Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Don't let the cover fool you. This isn't the translation I read. I found a copy in my local library honor room for a dollar. It was translated by a Russian princess in the 1930's. Something aroused my curiosity over halfway through the book. Where was all the philosophy, ethics and morals the book was supposed to go into? After a little research I realized my book was about 240 pages shorter than the next shortest version sold at B&N. So all the deep ideas in the book were gone. Basically, the little princess turned a Russian classic into a murder mystery. A lame one at that.

I was supposed to be reading this with TheClassicClub on Yahoo. I kept in the discussion, but I don't really feel I've read the book.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is set in the beginning of the 20th century. It tells the story of Francie who lives with her parents and brother in a poor tenement in Brooklyn. Her dad Johnny is an alcoholic singing waiter. He's a poor provider so mother Kate struggles to make ends meet.

Francie is a dreamy child. She also wants to learn. She gets her father to help her fake an address so she can get into a better school. And she loves to write.

The book is a simple story about growing up. It follows the family from Francie's childhood until adulthood. There's a hopeful thread through the hardships Francie lives through. It's all about surviving with dignity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Snow Flower and Lily are laotongs-"the same." They were united by a matchmaker when they were both seven years old. They are bound to be best friends for life. They live in different villages and communicate on a fan by writing nu shy. Nu shu is the secret Chinese writing that women use to communicate with each other without men knowing.

The story is set in the 19th century. Women were just property. They were raised to be given away. Sons were much desired and the woman who couldn't produce them was replaced by concubines.

Snow Flower and Lily share their dreams and hopes through the fan from their foot-binding through the births of their children. But naturally as they grow up they learn. And this brings changes in personalities that lead to misunderstanding.

This is a very good book. It describes the era just through the lives the girls are led through without turning into a history book. The description of the foot-binding is one of the most horrific things I've ever read. My feet hurt just thinking about it. I can't imagine a culture that would do that.

My sister insisted I read this. And I'm going to insist my sister-in-law reads it next.