Monday, September 16, 2013

Anne Boleyn

If you follow me on Goodreads you might have noticed that I have been reading a lot about Tudor history, especially everything related to Anne Boleyn. She has become a new obsession to me, for many different reasons. The first and the most obvious is that she is some sort of enigma belonging to one of the most interesting periods of English history. She was the first queen to ever be sentenced to death, she was a reformer, and the mother of the most glorious queen England has ever had: Elizabeth I. 

What also caught my interest is the way she has been described, shown and portrayed throughout the years. She has either been a saint or a whore, depending on the point of view, and the latter has always been the most popular. This polarization bothers me but does not surprise me. Until some time ago (and sometimes even today) women belonged to either one of two categories: the angel or the devil, the saint or the whore, the poor victim or the tyrant, there was nothing in between. Well, human nature is not like that, no one is just one thing or completely one thing. No one is purely evil (maybe except Voldemort) or absolutely good. Humans are a complex combination of personality traits, feelings, contradictions, thoughts, impulses, etc. We have too many layers so labels are just rubbish. Anne Boleyn is not the first woman to have been labeled thus, and she’s certainly not the last. For example, if we look at the other Tudor women, we will see the same thing: poor and saintly Katherine of Aragon, poor Mary, who was horribly treated and bastardized by her father (although she later became Bloody Mary, with no in-between whatsoever), good and obedient Jane Seymour, horrible adulteress Katherine Howard. You see what I mean.

Among all of these women, Anne has been perhaps the most slandered and the most polarized by the public, historians, writers and filmmakers.  Let us briefly look at the facts to plainly see why there is more than what we see on the surface of the story of this unforgettable Queen:
She was accused of having slept with several different men, including her own brother and of having slandered the King by making offensive comments about his virility and such. Most historians now agree that the accusations have no evidence, are based simply on hearsay from people who didn’t like her. The dates and places do not correspond. If you look at the three years she was married to King Henry, she was either pregnant, had just given birth to Elizabeth or was recovering from miscarriages. When had she so much time (and strength) to have all these love affairs?

If Anne is guilty of something is that she was very proud. One of the things she wanted most was to be truly recognized as a Queen, to be respected as one. Do you think a woman like that would have lowered herself by having an affair with Mark Smeaton (the only one to confess to having an affair with Anne), a servant? His confession was obtained after spending some time with Thomas Cromwell and he was probably tortured.
But I will leave the history facts to the experts.

I have come to admire her because she was an outstanding woman in her context. In a time where women were supposed to be docile and obedient, she was outspoken and demanding; in a time where the ideal of beauty were blonde women with blue eyes, she was a dark beauty with expressive dark eyes. She had a mind of her own, was very independent, considering her context of course, and very much ahead of her time. She was not a puppet the King could rule so easily. This was perhaps the reason why he became obsessed with her and also, the reason he got tired of her.  I don’t think she was the saintly, helpless victim the Protestant historians described, nor the monstrous whore, the "scandal of Christendom", the Catholics (and then the public opinion and tradition) described: she definitely knew how to play the game, how to get what she wanted, how to move ahead, and she did it quite successfully for a long time, but that was ultimately her own demise because the time was not ready for a woman like her. She had many flaws but she was not the great whore, the seductive temptress, the reason for Henry’s tyranny. This is the Adam and Eve story all over again. This is how the world wants Anne to be, not how she necessarily was.

There’s so much we don’t know about her, so many voids, so many grey areas. That is part of what feeds my obsession, of wanting to discover more about her, even a little piece that allows me to see her more clearly. 

I want to think (and this is my romantic and idealistic part) that Elizabeth’s success and golden age had a lot to do with the personality traits she inherited from her mother and what she knew about her. She was a strong-minded, stubborn woman who led her country to glory. Elizabeth never married; she famously said “I will have but one mistress and no master”. I think (I want to think) that she learned that from her mother’s tragedy.

These are the non-fiction / history books I have read about the Tudors:
- Tudors (History of England Vol. 2) - Peter Ackroyd
- The Wives of Henry the Eighth and the parts they played in History - Martin Andrew Sharp Hume
- The History of England Volume I - David Hume
- Life in a Tudor Palace - Christopher Gidlow
- The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen - Susan Bordo
- The Reign of Mary Tudor - J.A. Froude (currently reading)
- The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn - Eric Ives (currently reading)
- The Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn with Notes

Fiction books I have read based on the Tudors:
- Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
- Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I finally started

Hello everybody! I just wanted to let you know that things are going to change a little here. I have finally started focusing seriously on writing my first novel (in Spanish, of course). I'll keep posting from time to time about the last books I've read and the ones I liked the most, and I will definitely continue reading Shakespeare and posting about it, but that will be a little less frequent (not that it was frequent anyway). I'll probably start writing more about the writing itself, as means to solve my own questions and doubts as I move forward with the book. I'm going to use this blog as a tool to keep me going and maybe receive some answers to my frustrations, which I will certainly have because, come on, it's part of the package.

