The Color Purple

The Color Purple by Alice WalkerThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Number of pages: 288
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

* * *

Normally, I wouldn’t read a book like The Color Purple, because it’s not my usual genre. Not that I don’t read literary fiction books, but the themes of abuse and rape and all those things kind of make me squirm and feel general discomfort. I treat books as an escape from real life, so reading a book with several injustices isn’t really my priority.

But don’t get me wrong — every now and then, I read these kinds of books, too. When I do read them, I have to admit that I try to find an excuse to do so. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple was included in the list of books that we were voting for our July book discussion, and it was the one I voted for only because of the title and the other cover with the huge sunflower on it (which I really wanted for my copy, but I couldn’t find one). The book didn’t win, but we had a book buddy discussion on this (which I totally sucked at because I hardly left a comment on the thread). I ended up reading this book while I was at the beach — it felt totally inappropriate, but in a way, it’s also not. I’ll explain that in a bit.

The Color Purple is a collection of letters from a black woman named Celie to God and eventually to her sister, Nettie, covering 20 years of her life from 14 when she was being sexually and physically abused by her father, and eventually marrying an equally abusive husband she calls “Mister”. We learn of her new family, of her missing her sister and her friendship with a singer named Shug, who reveals to Celie that Mister is keeping her sister’s letters to her in an attempt to keep here where she is. The Color Purple is the story of Celie’s journey from being a victim to a survivor, from hate to love, and of family and friends and faith.

So, reading The Color Purple while I was in Boracay was interesting. Being surrounded by so much beauty and pleasure and luxury makes it hard to concentrate on what Celie was experiencing, but it was also eye-opening because somehow, reading this while on vacation kept me a bit grounded in the fact that life for other people isn’t a vacation. There’s so much pain and suffering in the first few pages of this book that it almost feels like it’s going to be a hard book to read, but Celie’s resilient personality shone through. Her letters were heartfelt and honest, and I felt myself rooting for her as the letters came.

I read in one of my friend’s reviews that it was implied in this novel that God was Celie’s most attentive listener — and I realized that I can relate to that! Every morning (or whatever time I wake up when I am on night shift), one of the first things I do is go to my room, open my Bible and pray. I used to pray only in my mind but I always end up falling asleep when I do just that, so I learned to write my prayers down in my journals. Ever since then I have filled so many journals with my prayers, and thinking back, I never felt that God had been inattentive to me in any of my entries. Though Celie somehow lost hold of her faith somewhere in the middle of the novel, there was still that lingering faith there, about how God listens and how the God she knows answered her prayer in the end. Looking back at all my entries, I realized the same was true for me — and if I read some of them there, I find that the God I know has answered my prayers. It’s not always the same way I expected, but they were answered in the best way and they were for my good.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a pretty powerful novel, if you don’t let the coarseness of the language and the format get to you. It had the same feel as A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly and The Nickel Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty, only it’s more adult and possibly more touching. While it’s not the perfect beach read, it was a pretty good reminder that there is a life outside beaches and iPhones that take an unexpected bath in saltwater.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Book Rhapsody

The Fellowship of the Ring

Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lord of the Rings # 1
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Number of pages: 458
My copy: mass market paperback, bought from National Bookstore

Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power except one — the One Ring that rules them all — which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task when Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

* * *

When the first of the Lord of the Rings movie came out a little over ten (!!!) years ago, I admit that I only watched it for two reasons: (1) everyone in my senior high school class was watching it; and (2) all the girls in my class who has watched the movie were all raving about Legolas. I didn’t care about the book (I can’t even remember if I knew of the book back then), but I only watched it because I didn’t want to be left out. I was sufficiently amazed by the movie (even if my dad slept halfway through it — it was our “date”), and I was charmed by Legolas, but I didn’t become one of the people who would watch it over and over and over again. In fact, when I tried watching it again while I was alone, I fell asleep! When I learned of the book, I knew that I wouldn’t read it anytime soon because I wasn’t a fantasy reader and I honestly thought watching the movie was enough.

My stance on not reading the trilogy remained the same even as I was exploring fantasy and as I started blogging about books. I’ve heard so many things about it — how it’s so hard to read, how it can be boring and how it’s not for everyone, so the part of me that gets intimidated by high fantasy decided to leave it alone. Until of course, it became our book of the month for my book club’s discussion. Being a co-moderator of the book club, I felt like I had no choice but to read it.

