Surznick Reads: April 2014 - The Surznick Common Room

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Surznick Reads: April 2014

April reads are here!

Sarah's Reads!

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
From "... the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages ... Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness. Angela’s Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt’s astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic."

I've read a few memoirs, but most of them span 30-40-50 years of a person's life. Angela's Ashes is the first of Frank McCourt's THREE memoirs. This one covers the first 19 years of his life, which were pretty much the same year after year. Every year his father drank away all of their money. Every year it was cold and they couldn't afford warm clothing or coal to heat with. Every year I was becoming less interested in Frank McCourt's life. All in all... I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. There were times I was so bored but there were also times that made me laugh. Would I read it again? No, but I'll probably read his next memoir. I hope his 20's were a little less depressing!

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
From "Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation... In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains... Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town and the family Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape... As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home. What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms."

Yep, two memoirs in a row this month. Like I said, I've read quite a few in my day, but this was by far the best. Not only the best memoir I've read, but one of the best books. Jeannette Walls' story is absolutely incredible. Her writing style is readable, hilarious, and she conveys her family's personalities so well that you feel like another Walls sibling. It was such an inspiration to see where Walls came from and how much she's accomplished today. The Glass Castle actually reminded me of Angela's Ashes in many aspects, but is much more readable and relatable. I've been pretty much begging Nick to read this since I put it down. Check this out and I'm sure it won't disappoint.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
From "Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future. Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television 'family.' But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television. When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life."

I know I'm late to the party, but I finally read Fahrenheit 451 for the first time. I have to say... I wasn't that impressed. Maybe it's the whole dystopian future thing. You may remember from our February post that I wasn't wild about 1984 or Brave New World either. I just wasn't captivated by the story or the characters. Most of the story I wasn't even positive what was going on, nor did I care enough to try and figure it out. Luckily this is a short read, so I never felt as though I was forcing myself to finish it. Like I said in my review of 1984, I probably won't read it again, but this book is deemed a literary classic, so I'm glad I read it at least once.

My Rating: 2 Stars

Nick's Read!

Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
From "In his prime, Edward Bloom was an extraordinary man. He could outrun anybody. He never missed a day of school. He saved lives and tamed giants. Animals loved him, people loved him, women loved him. He knew more jokes than any man alive. At least that’s what he told his son, William. But now Edward Bloom is dying, and William wants desperately to know the truth about his elusive father—this indefatigable teller of tall tales—before it’s too late. So, using the few facts he knows, William re-creates Edward’s life in a series of legends and myths, through which he begins to understand his father’s great feats, and his great failings. The result is hilarious and wrenching, tender and outrageous."

This was a pretty okay book for me. I've seen the movie (a long time ago) and enjoyed it, so I went into reading the book believing I would it enjoy it in the same way. However, the book is literally just a series of stories. One story after another. I'm sure if I was really interested, I could tie them together and understand some greater synthesis about it all, but generally speaking, I didn't. Don't get me wrong, each of the stories was very entertaining. They all channeled the sort of "tall tale" genre that is always very fantastic and a lot of fun to read. However, since the stories all pretty much ended at the end of each chapter, it made the book lack a certain continuity, or even a strong sense of plot. All in all, I enjoyed the book, but it wasn't quite what I had hoped it would be.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Sarah & Nick


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