The whole point of this blog (when I started it) was to make myself write, to be able to conquer the blank page, and I think I have finally managed to do that. I realized I needed a method, an outline, something to organize my brain and make it work. At first I thought the problem was that I had no ideas, and then suddenly I realized I had plenty of ideas (even way too many, I had trouble deciding on one and that still might change as I outline my novel), the problem was I had no idea how to start or develop it. I think I have finally managed that and I have to take advantage of the momentum and the inspiration. 

So this is a new phase for me and for the blog. I'll keep writing reviews because I love to do that, but I'll probably write more about my everyday struggles, questions and progress with the craft and art of writing a novel.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I want these!

Ok, I'm definitely getting the new edition of Harry Potter by Scholastic. The book covers are absolutely BEAUTIFUL! (Christmas present anyone? Pleeeease!). 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Quick thoughts on Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher

"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher."

Edgar Allan Poe
The Fall of the House of Usher

You cannot imagine the impact this short-story has had on me. I read it before going to sleep and I think that was a bad idea, I loved the story but then I kept dreaming about Lady Madeleine coming after me. Sometimes that happens, right? Something you read sticks with you and you keep turning it over in your head. I want to read this short story over and over again, I want to discover all of its meanings, I want to understand it all. It has a haunting effect on me, just like the house had on Frederick Usher.

It has always amazed how dark and grim Edgar Allan Poe's stories can be, but at the same time so addictive. I'm addicted to this one in particular. 

What are about you? Are you a fan of Edgar Allan Poe?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Birthday books... and a lot of wine

I turned 27 last Tuesday. TWENTY SEVEN. I’m not going to rant about getting old because that is nonsense, but there is something about approaching thirty that feels kind of weird. Maybe the weirdness comes from the fact that I still have Disney bed sheets and teddy bears on my bed. 

My dad's painting
Anyway, I had a great birthday, surrounded by friends, family and a lot of food, I had a blast. One of the differences between my birthday now and in my early twenties is that back then my friends used to arrive with chips, soda and beer. Now they arrive with dessert and wine. A lot of wine. I think I received like 6 bottles of wine for my birthday. I have only one bottle left, hehe, but hey, I didn’t drink them alone. 

My friends also got me books, yay! I’m currently reading one of the books I received as a present, The Stonecutter (Las hijas del frío in Spanish) by Camilla Läckberg. It is a murder mystery and I’m loving it. Why is it that Swedish writers are particularly good with suspense-mystery novels?

But by far, the coolest present was my dad's. He painted my present. Yes, he painted a ballerina and dedicated it to me. How amazing is that? 

But back to the books: I finished reading Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel last week and I loved it even more than Wolf Hall. I didn’t think that was possible. I’m going to write my review soon, I promise. I have been reading a lot about English history and I have my eye on some books I want to get about Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I.

So this is my quick update about the past week, I know I’m not posting as much as I would like, but at least I am reading a lot. I’ll promise I’ll post more reviews soon.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

This book has opened a door to a new obsession for me: English history. Though this is a novel, it made me look at history with new eyes and be interested in the lives of all those who were its main characters. 

Before I read Wolf Hall I thought Cromwell was basically a villain, an unscrupulous, selfish man that advised the King to get what was in Cromwell’s best interest, not necessarily England’s or even the King’s.  He was the one to blame for the execution of Thomas More and all the bloody deeds Henry VIII carried out in order to get what he wanted. But after reading this book, I was once again reminded that nothing is black and white and that Cromwell was a human being, not a villain from a Disney movie. Mantel portrays him as someone who is indeed manipulative, very smart and opportunistic, but with a sensitive side, the human side, which can also show mercy, generosity and even courage. The same happens with Thomas More, according to Mantel’s point of view he is not the impeccable saint and martyr everyone thinks him to be, he is, just like Cromwell, a flawed man, with virtues and a dark side. It was a refreshing experience to read about them in a complex and complete way.

Thomas Cromwell

I’m not going into specifics about the plot of the book because we all know about Henry’s reign and the successes and failures in Cromwell’s life. The important thing here is the perspective under which we are able to see the protagonists of this complicated period of time, which is an entirely new experience because thanks to Hilary Mantel’s detailed work, they are now colorful human beings, not just dry lines in a history book.

Henry VIII
As I read the novel, all those familiar names and stories came alive before my eyes and made me really think and reflect about the time, and how everything that took place back then has had an impact on us. Events that took place back then changed life for us now and it is an exciting thing to be able to sink into that world with the help of Mantel’s imagination (based on her extensive research and work, this is not one of those books that mixes up the dates and events and changes the outcome of things, it is the imaginative storytelling of what actually happened, she is filling in the voids of the intimate lives and characteristics of everyone involved in these events).

Since I finished reading Wolf Hall I have read two history books about the Tudors: Tudors (The History of England Vol. 2) by Peter Ackroyd and The Wives of Henry the Eighth and the Parts they played in History by Martin Andrew Sharp Hume. I am really interested in reading more about this famous dynasty and I want to focus now a little bit more on Elizabeth I, because it is the perfect context reading for my Shakespeare project. 

