Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Greyfriars Bobby

Reading the synopsis and looking at this book’s cover (and later on browsing the true story on the internet) are enough to assume that Greyfriars Bobby would be a sad and gloomy book. I have delayed reading it for few years, but when I finally got through it, Greyfriars Bobby turned out to be very enjoyable. There were quite plenty of tears throughout the book; but there were also much cheerful times with Bobby, the brave and loyal Skye terrier dog.

Bobby belonged to a farmer who had a sweet little daughter in Edinburgh, Scotland. However, the only human to whom Bobby ever gave his love was Auld Jock, the poor old shepherd who worked for the farmer. A tight bond tied them both, and nobody could enter their intimate relationship till the end. Auld Jock was a simple and kind man; he did not talk much. Maybe that’s what bound them together; they had each other and loved each other exclusively. Then Auld Jock got pneumonia and died. Although he was poor, he had saved his small salary to get a descent funeral; he was buried at Greyfriars church graveyard.

Since then, Bobby’s home was on his master’s grave. There he lay at night, and never left Auld Jock’s grave unguarded, for whatever reason. He only went to an eatery every day to get his meal—thanks to the kind-hearted eatery’s owner: Mr. Traill. The church gardener and graveyard keeper, Mr. Brown, chased Bobby many times away from the grave, but he (Bobby) always managed to get a way to come back. Until Mr. Brown finally gave up, and even came to love Bobby at the end. Poor children around the church were also Bobby’s fanatic lovers. It’s interesting to learn how a little dog could pour so much love upon the wretched children, that they could grow up as loving adults. When the City Council wanted to eradicate stray dogs from the city, these children collected money (seven shillings) from their group and some poor people who loved Bobby, to save him. It was so sweet to read how these poor people sacrificed their small money for a little dog. It was proof of the power of love which can make difference.

Lucky for Bobby, the Lord Provost who was an animal lover—moved by the children’s donation for Bobby—paid Bobby’s license and made him a special collar. And so, Bobby could spend his old days peacefully at the churchyard, guarding his master’s grave ‘till he finally could be united with his master in heaven, fourteen years after his master’s death.

It appalled me to read about the fanatic faith of a dog towards his master—for fourteen years! Nothing could change Bobby’s mind from returning to the grave at night. One day he was distracted by a military parade to a nearby castle which was located on a steep hill. Just as the night signal was heard, Bobby frantically searched for a way out. It was a foggy night, and no living creature could possibly get through down the hill. Well…except Bobby! He groped his way blindly in the dark, he even bruised himself while descending the hill. But he didn’t care, even, perhaps, if he should have died; he would do everything to be on his master’s grave again. That was the only home he knew.

Little Bobby is not just a touching story of a very brave, loving, and faithful dog, but he taught us about the real love. Sometimes it does not need to be expressed in words or cuddles, but only to be felt deep in one’s heart. It is about taking and giving what little each has; it is about living together what life offers them. More than that, Bobby taught me about faithfulness and persistency; something that we, humans, lack of.

I must thank my blogger friend, Alvina, who gave me this book—I think nearly two years ago (or three??). I am a bit sorry to have delayed in reading it, but I am awfully grateful at the same time for finding this treasure at last. Four stars to Greyfriars Bobby!


I read Indonesian translation, published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama

This book is counted as:

6th book for Back To The Classics 2014 (A Classic That's Been Adapted Into a Movie)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Of Human Bondage

Approaching the end of year 2014, I think I have found a new masterpiece: Maugham’s Of Human Bondage! It was based on Maugham’s real life, and therefore it was very vividly portrayed. Following the fate of the protagonist Philip Carrey; I felt like having been knowing a real intimate friend from his childhood, and been growing with him. Maybe it’s because Philip is Maugham himself, that he could pour out all his detailed emotion into the narration. Of Human Bondage has been one of my most incredible reading experiences throughout the year.

Philip was a nine year orphan boy with a clubfoot, and an only child. He was taken care of by his uncle, a vicar in a small village. He was brought up to enter a religious profession, but his deformity has made him a shy and inferior boy, and he got much trouble in his social life. Between the rigid expectation of his uncle and his tortured feeling for the world which (he felt) did not accept him, his Catholic faith cooled away.

