25 February 2011

no frigate like a book #1

What I've read lately:

Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solhzenitsyn. Oh my. Such characters! It was very funny and very sad. (Also very long, so if you have a lengthy trip on the horizon, this would be a good one to take.) The story is set in Soviet Uzbekistan, 1955, and intertwines the lives of characters from government officials to political exiles. Laced with humor but with a backbone of tragedy, it generated deep and intense emotions as I read-- though I never cry over books, a few have brought me close and this was one of them. The complex, winsome characters will stay in my memory for a long time.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Again, the characters amazed me. It was one of those books that I wanted to continue forever. The book is presented as the journal of Cassandra Mortmain, a British teenager in the 1930s whose eccentric family and confusing American neighbors provide her with endless frustration and amusement. It had its comic moments, along with many tender and sad ones. The conclusion is bittersweet, not depressing. I was actually quite irritated when it ended-- "But what happened to her then? I need to know!!" I think I'd like to see the movie now.

Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by Richard Blackmore. We have so many old books, and one day I was running my finger down the row, trying to find one I'd like to read. I lit upon Lorna Doone and, having heard of it from friends at college, decided to give it a try. It was quite good. Certainly an interesting plot and narrator. I don't care for overly Romantic books, though-- they're good at points, but either the sweetness becomes saccharine and makes me ill, or the excessive sublimity gives me the heebie-jeebies. So I would only recommend it if you enjoy that style.

The post's title, by the way, alludes to the poem by Emily Dickinson.

{image: the frigate USS Essex}

1 comment:

  1. Matthew Taylor02 March, 2011 00:50

    I didn't know Solzhenitsyn had a sense of humor. Knowing that, I'm a little less daunted by his massive manuscripts.

    Lorna Doone was one of my favorite novels growing up! For a time I lived down in Devon, just a few miles from the moors, and picked my way up many rivers and across many fields just like John.

    As per one of your suggestions from months ago, I have just this evening painted a black(blue)board for my apartment. Thanks! Soon it will be covered with cryptic notes in an indecipherable scrawl.