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Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita

I first read Lolita when I was much younger – before I was married, in fact.  Vladimir Nabokov is such an amazing novelist that I wanted to read it again, but I was reluctant.  Lolita is, after all, the story of a pedophile, and I have children now.  How would I react to reading this story as the mother of a ten year old daughter?

Surprisingly, I wasn’t caught up in the disturbing nature of the subject matter.  I was actually mesmerized by the character of Humbert Humbert.  The author truly did his research.  Humbert is so calculating and patient.  Today we know that is the hallmark of a child molester.  They are clever and carefully plan how to capture their prey by manipulating the child and the people around them.

Nabokov’s writing is so much better than I remembered.  Presenting the narrative from the point of view of Humbert Humbert, makes the story somewhat sympathetic (I know – how is that possible?).  Perhaps it’s because Humbert is so pathetic, or perhaps it’s because he’s trying too hard to convince himself and us that he’s rational – but the character actually becomes engaging.  He’s not someone you’d keep at a distance – but rather someone you’d try to help, to talk down his insane justifications.

I love the character of Dorothy Haze – Nabokov definitely has the preteen female down pat, complete with attitude.  Not much as changed in 60 years.  What’s interesting is all the characters present ugly personalities on the surface except Humbert Humbert.  His facade is all charm and good looks, and yet his true nature is ugly.

I was having a conversation with my brother the other day about Nabokov and his writing style.  He brought up the author’s vast knowledge of language and his ability to use words with dual meanings to make a literary point.  And not just known meanings – we’re talking obscure meanings.  The man was a genius.  It’s that simple.

And so just like Humbert Humbert, Nabokov lures you the reader, with his literary seduction. He definitely took me in and mesmerized me with his brilliance.  But stripped away of the artful language, we are left with a middle aged man who commits rape and murder.  We have been stalked by the most calculating and patient of authors.  He has taken us in and left us like poor Dorothy, not Lolita at all, but a frail human, easily succumbing to the artful manipulations of a master.

5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1995 (originally published in 1955)
331 pages
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The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop

I wanted to love this book, I really did.  Anyone who loves books as much as I do, would certainly be charmed at the idea of a bookseller who calls himself a book apothecary, and prescribes the correct book for what ails the reader.

So this is the background.  Jean Perdu is the book apothecary, and his bookshop is on board a houseboat in the river Seine in Paris.  He’s not married, but did once have a forever kind of love, with a married woman who left him suddenly, leaving only a note.  Bereft at her leaving, he NEVER READ THE NOTE.

This sets the narrative for the story.  Many years later, Perdu, at the urging of a possible new romantic interest, reads the letter and finds out the truth about the lover who abandoned him.  He is devastated and sets off on his houseboat down the Seine to the French countryside to find the closure he has avoided for so  long.

As I said, I wanted to love this book.  And high expectations often leads to disappointment.  I didn’t love Nina George’s writing style.  I didn’t love the story (especially because it did not seem at all realistic).  I wanted to love it, instead I couldn’t wait for it to be over.  So sad.

2 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2015
392 pages
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The Wreckage by Michael Crummey

The Wreckage

Wish Furey is a young Catholic man making his way in Newfoundland, off the coast of Canada, at the outset of World War II.  His world is turned upside down when he meets Mercedes (Sadie) Parsons.  Deeply in love, the fact that she is Protestant becomes a barrier to their future and her family does everything they can to put a stop to it.  He is chased back to the mainland after an altercation with Sadie’s brother, and is encouraged to join the military to escape a probable murder charge.

Meanwhile, Sadie leaves home in search of Wish, and learning of his enlistment, decides to wait for him.  At the same time, Wish (still in love with Sadie, but having no knowledge that she is waiting for him) is captured by the Japanese and interned near Nagasaki.

Author Michael Crummey writes a beautiful and heartfelt narrative about the hope that keeps us going through the most difficult of times.  Both Sadie and Wish endure terrible hardships that have a long lasting effect on both their lives.  Crummey’s writing is a poignant reminder that life is not always neat, and the events that shape us often take us in unexpected directions.

I loved the way the author develops his characters.  Each event presents another layer of depth – the pain and suffering both Sadie and Wish endure deepens their personalities and draws the reader in.  I was very impressed with this novel and look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2006
368 pages

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Football For Dummies by Howie Long

Football For Dummies

I’ve been watching football for over 40 years and I still don’t know all the ins and out of the game. I picked up this book to help fill some of those holes. Howie Long has done a good job at explaining the obvious stuff: rules, players, history, etc. And he has also defined some terms, especial about plays,  I’ve never understood.
I’ve listened to game commentators all these years. I’ve only had a vague notion what they were talking about. They never explain these plays, but thanks to “Football For Dummies” I now know what they mean; especially defensive plays. All the excitement is on offense, but recently I’ve learned that defenses win championships. The teams I follow all have great defenses. So if you want to understand the game, the game America loves, I would recommend this book.

B
355 pages

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Emma by Jane Austen

Emma

At this point there isn’t a Jane Austen novel I haven’t already read, but such joys should never be experienced only in the singularity.  So it was with anticipation that I picked up Emma after many years of first experiencing it.

In addition to reading the novel, I decided to watch a newer adaptation of it – a 2009 four-part series produced by the BBC.

I love watching these adaptations because it gives the screenwriter and actors a chance to provide their own interpretations of Ms. Austen’s world.  I must say, the characters were marvelous and truly provided an enhancement to reading the book this time.  For instance, the comedic ramblings of Miss Bates going on and on about Jane Fairfax, was even more humorous in this BBC version, and allowed Emma Woodhouse an equally witty reaction to her character.

But more than a timeless story of people’s inability to correctly judge others (or themselves), Emma is a marvelous social satire of it’s day.  And if that isn’t enough, throw in a beautiful romance borne of friendship, and you have a book deserving of more than one romantic sigh.  Can Mr. Knightley’s words possibly be more swoon-worthy?

“I cannot make speeches, Emma…If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.”

5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2003 (originally published in 1815)
474 pages
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Call The Nurse by Mary J. MacLeod

Call The Nurse

In this charming memoir, Mary J. MacLeod shares stories of her experiences living on a remote Scottish island as a district nurse in the 1970’s.

Coming from London, MacLeod’s family certainly had adjustments to make, and the inconvenience of living far away from even shopping makes for interesting stories.  One such story relates how every trip to get supplies meant bringing back the items on their neighbor’s shopping list as well.  Sometimes they even included large appliances!

But the biggest impact on the remoteness of the terrain surrounded Nurse Mary J.’s job itself.  The hospital was on the other side of the island, and even that was not equipped to handle everything.  When bad weather set in, oftentimes Nurse Mary J. was the only medical help available – and even she relied on her neighbors to get her there when the roads were difficult.

There was also quite of bit of community gossip shared – which I found strange in a memoir.  It made me feel like I was made privy to some information I’d rather not know about.

Still, the author manages to evoke the beauty of the island, the warmth of the islanders and the attraction of life away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2013
320 pages
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