The Marriage of Opposites

I always left my window open at night, despite the warnings I’d been given.

Visually stunning, to start out with a cliche compliment. A book that could very well be turned into a TV show, but is vibrant, bright and visual enough to not necessarily need the obvious image to accompany the story. The story is the image, full of them, bursting in technicolour.
The blurb talks about the life of the mother of painter Camille Pizzarro, but ‘story about stubborn woman on a small island in the 1900s’  would have done fine as well. Rachel isn’t impressed by what her parents, religious community and society tells her to be and do, and fights their ideas in many ways. Old stories, mythology and distance to the rest of the world turn her into a heroine in a magical-realistic world.
That doesn’t mean that she’s likeable full time, the woman is stubborn and arrogant and stubborn. Camille – being her carbon copy – doesn’t make things easier inside the family (home). It does make for bigger surroundings, with Paris becoming a participant of the story later into the book. And through Hoffman’s words, Paris might have never looked lovelier.
Still, this is Rachel’s book, and she deserves it.
The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman, Simon&Schuster 2015

Disappearing Moon Cafe

He remembered that by then he was worn out from fighting the wind.

Sometimes you are simply (already) invested in a novel because you struggled to get it. Or like ‘struggle’; it’s not like I had to climb trees and survive the Sahara to get to it. It was just a tough-to-acquire eBook with a picky view of in which app to work. Anyway.

This was an experience, opposed to just another novel. Maybe I’m simply not used to Asian actors and their certain style yet, maybe it was simply because the jumps through time got me bewildered a few times.

There’s over a century of stories within the family, from second(/third/fourth?) cousins to daughters-in-law, first sons and grumpy (great-)grandmothers. A Chinese family in Canada, Chinese-Canadians and the Chinese family members left behind in the other country.

It’s a family tree book with immigration, racism and sexism mixed in. The not-western point of view doesn’t alienate, because everything that happens is simply too familiar. Everyone’s got a family, some roots just grow further and wither slower.

Disappearing Moon Cafe, Sky Lee, Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. 1990

A Wrinkle in Time

It was a dark and stormy night.

This was a cooler experience than expected. I expected a children’s book from another age, not a mix of Abarat, Narnia and love of science. There’s discussions of religion, space travel and personal development.

And it all starts with a missing father and strange creatures asking Meg, her weird brother, and a popular boy for help. All three of them are essential – for different reasons – in the fight against the scary dark. It’s all very visual and vibrant, and I’m quite curious about how and how much it will be shown in the movie that’s made based on it.

It’s a children’s book like one of those that are mentioned in fiction, and reading it as an ebook somehow felt like I was missing part of the experience. Yes, there are some questions raised, but they are the kind you accept as unanswered because they don’t sabotage the story and/or we know an answer might follow (there’s a lot more books in the series).

I read this for a Book club, and I didn’t even feel like it was a waste of time. Which sounds like little, but means that I feel like it added to my Books Read, instead of subtracted.

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, Farrar Straus Giroux 1962

Beaches

123 min.
Why didn’t I watch this sooner? And why did I had to dig down to the eighties for a Female Friendship Is Awesome kind of movie? How do I get my hair like Bette Midler’s red curls?

beaches-movie-posterBeaches is the story of Hilary Whitney and C.C. Bloom. Two young girls from very different backgrounds start a friendship. Of course, as friendships go, it’s not just roses and happiness. One of them grows up a lot more colourful than the other (Midler’s C.C., who goes all out in outfits and hairdo’s to fit her star studded career path), fights happen and are resolved again. It’s almost completely focused on the two women and how they evolve. Heck, there’s even conversations that aren’t about men, making this a Bechdel-friendly movie.

But? Yes, friendships don’t always end well, even if the people involved don’t want them to. It gives a tad more weight to the happy fluffiness — because it’s so very clear that Hilary and C.C. are the Real Friendship Deal. The movie’s balanced enough to not hurt your teeth, just your heart.  Still, it’s worth the fun and colour of it all. A classic on the softer side of things.
Beaches, Touchstone Pictures 1988

In The Flesh

9 x 56 min.