With a great appetite for beauty, knowledge, and adventure, Phillip spent his youth in German as a clerk—which he found too boring; then in Paris to study art-painting—but later found out he was not talented; and finally entered medical school to be a Doctor like his father. However, during his study, he was entangled in a difficult relationship with a girl named Mildred. It was a painful kind of love; and Philip let himself to be enslaved by his passion; and as a result, ignoring his study and draining his savings. Luckily he met a humble and warm family, the Athelnys, who poured their love and affection to him. It was just another proof that love and positive energy are the only way to help human from destruction.

I have a deep sympathy for Philip. Deep inside, he is tender-hearted; he can easily be moved when others show him little affection. A man like Philip needs to be understood and accepted. And that is what he lacked of. His deformity banished him from society and he became extremely sensitive and egoist. Maugham portrayed Philip’s struggle so vividly and detailed. It must have been an interesting subject if you study psychology or have interest in human character. As a bildungsroman, of course young Philip is far from perfect; on the contrary, you would want to scold him every now and then for his various mistakes. You would often want to shout at him: “Don’t be stupid, Phil!” At times he would act normally, but next time he would stumble all over again to a trouble, then you would be like: “Oow…not again!?”

Overall, Of Human Bondage is a man’s search for the value in life. When Philip was young, he judged everything by its beauty and perfection. However, life taught him much better than any art school, about the real value of life. His poverty scrapped his pride; and made him an affectionate doctor who was loved by his poor patients. I also believe, that without his folly and wretched experience with Mildred, he would have always been the irritating and cynical person he used to be. For some of us, love and kindness are our genuine personalities; but for others, who have been in more difficult circumstances, hard times and sorrows are needed to polish one’s hardness to milder heart. Philip Carey belongs to this.

Of Human Bondage is a sweet story of one human’s strives to be freed from what he thought of as bondage: other people’s rejection, religion, poverty, personal handicaps; all the wretchedness of life. We, human, always want to be free, before we really realize what that means. Maugham (through Philip) opened our eyes of what the real value of life: love and family, kindness and friendship.

This book has given me a very satisfying reading experience. Together with Philip I have been through most of human emotions. No wonder that it becomes Maugham’s masterpiece. I can feel that he has poured out his emotion totally into this story, and I admired him very much for that. Five stars for Of Human Bondage, and Mr. Maugham.


I read Signet Classics paperback edition

This book is counted as:

80th book for The Classics Club Project 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015 - Announcement

For next year, 2015, I have a very ambitious plan for reading challenge. Actually, I have had this idea earlier this year, and since then I have been doing some research, collecting titles, and brewing a perfect concept for this challenge. It will be called:

Literary Movement Reading Challenge

The aim is to study how our literary world has been evolving from Medieval era up to the present. There are so many lists/timelines out there, but I particularly use this literary periods timeline from online-literature dot com; firstly, it is simple and nicely presented, and secondly because the number of the movements fits more or less with the challenge purpose. If you see the info-graphic, there are thirteen movements. I will dedicate each month for each movement; but as the Beat Generation period is mostly overlapping the Bloomsbury's, I will merge them into one month.

The challenge concept would be like this:

1.  Reading (or rereading) at least one book each month according to the literary movements we are covering; here is the list:

                                   January        : Medieval
                                   February      : Renaissance
                                   March           : Enlightenment
                                   April             : Romanticism
                                   May              : Transcendentalism
                                   June             : Victorian
                                   July              : Realism
                                   August         : Naturalism
                                   September   : Existentialism
                                   October        : Modernism
                                   November    : The Beat Generation or The Bloomsbury Group
                                   December    : Post-Modernism

2.  To learn about each movement, you can click the link on the above list, it will direct you to pages I have created for each movement. I gathered the information from Wikipedia and/or online-literature, or other sources. If you want to have more details, you can click the sources links as well.

3.  Just as other movements, time period of literary movement might be overlapping one another. And one author could be influenced by more than one movement. For example, I put Dostoyevsky in Existentialism, but he might be regarded also as a Realist.
Q: So, in what month should I put him?
A:  Pick one of them, and read the book, after that you can analyze, in what movement Dostoyevsky shall be put.
Q: What if I have put him in the wrong movement/month, must I move the post to the right one?
A:  No need to do that, this challenge IS to learn about the movements. See point 4 next.

