Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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5/5 stars.
Paperback, 717 pages.
Read from November 06 to 12, 2012.

I’m going to start doing some throwback reviews as I have a lot of reviews that I’ve written that haven’t been published on my blog as of yet. I’ll start with one of my all time favs, Jane Eyre which I read for the first time back in 2012.


 

Oh wow! The best book I’ve read this year by far! I’ve got this one my favourites list. This book caught me right from the start and I couldn’t put it down. I devoured a 700+ page novel in less than six days.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel and it proved to be unlike any book I have ever read from this era. I think what I love most about this novel is that it is partially autobiographical, so it pleases me to know that woman like Charlotte existed in that time frame and that her brilliance has been retained in writing.

Jane is a head-strong and ambitious woman and this story entails her struggles growing up as a woman in the 1800’s and the difficult choices that she had to make to keep her independence and dignity, many of which most women today would even struggle to deal with. This book was a head of its time (published in 1874)  but was well received by the public even though it contradicted some of the widely held beliefs about women. While this novel is a feminist coming of age story about Jane it is also a love story, and one of the best I believe.

***Spoilers Ahead***The anticipation and build up of her relationship with Rochester I found extremely intense! The descriptions of yearning and heartbreak severely tugged on my heartstrings. Even when things did work out and they were first set to be married, I was surprised to find  found myself yearning for the standard romance that was famous in this era, and I could not understand why Jane would not participate in the happiness and romance that Rochester was trying to instill on her. I did eventually understand though, Jane did not want to be cared by or doted on by Rochester as she could take care of herself. She wanted an equal companion to love, which she would not get until the end when Rochester is blinded and they are finally are able to be together after so much separation and misery. It was so beautiful to have to two of them come together in the end after everything they had both been through. ***End Spoiler***

Jane’s personal struggles, rebellions, strength and the self-respect that she demanded out of herself and others in an age where men controlled the lives of women still blows me away. I find myself thinking in certain aspects of my life “What would Jane do?” and it helps me remember that I am the most important person in my life, that I deserve respect and thinking of Jane helps to remind me to continue to take care of myself in this way.

Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee

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3/5 stars.
Paperback, 272 pages.
Read from April 04 to 08, 2015.

I’m so close to reading all the books in Canada-Reads 2015 now! One more to go. Intolerable is the only official memoir in this years collection and I don’t see how Intolerable could have been written any other way.  This book is about a family who is torn apart by history and guilt.

Kamal Al-Solayee, was born in Aden, Yemen in 1964. He was last of 11 eleven children in the arranged marriage of his parents. Despite what people believe of the Middle East now, it wasn’t always that way. Kamal’s father was a wealthy business man and his family enjoyed all the luxuries that came with it. From vacations, photos, clothes and restaurants Kamal’s family was well taken care of in the days of Aden. Kamal’s sisters enjoyed fashion and make-up as well as going to the beach in their bikinis, all activities that were completely normal for them to be partaking in at the time. This happy family life unfortunately did not last. When Yemen was decolonized, Kamal’s father lost everything. The family had to move away from Aden and live off the savings that Kamal’s father had accumulated in which they become middle class citizens.

During this time was when Kamal started to notice that was different in that he took more of an interest in what his sister’s were doing than the masculine activities his brothers took part in. He was always a self-proclaimed mama’s boy so he was able to get away with the behavior while he was still young. As time progressed Kamal began to figure out that he was gay while, unfortunately, his oldest brother started to adopt the strict Muslim ways that had started to spread through the Middle East. His brother began to put pressure on his sisters, who were successful career women, about their ‘demeaning’ dress and behavior and tried to get them to adopt Islamic ways. It wasn’t until the family moved to again to be with their father that things really changed. The country was changing drastically to adopting stricter Muslim laws. Slowing Kamal watched his mother and sister’s become oppressed and their spark fade. The quality of life in their homes also quickly deteriorated in the war-torn area that they were living in. As Kamal knew he was gay, he feared for his life as homosexuality is punishable by death. He knew he could no longer stay with his family so he made the heartbreaking decision to go to school in England.

