#22. The Glimpses of the Moon (Edith Wharton)

Book: The Glimpses of the Moon, by Edith Wharton

Genre: Fiction

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 304 pages

Briefly, it’s a romance, set in 1920’s high society.

Comments: I read a review of this book on Karen’s Books and Chocolate blog, and loved the sound of it.  When I set about finding a copy, behold, it’s available free for Kindle on amazon.com – no more incentive needed!  I enjoyed it even more than I had anticipated.  At one level the plot is rather implausible – would a couple really make the kind of deal that Susy and Nick did, to sponge off their friends for as long as possible after their marriage, and then to consider themselves free to divorce if something better came along for either of them?  Yet also very realistically portrayed.  Much of the narrative is an account of what’s going on in the heads of Susy and Nick, in a way that makes their evolving positions on marriage, and on their relationship to each other, very credible.  At the end I was really turning the pages fast, to find out what I knew must happen, but yet didn’t seem about to happen… A great read!  

Challenges: Full House Reading Challenge (for the category “Review persuaded you to read it”); 2014 ebook reading challenge.

#21. To St Petersburg With Love

Book: To St Petersburg With Love, by Mel Cormican

Genre: Travel

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 181 pages

Briefly, it’s an account of a cycling trip from Southend, England, to St Petersburg, Russia, and back, in 40 days, in July and August of 2012.

Comments: The author is an Irishman living in England.  He wasn’t a regular long-distance cyclist, by any means.  The book is interesting and kept me reading to the end, but I was often frustrated at his lack of preparation (he didn’t have the right maps, didn’t ever test his bike with the full weight of what he would be carrying on his trip, didn’t know in advance when he would need a prior booking for his bike on a train, didn’t know what currencies are used in some of the countries he visited, agreed to do a long, intense trip with someone he hardly knew, didn’t make arrangements with his bank for a possible need of an overdraft, etc), lack of knowledge of his bike (didn’t know that changing the height of the saddle might help the pain and stiffness he was experiencing), and of nutrition (well, perhaps he knew, but he kept eating rubbish food), and I wondered why people sponsor someone like this, for charity?  But it’s not uninteresting, and the ending is sweet.

Challenges: Non-fiction challenge 2014, ebook reading challenge 2014.

Short Story #15. Oxford, Black Oxford (Dambuzdo Marechera)

Deal Me In Reading Challenge: I drew the nine of clubs.

Story: Oxford, Black Oxford, by Dambuzdo Marechera (in The Granta Book of the African Short Story)

Comments: I find this story difficult to review – partly, I think, because I’m afraid of being thought not politically correct!

It helps to know a bit about the author.  Read his author page on Goodreads, or one of the many articles you can find by googling his name, such as this one.  Born in Rhodesia in 1952, he came to study at Oxford in 1973, an experience which he found alienating.  This story is largely autobiographical.  A review in The Guardian says that Oxford, Black Oxford, “is a scabrous assault on the way Marechera (who was a wild and ill-disciplined, albeit brilliant student) was belittled by both the university tutors and his fellow students. The story begins and ends with bitterly ironic visions of beauty and hope, but the despair at its centre suggests that these intermittent moments of joy are remnants of an optimism that is being ground away by adverse reality.”

My problem is that the story seems to invite us to sympathise on racial grounds with the student protagonist who repeatedly gets seriously drunk, damages property (and, it is hinted, people), and fails to cooperate with the disciplinary process.  Sorry, but I can’t sympathise with anyone for that.  Call me a crank who’s forgotten what it’s like to be young, if you will – but it’s not because he’s African that I fail to sympathise with him.  And if felt belittled and used by the other student in his tutorial group – well, given that there were only two of them, and that the other student was having an affair of sorts with the professor, anyone in Marechera’s place would most likely feel the same.  But it’s not because he’s black.

Marechera was an angry young man, and coming from the Rhodesia of the 1960’s he had a lot to be angry about.  But he needed to find a better way of dealing with it than blind drunkenness and violence.  It doesn’t seem like he ever did.