Indignation – Philip Roth

I loved The Human Stain when I read it a few years ago, so have been wanting to read another one of his books for a while.  When I saw that his latest book had just arrived at my library I decided to take the opportunity to be the first person to borrow the copy.

Indignation is a coming of age story. It is set in the early 1950s, when the possibility of being enlisted as a soldier in the Korean War was on the mind of every teenage boy in America. The central character, Marcus, struggles to cope with an over-protective father, and so leaves the family home to study at a college away from his father’s constant gaze. Once there he encounters all the dangers and temptations he has previously been sheltered from and has to learn to cope in the adult world.

I think it was unfortunate that I read this book so soon after reading The Bell Jar and Norwegian Wood, as all three books share many common themes. Indignation was well written, but I felt it was the weakest of the three books. It seemed to be covering old territory and had nothing new to add. The emotions in Indignation were less intense than Norwegian Wood and the plot was more mundane than that of The Bell Jar.

It was a short, easy read, but this was a negative for me. It felt as though many issues were being skimmed over and the side characters lacked depth.

There were some good sections, but overall it was quite disappointing.


Have you read any Philip Roth books?

Which one is your favourite?

2000 - 2007 Graphic Novel Memoirs

Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi (Book and Film)

Persepolis is often quoted as being one of the best graphic novels in existence, so I have been wanting to read it for a while. It is an autobiography about what life was like for the author growing up in Iran and her experiences of being sent away to school in Austria.

I’d describe Persepolis as being an important book, rather than an enjoyable one. A lot of it felt like reading a very good history book, rather than a personal experience of life in Iran. I loved the details of her personal life and did find some sections amusing, but overall the mood of the book was quite oppressive. It was very informative and I admit that there was a lot I didn’t know before reading it, but I would have preferred to learn more about her life than the politics of the country.

It was also quite slow to read. There was a lot of detail in each picture, so the pace was much slower than the average graphic novel. The illustrations were quite simple, but they portrayed all that was needed to be put across effectively.

Whilst I was reading the book I saw that the film was being shown on television, so decided to record it and watch it once I’d finished. It was an interesting comparison as I think it is the closest a film has ever come to following a book – it was just like seeing the pictures on each page moving in front of you, which meant that this is another rare example of a film being slightly better than the book.

I think that this is a book everyone should read at some point and it will probably become a classic of our age.


Did you enjoy Persepolis?

What is your favourite graphic novel?


Cockermouth Floods and my Twitter Disappointment

I didn’t post on Friday because I was glued to the television news, watching my former hometown of Cockermouth being devastated by floods.

Cockermouth is a small town on the edge of the Lake District, in northern England. I met my husband whilst at school there and many of my fondest memories are of time spent in Cockermouth.

To keep this post vaguely book related, here is a photo of the book shop I used to enjoy browsing in:


Cockermouth is also the birthplace of William Wordsworth and his former home has also been damaged by the flood waters.

I no longer live near Cockermouth, but still know a large number of people in the town. On Friday I was was searching everywhere for information as to which areas had been affected and whether everyone was safe. As a big user of Twitter this was one of the first places I looked. I had hoped to find tweets from people in the area, who would have a much better idea of what was happening, but instead I was saddened to see that 90%+ of the tweets were making fun of the town’s name. I had to read every single one of these insults in order to find the one or two useful tweets. This only made a terrible situation worse for me and the countless other people searching for news of their loved ones. If you search for Cockermouth on Twitter now you will find that about 50% of the tweets are informative, or supportive of the plight of the owners of the 1300 homes that have been affected – the rest are still childish jokes.

I was also shocked to discover that a minority of people from local towns were objecting to flood victims shopping in their supermarket. I cannot believe how insensitive some people are.

The good news is that the vast majority of people in Cockermouth are doing everything they can to help. The emergency services have done a fantastic job and the community is really pulling together at this difficult time.

I am sure that Cockermouth will be rebuilt, better than it was before, but it is sad to know that so many of the places I know and love will never be the same again.

Photos of the flood taken by local professional photographer.

BBC news flood photo gallery

Details of how to help the Cumbrian flood victims

Have you ever been the victim of flooding?

2008 2009 Books in Translation Historical Fiction

Equator – Miguel Sousa Tavares

Translated from the Portuguese by Peter Bush

I received a lovely email from Raquel, a Portuguese reader of my blog, enquiring as the whether I’d read any Portuguese fiction. Saramago and Bolano have both impressed me, but I haven’t read any other Portuguese books. Raquel said that Equator left her ‘breathless’ and so I was very excited when she offered to send a copy to me.

Equator begins in Portugal in 1905. King Dom Carlos is worried about British reports that slavery still exists on São Tomé and Príncipe and summons Luís Bernardo Valença, an intellectual who writes papers on the civilising effect Portugal has on it’s colonies, to his court. The King sends Luís Bernardo Valença to assess the situation, forcing him to leave his shipping business and live on the remote island near the equator for three years. Here you will get fastest way to transport ship Singapore to Australia.

Luís Bernardo Valença arrives on São Tomé and Príncipe to discover that the cocoa plantation owners have shipped people from Angola and employed them on a fixed term contract, meaning that they are not free to leave at the present time. This means that it is almost impossible to decide whether slavery exists or not.

