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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Book Review: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

“You are all a lost generation.”

3876Read: 14th, October,2016- 19th, October,2016

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 23 seconds. Contains 1079 words

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Book Description: The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

This is the second book that I read written by Hemingway, the first being, The Old Man and The Sea which I liked. But I’m not quite sure about how I really feel about this book, The Sun Also Rises.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway which he wrote in the mid-1920s is a book about Lost Generation or Wasted Generation.

Lost Generation: noun, the generation reaching maturity during or after First World War, a high proportion of whose men were killed during those years.

Ernest Hemingway volunteered to serve in Italy as an ambulance driver with the American Red Cross during the First World War so he himself was a part of the Lost Generation that he talks about in this book. These people lost a part of themselves in the war. The experience of the war deeply changed the way people see themselves and who they think they are. So yes this book is about the generation who faced and suffered during the First World War and Hemingway in this book tries to talk about how the war changed people and how they couldn’t ever be the same people they used to be, and how they could never come back to the society and felt like the outcast.

Now let’s talk about the book.

This book is a beautiful melancholy and it captures the entire generation, the lost generation as I talked about earlier. His characters show that they have dreams, that they want to accomplish, they want to achieve something but they can’t because they lost themselves.

“Going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”

These people were trying to have a good time, but most of it as Hemingway described in this book was booze, women, food, going to places, and hanging out. They were doing many things but nothing was really happening in the book.

“Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already?”

Similarly how nothing was happening in their lives(if that makes sense.) They were lost in the modern world.

“This is a hell of dull talk…How about some of that champagne?”

This book was very stereotypical Hemingway.

The book in itself was very calm and slow paced, but most of the things that he wrote seem to me of no importance. A large descriptions about what they drank or how much money they spent on that bottle of scotch, so many details but of no use. I see that he did that on purpose but why I don’t see.

I did start to like this book once they reached Spain and I also liked the bull fight part and did start catching up with what was happening(and I guess that was half way through the book.)

“The bulls are my best friends.”
I translated to Brett.
“You kill your friends?” she asked.
“Always,” he said in English and laughed. “So they don’t kill me.”

I couldn’t really understand their emotions because he didn’t talk about them and none of his characters did.

Brett was every man’s love interest and nothing deep really happened. I don’t even know what they felt and what they felt about each other.

My problem with everything that was happening in this book was that I couldn’t really relate to it, most of the things sounded ridiculous to me. Yes, maybe something more suitable for that generation but not so much to this.

The day I started reading this book, it was late at night around 1 A.M. and I was laying on my bed reading this book on my phone, lights were off and the window was open so that I could enjoy the fresh air and then I came across this passage from Chapter 4 and I loved it because it was so much similar to the setting I was in and it is one thing that got stuck in my mind. I was thinking about my version of Brett and trains were running on the tracks and that is only sound you could hear in the silence of the night. I may have cried a little bit because of the whole situation that was building up and fell asleep as I came towards the end of the passage.

When I think about that moment, I think of it as a moment that I shared with Hemingway, in a way(very cheesy, I know, but it did happen and I’ll always remember it.)

“I lit the lamp beside the bed, turned off the gas, and opened the wide windows, and I sat with the windows open and undressed by the bed. Outside a night train, running on the street-car tracks, went by carrying vegetables to the markets. They were noisy at night when you could not sleep…

…I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. Then I couldn’t keep away from it, and I started to think about Brett and all the rest of it went away. I was thinking about Brett and my mind stopped jumping around and started to go in sort of smooth waves. Then all of a sudden I started to cry. Then after a while, it was better and I lay in bed and listened to the heavy trams go by and way down the street, and then I went to sleep.”

“It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night is another thing.”

Book Review : Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place.”

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My Rating : *4 Stars*

Either I’m getting old or I’m totally distracted because I just can’t read romance novels these days, let alone young adult *sigh*. But then I went to this terrible vacation which turned out to be the worst vacation ever (it totally redefined the definition of vacation) that I had to find a way out of it, that is when this book came into my rescue. Yes! Anna and the French Kiss. This book totally saved me from losing my mind, huh!(I mean it).

For me this book was 2 days of bliss!

I hate the name of this book and I was seriously trying to hide the book cover every time I was in public or sitting with my family because I knew that if my father would see it, he will be like, “Huh! What a waste of time!” or maybe “What a crappy book!”(he judge a book by its cover.)

But let me tell you. This book was PERFECT!

This book gave that giddy feeling. I mean that cute feeling, where you just blush all the time or when you get butterflies in your stomach, that feeling.

I loved the mutual understanding between Anna and Etienne, and I enjoyed the kind of relationship they had in this book.

I must say I adored Etienne St. Clair. I liked him for he was just too cute, caring and I completely admired his flaws. I guess every one who read this book loved him. But for me I didn’t love him, I liked him.

materpiece

Anna, the protagonist, was a likable character. I loved her. She was funny and quiet relatable and had her own quirky bits. So, yes I totally enjoyed her. I didn’t like her when she was obsessing over St. Clair, that was too much for me.

Other characters were just great. They were supportive and well written.

I loved the writing and I would say Stephanie Perkins definitely know how to craft good characters, characters with some depth. I also liked the romance and sexual tension that was built through out the book and the story was believable because you see love like this happening around you all the time( well not all the time, I’m just exaggerating).

What am I forgetting? hmm, yes the love triangle and those egoistical and egocentric people whom you can definitely not ignore in life. I mean who will create the mess if they won’t be there? So, yes this book had all the elements which you can expect in YA novel.

I also loved the description of Paris, France. It made me want to be there and live there. I guess the best part of this story was that it was set in PARIS. I love that city.

This book really made me feel something that I hadn’t felt for a long time, so for me the story was fun and cutesy. When I finished this book, I felt satisfied.

So what do we have? A book set in Paris, a hot(not sure about hot), cute American guy with French name and British accent, a girl who is hilarious, friends who know the meaning of friendship and cutesy romance. Do you still want me to say something?

Read it!