Friday, May 23, 2008

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn

Oroonoko (or the royal slave) tells the story of an African prince who falls in love with a woman Imoinda. However, as a result of the King's jealousy both of them are sold into slavery. Despite their new status, both their attitudes and the treatment they receive remains regal.

I have mixed feelings about this book.
It is undeniably a beautiful piece of writing. The narrator describes Oroonoko in such as a way that the admiration she has for him becomes contagious. He is magnificent and charismatic: treated like a King even by those who do not know his status. He never once loses his composure even when the most horrible things are done to him. Both Oroonoko and Imoinda appear as an African Mars and Venus.
However, I disagree with those who view this text as abolitionist. I think this novel is about the nature of Kingship. Oroonoko was written at a time of political turmoil in England and Aphra Behn's novel seems to focus on that. Through Oroonoko she expresses the idea that a king is a king no matter where he is or what country he is from and that he should be treated as such. The narrator's sadness and shock at the ending of the novel seems to be due to the killing of a King rather than that of a slave. In fact, at no point in the novel do either Oroonoko or Imoinda act like slaves: they seem to lead decent lives and are not forced to do any manual work.
Oroonoko is an unlikely portrayal of the life of a slave and is to be viewed as entirely fictional. As such, it is an amazing novel which I would recomment to anyone.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Agent Zigzag by Ben McIntyre

Agent Zigzag tells the true story of Eddie Chapman: a small British criminal who turned out to be one of the World War II's most successful double agent. Chapman's story begins when the island of Jersey, one which he is a prisoner, is invaded by German forces: he then offers to act as their spy in exchange for his freedom. The first part of the novel describes his training in a 'spy school' in southern France. Once trained he is parachuted back to England with a mission: to blow up an airplane factory. Instead, he hands himself to MI-5 and, after telling them his story, offers to spy for them.

Macintyre explores the possible reasons for Chapman's action. His desire to spy first for the Germans then for the British does not appear to stem from a sense of morality or patriotism. Instead, our first impression of Chapman is that of a man who is driven primarily by self-interest. Yet, as the novel moves on, Chapman emerges as a highly complicated character whose true motivations are uncertain. Chapman appears torn between the friendships he has made with his German handlers and the mistrust and harshness with which his British superiors regard him.

A parallel to Chapman's behavior as a spy is Chapman's behavior as a lover: although he seems unable to remain attached to just one woman he nevertheless appears to make their survival and well being his priority. In a sense, he is a strangely loyal man.

Ultimately, it seems that Chapman's actions and willingness to repeatedly risk his life are the result of a desire for adventure, thrill and possibly fame.

MacIntyre's writing is amazing: the characters of Agent Zigzag and of his German and British handlers pop out of the pages of history and take life right before us. The story of Chapman is real but one, which, from any other source, may appear hard to believe, but Agent Zigzag is written in such a way that Chapman's incredibly unbelievable life becomes believable.

Personally, I loved the references to other events of the time. The story focuses on Chapman but not at the expense of other’s role in the ongoing war. In what I consider to be a nice touch, the novel even features a reference to Ian Flemming’s role in the secret service and the creation of James Bond.

We can assume this story is true since Macintyre based it on the documents MI5 has recently made available to the public.

Ben Macintyre is Writer at Large for The Times and contributes a regular Friday column. He has also pusblished a series of non-fiction historical books. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Kate Muir, and their three children.

Ben MacIntyre's Books:
- The Man Who Would Be King
- The Englishman’s Daughter
- The Napoleon of Crime
- Forgotten Fatherland
- Agent Zigzag

All of which I intend to read.

P.S: This is my first book review so any advice on how to improve is welcome.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Slow Reading Month

I am ashamed to say that my reading has slowed to the point where it barely exists.

As of tomorrow, I will be on holiday so hopefully I can get back to work. I miss it. I can't believe how stressed out not having the time to read makes me.

In the meantime: back to work.

