Posts Tagged ‘book review’

Title: A Doll’s House
Author: Henrik Ibsen
Genre: drama
Publisher: Dover Thrift
Published: 1879
number of pages: 72
my rating: 4/5

A Doll’s House is realistic play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. The plot centers on the marriage life of Nora, a seemingly ridiculous housewife who is merely not taken seriously and controlled by her husband Helmer, who has recently been promoted at the bank. Nora has forged her father’s signature to pay for a visit to Italy with her ill husband without his knowledge, making him think that her father provided the money. When her childhood friend, Mrs Linde, is desperately seeking a job, Nora promises to ask her husband to give her one. This threatens the job of Krogstad, a lawyer, who may be replaced by Mrs. Linde. He happens to be Nora’s secret loaner, so he blackmails her, threatening to reveal Nora’s forgery if his job is given to Linde, even though he has also committed forgery before. This leaves Nora anxious, as she travails to prevent Helmer’s reading of a letter from Krogstad; this situation forces her to confront her husband and finally question her role as woman.

Ibsen’s uniqueness is his ability to convey everyday and realistic situations with suspense. Nora is woman trapped in society’s perception of a wife’s role. She is playfully addressed by her husband, who calls her a “skylark” and a “squirrel”, and as Nora herself says in the end, has never addressed her seriously. Although Nora proves that she subliminally understood her hapless role, she seemed unconscious of it, accepting her husband’s ridiculous remarks. At the end, she commits the scandalous doing of leaving her children and her husband, declaring, “ I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are…” and slamming the door shut after herself. Before a woman leaves her husband, she may stay for the sake of her children, but Nora does not do this. She considers herself a human being before she is a wife and mother, and does not let this alter her decision.

According to Sparknotes, Ibsen’s believes that both partners should treat each other equally in a marriage. Nora’s abandoning her husband and children may have been scandalous, and arguably irresponsible, but I think that Ibsen posed that question as a reflection of the society he was living in, which is comparable to today’s.


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In his 2000 memoir, Out of Place, Palestinian critic and Columbia University Professor, Edward Said, recounts his life (mostly his childhood and early adulthood) in Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and ultimately the U.S.

The theme of this book is feeling “out of place”: being a Christian Palestinian Arab American, Said was affected by the political upheaval around him, and his father’s difficult scrutiny of him, or “bullying” caused him to be shy and lack esteem as a child. His complicated but close relationship with his mother is also a major topic in this book, about which he writes several passages, showing his skill at putting subtle expressions on paper; he also rounds up the book with the topic of his mother.

Out of Place is an honest and moving account of coming of age and belonging. It is astounding how Said remembers the details and names of his formative years, and especially the people – family members, teachers and friends – who have influenced his life.

At a later phase of the book, Said writes harrowingly about the experience of being fatally ill and the feeling of nearing death. Out of Place is not just an episodic autobiography, but a sort of reflection and realization of the past which shaped the author’s life. Edward Said’s writing contains memories and scenes infused within each other; each memory smoothly leading to another: It is a mesmerizingly absorbing book and page turner..

Said writes lively accounts of the many dimensions of school life in Cairo and the United States: the cunning tricks he and his friends played on his teachers, corporal punishment, unjust teachers (astonishing how one remembers those school authorities who used to pick one you), friendship, loneliness, and generally the bizarre and absurd things of school.

He also discusses his avid love for classical music and literature. As a young person, Edward was, even if subliminally, aware of the the effect of colonization and dispossession, for he had lived through it himself and observed its victims. Out of Place is an ebullient account and reflection on an intellectual’s life, filled with rich and touching memories and dialogue (made all the more vibrant with Arabic phrases).

I think that Out of Place is a quintessential book in the memoir genre; read it.

Out of Place on Amazon

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Title: Other Colors: Essays and a Story

Author: Orhan Pamuk

Note: I’ve read most of the essays on this book, but not every single one of them.

Other Colors is a collection of non-fiction pieces and a story by the Turkish Nobel laureate, Orhan Pamuk. The book is mainly composed of literature, politics, and personal essays, including an interview and Pamuk’s Nobel Lecture.