4.  Brief analysis - Inside your review, you are required to add brief (or long if you like) analysis about the book/author you have read, to answer these questions:
a.  Whether he/she fits the literary movement you have categorized him/her? Tell us your reason.
b.  If not, where he/she should be? Tell us your reason.
c.   If he/she doesn’t fit, who do you think would fit better? Again, the reason, please...
d.  [optional] What do you think about this literary movement? How did it correlate with our civilization?
This way we can learn more about the literary movements, from others’ reviews as well as ours.

5.  As the goal is to learn how literary (and the civilization) have been evolving, you are required to read according to the movements in the fixed order.

6.  A linky will be opened on the 15th of each month for each movement post, and will be closed on the 15th of the next month.

7.  The champions will be they who (would be announced after the challenge is closed):
a.  Read at least one book for each movement (at least 12 movements); the more the better.
b.  Submit their reviews according to the movements, in time.

8.  The challenge focus is not how many books we’d read, but whether we could manage to read for all the movements in the right order, in the right time. This need courage and discipline, so we deserve some incentive. How about a book that you have been dreaming on? At the end of the challenge (only if the participants are at least 5 excluding me), I will pick one winner randomly from the champions (see point 7), to win: 1 (one) copy of your dream book of $20 or less from The Book Depository. Yeah, unfortunately, only one winner would get the prize, but if you want, YOU can set your own prize you would reward yourself if you succeeded the challenge!

9.  So, are you sure you really want to do this? I don’t…. But, I am going to do it anyway, as “life—says the wise Forrest Gump—is like a box of chocolate, you’ll never know what you’ll get!” Maybe I would enjoy the challenge very much; or maybe I would be much enlightened after this; well…at least, I would be able to say, that… I have never failed on MY own challenges. How’s that??

10. If you’d like to join, just submit your blog/Goodreads (where you would post your reviews) link in the  linky below.

For any feedback/question/discussion, just write in the comment box or mention @Fanda_A at Twitter, using hashtag: #LitMoveRC.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tender is the Night

Once or twice a year you would have stumbled upon a book that leaves your soul troubled. This year Tender is the Night was it for me. This book is the last completed novel from F. Scott Fitzgerald; he was in the writing process of The Last Tycoon when he died in 1940. I am not quite sure whether Fitzgerald has intended this book to be his semi-autobiographical story, but the characters and the conflicts have a lot of similarities with the writer’s private life. Doctor Richard “Dick” and Nicole Diver was a lovely couple among the upper-middle class of Americans, who, in the 1920s had great interest in travelling to Europe to learn the culture and expand their businesses.

Although it seems, at first, that the story would be narrated by an adolescent Hollywood actress, Rosemary Hoyt; it would turn out on the second and third book, that it was all actually about the Divers. Dick Diver was a psychiatric, while Nicole was his wife as well as his patient. She was a patient in a psychiatry clinic when Dick first met her; a very pretty young girl with schizophrenia. She was very in love with Dick, and though he first declined, Dick finally agreed to marry her after she was released from the clinic. It was easy to assume that Nicole represented Zelda, Fitzgerald’s schizophrenic wife; while Dick’s faith in this story was how Fitzgerald saw Zelda’s mental disorder which has ruined their marriage and, at certain point, the writer’s personal life and career.

Apart from her beauty, Dick married Nicole also for her money. Witnessing his father’s life in poverty apparently encouraged young Dick to pursue his ambition as a famous medical doctor. He might have been successful, and his marriage might have been a happy one, if their course did not accidentally cross with that of Rosemary Hoyt. Young, innocent, beautiful; she had just the perfect combination to corrupt a reserved man (son of a Reverend) who was struggling with his schizophrenic wife. After the short affair, Dick seemed to lose balance of his life. He fell to alcoholism and neglected his career; he became bitter and cynical to others, that his friends excluded him. On the contrary, as he was weaker, Nicole became stronger. She found that she could slowly detach herself from her husband’s influence, and found another love from her longtime suitor.

Nicole is like a parasite to her husband, although she did not do it on purpose, as it was because of her mental illness and instability. But I think the struggles to protect and to balance his wife for more than ten years of marriage have absorbed Dick’s vitality and morality. Nicole’s mental illness was triggered by the incest committed by her father. Maybe this had something to do in Dick’s fall, like a poison that never completely vanishes from the air once it is polluted. In the end what Dick has done to Nicole is a sacrifice; no matter whether he has done it purely for love, or innocently for his ambitions. Whichever it was, I think Dick, or (if this story truly represents the writer’s feeling) Fitzgerald, has done a goodness in bringing a schizophrenic person to reach her fullness of life at last. Sometimes, great deeds demand greater sacrifice….

