Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Sea by John Banville

Max Morden, who has just lost her wife, came to a small town where he used to go for summer holiday with his parent when he was a child. In his mourning, Max decided to retrace his memories during the past fifty years, in his effort to get through his grief. This story is half a journal and half a stream of consciousness, written as a beautiful prose. Running simultaneously, Banville takes us to follow three phases of Max’s life: his teenage memories with Grace family; his life with his wife Anna—especially around her illness and her death; and his present visit to Cedars cottage—where the Graces used to stay during summer holidays.

Max came from a poor family, and during summer they often stayed in a small summer house in Ballyless. Being poor, the 11 years old Max was always fascinated to middle-class lifestyle; he liked to watch how the riches spent their holidays in the beautiful cottages, one of them was Cedars cottage. Here he got acquainted with the Graces. He became their intimate friend, and more and more involved in their lives, that the memories stuck forever in him.

The second phase of Max’s life was when his wife Anna was diagnosed for a deadly disease. Max was bewildered, and from then on, until Anna’s death, seemed to be in some kind of hallucination.

The third phase is the present time, when Max, to cure his grief, decided to return to Ballyless, and particularly to the Cedars cottage, which remained a memorable place for him. The cottage was now managed by a Miss Vavasour, who seemed to be pleased to receive Max.

All these three phases jumbled together in Max’s memory, and he told each of it randomly as some events would remind him to some other events. It looks like confusing pieces of a puzzle, and the more we approach the end, the puzzle begins to show its vague shape. And at the end, every mystery would be revealed, and then….the puzzle would be completed, and you will know the whole mysteries; and only then that you can really see inside Max’s deepest soul.

The Sea should be read as literary work; it’s not at all entertaining—except for the beautiful description of the town and the sea—and so, if you read it as merely fiction, you will be disappointed. I can see why Banville won the 2005 Man Booker Prize for this book, as his prose is very deep and intent. I was often amazed at how Max could remember small details from his childhood memories. But I think, it is because he himself captured those moments deep in his soul with his own amazement; that it stayed safely there to be retrieved later, when he needs something to fill or to replace the hollowness left by Anna. When you want to capture a golden moment of your life, just turn on all your senses on your surroundings; the sensation itself would remind you of most of the whole moment later on.

I must admit, that although this is a beautiful prose, I could not enjoy it as I have expected. While I expected a more touching story about a widower’s grief, what I got was a story of a group of problematic people; while I thought it would offer beauty, what I found was uncomfortable scenes. So, at the end, I think three and a half stars were more than decent for The Sea (maybe 21st literary is just not for me anyway…).


I read Indonesian translated edition by Bentang Pustaka

*This book is counted as:*

6th book for Baca Bareng BBI – Oktober theme: Man Booker Prize

Friday, October 18, 2013

A to Z (Bookish) Survey

I forget now where I first saw this survey-meme, first created by Perpetual Page Turner , but nevertheless I have copy-pasted the questions, so this is it….

Author you’ve read the most books from:
Agatha Christie—I’ve been reading her books since my junior high school.

Best Sequel Ever:

Currently Reading:
Moby Dick (Herman Melville)—and I enjoy it very much!

Drink of Choice While Reading:
Water or hot chocolate, hmmm…. :)

E-reader or Physical Book?
Both—e-reader is very helpful when reading books with difficult words, Shakespeare, for instance :D.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:
It’s a tough question, because I have certainly changed a lot now, but maybe D’Artagnan would have been interesting for ‘me in High School’….

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:
Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw. I first thought it would be flat and rather boring, but on the contrary, it’s interesting and sometimes witty.

Hidden Gem Book:
Winnetou by Karl May, I don’t think many readers know about this, or they might have heard about it without knowing how inspiring and touching it is.

Important Moment in your Reading Life:
Joining The Classics Club; since then on I’ve been learning more and more about classics literature; discussing them with the members; enjoying the readathon; and tons of other fun of reading classics.

Just Finished:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith). It’s quite entertaining although sometimes quite boring too.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:
Romance, horror, popular fantasy, and books that are attacking (in any ways) my faith. 

