Een schitterend gebrek door Arthur Japin

Zijn er redenen goed genoeg om voor de liefde van je leven weg te rennen? Een groot deel van dit boek houdt zich bezig met deze vraag. Maar ondanks die hoofdvraag gaat het niet alleen maar over de liefde. Het boek gaat namelijk net zo goed over de strijd tussen emotie en rationaliteit, vertrouwen en hoe een richting in je leven te bepalen.

Het boek is geschreven vanuit het perspectief van Lucia, de eerste liefde van Cassanova. Door een noodlottige gebeurtenis in haar jeugd vlucht ze weg van Cassanova en hun gezamenlijke liefde. Deze actie heeft beider kijk op de liefde en het andere geslacht voorgoed veranderd. Een groot deel van het boek is dan ook een discussie tussen Lucia en Cassanova over geoorloofde offers voor de liefde en de waarschijnlijkheid van eeuwige trouw.  Aan het eind van het boek maakt Lucia een beslissing over de liefde waarvan ik je de uitkomst helaas niet ga vertellen. Haar keuze is in ieder geval ingegeven door de rest van haar leven en alle mensen die op een gegeven moment veel voor haar betekend hebben.

Dit is één van die boeken waar je jezelf onherroepelijk helemaal in zal verliezen (net als in de liefde wat dus mooi passend is).  Het taalgebruik is doordacht  met een half moralistische, half filosofische ondertoon wat er voor zorgt dat Lucia’s verhaal heel erg geanalyseerd overkomt. Dat is ook logisch omdat ze het verhaal vertelt aan haar ongeboren kind om keuzes in haar leven te verklaren. Dat is een stijl die je als lezer moet liggen en als je er dus niet in kan komen na twintig pagina’s is ‘een schitterend gebrek’ niet een boek voor jou. De sfeer van het boek  wordt namelijk heel erg bepaald door de schrijfstijl. Zelf vind ik het prachtig.

Award: Ik dacht dat het nog maar 7 uur ’s avonds was…

Arthur Japin, Een schitterend gebrek, Amsterdam (2003)

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Bella G. Bear

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

A great book, unless you’re already feeling a bit down.

For years, the only thing I knew about the Sylvia Plath was that she stuck her head in a gas oven. This didn’t seem right, but I never read anything she wrote until my friend Thura passed me The Bell Jar.
We sat on the floor in the city library, in front of a rack of books, and she pushed the book over the floor to where I sat and said: ,,Here, read this if you ever feel like you’re too happy.” So I did. And now I’m gloomy.

It’s a sneaky sort of gloom: at first you might think that you’re perfectly okay but gradually it gets to you. You start wondering what’s sucking the energy out of you and before you know it you’re stuck under a blanket watching Netflix. I reached this point on page 169, I think, and it took me a few days to pluck up the courage to finish the book.
But I m so glad I did! Because it’s a great book! And despite the gloom it is also funny and smart and sarcastic and interesting.

Esther Greenwood, the young woman who tells the story, is intelligent and insightful and terribly depressed by the weight of men and sex and marriage and virginity and babies. I found myself thanking the ongoing march of feminism at nearly every page of the book.
She is a talented student and gets the opportunity to intern at a magazine in New York for a month. While the other girls in the programme try to get as much out of a month in the city as they can, Esther dreads the moment she’ll have to decide what to do next. She can’t have the life she wants, even if she’d know what she wanted. She is constantly told who to be by everyone she meets and shuts out the world more and more. When her summer plans fall through, her composure goes to pieces and she succumbs to depression. Then there’s psychiatrists. And then there’s the ending.

This is Plaths only novel. The oven happened a few weeks after it was published. But if you read the book, you can remember her by something else, for instance exchanges like:

‘When am I going to see you?’
-‘Do you really want to know?’
‘Very much.’
-‘Never,’ I said, and hung up with a resolute click.

(P. 231)

Eeyore award: depression and finding happiness

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (London 1963)

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Jo Robin

Cranford by Elisabeth Gaskell

Cranford by Elisabeth Gaskell is one of the cutest books I have ever read. I was so happy to finally get the book as a present, since it was one of those books my collection was missing. It is widely considered as a classic and it is first published in 1853, London.

