4301 St. Charles Avenue (Across from Fat Harry's)
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Most of the novel concentrates on the honeymoon night of Florence and Edward, two virgins who marry in the early 1960s. The sexual revolution had not happened yet, so the world was still in the 1950s mode: everything very controlled. Many club members commented on the fact that McEwan is able to capture one moment that changes the course of the characters' lives without making it boring.
The novel shifts back and forth from her view to his thoughts. However, one book club member noted that toward the end, we read about only Edward's side. All of us wanted to know what Florence felt later in life.
I noted that Edward didn't feel successful, because he didn't achieve his goal of writing books about obscure historical figures who play a large part in a pivotal moment of history but then goes back to a normal life. (Similar to how McEwan writes.) But, Edward wasn't useless; anyone who can buy an apartment in London has my admiration.
The feeling of the novel reminded me of the beginning of Doris Lessing's - The Fifth Child. All the characters in both novels are young in the early 1960s and are in a hurry to become adults. In those days, getting married was the sign of maturity.
The book group members also thought that Florence was sexually assulted by her father but were confused as to McEwan's lack of clarification on this matter. Is it because this is a topic that was not mentioned in the 1960s? Or, is it because that event would deviate from the narrow focus in the plot?
Last year, I participated in health wellness program at work and selected this prize: gift cards for Borders. I recently found the cards and decided to spend the remaining money.
Last year, I learned of Archipelago Books from Mookse and the Gripes, so I ordered this one: A Dream in Polar Fog by Yuri Rytkheu. I'll be saving this novel for my summer reads, when I read about cold places to stay cool.
A few weeks ago, Simon wrote about his library having Hesperus Press works. (I was so envious). So, the other gift card selection for me is The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
I started looking at my work's sister library and found out that they had some Hesperus Press book. So, I decided to request The Deep Freeze -Wilkie Collins. However, I made a mistake and ordered another book; it is the same work by both Collins and Charles Dickens. They collaborated to make the Deep Freeze as a play many years before Wilkie wrote it as a novel. It will be interesting to compare the play to the novel.
In book club news, we now have three new members. I enjoy their viewpoints. I'll need to review On Chesil Beach; it was a very interesting discussion.
I also joined another club and we discussed People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I will recommend this novel for the first book club! Next month, we will read Junot Diaz' The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. I volunteered to translate the Spanish words (curse words included for the members.)
Next week, I will ask for vacation time to attend the Tenneessee Williams Festival. I want to attend talks by Joseph Boyden and David Eggers. I received news that since I am a book club member, I can receive 10% off. Yippee!
A blog friend told me that he is reading Zeitoun by David Eggers; I sent him an email about links of stories and pictures that would enhance his readings!
Have a good weekend!
This is my third book for the War Through the Generations - 2010 Challenge: Vietnam. This is my third book in this challenge.
Pham fictionalized the life of his father and wrote this novel, who survived three wars: Japanese occupation during WWII, the French occupation and the Vietnam War.
The main character, Thong Van Pham, starts the story as a rich boy in a large family in a country mansion in northern Vietnam. His father, lived mostly in Hanoi, but would come to the country once in awhile.
I enjoyed learning how Thong's family gained power. "As was customary in the feudal order for the richest man in the area, he won the privilege of lord portectorship over all the villages within a day's ride by horseback of his home. He assumed the post, raised a big family with three wives, and lived out his days in comfort...And so it went generation to generation, both lands and titles passed as birthrights from fathers to firstborn sons. By the time of my grandfather and father, ours grew to be the richest clans in the province, our holdings spreading out in the horizon."
Thong tells about childhood games. One game cleared up a question for me from Novel without a Name, about crickets. The children would collect crickets and keep them in matchboxes. Then, on certain times, the children would challenge each other to cricket fights. The champion would be the one with the uninjured and live cricket. The descriptions of the various types of crickets were amazing. Being a city girl, I've never really noticed them, except for the green ones.
However, Thong's childhood is not so peaceful. During the Japanese occupation, everyone in Vietnam had to contribute food to feed the troops. After awhile, the small farmers had nothing left for their families. Thong's family has enough food to share food twice a day. But later, there was only enough food to distribute only once a week. Thong had enough to eat, but he did notice how the others suffered.
In all the movies that I have seen, the French Legionnaires were noble men, looking for a new life. Pham writes about the crudest bunch of men that I have read about. What an eye opener.
Eventually the family left for Saigon when the Communist forces took over. Some people in the family did well in the new environment. Others pined for the old days and did nothing. And some people lived a mundane existence.But having an education made the transition from a rich family to a lower-middle class refugees a bit easier.
The novel richly relates life in a Vietnam that doesn't exist anymore. I really recommend reading this work.