‘Pot-Bouille’, the big laugh I have this weekend

pot-bouille

I have had Pot-Bouille for several years. But I abandoned the novel until just last weekend when I was cleaning my small room, rearranging books in the bookshelf then I found it. At first, I didn’t want to read it (still). I attempted to read the novel but catching the first page cushioned me away. The words were not beautiful, I thought at the time. It was a translated version nonetheless (the original one in in French language written by Emile Zola).

So I never considered giving it another try. Until last Saturday when I didn’t know why my hands got the book then opened it. My eyes were sparkling reading the first page. They were quite entertained by the words; short, descriptive. More than enough to get me through the weeks.

So, the first page that used to be very narrow and unpleasant turned to be literary-worthy. The novel has become a good companion on my daily commute. How comical!

I was happy at that day. The money that would be used to purchase Thomas Hardy’s novels are still in the wallet. That’s trivial advantage by the way. The relieved one is that this has become the second or may be the third time I have given myself a chance to prove myself wrong.

For a person who mostly believe in first sight, what happens between me and Pot-Bouille and me and The Return of the Native serves like an anomaly, which is a good thing because my experiences with the two novels show me that my mind can change. I am a reader on a progress. Anything can happen in terms of reading preference.

What used to be the most-avoided reading materials can nourish my soul later on. The thing is letting myself open to any kind of books although the writing styles do not match up my taste. It is important becoming a flexible reader because I still have a lot of things to learn. It is too soon to close my eyes, limited only to things that catch my attention from the beginning only.

So, Pot-Bouille has been nice so far. The plot moves quickly. The language is straight-forwarded. The theme so far has been about the manner and the lives of middle-class people in Paris, probably in the middle of the 19th century. I really love this sort of theme by the way.

The first pages of the book introduces me to the grand apartment where the characters reside. I can visualize how magnificent and elegant the place is and Paris in general. The extravagant life it has to offer, the rich people and the problems they have to face amidst the wealthy lives they experience.

So, I currently enjoy reading the book. Wish me luck guys! What books are you in right now? I’d love to read from yours.

The picture is taken from this.

‘Will O The Mill’, the wisest story I’ve ever read

will

Reading ‘Will O The Mill’ brings me a lot of pleasure, the kind of joy that quenches my yearning of beautiful language but at the same time makes me mellow for its tone gives me enough clue of what’s in the store.

After ‘The Merry Men’, reading this story is so delightful. The words are so moving, Robert proves his mastery of depicting things so clearly stated, able to spark my imaginations. Will itself is the kind of character that makes me want to meet him personally. The sort of a very nice guy whom I would love to have a chat with.

The story is a little bit tricky. The first pages Robert mentions how the young Will wishes to leave the mill and sets up for an adventure. Up to this part, I really think he will go to the city or elsewhere.

Much to my surprise, Will doesn’t leave. He even develops his business well, gets admiration from the neighbors then invites Marjory and his father to live there while their residence is under reconstruction.

Then I think Will will marry Marjory considering his crush to her from the very beginning of their encounter. I can clearly feel that from the sentences. Instead of tying a knot, Will and Marjory separate. Will says it’s better for them to remain as friends while marriage option remains possible should Marjory wishes them to unite.

If I were Marjory I’d slap Will’s face upon hearing this. I agree with her that Will’s confessions hurt her feelings. Even so, Robert tricks me again, this time around with Marjory’s testimonials which say she is happy that they don’t get marry. Will and Marjory become good friends for nearly three years. Despite Will’s affections to her, it’s crazy to think they can live their lives as good pals.

When Marjory becomes the wife of a man, it’s a pity that Will feels sad, too. I don’t know whether he’s sad because of ‘losing’ a very dear friend or because he’s sorrowful because now Marjory belongs to someone’s heart. At this point, I can’t help wondering why Will acts that way. It’s like if he loves her, shouldn’t he marry her or something? Is it because he is uncertain or foolish enough to act for his or her own happiness?

The rest of the story after her death is what this writing is very heartbreaking. Does Will decide to spend their rest of his life alone because his love is solely for Marjory? Or what? I know I have no rights to judge someone because of something but I really, deeply feel sorry that Will ends up living alone.

His good reputation earns so many respects from a lot of people, including passers-by or guests. They encourage Will to travel but the protagonist chooses not to go. And when death invites him to travel forever, Will is joyful as for him, he has no one left to be taken care of other than Marjory. So when death comes, he is happy that since he no longer has someone to talk to, he is now free to leave.

This piece of story really moves me. On one side, I am sympathized with Will, the kind of person who wholly loves someone, like Marjory. The fact that he takes care his residence, business mesmerizes me, too. He opts staying at home despite so many stories about going out. His loyalty awes me so much.

