The Lady’s Genius Is In The Details: John Mullan’s What Matters in Jane Austen

The first time I read Jane Austen, I was hooked. If you had asked me at that time why, I wouldn’t have known what to say. Since then, I’ve read all her published novels. Not just once but several times. I have my favorites. Pride and Prejudice, of course. Then Persuasion, which I think is her most mature novel. I’d rank her other novels as … Continue reading The Lady’s Genius Is In The Details: John Mullan’s What Matters in Jane Austen

A Sensation of the Victorian Age: Wilkie Collins’ A Woman in White

Ever heard of sensation novels? No? Me, neither until I met A Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, published in 1859. For the most part I listened, rather than read the book, courtesy of Librivox.org. I’ve sampled many audiobooks at this site and I take my hats off to volunteers who’ve dedicated precious time and energy to bring classic literature to people who prefer to … Continue reading A Sensation of the Victorian Age: Wilkie Collins’ A Woman in White

Emile Zola’s Uncompromizing Victorian Male Gaze: L’Assommoir (The Dram Shop)

L’Assommoir is a veritable tearjerker. The saddest women’s fiction ever. Emile Zola, in Book #7 of his Rougon-Macquart cycle directs his Victorian male gaze on Gervaise, sister of Lisa and the female protagonist of The Belly of Paris (third book in the cycle). But Zola’s gaze, as you might expect, is neither fleeting nor superficial. His perception is filtered through the viewpoint of “literary naturalism.” … Continue reading Emile Zola’s Uncompromizing Victorian Male Gaze: L’Assommoir (The Dram Shop)

Fate in Fiction: Antoine Laurain’s The Red Notebook

How much of life is made up of coincidences? And is coincidence Fate? Or is it Chance? I think these questions are at the heart of Antoine Laurain’s novel, The Red Notebook. When a guy called Laurent finds a discarded stolen bag on top of a bin, a bag that he later learns belongs to a woman named Laure—is that fate or chance? On the … Continue reading Fate in Fiction: Antoine Laurain’s The Red Notebook

Vietnam War, A Retrospective: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer

Forty years after the end of the war in Vietnam comes a widely-acclaimed, generously awarded début novel—The Sympathizer: A Novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, published by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. in 2015. I’m going to throw in my two-cents worth among the throng of gushing admirers of this 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning novel (plus at least five other awards), because this work says something essential to me. … Continue reading Vietnam War, A Retrospective: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer

Two Short Books Set In France

What accounts for tastes? The appeal to your senses or sensibilities? The pressure to be a la mode, maybe? Or, because something helps the image of you that you want to project to the world? There are a few things billions of people like for obvious reasons. Those, we have no need to explain. People’s fascination with Paris, for instance. I’ve never actually met anyone … Continue reading Two Short Books Set In France

God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

I seem to be focused on small things lately. Maybe in getting old, I have realized that big things are rare. I’ve learned one truly valuable lesson growing up (I want to believe we keep growing): You can fashion a good life out of small things. You do so by making big things of small ones. It’s not that hard—it’s what humans do to feel … Continue reading God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind

Shadow of the Wind. I’ve puzzled over this title. Technically, a wind would not have a shadow. Or, maybe, it does; but we need a sixth sense to see it. If so, this title is the best anyone could give this novel, although I must confess, I did not feel that way until I got almost towards the end of the book, 358 pages later, … Continue reading Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind

In the Realm of an Alternate Universe with Jamie Marchant

There is no frigate like a book To take us lands away. Emily Dickinson Good old Emily certainly knew the value of a book. And it doesn’t much matter if that book has virtual pages or pages you can actually turn. Either way, it can contain the stuff our dreams are made of, break the boundaries of reality, and take our imaginations where they have … Continue reading In the Realm of an Alternate Universe with Jamie Marchant