Doctor Zhivago counts for three challenges, and actually wraps up one of my 2012 Challenges! It counts for the Back to the Classics Challenge (6 of 9), The Classics Club (12 of 100), and is my final book for the Tea and Books (8 of 8) challenge! I will do a wrap up post for the Tea and Books challenge early next week. For the Back to the Classics Challenge, this book was the novel from a place I realistically wouldn’t visit. After reading Doctor Zhivago and Anna Karenina I can say my aversion to visiting Russia is less, but I still would list it as not likely to travel to.
One thing I’ve learned that is vitally important when reading a classic novel is that you have to read the introduction. Sure it might tack on 20-30 extra pages, but they are there for a reason and they reveal so much information that is incredibly useful when reading a book, not to mention they give you a head’s up of what to look for as you read. For example, in the introduction to Doctor Zhivago, the following quote points out how the novel is written.
“Pasternak’s vision is defined by real presence, by an intensity of physical sensation rendered in the abundance of natural description or translated into the voices of his many characters.” (loc. 146)
I stumbled across The Secret Lives of Codebreakers on NetGalley and decided to request a copy as I planned on reading David Leavitt’s The Man Who Knew too Much, and I am glad I did. This book tells the stories of the individuals of Bletchley Park—not just what they were working on, but what they did in their spare time, where they came from and where they went after the war. In essence, it does everything I wanted The Man Who Knew too Much to do about Alan Turing but didn’t.
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley from the publisher. This response to the novel is my honest opinion and I did not receive any compensation for it. Penguin Group USA is releasing The Secret Lives of Codebreakers by Sinclair McKay in September of this year.
My background reading on Bletchley Park was incredibly limited, as in I had a vague recollection of having heard of it before and knew Turing was associated with it and that’s about it. I found this accounting of Bletchley Park to be riveting and I couldn’t put it down for the most part. There were a few things that were off-putting, but overall if this is the only book I ever read about Bletchley Park I feel like I’ve taken something from it. I thoroughly enjoyed the mixture of the history of the war, the technology, the social existence and the personal stories.
Overall this book was ‘meh’. I couldn’t get into it and it wasn’t what I thought it would be. With the title and the blurb I assumed the book was about Alan Turing and his life and not the history of inventions which led to modern computers. I was clearly wrong.
The book was interesting, but I just didn’t enjoy it. There was too much math and science (sometimes explained nicely so that a non-mathematician could understand it) and not enough biography. Again, this was apparently my misunderstanding. The one thing I took away from the novel about Turing was that everything that is known about him has to come with a grain of salt. He sounded like someone I would love to talk to and find out more about. What I found most fascinating was that
“Turing had displayed a remarkable degree of self-confidence and comfort in his sexual identity. That he saw his sexuality as part of his identity in the first place put him at odds with the prevalent thinking of his age, and reflected, no doubt, the years that he had spent in the privileged corridors of King’s College.” (195)
This is one of those situations where I’m glad I don’t read the backs of books carefully each time before I start reading a book. I went to the library knowing there was a book about a book thief I wanted to read. I assumed this, The Book Thief, was the correct title as a few people have blogged about it recently and I’ve a friend who also recommended it…
About a quarter of the way through the book I realized this was definitely not the book I thought it was, but kept reading. Whoops! When I finished The Book Thief I went back to my handy list of books to-be-read and found the book I planned on reading was actually called The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. A stretch, but same basic premise – a person who steals books – but completely different stories and tales.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Book Thief. It was a fast paced novel which held my attention and kept me interested with little tidbits of (what I am assuming are) factual information about WWII. Although this is the story of Liesel, it is just as much, if not more so, Death’s story. Told from Death’s point of view, this book definitely provided a different perspective to WWII than any I’ve read before.
If I had a ranking system for the novels I read and it was based on beauty, Snow Falling on Cedars would definitely be towards the top of that list. It has to take an amazing writer/wordsmith to make me want to live on a small island off the coast of Washington State and take up farming of some sort. I read this book for my Books into Movies book group at the local library and I am VERY glad I did. I plan on watching the movie later this evening or tomorrow.
Snow Falling onCedars focuses on a murder trial, but it is not just a legal story, or a love story, or even just a war story as you might think from the back cover. It is a novel about a town forced to look into the mirror and see the harsh truths and realities simmering just under the surface. Set almost ten years after the end of World War II, the novel was a lot broader and a lot more powerful (and suspenseful) than the back-cover synopsis led me to think. But, more than anything, what took my breath away was the vitriol of some of the (surprisingly mostly female) characters and their overt racism. I was surprised at how upset I was at various points throughout the novel when placed into a character’s shoes and how they were treated.