Happy 2015, everyone! What are some of your reading goals for the year? Here are my first few picks for the new year:
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Color Purple
Premise: Celie is separated from her sister and forced into a loveless marriage, but her life gradually turns around when she befriends a spirited and independent singer. Shug Avery acts as a mentor to Celie, helping her to become self-aware and assertive.
Review: Written in an epistolary style, The Color Purple is a deeply emotional read that addresses many real and relevant themes. The main themes that are explored in depth here include sexism and gender roles.Walker constructs admirable female characters who take matters into their own hands in order to live in the ways that they want to. These women are not concerned with fitting conventional societal standards ordained for females. Especially interesting is the way Celie’s written voice mirrors her inner growth and development as she eventually finds her own spot of happiness. Personally, I was surprised by the amount of tenderness with which Celie’s tale was told, even as Celie experienced some very terrible events in her life.
Overall, I did appreciate the significant value of this book, although reading it was not quite as life-changing for me as it was for everyone else who has raved about it. However, I do think The Color Purple is something you should read at least once; its capacity for changing your perspective on the world is not to be overlooked, particularly for those struggling with the expectations of conventional gender roles.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Premise: An epic delineation of the rise and fall of both the fictional town of Macondo and the Buendía family line.
Review: Having read this, I can easily say that this book will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Many people may pick this up but never make it to the end, since Solitude will take more mental effort and engagement than needed for the average novel. In this novel, Márquez essentially follows the Buendía family line from the very beginning to the very end. Naturally, there are many characters, and as the Buendía like to name within the family, recurring names are inevitable. If you have a difficult time keeping up with several different characters with similar names, I would imagine that this novel would be quite a chore for you. Additionally, the more characters there are, the more storylines there are to keep track of.
For me, I am glad I stuck around to the end, and the ending, which blew me away, made the effort worth it. Translated from Spanish, Márquez’s writing is very unique and highly descriptive, with masterfully crafted sentences forming paragraphs that span whole pages.
He had had to start thirty-two wars and had had to violate all of his pacts with death and wallow like a hog in the dung heap of glory in order to discover the privileges of simplicity almost forty years late.
Gabriel García Márquez
While reading this, I was strongly reminded of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, which I read last summer. Both are heavily rooted in magical realism, covering a great scope in time that is deeply intertwined with political and historical occurrences. If you enjoy Midnight’s Children, there is a good chance that you will enjoy this tale.
Never Let Me Go
Premise: Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth attend the special boarding school Hailsham and develop a remarkable bond over the years.
Review: My first encounter with Ishiguro’s work was a few years ago when I first saw the Never Let Me Go film adaptation starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield. I really enjoyed the film and since then, I have been meaning to read the book. Although I don’t have a very firm stance on the issue of book versus movie adaptation consumption order, I do think this is one of those situations where reading the book without having any prior knowledge of the storyline would have been better. The element of surprise would have been more effective for an unsuspecting reader.
For the premise of Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro’s chosen method for storytelling is unconventional and yet, works just as well as methods of other writers of this particular genre. One of the most prominent qualities of Ishiguro’s writing is its distinct atmosphere. There is a strong sense of loss that complements the nostalgic reflections made by the narrator, Kathy. Also infused with the sense of loss and nostalgia are the flawed character complexities and specific, small details that lend an air of authenticity to the storytelling. Overall, I am satisfied with having read this as my introduction to Ishiguro’s collection of works.