I Love Reading
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I love reading but it wasn't always that way. As a child I thought reading books was a 'dusty' pursuit. Tedious and drawn out. I preferred comics, joke books (I had five on the go at one time) and fairy tales with beautiful illustrations that I used to trace on grease proof paper and keep rolled up somewhere. I am still attracted to children's books with beautiful illustrations and still have some of my childhood ones.
I Was Encouraged into the World of Books By the Lure of Gold Stars
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I have to thank my first year teacher in secondary school for my interest in story books in fact. I can't remember her name unfortunately. We were about thirteen or fourteen when she put a big poster on the wall with our names listed. The idea was that we each got a gold star for every book we read from the library that year. My grand total for the year was eleven. An excellent number for me and a first too. I couldn't believe it myself. I had a good eye on a classmate called Ruth who had a grand total of a hundred and three or six or something enormous like that. Brilliant! I still remember some of the books I read. 'Flowers for Mrs Harris' by Paul Gallico. 'Mrs Harris Goes to Paris', another. Both of which I recommend to anyone. In fact Angela Lansbury, one of my favourite actresses, played the part of Mrs Harris, in films based on these stories. The 'The Snow Goose' by Gallico was another book I remember. I believe and wow yes, 'Midnight is a Place', by Joan Aiken. There were others I can't remember.. We also read 'Shadows on Our Skin' by Jennifer Johnston in class that year. That was heavy but very interesting and eye opening for us as teenagers.
So on to my Good Book - The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer
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I read much more these days. I like to have a few books on the go to relax with. I don't believe in forcing a book. If it is proving too tedious although worthy I still may not finish it. However, I will give most books I have chosen a good go before giving up on them if at all. This one, 'The Story of a Marriage', 'We think we know the ones we love', was one of those I considered leaving down from time to time though I didn't in the end and I am glad. It is a story where at every point you feel there is a deeper mystery to unfold and there is!
An Totally Unexpected Story
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If I knew about this writer in advance then I may not have been so surprised by this book. I went by the title and the cover. I imagined it would be about a long marriage, ups and downs, perhaps the odd infidelity or difficult decision and loyalty or accepting a sub-standard arrangement instead of breaking for something more substantial and satisfying. That kind of thing.
This book is none of these things. It is layered and intense with emotional incite. It turns out the protagonist is a housewife in San Francisco in the fifties when segregation was still strong in America.
The story is told from her perspective but it is subtle from the point of view that I didn't realise this woman was from the Black community until later in the story The point is not laboured but because of the way the story unfolds, you get a glimpse of the frustration about the nonsensical behaviour that passed for normal back then. If I was more familiar with the nuances of segregation I would probably have picked up on it earlier in the story if not right away. It is immediately more obvious in a film as you have the visual queues to work from too.
A Claustrophobic, Heart Warming and Heart Breaking Good Read
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The theme is about a marriage. The main plot is about how this marriage survives the difficulties and personal demons and challenges that beset the characters.
There is another more disturbing sub plot which is about the suffering caused by war in unfathomable ways that go unnoticed in the normal course of events. It weaves in and out of the main plot unfolding and explaining how the circumstances have come about for the characters. The fall out of war is far reaching and immeasurable in it's entirety. It underlines in a most haunting way the reality of the consequences of conscription, avoidance of conscription, going against the expected norm, being wounded in war or in training. It highlights strange cruel practices that occurred in the management of conscientious objectors, people considered cowardly or aberrant in any way to 'the norm'. How people will for some reason continue to repel and abhor that which is unlike themselves in a misguided attempt to make their world as they think it should be.
I found this part of the story very hard to read but also compelling as these were things I would never have known otherwise. I certainly wouldn't watch a film with these things depicted in it. I would feel frustrated, angry and upset about much of it and yet I have been shielded from these realities by chance of where I have lived and who I have known. It underlines how far we have yet to go in developing a way of understanding each other, accepting each other has a place and self advocacy in the world and a part to play in it.
I Don't Want to Give the Story Away
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The story is intriguing nonetheless. It holds some unexpected and eyeopening things too. It offers many topics for discussion. It is mainly a story of love, kindness and humanity and shows a deep understanding of human relationships, the nuances and grey areas and that introduce them as acceptable and worthy of consideration and compassion. I think this is the kind of book that should be read and dissected in schools and is as relevant today as way back then as a lesson for life. You should give it a good read!
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