Persuasion, by Jane Austen

30653460Written at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Persuasion is a tale of love, heartache and the determination of one woman as she strives to reignite a lost love. Anne Elliot is persuaded by her friends and family to reject a marriage proposal from Captain Wentworth because he lacks in fortune and rank. More than seven years later, when he returns home from the Navy, Anne realises she still has strong feelings for him, but Wentworth only appears to have eyes for a friend of Anne’s. Moving, tender, but intrinsically ‘Austen’ in style, with its satirical portrayal of the vanity of society in eighteenth-century England, Persuasion celebrates enduring love and hope. (from Goodreads)

This was my second reading of this novel, first time in English. It was awhile since I last read it, and my memories of it were built mostly from glimpses of the different movies and tv adaptations. It was also my first time ever reading Austen in her own words and not mediated by a translator, so it actually felt almost like reading it for the first time ever.
I must admit that I always neglected Anne Elliot as a very secondary character in the myriad of Austen’s heroines, and oh how I regret this. I think, as it happens to me often, that sometimes I read books when it’s not the right time for me, so then they leave an odd impression in my memory. Knowing this about myself, I try to re-read them later, and it usually works great for the book. Apparently this time I was fully ready to love and understand Anne. Well, we are now the same age! So I guess that explains it all.

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen

6374276Beautiful, flirtatious, and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon seeks an advantageous second marriage for herself, while attempting to push her daughter into a dismal match (from Goodreads)

In my opinion, this is the funniest book by Austen, ever. That should be enough to go run, find a copy and read ASAP.
It’s a short epistolary novel (and you know how much I love this things). The exchange of letters is delightful to read, as one can see the two faced personality of Susan, so sweet and caring towards those she wants to impress, and completely cynical and scheming in her private correspondence with her best friend.
It was adapted to a movie very recently, for the first time, with the title Love & friendship (which is, BTW, another epistolary novel by Austen, but that has nothing to do with this story). I highly recommend reading the book first, which will make everything so much enjoyable because so many of the dialogues were copied word by word from the letters (ahh, so satisfying!). In any case, it’s a great movie in its own.

The Perfume of the Lady in Black, by Gastón Leroux

32423378In The Perfume of the Lady in Black, Joseph Rouletabille, the young journalist turned detective, is once more pitted against his arch-enemy Frédéric Larsan. The mysterious crime committed in the Square Tower challenges even Rouletabille’s powers of logic and deduction. But this is also a novel which – through its implicit accommodation of recent developments in the new science of psychoanalysis, particularly Freud’s notion of the Oedipus complex – was even further ahead of its time than The Mystery of the Yellow Room (from Goodreads)

Second book about Rouletabille’s adventures. The charactars are pretty much the same that in the previous book (with few newcomers) but everyone is in an altered state of nervousness and panic. The evil they thought they’ve left behind, is back, and more terrifying than ever.

Something that I didn’t mention in the previous post is that, at the end of The yellow room, there was a HUGE spoiler about Rouletabille’s past, written ON A FOOT NOTE that it even said “as it’s reveald in The perfume…“. WHAT?!?! I was INFURIATED. I remember that I was just leaving a train (commuting, my favorite time to read) while I was a reading it and I gasped quite loudly in indignation. Up to this day I don’t know if it was an editor or translator’s note or it was meant to be there by the author. But I assure you, there was nothing on that book that could make me foresee that piece of information that, luckily, is given quite early in this second book.

Let’s get back on track.

That particular discovery we make about Rouletabille’s past life is the root of his strangeness throughout the entire book. He’s not the same and it shows. I must say, I missed the old Rouletabille, but, luckily for us and the rest of the characters, he gets his mind to work correctly and solves the mistery.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the previous one. Instead of having a crime and find our way to the criminal, in this novel we have the criminal but there’s no crime yet, so everyone is working towards preventing it. That’s not so fun. Like I said, all the characters are pretty nervous and they got on my nerves as well. Is a constant state of unstediness.

