Reading Duets

Whoever knows me, knows I love reading along with friends, reading books friends are reading,and plotting and figuring out ways to make my friends read what I read.

Recently I read The Awakening of Miss Prim along with my good friend Kim. I told you I’d review the book after discussing it with her, and my verdict coincides with Kim’s: “this is not one of the best books I’ve ever read”, but we both thought it was interesting. We noticed that the reviews are polarized. There’s lovers and haters of the book and it makes sense. It’s a good “beginners” book, if there’s such a thing. Lots of good food, spiced up conversations, some romantic mystery, book references, some Latin quotes… it’s a good cocktail, pleasant, I’m sure, to many. However, we feel it doesn’t deliver as much as it promises at the beginning, or as much as it could. We find incongruities in the plot and characters, lack of mastery, something missing. I call it an uneven or irregular book. It has paragraphs or dialogues that shine, and the author offers us a heaping serving of cake and cliches.

I don’t regret to have read it, and what I like best, it’s to have been able to discuss it with Kim. She took notes of the drinks and food mentioned in the book (and she had a full page of those). She likes to check if they are true teas and foods.

As we met to discuss this book and more, we thought it’d be great to read together other titles. Kim worked on her list, and I always have a dozen of books that I want to read along with others. She emailed me several titles she found of interest, and some coincided with mine too. As we simmered the titles down to a few, I noticed they could be placed in pairs. Incidentally, we came up with this duet plan that also features C.S. Lewis’s books too.

Drum-roll for our matched books, please:

1. THE GREAT DIVORCE, and A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN

 

These two books I’m sure will talk to each other. The Great Divorce being an allegory of a bus ride from hell to heaven. An extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment,according to Amazon’s excerpt. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a book both of us have been wanting to read, it’s a coming of age story. It’s been recommended to me by many good friends.
2. THE PILGRIMS REGRESS and THE ODYSSEY 
 
 
Both of these titles are journeys. The Pilgrim’s Regress is inspired by Pilgrim’s Progress, which I have among my favorite titles. I started reading this book some time ago but never finished it, and not because I did not like it, -I love it, I just got distracted. I know reading it along with The Odyssey will spark connections and ideas. I’ve already read The Odyssey in the Butler’s translation which it’s my favorite (poetic prose).
3. Wurthering Heigths – Princess Bride
 
I suggested Wuthering Heights because I saw that, a favorite author, Ana Maria Matute, writer and translator of George MacDonald’s Princess and the Goblins (La princesa y los trasgos), listed Wuthering Heigths fourth in her 10 favorite books list. (Don Quijote is her number one!) Neither Kim nor I have read The Princess Bride nor watched the movie based on the book. Both book and movie were written by William Goldman, and there’s also a Broadway production of it. Wuthering Heights has been taken to the big screen as well. We both know the book is good. I’m intrigued to see how these two love stories, one dark one light, relate to each other.
4. Night – The Problem of Pain
 
 
Last duet, The Problem of Pain and Night. This was to me an obvious match. C.S. Lewis’ title poses the question, “If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow his creatures to suffer pain?”, while Night is is Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. 
We are attempting to read the first couple of books by the end of August. Hopefully, you’ll be hearing from us and our experience with the plan.

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15 comments on “Reading Duets

  1. You're a gifted writer, Silvia, as you succinctly shared our upcoming reading plan 🙂 Looking forward to the books and the discussion.

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  2. Thanks, Kim, I think the same every time I read your blog. Writing in our blogs helps us to improve, doesn't it? I also like, at times, to go back to the posts, they don't lie, they tell me where my thoughts and my preoccupations have been. That's why I like about doing this, even if it were just for me. But I'm blessed with a lovely audience, and I'm honored that this is a place for conversation.

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  3. Well….I guess I fall in the group that loves the book. I thought it was a delightful read. But that's just my opinion. 🙂 However, I do wish the ending had had more about Miss Prim and the Man in the Wing Chair. 🙂 A sequel would be great! I would definitely re-read this one, especially since I read it in just a few days.

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  4. Karen – I also really enjoyed the book and was inspired in many ways! I would love a sequel too to know more about Miss Prim and all that happens to her next. This book left me wanting more, which I suppose could be seen a positive or negative aspect, depending on how you view it 🙂 I will re-read parts of this book that I enjoyed and am glad to have read it. Happy that you liked it too!

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  5. Kim, I know you and I commented on another post about loving to read a sequel to the book. 🙂 I did finish the book wanting more as well. More about Miss Prim and the Man in the Wing Chair…but I also would have liked to have known more about Miss Prim's journey from when she left Italy. At the same time, I do feel like it had a good ending for the main premise of the book. 🙂

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  6. I am so glad you both like the book, Karen and Kim. Reading has a subjective aspect, and something in the book put me off or screeched, but that's my own reaction to the book. It's just my preference, but that may be because I like things to be presented in a different way, I got hung up in weak spots, and I didn't like her lack of development of characters and atmosphere, I think it's a bit flat and underdeveloped, but it was a good light read. I would want to know more about Miss Prim and (I don't like she didn't tell us his name), the man in the wing chair, but if it's going to be with the author's skills, I am not sure I want to read a sequel.

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  7. I hope I don't sound snobbish as a reader (I am not above “light” reads, I like Hunger Games, to mention something I have enjoyed that it's not a classic!, some books are just right up our alley, others not so much!). I think Kim, you will love Jane Austen, this book has some similarities, and it's clear the writer loves Austen.I read Austen sometimes, but I am not a big fan).

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  8. Silvia, I think I understand what you mean about there being a subjective aspect to book recommendations. Two people may read the same book and one of them love it and the other not like it. And that's okay. 🙂 And I can understand not being a big fan of Jane Austen. As I've already mentioned before, I had a hard time getting into Emma and ended up ditching it. But I did really enjoy Pride and Prejudice. Will I try any more Austen books at some point? Maybe. I am kind of interested in giving Persuasion a try at some point. We'll see. However, I do LOVE watching some of the movie productions of her works. 🙂

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  9. I've only read Pride and Prejudice and Emma, and I too like Pride and Prejudice more. Even not being a fan, I can still see me reading more of her titles.

    I haven't watched many of the Austen productions, but the few I had I love. They are classy.

    And who knows, if Miss Prim's author writes more books, and someone wants to read with me, I may also read that! I guess I have my taste, AND I'm a “social reader” as well. LOL.

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  10. I'm definitely curious to see what Natalia (of Miss Prim) produces next, as I read in an interview with her that she said she does want to write more books. I started reading Pride and Prejudice but never finished. It's on my list to finally get through one day 🙂 I am planning to try Northanger Abbey first, though, before returning to Pride and Prejudice. I've read that was Austen's first written work and that it's a bit easier to get into than some of her others. We shall see!

    And I don't think you sound snobbish at all Silva about your reading views and preferences…you've definitely read a lot of great books and not everyone will like everything even those that others rave about. I didn't come to Miss Prim with any expectations so I think that helped, even if I did want more from the book, characters and writer. It was enjoyable and has increased in me a desire to read more poetry 🙂

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  11. You two are great friends and readers, Karen and Kim. You would love what Cindy Rollins said in regards to Shakespeare, “there's nothing wrong with not liking him, the sin it's to think his plays have no value”.I recognize the incredible value and impact of Austen at many levels, I just have a few preferred authors in her genre that compete a bit (or a lot, hahaha)

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