Posts Tagged ‘Woman’

I have just finished reading “The Reader” by Bernhard Schlink.

The Reader – by Bernhard Schlink (via Amazon)

I have known about this book for a while because it is fairly prominent book, and has been turned into a film, which i’ve never seen either. However, i have never read it, until now. This is because i’m starting to attend a translated fiction-themed book club, and the first book is  “The Reader”.

The blurb reads:

“For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems.

Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does – Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.”

I was intrigued by the relationship between Michael and Hanna, because it seems to just suddenly happen out of blue. Michael is maybe a bit naïve but being with Hanna teaches him many things. Hanna is a bit of mystery and we don’t learn much about her until later on in the novel, but she seems secure in herself. Her behaviour and her reactions to some things Michael says seem a little odd and lead to them fighting. The sad thing is that Michael always seems to be the one apologizing, even if he isn’t in the wrong, and this surely does some damage to him. Michael reads books to Hanna and it seems very intimate but it’s strange that a grown woman needs a child to read to her. In a way it feels like a mother-son relationship has been flipped on it’s head, with him looking after her at various points through the novel.

When Hanna disappears, Michael slowly gets on with his life and goes to study law. He attends a trial where Hanna is a defendant and turns out to be responsible for several deaths during the war, and this throws out so many questions for Michael and he is determined to find out what happened. He wonders how a normal person can commit such a terrible crime, and how a normal person can love someone who committed such crimes. All the things he has done makes it hard for him to live a normal life: his marriage fails, other relationships fail, he feels numb with the things he knows, he doesn’t want to be a lawyer or judge, but becomes a researcher/writer/lecturer type person who doesn’t socialise much. When he sees Hanna again, he is given the chance to find out her secret, and it turns out that she is illiterate and many things fall into place and suddenly make sense after all these years. He feels guilty at not sharing this knowledge and knowing it could have made her life easier, but he understands her shame of not being able to read and keeps it to himself.

I give “The Reader” a big 9/10 because i loved this novel, it was easy to read and i was fascinated by their relationship and the effect it had on Michael’s life, feelings and beliefs. The themes of sex, guilt, and shame make it a great read, even though the war crimes are horrible to think about, and it’s amazing how one little secret can ruin so many lives. I also love the variety of books which Michael reads to Hanna and love that books are part of their special connection. I wish i’d read it sooner because it is truly a great novel and even better because it is translated from the original German!

I’ve just finished “Delicacy” by David Foenkinos, and is translated from the French.

Delicacy - David Foenkinos

Delicacy – David Foenkinos (via Amazon)

I pretty much read it in 2 sittings (having to go to work really cuts into reading time!) and i did read it fairly quickly, but it was actually quite good! This was a spur-of-the-moment purchase as i was in WHSmith and they had a Buy-One-Get-One-Half-Price offer so this was my choice (the other book was “How to be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran).

The blurb reads:

“He was passing by, she kissed him without thinking. Now she wonders whether she did the right thing. But Natalie isn’t certain of anything anymore. One minute she was a happily married young woman, successful in her career, and convinced the future was full of promise. But when her husband was run over by a car, her whole world was turned upside down. Years later, still bruised with grief but desperate to move on with her life, she impulsively kisses her colleague Marcus. For Natalie, the kiss is just a gratuitous act. For the awkward, unassuming Marcus, it is the moment at which he falls hopelessly, helplessly in love. But how will he ever convince such a beautiful, intelligent but confused young woman that he is the man who can bring her back to life?”

Natalie is quite a romantic character, beautiful and intelligent. Men are attracted to her but she seems unaware of the effect she has on them. By chance, she meets her husband in the street and they develop a relationship that is easy-going and loving, and it seems to be the envy of many of their friends. Then disaster strikes and she throws herself into her work, unable to live any other way. She becomes the object of her boss’ affections (and, later, his obsessions) but she isn’t interested. One day she kisses a co-worker, Marcus, with no idea of why she did it. This begins Natalie’s re-awakening after so many years of grief and distance from everyone around her, particularly men.

Marcus is an interesting character: He is a Swede, with an odd but charming sense of humour, who falls in love with Natalie after that first unexpected kiss and tries to win her heart. He is more deserving of Natalie than their boss, Charles, who tries to ruin their relationship.