Anne Boleyn
I have already ordered Wolf Hall's sequel called Bring Up the Bodies and I can’t wait to read it. Wolf Hall has been a very important book in my reading experience this year because it has set the tone for what I want to read the rest of the year. I want to focus on the parts of history I love and on the context of Shakespeare’s life and works. This second-half of 2013 is going to be very Elizabethan. 

I strongly recommend to the history buffs out there to read Wolf Hall, I’m pretty sure you are going to love it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Quick Update about my progress with Wolf Hall

I was surprised when the copy of Wolf Hall I ordered from Amazon arrived in just ten days. Usually it takes about a month to get here, so I was really happy. I have almost finished reading it and I can't wait to start with Bring Up the Bodies. I'm totally in love Hilary Mantel. I have always been interested in English history, especially this time period, but now I'm obsessed.

Thomas Cromwell appears under a different light and he comes to life and guides us through this complicated world of Tudor England. I have decided to read some biographies of the most prominent characters of this time, I obviously want to read a biography of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, but also of Thomas More, Thomas Wolsey, Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour and of course, Thomas Cromwell. I also want to know a little more about The Princes in the Tower and the War of the Roses. 

I will write my complete review of Wolf Hall once I have finished the book, but I wanted to let you know how excited I am about it. 

Me sorprendí cuando la copia de Wolf Hall que pedí de Amazon llegó en solo diez días. Fue genial porque normalmente toma casi un mes en llegar hasta aquí. Ya casi he terminado de leerlo y no puedo esperar para comenzar con Bring Up the Bodies. Me encanta Hilary Mantel. Siempre me ha interesado la historia inglesa, especialmente este periodo, pero ahora estoy obsesionada.

Thomas Cromwell aparece desde una perspectiva distinta y cobra vida y nos guía a través de este complicado mundo que es Inglaterra de los Tudor. He decidido que voy a leer algunas biografías sobre los personajes más importantes de esta época;  obviamente quiero leer una biografía sobre Enrique VIII y Ana Bolena, pero también sobre Tomas Moro, Thomas Wolsey, Catalina de Aragón, Jane Seymour y por supuesto, de Thomas Cromwell. También quiero saber un poco más sobre los Príncipes en la Torre y la Guerra de las Rosas.

Escribiré mi reseña completa una vez que termine de leer el libro, pero quería compartir con ustedes mi entusiasmo.

Friday, July 5, 2013

About what I 've been doing in June

I can't believe it has been more than a month since I last wrote something here. I've missed terribly this space but work got really crazy and I couldn't find the time to write my reviews. I actually finished a couple of books (there is always time to read but not always write, I'm afraid). 

I reread The Great Gatsby at the beginning of June. I went to see the movie and it made me want to delve into the roaring twenties again. By the way, what did you think of the movie? I thought it had some flaws here and there but it was a good adaptation overall, I especially liked Di Caprio's performance, he was perfect as Gatsby. I'm still not sure about Carey Mulligan as Daisy, though...

Anyway, I read The Great Gatsby for the first time a couple of years ago and I liked it. This second time I loved it. I really admired the beautifully crafted sentences and all the emotion they conveyed. It is such a tragic story, isn't it?

The second book I read was The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, a book Lucy @Therapy Through Tolstoy recommended to soothe oneself when things are somewhat chaotic around us. I loved it, I really did. It was the perfect read for me at the moment and it did have a soothing effect. I read it before going to bed so I would dream about spending a summer in Italy, surrounded by flowers and the sea, doing only what I wanted to do and resting, which is a luxury I don't get often. Besides that, I thought it was beautifully written and every character was appealing and interesting. 

I started reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, but it was during a time I was having problems concentrating and I completely forgot about it. I have to go back to it soon because it is a really good book.

I have to tell you that I have become quite obsessed with Agatha Christie's Poirot, the British television series with David Suchet as the main character. I'm obsessed with its entire style, the air, the Britishness of it, if  you will. The same happened with the other series, the one with Mrs. Marple. I love them both. I think is time to reread some Agatha Christie. I inherited a great collection of her books from my grandmother, who was also obsessed with her stories.

And last but not least, I finally ordered Wolf Hall from Amazon. I really can't wait to read it, I hate that it takes a whole month to get here to Lima. That's what I'll be reading in August and I will also take part of the Austen in August event held by Roof Beam Reader.

In the meantime, I have to go back to My Shakespeare Project, I kind of left it aside for a while but I want to get back to The Tempest as soon as possible. And I'm also reading The Custom of the Country, by Edith Wharton, which I'm really enjoying.

That has been my June. I promise I won't disappear again for a whole month. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Villette - Charlotte Brontë

I’ve been having a hard time reviewing this book. I liked it and there were parts of it I loved, but I just can’t focus enough to write a lengthy, analytic review. Therefore, I will keep it short and sweet:

I definitely felt the autobiographical tone in great part of the book: lonely and guarded Lucy Snowe reminded me a lot of what I know about Charlotte. I empathized with her but sometimes I just couldn't understand her.  She seemed like two different people: the one she showed to others and the one she showed us, the readers. And what was also interesting is that everyone had a different opinion about her. If the people surrounding her had sat and talked about Lucy’s character, they would have never agreed. This is very interesting because she didn't necessarily change her demeanor towards people depending on whom she was with, so it is kind of difficult to pin point what exactly caused this.

