First, I finished The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (pronounced deh-zoot). From the Author's website, a summary of 'Jacob' is as follows:
But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?”
I found the story to be quite interesting. Life at the end of the 1700's was full of so much struggle and change; placing the story in this location showed, yet another perspective of this. As always with historical fiction, I am fascinated and disheartened by all the politics of the world. So many games people played.
The characters were extremely vivid. There were the obvious "bad guys", but each one (good and bad) were quite realistic. Mitchell did an excellent job with the language, as well... For example, the dock workers spoke in their "lower" language", there was the interplay of language between the interpreters, and (of course), the political language between the parties.
I must admit, early on in the book I was a little overwhelmed by the details of the story. Mitchell obviously took painstaking effort to describe the trading world between Japan & the Dutch... my book club felt the same way. The strange thing is, at the end of the story, there's a lot of "glossing" over the details - like he lost steam and just wanted to finish the book. (I honestly didn't mind that, but it seemed quite a contradiction from the beginning).
Speaking of book club - one thing that came up in the discussion that I didn't catch while reading was the use of poetry, namely Haiku. I have never been up on poetry... I'm just not geared that way, I guess... but I can respect it. When Jackie & Jen mentioned the Haiku's scattered throughout the book I was blown away. THIS is why I love book club, I learn things from others that I would have never gotten from the book alone.
The group gave the book an average rating of 3.5 (out of 5, 5 being best). I would say if you're interested in historical fiction about life in a very politically controlled area of the world in the late 1700's/early 1800's, this book is something you'd like to read.
Second, I completed Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley.
This book has been on my shelf since I got married and it was on my hubby's shelf since high school. I have always wanted to read it.
I got my chance this month because I am leading the discussion for Book Club on October 19th! YEP, the group chose it as a selection!
I flew through this story. It's a short book, only 209 pages, and it moves pretty fast. If you've only known about Frankenstein from the movies or TV, then you DON'T know the story. at. all.
I knew a bit of what the story was about (btw, Frankenstein is the scientist, not the monster); I knew it was a sad story, that the monster wasn't really a "monster", but that was about it.
That said, there is still SO much to talk about... and my post is already REALLY long.
Let me try to sum up the millions of thoughts in my head about this book (and it's author).
- The story of Frankenstein is marketed as a Horror story... but I see it as a tragedy.
- The question of "Just because you CAN do something, does it mean that you SHOULD?" comes to mind. This, knowing that scientific research has lead to remarkable discoveries... Mary seems to be posing the question of "Are there discoveries that shouldn't be made?"
- The creature... could he have lived a good life if Frankenstein had reacted differently to him as a being?
- I can't help but be drawn to the thought of bullying - such a prominent topic these days - I'm not exactly sure why. I think it's because I sympathize so greatly with The Creature. His words throughout the story are gentle and compassionate. He is intelligent and simply yearns for companionship and love. He becomes "a monster" because he is shunned by his creator and the world of humans, banished to live in the snowy mountain caves... alone. Maybe it's the isolation and misery he feels that strikes the bullying chord in me.
I highly, highly recommend Frankenstein. It's a heart-wrenching story, but one that makes you think. It's wonderfully written by a unique woman who got the idea after spending many days hanging out with Percy Shelley & Lord Byron... being taunted into writing a "ghost story".
So much for short and sweet this month... sheesh.
Hope you read some good stuff recently, if you haven't go get Frankenstein... NOW! ;)