Book Review: The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen

“You feel most foreign when you no longer belong where you did…”

195993Read: 21st, June, 2018

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Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes, 9 seconds. Contains 1432 words

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: One of Elizabeth Bowen’s most artful and psychologically acute novels, The House in Paris is a timeless masterpiece of nuance and construction, and represents the very best of Bowen’s celebrated work.

When eleven-year-old Henrietta arrives at the Fishers’ well-appointed house in Paris, she is prepared to spend her day between trains looked after by an old friend of her grandmother’s. Little does Henrietta know what fascinations the Fisher house itself contains–along with secrets that have the potential to topple a marriage and redeem the life of a peculiar young boy. By the time Henrietta leaves the house that evening, she is in possession of the kind of grave knowledge that is usually reserved only for adults.

First published in 1935, The House in Paris, is the fifth book written by Elizabeth Bowen and as I have come to know, it is also one of the best books written by her. This is the first Bowen that I have read and most probably also the last.

In the book, the writer beautifully described the surroundings and did a wonderful job in capturing all the details of the external world in a book which was being shaken up by the internal world of the characters. I like descriptive novels, I complain about fewer descriptions in books but this book was over the top in that department. I could actually visualize the surroundings when I read this book, it was a good experience, but then those visuals were there throughout the book which was insane, I got tired of it. The book wasn’t boring but a slow-burner.

In the book, the writer defined many moments using inanimate objects and bring life to them, created visuals to show the passion and the tension and added depth to what the characters were feeling and thinking.

Some examples:

“Like rain on the taxi windows, soft affections and melancholies blurred her mind; she saw inanimate things as being friendly to love.”

“Max looked at me like someone through bars in a death cell; to part is to leave him to what must be. The law takes you away.”

The concept of telling the story was odd, I never read anything in this format. She used this tri-partite structure where the first and the last part were written in “The Present” and the middle part was written in “The Past” with 10 years gap between the present and the past. The second part, The Past, was the longest of all the three parts, it took me 10 days to go through it, some days I dreaded to pick it up again. All the while I was reading this book, I was wondering if I would ever reach to the end of it. I liked the parts that were written in ‘The Present’ and most importantly I loved the last part of the book.

The story mostly dealt with the complexities of human relationships, ‘of mother and child’, ‘of lovers’, ‘of husband and wife’, and most importantly and very discreetly she also talked about ‘friendship’. There were multiple plots within the story and the writer played well with both time and point of views of different characters. Pure emotions were expressed without any corruption or falsity that actually helped in knowing the characters well, good or bad.

In the beginning, I thought the two children Leopold and Henrietta were the main characters but with time reader gets to know who the central characters really are. These two kids are actually used as a device to show reality in a different view, of how kids perceive the reality and assess it besides the central characters actually show us the reality they lived. So, we get to see two realities, the one that was perceived and the one that actually happened. This is the case of hidden realities and exposing them to the reader.

“Grownup people form a secret society, they must have something to hold by; they dare not say to a child: ‘There is nothing you do know here.”

Children think their parents’ life start with them, they see their parents realities and create their parents identities in their mind with what they see while living with them, from all that happens in the present. They don’t have any idea of what happened before they were born, what these individuals went through and what shaped their identities and personalities. There are so many secrets that are hidden beneath those faces that might never be uncovered and they have no idea about them. Sometimes those hidden realities make no much difference and sometimes they ruin families and lives.

So, yes the adults are actually the central characters and most importantly Leopold’s mother, Karen. In the past she was someone’s lover and someone’s child; now in the present, she is a mother and a wife. Throughout the book we see her relationships and roles she played in them, we read about how each relationship shaped her and how they were responsible in forming her identity and how one relationship affected the other relationship. Most importantly this is a story of love gone wrong, where passion, love, and betrayal create the central theme.

I’m not sure what was the role of Henrietta but I think she was also a device to explore Leopold because children kind of communicate with each other and also to assess the situation for readers that was unfolding in front of her in the Fisher’s house. Since she was not part of the family secrets and drama, she gave readers an honest view of the whole situation as she saw it unfold.

Ms. Fisher was one of the characters that I felt bad for, she was hit by series of disappointments in the past, and she was the only one who took good control over the situation and handled it with some sense. She was a giver, a soft person who took care of things and people.

What I found weird was how the conversations were led in this book. The characters talked in a very odd way, I don’t think people really speak like that. I quite didn’t like the conversations. The essence behind them yes, the conversations no.

The story itself I felt was secondary, the most important aspects were the characters and their doings. The ghosts of the past also influenced everything that was happening in the present, we get to know about that in a narrative in the last part, where it is revealed what Karen actually feels in the present and what she is going through and why she can’t face her past. I totally understand what she feels, and only time I sympathized with her was in the last part. It was disturbing to think about how she must feel now about everything that happened to her and how her decisions molded her life to come to this point, the whole thing made me quite uncomfortable.

Of all the three parts, the last part was more structured but none of them were very well defined. We don’t really get an ending that concludes everything but there is a hope that things might get a little better, at least that is what I felt while reading the ending.

I would say, it was an interesting read, yes, it was slow and I slog through it but that didn’t stop me from engaging with these characters who were filled with flaws and imperfections and the whole idea seemed very intriguing to me, also the reason I continued reading it till the end.

