Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Lisa Unger "Beautiful Lies"

Recommendations  from my book club.

Lisa Ungers story "Beautiful Lies" grabbed me with its intrigue and kept in suspense until the last page. This is a fascinating story of the life of Kew Ridley Jones, an ordinary woman, who became famous all over the country after she snatched a toddler under the wheels of a truck. This event made her a star of various "talk shows" and "heroine of the day." But her popularity turned against her, Ridley receives a note stating that she is not the one that she used to think of herself. Trying to find out the truth, the heroine falls into a maze of innuendo and mystical events, and with every step the truth about her past shocks the woman more and more. She is tormented by a question: Is her whole life was just a farce, just a beautiful lie?

Each person creates her/his life and destiny; every minute of our life is unique and can not be "re-played" again or perhaps it can be? May be you will find an answer to this in some other book.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Author Golden "Memoirs of Geisha" and Lesley Downer "Gaisha. Secret History of Vanishing World"

Arthur Golden-Memoirs of a Geisha
At the end of the twentieth century a new wave of fashion for Japan and Japanese culture went through the world thanks to Arthur Golden’s book "Memoirs of a Geisha". 
A fascinating, partly sad, story of gray-eyed geisha, Sayuri, takes place in the early twentieth century in Kyoto. A girl from a poor family was sold to okiya, a place where love did not exist, but paradoxically, a place where those who emanate beauty and love were raised. Sayuri would spend her childhood and youth in an atmosphere where everything was based on strict calculation, sometimes hatred, and through a series of fatal events would gain access to the world of geishas. Sayuri would become one of those who through hard work and training create the world of femininity and mystery. The book is interesting not only by descriptions of okiya, tea houses and amazing traditions of geisha industry. The main character talks about Japanese culture and events taking place in Japan at that time (before and after the Second World War). Everything in this book is interesting: the destiny of Sayuri, descriptions of silk kimonos, Kabuki theatre, and the history of Japan.

I was charmed by descriptions of dances and their poetic names. Here Sayuri tells about a dance called “Cruel Rain”: “The story behind “Cruel Rain” is of a young woman who feels deeply moved when her lover takes off his kimono jacket to cover her during a rainstorm, because she knows him to be an enchanted spirit whose body will melt away if  he becomes wet. My teachers had often complemented me on the way I expressed the woman’s feeling of sorrow; during the section when I had to sink slowly to my knees, I rarely allowed my legs tremble as most dancers did. Probably I’ve mentioned this already, but in dances of Inoue School the facial expression as important as the movement of the arms or legs. So although I’d like to have stolen glances at the Chairman as I was dancing, I had to keep my eyes positioned properly, at all times and was never able to do it. Instead to give feeling to my dance I focused my mind on the saddest thing I could think of, which was to imagine that my danna was there in the room with me – not the Chairman but rather Nobu. The moment I formulated this thought, everything around me seemed to drop heavily toward the earth. Outside in the garden, the eaves of the roof dripped rain like beads of weighted glass. Even the mats themselves seemed to press down upon the floor. I remember thinking that I was dancing to express not the pain of a young woman who has lost her supernatural lover, but the pain I myself would feel when my life was robbed of the one thing I cared most deeply about. I found myself thinking, too, of Satsu; I danced the bitterness of our eternal separation”

"Memoirs of a Geisha" teaches to feel.

Lesley Downer-Geisha
If in Arthur Golden’s book we see the world of geisha from inside (the story is told in the first person perspective) in Lesley Downer’ book we have an outsider’s opinion about geishas in modern Japan. The author of the book "Geisha.The secret history of a vanishing world" is a modern western woman who following Arthur Golden, decided to open Japan to the western world .