She had some really sharp comments about Catholicism. Being raised a Catholic, I really understood (and agreed with) what she meant:

“There, as elsewhere, the Church strove to bring up her children robust in body, feeble in soul, fat, ruddy, hale, joyous, ignorant, unthinking, unquestioning.” Ouch!

I could see the effect that Catholicism had on Charlotte during her time in Belgium. Generally, when I come across with people that don’t agree with or have fallen away from Catholicism, they take a more atheist point of view. But Lucy (and therefore Charlotte) is a devout Christian, so it was very satisfying to read her impressions, her insights. I identified with her thoughts and opinions because my point of view regarding this subject is very similar in some aspects. I also admired Lucy’s ability to be so tolerant, even when she was the target of ignorant misconceptions because she was Protestant. She was very respectful of other people’s beliefs.

The story dragged a little bit at times, but it felt like drinking a nice cup of tea during a cold afternoon. It is definitely not as dramatic as Jane Eyre, but it has its special charm. I don’t  know exactly how to describe it.

I wish I could write a more detailed review but my mind just keeps wandering away. I've also been having trouble reading. I guess this happens once in a while when things get stressful or our minds get tired and need to shut down for a little bit... I really need some chocolate cake or something.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Quick Update: Reading plans, blogging plans and nurse duty

I meant to dedicate more time to my blog this month but things didn't turn out exactly the way I expected, so here's a quick update of what's been going on, what I have been reading and my blogging plans for the next few weeks.

I finished reading Villette the past week. I took my time with it and I really loved it. I do think it is superior to Jane Eyre in its character development: Lucy Snowe has a far more complex internal world and development than Jane Eyre, but I still like Jane Eyre a little more. I'm not exactly sure why. She's a little bit more likable, I guess. I will go into further details in the post I'll dedicate to Villette next week.

I'm currently reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I loved The Woman in White so I definitely wanted to read more from this author. I'm also working a little on My Shakespeare Project, I have been slowly reading The Tempest

I'm really busy right now, not only with work, but I'm also on nurse duty. My mom had an accident last Monday and had her entire right leg put in a plaster. It is not broken, thank God, but her knee was compromised and hurts like hell, so she's currently immobilized. We are going to the doctor again tomorrow  and let's hope she recovers soon. She's a very active person so she absolutely hates being in bed all day long. 

I plan to at least write my review of Villette in the coming week and if I have a little more time, I'll write a couple more reviews I have pending and work more on My Shakespeare Project.

Til next week!

Monday, May 6, 2013

May Meme Question for The Classics Club

This is the first time I'm answering the monthly meme question for The Classics Club, even though I have been part of it since January.

This month's question is: 

"Tell us about the classic book(s) you’re reading this month. You can post about what you’re looking forward to reading in May, or post thoughts-in-progress on your current read(s)."

The classic book I'm reading right now is Villette by Charlotte Brontë. I have been wanting to read this book for a long time and I don't know why I didn't read it sooner, although I ask myself the same question with all the books I love.

I have always enjoyed books where the inner life and thoughts of the characters are the most important part of the book, or even when the book is more focused on the development of the character than of the plot. This is that type of book: it is slow-paced but the inner world of the main character, Lucy Snowe, and its development is incredibly rich and very touching. 

Today I learned there is a readalong of Villette hosted by Too Fond. I would have loved to participate but I will probably finish reading it this week and the event starts next week. 

Besides Villette, I'm also making progress with My Shakespeare Project. I'm letting Hamlet rest for a little while and I'm starting with The Tempest this week. 

And that's about it! Have a great week!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

More thoughts on Hamlet

I have decided to let Hamlet rest for a little while and move on to another play, but before doing so, I wanted to write a post summarizing my current interpretation of the play, along with my questions, doubts and conflicting hypothesis.

One of the greatest characteristics about Hamlet and at the same time, the cause for its difficulty and depth, is its uncertainty and ambiguity. Almost all characters and events can be interpreted and understood in different ways. It is a great thing because it offers a wide range of creative possibilities. That’s the reason the performances and adaptations of this play are always so different from each other. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing new versions of this play: the words might be familiar but I still feel I’m experiencing something new, and I love that.

The problem comes when one tries to analyze the play. I have already accepted that I will never have a final answer to all my questions and that is a good thing but at the same time, kind of annoying. 

In a previous post I wrote a little about Hamlet’s delay in executing his revenge. I thought Hamlet was a very contradictory character because he is constantly delaying and making excuses for executing his plan but at the same time acts impulsively and has no problem in killing other people.