It was really heart-wrenching to follow Dick’s struggle after Nicole left him. I kept asking myself, how Nicole could be so selfish towards her husband after what he has given her. But to expect an unbalanced woman to guide her husband back to the right path is impossible. So I guess, in the end, I could not blame any of the two. Their faith is inevitable. I think Fitzgerald himself only wanted to express his feeling to the world by this story.

Just like in The Great Gatsby, I think Fitzgerald used a lot of metaphors in this book. Things which I thought were irrelevant to the plot, might have been these metaphors. I felt there were a lot more than what I could grab now. Compared to Gatsby, Tender is the Night is slower and sometimes rather flat, but maybe it’s me who still cannot find the deeper meanings; I don’t think Fitzgerald has ever wasted sentences to no purpose. I think it’s a good excuse to read the book again in the future; then, perhaps, I might find it more beautiful than what I think now.

Nevertheless, I give four stars for Tender is the Night in this first reading.


I read Penguin Classics hardback edition

This book is counted as:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The House of Mirth: Final Review

I think I have just found a favorite female author, who can be juxtaposed with Zola’s genius, intense, and beautiful naturalist style: Edith Wharton. The House of Mirth was my first book by her, and I loved it so much!

Lily Bart is 29 years old, and in the turn of the century, a girl of her age should have married. Lily is very charming, but she is a poor orphan girl who depends on her conservative aunt’s generosity. Nevertheless, she can make her way in the socialite world. Since it is her only world; she has grown up and was brought for one aim: to get a rich husband and live comfortably. The problem was not that no one attracted to Lily; on the contrary, she was charming and intelligent, and had many admirers. Lily’s difficulties started because she could not make her mind of what she really wanted. On one hand she needed to marry a rich man to support her luxury taste, while on the other, she yearned for the freedom of choosing her own life. Through the book she constantly had this doubts; and as she was too lazy to make decision, she kept putting the problem behind, until it exploded, and drown her down.

It might not become too bad if Lily has lived in our modern era. However—and this is what Wharton wanted to emphasize—in the late 19th century, American high society only cared for money and fame. Whoever had one or both would be welcomed to the circle; they didn’t care about morality. Friendship and love were often depended on status; one would praise immoral men and women if they had influences, which one could benefit to step higher on the ladder of so called society. In this circle did Lily accidentally hurt a rich and influenced woman, and in order to take revenge—and to divert attention from her scandalous affairs—she spread negative issues about Lily to ruin her reputation.

In the midst of hypocrite society, a girl would certainly ruinous just because of one vague scandal, no matter whether she really guilty or not. And since Lily was poor and did not know other life apart from what she was brought up for, she could not runaway from the ruin. Her friends knew that she was innocent, but they could not help her lest their ‘patron’ abandoned them too.

Like Zola, Wharton was a naturalist too; their style has a strong similarity, although Zola’s is stronger while Wharton’s a bit softer. Like in Zola’s, I loved Wharton’s metaphors and her beautiful prose, like in this passage. In terms of naturalism theory, The House of Mirth tells us how human being is produced and shaped according to their natural habitat. Wharton also pointed out the moral corruption on the early 20th century, while stock market was being introduced and many people became suddenly rich by it. They were worshipping money and status, but neglecting humanity (you can read more of my analysis of the theme in my WEM posts). And Wharton crafted them in a beautifully-flowing prose.

Five stars for The House of Mirth! And I would certainly read Mrs. Wharton’s other novels.


I read Penguin English Library paperback edition

This book is counted as:

5th book for Back To The Classics 2014 (Woman Author)

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Classics Club’s September Meme: When Edith Wharton and Jane Austen Switch Places

This is probably the most interesting topic The Classics Club has ever picked for its monthly meme:

“Select two classics from your list (by different authors) that you have finished reading. Now switch the authors, and contemplate how each might have written the other’s book.”

