Book 6: Great Expectations

Great Expectations is a novel by Charles Dickens. It depicts the growth and personal development of an orphan named Pip.

– From Wikipedia

Great Expectations is a new addition to my 2012 26 book challenge list. I needed a replacement for Michel del Castillo’s La Guitare, which is sadly only available in French. I had considered dropping a Danny Wallace-style twist on myself and forcing myself to read the book in [my dreadful, GCSE-standard] French, but Great Expectations seemed a good fit for three reasons:

  • The book representing New Zealand on my list is Lloyd Jones’s Mister Pip
  • During the longlisting process, Ben had suggested I read a Charles Dickens novel
  • I’ve never liked Dickens and his paid-by-the-word verbal extravagance. For that reason I haven’t read anything by him in about 10 years, so it will be interesting to revisit his work.

So this is the second (or, rather, the first of two) books by English authors on my list (the other is David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten). Naughty, but justified, I think.

484 pages of Dickens, here I come. Does anyone else find the prospect stultifying?

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Book 5: The English Patient

The English Patient is a 1992 novel by Sri Lankan-Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje. The story deals with the gradually revealed histories of a critically burned English accented Hungarian man, his Canadian nurse, a Canadian-Italian thief, and an Indian sapper in the British Army as they live out the end of World War II in an Italian villa.

– From Wikipedia

The English Patient is one of those books I feel like I ought to know so much about despite never having read it. Inevitably, I’ve seen the film, though I can remember very little of it, and Fia tells me it represents only a short section of the book (if I remember rightly, director Anthony Minghella only once read each of the books he adapted and wrote the corresponding screenplays without ever referring back to the source material again).

This is one of the most highly acclaimed, well renowned books on my 2012 books list. I’m really looking forward to it.

What are your (spoiler-free!) thoughts on The English Patient?

Book 4: The Uninvited

The fourth book in my 26 book challenge was Geling Yan’s The Uninvited.

This is the second book in the challenge that’s been authored by a woman. It’s interesting to note that, in the case of this and the first, To Kill A Mockingbird, for a time it was easy to read in ignorance of the author’s sex. But The Uninvited seems to take it further. With its quasi-erotic descriptions of “massage parlours” and general hormonal leeriness, it’s so clearly written from the point of view of the male gaze that it’s easy to forget who the author is. (Indeed, most of the comments people offered upon seeing the book – the few that weren’t “are you actually reading a book in Chinese?” – were about how salacious the cover appeared.) I don’t have any profound conclusions to draw from this observation, but I find it interesting.

But perhaps it’s unimportant. Why should a female author any less write with the male gaze than a male one? Is she better or worse qualified to do so? What do you think?