So here's a classical novel dealing with a very serious topic. This time it's breast cancer. Its author is the Nobel laureate in Literature of 1926 who suffered from breast cancer herself. She died in 1936, the same year when the novel was published.
However, The Church of Solitude isn't just the author's attempt to cope with her own fate. Far from it! Like all this writer's novels it offers a very interesting as well as first-rate portrait of rural life on Sardinia, Italy, during the 1930s. Moreover, its plot surrounding a female protagonist who suffers from breast cancer and who longs for nothing but peace and quiet so she tries her best to keep at bay her suitors is touching as well as gripping. I enjoyed the read and hope that the novel will be to your taste too!
This surreslistic novel is one of the most famous works of French author Boris Vian, of those that he first published under his real name. It also made it on many school reading lists and it actually seems to be quite popular in its country of origin – I definitely understand why.
Writing Mood Indigo Boris Vian took a tragic, though altogether rather banal story of love and friendship and shaped it with great skill into a surrealistic masterpiece. Unlike other authors who tried the same he succeeded in producing a novel that doesn't need lots of explanations to be accessible even to a less practiced reader. I loved the bizarre images echoing the basic action and creating an amazingly vivid atmosphere. The word play in the French original is a particular treat too. And then there are the constant references to music, especially Duke Ellington’s Jazz standard Mood Indigo that accounts for the most often used title of the English edition.
Before You Sleep is a contemporary Scandinavian novel from Norway, more precisely a debut novel written by the daughter of actress Liv Ullmann and film director Ingmar Bergman. Can it be much of a surprise that it was an immediate success when it first came out in 1998?
The story centres on three generations of the Norwegian Blom family. Most of them have always lived in Norway, but one followed his heart and immigrated to the USA in the 1930s. He got married, had two daughters, managed to keep afloat during the years of the depression... and died unexpectedly just when things were getting better. His family returned to Norway and all that seems to be left of this episode of family history is a faded photo and a couple of stories. But the narrator realises that the experiences of her ancestors, notably of her mother, shaped her character too, especially her inclination to tell lies to protect herself from pain. This quest of her family and of herself gives a meditative story with a faintly surrealistic touch here and there.
In the USA the word "Babbitt" has become synonymous for Philistine, thus for "a self-satisfied person who conforms readily to conventional, middle-class ideas and ideals, especially of business and material success" (babbitt. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/babbitt [accessed: April 22, 2015]). But how many of those who use the word know that it's actually the title of a novel and the name of its protagonist?
Babbitt was first published in 1922 and without doubt it must be called an important classic of American literature. Its author was Sinclair Lewis who would eight years later, in 1930, be the first US American recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. And yet, I'm led to believe that these days the novel isn't widely read anymore, if not forgotten by the great majority. What better reason to take it from my shelf and give it more than just a quick glance to see what it has to offer to a reader in the twenty-first century.
In fact, Babbitt is a novel that seems to me very up-to-date. It touches on many issues of our modern world, e.g. on the unhealthy craving for constant progress and growth, on globalisation = standardisation = uniformity, on the meaninglessness of life, on conformity and exclusion, on mid-life crises, on escape through entertainment,... I reviewed the novel at length on my other book blog – just click here to read what I wrote about it on Edith's Miscellany.