From there, Kamal realized that he never wanted to return home. He then ended up in Canada and found his home in Toronto but the tension and guilt he felt over the crumbling conditions his family was living never stopped haunting him. He cannot explain to his family the new life that he is living. The wouldn’t understand his homosexuality or even his career choices.

The Middle East has a way of catching up with you no matter how far you run.”

This book shows the tragic reality of living in the Middle East and what it’s truly like for families that live there and for those who leave it. Kamal is what Canada is all about, as his friends often told him. Kamal came to Canada with nothing but guilt and a heritage he was hoping to leave behind him. While he found a home and success within Canada it wasn’t until he was able to confront his heritage and family that he was able to start feeling whole again. While he never fully reconciled with his family, he was at least able to come to an understanding. Kamal did what he had to do to save himself and live the life that he needed to pursue, but the guilt of leaving his family will likely never leave him.

A poignant read and a necessary one to grasp the real realities of the people living in the Middle East.

The Martian by Andy Weir

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4/5 stars.
ebook, 300 pages.
Read from March 10 to 21, 2015.

I’m not normally a big science fiction fan but this book kept bombarding my Goodreads newsfeed so I figured I’d give it a try. This book absolutely exploded the year it was released and it is now being made into a big Hollywood movie which is expected to be released November 2015. Relatively unknown before the publication of this book, the author Andy Weir, is the son of a particle physicist and was caught up in the world of science fiction at a young age. He studied computer science, though he apparently didn’t graduate, not that it stopped him from him from working as a programmer and at some pretty big name companies like AOL and Blizzard. He actually worked on Warcraft 2 which I think is pretty awesome! I love that game. I’m tell you all this because it’s relevant to the content of this book as only someone with this kind of background could write a novel like this. This book is so hugely appealing because of the effort that Weir takes to make it realistic. This not only displays Weir’s intelligence but also his talent, as he manages to add some pretty technical aspects to this novel but it never loses its readability. It’s apparent that Weir enjoys puzzles and problems and his enjoyment comes through his words in this book.

Mark Watney is one of the first astronauts to land on Mars and with the way things are going he may the be the first to die there. Mark is a very funny, witty, intelligent and remarkably resourceful person. Apparently NASA selected him for the this mission for his optimism and sense of humor as, psychologically, it’s a good mix to have while being in space for years. Mark heads out to Mars with his team of other remarkably brilliant people to Mars to do a routine mission. However when a bad wind storm picks up Mark is thrown away from his team and his suit is pierced and the equipment in it malfunctions. His poor team, thinking, and for good reason, that he is dead pack up their stuff and head back on the almost year long trip back to Earth.   The book opens with Mark’s first realization that he his trapped on Mars with no way of communicating back to Earth that he is alive. NASA does eventually figure out that Mark is alive but the trouble is the publicity that this scenario has created back on Earth and the real dilemma of trying to rescue him before he runs out of food.

Where the book gets technical is with Mark’s brainstorming and problem solving. I’m no genius so I haven no idea how plausible the scenarios in the book are but they sure seem like they could be, so that’s a mission accomplished in my books. The situations and feats that Mark accomplishes to save his own skin on Mars is truly remarkable. As a reader, you’re anxiously awaiting to see how Mark solves his next trial in order to keep himself alive. What makes this book even better is that the chapters are written as a space log. Mark is recording his events on Mars to have some sort of documentation of what happens to him while he is on Mars, and not only are they remarkable but some of them are down right hilarious. He is so frank and honest in the logs because he doesn’t think that anyone will ever get a chance to listen to them. From cursing and despair, to commentary on the terrible entertainment his crew members left behind, Mark is a character I would love to meet and would definitely love to read more of. I’m anxious to see the movie now.

You don’t need to be a science fiction lover to enjoy this novel, but it never hurts to bring out your inner nerd.