After all this DRAMA, I can’t help but wonder what could happen to Rouletabille in his next adventure?

The mystery of the Yellow Room, by Gastón Leroux

13064611The young lady had just retired to her room when sounds of a struggle ensue, and cries of “Murder!” and revolver shots ring out. When her locked door is finally broken down by her father and a servant, they find the woman on the floor, badly hurt and bleeding. No one else is in the room. There is no other exit except through a barred window. How did the attacker escape?  (from Goodreads)

When I bought this book I thought it would be more dark and gritty, but it wasn’t like that at all, it was pretty entertaining and quite funny at times, despite the tragic events that the characters were living.

The main characters are:

  • Joseph Rouletabille – the young journalist and amateur detective, protagonist

  • Jean Sainclair – Rouletabille’s friend and lawyer, the narrator

  • Frédéric Larsan – the police detective

  • Professor Stangerson – a scientist, owner of “Chateau du Glandier”

  • Mlle. Mathilde Stangerson – his daughter, the victim

  • Robert Darzac – Mathilde’s fiancé

Robert Darzac ends up being the main suspect, according to Larsan’s reasonings, but Rouletabille is not convinced and believes in his innocence. He follows a logic that escapes completely our understanding and it’s not until the very end when the name of the attacker is revealed, and it’s totally unexpected!

This book is the first in a series, and I have already read the second! Rouletabille is not like any other detective I’ve read before, and it’s a nice change.

Another nice thing about my edition is that it has images, and I love when that happens!

The Secret Glory, by Arthur Machen

18515164It is probable that all through those early years Ambrose’s father had been charming his son’s heart, drawing him forth from the gehenna-valley of this life into which he had fallen, as one draws forth a beast that has fallen into some deep and dreadful place. Various are the methods recommended. There is the way of what is called moral teaching, the way of physiology and the way of a masterly silence; but Mr. Meyrick’s was the strange way of incantation. He had, in a certain manner, drawn the boy aside from that evil traffic of the valley, from the stench of the turmoil, from the blows and the black lechery, from the ugly fight in the poisonous smoke, from all the amazing and hideous folly that practical men call life, and had set him in that endless procession that forever and forever sings its litanies in the mountains, going from height to height on its great quest. Ambrose’s soul had been caught in the sweet thickets of the woods; it had been bathed in the pure water of blessed fountains; it had knelt before the altars of the old saints, till all the earth was become a sanctuary, all life was a rite and ceremony, the end of which was the attainment of the mystic sanctity — the achieving of the Graal. For this — for what else? — were all things made. It was this that the little bird sang of in the bush, piping a few feeble, plaintive notes of dusky evenings, as if his tiny heart were sad that it could utter nothing better than such sorry praises. This also celebrated the awe of the white morning on the hills, the breath of the woods at dawn. This was figured in the red ceremony of sunset, when flames shone over the dome of the great mountain, and roses blossomed in the far plains of the sky. This was the secret of the dark places in the heart of the woods. This the mystery of the sunlight on the height; and every little flower, every delicate fern, and every reed and rush was entrusted with the hidden declaration of this sacrament. For this end, final and perfect rites had been given to men to execute; and these were all the arts, all the far-lifted splendor of the great cathedral; all rich carven work and all glowing colors; all magical utterance of word and tones: all these things were the witnesses that consented in the One Offering, in the high service of the Graal. (from Goodreads)

This book was quite a trippy reading. To be honest, I bought this book because it had a pretty cover (Edward Burne-Jones’ The beguiling of Merlin) and because the seller said “It’s the last remaining”.