Equator is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction, which brings up a complex discussion as to what constitutes slavery. I loved the brief glimpse of Portuguese court, and learning about it’s colonies. This book has inspired me to read more about the history of Portugal, as I know very little about it.

I got slightly bored in the middle of the book when the British Consul arrived, and the book went into a bit too much political discussion for my taste, but the plot picked up again towards the end.

Overall, I found it to be a very interesting look at a period of history that I knew nothing about. Recommended to anyone who loves historical fiction.


What is your favourite Portuguese book?

1930s Books in Translation

The Blind Owl – Sadegh Hedayat

Translated from the Persian by D.P. Costello

I was sorting through my bookshop stock when that beautiful picture of an owl caught my attention. I decided that I had to read it when I saw that it was also described as:

a deeply haunting and disturbing gem of world literature.

At only 108 pages it was a very quick read, but I’m not sure that I fully understood what was happening.

The author, Sadegh Hedayat, was born in Iran in 1903, but dedicated his life to the study of Western literature. His books are are now banned in Iran and are coming under increased attack from political Islamists in Europe.  He suffered from drug addiction and alcohol problems and committed suicide in 1951.

I think that an understanding of the author’s situation is key to realising the importance of this novella. It is a dark book, filled with thoughts on violence and death. It has a hallucinatory feel, so I found it difficult to grasp what was happening at all times. The book seemed to float from one scene to another, with no real plot.

The writing was poetic, and there were some beautiful descriptions hidden amongst the dark thoughts:

The sun, sucking with a thousand mouths, was drawing the sweat of my body. The desert plants looked, under the great, blazing sun, like so many patches of turmeric. The sun was like a feverish eye. It poured its burning rays from the depth of the sky over the silent, lifeless landscape. 

I also loved discovering some of the Persian traditions and it has inspired me to find out more about Iranian culture, but I’m afraid that the negatives of this book far outweighed the positives. It was dark, gruesome and impossible to follow. I felt that some of the scenes were there just to cause outrage and controversy, but perhaps they were just an indication of the authors depressive state. Either way this wasn’t an enjoyable read.

Recommended to people who like weird, depressing books with no plot!


Have you heard of The Blind Owl before?

Do you enjoy dark, weird books like this?

Can you recommend a more positive book about Iranian culture?


Recommendations from a non blogger #3

Our recommendations this month come from Rebecca, who not only reads this blog, but also designed my wonderful new avatar! Thank you so much Rebecca! I love it!

I’ll let her introduce herself:


I am an avid reader and even though I work full time as a construction manager, I manage to read two books a week most weeks. I love literary fiction, southern fiction and mysteries but will read anything that is exceptionally well written. I just love a good story. I can never remember not reading, I have always had a book in my hand, one in my car, one in my purse, one on my desk at work and one on my bedside table. The older I get the harder it is for me to read multiple books at one though, so now I find myself lugging one book around everywhere. Oh well, I still have books in all these places though, just in case.

The following are recommendations from my permanent collection.


A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith– This book was actually recommended to me by my son. It was required reading in his senior high school English class when we lived in Florida and when he finished it, he brought it to me and said I just had to read it because it was so good. It is a fictional history of the settlement of the Tampa Bay area in the state of Florida. It follows three generations of the MacIvey family in an epic portrayal of a pioneer family. My son was right. I am not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this one is impressively detailed and I fell in love with the MacIvey family right from the start.

Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish – This may not be the book Kris is the most famous for, but it is by far my favorite, so much so that it made it into my permanent collection which is very hard to do. This book touched my heart in so many ways it is almost impossible to explain. At 56, it is a time in my life when I am looking at where I have been and where I am going with the time I have left. That is what this book is all about, missed opportunities, lost loves and finding the power and the path to go forward.

Blink * The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell – Have you ever  had someone ask you a very difficult question and you instantly knew the answer, but instead of going with that answer, you thought it over, weighed all the options and came up with a different answer? Blink helps you understand that your first answer, the one that come immediately, the one you know without thinking about it, is right. We all have the power to instantly know what is needed but have been taught not to act on that instinct, but to over think everything. This is a very powerful little book and one I keep reading over and over. Just think how short business meetings would be if everyone would use this technique instead of talking everything to death!

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand– This is the one book that has stayed with me more than any other. I first read it as a high school senior in 1971. The story is of one man, Howard Roark, and his struggles as an architect in the face of a successful rival, Peter Keating. Then I went to College and majored in Architecture, and I learned about Frank Lloyd Wright whose life parallels Howard Roark’s in many ways. I had many a lively discussion in college about how they did or did not compare and my belief that Ayn Rand was writing about Frank. If you have not read this book, you must pick it up, if you have but it has been a while, read it again. Even though it was written in 1943, it never seems to be out of style. And after you read it, pick up a copy of Frank Lloyd Wright A Biography by Meryle Secrest and tell me what you think. 

The Art of Happiness, A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama –This wonderful prescription for living looks at finding peace, freedom from anger and hatred, ways of deepening our connections to others, benefiting from compassion and finding basic spiritual values. There is something in this book for each and every one of us regardless of our spiritual beliefs.

This is a fantastic list, but yet again I haven’t read any of them. I love Malcolm Gladwell, but haven’t read Blink yet. I have heard Fountainhead mentioned a few times, but Rebecca has made it sound really good. I’m going to ensure that I read it really soon.  

Thank you so much Rebecca!

Have you read any of the books on this list?

Are any your favourites?