My last two classics are The House of Mirth and Sense and Sensibility. Actually, both Edith Wharton and Jane Austen are new authors for me, and I have just read one book of each. So, maybe I would not be very objective, but I’ll try to catch their style from their only books I have read. Now, let’s switch the authors, and voila…..we have two new books! *this is going to be fun!*

The House of Mirth by Jane Austen

Lily Bart is an orphan, and now she is looking for a husband! She is introduced to the young and handsome Mr. Lawrence Selden, when she is staying in her best friend Gerty Farish’ country house. Mr. Selden lives in a cottage near Gerty’s house, so he visits her every morning; they would take a walk for an hour; then he will sit with her while she is doing her sewing, having a quiet conversation. They actually love each other, but never speak of their feeling.

One day they get a visitor from town, Mr. Percy Gryce, the rich and successful gentleman, Gerty’s brother. Mr. Gryce is a self-confident and charming man, and Lily is often blushing by his flattery, while Mr. Selden is silently—and bitterly—watching them. While everyone is sure that Mr. Gryce will marry Lily, he suddenly disappears. Apparently he has mismanaged his business, and was in a huge debt. To save himself, he must marry a rich girl, and Lily is not in his list. The broken-hearted Lily cries everyday, her face becomes paler, and she loses her appetite. But then Mr. Selden starts to visit the house, only to do small helps for the ladies. By his patience and gentleness, Lily gets her confidence back, and she begins to realize how kind Mr. Selden is. She agrees to marry him, and they live quietly but happily in the country.


Sense and Sensibility by Edith Wharton

Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are the daughters of a rich and reputable family in the New York’s high society. Edward Ferrars, who is attracted to Elinor, comes from a rich family too, but he dislikes his people’s hypocrisy and vanity. Elinor loves him, and everybody regards them as perfect couple, until Edward rejects his mother’s inheritance, and chooses to start working as a clerk, and be independent. Elinor, who is always calculated and reserved, slowly releases Edward, fearing that she will be banished from her small world of rich and nice people. What will they think of her if she becomes a wife of a clerk, be that for a reputable company? Elinor ends up marrying a rich man who made his way to fame and fortune through crafty business, although she never loves him.

John Wiloughby is an ambitious young man. As he comes from a middle class family, although highly respectable, he is determined to marry a rich girl (and her dowry!), and be welcomed to the respectable society he has dreamt to be invited. He starts courting Marianne. The amiable and expressive Marianne finds him very agreeable; she loves to talk about books with him, and she enjoys his company. Her association with Wiloughby disgusts her circle of people, and she is abandoned by her friends after a false scandal. Wiloughby, finds that Marianne is already banished from the society, switch his courting to a rich girl, who likes him. He marries her, and now he is welcomed by the high society because of his wife, leaving Marianne crushed by broken heart as well as abandonment from the society.


I am awful at writing, right? :)

I think, beyond the plot, the writing style is what makes them distinguished one from another. But anyway, it’s interesting to see how different a book will be in the hand of other author(s).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The House of Mirth: Rhetoric Stage Reading

Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones and why?

My sympathy goes to Lily. She is the innocent victim of the society determination which dictates how women should live, and beyond that, they would be crushed. Lily becomes what she is now, because she was born in that society, and was brought up by her mother with one determination: not to be poor, because poorness is disgusted; to love luxury; and to achieve it she must attract a rich man to marry her. Lily Bart’s small world contains of politics and business, money and power. You have it, you win; you lack of it, you lost. How can an orphan, inexperienced girl like Lily could have survived in the world like that?

Does the writer technique give you a clue as to her “argument”—her take on the human condition?

If using nature objects can be called ‘technique’, I think Wharton, as a Naturalist, argues that human is shaped by how he is brought up: environment, education, society, culture. It would be difficult to adapt with another different ‘habitat’; just as animals could not survive, and might even extinct, when they are plugged onto different habitat. There might be few who can survive, but cubs would need their mother to guide and protect them. In this story, sadly, Lily does not have anyone to guide her.

What exactly is the writer telling you?

Wharton wants to criticize the injustice practiced by the society upon women; they restricted women’s movement by prejudices. She also pointed out their hypocrisy. Married women (and men) could do anything immoral as long as they were protected by money and marriage institution; whereas single women would be banished forever if they ever had scandal, no matter whether they were really guilty or not. They were guided by the power of money and fame, but ignored morality.

In what sense is the book true?

Some of the problems in this book exist today in our modern world; the hypocrisy, the power of money and fame which become magnet for many people; that true friendship begins to be mere concept. However, nowadays women have more influence than before, and their place is almost equal—almost!—with men’s.