perjantai 29. huhtikuuta 2011

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times

I have been reading, but my flat is a mess and I'll wait to update the challenges until I have a pile of all the books I have read recently. Meanwhile, the book meme.

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Donna Tartt: The Secret History. Of course there are many books I have read more than three times (all the Harry Potter books...), but this is one of my favourite books. I really like books that are set in schools, preferably schools where the students also live in the campus, e.g. English public schools and many American colleges. Something about the community of young, knowledge-hungry people makes these books interesting.
For me, The Secret History is about the human character, control and losing it, the ancient cultures and knowledge. Someone would say it is a crime novel about a murder, but that is less relevant to me. I understand the motives of the characters, I sympathise with them, I understand how someone becomes a murderer. It is terrifying but fits my view of the world.
I also enjoy very much that the characters study Latin, Ancient Greek and their cultures. I have a soft spot for elitism like that, and I very much admire people who are aware of the cultural history of our society. This book always makes me want to study Latin and I have decided to read it next Christmas before my second Latin course.

keskiviikko 6. huhtikuuta 2011

Best Book I Read Last Year

I think I will start filling out a 30 day book meme I have seen around lately. I won't update every day, so it will take me more than one month, but that's not the point. The point is to remember books I have read, introduce them to the possible someone, who might read this blog, and perhaps even lure in some new readers.

Day 01 – Best book you read last year

I think Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin was the best book I read last year. My decision might be affected by the fact that I have a short memory and I read Slammerkin in the very last days of the year 2010, but I can assure you that it was very good. A historic novel of a young girl, who becomes a prostitute to support herself. Unique, wonderful characters and a lively 18th century London.

The plot is marvellous, but the reason I'm so fond of this book are the characters. The main character, Mary, is a working-class girl with a craving for luxorious things. When she is thrown out of her home, she becomes a prostitute. Her new best friend teaches her the trade, they live together and share their worries and joys. The minor characters, Mary's parents, the nuns that help former prostitutes, later in the novel the habitants of a small village Mary works in, all have a personality, a view of the world, a sense of what they think is right or wrong. I'm amazed at the detail in which Donoghue must have planned her characters.

This is an excellent novel, probably most loved by people who like historical novels or are interested in women's position in different times in the past or those who like Donoghue's other novels.

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favourite series
Day 04 – Favourite book of your favourite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favourite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favourite writer
Day 14 – Favourite book of your favourite writer
Day 15 – Favourite male character
Day 16 – Favourite female character
Day 17 – Favourite quote from your favourite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favourite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favourite romance book
Day 21 – Favourite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favourite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favourite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favourite book of all time

sunnuntai 3. huhtikuuta 2011

Jackie Kay: Trumpet

Jackie Kay: Trumpet

This is the first novel I have read by Kay, but after this, I'm definitely going to search all the nearby libraries for more. A touching, powerful novel, it's no wonder it has won the Guardian Fiction Prize. Kay is a Scottish author, who has herself been adopted and has lived as a coloured person in the UK. Well, she still does, but what I meant to say is that she seems to have taken many of the themes of this book from her own life.

Trumpet is mostly set in London in 1997. It has several narrators, and they all think about their relationship with Joss Moody, a jazz trumpeter. Moody has been living all his adul life as a man, but was born as a girl in Scotland. His parents (as Kay's in real life) were a black man and a white woman, and he identifies as a Scott, but seems to also have passed on to his son a certain feeling of non-belonging because of their colour of skin. The novel handles the "race" issue mainly through the narration of Moody's son, Colman. He is adopted, but apparently his biological parents were also a black person and a white person. For Colman, the prejudiges of people seem to act as a reason to be angry at the world.

Gender and gender identity are the main themes of the book. The novel starts when Joss Moody has died, and his body is discovered to be female by a doctor and an undertaker. Moody has been a popular musician, so the issue becomes widely discussed in the media. There is a book being written, too many reporters for Moody's wife to stay at home, and visits to old school friends who knew Moody as a girl.

The characters each take their own view of Moody, his life and his gender. His wife, Millie Moody, mostly tells the story of their past; how they met, fell in love, lived their lives together. To her, Joss Moody just had a body that was in some ways different from other men's bodies. Perhaps the only thing I would critizise about the novel is the way Millie and Joss's relationship is portrayed as perfect. On the other hand, the novel handles so much negative emotions, that the happines of their relationship is needed to balance it out. Millie's narration is beautiful and her saddness feels very real.

Millie and Joss's son, Coleman doesn't know about his father's sex before the funeral director tells him. Colmans narration is full of memories, but usually they appear to him in a different light than before his father's death. He has (as many boys, I believe) partly constructed his masculinity, manliness, on the image of his father as a man, and the revelation that he was born as a girl, isn't an easy one to handle. Colman is in dialogue with himself, his memories, a reporter, and the image of his father, and tries to find his place as a black man, son of Joss Moody, in the society.

An interesting thing to a foreign reader was how the use of pronouns could betray so much of how people thought. When speaking about Joss, Millie and Colman say "he", but the reporter (who is portrayed as the "evil person" in the novel) says "she". This would be very hard to translate into Finnish, because we only have one pronoun for all humans, it is not gender specific. The repetition of words "man" and "woman" would seem comical, it would make the text very pointing and stiff.

I loved this novel. It was beautiful, came close to the reader emotionally and introduced several characters whose thoughts I really wanted to read, and could.

British Book Challenge: The novel was set in Britain, London and Scotland mostly. I think the society it described was more Western than only British, the attitudes towards sex and gender seem to me similar to those in the Finnish society in the late 1990s.

GLBT Challenge: Gender was definitely a major theme in this novel. In the Wikipedia article of Trumpet the writer suggests that "Joss Moody's trumpet serves as an equalizer of identity. The character Joss Moody is not a man or a woman, or a husband or a father. He is a trumpet player. The title of the novel gives his identity the opportunity to be that simple." (So sorry for refering to Wikipedia, but that caught my eye.) I disagree with the writer, and because we are talking about a fictional character, I feel I can, as a reader, make interpretations of his gender identity. Joss Moody definitely wanted to "pass" as a man. Nothing in the book suggests that he questioned his identity as a man, or that he practiced gender fuck/blending/bending/call-it-what-you-will. It might be due to the society he lived in, but in the novel his wife states that he never did anything feminine expect comb her hair. (I will find the excact quote if someone insists.) Although femininity and masculinity do not equal to woman and man, Joss Moody lived his life as a man, and because of that I disagree with the honourable Wikipedia writer and call Joss Moody a man.