David, a fellow blogger, commented that maybe there is really no delay and that this was not a problem when the play was first performed because people knew it had to have five acts and therefore Hamlet could not kill Claudius early because then there would be no play. And that is true and I’ve read a lot of people agree with this idea. On the other hand, and what may be a problem for this theory, is that Hamlet actually refers to this delay and is tortured by it. At one point, the Ghost actually has to remind Hamlet of the task he has given him:

Ham.     Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
               That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by
               The important acting of your dread command?
               O, say!

Ghost.   Do not forget. This visitation
              Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.

(Act III, Scene IV)

I have realized I tend to believe that there is indeed a delay and a reason behind it. Why? Well, I think it is mainly because of Hamlet’s behavior throughout the play. I feel there is something strange about his demeanor, not only because he is hurting for the obvious reasons, but also because he doesn’t seem to be capable of fulfilling the Ghost’s request until extreme circumstances force him to do so. It is only at the end, when his mother is dead, that he kills Claudius and even then it is a sudden and impulsive action, not a planned one. 

I also asked myself if Hamlet is really crazy (and if that is partly the reason for the delaying of his revenge) or if he just pretends to be, in order to get what he wants, manipulate others or even distance himself from the ones that are trying to help him. I tend to believe the latter. Declaring him crazy is to oversimplify such a complex character. So, in my humble and inexperienced opinion, Hamlet is not crazy because that would be too easy and there wouldn’t be so much debate regarding the true nature of his character. I have read some people think he acts the way he does because he is just too sensitive for the corrupt, manipulative and deceiving world he lives in. Maybe he is delaying his actions because he has to come to terms with them. I don’t think I completely agree with this theory. Hamlet does show from the start certain disdain for the court and a sort of inadequacy in it, but he also shows his ability to be as deceiving and manipulative (and cruel) as the others. He kills Polonius without really knowing who he was attacking and he sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths without problem. And he is misogynistic. Yes, I know that word may be a little strong and we don’t know if he was always like that, but from what we can see in the play, he is definitely prejudiced and violent towards women. He is especially cruel to Ophelia, who is basically the victim of everyone in the play. Therefore, I don’t think he is too “pure” for what is required of him.

Then, why is it he has so much trouble? So far, what I feel most inclined to believe, is that he is having trouble with accepting the reality of his situation. He doesn’t lack the tenacity or courage, if you will, to avenge his father. I think he just can’t face the reality of what is going on. And to be completely honest, I don’t know what bothers him most: the fact that his father was murdered by his uncle or that his mother married him and loves him. I don’t know who he feels most betrayed by and maybe that is also his problem. 

Anyway, I know this subject has been discussed over and over again and I’m not providing something new, I’m just writing my impressions and doubts, but I feel that organizing such thoughts and sharing them is an important part of my experience with this particular play. 

This is not the end of Hamlet for me, I just need to leave it for a while so I can move on with my project and also to be able to come back to it with fresher eyes and maybe a new perspective, just like when I finish translating something and leave it alone for some time before proofreading it; that way it is easier to see things better and clearer.

As always, please feel free to comment, give me your opinion or debate with me. It is all part of the process I very much enjoy.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton

I fell in love with this book from the first couple of sentences. That's all it took for me to know I was really going to enjoy it: "Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station, his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart."

It was a great opening for a great story. I like its detailed study of everyday life and the deep reflection of a particular society, especially one as deceiving and tricky as the upper classes of the turn of the century. I guess I have to read more works belonging to the American literary naturalism movement. Edith Wharton is an amazing representative; she was so meticulous and thorough it made me feel very much involved with the story and its main character. 

Lily Bart is a beautiful woman of the upper-class turn-of-the-century society of New York. She doesn’t have money of her own but has an important social standing because of her family’s former wealth. She is obsessed with money and luxury and the only way for her to survive in this society is to marry “well.” She cannot conceive a life outside of what she is used to, even though this means sacrificing her true feelings. In order to achieve her goal she uses her two most powerful tools: her astonishing beauty and the impact it has on the people around her, and her ability to keep appearances and always do and say the right thing at the right time. She is great at reading people’s expressions, reactions, even their eyes. That is the only way to obtain the truth of people so obsessed with been “civil” and doing what is “convenient” and it allows her to manipulate others.

This is a ruthless society. It is obsessed with money even though the rule is to pretend it doesn’t matter. It is an artificial society because nothing on the surface is true: they lie, cheat, manipulate, back-stab and step on everybody behind a cover of polite manners and the false pretense of enjoying each other’s company. Navigating this sea of manners, customs, traditions and prejudices is an art and the women successful in it could have easily been successful diplomats: knowing to whom to be loyal depending on what is convenient, helping pave the way into society of a newcomer who could be of use once in it, turning your back on the “wrong people” in order to save yourself from scandal, etc.  I wonder if there was any truth in anything they said to each other in their efforts to be successful. 

Hypocrisy is at the order of the day in many ways. They disapprove of women who openly want to marry for money but they will turn their backs on the ones who don’t marry into money. Men are allowed to behave “suspiciously” but women aren't,  they won’t even receive the benefit of the doubt, the worst is always assumed and gossiped about. The saddest part of this is that a woman’s worst enemy is another woman. They will destroy each other if they have to, they will even do it out of spite.

