Another great selection from my library’s Books into Movies book group. I’m not the biggest fan of war novels and I wasn’t convinced I would enjoy this one, but the writing was simple and easy to read and the juxtaposition/tension between the captured/surrendered British troops and the British commandos was enough to keep me flipping sides about the bridge throughout!
The book centers around the building of the Burma-Siam railway during World War II and specifically around the building of the bridge over the river Kwai, a fictional river in Thailand. I could not remember which modern country was Siam until this past weekend when we walked past a Thai restaurant called House of Siam! I should probably be embarrassed I couldn’t remember that, but let’s blame it on my American-ness and complete lack of knowledge around most Asiatic countries and cultures.
And with this book I completed ALL of my reading challenges this year! I will do a wrap up post (year, challenge and month) on either the 31st or 1st, but for the record this was the 11th book of the Back to the Classics Challenge, the 6th book (but 8th counted – two were double) for the Tea and Books Reading Challenge and the 25th Mount TBR book!
But what is MOST shocking is how much I enjoyed this novel. There were portions I hated that I think were decisions of the translator and there were definitely parts that were beyond boring (the war parts, obviously), but overall I actually am glad I read this book and the investment of just over three weeks was definitely worth it. I’m not going to lie and say that I was excited about this novel and I won’t even say that it was easy, but I was a bit confused after reading this in the forward:
“The first readers of War and Peace were certainly surprised, but often also bewildered and even dismayed by the book. They found it hard to identify the main characters, to discover anything like a plot, to see any connection between episodes, to understand the sudden leaps from fiction to history, from narration to philosophizing. There seemed to be no focus, no artistic unity to the work, no real beginning, and no resolution. It was as if the sheer mass of detail overwhelmed any design Tolstoy might have tried to impose on it.” (loc. 140)
I didn’t think that the novel was that confusing. I can definitely see where the characters names are confusing! The introduction discusses the multitude of ways a character’s name can be modified and that did cause me to stop a few times but if I kept reading the context clues almost immediately told me who Tolstoy referred to.
If Les Misérables is one thing, it is too damn long. I’m sure there are people who will disagree with me and I partially disagree with myself, but 1,729 pages is just outrageous. My advice to you if you want to read this novel, unless you are seriously interested or enthralled by French history, is to read an abridged version.
Don’t get me wrong, the story is amazingly, heartrendingly beautiful, but there was a lot of history that, yes, adds to the story, but is a long hard slough to get through. I’m talking upwards of 900 pages is just history and setting and had very little consequence on the story other than to set the scene. By time I got to volume five of the book it was a struggle to get through. I mean there were fascinating facts like how much sewer there is below Paris, but I did not need to know who put it there and who mapped and cleaned it!
If possible, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return was better than Satrapi’s first graphic novel Persepolis: A Story of Childhood. Don’t get me wrong, they were both great and the first one’s wit and humor (from the perspective of a 10-year-old) was better placed and timed, but this novel just dealt with adult issues an early 20s individual faces and thus I identified more with it.
I sill say, however, that this book provided less history and explanation about the revolution and continuing Islamization of Iran than the first and focused more on the challenges Marjane and other young women faced as women under the new rule from the stricter veiling and gender segregation to the lack of freedom of mobility and education for women and mandatory military service for young men.
I flew through this book and will need to read it again to savor more of the story. When I say I flew, I mean I read it in just over an hour. I read every bit of it and even glorified in the illustration a few times, but I’m moving on to Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.
I’ve wanted to see the film adaptation for a long time, but I never got around to seeing it. I’ve seen previews for it on many of the other films I’ve watched but I never took the initiative to seek out the film. So when our books into movies book group started to discuss a graphic novel I put this one out there and we selected it! I’m very glad I did and I’m still super excited about seeing the film. I believe the film encompasses both volumes of the story, but I won’t know until I watch it. I’m reading both volumes as if you remember I picked them up for helping out at the local library book sale.
After my amazing luck with John Boyne’s The Absolutist last year, I decided to always keep an eye on Other Press releases and I’m glad I did. I requested a copy of this book directly from the publisher and I quite enjoyed it. This is my honest response and I received nothing in return.
To start, I’d like to say that the only other review on Goodreads is worthless (to me, at least). Why bother reviewing a book if that’s all you’re going to say? The person has, in essence, re-written the synopsis of the novel (on the back cover), without any additional insight or synthesis and it came across as snide to me. If you didn’t want to read “frothy froth about rich French people and their angst,” then why’d you read it? It never pretended to be anything else and that’s why I appreciated this novel. It’s times like this when I wish I could give half stars on Goodreads because it’s not quite what I would consider 5 stars, but not quite as low as 4 stars. Now on to my response.
As I mentioned earlier I decided to bump this higher on my list as I missed a trivia question and realized how woefully lacking French literature (Classic) is from my lists and my life.
Having finished it, I’m not quite so sure it was a bad thing French literature was missing from my life. There were parts of the novel I really enjoyed, the romance, the passion, but there were parts that dredged on and definitely left me wishing Flaubert was a more concise writer.
This is of course the story of Madame Bovary (Emma – my trivia question was ‘ In which novel by Gustave Flaubert is Emma the protagonist?’) and her fall from grace. I would say it’s a story of lessons—Don’t live beyond your means; Believe in love, and don’t give into lust; and Never stop dreaming, but know where the line between dream and reality is. We follow Charles Bovary from his time as a young school boy through to his education and his first wife. His first wife dies and he eventually marries Emma, and the rest of the story is about their love (or lack thereof) and Emma’s search for extramarital love/life. The ending is sad, but poignant.