Tuesday, April 17, 2007

4. A Thousand Acres

The novel by Jane Smiley. I read this recently and, subject to some reluctance to believe that a hard-working farmer would do such horrible things to his daughters, thought the novel very skilfully constructed. It turned me from a slow reader into a (temporarily) moderately quick one. The writing is often worth savouring.

An interesting review here:

I found the voice of the narrator intriguing and wondered just how much of King Lear Smiley was going to be able to transpose to 1970s Iowa. Turns out, quite a bit, in a wondrously deft way that I would have termed a 'tour de force' if I used that phrase anymore.

The narrator is the eldest of the three daughters, and instead of a king dividing up his kingdom, the family farm is to be divided among the daughters somewhat early by forming a corporation in which he gives control of the farm to the children, in a sudden move that delights the older daughters and their husbands and alarms the youngest, who no longer lives on the farm nor has much to do with it.

3. The Black Obelisk

Number 3, 11 April Quiz, read about here:

The Black Obelisk is a novel written in 1956 by the German author Erich Maria Remarque. This novel paints a portrait of Germany in the early 1920's, a period marked by hyper-inflation and rising nationalism.

Ludwig, the protagonist, is in his early 20's and he, just like most of his friends, is a World War I veteran. Although aspiring to be a poet, he works for a friend, Georg, managing the office of a small tombstone company. He tries to earn some extra money as a private tutor to a son of a bookstore owner, and by playing the organ at the chapel of a local insane asylum.

Monday, April 16, 2007

2. The Postman Always Rings Twice

Number 2, 11 April quiz: here is an extract from the Wikipedia page on the crime novel by James Cain:

The story is narrated in the first person by Frank, a young drifter who stops at a rural California diner for a meal, and ends up working there. The diner is operated by a young, beautiful woman, Cora, and her much older husband, Nick Papadakis, sometimes called "The Greek".

There is an immediate attraction between Frank and Cora, and they begin a passionate affair.

Cora, a femme fatale figure, is tired of her situation, married to a man she does not love, and working at a diner that she wishes to own and improve. She and Frank scheme to murder Nick in order to start a new life together without her losing the diner.