But one the other side, I wish Will would seek friends elsewhere, fall in love with a new women and raise a happy family. It’s all a matter of choice, anyway. And that what makes this story is so wise, ordinary. Robert presents readers with life choices, and we can learn a lot of things from Will’s life.

Well, I don’t think Will is unhappy anyway. The story challenges my life perspective. Will’s choice is definitely acceptable. If you completely in love with just one person and one life why would you bother leaving it? That’s why I feel this story is so humane. You can put your shoes in Will’s and this has got me thinking about my life at the moment.

I love the kind of story which is like this one. Leaving my heart so mixed with feelings. Prompting me to contemplate about my own life. Thinking hard on what has gone wrong with my life thus far. This is the most ordinary yet wisest story I have ever read so far. Well done, Robert. Thanks for writing this one!

Thank you for this picture.

Summary of ‘The Merry Men’ by Robert Louis Stevenson

Large winter waves crash against cliffs at Butt of Lewis, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

After his graduation from Edinburgh University, Charles Darnaway visits his uncle living in Aros, Scotland. Deep in his mind, he wants to seek for treasures hidden beneath the Spanish ship, ‘Espirito Santo’, plus proposing his cousin, Mary Ellen, to marry him.

His uncle, Gordon Darnaway has been tested by the adversity of life that he becomes stiff, hardly smiles and becomes serious person. From his uncle, Charles knows about the miseries regarding the wave and the sea nearby the place they live. The story of the Merry Men gets more emphasis for it refers to breakers that roar around rocks and make extensive noise like shrieking laughter.

On the day Charles gets to the place, his uncle looks flat. Something about the sea and the past bothers him. Charles tries to persuade Marry to not only marry him but also leaves the house. But Marry can’t leave his father.

Charles tries his luck. He goes down the sea, wishing he can find treasures that will enrich him. Much to his surprise, his discoveries are instead graveyard, remains of shipwrecks and human bodies!

On the way back home, he spots a group of strangers rowing the boat on sea. While he tells about this to his uncle, Charles is surprised to learn Gordon’s panic. Gordon realizes the stranger Charles just sees is the marine whom he kills yet he comes back alive.

Upon this, Gordon leaves home carrying wine. He gets drunk while standing on the edge of a cliff. His eyes watch the ill-fated boat. Charles and Rorie seek for his whereabouts. They can’t do anything to make Gordon coming back home or help the ship. Not long after that, the Merry Men are back in action. “Their laughter” swallows the ship, leaving no remains of it and Charles, Rorie and Gordon can just stand still.

After this incident, Gordon looks frightened until Charles learns that his uncle is sinful for murdering the marine man. After Charles utters his disappointment on his uncle wrongdoing, suddenly a black man is visible. Gordon gets even more terrified. He flees, so does Rorie. While Charles tries to speak to him whose language seems so alien. Charles brings him back home though.

Mary and Charles feeds him and provides him a shelter. On the other hand, Gordon still escapes. He doesn’t want to return home as long as the black man is still in the house, so Charles thinks. Rorie brings Gordon meal but the old man doesn’t want to leave his place. Mary is very sad finding her father behaves like this.

Until one day, Charles wishes to let the black man go. When he meets Gordon, the latter runs away then is chased by the black man. Gordon is unstoppable. He thinks the black man is the ghost of the marine man whom he murders before. They chase one after another until they jump off the cliff then the Merry Men engulf them all.

The picture is taken from this.

Stepping Out From Reading Comfort Zone

Over the past few months, I have unconsciously stepped out from my reading comfort zone.  I just realize about this today. Books by John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are my comfort zones. I love almost everything they write. Especially for Hardy. His writing style matches my fondness. Hardy’s books steal my heart away only by reading their few pages.

It has all started with Anne Bronte and now Charles Dickens. I disliked first-person narrative yet I love Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’ despite they are written in first-person method. They impress me in different ways. They touch my heart deeper than I expect. They move my emotion.

I used to avoid reading any Dickens’ novels because I know his writing style doesn’t suit my preference. I have to seek Dickens’ titles that I believe will meet my liking and after some attempts I find ‘Our Mutual Friend’ then ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Although Dicken’s decision not to further discuss emotional problems regarding Nell Trent’s grandfather stealing behaviors disappoint me, I am profoundly disturbed by the poor girl’s sufferings.

I can’t deny that Dickens is a very great, wonderful storyteller. I am completely amazed by the way he crafts so many characters along with their problems that speak much on what happen at the time. All those fictitious characters, various plots into one just book. Dickens is very brilliant.

After that, I force myself to read ‘Bleak House’. A little bit of force, I mean. I know the novel won’t entertain me as much as I want but I strongly believe it will present me with memorable trip once I finish reading it. I look forward to see what kind of impression that I will obtain after completing reading the book. I gradually learn to cope with things that I dislike because I know I mustn’t get stuck with Steinbeck and Hardy if I want to get more knowledge.