Other Colors is a wonderful book because it shows the reader an honest portrait of Pamuk. It includes many thoughtful pieces which Pamuk has written over the years. In the section Books and Reading, Pamuk reflects on great authors such as Camus, Dostoyevsky, Kafka and Victor Hugo. The good thing about Other Colors is that there is something in there for everyone and every mood, ranging from amusing reflections on everyday life and Pamuk’s childhood, to his observations and thoughts on Europe and Istanbul.

Pamuk’s essays, especially the ones on his childhood, family and on literature, were very inspiring for me. He writes deeply about the process of writing and reading, often discussing what thoughts are in the reader’s minds and literature shapes one’s identity.

Pamuk writes in “In Kars and Frankfurt”:

“…For it is by reading novels, stories and myths that we come to understand the ideas that govern the world in which we live; it is fiction that gives us access to the truths kept veiled by our families, our schools, and our society; it is the art of the novel that allows us to ask who we really are.”

Finally, I’d like to mention Pamuk’s Nobel Lecture, “My Father’s Suitcase”. It is one of my favorite pieces of writing by Pamuk. He writes about the pleasures of reading, and his father’s failed attempts to become a poet, and how, nevertheless, he was always encouraged by him. You can read the lecture or download it here.

The best way to know the true Pamuk is to read Other Colors, in addition to his stories, of course. Pamuk proves to be a great and sympathetic writer and literary person. His reflective essays are very true, delectable, but also sad at times.

Other Colors at Barnes and Noble

http://www.orhanpamuk.com/ and Pamuk at NobelPrize.org

Read my review of My Name is Red, also by Orhan Pamuk

NyTimes review of Other Colors

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gatsbyThe Great Gatsby tells the love story of the rich Jay Gatsby and the childish, wealthy Daisy Buchannan. Set in the Jazz Age following World War One, it chronicles the attitudes of the new arising society. After five years, Gatsby finds the chance of accomplishing his dream: winning back his old lover Daisy, with the aid of the new outsider, Nick Carraway, who comes to Long Island to sell bonds but becomes deeply involved in the story. Gatsby is disappointed in the end after discovering that the notion that Daisy deeply loves him was untrue.

I think that Nick Carrway’s point of view was a very good way of describing the new period after World War One because it showed the attitudes of its people from another detailed perspective.


“That fellow had it coming to him. He through dust into our eyes just like he did in Daisy’s, but he was a tough one”.

Tom Buchannan says this after he and Daisy confront Nick for the last time; but more importantly, after the shooting of Jay Gatsby. After vainly trying to convince him otherwise, Nick loses hope of making them understand the truth. Tom doesn’t seem to know that it was Daisy who recklessly killed Myrtle, the wife of George Wilson the garage owner, with whom Tom was having an affair. Daisy, who knows that she killed Myrtle, doesn’t tell Tom the truth and follows along. In my opinion, knowing the truth wouldn’t have changed anything on the behalf of Tom. Although he doesn’t know the truth, he doesn’t want to know. He is content with living luxuriously and care-free in his ignorance.

When Gatsby becomes rich, he turns into a material man. Before the war, Daisy leaves him for the wealthy Tom Buchannan. The past five years, during which he turned himself into a millionaire, he has been thinking of fulfilling his dream of getting Daisy back, with the dreamy notion that she still loves him and had been faithful to him all those past years, like he had been. In the movie and in the book, his confusion is shown in this moment:

“Oh, you want too much!” she cried to Gatsby. “I love you now—isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past.” She began to sob helplessly. “I did love him once—but I loved you too.”

Gatsby’s eyes opened and closed.

“You loved me TOO?” he repeated.

“…It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…”

This is still relevant today. Tom and Daisy both have narcissist attitudes, and when they are engulfed in their own depressed worlds, they care not what they do around them, and they have no guilt over their doings.

The 1974 movie a good companion to the book. To me, it focused more on the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. Mia Farrow performed an excellent portrayal of Daisy Buchannan. I didn’t think that she overacted. She visually showed Daisy’s character as it was. Robert Redford also very-well depicted the “cool” and mysterious character of Gatsby. However, some silent moments in the play seemed like gaps to me, they were awkward.

The people of the Jazz Age, as Fitzgerald depicted them, were fascinating:

“I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited, they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Long Island and somehow they ended up at Gatsby’s door. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.”

After not even having Gatsby (but some “acquaintances” of his) and even enjoying themselves at his great mansion, they accuse him of being a German spy and of killing somebody. This shows the immorality and vicious gossip in the 1920s.

