall, this is the final year of my 20’s. I feel like this is the last year that I can get away with getting so drunk that I barf all over myself and pass out in a ditch. Once I’m 30, it will just be pathetic.

Anyway, looking forward to start Book#1 for the 50 Book Pledge!

Love always,

Library Lyndsey

“Wolf Hall” so far and Historical Fiction

I am about half way through “Wolf Hall.” It’s a big ‘un: 651 pages! Haven’t read a novel this big in a while. And I’m not even afraid of it. (Did you hear that “Wolf Hall”? I’m not afraid of you!)

So far, so awesome. For those that may not know, “Wolf Hall” won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and tells the tale of Henry VIII’s divorce to Catherine (and the Catholic Church) and marriage to Anne Bolelyn from the perspective of his political advisor, Thomas Cromwell. I’ve read lots about Henry and Anne- ok when I say lots I mean I read “The Other Bolelyn Girl”- but what I’m liking about this is learning about the politics that surrounded Henry’s separation from the church. But enough about that. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for when I finish and I write an awesome and captivating review.

This was the year where I re-discovered my love of historical fiction. I used to read a lot of historical fiction when I was a teenager and even in undergrad. But that was many moons ago when I was young and naive.  Then this past spring I went to England with my dear friend, Kate, where we pranced around the English countryside, stalking Jane Austen’s ghost and talking incessantly about books.

Here we be at Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire

Here we be at Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire

It is here that Kate recommended “The Mitford Girls,” the biography of the famous Mitford sisters who themselves pranced around England in the early 20th Century. Some of them stalked Hitler, some of them wrote novels, but they were a very, very interesting group of girls and the book captured so well the decades that led up to World War II. I highly recommend if you have yet to read it.

This book got me excited again about books and fiction set in the past (even though it wasn’t fiction, it was written so well that it felt like it was!) After that, I read a few more books set at this time and a few biographies (Wallis Simpson, etc.) and when I started reading “Wolf Hall,” I realized first off that I have a wee bit of an obsession with British history and second of all, historical fiction makes me supremely happy.

Historical fiction takes me away to a different time and place and maybe I love it because I don’t really feel like I belong in this time or place so when I’m reading these books, I feel like I’m home. … Or, maybe I just like my men on horses and my women oppressed.

Anyway, I’ve rambled long enough. I don’t even think I have a point. But in my recent searches to find new historical fiction novels (and I suspect I will be reading many of them for my 50 Book Pledge), I discovered a novel that I have never heard of but cannot WAIT to get my paws on: Edward Rutherford’s “Sarum.”

Seriously? A novel that sweeps the entire history of England? Seriously. Why am I not reading it right now? Why does work get in my way of my reading time? Why must we live in a socio-economic world where we exchange money for goods and services? If money didn’t exist, I’d reading “Sarum” right now. Stupid money.

What’s your favourite historical novel?

Love,

Library Lyndsey

The 50 Book Pledge explained

I first heard about the 50 Book Pledge from a Facebook friend so I did a search and discovered that it’s definitely a “thing.” I discovered groups on GoodReads, Amazon and even websites devoted to it. 

The idea, obviously is: 365 days, 50 books. This is basically a book a week since there are 52 weeks in a year. (You should know that I didn’t even Google how many weeks in a year like a normal person would… I pulled up the old calculator and divided 365 by 7. Old school, son. Also, i don’t really trust the internet.)

Anyway, I think this is a great challenge for me to undertake in light of my last post about making sure I never forget my love of reading. If I make this pledge, I am going to do it. For serious. I am going to read the crap out of those 50 books. And I’ll write reviews on here, share my thoughts, and keep you updated. 

I am excited and hope you’ll take the pledge with me! Let me know if you decide to!

Love,

Library Lyndsey

Reading’s the thing

I hate it when I go through chunks of my life, be it weeks or months, where I get so caught up in work, work stress, regular stress, life stress, (did I mention stress?) and I forget the things that really matter to me– the things that make me “me.” Reading novels is one of those things.

There were a few times this year where I wasn’t reading. There was even a period of a couple months where I didn’t pick up a book. I plum forgot there were books. Then I get anxious and stressed and I do weird things and say weird things and I start to realize I don’t feel like “me” and I wonder why and then I remember: I’m not in the middle of a novel! What in the what?!

Then I pick one up and I start reading and I feel a sense of calm and I remember what matters to me most. And I don’t mean that books matter to me most but what’s in the books: life, learning new things, discovering new people/characters, thinking about something in a new light, exploring new worlds, being inspired to live better. That’s what reading is to me.

So I decided to start this blog- my, oh, let’s say 4th or 5th blog in the past 5 years- to have a place where I can write about my literary adventures so I don’t forget. I don’t want to forget any more because when I do, I feel strange and itchy and bumpy and muggley. Yes, muggley.

Hope you enjoy, leave comments, feel inspired, and share your own literary adventures.

Love,

Library Lyndsey