Longest Book You’ve Read:
I think War and Peace is the longest so far.

Major book hangover because of:
L’Assommoir—it’s shocking, and I needed a few days before moving on to next book.  

Number of Bookcases You Own:
Only two….. *smile humbly*

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:
Can Tintin be called book? If not, perhaps Agatha Christie’s Curtain or And Then There Were None (I really forget how many times I’ve read them).

Preferred Place To Read:
Any place provides me silence and privacy.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:
“If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?” ~To Kill A Mockingbird.

Reading Regret:
That I didn't read classics literature earlier. So now, I want to catch up by reading as much as I can. 

Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series):
The Rougon-Macquart series by Emile Zola, so far I read only several of them, randomly. I plan to read all of it, and maybe someday I will re-read all in proper order, to get the big idea Zola wants to tell us.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:
Germinal, To Kill A Mockingbird, Curtain.

Unapologetic Fangirl For:
Emile Zola! He’s genius, great story teller, and can always bring me on the edge of my emotion.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:
The Sycamore Row by John Grisham. Although I don’t remember anything about A Time To Kill, anything from Grisham always tempt me to read!

Worst Bookish Habit:
Keep buying books though I know my mom would be complaining because there seem to be books in every room at our house… errr….except bathroom of course :D

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:
I picked this from my ‘temporary-shelf’ at my office (LOL!), and the 27th is Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky; one of my most anticipated books!

Your latest book purchase:
Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician by Anthony Everitt.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late)
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I read it two years ago, and during those days I often regretted in the morning that I must go to work, LOL!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Tiger Rising

This is the second book I read from Kate DiCamillo, and, like the first one: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Tiger Rising also made me weeping. But unlike Edward Tulane, which is more childish, The Tiger Rising appeared to be much deeper. In fact, the conflict is very relevant to our (adult) problems too. That’s why I love this book, because in the simple story lays a deeper value in humanity.

Rob Horton is a boy who has just lost his mother. He keeps all the memories regarding his mother tightly in ‘a-locked-up-suitcase’ deep in his heart, in his effort to press his sorrow and sadness. It only makes him a gloomy, lonely little boy who becomes an easy target for bullying at school. He lives in a motel with his father who works as a cleaning service there. Like Rob, his father also hides his sadness for his late wife deep in heart, that the two ‘men’ lives together almost without the warm of love.

On that special day, two things happened to Rob, two events that would change his life forever. First, he found a tiger—yes, tiger!—caged lonely in a small wood behind the motel. The tiger overwhelmed him, it felt like an enchantment for him. He kept thinking about the mysterious tiger, and these thoughts made him stronger. So, when another troubled kid like Rob—a new girl in school—was bullied, it was Rob, the little skinny Rob, who bravely tried to stop it.

Like Rob, Sistine—yes, the girl was named after the famous chapel!—has also lost her father through a divorce, and was forced to live with her mom, whom she didn’t like. But unlike Rob, Sistine has a ‘bursting’ and impulsive character. They were both disliked by their friends, and found comfort in each other’s presence. And now Sistine insisted to Rob that they must, somehow, let the caged tiger free from its confinement. So, what do you think Rob will do when the owner of the tiger gave him the cage keys? Would he let it free? And what had the tiger has to do with Rob’s problem? In what way will it cure him? You must read the book yourself to get to the bottom of the idea.

One thing’s for sure, this book teaches us to always live the truth, no matter good or bad it is. Yes, it seems a cliché, but let’s admit it, we often tend to run away from the truth in many ways. Sometimes the truth is so hard to face, but we must believe that, not only time, love can also heal—either taken or given.  

Five stars for The Tiger Rising, as although the story is quite simple, it keeps a much deeper reflection. I also love the magical and shrine air of the story (in the tiger, and in the name of ‘Sistine’).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Random Number Survey

I first saw this challenge in Ruth’s blog, and I decided to participate in the survey originally created by Harley Bear Book Blog.  

