Wide Sargasso Sea  

Posted by Robyn in , , , ,

By: Jean Rhys
List Price: $13.95

Wide Sargasso Sea is an interesting take on Jane Eyre, although one cannot truly call it a sequel. It is far, far more than that. Wide Sargasso Sea is a novel of the struggle for individuality, repressed sexuality, and the looming threat of psychosis.

This story begins during the post-colonial era in Jamaica, just after the British emancipation of the slaves in 1813. The once prosperous plantations have now fallen into disarray and disuse. The Cosway plantation is no exception. The proprietor, Mr. Cosway, has died and left his wife, Annette, and children, Antoinette and Pierre, in a state of severe poverty. The estate home, as well as the wife's sanity, are quickly deteriorating.

One day, an Englishman named Mr. Mason appears on the island and quickly falls in love with Annette, proposing to her shortly thereafter. Mr. Mason uses his wealth to help restore the manor, yet his attempts were in vain. In a brutal scene of mob violence, the former slaves burn down the Cosway home, causing Antoinette's mother to break with reality and become insane. Everyone believes that the insanity is hereditary and it is only a matter of time before Antoinette succumbs as her mother did.

A few years pass by and Antoinette is shocked to discover that she has been sold into an arranged marriage to an English gentleman by the name of Rochester. Antoinette's step-brother has given Rochester control over her dowry, bringing fortune to him despite his role as a second son. Rochester, though pleased by the passion and sensuality of Antoinette, regrets the decision that he made to marry a woman that he barely knew despite the financial independence that is associated with his marriage.

All is well with the marriage, especially as the two become addicted to the sexual aspect of their relationship, until one day Rochester receives a letter from a man who claims to be Antoinette's half-brother. He explains to Rochester that he has been tricked into marrying a madwoman. Rocheter is infuriated and now refuses to have anything to do with Antoinette, especially sexually. Antoinette, who craves their previous relationship, falls into a state of madness due to her husband's hatred for her.

My Thoughts
The aspects of this novel that seem most important to me are sexuality and madness. Although I can't claim that the two are mutually exclusive, I can say that Annette's madness had less to do with her sexuality, as some would suggest, and more to do with her oppression under the system of patriarchy.

Antoinette has been forced to submit to the will of her husband, a man who barely knows her and certainly does not care for her at all. As terms of their marriage agreement, Antoinette's wealth was all transferred in Rochester's name. This deprives Antoinette of the financial independence necessary to free herself from her husband's brutality. Rochester is the ultimate representation of patriarchal supression.

An excellent novel and one that once read, will not quickly be forgotten.

My Sister's Keeper  

Posted by Robyn in , , , , , , , , , ,

by: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 9780743454537
List Price: $16.00

Anna is only thirteen and yet she already bears the burden of an age upon her shoulders. She's been through numerous surgeries, procedures, hospitals, and doctor's offices, yet Anna is not sick. She was born to be a genetic match for her sister, Kate, who has leukemia. She offers precisely matched blood and bone marrow to her sister in hopes of keeping her well enough to fight the cancer. Anna has performed her duties lovingly for her sister, until this point in time.

Anna is now a teenager and is starting down the path of self-discovery. Yet, how can she ever truly define herself when she is always thought of in relation to her sister. Without Kate, there would not have been an Anna, yet without Anna, there would no longer be a Kate. Anna knows that her actions, whatever they may be, directly affect her sister's livelihood, but she yearns for some meaning in her life that belongs to her.

So, to save her identity from being forever lost in the operating room, Anna does the only thing that she knows to do; demand rights to her own body. She obtains a lawyer by the name of Campbell Alexander to defend her in the lawsuit that she files against her parents. Anna hopes to stop her parents from forcing her to aide Kate and she hopes that Campbell will be the one who can help. Little does she know that he may be the one who needs the real help.

My Thoughts

This book is moving, to say the very least. With so many facets of human emotion displayed so openly in the book, it's hard not to be immediately drawn into the situation. At times, it almost seems as if Kate and Anna are your own sisters or daughters.

On one hand, I side with Anna. It was not fair of her parents to conceive her only to be a body part replacement factory for her sister. She is an individual person who deserves just as much respect and love as her parents afford to her sister. A person, even a young teenager has the right to choose what to do to their body.