I don’t think I need to recap what happened in this book for anyone because I feel that everyone knows about it already. (But if you really need to know it’s this: Frodo Baggins inherits an evil ring of power from his uncle Frodo and he has to go to Mount Doom with friends and some people — who and they eventually form a fellowship — to destroy the ring before the bad guys get it.) So here’s my big surprise with The Fellowship of the Ring: it wasn’t such a hard read after all. Maybe if I attempted to read this back in high school or even in college, I wouldn’t have liked it as much. But now…I actually found it quite easy to get into. Oh, the prologue is kind of boring, but after that? It was really kind of easy. I suppose I had the proper conditioning too, because I read Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker the previous month (which is pretty high fantasy too) followed by George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones a few weeks later, which I read almost simultaneously with this book. I suppose this put me in the proper fantasy mindset, which perhaps helped it become easier for me to read. Sure, the hobbits and elves sang so many times in the book, and sure, Tolkien described the scenery in so much detail that it can be a bit boring at times…but overall? I thought The Fellowship of the Ring deserved all the praises that it has gotten ever since.

I guess it helped that I already had the visualization of the movie while I read the book, so sometimes I can’t help but smile whenever I remember Orlando Bloom as Legolas or Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. I loved the Council of Elrond scene even if it was the longest chapter of the book, and I was excited to get to the Balrog scene with Gandalf shouting, “You cannot pass!” (the movie version seemed more kick-ass, though!). But overall, I realized how much I liked Frodo and Sam’s friendship was written in this book. I never really cared for Sam in the movie (especially after it has been tainted so much because of their seemingly bromantic relationship), but in this book, I thought he was such a darling. Sam’s loyalty was the highlight of this book, and I loved how he was so devoted to his friend in his simple minded ways. It totally changed everything for me when I rewatched the movie.

As with A Game of Thrones, I felt a certain kind of accomplishment when I finished reading this book. LOL, I felt like I was such a cooler geek when I was done with this, but apparently, I think I need to read the other LOTR books before I can be certified. :P Which I really intend to do, especially because I really liked The Two Towers and the ending of The Fellowship of the Ring was kind of a cliffhanger.

To sum it up: I get it. I get what makes this series so amazing — or at least, a part of it, anyway. :) It helps that this appreciation was fueled by our book club’s discussion afterwards. Look at us here:

Goodreads – The Filipino Group Face-to-Face Discussion # 6: Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (photo from Maria)

The Fellowship of the Ring is definitely one of those books that one should read in their lifetime. I’m really glad this won as our book of the month last June. :)

Rating:

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BronteJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Publisher: Splinter
Number of pages:  576 pages
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Fiery passion, shocking secrets, and a compelling, vulnerable heroine in peril have made Jane Eyre an enduring favorite. When Jane becomes governess at gloomy Thornfield Hall, she falls deeply in love with the brooding, tormented Edward Rochester–and he with her. But soon Jane realizes that the house holds terrifying mysteries. What is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will their smoldering relationship survive–or will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled?

* * *

Jane Eyre is one of those books that I’ve always planned to read ever since I said I’d read more classics, but of course, never got around to because there was no immediate reason for me to read it. I was also very wary about how much time I would have to invest with this, knowing how dated the language of classic books can be, and its length. With all the books waiting on my TBR pile, and the slowness of my reading pace lately, do I really want to read a thick classic book?

But alas, I had to read Jane Eyre because, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, I was assigned to be a moderator for my book club’s fourth monthly book discussion. As someone who likes grabbing an excuse to do things, I took this chance to finally get cracking on this hefty volume. I want to do a good job on moderating the discussion, so I wanted to get this right.

Jane Eyre is an orphan, and she lived with her aunt and cousins for the past first ten years of her life. She hated living there as she was often maltreated by her aunt and cousins, so when she was finally given a chance to go to school, she takes the chance without looking back. Her years in the Lowood boarding school taught her much and prepared her for her job as governess at Thornfield Hall. But even with all these, none of these really prepared her for meeting (and eventually falling in love with) her employer, Edward Rochester.

I was surprised at the readability of Jane Eyre. It was very easy to get into the prose and even if I wasn’t able to read a few pages on several days because I was too busy, I was able to dive back in to the story without having to read back a couple of pages (or worse, read right back from the start, like how I was during the first time I read Pride and Prejudice). Jane was very easy to like and her point of view was such a pleasure to read, her thoughts showing her as a pretty independent and mature woman for her age. It’s not fluff, but I can’t really call it dark either because I never felt that it wasn’t even with all the references to the silent manor and the weather and all that.

