Adventures in Reading

Fiction: A Mercy by Toni Morrison, 2008
September 17, 2008, 11:51 am
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , , , ,

“You can think what I tell you a confession, if you like, but one full of curiosities familiar only in dreams and during those moments when a dog’s profile plays in the steam of a kettle.”

Narrated during the late 17th Century, Toni Morrison’s latest novel A Mercy follows the interweaving lives of six characters to deliver the American Dream: a rags to riches story. Exploring the relationships between whites, Native Americans, slaves, indentured servants, etc., all of these characters contribute to the central story line of “Sir” Jacob Vaark an orphan come landowner who aspires to engage and replicate the life of the privileged through investments in slaves and sugar. However, it is Morrison’s tributary stories that give A Mercy its force.

I read A Mercy in one evening and it’s a brilliant book. You can read it for just the intruiging story line but inexplicably themes of race and gender circulate throughout the novel. The four central female characters in particular engage in a complex relationship with themselves, with society, and particularly with love/men. No one writes a book about love like Morrison, who always manages to display this emotion in all of its vivid colors.

Conclusion: Keeper.

Other opinions: Both Eyes Book Blog.


Fiction: The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

“Language upon a silvered tongue affords enchantment enough.”

My first introduction to Salman Rushdie was through The Satanic Versus, though in hindsight I don’t think I really got what was going on in the novel. So when his new novel The Enchantress of Florence came out last month I decided to give Mr. Rushdie another try and I loved it.

The Enchantress of Florence is a central point with various other stories spiraling from it or, to take a description from the text, a sun with heavenly bodies orbiting it. A mysterious man appears in the Mogul Empire with a terrible secret and a secret so powerful that if anyone but the emperor hears it they will perish. It takes the length of the novel to fully reveal the secret though throughout the book the reading is illuminated by stories circling this secret. The Enchantress of Florence is a physical and metaphysical adventure story with crisscrossing story lines.

Rushdie’s writing style throughout The Enchantress of Florence has a lyrical quality expressed through some lengthy sentence structures and the story is studded with pockets of philosophy and religion explored from a multitude of characters. The characters are wide ranging from emperors to enchantresses, Italian noble men to whores, and god’s on earth to a woman birthed from the imagination of the King of Kings.

Gender is a central plot of the novel and it’s interesting how Rushdie intertwines men relaying the story of women in an often misogynistic culture. However, throughout the book, and reflected in the title, women weave a powerful force through intelligence, beauty, conniving, sex, destruction and so forth. However, gender relationships are not only explored through power but also love and androgyny representing both male and female powers.

Rushdie is an expert at scumbling themes and giving a reader a complex and thorough story.

And other reviews at Asylum, S. Krishna’s Books and Shelf Love.

Fat Girl & City of Widows

Some of my readers familiar with me from former blogging escapades may be a bit shocked that when I checked out Dewey‘s latest Weekly Geeks blog post I found myself stumped. Pick a political or social issue of interest and throw out some books related to it. As someone who has always considered myself quite politically active and aware, I was embarrassed with myself for lack of ideas!

I always believed that at a certain age all of my misgivings and poor attitudes directed at my body would disappear. Once all of that high school awkwardness melted away and if nothing else I would finally at the very least be comfortable with myself. How wrong I was. Judith Moore’s Fat Girl is her memoir growing up fat in a world that not only berated her but also taught her to be unhappy with herself. Moore does not extend solutions and Fat Girl is a wry and fierce commentary that at least made me feel less alone.

City of Widows by Haifa Zangana is a refreshing account of the historical and current experience of women in Iraq. Coming out in the midst of memoir after memoir exploring women’s experiences in the Middle East and with Muslim, City of Widows provided a refreshing exploration of the various women rights oriented groups that have existed throughout Iraq. Zangana strongly criticizes what current occupation has cost the hard fought successes of these groups.