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 comment box below. I would update list of participants under this post.

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

List of participants:

1. Ruth @ A Great Book Study
2. Readathon Junkie
3. KateKat @ Nattering & Nonsense
4. Jean @ Howling Frog Books
5. Saari @ Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms
6. Lois @ You, Me, and a Cup of Tea
7. Plethora @ Plethora of Books
8. o @ Behold the Stars
9. Dana Huff @ Much Madness is Divinest Sense
10. Melissa C @ Must Read Faster
11. Crafts4others @ Crafts4others
12. A @ My Reading Conversion
13. Ann R @ Ann's Classic Book Shelf
14. Keely @ We Walked Outside and Saw the Stars
15. Chinoiseries @ Always Cooking Up Something
16. Susanna @ A Misadventures of A Globetrotter in Training
17. Brewing Up Books
18. GothicVamperstein
19. Alberta @ Alberta Ross Reads
20. Maan K.
21. Miss Mortmain @ Miss Mortmain Writes
22. Jason @ Literature Frenzy

*If you have signed up but your name does not appear in the list, please let me know.*