Everyone plays a role, everyone acts. Keeping appearances was the goal, a way of life, an ideal, even though it involved so much misery most of the times. 

Lily is the victim of this society but she almost sabotages herself as well. She eventually comes to realize that money will never bring her true happiness, but she also knows she will never be happy without it either. She is destined to always be dissatisfied. One could easily condemn Lily for wanting to marry for money, for wanting a “nice” life. But that wouldn't be entirely fair. At the time, women could not support themselves at that level unless they were heiresses. The only way to obtain a safe, secure, “nice” life was by marrying well. It was a matter of survival. One could also say: “What’s the need to be rich and fabulous? She was a fool”. And yes, she was a fool several times but consider her context, her upbringing, what she thought she was made for:

“Since she had been brought up to be ornamental, she could hardly blame herself for failing to serve any practical purpose”.

The consequences of Lily's actions and decisions caused her a great deal of pain and I found myself being angry at her for her foolishness but at the same time angry at a society that created an unsustainable situation for women like Lily. A society that created an impossible standard of righteousness that they didn't follow themselves but tried so hard to enforce. 

What should have surprised me but unfortunately didn’t is that even though times have changed and women don’t have the same limited position, the upper class societies are basically still the same prejudiced, false and elitist group of people. Lima is so far away from the elite New York society of the late 1890’s but one can indeed perceive the same obsession with money and appearances. I guess some things never change, it doesn’t matter how much “evolved” we are or in what part of the world we live. Money is power, always, everywhere. Looking the right way, going to the right places and relating to the right people is as important as it was then. 

I really enjoyed this book and admire Edith Wharton more than ever for being so insightful. I read The Age of Innocence last year and thought it was a wonderful book but I like The House of Mirth even better. It is a complete story and every part of it has its purpose. The construction and development of the characters is so well round-up. I wanted to hate Lily Bart sometimes but she was so complex, so human, I couldn’t help liking her and admiring her even; I was really rooting for her.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Hello there! This is a quick post, I just signed into Bloglovin! This way I won't miss any of the posts of my favorite blogs and if you'd like to follow my blog there, please click the link below :).

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thank you!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Charlotte!

Today is Charlotte Brontë's birthday anniversary. I don't think there are enough words to describe how much I admire her and her two sisters. Their books have left a mark in me. We always take something from what we read, especially when we enjoy what we read, but there is something about these sisters that feels that I'm taking even more than usual. Such strength, passion and intelligence. I can't get enough of them.

Today a fellow blogger retwitted the link to a website devoted to the details of a supposed photograph of the Brontës. Nobody knows if it is really them but I stared at the picture for about an hour. I wish it was them, it feels as if I can discover something new about them, it makes me so excited! 

There is something bewitching about this photograph
Anyway, I think the time is coming for another all Brontë-all the time reading experience. I'll probably finish the books I'm currently reading in the coming week and then I'll start with Shirley and Villette and then will continue with Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey because I haven't read them in quite a while, and after reading those I will finish with Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which are my favorites.

Happy Birthday Charlotte! 

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

I wish I had read this when I was a kid. What a beautiful book! I’m pretty sure I would have become obsessed with having my own garden, my own “bit of earth”. Maybe it would have been a little frustrating because I lived in an apartment (still do), in the middle of this gray, chaotic city, but I can see myself running to the park and watching things grow and feeling the magic.

Actually, I want my own bit of earth now. I think this book has made me realize how much I forget to enjoy life  sometimes. I spend so much time indoors, working and being tired that maybe I’m a little bit like Colin who just needed some fresh air and to discover the magic of things. Strangely enough, I do understand what Colin is talking about: that magic in life that makes us stronger and happier and that moves us in such a way (when we let it) that we also want to shout that we are going to live forever and ever and ever.

Mary Lennox is a little girl who lost her parents and is sent to live with his uncle in a big house in the middle of the moors. She is described as unlikable, rude and very self-involved. She does not like anyone and is not interested in anything. One day she discovers a secret garden that has been closed for ten years and it has such an impact on her, she starts changing that very same day. She later discovers she has a cousin, Colin, living secluded in the house, who thinks he is terminally ill and lives completely obsessed with his death. 

The transformation of Mary and Colin is the central plot of the book. They change drastically but it is not forced; it was completely natural, just like a couple of flowers in the springtime. And they are just that: give them enough sun, air, space to grow and a little rain and you have two gorgeous flowers blooming happily. 

The awakening of the garden leads to the awakening of Colin and Mary. They are both very similar: they both have been utterly neglected by their parents, have never really been loved by anyone and they have never loved anyone either. When Mary discovered the garden, she discovers a part of herself she didn't know she had: the ability to be happy and seek happiness. She opened both a physical and emotional door to a different place that seemed to be dead but was just “sleeping” and starting blooming as soon as Mary let it breathe. It is basically the same for Colin but with greater physical improvement. It shows the power the mind has over our health. Colin was not really sick, not physically; his mind was. 

I like the idea that nature heals us, in every way possible, and that healing the mind from all those bad, dark thoughts and feelings ends up healing our bodies as well. 