How to participate:

1. Pick a number.  (I picked two, as it is always my favorite number—my birthday is in February)

2. Go to your bookshelf and count that many books until you reach your number.  Answer the first question with that book.

3. Count the same number of books from where you left off and answer the next question.

4. Repeat until you finish the survey
(If you land on a book you haven't read yet pick the closest book to the left that you have read and then count on from there for the next question.) 

Here are the questions and my answers:

1. What do you think of the cover?

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

There are so many edition of The Great Gatsby, but I picked this one (Penguin Classics edition—hardback) because of its cover, I love it! Its ivory colour and bronze motif are so ‘Gatsby’ (if you know what I mean!)

2.  Write a review in 140 characters or less.

Skipping Christmas
by John Grisham

A family skipped Christmas feeling that it gets too hedonistic, only to find that the real Christmas is about the spirit, not the attributes.

3.  How or where did you get this book?

The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde

I bought this copy from The Book Depository

4.  Who's your favorite character in this book, and why?

Black Beauty
by Anna Sewell

Jerry Baker, Black Beauty best master. He is a man with principles, always regards others (human and animals) as his equals on earth, and so, always does what he can to protect and serve them. And Black Beauty loves him too! 

5.  Recommend this book to a fellow blogger you think would like it.

La Bête Humaine
by Émile Zola

I think I’ll recommend this, one of my favorite books from my favorite author, to Bzee. She said she always love to read ‘unusual’ books and seems to love deep penetrating stories. I believe La Bête Humaine will mesmerize her as much as it did me!

6.  How long ago did you read this book?

The Masterpiece
by Émile Zola

I read this book for my own event: Zoladdiction, back in April, so it’s already six months ago.

7.  Name a favorite scene from this book (no spoilers).

The Man in the Iron Mask
by Alexandre Dumas

I have read this more than a year ago, but one scene that is still fresh in my mind is when Louis XIV was scolding D’Artagnan with a renewed confidence and dignity (something that he lacked before). I love his speech (you can find it here). D’Artagnan was so surprised by this change, and—quoted from the book—“(He) remained lost in mute bewilderment, and, for the first time in his life, was unable to come to a decision. He had at last found an adversary worthy of his steel. He recognized that this was no longer cunning, but the calculated foresight of a master mind; no longer violence, but strength; in place of petulance and empty boasting, he found determination and method.”

8.  Open to page 87 of this book and pick a random quote to share (no spoilers).

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
by Charles Dickens

“Look here, dear old boy. Ask Mr. Landless to dinner on Christmas Eve (the better the day the better the deed), and let there be only we three, and let us shake hands all round there and then, and say no more about it.” – It’s part of Edwin Drood’s letter to his uncle Jack, and that Christmas Eve would be the last time we’d see him, at least until the end of this unfinished book by Dickens. And the mystery remains a mystery….

9.  How did you hear about or discover this book?

The Old Curiosity Shop
by Charles Dickens

When I was not yet Dickens’ fan, my knowledge about his books was just on his few masterpieces. I knew this one from Astrid, who was reading it for a Dickens event I was hosting back then (more than 2 years ago) together with Melisa. I thought the title was unique and it tickled my curiosity immediately. So, I borrowed the book from Astrid, and found it really enjoyable. I think this book was the pinpoint where I became a Dickensian!

10.  If you could redesign this cover, what would you do?

Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens

This book is one of Penguin English Library editions, and so was designed to be minimalist. But I think the motif could contain at least two objects instead of only the chandelier. The chandelier represents Miss Havisham, but what about Pip? Maybe a hat or a cane would be good for representing a gentleman? So, I’d perhaps combine the chandelier and a hat if I’d be the cover designer. 

11.  Name your least favorite character in this book, and why.

Little Dorrit
by Charles Dickens

Mr. William Dorrit (Little Dorrit’s father), because he is so selfish and hypocrite, always pretending to be humble and proud of his poverty, while in fact he hates it. The way he is beging money from Arthur Clennam is just disgusting. William Dorrit is not a gentleman. He’s just a pathetic man trying to look as a gentleman. 

