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100 Greatest Novels: Wide Sargasso Sea, Under the Net & Sophie’s Choice

Today we’re talking about three more of the 100 greatest novels. Two of them are by what is all too rare in this list, a woman! Finally. After this, I’ll probably only have one more post in this series for the last four books. Can you believe that!? Let’s get to it.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

JeanRhys_WideSargassoSeaThis book is somewhat unique (for this list, at least) because it was written as a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre. If you’re familiar with that book, this novel is the background of Mr. Rochester’s marriage that Jane learns a little about. If you’re not familiar with Jane Eyre, don’t worry. It’s not necessary to read and/or enjoy this novel. The story follows Antoinette Cosway’s childhood in Jamaica into her unhappy marriage with Mr. Rochester. This quick and easy to read novel also delves into many heavy issues. Racial inequality, the relationship between men and women, colonialism, displacement, all this plays a part in this novel.

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

UnderTheNetThis novel was a lot of fun to read. Set in London, it follows a young author as he’s kicked out of where he’s staying. His complex relationships with the lady who owned his flat and a pair of beautiful twins are thoroughly picked apart throughout his roaming. He get’s mixed up with the film rights of a French novel, philosophizes with an unnecessarily rich man, steals a movie star dog, almost becomes a Socialist, get’s an actual job for once, loses the job, makes a quick trip to Paris, decides he’s in love with a few different women…all in the few pages of this novel. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad, this book was always entertaining.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

SophiesChoiceSome of you might be familiar with the movie that’s based off this novel featuring Meryl Streep. I haven’t seen the move so I can’t compare the two or tell you how closely one follows the other. Anyway, Sophie’s Choice. This was an incredibly fascinating novel for a few different reasons. First, one of the main characters, Sophie, is a Polish Catholic survivor of Auschwitz and the novel is set in 1947. I’m not too familiar with that many novels about Holocaust survivors just a few years after the end of WWII. Usually, it’s about their experiences during the war, not after. And although Sophie’s Choice touches on most of Sophie’s experiences in and before Auschwitz, it’s still very interesting to read about her issues with survival: guilt and physical health being too of the biggest issues.

I’m kind of jumping around…let me tell you a little what the book is about. It’s narrated by Stingo, a 23-year old aspiring writer who moves to Brooklyn. At his new boarding house, he gets drawn into the tumultuous relationship between Sophie and Nathan, an American Jew who seems to be a genius. They have some of the most violent and emotionally intense arguments, have unnecessarily loud sex above Stingo’s bedroom and deeply discuss classical music and literature. All of this with Stingo hovering on the edge of their story, falling madly in love with Sophie. Through the novel, we slowly learn about Sophie’s life before WWII and her experiences in Auschwitz. Her story during the war and her story in the Brooklyn boarding house both lead her to a “choice” she has to make. A choice between life and death for too many people she cares about. I’ll let you read the novel (or I guess watch the movie) to figure out what choices she has to make and what consequences they lead to.


That’s it for today. The next novel is The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. I have a few ideas for some other blogs. You might see a few of those before the final post in the 100 greatest novels series. Until next time.

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What Can You Say?

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I just met a holocaust survivor. Pretty surreal. What do you say to a man who has seen so much, who has experienced such horror? What could I say? “I’m sorry” just doesn’t seem sufficient.

I wanted to express my sense of loss. I wanted to let him know that I’ll never forget what happened. That I’ll do everything in my power to stop discrimination, injustice, and genocide. But all I did was thank him for the book. I just couldn’t say more.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in History, Literature

 

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Non-fiction? More like Non-interesting!

For the last year or so I have been predominantly reading fiction. I’m not really sure why.

Traditionally, I prefer a well written historical book over a fictional novel. The characters are more believable (because they’re real) and there’s plenty of crazy shit in our history as humans to talk about that we don’t necessarily need to make stories up.

Yes, fictional stories can be great. They can change the hearts and minds of the masses for the better. There’s just something about connecting with our ancestors’ histories while reading a non-fictional book that can never be replicated in fiction. Don’t believe me? Here’s a few suggestions to get you going in the non-fiction category. Also, all pictures are links to the book’s amazon page:

Two of my favorite books about the Jewish oppression during World War II are:

 and  

One of my favorite non-fictional authors is Alison Weir. She does an incredible job of making history read like a thrilling novel. Her expertise is in English history (particularly the Tudors) but she has delved into all time periods of history. Here are two of her’s that I really loved:

 and 

Dave Eggers is another incredible nonfiction author. His works are based on more recent history. He’s never been focused on a certain geographical area but instead looks for incredible stories and flawlessly writes them into books. These are my two favorite books by Eggers:

 and 

Check these books out and let me know what you think. If you need more recommendations or have any for me, leave a comment.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Literature

 

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