Thursday, May 22, 2008

Travels with My Aunt, Graham Greene

Oddly enough, for a gaggle of well read 29+ year olds (see how funny we are) most of us hadn't read much, if any of Graham Greene's work. Mr. Greene is, for those of you who live under a rock, the author of Orient Express, The Quiet American, and Our Man in Havana - to name only a few.

Travels with My Aunt is a metamorphosis story of a retired banker (aka DULL) who meets his quirky, demanding and lawbreaking aunt at his mother's funeral. Henry is the narrator and story teller, but Aunt Augusta is the heart and driver of the story that spans multiple continents. Henry is uptight, pierced and distanced from the world while Augusta is, at the age of 74, still squeezing out every drop of excitement and drama from life.

We all found the writing accessible and truly enjoyable. The characters were well drawn, and complex. They were also interwoven into each others experiences with ease. The humor of Aunt Augusta that was extolled on the dust jacket didn't quite translate into laughter, but she is quite amusing.


1) Mr Greene's resolution of the "status" of our main character was distasteful to us. Perhaps in the golden age of 1969 morals aren't what they are today -- but we sincerely doubt we have progressed so far in (sigh) 39 years.

2) The Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, Celebrating the Graham Greene Centennial 1904-2004 with Introduction by Gloria Emerson was disappointing to put it mildly. Ms. Emerson's "introduction" was a complete plot summary rather than the expected background and stage setting. Within four paragraphs she gives away the first major bombshell of the story and then goes on to work her way through the entire cast of characters explaining their ultimate end states. She doesn't hold back ANYTHING.. . who dies, how, when and why. If you're a high school student and don't want to be bothered to read this novel (although it is enjoyable) feel free to just read the introduction. *grrrrr* Shame on you Ms. Emerson!

Before you start posting comments that we've given away that someone dies, just try to think of an adult novel where someone doesn't die. Heck, even in Peter Pan someone gets it!

Next up for us... Under the Banner of Heaven.

Friday, May 16, 2008

An Unquiet Mind, Memoir of Moods and Madness

An Unquiet Mind, a Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison is the story of a young woman's decent into mental illness and her struggle to not only survive but to thrive personally and professionally.

Jamison spends a good portion of her book on her professional life and how her bi-polar disorder was accepted and not accepted by colleagues and mentors. She does craft a sympathetic view of the thought processes and drivers behind behaviors of individuals living with this illness. Her descriptions of the manic highs are dizzying whirlwinds of activity and thoughts. The description of the depressive lows were a little less first person.

Her descriptions of the suicidal thoughts and justifications behind her personal attempt were unique and interesting. (For this BG member, provided a little relief regarding the suicide of a family member that occurred more than 30 years ago. Not a fresh wound, but a wound none the less.)

Our discussions centered on her story telling methods, the level of support needed to maintain , and a little grousing about her lack of build up of new "characters." She experiences a profound loss and within 5 pages is three years down the road. (I don't have my copy of the book so I'll beg forgiveness if my number of pages and years are off.)

Next up: Graham Greene. We're headed to the classics.