29 Haziran 2015 Pazartesi

Book Review IV: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Goodreads on the book:

The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness -- in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

My review:

Well, I don’t know where to start… First of all, I have so many complicated feelings about the book… I could say that it is a very good book and I was kind of sad when I turned the last page; yet, I did not have the same feelings until the midway through the book. The main reason is that B. Smith wrote a character-driven book which is a kind of a “slice of life”, though it is not so much ordinary one given the fact that Francie, main character, and her family had to fight with starvation and struggle to live.

The writer takes her time to give all tiny details about the daily life of the family so that readers could feel like a part of it. Indeed, she seems to be very successful in doing so because I have read so many comments on the book about how readers felt sorrow and pain for the family, especially Francie, and even sobbed. This is the proof of writer’s ability to catch readers’ attention. My reservation is that at the beginning I was not really sure whether I should keep up reading or abandon it because it was just boring and it took almost 200 pages to start fully enjoying the book. In other words, it depends on the taste of different readers: Some may not like such an approach and would like to directly get into an instant thrilling plot. Others have no rush to get into what they read.

Francie is a very strongly built character with a great imagination albeit having emotional up-and-downs throughout the book. Other figures of Nolan Family was described and detailed sufficiently enough that readers feels a part of this slice of life. However, there are some daily rituals of Francie that the writer mentions at the beginning of the book and seems to forget about until the very end of it. To illustrate, the writer at the beginning mentions that Francie is such a voracious reader and reads one book per day (from library). One may expect lots of scenes and parts devoted to “what she read in a given day”, “what she experienced in the library” or “which book had a huge impact on her in a given situation”.

Furthermore, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn provides an opportunity to understand American society the first two decades of 20th century. Readers may surprise about customs of the time and the little ghetto of Brooklyn, views on immigrants, image of Germans etc.   

All in all, if you like character driven novels, it is a must-read historical fiction. Otherwise, I still recommend you to read it but be patient. It will catch you sooner or later. 

20 Mayıs 2015 Çarşamba

Book Review III: Coming Up For Air by George Orwell

Goodreads on the book:

George Bowling, the hero of this comic novel, is a middle-aged insurance salesman who lives in an average English suburban row house with a wife and two children. One day, after winning some money from a bet, he goes back to the village where he grew up, to fish for carp in a pool he remembers from thirty years before. The pool, alas, is gone, the village has changed beyond recognition, and the principal event of his holiday is an accidental bombing by the RAF.

My Review: 

To begin with, if you read Orwell’s classics of “Animal Farm” or “1984” and if you are expecting a book of that kind, you are in the wrong place. This Orwell is completely different one and “Coming Up for Air” has nothing to do with those two books. It does not necessarily mean that this is a worse one but rather it serves to another taste. The first two books were delivering its political messages with a utopian approach at the highest level that made them get a place in each and every must-read-before-you-die lists.

However, Coming Up for Air is like a real life story with an apparently intelligent sense of humor. It takes more than the half of the book to travel to the childhood and memories of the George Bowling, the main character. It is about the story of a miserable man mostly during interwar years. I consider the story boring since the main character is a boring man. He always complains and starts things which he rarely completes. The story gets so dull at some points that make it harder for me to keep reading. Maybe it is because of the pages of unnecessary details which have almost no influence on the main or sub-topics of the book. Some people could call the book as a book of a marriage, of course, from the perspective of an annoying, unhappy, fat and middle aged man.

Overall, Coming Up for Air is a well-written story but not a fascinating, surprising or thrilling one. The book ends with the same depressed mood it has started. Well, it is up to you whether to discover a different version of Orwell within a tragi-comic context or skip it so as not to destroy Orwell’s image in your mind built with his abovementioned classics.