I think the book could be easily separated in two parts: those chapters that were centered on Ambrose’s school years, dedicated to “mundane” subjects, and those where everything gets a lot more like what I copied from Goodreads above. The mundane chapters were a cynical and sarcastic critique of the British public school and academic system, which was very fun to read. The spiritual chapters were beautiful to read, the images described are literally out of this world, but I often felt that I wasn’t getting it. I’m not versed in Celtic anything, so it was mostly out of my league and I just sat and enjoyed the nice writing. There was also a strong critique of the Anglican church, made from the standpoint of the Roman church and the traditional celtic rites.

I believe this is the kind of book that is meant to be read more than once, twice or three times, and that each time is a whole different experience. I’m looking forward to read it again 🙂

Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell

8909152“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . “

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ? (from Goodreads)

I believe this is Rowell’s first novel and, just like the other works I read from her, is beautifully written and hard to put down. If I’d started earlier in the day, I would have read it in one sitting.

What I liked about it:

  • I love epistolary novels, and although this is not exactly one, it’s almost like that. Instead of letters, we read Jenn and Beth’s emails, which are actually more like a chat, and remind me of the long chat conversations I used to have (who am I kidding, I still have) with my best friends, talking all kinds of crazy things + real life and serious talking. The novel, however, it’s not entirely told by emails, because when we read about Lincoln, is just regular writing.
  • There are no bad guys. Only some annoying characters, just like in real life, but that at the end there are not even that annoying.
  • Characters felt believable and like real people.

What I didn’t love about it:

  • I can’t help but wonder how would I react if something like this would happen to me. Some guy at work falls in love with me while reading personal and private emails I wrote to a friend. And he lures around my cubicle when I’m not there. Lincoln doesn’t feel good about it and all that, and really tries to stop the creep in him, but still… Nowadays, social media allows all kind of stalkery behaviour, but maybe it was different in the 90s, when the story is setted? Doesn’t the fact that I love epistolary novels means that I like to read other people’s mail too? Is this something we all like to do, despite knowing is wrong? Is that why epistolary novels exist?

Anyway, the novel is really enjoyable and recommendable.

Un beso de Dick, by Fernando Molano Vargas

16076882English title: Dick’s Kiss

Un beso de Dick was written by Colombian author Fernando Molano Vargas in 1990. I read it in Spanish, but it has been translated to English as Dick’s kiss and published by University Press of the South in 2005. It’s not an easy book to find (not even in Spanish), but I assure you is definitely worth the search.

It’s a coming-of-age novel about teenage love, narrated entirely by Felipe, a sixteen year-old boy. We have access to his inner monologues, we’re literally reading his mind. We see the world through his eyes: his school life, his relationships with his classmates and friends, his family and, mostly, his subject of desire: Leonardo. They start as comrades, they’re in the same class and same group of friends, and share a lot of time playing football (soccer) (and in the showers, as well). We know almost from the start the deep feelings that Felipe has for Leonardo. He can’t stop thinking about him, he can’t stop staring at him. Luckily for him, things escalate quickly and in a party they declare their attraction to each other, and we become witnesses of their incipient -and secret- relationship.

I absolutely loved this book. I knew about it from a podcast I listen to, so I didn’t get to it blindfolded, I knew where I was going, but I didn’t expect to like it this much. The characters, specially the kids, are so endearing! It’s lovely to read Felipe’s thoughts and see how he can barely contain all the love he has for Leonardo. Just like Felipe’s aunt says: their love makes one envious of not being sixteen to fell in love being sixteen.

Unlike other YA novels I read, this story and its characters felt more real to me. Felipe at one point says (thinks) something like he doesn’t know why some people like to behave as if they were in a bad movie, unnaturally and overacting. This is how I feel about most YA books, the language the authors (or maybe the translators?) put in their characters seems unrealistic, the way they act seems forced. Sometimes is like the book is obnoxiously screaming “Make me a movie, I was born ready!”**. After reading this book I thought “WHY they haven’t made a movie ALREADY?”***. Is so candid and genuine, and asks all the right questions.

**Maybe I’m reading the wrong kind of YA

***I found out there was a play based on the book. It’s something