Cathleen Schine’s She Is Me

Impressed by one of her previous novels The Love Letter that was adopted both by a Hollywood movie as well as a Japanese film, I picked up She Is Me from the library. I must have read The Love Letter some ten years ago so I was eager to find out if She Is Me is as good.

When I read a book, I usually try to look out for something fresh. In a way, the narration changes from the grumpy grandma Lotte, to mother Greta who never complained leaving the people around her having to anticipate her needs, and finally to Greta’s daughter Elizabeth who has a son Harry and insisted to stay out of marriage.

Grandma Lotte was dying of skin cancer and Elizabeth has quited her job as a professor and took up screenplay writing in order to stay with her grandmother. To Elizabeth, marriage is the cause of adultery because if there is no marriage, there is no such thing as adultery.

As Lotte’s health was deteriorating and Greta was diagnosed having colon cancer and have to undergo treatment, it is when the whole depression of death sinking into readers’ minds. Greta’s falling in love with another woman and Elizabeth’s affair added drama to the whole novel and I especially like the question raised: where does privacy end and secrecy begins?

I enjoyed the novel. Not a page turner I must say and I suspect even if I have read Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” – Elizabeth was supposed to write a modern script based on that – I would not have gained much out from it.

Towards the end of the novel, it was mentioned that passion is pointless. Or is it?

Milan Kundera’s Ignorance

I am a huge fan of Milan Kundera, a Franco-Czech novelist. His recent novels “Slowness” and “Identity” left me wanting for more. This short novel Ignorance was published in 2002 and it was only recently I have managed to read it. While “Slowness” took us for a tour of a parallel stories that happened simultaneously in the past and at present in the same physical space and “Identity” allowed us to witness a love story whereby one person started to lose her identity, “Ignorance” reminded us how unreliable memories are and two persons though shared the same experience may not have the same memory. In “Ignorance”, Milan Kundera describes “Nostalgia” in the most details fashion sharing with us what nostalgia really means through the origin of languages, through great work by writers in the past, through his personal point of view, and through the very story he told.
“Ignorance” is not an easy read. It is a book worth reading time and time again.

Requiem of Ling Sing (A Deadly Secret) by Jin Jong

I have read novels from Jin Jong since young. His great work has helped to shape my character and every time when I reread his works in various time of my life, different emotions resonance from within me. His work is complex and I have yet to find any novel in any language that can be as engaging as his work. Sad to say, he has only written 12 stories (36 books in total) and has decided to retire from writing Wuxia (translate: martial arts heroes) novels on the year when I was born (1972). Click here for Yin Yong’s fan site.
I don’t recall I have read this particular story by Jin Jong. I must have given it a pass because it is just a story with one book (usually each story comes with four volumes). Today is Good Friday and I have finished the book in one day. Throughout my reading, I was trying to pinpoint the success ingredients of Jin Jong’s work. Perhaps it is due to the fact that his work was used to be published in the newspaper daily and with limited space, you really have to make each daily dosage as engaging as possible by delivering one small plot as well as enticing the readers with another.

As I reached the end of the book, I realized that the success ingredients are more than that. The highest level of art form is when the characters inside the book have come alive. Be it as you love them to death or hate them to death, you laugh and wipe with them.

Undomestic Goddess – A Good Read

Some people call it “chick-lit” (literature for chicks) but I do find it a very good read. Something I can sort of relate to (life of a professional) and had a good laugh from page to page. After I finished reading it, Cynthia took over, finished in one of two days, then passed it to her mother. I enjoyed it so much that I visited a bookstore and grab all her Shopaholic series. Trust me, it was not easy to carry 5 chick-lits to the counter. Author’s name is Sophie Kinsella. Hope you will like it too.

Related Entries: Remember Me By Sophie Kinsella – A Calculated Risk That May Or May Not Work For Some, Can You Keep A Secret?, and On Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic & Baby

A Prison Diary – A Must Read

Verdict: 9/10
Pros: Written in such a compassion that makes you smile and wipe with the author. Wonderful insights in other aspects of life and they are as real as they can be.
Cons: Can’t think of much except that if you are not into memoires kind of writing, you may not enjoy it. Even so, it is worth a try as the book is indeed a page turner. Another reason why this book could be a put off is that it contains more than a million words (as quoted by the author).

I have picked up a signed copy from a bookstore inside Singapore airport and the image shown is the exact signature of Jeffery Archer. It turned out that I have enjoyed this book tremendously. A rare gem I would say.

This entire work is divided into three volumns. The first of all is Belmarsh: Hell. It was written when Archer was first sentenced for four years due to perjury and Belmarsh was where he ended up: jailed together with drug dealers and murderers. Inside Belmarsh as he unveiled the politics inside the prison community, how your life could be made better by mixing with the right people, stories from the lifers, and stories that are so wierd that are even better than novels. Archer also revealed the flaw of the so-called rehabitation system.

When he finally moved to a less restrictive prison (quite a fair bit of interesting plots), that was when he penned the second volume – Wayland: Purgatory. His zest of inquisition never ended. He interviewed the prisoners as well as the prison officers and all gave a deep insight into the prison system as the serious drug problem that UK faced. Not to forget to mention the stories that make you laugh as you read along.

Moving to an open prison prompted him to write the third volume – North Sea Camp – Heaven. By then he was so expert in the prison system and worked hard to gain his enchanced state that provided him with privilages. Here was when he revealed the sad reality that many prisoners who have been model prisoners and been locked up in many years – simply cannot survive in the real world. The so-called stupid things they do just to get them back to jail again because they feel safe inside the four walls.

There is a final twist to this book but I am not going to reveal here. I am really glad that Archer – a politician as well as a writter – continued to write given the circumstances. This book is a must-read.