I could say I’m an expert in worrying too much, in focusing on the bad things. I am a pessimist sometimes, I have to admit that, but I have also experienced the difference when trying to think positively. I have been trying to make that effort and I have seen the results: it does seem that focusing on the misery only brings more misery but focusing on the positive side of things brings peace of mind and a sort of soothing feeling I wish I could experience more often. I know is up to me, but it can be very hard sometimes. I have to discover the magic.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It had a positive effect on me: I read it before going to sleep and I would finally fall asleep dreaming about the garden instead of thinking obsessively about work. It is an incredible thing the impact books have on our daily lives, isn't it?

I still wish I had a garden to go into right now. I feel that maybe I need to be healed too. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Estoy súper emocionada por este fin de semana: ¡No tengo que trabajar! Quizás todavía no debería estar celebrando, sólo es jueves y quién sabe si de repente llega una traducción urgente para el lunes, pero tengo un buen presentimiento. He estado trabajando sin parar los últimos dos meses (incluso los fines de semana) y me siento rara por poder pasar mi tiempo haciendo lo que me de la gana (lo que significa leer, pasar el tiempo con mi enamorado y ver Arrested Development). 

Ayer terminé de leer el primer volumen de Las Obras de Edgar Allan Poe. Tiene ocho cuentos, de los cuales dos disfruté bastante: Asesinatos en la Rue Morgue y el Misterio de Marie Roget. Son historias detectivescas y siempre disfruto de un rompecabezas bien armado. El resto de las historias, bueno... El Insecto de Oro fue divertido y corto pero no puedo decir que el resto me gustara mucho. Admito que me perdí algunas veces y me alegré al terminar de leerlos (al menos terminé, eso es bueno).

Este fin de semana me voy a dedicar a leer Historia del Rey Transparente de Rosa Montero. Hasta ahorita sí me gusta, pero todavía no me engancha. Normalmente Montero me encanta, por lo que tengo expectativas altas para este libro. Veremos qué pasa. También estoy emocionada porque hasta ahora estuve descuidando un poco la literatura en español y ya era hora de leer algo en mi propio idioma. Esto en verdad es una meta y planeo leer más literatura española o latinoamericana en los próximos meses. Creo que me puse tan contenta cuando recibí mi Kindle y comencé a leer todos estos libros a los que antes no tenía acceso (en su idioma original) que me olvidé que mi primer y más grande amor es la literatura en mi propio idioma.

Es un muy buen momento para leer, el clima está lindo, soleado pero no caliente y las noches son frescas y mucho mejores para mis planes de lectura. Ya lo he mencionado varias veces, no me concentro bien cuando hace mucho calor.

¡Espero que tengan un genial fin de semana!

I'm really excited for this weekend: I'm not working! Maybe I shouldn't celebrate just yet, it is only Thursday and who knows if an urgent translation comes along for Monday, but I have a good feeling. I have been working non-stop for the past two months (even the weekends) and I feel weird for actually being able to spend my time doing whatever I want (which means reading, hanging out with the boyfriend and watching Arrested Development). 

Yesterday I finished reading the first volume of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe. It has eight short stories, two of which I really enjoyed: Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of Marie Roget. They are detective stories and I always enjoy a good  puzzle put together. The rest of the stories, well... The Gold Bug was fun and short but I cannot say I liked the rest very much. I admit I got lost at times and was glad when I finished reading them (at least I finished them, that's a good thing).

This weekend I will read Historia del Rey Transparente by Rosa Montero. So far I like it, but I'm not hooked yet. I usually love Montero so I have high expectations for this book. We'll see what happens. It is also exciting because I have been neglecting literature in Spanish and it was about time to read something in my own language. This is actually a goal and I plan to read more of Spanish or Latin American literature in the next few months. I think that I got so excited when I got my Kindle and started reading all these books to which I had no access before (in their original language) that I forgot that my first and greatest passion is the literature in my own language.

It is a very good time to read right now, the weather is beautiful, sunny but not hot and the nights are cool and much more suitable for my reading preferences. As I have already mentioned quite a few times before, I don't focus well when it is too hot.

I hope you have an amazing weekend!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Reading Hamlet

I started this project right before work got crazy but I have still managed to dedicate a few hours each week to The Bard. Now, please remember this is NOT a review, simply a few notes I've taken during my reading experience. I have basically transcribed the notes in my journal to this post. And this is also just a first update of how my project has begun and a few impressions I have of Hamlet so far. 

I have read the play about three times and I have seen two adaptations: The Royal Shakespeare Company's version with David Tennant (loved him) and Kenneth Branagh's EPIC movie adaptation and I feel I have only peeled the very first few layers of the play and understanding of the characters.

Hamlet is such an enigmatic character. Is he really mad or not? Why does it take him so long to act if he is most definitely looking for revenge? And if he is so obsessed with looking for proof and certainty in order to act, why does he acts so rashly and kills Polonius, for example? He is a walking contradiction and that is what fascinates us, the readers and the audience, so much.