The book is fast-paced at the start: It starts with Natalie meeting François (her future husband) for the first time, then rushes through their relationship from engagement to marriage and up to the point where François is killed. Then it slows down, almost to mirror Natalie’s grief-stricken life after the death. The important focus of this novel is obviously the relationship between Natalie and Marcus, and it is an interesting twist on an office romance. Their co-workers obviously want the gossip about the pair, but are disappointed by the couple’s indifferent attitude. I actually got a bit annoyed with the gossip-mongers! It is clearly a delicate (to reference the title of this book) matter, with Natalie trying to move on from her grief and find happiness with a new man, and this new relationship starts in a very delicate way as it has no real foundations, but it is stronger than it seems. The ending is quite sweet and fitting for such a story.

I didn’t think it was a very French book, but maybe i have a different feeling about what makes a book French! It is a nice easy read, and deals with some very real issues though. The short chapters cut the story up into manageable bites, although it didn’t really need to. The chapters are segmented with outside contextual information, such as what characters were eating when they out at dinner, which adds extra content to the book, although i daresay it’s not wholly necessary to the story.

I give this book 7/10 because it is a good read and quite an original twist on a office romance story. It’s not really my thing as it is a bit sickly sweet but i quite enjoyed it and would recommend it if you like chick lit. It is also one of the easiest translated novels that i’ve read to date! (Or maybe i just subconsciously choose the most difficult ones!)

This book has been made as a film (hence the film tie-in the cover on my copy) which i haven’t seen, but i’m considering it as it would be interesting to see how it comes across in a visual format.

I’ve just finished reading “How to be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran. This is going against the usual type of book i read because it’s “part memoir, part rant” as it says on the back cover, not something i usually go for. However, i saw Caitlin Moran being interviewed at the London Book Fair and was inspired to go and read her book.

How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran

How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran (via Amazon)

The blurb on the back cover reads:

“It’s a good time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain… Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?”

Women (in the Western world at least) can hardly complain about equality so much these days, so is there still a need for feminism? Yes, there is, but there is a new kind of feminism now, and that is what Moran is talking about. She ponders the things women all go through as they hit puberty and beyond, from the more intimate and physical changes we go through, to the universal questions every woman has.

We discover how she herself coped through puberty and discovering who she is, and wondering what things mean to her and to others. As she grows older, new problems arise and we see how she coped with them, from first loves to marriage to babies. She rants about all the things which affect women, especially our appearances and the ongoing maintenance needed, while annoyed that men don’t have to worry about it.

Obviously one of the biggest things about being a woman is the baby question: When are you going to have a baby? Moran points out that once you hit a certain age, people start asking you this, and she discusses the pros and cons of having children. She tells us about her experiences of pregnancy and childbirth and how very different they both were for her. It’s refreshing to hear the truth about what really goes through your head while experiencing these things!

Moran is very frank about the things she thinks and feels, and while sometimes it might be a bit too much information, you can’t deny that you yourself have had these thoughts from time to time but won’t admit it to others. I found the section on abortion a little difficult to read, being against abortion myself, but i’m glad that she had the guts to tell the world what it is like, after all it is quite a taboo subject.

I give this book 8/10 because it is funny and honest, and you can totally relate to her experiences and thoughts as a woman, because she is basically describing everything you are thinking and you realise that we are all the same underneath, no matter how much we pretend to the world! I really recommend this book to every woman to read, and i’m sure men should read it too if they want to understand women a bit more! I really enjoyed this book!

A few great quotes from the book:

[On periods] – “At this juncture, it seems there is absolutely nothing to recommend being a woman. Sex hormones are a b**** that have turned me from a blithe child into a bleeding, weeping, fainting washerwoman.”

[On Feminism] – “It is really important that you say these words out loud.  ‘I AM A FEMINIST.’ If you feel you cannot say it – not even standing on the ground – i would be alarmed. It’s probably one of the most important things a woman will ever say: the equal of ‘I love you’, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ or ‘No! I’ve changed my mind! Do NOT cut me a fringe!’”

[On strip clubs] – “Are we really saying that strip clubs are just wonderful charities that allow women – well, the pretty, thin ones, anyway: presumably the fatter, plainer ones have to do whatever it is all the male students are doing – to get degrees? I can’t believe women supposedly in further education are that stupid.”

[On motherhood] – “Women are so frequently scared about their biological clocks – ‘YOU’VE ONLY GOT TWO YEARS LEFT TO HAVE A BABY!’ – that they never get the chance to consider if they actually care or not if the damn thing grinds to a halt…. there’s a risk of women panicking and having a baby, ‘just in case’.”

[On celebrity women] - “A ‘sign of weakness’ for a woman…. can be a single, unflattering picture.”