I have to start setting more adventures with authors or writing styles whose books I previously decline to read. The foremost reason is simple; I have to learn about myself on how further I can make peace with things I dislike and that includes books.

Seven Tips How to Enjoy Super Thick Victorian Novels

After some trials and tribulations with Victorian novels, I would like to share these following tips not only how to complete reading these super thicks book but also to enjoy literary journeys with classic canons.

  1. Mood matters

Honesty is number one rule in reading. Pick a book that perfectly suits current state of emotion. I, for instance, choose ‘Far from The Madding Crowd’ because I want to read something a little bit about women and men equality at that time. It turns out that this second Victorian reading becomes the first experience that kicks off my years-long trip with the Victorian books.

  1. Commitment

For such a serious person like me, reading, no matter how pleasant it is, requires a commitment. This is so important as it consistently reminds me not to be a quitter. I have to end what I start. That is to say I must complete reading all books that I buy, not only because I spend some money on them but also I must stick to what I begin. As such, I will attempt to make use of any vacant time to read. I may abandon some books for certain time but I will return to them unless I find they are really hard to digest or I don’t enjoy reading several titles that I will leave them for good.

  1. Being selective

It’s really helpful to search on the internet on which titles you are going to read. You can start with reading some titles of the favorite authors that you haven’t read or you can randomly select some books via topics. Or even if you have no ideas at all you can simply go to bookstores, take a look at the brief summary that is usually written at the back cover. If you are still unconvinced with the summary, you can read books’ first few pages as I always do.

  1. Big picture, big picture

Knowing book summary is the key to the overall journey. Victorian novels are so rich that they can be tricky in a way that there will be so many minor characters, events that may carry you away too far from the core of the book itself. Just remember that whenever you come to the points where you seem get lost in the story because of encountering new, minor characters or small incidents, you’d better temporarily halt your reading. Be quick to recoqnize that they are not really essential. That’s why reading the summary, understanding what books are all about, knowing the names of the major characters are very vital to guide you throughout the book. Aren’t main messages, big characters that make books worth your time?

  1. The devils are in the details

Victorian books, as I often say, are such priceless arts. The language, story, characterizations, for me, are marvelous. But the enjoyment they provide may distress those, like me, as non native English speakers, for understanding each and every word they convey. Those beautiful, flowery, mind-blowing phrases are surely too precious to be just taken for granted. But, paying too close attention to those will burden us as we will spend too much time to open up dictionary finding out what they actually mean.

  1. Taking some notes, asking help from internet

I sometimes forget to do this step or as reading process goes on I stop taking some notes but I strongly you to stick to this tip. Given its long plot with again, many minor characters, small events that can distract your reading focus, it’s good to have some notes on certain moments of the novels that matter most. Or you can write several names that come up as your reading proceeds as I sometimes experience to have met new, important characters in the middle or even in the third last part of the novels.

And if you remain puzzled with the story or the significance of certain characters, internet is always abundant with information. There are always other readers, especially native English speakers, who understand better. Yet, it’s better for you to ask their help only whenever you are in great difficulty or after you finish reading books but still find some aspects or characters that puzzle you. And yes, avoid spoilers.

 

  1. Trials and errors

I don’t remember how many fruitless efforts I have made with Victorian novels. Even after applying some of the aforementioned strategies, I sometimes find myself get cheated. There are some books that turn out to be so boring that I take so many efforts to have eventually finished reading them all. Some are even left unread. But I never give up. I learn from my mistakes though, yes, I keep making similar mistakes once in a while. Never mind, though. That won’t stop me from reading another title and another title. I now regard enjoying Victorian masterpieces, or novels in larger extent, as never ending trip that is going to surprise me in remarkable ways, either good or bad, but the point is I try to enjoy all trips in all those books. And I sincerely hope you do, too.

Under the Spell of Gaskell’s Magical Words in “Mary Barton”

