On Chesil Beach

April 16, 2007 at 10:44 pm | Posted in books | 2 Comments

I have loved Ian McEwan since I read Atonement, during the summer of 2003, when I was horrendously depressed and felt like nothing would ever be right again. I was spending a few weeks at our house in Georgia, and during the summer, there are two things we do: hike and read. I must have read 50 books in just a couple of weeks. Atonement was one of them, and Headlong, by Michael Frayn, was another. Those are the only two books I remember from that summer.

I loved Atonement because it was well-written and because it was a good story, because things unfolded slowly and then quickly and then slowly again, and you’re lulled into believing that everything is alright, until you’re not any more. Since, I think I’ve read every single thing McEwan has written, but I haven’t loved any of them the way I’ve loved Atonement. On Chesil Beach was no exception. I liked it; I like all of his books because he’s a good writer. Never a fan of the Nicholas Sparks “everything will turn out alright” genre, I love (love) the way McEwan infuses everything with that twisting, slowly turning sense of the macabre: most of the time, you don’t even realize that everything is wrong, that somewhere you detoured, until you just do. Nothing is sacred, particularly not marriage; not even parental or sibling relationships are free of that distortion. The Cement Garden is, in my mind, the most disturbing of his books, the most truly sick. But at the same time, it’s captivating and beautiful and impossible to put down.

Anyway. On Chesil Beach. It’s the story (short, too) of a young couple on their wedding night. It’s 1962, it’s England, and they’ve never slept together. The young man of the couple has been waiting desperately for the moment he can finally know his wife. The young woman, however, has an innate disgust for all things sexual and is absolutely horrified at the thought of consummating her marriage. I can’t even imagine getting married without sleeping with that person first, and I think that one of the most striking things about this book — indeed, about most of McEwan’s novels — is that it takes place in a time at once so close to and so far removed from our own. I don’t know. As I’ve already said, I liked this book but I didn’t love it. I wish it had been longer; I wish it had explored the couple’s relationship in a more conclusive way (I don’t want to say too much!).

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So many books, so little time

March 26, 2007 at 7:42 am | Posted in books | 4 Comments

I found this list on another blog and realized that I’d read a lot of the books on it, so I figured I’d show off my reading prowess.

Look at the list of books below:
Bold the ones you’ve read
Italicize the ones you want to read
Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.
If you are reading this, tag, you’re it!
[Edit]: Add three more books to this list before posting.

The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)

Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)

Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
The Stand (Stephen King)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
The Hobbit (Tolkien)
The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger).
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold).
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte).
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) and the other 6 books in the series
East of Eden (John Steinbeck)

Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
Dune (Frank Herbert)
The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
1984 (Orwell)
The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)

The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)

The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
The Bible
Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)

Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
Great Expectations (Dickens)
The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
War and Peace (Tolstoy).
Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
Les Miserables (Hugo)
The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)

Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
Shogun (James Clavell)
The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
The World According to Garp (John Irving)

The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck)
Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
Emma (Jane Austen).
Watership Down (Richard Adams)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)

The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
Blindness (Jose Saramago)
Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
Lord of the Flies (Golding)
The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
White Oleander (Janet Fitch)

A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
Ulysses (James Joyce)

[Edit: These last three are my added books. –Tasha]
The Brothers K (David James Duncan)
Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis)

Can you tell that I have no interest in reading Russian literature or Victorian lady literature? I hate to admit it, but I found Pride and Prejudice to be one of the most boring books I have ever read. Similarly, after being blown away by The Brothers K (David James Duncan, one of my favorite authors), I tried to read The Brothers Karamazov. I struggled through the first 50 pages and when still nothing had happened, I gave up. And I’m not entirely an immediate gratification reader — I loathed the DaVinci Code and, though I have read Grisham and James Patterson, will not ever, even if I am on a desert island and my only reading choices are for some reason what’s available at an airport kiosk, go there again. I read Ulysses. I love Virginia Woolf. I used to believe that I should never let the book win — I had to finish it, no matter how boring or awful I thought it was. Now, though, I’ve decided that if I’m bored by reading I should just quit while I’m ahead. Reading is as essential to my life as breathing and sleeping, and those two have never bored me, so why should I put up with it from reading?

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