Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New WorldI know this is famous book so I thought I should read it. It’s definitely dated but the concepts are still something to talk about. I didn’t study this in school so I don’t know the history behind it.

Stats: First published in 1932, this unabridged audio book is narrated by Michael York and is 8 hours in length, printed book is 288 pages.

Blurb: Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

What I liked: Not really sure. As a mental exercise, I guess the story would be interesting to talk about – how the new world is set up and seems to work focused on sex and lack of any distress. But as I mention below, the world and it’s characters didn’t really interest me so it was hard to enjoy it as a story. And maybe that was the point.

What I didn’t like: It all seemed kind of silly to me – a engineered “perfect” world – which I’m sure was at least one of the points Huxley was trying to make. But it was so much so that I couldn’t believe in it as a “real” world and thus interested me less then other dsytopean worlds I’ve read about. It is an early version of such a book, so that might be part of it. It seemed like intially the story is going to focus on Bernard, but then the “Savage” is brought into the story and takes it in a slightly different direction – I suppose to more easily illustrate the silliness of the present world. Why the Controllers allow this old, imperfect world to exsist is hard to understand. You would think they would just kill people that don’t conform or fit in the new world. I think Fahrenheit 451 created a more believeable world with more likeable characters.

Rating: 2.5/5

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of WingsI knew the author so I wanted to check this book out.

Stats: I listened to the audio book, 12 discs, narrated by Jenna Lamina (Sarah) and Adepero Oduye (Handful), Published January 2014, Print is 384 pages.

Blurb: Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

What I liked: I didn’t read the blurb before I listened to the book, so I didn’t know it was based on real people, but as the story went on, it was a bit longer than it seemed like it needed to be, so it occurred to me that is was probably based on real people. I didn’t know who until the end, where Kidd tells of some of the background information, which I really enjoyed. Handful – the made-up character – was a bit more interesting than her white counterpart – Sarah – until Sarah finally gets away from home and starts to forge her own path. Sarah and her sister were very before their time: speaking for abolition and women’s right in the early to mid-1800s. The beginning does give you a good feel for life in Charleston at that time. Lamia and Oduye do a good job narrating.

What I didn’t like: The beginning was a bit slow and overall a bit long, but if you can make it past those things, it’s an interesting story, made more so by knowing it is based on a couple real women.

Rating: 4/5

The Winter Ghost by Kate Mosse – book review

6450212Another blink library pick.

Stats: Published in 2009, print is 253 pages, audio book is 5 discs – 5.5 hours, narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Blurb: In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution to the horrors of World War I, Freddie is traveling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation.
Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic, centuries-old mystery, and discovered his own role in the life of this remote town.

What I liked: After you get into it a bit, it’s an interesting story about love and loss. I like how Mosse makes the seemingly unbelieveable, believeable (Freddie joining a feast and meeting a woman he shouldn’t be able to meet. – I won’t give it away by giving any details). I also like the how the letter in the beginning ties the story together.  Julian Rhind-Tutt’s narration is spot on for the women and the men. I forgot I was listening to a narrator and thought I was listening to the character’s themselves!

What I didn’t like: The beginning is too long. Mosse draws out Freddie’s loss (his brother in WWI) and his breakdown for too long. We get the point, move on already. I think it’s convenient how some of the characters don’t answer questions given to them by Freddie that would help him understand what’s happening or Freddie doesn’t keep asking questions until he understands what’s going on, but the story wouldn’t work if those things happened so I tried to let those things slide. It didn’t take away from the story enough to hinder my enjoyment.

Rating: 4/5