Tag Archives: love
“. . . humanity walks ever on a thin crust over terrific abysses.”
I’d never heard of Arnold Bennett or his novel The Old Wives’ Tale till my friend chose it for us to read and discuss. The Old Wives’ Tale focuses on two sisters in Northern England in the fictional “Five Towns” area. The oldest Constance is a practical, predictable yet strong woman, while Sophia is a vivacious beauty who pushes all the boundaries.
Their mother is much like Constance and faithful to conventions. Their father is bedridden, which means the family’s welfare depends on the mother running the business, a drapery store.
The story starts with the girls in their teens. Despite their different personalities, they get along for the most part. Sophia yearns for romance and excitement, while Constance is satisfied with working in the family store and living a standard middle class life. When their father dies and Sophia runs off with a dapper traveling salesman, the story takes off.
A keen observer, Bennett fills the novel with insights that make readers think, “Yes, people are like that, even today.” Although there are many stories of bourgeois life or of the prodigal who runs off, Bennett’s characters experience surprises till the bitter end. His characters, even minor ones, are alive and worthy of respect and sympathy. I’m happy to say I’ve found another author I’ll read more of.
Lisa See’s novel Peony in Love is rather odd because about a quarter of the way into the story the protagonist dies. I wondered what was going on and how the story would continue and then I learned that most of the story is the story of a ghost, a hungry ghost.
Young Peony is the daughter of a well to do nobleman, who apparently loves his daughter and encourages her to become literate. Like all females, Peony’s forbidden to interact or even seen males outside her family. She’s eagerly preparing for her arranged marriage when her father hosts a multi-night performance of a Chinese Opera The Peony Pavilion. The women can watch from behind a screen separated from the men in the audience. The first night Peony slips out of the women’s area and encounters Ren, a dashing young man. They talk. They gaze lovingly into each others eyes. They pledge to see each other the next night.
Now Peony’s done for. She can only dream of Ren and after her second rendezvous becomes love sick. She won’t eat or sleep fearing that she’ll never be able to be with her true love. The doctor can do nothing and she wastes away, not knowing till after her family dresses her emaciated body in her wedding clothes and abandons her outside the family compound to waste a way and die outside, that her arranged husband was Ren. Custom demanded that the young girl die outside the family home to avoid bringing bad luck to the family. Sorrow and confusion result in Peony’s funeral tablet not getting properly dotted with ink so she’s left as a hungry ghost, doomed to wander the earth without peace.
Thus begins Peony’s haunting of Ren and his subsequent wives. Readers learn of the imaginative and rich beliefs the Chinese held about ghosts, how they must be fed and treated, how they can insinuate themselves into the lives of the living despite the clever crooked bridges that keep them out.
Readers also learn about the history of women writers during the thirty years when the Manchus defeated the Ming dynasty. It was a time of chaos and one good thing, perhaps the only one, was that during this upheaval men were so distracted by the political and social upheaval, women were allowed to venture outside, explore their surroundings, gather, discuss and write. Many women, whose ghosts Peony meets, were successful, published authors.
While there were times when I found it hard to care about the “life” of a ghost or what would happen to her ancestral tablet, I do applaud See’s creativity. I was able to keep reading, though I wasn’t as concerned with the ghost heroine as I had been with See’s flesh and blood ones. Still I recommend this novel, which makes the history of China come alive, to any lovers of the genre.
While it’s over their heads, I’m going to share the sonnet with my students. I’ll break it down for them. Perhaps with the One Tree Hill episode that uses this.
by Wislawa Szymborska
They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is more beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.
Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways—
perhaps they’ve passed by each other a million times?
I want to ask them
if they don’t remember—
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number”caught in the receiver?—
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.
They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.
Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.
There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?
There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night. perhaps, the same dream,
grown hazy by morning.
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.
Book Journey‘s author ” love[s] being a part of this and I hope you do too! As part of this weekly meme I love to encourage you all to go and visit the others participating in this meme. I offer a weekly contest for those who visit 10 or more of the Monday Meme participants and leave a comment telling me how many you visited.”
I’m almost finished with Madame Bovary, which I’m reading for my book club for the third time. Expect a review soon. I started We, the Russian novel that inspired George Orwell to write 1984. It’s very cool.
In nonfiction I’m reading a biography of a real life Cora Crawley from Downton Abbey. It’s American Jenny: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, the American who married Lord Churchill and whose son Winston became Prime Minister.
Finally, I’m reading Beyond the Mushroom Cloud by my friend Yuki Miyamoto. It’s an excellent book that makes you rethink forgiveness, remembrance and the atomic bomb.
- Downton Abbey Background, Part 1 (smkelly8.com)
- Winston Churchill: The Ultimate CEO (greatfinds.icrossing.com)
- Everything You Wanted to Know About the Entail in Downton Abbey, and More (mbbsmkmedia.wordpress.com)
- It’s Monday-What Are You Reading? (irunreadteach.wordpress.com)
- It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (bookjourney.wordpress.com)
- Downton Abbey Background: Part 2 (meetcute3.wordpress.com)
- It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (bookjourney.wordpress.com)
- It’s Monday What Are You Reading? (bookjourney.wordpress.com)
- Best Memes from the Euro 2012 Final (sportsicareabout.wordpress.com)
Wow! Read this book!
My mom recommended this book to me a few months ago and a woman on a plane next to me told me that she had just finished it and could not get it out of her mind.
I read it in two days.
In a remarkably matter of fact yet connected voice, Jeannette Walls details her childhood. As the child of a brilliant alcoholic father and an artistic irresponsible mother, Walls suffered extreme deprivation. But for all that, she never whines or blames and she emerges with a remarkable lack of anger.
I was often angry with Walls’ parents but I was left marveling at the love this family felt for each other through it all.
While the book itself does not include a reading group guide, I think it would stimulate a lively book club discussion.
Try the Book Browse reading group guide.