Adventures in Reading

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

So I’ve done it again: I have a growing stack of books I keep intended to write up but forget so the stack keeps getting larger. Even with the amount of studying and preparation I’ve been doing for my classes, I have still been reading fairly steadily.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende is my second book by Allende. After my disappointment with Inés of My Soul, I did not get around to picking up another book until nearly a year later. Daughter of Fortune is the story of Eliza, an orphaned Chilean taken in by British aristocrats in the colony of Valparaíso. She is seen very much as a daughter by the spinster sister Rose, who takes periodic interest in the child and the rest of Eliza’s youth is spent with Mama Fresia in the kitchen. Once Eliza hits puberty Rose takes a great interest into grooming Eliza into a proper young woman so the orphan can make a good and prominent match. That is, until Eliza falls in love with Joaquín, is impregnated, and hides a stowaway to track him through the California wilderness he left her for in search of gold.

Daughter of Fortune also is a book of class status and escaping one’s birth. Allende explores this with Rose, but also with the defiant and unsettled city of San Francisco compared to the strict and reserved culture of Chile. In this environment Allende also guides Eliza through racism, interracial relationships, and sexual exploration. Daughter of Fortune explores the power and lust of first love as well as how love can effect someone. In some ways, I found this novel very similar to Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Marquez, but admit that I am quite partial to Allende’s retelling of such themes of love.

Other opinions: Katrina’s Reads, Fizzy Thoughts.


Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera
“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

My (re)reading of Gabriel García Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera coincides with Oprah selecting the piece for her book club. If you are unfamiliar with Oprah you have yet to be touched by the hand of god, or so it seems. Her book club started in 1996, and Oprah certainly has the Midas touch as every book she selects flies off the shelf and leaves her fans salivating for the next book shipment. It also does not hurt that a film adaptation is coming out November 16th of this year. I personally selected the book as Oprah’s fan base reminded me it was a novel I failed to finish but had always intended on returning to. However, I must express my growing annoyance with the quickly tiring reference to what a wretched book it must be based on the title. (Personally I am quite taken with the title!)

The book is a rather tender romance that begins in the naivety of youth between Fermina and Florentino, but much to Fermina’s father’s chagrin. The two are separated, Fermina realizes that the relationship was folly, and Florentino spends the next 50 or so years waiting for Fermina’s husband to die. The novel is unveiled in three stages of love beginning with youth and ending with old age, and part of the wonder of the story is the “coming and going” (348). It is an intriguing story and beautifully written – Márquez is a poet with words and description.

One issue that I took with the book was that I was not always satisifed with Márquez’s representation of women. I often felt I was reading something by someone who assumed they knew a lot about women, but who’s knowledge ceases after the most recent edition of Cosmo. Now, Fermina did not bother me in particular, but the majority of Florentino’s lovers really are nothing more than pin-ups: glossy but with no warmth and little reality, but here and there painted with a rather misogynistic brush.

I was rather disturbed by Leona Cassian’s rape, which is described as “instantaneous and frenetic love” (258) and when she later in the same passage refers to it as rape it is as if it is almost in jest. Shortly after this we are informed of Florentino’s experience with incest and statutory rape with Americaná. In addition, Love in the Time of Cholera is yet another novel that places a (brief) spotlight on the idea of no means yes: “He beleived that when a woman says no, she is waiting to be urged before making her final decision…“(188).

Despite these issues I still enjoyed the book, but I must confess that through much of the book I kept wishing I was reading Albert Camus’ The Plague instead. It was a book I am glad I read, I feel it has lived up to the “hype,” but I wonder if I should just stick with Marquez’s short stories (which I adore). The movie, as I mentioned, is coming out in about two weeks and I am very excited to see the adaptation.

I would like to thank the wonder of Flickr and the talent of thepluginguy for today’s image.

Other opinions: Book in Hand, Educating Petunia, Book Haven, In Spring It Is the Dawn, Things Mean A Lot

If You Love Me Buy Me Books

dscn1526.jpgMuch to my surprise, my parent’s neighbors (who I have only briefly known through sibling and parental association) stumbled across some lovely 1918 New Education Readers and have gifted them to me. I am quite the geek for old reading and grammar guides if only to see how things have changed (or not changed). However, it is a lovely collection of books and if I can get to a scanner I will be making use of it.

Over the weekend I barely read anything, and instead spent a great deal of time and money purchasing new books. In addition to the books I mentioned in my last post I also acquired a few more including: Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.

A few years ago I invested in a Book Collector account only to realize today – the day I decide that I am going to begin the great adventure of cataloging my books – that my account now appears defunct. While I do have a LibraryThing account, I am not quite decided whether or not to invest in an upgraded account. So how do you catalog your books or do you not bother? At work I always come across (usually) older people with their books jotted down on a variety of notepads and napkins, and while my failing memory has not set in yet it would be nice to have my books listed in one place and keep track of what I have and have not read (and not to mention for insurance purposes as well).

Now, what I did read this weekend were portions of Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Short Stories, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. The latter two are (mostly) rereads, but I decided on Clarke’s short story collection as a test to see whether or not I should bother with her much lengthier novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I first listened to a good portion of the novel and could not make it through, and have since then heard many disparaging remarks directed at the book. Most of these remarks criticize the book as being overly polished, which put me in mind of Bernini’s beautifully unpolished St. Longinus statue at St. Peters. However, very quickly into the short story collection it dawned on me that Clarke’s book is by no means overly polished but that she (and with quite a fair hand) has taken upon herself to write in the literary tradition of the 19th Century. How perfect!