Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday, April 1: April at Last!

EmmaEmma by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Juliet Stevenson does an amazing job of presenting Emma: each character is distinct, and the infamous "Mrs. E." and the sweetly overwhelming Miss Bates are topnotch. I've read, seen, and listened to this work probably 6 times, and Stevenson's version does a fantastic job of highlighting the wit, insight, and satire of Austen's novel.

Highly, highly, highly recommended on all fronts.

*Earlier review labeled July 1, 2o14!
*Re-listened to this version, finishing on Thursday, March 31, 2016. What a way to get through this tough month!

This is Where I Leave YouThis is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well. I got this from Audible, and I'm not sure if I realized I had already seen the movie with Jason Bateman when I got it, but it was a fun read. What hit me over time, however, is that the author's view of women was pretty damn one-sided: his description always focused on their sexual appeal/looks/availability--and I'm afraid that wasn't Tropper trying to create a character. I'm afraid it was poor self-awareness. So although the book has some laugh-out-loud funny parts and some fairly poignant reflections on family, it's troublingly limited in its perspective. The movie, which removes Judd's/Tropper's viewpoint and has great female actors (Fonda! Tina Fey!), is actually better than the book.

The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought I had read The Bluest Eye before, but I am pretty sure I hadn't when we chose it for our MDIHS Readers & Writers Group read for March. My first time through it was a slog: its story is heart-breaking and difficult, putting it more in the Beloved than the Song of Solomon range. However, we had to postpone our meeting, and as I was reading over some critical essays and screening interviews with Morrison to prep for the meeting, I began to see Morrison's aim as a writer, and I decided to reread it. On my second go-round, I fell into the book completely.

A key review was this one by John Leonard of the New York Times:
"Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye is an inquiry into the reasons why beauty gets wasted in this country. The beauty in this case is black. [Ms. Morrison's prose is] so precise, so faithful to speech, and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry…I have said 'Poetry,' but The Bluest Eye is also history, sociology, folklore, nightmare, and music."

This is Morrison's first novel, but she does craft a heart-breaking story into "history, sociology, folklore, nightmare, and music"--I saw parts of each of those in Pecola's story, and I was amazed.

A tough read, but one worth reading, and worth discussing. Wow.

ANNNNNDDDDD: from the sacred to the profane (as Thirkell would readily admit. . . .) Never Too LateNever Too Late by Angela Thirkell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cleaning out the shelves, I spotted my vintage copy of this Thirkell and succumbed to its lures (and then also read A Double Affair, the next one in the series). . . . Thirkell is SUCH an acquired taste, but she is truly wonderful when she's at her best. I wish there were movies: the life with butlers and maids is presented as so normal, the mention of leasing out the wing of the big house for a school is so common, and the concern about how to keep the family property intact so frequent that it's hard to realize that these are REALLY RICH PEOPLE! The people in the village who are so gently but snobbishly described as different or as trying hard but not quite making it--they are US! I'd love to see the "actual" landscape that she was describing. It is surely alien to this American, but I do love to visit it.

Plot-wise, not her freshest, as there is a lot of repetition about Edith and her difficulties and George and his. Still, worth a visit.
**Read July 2014.
**Reread March 2016.

View all my reviews

Friday. April. Rain. Warm. We had a thunderstorm! And this is the calm before the end of the marking period on Tuesday, with a trip to see Nate and many other singers and musicians at the Basilica in Lewiston sing Beethoven's Missa Dormis (?) on Sunday. Mom's away so we're staying in a hotel, and I think it will be a wonderful change from our crazy busy March. Hello, April!

I went to the library on Wed. and got an armload of books to celebrate the impending end of March. I have already finished one of my load:

Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel, #1)Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A pleasant, entertaining, quick read--fun to see Evanovich developing new schticks even as the old familiar formula show through. Set in Marblehead, which is familiar territory for my family, so that adds interest. Not as funny as her early Stephanie Plums, but much better written than her later ones. A perfect three-star novel!

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