Japanese geisha - it's like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a cliché, to which many Japanese people are offended. When Lesley Downer mentioned that she was going to write about geishas, she was for the first time confronted with rudeness in a country where protocol and tradition of courtesy were so carefully observed. Some Japanese run into rage, others asked in bewilderment why she was so interested in the banal, old, dark side of Japan. She was also surprised by a small selection of the topic at bookstores in Japan (at that time the book of Golden had not been yet translated into Japanese). Lesley Downer wanted to see faces of real women behind the painted mask, not that she wanted to debunk the myth of geishas. She wanted to find an answer to a question: "who were women who chose the path of a Geisha?”. She was also interested in legends about geishas and historical aspects of the issue.
I liked reading about her attempts to enter the circles of geishas, how she had to adapt to the Japanese mentality and change her dray western style of communication into Japanese courtesy.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Truman Capote “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

I am a big fan of Audrey Hepburn, and films with her participation I watch mostly to admire her unearthly appearance. She is not like the others; I often forget about the movie and catch myself thinking: “what does this fragile creature do in the film and why do the actors playing "normal" people react to her as if they see a lamppost not a woman of angelic beauty, as if women with the appearance of Audrey Hepburn, dressed in her exclusive clothes, roam around in large quantities in their neighborhood?"

Many watched the film "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" with pleasure. But have you read the book?

The book and the movie are two different stories! I associate the words «Breakfast at Tiffany’s» more with the book, and when I hear those words my heart immediately responds with a sharp sense that it is a story about me. This is a poignant, catching your heart story about how to find a place in life where you will be good. This is a book about how to find "your Tiffany".
Holly Golightly, the heroine of the novel, is the wonderful and crazy soul of each of us, looking for happiness.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Stefan Zweig "Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman"

Zweig, of course, is a master of describing emotions. There is no doubt about that, but he adores anguish and insane passion. Remember “Letter from an unknown woman” and many other novellas. He probably liked to shock his audience. Had he lived today, he would be a producer of Hollywood films. Everything is taken to such extreme; it is similar to adding sugar to your glass of Cola. 

What struck me most is how much society has changed over the last hundred years. The main character is a forty-two year old woman. She had an adventure that lasted twenty-four hours. She did not speak of her secret adventure for more than twenty years! She lost her self esteem and considered herself unworthy of her children for a long time. If you look at her mystery through the eyes of a modern woman, you will not find anything criminal in it. Well, I have to add that she was an English aristocrat; Zweig did his best, and yet…

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Henri Troyat "Catherine the Great"

I am not a fan of biographies, nor am I a historian. Cap it all, I read not so many sources about Catherine the Great’s era. Therefore I will speak about this book from an ordinary person's point of view. And my opinion of the book is that it is a tremendous story! Drop everything, go and read Henri Troyat's "Catherine the Great". Her personality is so magnetic that having started to be interested in her, it is impossible to stop.
Her life story (the Prussian child Sophie Augusta Fredericka becomes Catherine, Empress of Russia) generally, is known to everyone. But do you know the details? What was her way to the crown? What kind of person was she?
For example, she was the first in Russia to inoculate herself against smallpox. Certainly, experience with inoculations already existed both in Turkey and in England. But imagine savage Russia of that time… After she did it,  the imperial court prepared in panic for an epidemy and her funeral …. Voltaire on such a courageous step wrote something like this:
"Oh, Madam, what a lesson Your Majesty gave to our French aristocrats, to our sages from Sorbonne, to our Aesculapuses from medical schools! You let yourself be inoculated with less preparations, than a nun for a lavage of her stomach”. Thus, Catherine relieved Russia of smallpox epidemics as Russian people immediately followed her example.

Having learnt that Diderot wanted to sell his library due to constrained circumstances, she made a magnificent gesture by buying from Diderot his entire library and by asking him to store the books at his house. She also granted him one thousand pounds a year for fifty years. This gesture lifted Catherine's prestige in Europe. Henri Troyat writes: «Only three years after her coronation, and she already governs not only millions of Russians, but all thinkers abroad».

It is impossible to list even a small part of what she did as well as to describe features of her character. It is only a few drops, to feel the power and magnificence of an ocean you have to plunge in it or at least see it.