I find Gatsby’s situation sad because he has always genuinely loved Daisy, perhaps something rare in that period, but he thought he could win her back and please her through material and his great house. Gatsby was so determined in achieving his dream that he thought he could repeat the past (“Why of course you can!”) He reminds me of Florentino Ariz, in Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, who waits fifty-one years, nine months, and four days for his lover’s husband to die. The difference is that Florentino achieves his dream, proving the power of enduring love and patience, unlike Gatsby, who has been patient also. Florentino did not attempt to change himself or his status; but Gatsby thought he could win back Daisy through the wrong way; millions and materialistic luxury.

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Kafka on the Shore is about a young teenager named Kafka Tamura who runs away from his father in search of his unknown mother and sister. Parallel to Kafka’s story is that of Nakata, an elder who lost most of his intelligence during a mysterious incident he went through as a child. As a result, Nakata gained the ability to speak to cats, and he finds people’s missing cats as a job. Although these two characters never meet, they are somehow related by a force beyond this world.

The Structure of Kafka on the Shore is very creative. Kafka and Nakata’s stories are narrated parallel to each other, and they run alternatively. Kafka, the runaway, narrates his own story in the first person. Nakata’s story, on the other hand, is narrated through the third person, but that narration, in a subtle way, approximates to Nakata’s own manner of talking and thinking. Since Nakata’s accident made him lose a part of his intelligence and maybe made him less eloquent, the author gave him a voice through the third person, but personalized it to suit Nakata himself. I found that very impressive.

Kafka on the Shore is a dreamy novel, yet it is sophisticated and modern. In this story, characters encounter ghosts, it rains fish and leeches, and the characters visit completely different worlds, such as a place hanging between life and death. Sometimes the characters’ subconscious minds narrate parts of the story. Murakami’s writing makes the reader actually live in his dreamlike world. He very well manages to put you in the situation of his characters, and when you begin reading the stories of those two characters, especially Kafka’s, you will soon drift inside their worlds and share their feelings and thought.

Kafka on the Shore is rich with allusions to old theories, Greek Gods, literature, and Franz Kafka. Not only that: Kafka is haunted by an oedipal prophecy during his escape. The supporting the characters in Kafka on the Shore are very memorable; they stand out. The theme of this novel is gloomy and depressing, but it has a great sense of humor in some parts.

Kafka on the Shore is not the type of book which one will forget after reading. Although I found some parts of the novel tedious, I find it is sophisticated and grand. There are many mysteries still remaining in this book, and Murkami makes the reader feel there are elements blended in the book way over the top of one’s head.

Haruki Murakami writes in a sort of Kafkaesque style, and his world is fully believable and livable. If you would like to escape, this is the book to read. Not everyone might enjoy Kafka on the Shore; however, there is no denying  Murkami has a dexterous hand at writing, and his technique is worth mentioning.

One review said, “…[Kafka on the Shore] attempts to tap into the same fevered dream-logic as Franz Kafka’s novels and stories, but unlike those metaphysical dead-ends, Murakami’s narratives offer his characters a way out. (Though never a way back.)” —Scott Blackwood, Austin American-Statesman

I find this true; Murakami’s not-absolutely-innocent characters are spared, for they are only human, and they have a second chance to live their lives all over again and start from the beginning.

Buy from Amazon

Haruki Murakami’s website

New York Times review

New Yorker review

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Anne Frank’s diary is more than a witness to the oppression Jews faced during the Holocaust, but it is an intimate account on the details of adolescence. I think that Anne Frank represents teenagers around the world, no matter what their situations are.  Not only is The Diary of a Young Girl an important document in a historical context, but it is also important in a personal context, I’m sure all teenagers can relate to it. Anne Frank symbolizes adolescents universally, and she proves that even a Jew during the Holocaust has the same feelings as any other teenager. The Diary of a Young Girl is a great insight into the mind of an intellectual, brilliant and friendly person who loves to learn. Anne Frank’s character is so strong and powerful that her account is very inspiring. This is a great book because it gives you a close view of the characters of the victims of the holocaust, such as Mr. Dussel, who is always irritated by Anne, and Mrs. Van Daan, the pretentious and judgmental wife who is living in “The Secret Annex” with her husband along with The Franks. Anne’s Frank’s diary should not just categorized into “holocaust studies” because it will forever remain a relevant and important book, with very deep and truthful observations of life. This diary is evidence that people can maintain their lives and manage even in the worst of situations. Living in hiding behind a bookcase, in a secret branch of an office building, having to speak in whispers and not use water so that the people downstairs don’t discover them, all the people in The Secret Annex manage to have dinner, deal with the issue of sanitation, etc. even in the most awkward of situations!