12.  If you like (fill in the blank) then you should try (your book).

By Toni Morrison

If you like social injustice (especially combined with racism), you should try this book. Or if you like books about women’s struggle under men’s domination, this book also covers that theme. But in general, if you are looking for an extraordinary book that can deeply shake your soul, this'll be the one! 

13.  Name one cool thing about this book.

The Mill on the Floss
By George Elliot

Hmm…overall I don’t find this book ‘cool’, but I think the description of the nature (especially the floss) is quite cool.

14.  Where is it set, and would you ever want to visit that world or place?

Vivaldi’s Virgins
by Barbara Quick

In Venice, Italy, the most romantic city in Italy (so people say), and yes, of course I would love to go there! If I could only visit two cities in Italy, it would be Rome and Venice.

15.  Who is it dedicated to?

The Confession
by John Grisham

Unfortunately Grisham didn’t dedicate this book to anyone.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Accused: Theodore Boone #3

The trial of Peter Duffy—the accused of a murder in Strattenburg—is being held; and of course, Theo Boone, the teenage lawyer, won’t miss the chance to watch it, although it is happening during school hours. Really! I would be delighted to go to school like Theo’s, where they have debate class and all, and when we could discuss and analyze cool stuffs like a real murder case! :) Anyway, Pete Duffy’s is a case from Theo Boone #1: The Kid Lawyer. It is a small surprise that Grisham picks it to open the story.

Returning to school, Theo realizes that it’s not his lucky day at all. Not only that Pete Duffy was suddenly missing, so that the trial is cancelled, Theo now finds his locker has been burglarized, his baseball cap was stolen, and in the parking lot he finds that his bike’s tyre has been cut. There has to be someone who hates him or wants to upset him, but who? But instead of reporting the burglary (it’s only a baseball cap anyway) to the school, or telling his parents about his tyre (he has spent two tyres this month, and one more will annoy his dad), Theo tells himself that it’s just another bad day. But, is it?

When someone stoned his office window, things begin to get serious. However, before Theo can think what he should do next, two detectives who searched his locker, found stolen gadgets Theo has never seen before. Theo is accused, and he can be jailed in teens’ prison if he cannot prove himself innocent. Now, things get super serious!

Just like two previous series, Theo Boone always provides light and enjoyable reading. John Grisham is really genius to aim teenage market for his legal novels, as years later they would be a delicious market for his more serious legal thriller. And what’s more, Theo Boone can also satisfy us, adult, his loyal readers. Serious or not, light or tough, it’s still Grisham, and everyone knows he is a very good story teller.

What I like from The Accused is how Grisham reminds us that Theo Boone is an ordinary teenager. Although he is the main protagonist, it doesn’t mean that he is perfect. He’s not a hero, he’s just a teenager whose parents are lawyers, and so it’s normal if he has a lot of interest in legal stuffs. He understands laws (perhaps more than most of those real lawyers), but sometimes he can make mistakes too. Like now, when the sky is like falling on him, when the teenage lawyer is threatened of being jailed.

As usual, there are a lot of ‘whys’ and ifs’: why didn’t Theo reported the burglary right away? If so, the police won’t suspect him, and so on. But, as in real life, things go wrong, and it is like the universe is conspiring against us. It looks like stupidity from the outside, and we do feel stupid after that, then our mind is going numb as the result. The same happens to Theo. His cleverness seems evaporated, but thanks to Ike Boone’s clear observation, the case meets a clear path.

And Theo’s unwise decisions here only show his typical teenage character, the want to manage everything by themselves, feeling capable to handle everything, and don’t need adult’s interference. Yep, it is very understandable, and I’m glad Grisham created Theo Boone like who he is in this series; and please don’t change it, Mr. Grisham! It’s so relieving to read natural humane story like this. Now I’m only wondering, will Theo develop more in the upcoming series? Can’t wait to read the next one!

Four stars for Theo Boone....


I read Gramedia Indonesia-translation edition

*This book is counted as:*