Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Weekly Read: 6

My reading this week didn't exactly go as planned, mostly because I realized at the last minute that Alice I Have Been was due back at the library on Thursday, and I really wanted to read it before returning it. :)

READ: Housekeeping vs. the Dirt | Nick Hornby
I am relieved to have finally finished this one. Don't get me wrong; for the most part, it is just as well-written and entertaining as the first in the series. After the whole sci-fi debacle, though, and our subsequent fight, there is still a lingering bad taste in my mouth.  I am still able to accept Hornby's reading recommendations (for the most part), but I still don't know if I'll ever fully respect him again. Not that he cares, but still. Oh well. Here are some other books that made it on to my TBR list based on his recs: The Wonder Spot, Gilead, Housekeeping, Citizen Vince, Death and the Penguin, Ghosting. For links to these books and others, see my Nick-Hornby-Recommends shelf on Goodreads.

READ: Alice I Have Been | Melanie Benjamin
This book has been on my to-be-read list since November, when I first heard about it. I love reading novels based on read people, and the fact that this one was based on a real person who already had a novel created for her made this one even more enticing. This novel is based on the life of Alice Liddell, for whom Alice in Wonderland was written.  I feel very torn about this book. On the one had, it is beautifully written: the characters are lively, the action is well-paced, and I was really drawn in to the story and these people's lives. On the other hand, I found large chunks of this book to be disturbing. The first section of the book details Alice's childhood relationship with Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll). It is this section that creeped me out, and to be honest, has forever changed the way I view Lewis Carroll, not only as a person but as an author. The thought of a 10 year-old and a 30 year-old viewing each other romantically is inappropriate and just wrong. Alice's infatuation with Dodgson is something she probably would have grown out of, and would have been merely a footnote in her life, if not for the "event" which separated Dodgson from the Liddell family; This event became a closely-guarded family secret, which even we as readers are in the dark about until the very end of the book. It did cross my mind during this first part to put the book down and not finish it; I'm glad I didn't, though, because my favorite section, and the part that redeemed the book for me, was the second part, detailing Alice's relationship with Prince Leopold. Yes, it was heartbreaking, and certainly made me cry, but seeing Alice and Leopold together made me hopeful. Alice still had the capacity to love, and I was hopeful that she would find happiness eventually.  The third section, about the rest of Alice's life, is also quite sad, but in the end, when she embraces who she is, the true Alice in Wonderland, she truly finds happiness.  I'm glad I read this one, but probably the main thing I will remember about it is my disappointment and disgust for Charles Dodgson. And that truly is sad.

READ: The Egypt Game | Zilpha Keatley Snyder
I'm pretty surprised I never read this book as a kid. I read quite a few Newbery medal winners and nominees, but I'm guessing that this one from 1968 just wasn't recent enough when I hit the right age for it in the late 80s. I'm sad I didn't read it when I was younger, though, because I'm sure I would have adored it: the characters are fun kids, with fantastic imaginations, and their fascination with Egypt is one I certainly share. I don't recall playing such great imagination games when I was their age, but maybe it's been too long, and I just don't remember them any more. Unfortunately, reading this for the first time as an adult meant that for me, it wasn't as magical as it could have been. The excitement and tension didn't really transfer, and I never really felt as though anyone was in danger, even though I realized I should.  I am glad to see they are rebranding good books like this, though, so more kids will want to buy and read it. A good cover goes a long way!

STILL READING: The Children's Book | A.S. Byatt
I'm still chugging away on this one. It is enjoyable to read, but there are just so many characters and storylines to keep track of, it's not one I can read quickly. I'm about a third of the way through, and about 6-8 years have passed since the beginning of the book. I'll slowing starting to figure out what is it about. There is a lot about the arts at the turn of the century, as well as politics and the socialist agenda, but in the end, it's really all about relationships. How do people relate? Who has the power in a relationship? What causes people to care about each other? So far, my favorite character is Phillip, a poor runaway who is a genius at ceramics.

I'm hopeful I'll finish The Children's Book this week, mostly because I'm headed back east to my brother's this weekend, and most of Friday will be spent travelling. That means a lot of reading time, yay! :) I am glad yet again that I got that one for my Kindle, so I can take it when I travel. I think this week before I go, though, I might take a break from it and read a couple manga books, the last two in Boys Over Flowers. I might also read The Lovely Bones, which I picked up on my bookspedition. :) Should be a good week overall.

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