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A Blogging Good Read - August

Thursday 7 August 2014

Afternoon all! It's Blogging Good Read time and I'm joined this month by Fi from The Adventures of Fi and Sharne who you can find on Twitter as @sharnek. What did we read?

My choice was Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G Wodehouse:

I chose this more because I wanted to pick a PG Wodehouse rather than because of the specific book. If that sounds weird, well, it does kinda make sense. The Jeeves & Wooster books are all very similar. You know what you're getting : a sartorial disagreement, a lot of farce (usually involving a fake engagement or theft), Bertie thinking he can save the day and then Jeeves actually saving the day. So in that sense, this particular book is nothing out of the ordinary in the Jeeves & Wooster canon but if you like it, you'll probably love Wodehouse. If you don't, you won't. Obviously I fall into the former category! That sort of clipped 30s language and slang really appeals to me and I'm often found snorting over particularly amusing phrases when I'm reading Wodehouse.

The plot of this book (go with it) is loosely that Bertie gets roped into giving the prize giving speech at Market Snodsbury Grammar School by his Aunt Delia. He sends his friend Gussie Fink-Nottle there instead but then ends up staying with his aunt anyway in the hopes of resolving his cousin Angela's broken engagement. While he's there he also sets about restoring happiness between Delia and her husband, soothing the wounded feelings of Anatole the French chef and trying to ward off the unbearably drippy Madeleine Bassett. Like I say though, don't worry too much about the plot. Curl up with it, giggle your way through the farce and enjoy every minute of that sublime prize giving speech scene.

What did Sharne think?

I loved this book. Yes the plot is a little too obvious and the characters farfetched, but I like to think that Bertie, Gussie and Anatole were taken from people Wodehouse knew. The style of writing reminded me of how sayings like ‘totes amaze’ and ‘well jel’ have become part of todays vernacular. Bertie Wooster is a fun loving chap who won’t see hearts broken so hatches a plan to mend the relationships of friends and family. Only problem is Bertie is a bit of a bumbling fool and chaos ensues. It is left to Jeeves to save the day, but the white mess jacket may be one ask too much.

How about Fi?

Before this month’s Blogging Good Read I’d never read a Jeeves and Wooster book. I’d always meant to read one as I’d heard such good things but as my to-be-read pile is so huge I've just never got around to it. Needless to say I had super high expectations of Right Ho, Jeeves as a result and I was expecting to love this book from the off. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. From the off the book seemed slow and I couldn't help but wonder if I was missing something. I found Wooster incredibly annoying and didn't really want to know what happened next as I felt it was just going to be utterly ridiculous. Thankfully, the more I read the funnier it got and I found myself getting strange looks on the tube thanks to some laugh-out-loud moments (namely the school ceremony and the spiked orange juice incident). Whilst it definitely improved as I read it I did find it all a bit too farcical for my liking. There were just one to many misunderstandings for me to enjoy it properly and no characters that I loved who could redeem it. However I will definitely read another as perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind – after all almost everyone I speak to disagrees with me on this book!

Fi selected Charlotte's Web by E.B White:

E. B. White’s best-selling tale, Charlotte’s Web, tells the story of a pig called Wilbur who as the runt of the litter faces the chopping block until a young girl, Fern, saves his life and hand rears him. Soon she’s forced to sell him to her uncle where he happily lives on the farm with lots of other animals and his great new friend Charlotte, a spider. As this unlikely tribe of friends realise that Wilbur is to be sold (as he’s now nice and fat) they join forces to rescue him.

