Library Corner

Archive for the ‘Favourites’ Category

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khalid Husseini

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I finished this book in two days (as a mum of two very young children and someone in full time employment, this is pretty good going).  I found it difficult to put this book down, it was THAT good.  It is a story set in Afghanistan and shows the wars of the country, first against Russian oppression, then the Mujahiddin, then the Taliban.  It is powerfully written and tells of the suffering  of women, because they were women.  Characters such as Mariam who have the ‘harami’ title, Laila who we thought would be the stronger of the two.  It shows women to be very strong despite all the oppression they face and their strength is highlighted in the choices they make to survive-for example, Laila’s marriage to Rasheed is a survival move.  The story has some interesting twists too, Rasheed for example, knowing all along that Aziza is not his.  It has a good ending too although I wished Mariam’s end had been different, to prove her mother and society wrong.  There were many innocent sufferers in this book, though they come across not as victims.  The book reminds us all of the tragedies of war, invasion and terror, whether that comes from external forces, or from those closest and from within.  A truly remarkable book.

Written by Um Yousef

7 October 2007 at 10:00 pm

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

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This is a truly remarkable book.  From the very first famous ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley’, I was hooked.  The story centres around the first wife of Max De Winter, Rebecca who has died in a tragic boating accident, and is told through the innocent or even naive eyes of his second wife, whose name is never revealed to the reader.  she is simply known as the second Mrs De Winter.  The setting is around Manderley, the great estate of Max De Winter, where the presence of Rebecca is very much still felt.  It has been preserved as Rebecca left it, by the creepy Head House Maid, Mrs Danvers.  There is something sinister about Mrs Danvers who preserves the West Wing of the house in exactly the way Rebecca left it, and she does so I think, without the knowledge of Max.  It is eveident throughout the book that Mrs Danvers is not altogether ‘there’ with her obsession with Rebecca.  There were moments when I considered that bisexuality was being hinted at by the author.  What is also interesting is that the ‘hired help’ has more power in the household affair than Max himself.  For example, there is a scene when Max gives clear orders that his arrival back to Manderley with his new bride is not to be met by the entire house staff , and yet Mrs Danvers deliberately defies him (perhaps to embarass the new Mrs De Winter or to make her feel uncomfortable since she has married above her social class).  As for the characters in the book, the second Mrs De Winter becomes obsessed with Rebecca because Manderley is Rebecca.  It is set exactly as Rebecca left it.  The cutoms and traditions of the house remain as she left them; ‘tea time’, ‘menu’s’ all have been preserved.  The second Mrs De Winter is haunted by Rebecca, both in her dreams and in her day to day reality.  She is clearly trying to compete with the memory of a dead woman and comes across as weak and timid.  She has more importance in her imagination and her dreams than in what is actually happening around her.  Max De Winter comes across as a hero at times, victim at times.  His proposal to the second Mrs De Witer came as a surprise to me and I wondered what his motives were for marrying her.  She was very much the opposite to his first wife and later in the book, we begin to discover that perhaps that is why he married this simple, plain young girl.  The descriptions of Manderley are breathtaking and if you close your eyes, you can smell the open air as it is described.  There are many powerful descriptions throughout the book including for example, the great fire.  It made me wish that I could go to Manderley and experience it for myself.

I have heard that the Hitchcock film of this is also very good.  I have not seen it.  Most in our book club did enjoy this one.  For me, it was also a personal journey as it was something linked very much to my late mother (may she rest in peace) who had mentioned Rebecca and Manderley to me when I was very young.  I was not disappointed at what I found.

Written by Um Yousef

1 April 2007 at 10:00 pm


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