P.S: I am still on the Eponymous challenge and looking forward to completing it!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Books To Be Read:

Marion Zimmer Bradley
Avalon Series
- The Mists of Avalon
- The Forest House (also now known as The Forests of Avalon)
- Lady of Avalon
- Priestess of Avalon
- Ancestors of Avalon
- Ravens of Avalon
- Sword of Avalon (forthcoming in 2009)

Michael Connelly
- The Black Echo
- The Black Ice
- The Concrete Blond
- The Last Coyote
- The Poet
- Trunk Music
- Blood Work
- Angel's Flight
- Void Moon
- A Darkness More Than Night
- City of Bones
- Chasing The Dime
- Lost Light
- The Narrows
- The Closers
- The Lincoln Lawyer
- Echo Park
- The Overlook
- The Brass Verdict (coming out October 2008)

Philippa Gregory
The Tudor series
- The Other Boleyn Girl
- The Queen's Fool
- The Virgin's Lover
- The Constant Princess
- The Boleyn Inheritance
- The Other Queen (coming out 2008)

C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Magician's Nephew
- The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
- The Horse and His Boy
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of The Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Last Battle

Ben MacIntyre
- The Man Who Would Be King
- The Englishman’s Daughter
- The Napoleon of Crime
- Forgotten Fatherland
- Agent Zigzag

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Eponymous Challenge

This is my first reading challenge so bear with me.

The Eponymous challenge is hosted by coversgirl at Between The Covers and can be found here.


Here’s how it works:

The challenge will run from 1 March to 31 May, 2008.

During that time your mission should you choose to accept it is to read 4 books whose titles are the name of one or more of the characters (e.g. Evelina, Oscar and Lucinda); or a description of one or more of the characters (e.g. The Merchant of Venice, Sylvia’s Lovers).

Non-fiction books and overlaps with other challenges are welcome, as are books named after four-legged characters.


My list:

- Army Wives by Tanya Biank (Read: 2/03)
- The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (Read 5/03)
- Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre (Read)
- Oroonoko by Aphra Behn (21/04)

I just came up with those names of the top of my head now so it might be subject to change.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

10 Inalienable Rights of the Reader (Daniel Pennac)

In 1992, the French author Daniel Pennac wrote Comme Un Roman in which he claimed that reading should never be used as a torture method by the educational system. The book ended with the following list:

The 10 Inalienable Rights of the Reader:
1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish a book
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to "Bovary-ism," a textually-transmitted disease
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to sample and steal
9. The right to read out-loud
10. The right to be silent.

Bovary-ism means to mistake a book for real life.

Here are the original rules in french (because I'm french and because I believe there is nothing better than the original version of a text.

Les droits imprescriptibles du lecteur:

1. Le droit de ne pas lire.
2. Le droit de sauter des pages.
3. Le droit de ne pas finir un livre.
4. Le droit de relire.
5. Le droit de lire n'importe quoi.
6. Le droit au bovarysme (maladie textuellement transmissible)
7. Le droit de lire n'importe où.
8. Le droit de grappiller.
9. Le droit de lire à haute voix.
10. Le droit de nous taire.

My dad introduced me to this writer, this novel and specifically these rules at a very young age. As my love of reading grew they stayed in the back of my mind so I thought that I would share them.

What I'm currently reading: When I Walk by Rebecca Growers

Monday, February 25, 2008

Books I've Read In 2008

I've been doing so much reading that not keeping some sort of reading log seems outrageous.

So here are the books I've read so far in 2008. I have very eclectic taste.

January - February
1. Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
2. Number9Dream by David Mitchell
3. Rasselas by Samuel Johnson
4. Man or Mango by Lucy Ellman
5. Man of Feeling by Henry Mackenzie
6. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
7. Evelina by Frances Burney
8. Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
9. The Late Hector Kipling by David Thewlis
10. Clear: A Transparent Novel by Nicola Barker
11. Vathek by William Thomas Beckford
12. When To Walk by Rebecca Gowers
13. Fourth Coming by Megan McCafferty

14. The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings by Olaudah Equiano
15. Army Wives by Tanya Biank
16. The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory
17. Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre
18. The Castle In The Forest by Norman Mailer
19. Nature And Art by Elizabeth Inchbald

20. Blood Work by Michael Connelly
21. Void Moon by Michael Connelly
22. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
23. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
25. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

26. A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly
27. City of Bones by Michael Connelly
28. The Wrongs Of A Woman (or Maria) by Mary Wollstonecraft
29. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
30. Chasing The Dime by Michael Connelly
31. The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
32. The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory
33. Lost Light by Michael Connelly
34. The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

35. The Narrows by Michael Connelly
36. The Closers by Michael Connelly
37. Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes
38. Sushi For Beginners by Marian Keyes
39. Echo Park by Michael Connelly

I'll go back to reviewing those at a later date.