Thursday, August 30, 2012

What could possibly be more depressing?

...Than a mid-1950s cancer hospital in the middle of the Soviet Union?  When I started Cancer Ward initially, I could not think of anything that would be more depressing.  Solzhenitsyn actually lived through this experience and the novel draws in part on his experiences.  As I learned from Wikipedia, this novel serves as a metaphor for the Soviet Union after Stalin.  (Definitely wouldn't have figured that out on my own.)

I really found this book interesting, though, once I got into it.  Yes, it was depressing, but the characters were really well written and I learned a lot reading about their experiences.  I also found the book hopeful - many of the characters have goals that they intend to achieve, and their cancer is viewed as a minor obstacle along the way.

Russia has always interested me.  I studied the language for a few years in high school and college (and retained very little of it, certainly not enough where I could read any of this novel in the original language).  The history and the diversity of cultures there has always interested me as well.

Sometimes books like this leave me feeling depressed and sad, but not this one.  I am very glad I read it.  I learned a lot.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The long, long, long adventures of Camilla

It's been a while! Before we left on vacation, i looked up the next 3 books on the list and hurried to the library to collect my vacation reading. Well, it turned out i did not need any of them.

Camilla is one of the longest books i have read so far. One estimate online has it at 350,000 words. (i read it on the kindle, so I have no sense of how many pages that is). I started it before we left and it occupied me the whole 2 weeks of vacation. I really, really liked it though. Sometimes these older novels are hard for me to get into, but this one was really interesting.

Of course there are some things about it that do not translate well to modern times. Camilla is one of those passive heroines. Things just keep happening to her and she does very very little on her own behalf to make things different. The few decisions she does make often lead to disastrous results until a man comes in to fix things for her.

However, it is a happy, uplifting story and things all turn out the way they should in the end. I like when that happens in books.

Now we are back from vacation and fall is almost here!  Hard to believe!