“Mary Barton” is such a beauty. I lack of adjectives to describe how magnificent the language of the book is. Beautiful words are all around in the thick book. I even type many lovely, memorable phrases and sentences in my BlackBerry to make me easier reread them all whenever I wish to read something artsy.
It’s the first book that I would like to put it into my most favorite novel list because of its language. If there were people who later ask me on why they should read the novel, I would say the language is all what makes it really worth your precious time.
Mind you. Almost all of the novels that I have read so far, particularly those by Victorian writers, are indeed artistic. “Far from the Madding Crowd”, “The Mayor of Casterbridge” and “The Mill on the Floss”, to name a few, fall into this category. I am completely hooked by “The Mill on the Floss”, by the way, but its sentimental, sad plot is the most memorable aspect that is left in my mind until now. “The Mayor of Casterbridge”, for me, is outstanding for its characterization. “Far from the Madding Crowd” is the kind of story that leaves me with contentment because of its relatively gloomy plot, unconditional faith that ends in a happy, modest marriage among its two protagonists.
I can say I feel so sad reading “Mary Barton”. There are some quite funny moments but most of the time the book is all about bitter facts faced by the working class people in Manchester where the poor really suffer from unfair payment while the rich keep living luxuriously. Coming to the parts where several minor characters, one of them even passes away, due to hunger, is indeed heartbreaking. But nothing is more depressed than the scene where John Barton says farewell to his only kid, Mary Barton, on the night before he sets out a journey to Glasgow for labor-related affairs. I almost cry when I read those parts. So sorrowful because, as I expected, nothing is not the same again after that. John goes away without any news, and when he returns home, he looks lost. Although Mary and Jem are two characters that become the centre of the novel, I think it is the traits of John that makes the book “a complete story of human being”.
While Mary and Jem are described to be those who are mostly kind-hearted, John is the one that makes me hard to define. He is the one who is so overwhelmed with the labor condition at that time that he neglects Mary. He puts the interests of others above Mary’s future. He feels so miserable when he is out of work. Even when George, his best friend, dies, John looks unmoved. He says to Mary that is better for George to have passed away than to watch the worsening condition in Manchester.
I have sympathy for him for voicing, representing the needs of the laborers. However, I pity him for being unbalanced between labor-related affairs and his domestic matter. The way he abuses Mary after his London mission is fruitless triggers my anger. And my reaction gets harsher whenever he ignores her super tenderness with all the meal service despite his joblessness.
And the climax when he shots Harry Carson to death is unbearable. I pity him even more because the burden of all the labor issues carry him so far away from he used to be. When he admits he does not even know why he acts as cruel as that, I completely understand.
I can not blame John, though. He suffers a lot. He loses Mary’s brother because he can’t afford paying hospital fees. He witnesses the death of his fellow because of poverty. He has no pride when he does not work. He sometimes says he does not need meal, even when he is about to depart for Glasgow he refuses to eat. All he wishes to have is a job as the source of his dignity. John’s agony reaches his peak with the murder story. Probably, the only thing that he should have not opted is getting too much involved with his comrade in arms in fighting for their rights. He should have focus on his daughter. He makes a choice, somehow. The one that really costs his life. Again, he has faith in his option and that what makes the novel leaves a crack in my heart.
While for Mary.. what can I say about this character? Almost flawless. The only thing that causes my disrespect is when she has a giddy flirting with Harry Carson that makes the latter to put a high hope on their future marriage. It is this trivial act that causes the two male figures to have come in a misunderstanding with the final consequence of putting Jem’s life at the risk of being executed. But, Gaskell brilliantly makes Mary to pay her foolishness. She sacrifices her life to rescue Jem. When she almost dies to do this, I regain my respect for this protagonist. The way Jem loves her and vice versa is very touchy because their actions speak it all. This is what I really like with the romance story in the Victorian era. I once read this kind of love-based action when I read ‘Far from the Madding Crowd.’
Mary is the best daughter one can hope for. Her obedience is beyond everything. Her beauty is far deeper than her skin. And the one thing that makes me feel relieved with the fate of Mary is the presence and the love from Job Leigh and his granddaughter, Margaret. It would be so wicked should Gaskell leave Mary to face the hardness without their help throughout the book. She might not have a full love from her father but she has a best friend and best neighbor of all who stand by her side whenever she needs them all, especially when Jem is at the prison.
All in all, the book is perfect. It has a simple good story that really reflects people at the time the novel is written. The romance is influenced with social status and society perspective when the potency of the marriage between Mary as the daughter of the poor and Harry Carson as the son of the employee emerges. The complicated trait of John Barton, the innocence of Jem and the compassion from Job Leigh and Margaret confronts me with mixed feeling. And the reading journey is paid off with its pleasant closure. The very last, as it becomes the first point that I say here, is the language. To close this post, I’d like to share some of my favorites:
The passionate grief of youth has subsided into sleep
She could catch a wink of sleep
A lovely girl of sixteen, fresh and glowing, and bright as a rosebud
The mists and the storms passed clearing away from his path, though it still was full of stinging thorns
… used to dazzle her eyes by extraordinary graces and twirls
Where the distant horizon is soft and undulating in the moonlight, and the nearer trees sway gently to and fro in the night – wind with something of almost human motion, and the rustling air makes music among their branches, as if speaking soothingly to the weary ones, who lie awake in heaviness of heart. The sights and sounds of such a night lull pain and grief to rest. (This one is my most favorite.)