Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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100 Books by 40: A Town Like Alice

I’ve been on this 100 books by 40 mission for a little over a year. At the outset, I wanted this effort to drive me to read more. If that is the only measure of success, this has been very successful. There have been other unintended consequences.

I like writing. I am doubtful that my writing is of interest to most other people, but I am satisfied with the effect the process has on my mood and thoughts. I’ve noticed through the year that my thoughts are getting easier and easier to type. I’ve picked up editing habits that yield ever better results. My posts now go though multiple draft readings across days prior to posting. Plus, rereading my year of posts helps me spot grammatical issues across time. I noticed that I have a problem mixing my metaphors. Metaphors will get extra attention in my edits from now on.

In addition to establishing better writing patterns, this year has made me a different reader. I recall in the not terribly distant past, I struggled with reading Dickens. The variations on English proved challenging. With Austen, Hardy, Eliot, Dickens, and the Bronte sisters behind me, I don’t struggle anymore. Seventeenth century British Literature feels easily in my grasp. I’m still pretty certain that I’m missing some nuance in these novels, but I easily follow plots and conversations.

These changes are positive, but I’ve noticed one effect that I’m ambivalent about. Reading these novels is making me more sensitive to technically good prose. I was gazing longingly at my unedited copy of On the Road, and I thought how exciting it will be to pick that up. It’s number 90 in my list, and it’s my favorite book. What a great way to celebrate wrapping up this adventure. Then I thought about how pedestrian recent novels feel to me now, fresh off Hardy and Eliot. What if I get to my favorite book and only find disappointment? What if I don’t enjoy David Foster Wallace anymore?

I can’t explain how sad this makes me feel. My favorite authors reach into my deepest thoughts and emotions and come back giving voice to things that I cannot find words for. Their voices resonate deeply, and make me feel less alone. But still, I’m too curious to deviate from this adventure. Now that I’ve started I must know if my most cherished books can withstand the changes that have been wrought in me.

So, all of that has nothing to do with A Town Like Alice. As mentioned in past posts, the 30’s are the land of 1000 page books, but A Town Like Alice broke from that trend with a mere 300 pages. The book is basically a war romance. The character development is good, and the true events that inspired part of the plot were fascinating. The female lead gets marched around Malaya with a group of British women for miles and miles. The Japanese didn’t have an appropriate camp to house them, so military leaders just kept sending them to different outposts without purpose. More than half of the women and children died.

I found all of the historical information in this book really interesting. It gave me a great sense of what Australia was like after World War 2. Otherwise, I found this book unremarkable.

Welcome to the 30's of the BBC's 100 best books list, also known as the land of 1000-page books.

Welcome to the 30’s of the BBC’s 100 best books list, also known as the land of 1000-page books.

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100 Books by 40: Corelli’s Mandolin

This book was cute. It was cute about familial relationships. It was cute about love. It was cute about conflict. It was cute about war. If a book can be cute about World War II, what can’t it be cute about? Nothing. The answer is nothing. For the first quarter of the book, I found this pithy dialog endearing. The feeling shifted to irritation quickly.

The book was set in World War II on a small Greek island. Imagine if you applied the comedic tone from My Big Fat Greek wedding in a book about war? That’s what this book is. I can’t tell if this light-hearted treatment is peculiar to Greek culture or just this author. I just know that beside Gone With The Wind this seems like a children’s book.

The book did have some stellar quotes though.

“I am not a cynic, but I do know that history is the propaganda of the victors.”
“We should care for each other more than we care for ideas, or else we will end up killing each other.”

I don’t suggest reading Corelli’s Mandolin. If you want to read books in war settings Birdsong and Catch-22 were far better reads. Hell Catch-22 should just be required reading for all Americans.

I was traveling around the west coast while I was reading this book. I will leave you with a gorgeous picture of Crater Lake.

Crater Lake Panorama

This is at Crater Lake park in Oregon. The water is really that color. There was no picture editing software or filters in use for this shot.

Still gorgeous, but with some app filters applied.

Still gorgeous, but with some app filters applied.