More zombies? Yes, but possibly like you’ve never experienced them before. These zombies view brains as a delicacy, they are back from the dead, and they are medicated in such a way that they are not rabid any more and need to assimilate (back) into society. The bbbc-in-the-fleshBBC sometimes likes to spin things just a bit differently, and this time they do it well.

If the pain and discomfort of having undead murderers move back into your neighbourhood, add a bit more human horror with having the neighbourhood being a small, Northern England one, and have the main character be different in another way as well: main character Kieren is gay. It’s hard to discover which one is viewed as worse.

That makes In The Flesh – possibly more than other zombie stories – a show to look at your way of viewing the other in society, and the hypocrisy of Not In My Backyard and the like. This doesn’t turn it into a Save Humankind pamphlet, which might make things even a little bit more depressing. And yet, it’s a show to watch, a pain to suffer. That darn BBC again.

In The Flesh, BBC 2013

The Privileges

A wedding!

Rich people getting richer and investing it in all kinds of things, followed for give or take twenty years. If it would have been written by a woman and for a younger audience, it would have been compared with Gossip Girl.

Is this comedy, or slice-of-life? Does the family portrayed deserve sympathy or is this only a devoted piece to capitalism?

Possibly all of the above. When it’s mentioned that there’s more money “than we know what to do with” or that will last four human beings several life times, it’s easy to curl a nose up in disgust. Even when the age old Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness gets more and more support, because oh no — the rich girl has decision-stress.
And yet. Jonathan Dee manages to keep the human side of things very close. That way The Privileges stays mildly interesting, easy to read. In the end, an adult Gossip Girl with more mention of finances, less brand name dropping and more believable characters.

The Privileges, Jonathan Dee, Corsair 2011

Mrs. Bridge/Mr. Bridge

Maar waarom bespreek ik twee boeken tegelijkertijd? Omdat ik ze alleen als één boek was tegengekomen, tot de Nederlandse versie. Ik ging uit van een twee-kanten-van-dezelfde-munt-verhaal, ondanks dat er tien jaar tussen zit.
Ik had niet helemaal gelijk.

Haar voornaam was India – ze kon er nooit aan wennen.

India Bridge leeft een leven in een gouden kooitje, en niet eens omdat haar man en de samenleving haar daarin hebben opgesloten. Nee, ze is zelf niets, weet niets, heeft geen prikkels om te doen, laten, ontwikkelen. Ze leeft in de jaren dertig van de VS, in een rijke en veilige omgeving. En zodra haar kinderen oud genoeg zijn om voor henzelf te zorgen (en dan is er ook nog de meid), is er niks voor Mrs. Bridge te doen. Het is benauwend en gekmakend. Is zij een creatie van het tijdperk of wordt haar karakter alleen maar versterkt door haar situatie en omgeving? Kan alsjeblieft iemand uit haar cocoon trekken om te ontdekken of er wel een mens in zit? Kleinburgerlijke horror dat zich eigenlijk dus niet eens zo lang geleden afspeelde.

Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, Viking Press 1959

Vaak dacht hij: mijn leven begon pas toen ik haar leerde kennen.

Is het voor mannen dan veel beter? Nou ja, ze worden in ieder geval niet als porseleinen leeghoofdjes behandeld. Maar het keurslijf van wat moet zit ook aan deze kant goed strak. Is mevrouw Bridge op allerlei momenten emotioneel, meneer Bridge kan alleen met materialisme zijn genegenheid tonen. Opvoeding gaat hem ook niet goed af, want dat is tenslotte een vrouwending. Men leeft naast elkaar, niet met elkaar. Het is een geschiedenisboek dat wederom laat zien dat mannen ook feminisme nodig hebben, dat ‘vroeger was het beter/charmanter’ een term is van mensen die niet verder kijken dan de lak van de mooie auto’s. Eerst de een, dan de ander, of tegelijkertijd met steeds een paar hoofdstukken mixen, beiden zijn het lezen waard.

Mr. Bridge, Evan S. Connell, Knopf 1969