Blindness by José Saramago

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 326 pages.
Read from October 12 to November 23, 2014

This book is like a sharp slap to the face; it startles and shocks you into coming to terms with whatever problem you’re currently dealing with as I cannot imagine a more horrifying scenario for the human race and condition than the one described in this book.

An epidemic of “white blindness” hits a city. For no reason at all, people become blind and all they can see is a gleaming whiteness. The first to go blind is a man in his car, and then the man who helps him home right after stealing his car. After the first man goes blind he goes to see an optometrist and from there, shortly after his arrival everyone in the reception area along with the doctor also go blind. It is the doctor who notifies authorities of the epidemic but his decision to do so will mean suffering for himself and those who follow him into quarantine. The only person who does not go blind, is the doctor’s wife. She pretends to be blind so that she can accompany her husband and help him while he is quarantined.

The horrors of this rushed quarantined life for all these unnamed characters is challenging to read. The military refuses to get near the area and assist with anything for fear of catching the blindness and their fear quickly leads to death when the amount of food is not enough for the people quarantined. The blind have to find a way to bury their own dead with limited resources to prevent stench and disease. They are given no medical supplies and so some characters succumb to completely curable conditions. The lack of empathy and fear from the military is so hard to fathom. I kept waiting for one of the men to step up and do the right thing for these suffering people in so many scenarios but it never happened. Soon these blind people, who are barely able to make it to the bathroom because they are unable to find it, quickly mess up the bathroom with their bodily functions and when the bathrooms are unbearable they go wherever they can. The smell and filth of quarantined area emanated from the pages of the book. It read so real and their discomfort was unbearable at times. After a fire breaks out in quarantine, the blind group of people realize that the military men are all gone and that their quarantine was for nothing as the blindness has grasped the city. While the main group of blind people work together the selfishness and down right cruelty of people are also shown in this book with some disgusting acts of sexual assault and starvation. These nasty scenes are often balanced with those of human compassion and resilience thankfully and I can say the book ends happily.

While the blind can smell and feel their filth and suffering, none bear it more than the only remaining character with sight, the doctor’s wife. She bears witness to these adults and children who have lost all dignity while they struggle to survive in and out of quarantine. The doctor’s wife becomes the group’s unofficial leader and for the majority of the book the only person that knows she isn’t blind is her husband. There is never an explanation as to why the epidemic occurs or as to why the doctor’s wife was spared when none one else was.

The writing itself is literally like nothing else I’ve ever read before. Saramago does not ever use quotations marks or new paragraphs when a character or a new character starts speaking. Additionally, there isn’t one character that is given a name. This style, was surprisingly not difficult to follow and I was almost always able to tell which character was speaking. I believe the reasoning behind this style is to show a sense of unity in that everyone is suffering the same and going through the same thing and that in a world of blindness names seem useless anyway.

This book isn’t easy to stomach so it may not for everyone, especially if you’d prefer to escape reality with reading rather than come to its harsh realities. I just think it’s important to read books like this once and a while to shock and shake you up in order to serve as a reminder that we are often stronger than we know and that we should be grateful for the many things we take for granted.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 416 pages.
Read from October 17 to November 05, 2014.

After falling in love with A Thousand Acres, I was looking forward to reading this new novel. Some Luck is the first book in trilogy that follows the life and times of an Iowa based family. The story starts in 1920 with each chapter being the beginning of a new year. This book ends in the year 1953 but the trilogy is supposed to follow to family for 100 years.

The story opens with how Rosanna and Walter Langdon came to be married in the early 1920’s and Walter’s stubborn endeavors to be a farmer. The two of them are well suited for each other and soon start to build their family. The narration switches between Rosanna and Walter, that is until the birth of the their first child, Frank. Smiley ingeniously narrates some chapters from Frank’s perspective as a baby and as a young child. Additionally, the narration continues with each child that the couple delivers and the plot eventually changes from Iowa as well. Frank is apart of a World War and is a gifted college student, while Joe, the Langdon’s second son, is sensitive young man and chooses to stay and farm. Claire, their eldest daughter, ends up eloping with a stranger to another city. Henry and Claire are the Langdon’s youngest children and will likely have more attention given to them in the next book. I particularly enjoy Rosanna’s narration and how she handled the birth and growth of each of her children. Her experiences with each child were so individual and unique from one another and I imagine that after having that many children, her feelings are fairly accurate for that day and age.

I’d go further into the story line but there really isn’t that much more to say. The story is about the trials and tribulations of this family and as the story follows every single person in the family there isn’t one particular protagonist so there isn’t one particular antagonist. However, Smiley still knows how to tell a story even if there isn’t much going on!

Her writing is solid and her characters are extremely well developed and you get to watch so many of them grow so you do end up wanting to know how each character is going to change, evolve and deal with the challenges that life is going to throw at them. It’s just that there isn’t one major conflict or antagonist that carries the plot. The story line is literally about life, so challenges happen often and the characters move on from each of them, just like real life.

Why read a book about real life? Well that’s a good question, this is why the book has mixed reviews. The book is well written and a good read but depending on the reader it may or may not appeal. I enjoyed reading about a time frame that I was not born into as Smiley’s portrayal was very intriguing. I also loved and hated a few characters so I wanted to know what their adult life would be like but if you’re the type of reader that requires a story that’s a bit more objective this book may not be for you.

Overall the book doesn’t compare to her previous work but it’s still very well executed.

Lust (Lust, Money and Murder, #1) by Mike Wells

11745602
ebook, 106 pages.
Read on October 21, 2014.
4/5 stars.

This was one of those books that I definitely judged by the cover at first and admittedly  I wasn’t initially intrigued by it but boy, am I glad I decided to pick this one up anyway!

This book is the first in a three part series and follows the head strong character, Elaine Brogan. In her teens, Elaine wanted to become a model and her father, while struggling for money is anxious to help her. Without knowing it Elaine loses her money to a scam of a modeling agency and when she goes to fight for her money back it’s given to her a bit too easily. The money ends up being fake and ends up getting her father in jail. Now parentless, Elaine deals with her turmoil by deciding that she is going to be come a federal agent in order to serve justice to the man that put her father in jail.

The book goes over the trials that Elaine has to get through in order to become an agent. She ignores her social life and the romance that normally follows young people her age just so she can out all of her focus into being an agent.  Shortly after becoming an agent she is transferred to Bulgaria where she meets her new partner, Nick. He is funny, charming and attractive and Elaine finds her emotions finally be stirred after ignoring them for so long. However as the story unfolds, she is finds there is a lot more going on with the assignment that she and Nick are working on than she first realized and now has to make some very difficult decisions.

Elaine is awesome. She is tough, resilient, tactful, assertive and very smart. Elaine’s story grabbed me right from the beginning and I was so anxious to know what happened next that I read the book in one sitting. The book does end in a bit of a cliff hanger but it’s a brilliant ploy by the author to get the reader to read the remaining books in the series.

If you love mystery or spy novels than I would highly recommend picking up this quick read!

Click here to get a free copy of this book from the author’s website!