As Anne Frank matures, so does her writing, and she gradually becomes more and more articulate. I think that, and she says so too in her diary, that Anne’s experience, although unfair and horrible, has made her a stronger and wiser character.

Anne puts into words what all adolescents feel at one time or another, such as not being understood or appreciated by others and wanting to be independent.

Of course, this book has its issues. The beginning may not be very interesting or engaging, it’s filled with everyday details and can be a bore to the reader, but things start to deepen in the end,where she describes her relationship with Peter van Daan, how she feels toward her mother (also in the middle of the book), and what she thinks of herself. However, I don’t think that the book should be judged so critically because, first of all, Anne has already gone through, among millions of others, horrible situations. Imagine being in hiding for 2 years and not being able to go outside, fearing any knock on your door is somebody who wants to take you. Also, Anne Frank only thought of being published in the end, and what was written before that was, in the beginning, thought to be for her only.

Anne Frank’s is a very sad story because it you read about what happened to her later, you’ll notice that had things happened a little later, everything would have turned out differently. I think that her situation was actually very hopeful and optimistic. I’m mentioning again that The Diary of a Young Girl is a major book. I think that for both teens and adults, it will either inspire them to write their diary or encourage them to continue writing. It will make people look at life with a different perspective, one which is more optimistic and intelligent.

Note: be sure to read the Definitive Edition of the diary, because it has a couple of entries that are not in the older version.

Shmoop: The Diary of a Young Girl


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"…On the surface, I seem to have everything, except my one true friend”

“Riches, prestige, everything can be lost. But the happiness in your own heart can only be dimmed; it will always be there, as long as you live, to make you happy again.”
Anne Frank

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To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

I have just finished reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and in this post I’d like to focus on Atticus’ character, which I admire because of its decency and ethical behavior.

I think that although this book is about racial prejudice and injustice, it is also centered around the character and views of Mr. Atticus Finch, who is the narrator’s father and the lawyer defending the black man, Tom Robinson. I find Atticus a very idealistic, moral character. He has a great sense of humor and tries his best to raise his children as a single parent. I think that the hearing was not shown until the second part of To Kill a Mockingbird because the author wanted the reader to get to know Atticus as a person and a father, not just as a white lawyer defending an African American. The ending was so poignant and peaceful, and also showed Atticus as a loving and caring father. This view is best rendered by his young daughter because it shows his intimate and personal side. He is always pressured by his family to raise his children properly; he never hits them, and he doesn’t insist that his daughter act ‘like a lady’, as his sister thinks.

Atticus Finch also has strong views on the treatment of whites toward blacks. He considers his black cook, Calpurnia, as family and refuses to fire her even when his sister tells him to. In another moment in the book, he drives her home. He also tells Scout that he despises it when a white person takes advantage of a black person’s ignorance.

Atticus said a great thing at the end of the book, which was “Most people are [nice] Scout, when you finally see them”. When Jem shows dislike towards their dying, mean elderly neighbor, Mrs. Dubose, Atticus tells him that she already has problems and that she is courageous for fighting her morphine addiction before dying. Scout appreciates this, and realizes that Atticus was right when she notices Mrs. Dubose’s gentle side.

To Kill a Mockingbird is such a great novel because Harper Lee’s storytelling abilities are very moving, and she could play with your emotions at all the surprises, warm moments, and downturns in the book. To Kill a Mockingbird is a stirring book. For example, the cross-examination scene had a lot of tension in it and the moment when Dill secretly arrives without the knowing of his aunt had me flabbergasted. The dialogue of the book was very funny and filled with rich Southern culture. I think that it is loved by so many people because people could personally relate to To Kill a Mockingbird, which is an intimate account of the southern life, racial inequality and family. Harper Lee’s detailed and heart-warming writing brings the character of Atticus to life by observing him through the eyes of his daughter, making him an utmost idyllic, unforgettable character.

“… As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”
Atticus Finch


“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
Atticus Finch


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