But this story is so much more than that; it's about a family torn apart by the strains of illness, a girl whose decisions may cause her sister to lose her life, and above all, the bond that connects sisters together despite what occurs between them.



Posted by Robyn in , , , , , , , ,

Penned by: Traci L. Slatton
ISBN: 9780385339742
List Price: $14.00

Is it the sweet relief of death or the glorious experiences of life that is man's true desire? Is God a protector who guards his flock of lambs to their ultimate destiny or is he a sinister figure who revels in the pain of those whose existences he controls? Can one truly find perfection within them self?

Luca, also known as Luca Bastardo, is a street urchin dwelling in Florence during the 14th century. Constantly in search of a scrap of food to satiate his perpetual hunger, Luca finds the company of an old man in the market who teaches him that it is not your position in life that matters but the amount of wit and intelligence that you possess. Shortly after, Luca is sold to a brothel lord by one of his best friends.

Forced to service the patrons of the establishment, who range from wealthy merchants to the city guards even to the clergy, Luca discovers that he can detach himself from his body and visit places of beauty in the world. This is his only escape as he is forced to satiate the lust of the scum of the earth. Year after year fades together and everyone around him grows older, except Luca remains nearly the same. Though nearly twenty years have passed, Luca only seems to have aged by a few years.

Luca, on one of his visits to the outside world, meets a renowned painted by the name of Giotto. Giotto is amused by the intelligence that Luca displays and treats him much like a grandfather to a grandson. When Giotto dies, Luca suddenly discovers what the painter had been trying to make him realize all along; the strength to carry on lays in the spirit of intelligence. This newly found inner strength gives Luca enough confidence to travel back to the brothel and take his freedom by force, by killing the brothel lord.

As Luca readjusts to life outside of the brothel, he discovers more about himself than he ever imagined was possible: hidden mystical powers at his disposal, a legacy of sorcerers, and even the ability to heal those beyond the aid of doctors.

My Thoughts

This book is one of the most philosophically intriguing pieces of literature that I've come across in the past few years. Luca's struggle through life is particularly fascinating to me. He has no memory of his past, coupled with an urgent need to discover where he came from. He feels incomplete without the knowledge of his lineage, yet also tainted by the nature of the work that had been forced upon him.

Luca desires more than anything for a wife, someone to love and to be loved by, yet he knows that the pain of losing his wife to the death that inevitably comes to those who do not experience immortality as he does.


Memoirs of a Geisha  

Posted by Robyn in , , , , , , ,

Penned by: Arthur Golden
ISBN: 9780679781585
List Price: $14.95

This is the story of little Chiyo, the daughter of a fisherman from Yoroido, Japan. When her mother falls ill, her father sells Chiyo and her sister, Satsu to men from urban Japan. The girls arrive in Kyoto, they are separated; Satsu is sold into prostitution and Chiyo is adopted by a Geisha house as a servant. Hatsumomo, the house's lead geisha, is jealous of Chiyo and constantly torments and belittles her. When young Chiyo becomes depressed with her life, a man called the Chairman, has pity on her and buys her something sweet to eat. Chiyo has never experienced such kindness and is immediately taken by the Chairman's charity. She vows that everything she does will be to bring herself closer to him.

The novel follows Chiyo as she grows into a young woman and becomes a geisha under the instruction of legendary geisha, Mameha. Chiyo takes the name Sayuri for her geisha pseudonym and quickly rises to becoming the most sought after geisha in all of Kyoto. Although she performs for many men, Sayuri only truly desires the affections of the Chairman, whom she has taken great lengths to be near.

Follow the struggles of young Chiyo, a simple fisherman's daughter, as she loses her identity and becomes the illustrious Sayuri, the most desired geisha of all time.

My Thoughts

The most interesting contrast in this book is the role of a prostitute versus that of a geisha. This distinction is one that eludes many foreign minds, especially those who choose not to see the beauty in what a geisha is; an artist.

One does not choose to become a geisha, but has that way of life thrust upon them out of necessity. A geisha is unable to allow herself to love one man or even any men at all. A geisha must devote herself solely to the illusion that she is a seductress and an artist rolled into one. A geisha is an object of desire amongst men, so much so that the presence of a geisha is desired by the wealthiest and most powerful of men.