Throughout the play we see him angry, sad, almost hopeless sometimes, mad, even cruel, but despite of all this, what left a deeper mark concerning my perspective of the character, is his absolute dissatisfaction. He conveys that dissatisfaction with his actions and his constant questions to himself. I think that dissatisfaction is important, in my humble opinion, because it makes me understand a little bit more about what drives him.

David Tennant in Hamlet (2009 - Recorded for the BBC)
He is neither a hero or a villain, although he could be perceived as both, depending on our understanding of the plot and of the performance as well. I fell utterly in love with the movie adaptation by Kenneth Branagh but his Hamlet is so aggressive, so unlikable at some points, that I do see the villain in him. On the other hand, David Tennant's performance felt much more insane, if you will, not as manic but truly afflicted and confused, and it made me look at him under a different light.

Another character that is enigmatic, to me, is Gertrude. I keep asking myself if Gertrude was involved in the plot to murder her husband. It is not clear whether she is completely ignorant or as manipulative as Claudius himself. The fact that she marries him so fast suggests that she did know.

You know what part I love? The play within a play. All of it, how Hamlet uses it to get a reaction from the King, how he instructs the actors and talks about the craft of being an actor, the do's and don'ts, the meaning behind it all. "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with the special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from purpose of playing..." (Act III, Sc. II).

I have so many more layers to peel, plot-wise and language-wise and I love that. I'm finally getting some free time and I will continue working on my project. I will update you more frequently I hope, and please feel free to give me any suggestions, pointers or simply discuss with me your impressions, opinions, etc.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

As I said in a comment in another post, I have a love/hate relationship with this book and Hemingway. I appreciate Hemingway’s genius, his exquisite manner of storytelling and the amount of emotion he can convey in just one sentence. I love the “bohemianism” of the setting, of the characters. On the other hand, I hate Hemingway’s “macho” notions, how he romanticizes something as barbaric as bullfighting, how he idealizes not necessarily the braveness of men, but their aggressiveness. 

It is fair to say that bullfighting scenes almost ruined the book for me. I know it is fiction and I should take it as part of a bigger work of art, but having read quite a bit about Hemingway’s life, hobbies and interests and knowing that this book is based on real-life events, I couldn't help getting a little mad. I have heard every argument saying it is an ancient tradition, that it represents the identity of a country, etc. That is nonsense. It is a barbaric tradition that should not continue. I don’t like people who torture animals for entertainment (and then have the nerve to call it art). 

It sickened me to read the parts of the bullring. I tried to be as objective as possible, reminding myself that it was part of a story and had its purpose there. I have read many other unpleasant things before and they didn’t affect me this way. I have read about horrible wars, death, misery. Why this, then? Why was this affecting me so? And not in the way Hemingway intended: it was making me angry and sad. Then, I realized it was because Hemingway was romanticizing it, because the bullfighter was supposed to be some kind of hero and example of masculinity in the story. What affected me was not the bullfighting itself  (within the story) but the perspective from which it was written and by someone who thought it was beautiful. That sickened me. I guess I’ll never understand how making another living creature suffer became a sport, the object of fanaticism and admiration. How a genius man as Hemingway thought it was beautiful to see a bull bleed to death. 

I could rant about this for pages but I don’t want to do that. There are many other noteworthy things I’d like to mention.

What about the characters? I loved the apparent freedom of their relationship. Brett is the center of everyone’s attention. Jake, Robert and Mike are in love with Brett. She is in love with Jake, engaged to Mike and having an affair with Robert, and then with the bullfighter. I really liked the lack of a judgmental tone in the narration. Brett is definitely a woman without the limitation of society’s prejudices and stereotypes for women’s behavior. She seemed to float around trying to be happy, making a lot of mistakes in the way and regretting them to a certain point but not really learning from them. As a contradiction to her own nature, she likes the “macho” idea of a man. When Romero, the bullfighter, kills the bull and presents  to Brett the bull’s ears, I couldn’t help thinking of a medieval warrior presenting to his princess the head of his opponent. 

After a while you can see the conflicts that lie below the surface. They are not really free; there’s a sort of disorientation making them sad. At the end of the book their underlying sadness is revealed. Hemingway is good at that.

That is the reason I do get the whole “lost generation” thing in this book. I don’t know if it is all the wine-drinking, the fighting, the feeling of not having anywhere clear to go, that made me think they were indeed a little bit lost. But this is the romantic part of the book I did enjoy. There is something nostalgic about it, the unfulfilled love between Brett and Jake and the uncertainty of their futures, of what will become of them or what they will have to settle for. 

I could say that without the bullring scenes I would have loved this book. But then, would  it have been the same book? Would it be Hemingway without his romantic ideas of masculinity and aggressiveness? 

When I wrote my review of A Moveable Feast I said I could either love or hate the next book I read of Hemingway. I didn’t know it could actually be both. What I’m certain of now is that I will always have strong feelings about his books. I’m pretty sure I will never say “meeeh” to describe them. 

Despite the whole bullfighting thing and the macho ideas of masculinity, I still want to read more. He writes beautifully, that I can most definitely say.