1. Annie John

Yesterday I spent a pleasurable day reading Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid.  Wonderful quick read, only about 148 pages and beautifully written!  This book was recommended to me by a friend who told me to start with Annie John but that she prefered other titles by Kincaid instead.  I also have Lucy on the TBR shelf so it will most likely be one of my 50 books of 2012.

Annie John is a coming of age story which takes place in Antigua.  Annie is young when the story begins and it continues on through her adolescence.  Annie and her mother have a close loving relationship that  slowly but surely develops into hate and despise.  What I loved about this novel were all the little stories that are recounted by Annie that illustrate what life is like on an island at this time.  Colonialism and strict education are the background of this story.  You practically feel the breeze and sun on your face. I can’t say any more than that because I’ll give everything away.

Elaine Potter Richardson is the real name of Jamaica Kincaid.  She was born in 1949 and grew up on the island of Antigua. In 1973, her family’s disapproval of her writing led to her name change. Kincaid writes on recurring themes in her books such as Caribbean tradition, mother-daughter relationships, shaping female identity in a male dominant society, and the lack of Antiguans to fully achieve  independence because of colonialism to note a few.  If you’re interested here is a list of some other interesting novels by Kincaid At the Bottom of the River, My Brother, The Autobiography of My Mother, A Small Place….

The Help

   This past summer I spent a blissful, hot and humid  5 weeks in my hometown New Orleans.  I usually spend the first week marveling over the changes and things that I’ve missed while living in France.  This time there was one thing I couldn’t miss and that was all the media attention that was being given to Katheryn Stockett’s The Help.  I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing, “What you haven’t read it, you better read it.  It’s great!”  All bookstores had The Help placed in the front of the store and in some right next to the cash register.  Being that I read quite a bit I started to feel left out, but then while watching television I was bombarded with critics on daytime talk shows.   The  trailer was shown constantly on television with its catchy upbeat music.  To me,  it seemed like a comedy.  I refused to go to the movie before reading the book.  It was the first book we would be discussing this school year with the NRs.  Needless to say, I spent most of the time with my eyes blindfolded and my ears plugged.  I felt as if I was on jury duty.

Finally when I got back to France I sat down exhausted from my long trip back and did nothing more for 3 days but read, sleep and eat.  When I finished the book I could see why some people were annoyed with it, especially those that lived through this period.  I could also see what people loved about it.  I think this book could get people talking about this period but not for the right reason nor the right discussion.  It seems to make light of some serious issues that black people were going through at the time.

What I liked about this book is the idea of learning about black maids during Jim Crow years, although this book doesn’t get into too much detail about that, since the issue of sexual harassment was not mentioned.   The character analysis was clear, lively.  They were described in detail. You could imagine what they looked like.   I must admit I fell in love with Aibeleen and Minny immediately.  The usage of dialect was a good idea although it didn’t look much like the dialect I had read in other novels.  it seemed to be extremely baby like.  It just looked like English sentences with words missing.  I’m still not sure why she kept writing Lord as Law.  Nobody says that in the south.

Anyway, this book will definitely be labeled the mini controversy of 20111.  I haven’t seen the movie but people have told me that it’s a tear jerker.  They also said that certain things were different.  Who knows maybe I’ll go see the movie when I have time. Check out the trailer below.  What do you think?

The Help Trailer

Blue Angel Literally

Saturday’s book club meeting went very well.  We always seem to have thorough, interesting discussions when the book is bad.  Ok, maybe bad is a bit strong – uninteresting.  That sounds better.

This novel is set in a fictitious secondary ivy league school(nobody’s first choice).  It’s small,  extremely expensive and the main character is a professor of creative writing (with tenure).  Actually, we weren’t sure how this character could have tenure only teaching one course and not really respecting his office hours.  It’s basically a story about academic life, relationships between professors and students, and how some men could react in a midlife crisis.

The good thing about this book  is the writing style of Francine Prose.  It flows and she writes well as a man who thinks a little too much of himself; who at times seems to behave like a headless chicken.  That’s contrary to the highly intelligent person he thinks he is.  The worse thing was that the story was totally predictable once you’d begun the first 60 pages.  That was a first for me.  All in all, I say read it at your own risk of wasting your time.  My book club is reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  We’ll be meeting on March 27 to discuss it.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be a better read than Blue Angel, especially since I hate circuses.