Though Charlotte’s Web is one of my all-time favourite books I’d not picked it up for a good fifteen years or so, and as a result I was a little worried that it wouldn't be as good as I remembered. Thankfully it was better than I’d originally thought, mainly due to the fact that I’d forgotten so much of the story! I had of course remembered the basics but not all the wonderful secondary characters within the story – how could I forget Templeton or the geese who constantly repeat themselves? I was also surprised by how funny I found the book, I got the giggles numerous times - the actions of Fern’s brother at the end were hilarious, as was the depiction of Templeton as he ate all the food or hunted for the newspapers – just brilliant! As for the storytelling itself, that was marvellous. E.B. White manages to get so many important, not to mention big, themes into a book only 168 pages long and yet it doesn't feel forced or shoehorned in at all. The story covers everything from friendship and sacrifice to growing up and death and of course it makes you love spiders and appreciate them for how they keep the other insects at bay. What a tremendous feat. It makes me wish there were more ‘kids’ books that did this – what better way to introduce these important themes to young kids? So after re-reading this heart-breaking and funny story I still adore it and will be reading it much more frequently from now on!

I was mildly obsessed with the video version of Charlotte's Web when I was a nipper but I had never read the book before picking it up for this edition of BGR. Mad! I can still sing you every line of Wilbur's song about being able to talk ("isn't it great that I articulaaaaaaaate?") so how on earth had I missed out on reading it?  Well, I can safely assure you that it's a little gem of a book. In a way I think I'm happier that I read it now than if it had been a childhood favourite because I can fully appreciate how beautifully the author dealt with such huge themes in such an accessible, endearing way. The one thing it still can't do is cure my fear of spiders though!

Did Sharne like it?

Another much loved book rediscovered. I don’t remember reading it as a child, but I studied it in secondary school. I’ll admit to getting a little tearful and sentimental reading it, don’t remember doing that when I was 14!  The story is about Wilbur the pig, a young girl called Fern and Charlotte the spider who saves Wilbur from an most awful fate and it's woven into an endearing tale about friendship, loneliness, courage and death. You don’t have to be 6, 14 or 37 to love this little book and I'm very happy to have it back on my bookshelf.

Sharne picked Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden:

When I first read Memoirs of a Geisha I thought it was a biography. I loved it and thought it might be a good choice for a Blogging Good Read, but rereading it I was less enthralled and can’t put my finger on why I didn't enjoy it as much second time round. Is this the first time someone has been let down by their own book choice? The story follows Sayuri after she is sold by her family through her troubles with Hatsumomo another geisha, her geisha training and careers and lust for a man she feels will never love her back. Disappointment aside, it is very well written, with rich description of pre-war Japan and the mysterious world of the Geisha.

Did Fi agree?

On reading Memoirs of a Geisha a second time I was disappointed with it as it wasn't half as good as I remembered. The first time I read this book I was totally absorbed and couldn't stop telling others that they had to read it. This time around I wasn't so blown away and in fact found it hard to get into it as I felt like not a lot happened. I still enjoyed the descriptions of the Geisha way of life and I found the Japanese culture fascinating but the story as a whole wasn't great. I was questioning what was happening quite a lot, namely why would a woman be so focused on a man she’d met as an eight year old? And there were a lot of stereotypes in there that I wasn't keen on. So all in all, I sort of wish I’d not reread Memoirs of a Geisha and could remember it as it was after the first read: a brilliant book.

Well to answer Sharne's question, it's definitely not the first time someone has been let down by their own book choice in Blogging Good Read! Curiously, we've all had exactly the same reaction to Memoirs of a Geisha.  I could have typed out almost exactly what both of the others have said. I remember taking quite a while to get through it the first time I read it but being totally intrigued by the utterly different world that the story took me to.  This time round it still took me a long time to read but not because I was fascinated by it, more because I was finding it a chore to get through. Inscrutability is part of the charm of this book but perhaps it only works once?  It's not something I really enjoyed rereading and I can't see myself picking it up again.

Thank you ever so much to Sharne and Fi for joining in!

Next month I'll be taking part with two different bloggers and we'll be reading Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. If you fancy reading along with us, please join in.

If you want to take part in an edition of BGR later in the year, please give me a shout. Everyone is welcome!

1 comment:

  1. This is SO WEIRD - I loved Memoirs Of A Geisha the first time around about 12 years ago, read it for the second earlier this year and felt very very differently about it, and didn't like Sayuri much at all!


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