Monthly Archives: March 2014

JUST FINISHED: The Ocean at the End of the Lane; A Hundred Summers

Author: Neil Gaiman, Beatriz Williams
Genre: Science Fiction, Romantic Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, 2 out of 5 stars

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was like reading a lost Grim tale that had recently been unearthed. Gaiman’s novel had me engulfed, finishing it out in a matter of two days. I really enjoyed the childlike nature of the storytelling and the nostalgic, mystical feel that radiated from the text.

I think one of the reasons I locked into this book so well was a shared understanding of a Peter Pan like theme: never grow up. One of the quotes that stood out to me was, “Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adult step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.” Why is that? Why do we, as we grow older, always follow the laid out the path and choose the obvious? What happened to that rabid curiosity and living in the moment? Did life hurt you too many times that you turn away from anything that may cause you pain again?

Off the big life question soapbox, I think you would enjoy The Ocean at the End of the Lane if you have any kind of large imagination, one that you don’t like to control but just let if run free.

Now we get to A Hundred Summers. This book is without doubt a purebred beach read. I read the first four chapters and decided that this was an A+B love story that would undoubtedly have some strains but end in a happy ending. Guess what? I was right. I skimmed the next couple of chapters, able to pick up on the major plot points and confirm my theory was correct, I read the last page and was done with it. If you’re into the “you hang up first” and “whatever happened to our relationship, we were so young and love” love stories, go for it.

JUST FINISHED: The People in the Trees

Author: Hanya Yanagihara

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I felt like this book was a bit like reading some sort of loose scientific journal. That may seem like a strange comment, but that is truly how I felt. The main character, Norton, has a certain way of describing all and everything in a dissected, carefully picked language. I am quite sure that Yanagihara intended for him to come off that way and she easily excelled at that purpose.

The book is written as a memoir to a colleague after the main character has been imprisoned for sexual abuse as way to explain who and how he had become the man he was. The novel travels throughout the life of Norton, from his childhood to ‘retirement’ with a big change of his life coming from an experience traveling with anthropologist to a fairly undiscovered island county called Ivu’ivu. While there, Norton discovers some of the people are living beyond their expected lifespan by hundreds of years which he narrows down to be from consuming a native turtle, called opa’ivu’eke. Norton manages to snuggle off a turtle for his own experiments which then leads to his quickly propelled placement in the scientific community.

Throughout the text, the colleague being written to explains that he has edited Norton’s words where required and will add side notes to further explain ideals and situations that the main character brushes on.

This isn’t the first novel I’ve read with that sort of set up (The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman);however,  I found in this book that the side notes take away from the flow of the story. I would be reading a section and see the little number and glance down at the footnote, sometimes just a line, sometimes a whole page worth of information. The side note would always gravitate further on a topic slightly related to the main character’s story and try to fill any wholes in what was being said. I read the notes for a while and then started feeling annoyed and began skipping them altogether. I hope I didn’t miss too much…

There is a theme that Yanagihara presents throughout the book that is somewhat thought provoking. Can someone be forgiven for an act so grave? Can it be overlooked for their genius? Well, personally, I think those are easy questions to answer (yes and what does being a genius have to do with it, really?) but I can see how it could trouble some.

I think, more intriguing, is the juxtaposition of western thought processes meeting a tribe of peoples who know nothing of ‘civilization.’ A group of people that have a whole another set of moral standards and rituals for daily life. That, although a theme presented often and in several other novels, has always left me questioning the basis of our own standards and moral bearings. Who (or what) set it that way? Why does it have to remain that way? Could it be wrong? Is there really a hard ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Are we just treading in the murky grey of the black and white?

Would I recommend this book to you? Well, it depends. Do you like science and exploration? Do you like snooty characters and characters with sad backgrounds that cause them to make bad and questionable decisions? If you answered yes, then yes, I recommend this book to you.

THE CYCLE

I sliced off its head,

glory in my eyes,

strength in my veins.

 

With a shovel in my hands,

I struck the bone.

No stopping there,

it must be done.

 

It squirmed and squiggled,

Oh, no more will it slither!

 

But now I watch

as another creature,

this one so sweet,

is caught in your jaw,

shaken to the feet.

 

I cry out,

seeing the pain in its dark oval eyes,

But what can I do?

What can I do?

 

You leave it be,

On the grass,

I come closer,

Seeing its short breathe.

 

In its face,

I see its horror,

This is it.

Death is no longer dormant.

 

I coddle it close,

in my hands,

weeping for the soul,

life has been abandoned.

 

An act so similar,

did these hands once commit?

They hold him now,

innocent.

 

What is the difference

between you and I really?

We created a loss for our gain.

And took it so easily.

 

Are we just small parts to be played

in this functioning machine,

fueling the cycle,

is that what life is to be?

WHOLE

This love is crazy.

 

It grows without bounds.

It is up, it is down.

A central force,

Pulling us together,

tight and wound.

 

We ride its waves,

crashing in the crest,

swallowing us whole,

sinking into its depth.

 

Anger,

suspicion and greed.

They try to creep in,

but this love is stronger.

Watch it kill them.

 

It pulses sweet emotions,

grabbing at our hearts.

Enamored by the presence,

we will never wonder far.

 

This love is crazy.