Of course, one cannot deny the romantic aspect of this novel. It was oftentimes cute and there were some swoon-worthy moments, but I just had to laugh at how corny and Rochester’s lines can be! I often called it “Style mo bulok” (loose translation: a Filipino slang term for old-fashioned romantic moves) because his lines were often laughable even if it is still romantic. Their conversations/verbal sparring made their interactions most fun, and I liked how their affection for each other developed from this and not from just physical attraction. I liked how the story didn’t focus purely on the romance (even if it was pretty much the climax of it), but on Jane’s choices based on what she knew was good for her and her heart. I can see what makes this book a feminine novel, but it’s not too much in-your-face that makes this book less appealing to males. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a lot of guys who finished reading the book and shared their insights in the book discussion. :)

A few days ago, I was talking to some bookish friends about Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, and one of them talked about how the Brontë sisters’ novels appeal more to the younger crowd while people tend to appreciate Austen more when they’re done with high school or college. Brontë novels tend to focus more on the drama, almost akin to Filipino soap operas that bring on the drama to reel the audience in. I find myself agreeing because comparing Jane Eyre with the few Austens I’ve read, it does have that kind of generation gap. Of course it’s understandable because Austen was born before Charlotte Brontë, and Jane Eyre was written while Charlotte was young. But there is a certain kind of sophistication and lack of drama (and complicated language, I admit!) in Austen’s novels that make them different. That doesn’t mean Jane Eyre isn’t good, of course, or that there’s a superior author between them, but it’s just an interesting thing to note. While Jane Eyre didn’t exactly make me swoon like Persuasion did, I think Jane Eyre is a very good classic book. I am glad that I was given the excuse to read it now rather than later, and I am still very honored to be the one to moderate our book club’s Jane Eyre discussion. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Bookish Little Me

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Hitchhiker’s Guide # 1
Publisher: Del Rey

Number of pages: 216

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

* * *

When I was new with my current job, one of my colleagues told me about his favorite book, one that, according to him, made him laugh like a crazy loon by himself. I didn’t really take note of it, since our reading genres were very different, and even when he lent me a copy of the book, I still didn’t give much thought about it. When I first met my new friends at the book club, I saw one of them carry this big black book that looks like a dictionary…or a Bible, even. Just like that, I found myself encountering that same book again.

Of course, I still didn’t read it, because I just wasn’t interested. But ever since we started a 100 Favorite Books list in our book club, and ever since we all decided to discuss books face to face, I had run out of excuses. After years and years of not paying attention to the book, I finally picked up a copy and read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

How do I describe what this book without spoiling things, or without thinking everything I am writing is absolutely ridiculous is a bit of a problem, so I will just not write about that. Instead, I’ll write about what this book has: the end of the world. Oh, but not the Mayan kind with natural disasters. There’s also a poor guy who just happened to be at one place at a certain time who may not be so poor now because he practically becomes the last human being everywhere. And then there were aliens. Spaceships, too. And finally, the Ultimate Question. Or, not.

My friend was right, though — this book was very funny. I found myself giggling every now and then to this book, often times while I was on my commute to work or some other place. I’ve always been wary about sci-fi stuff because I feel like my brain cannot comprehend much of it (except maybe it is has something to do with computers, even if they’re medical computers), but I found The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quite readable even if it was absolutely absurd at some point. Maybe that’s really the point.

It’s funny, yes, but I didn’t really find it absolutely hilarious. It’s good, but I don’t really have the urge to get the next ones and read it immediately (although they did say it gets better there). I enjoyed it, but perhaps not quite as much as my friends enjoyed it.

However, I did enjoy discussing this book with my book club over breakfast. With questions about favorite characters, what we’ll do in case the world ends and if we’ll allow ourselves to have a babel fish (of course – very useful for travel!). Having a group of friends to discuss a book about in detail makes me like the book a little bit more, possibly because I tend to associate the memories with the book.

Goodreads Filipino Group -  Face to Face Book Discussion # 3 (Photo c/o Kwesi)

Goodreads Filipino Group – Face to Face Book Discussion # 3 (Photo c/o Kwesi)

And because it had to be commented: what kind of answer is 42, anyway?

Rating:

Other reviews:
Dark Chest of Wonders
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac
Book Rhapsody