Some Quotes from the book:

“But you must grow faster, more strongly than other people. There is no question, for you, of having someone to cherish you. For the man you may be, that your father was not, the father and mother have only been instruments. Their faces and names do not matter. By deluding themselves with each other, they served you without knowing.”

“Goodbyes breed a sort of distaste for whoever you say goodbye to; this hurts, you feel, this must not happen again. Any other meeting will only lead back to this. If today goodbye is not final, someday it will be.”

“The mystery about sex comes from confusion and terror: to a mind on which these have not yet settled there is nothing you cannot tell. Grownup people form a secret society, they must have something to hold by; they dare not say to a child: ‘There is nothing you do know here.”

“Never to lie is to have no lock to your door, you are never wholly alone.”

“There is no end to the violations committed by children on children, quietly talking alone.”

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Why I love Reading Books

WP_20151206_22_17_44_Pro 2“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

I was never a people person so I became a book person. And somehow books made me a better person and they opened up the whole world in front of me.

So what made me love reading books?

Books are magical. There are many things that made me love reading books. Like how while reading books I can visit a totally different country or a different period(who said time travel is not possible?), or fall in love with a character which is a fragment of someone else’s imagination(now how wonderful is that, right?).

Books helped me leaning new things, building stuff, books made me a better person, reading them gave me a whole new perspective, provided me with new ideas, ways to solve problems. Reading books made me grow. Books transform the person who reads them and reading helped me through depression.

Now how wonderful is that? Very.

Anything you want to learn, anything you want to know, there’s a book waiting for you. Now, we are not limited to books, there are articles, magazines, many options out there.

I love reading because books take me to another world, they make me grow as a person, they make me think, they make me imagine, they make me live a different life at least for sometime. I’m addicted to books.

And for me reading is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.

I have shared why I love reading books now tell me why you like it. Why do you like to read?

Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

“I will never, ever regret the things I’ve done. Because most days, all you have are places in your memory that you can go to.”

AND

“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”

15507958My Rating: *4.5 Stars*

Just when I promise myself that I won’t read any romance novel, I come across a romance novel that I just can’t avoid reading. Anyway, this is not a romance novel, I was so wrong (the description and read color book jacket fooled me).

The other day(last month), I came across this movie trailer and I literally picked up this book just because of the upcoming movie release and I had no clue what I was getting myself into. However, I’m quiet happy that I did pick this book up.

So, yes I read this book last month around 3 or 4th April. I read this book in one sitting and I remember that night it was raining(and you have no idea how much I love rains!). So, it was a perfect setting “romance + rain” (well it works for me.)

About the Book:

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Now about the book. I loved for most of the parts, it wasn’t just romance, but also make you think about your life and relationships with people that you have in your life, be it your significant other, family or friends(kinda philosophy of life stuff). This book made me happy and sad, I can say the story broke my heart in the end.

I liked the writing style and the character development. I guess there wasn’t anything new in the plot(not something extraordinary, you can find plots like this one out there), but what the author did is stir the emotions that are hidden inside the characters and that is something that makes this book stand out. This book makes you re-evaluate things, it makes you ask questions about your life and makes you think, where the hell my life is going. There weren’t many scene that will stay with you after you finish this book, but the way those written words make you feel makes all the difference.

I didn’t like the starting very much, but I’m glad that I read it. This book also showed the beautiful nature of love and how life is a bitch and how once we are trapped, the harsh reality slap hard on the face. The fact that we get attached to people so much so that the mere thought of their absence from our life makes us feel lost and terrible because seriously who are we kidding forgetting is hard be it good or bad. So, ya that is why this book broke my heart, stir those feelings.

“I realized I was afraid of living without him. How is it you have the right to destroy my life, I wanted to demand of him, but I’m not allowed a say in yours?
But I had promised.”

The character of Lou was really good, such a caring person. I loved her.

I totally hated her boyfriend though, Patrick.

The relationship between Lou and Patrick can totally be explaind just by listening to this song, it’s called “I was a fool” by Tegan and Sara

There was just being with each other for no reason whatsoever…

I also loved the character of Will, he was a person who push himself, never settle for anything less than what he deserve and like to live life to the fullest. Loving him and living with him is not easy, but what a wonderful guy!

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I loved the moments that Lou and Will shared…

“…I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other.”

This is not a very coherent review(but none of my reviews are), and I really don’t know where to start and where to end because there is so much to it. I really don’t want to spoil anything for you, I’m forcing myself to not tell everything and I’m seriously missing a bigger picture here in this review. I really don’t want to talk anything what goes between Lou and Will, you should read it yourself.

Just a reminder before you read, half way through the book you may need a pack of tissue papers. Believe me!

And Me Before You  is not a romance novel. Love yes, romance no(a little tiny winy bit).

And the title? You’ll get to know why it’s “Me Before You” for that you have to read the book or maybe this quote will tell you, but then for the inside story you still have to read the book.

“I told him I loved him,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper. “And he just said it wasn’t enough.” Her eyes were wide and bleak . “How am I supposed to live with that?”

You know what I’m trying to say here, that you should definitely read this book and again remember the tissue papers, I mean it.

Happy Reading!