The book gets the award: bringing back faith in human kindness and is therefore perfect reading material for a gloomy day (or to read after the bell jar, which reminds me to lend this book to poor Jo. It is a book about real women dealing in their own quiet way with the problems they experience now and in the past.

The protagonist of the book is Mary Smith and her numerous visits to her lady friends in the small village Cranford. The setting is during the industrial revolution in England and tells both about the social life of the ladies and how they deal with the changes that come with the modernization. So be prepared for a lot of shocking feelings towards ‘modern things’ and people having a bad economy.

The main reasons I loved the book is because of its adoringly cute character. Something about the forms of behaviour of those times is heart-warming to read where nobody directly insults each other, but always take care in everything not to hurt each other’s feelings. That is also why this is a great book to read to get an idea of society in the nineteenth century. Also all the ladies in Cranford have been living there most of their lives and therefore form a strong community who cares for each other. And as last miss Matty’s sweet disposition also helps:

‘We all love Miss Matty, and I somehow think we are all of us better when she is near us.”

This quote is a great example of how sweet this book is and how much heart it has. Every time I read that sentence my heart throbs a little. But saying that the book is unbearably cute also reminds me that at moments it was unbearably sad. It is both sad and warm at the same time.

As conclusion I would say that everyone who enjoys classic books such as pride and prejudice and North and South because of the language and the spirit of the age would certainly enjoy Cranford as well. But because almost all of the ladies are of a respectable age do not expect a juicy boy meets girl love story. People hating this book would probably say it is boring and that nothing is really happening. Also you could comment on the old-fashioned writing style as impossible to digest. Those two things might be true but I promise you: once you get used to the writing, you will become part of the Cranford society and you will mourn the day you read the last page.

Award: Brings back faith in human kindness

Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford (London: 1853)

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Bella G. Bear

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl #1) by Eoin Colfer

Looking for the perfect criminal: brilliant, deviant, professional, cold and ruthless? Well, he’s 12 years old and his name is Artemis Fowl. As a child, I loved the idea of a young boy taking over the world of crime and being damn good at it too. I’ve recently started rereading these stories and they’re still absolutely genius.

Artemis Fowl comes from a long line of criminals and attempts to restore the family fortune by stealing gold off the fairies, with his gigantic bodyguard, Butler, at his side. He has recently discovered fairy science and gets hold of their Book, which contains all secrets of the fairy world. He manages to kidnap a female fairy Captain, Holly Short, who’s dealing with problems of her own. Many thrilling scenes follow with lots of gunfights, laser disasters, a troll on the loose, an aggressive cigar-chewing Commander Root, a kleptomaniac dwarf, annoying Mud People and a mansion in wreckage, as the LEPrecon department of the fairies try desperately to get their Captain back, out of the hands of the preteen criminal mastermind.

It’s a fantastically funny book that contains all the elements to capture a child’s attention. It’s exciting, it feels like you’re in a movie, original, so much fun and, come on, a CHILD is capable of planning such an elaborate heist! But somehow it doesn’t feel like a just children’s book. Just because you have 12-year-old protagonist, doesn’t make it a children’s book. The vocabulary is quite extensive and, really, Artemis isn’t much of a kid himself. There are some themes in the book that I didn’t quite understand or picked up on when I was young. For example, Artemis is really a deeply flawed and lonely boy. His father’s been missing for over a year. His mother is practically insane and shut away in her room ever since his father’s gone missing. Artemis himself has been packed off to boarding school, which he hates. He spends all his free time trying to track down his father, which is hardly healthy behaviour for a young boy… Also, he sometimes thinks like a child, but simply won’t allow himself to do so. Eoin Colfer never intended to write this as a children’s book and it’s clear when you read the book as an adult.

Overall, such an interesting read! Revisit your youth with the imagination running wild on every page. You’ll find yourself finishing the book before you know it. You’ll scream sometimes, laugh out loud, maybe even throw the book away in frustration, but you’ll be frantically searching for the sequel afterwards.

But… who names their son after a Greek goddess (goddess of the moon/hunt/virginity)? No wonder the boy has issues…

Peter Pan Award: Revisit your childhood in all its imaginative glory

Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl (New York City: 2001)

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Thura Nightingale