Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Shipping News

Proulx, Annie. The Shipping News. New York: Scribner, 1993.

Plot Summary
Quoyle's entire life is a series of bad things happening. He falls in love with a tramp. His parents kill themselves. He is fired and rehired from his job seasonally. He moves to Newfoundland with his children and aunt. Only in this desolate place does life begin changing for Quoyle. This is a profound story of description and characterization.

My Thoughts

I do not like the water, nor do I like to read "water books." However, Annie Proulx captivated me with this novel. I am so impressed with the knowledge she shares of the maritime experience as well as the characterization in this book. By Chapter 3, I wondered what else could happen to this character Quoyle. I kept reading to find out and was not disappointed. The story is believable, tragic, hopeful and significant.

One aspect I enjoyed reading was the life headlines. As events happened to Quoyle, Proulx provides the headline that accompanies the event: i.e., "Stupid Man Does Wrong Thing Once More" (Proulx 89) or "Newspaper Reporter Seems Magnet for Dead Men" (Proulx 210). I thought this tie in to the newspaper world was very clever.

After I read the book, I watched the movie (starring Kevin Spacey? as Quoyle!). As I watched, I thought about how the movie brought events in (and omitted them as well), but I realized that if I hadn't read the book first, I don't think I would have known what the movie was doing. Also, the movie looses the flavorful descriptions that Proulx writes. When describing cousin Nolan, Proulx writes, "The old man held it [picture] in his trembling claw" (Proulx 296).

The very last sentence of the book gives hope to all, "and it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery" (Proulx 337). I say, "Good luck Quoyle!"

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Life in France

Child, Julia. My Life in France. New York: Anchor Books, 2006.

Plot Summary
Julia and her great-grandnephew Alex Prud'homme set out to write the tale of Julia's life in France. The books follows the chronology of the 1950s when Julia and her husband Paul lived in France, and it continues into the 1970s. The reader sees what obstacles Julia faced and how she overcame them to learn how to perfect French cookery.

My Thoughts
My grandmother used to watch Julia's cooking show on television, and I've seen her parodied many times, but THIS book taught me about the love a woman can have. Julia loved her husband, loved France, and loved to cook. I can relate to these three things.

I want to return to France and see this country as Julia saw it. I have always been fascinated by the French (even though many people I know, including my husband, "hate the French"). When I was there in 2001, I just didn't know enough. I got a small sample of French life, so as I read this book, like Julia with her cooking, I read with a focus on the details. I could picture the rented apartments that Julia and Paul shared. I walked the streets of Paris and Marseille with Julia looking for a great meal, or fresh vegetable or another kitchen gadget. I felt her frustration when trying to write the cookbook for Americans. I didn't realize how much thought, experimentation and negotiation went into creating The Book. It took Julia and Simca over eight years to write it.

I loved the infusion of French to the story. I found myself reading out loud just to keep up the practice of speaking French and to hear the language. I was refreshed with sayings that I'd forgotten. I wondered as I read if non French speakers would understand (even though most of the bigger sentences were translated).

The four hundred pages were worth my time, and I loved learning about this iconic chef. The last piece of advice that Julia gives the reader is this: "Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" (Child 407). Thanks, Julia. I will.