“Kuyruklu Yıldız Altında Bir İzdivaç” by Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar

Kuyruklu Yıldız Altında Bir Evlenme(Author: Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar) + (Year: 1912) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Turkey)


Review:

The title of this book translates as “a marriage under a comet”, the comet in question being the Halley comet. The story follows the lives of several people, who are preparing for the coming of the Halley comet, some of them terrified of the end of the world, and some, taken by the fire of love.

I was rather curious about the book, as it is considered one of the classics of Turkish literature, with the author being one of the people who are still studied in school and university. I can imagine how this book was progressive and unexpected for its time, however, in our age, it seems very grotesquely simplistic in terms of interpersonal relations. The relationship between the main characters develops in a very absurd, intentionally or not so, way, with the main character falling in love with the girl by the end of her first letter to him.

For the life of me, I could not do anything but strongly dislike Irfan Galip, who was the epitome of a daft male who thinks himself intelligent and progressive, while at the same time acting like he is so much better than everyone else, women most of all. His dismissive attitude toward the woman’s desires to be treated as an equally intelligent individual frustrated me so much. Even today I have received that attitude from men and I couldn’t help but hate seeing it in this book, too: “I believe that women are just as smart as men, but please shut up when I speak and leave the men to fix this.” It’s the same thing that I’ve seen with people in highly religious countries who say “I’m atheist, but it would be highly immoral for my sister to be a waitress because it goes against the foundations of society.” IT DOES? Or does it, perhaps, go against the religious beliefs that are so deeply ingrained in you that you don’t even realize that you are abiding by them?

One thing I did approve of however, was the depiction of the woman who, despite everything, was trying to be emancipated and well-read. At the time this book was written, the place of the woman in the Ottoman empire was not in the university or the library, so I can only imagine how shocking it was that the author challenged that position of the woman in his world.

“Geekerella” by Ashley Poston

Geekerella(Author: Ashley Poston) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Geekerella is a pretty cute retelling of the classical fairytale. I was immediately drawn to it because I’m a sucker for this type of books. I can say that although I have enjoyed similar novels more, I still liked Geekerella.

Since we are all familiar with Cinderella, I will not get into the story behind Geekerella, except that it’s obviously a modern-day version of the story, pumpkin truck and all.

I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between this and A Cinderella Story, one of my favourite movies during my pre- and early teens. Both movies approach the story in a modern way, but they don’t have much more than that in common. So in this sense, Geekerella succeeded in adding originality to the famous narrative.

I also liked the way the author built the main characters. They were well-written and thought-through. My favourite character, however, was one that might have gone under the radar. The dog. He was amazing. No… he was… a good boy!

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The characters that I didn’t like were also the ones that were not very well written, in all honesty. Like Elle’s mother or Darien’s father. They were pretty important to the plot. Just as Chloe was. And yet, all “bad” people in the book seemed a bit shallow and there were no real reasons for their actions. This was probably the main drawback in Geekerella. Once the story was adapted to modern days, it needed a valid reason to be the way it is. In the fairtytale, a character like the evil step-mother makes sense, but that’s not exactly so if the setting is contemporary. It needs a lot more explaining in order to seem as plausible as the feelings of Elle which were the result of her step-mom’s actions.

As for the fandom story. Well… I do believe in the power of the fandom, and I have been and still am in some fandoms myself. Yet, it seems a bit hard for me to actually imagine passion as strong as Elle and Darien’s. To know everything about a show in such extent, as well as to be completely submerged in the world of the fandom, seems a bit excessive and while I’m not judging or mocking anyone, I do admit that I simply have a hard time understanding it.

“The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene

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(Author: Graham Greene) + (Year: 1951) + (Goodreads)


Review:

“I am a jealous man – it seems stupid to write these words in what is, I suppose, a long record of jealousy, jealousy of Henry, jealousy of Sarah and jealousy of that other whom Mr Parkis was so maladroitly pursuing. (…) Sometimes I think [Henry] wouldn’t even recognise me as part of the picture, and I feel an enormous desire to draw attention to myself, to shout in his ear, ‘You can’t ignore me. Here I am. Whatever happened later, Sarah loved me then.”

At first I did not know what kind of a book I will be reading. It was a recommendation which I took without inquiring as to the nature of the genre. Once I found out it was a romance, I became unsure, because The End of the Affair came right after The Sorrows of Young Werther and it was entirely too close, story-wise.

Bendrix, the main hero of this book, claims that he is writing about hate. Hate for Sarah, his former lover, dead by the time of this recollection, hate for her husband, hate for all of the lovers she might have had in her past, or in her future, had she not died.

The relationships between the characters are much more complicated than that, however. This is, surely, an account of love. Romantic love, love in marriage, love between friends, and last, but not least, love toward God. And while this might not be one of the more publicised sides of the book, it is a book about belief and religion.

Bendrix and Sarah have a very complicated feelings toward each other. But whatever those might be, God is the thing that stands between them. As the result of what happens to be a tragedy of errors, they are separated by the hand of God. The book follows in depth the question of belief, the mistrust toward religion and the desire to belong to something higher than the self. While Bendrix does not know it, religion plays the central part of his relationship with Sarah. Therefore, it is her narration that unfolds this entire side of the novel for the reader and in an interesting, yet somewhat confusing way, because, for example, I do get the struggle to believe, but I do not see how it can turn somebody’s world so upside-down that it would but make them lose their mind.

“Let me forgive me. Dear God, I’ve tried to love and I’ve made such a hash of it. If I could love you, I’d know how to love them. I believe the legend. I believe you were born. I believe you died for us. I believe you are God. Teach me to love. I don’t mind my pain. It’s their pain I can’t stand. Let my pain go on and on, but stop theirs. Dear God, if only you could come down from your Cross for a while and let me get up there instead. If I could suffer like you, I could heal like you.”

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The question of love and jealousy is the more mundane side of this book. It is a part of every line, every word, every dot. It is Bendrix’ sole fixation. His entire being is dedicated to either loving or being jealous.

“When she left the house I couldn’t settle to work: I would reconstruct what we had said to each other. I would fan myself into anger or remorse. And all the time I knew I was forcing the pace. I was pushing, pushing the only thing I loved out of my life. As long as I could make-believe that love lasted, I was happy – I think I was even good to live with, and so love did last. But if love had to die, I wanted it to die quickly.

Bendrix thinks that what he is saying is wrong. But what I think is that, first, if it necessarily has to end, it is probably not love. More likely than not, it is fixation, a mania. Second, if one is caught in a bad romantic situation, there is no point to drag it out. The problem with the characters of this book is that they never let anything go. They continue fixating. They know that what they are doing is wrong. They fully realise that they are mistaken. And they, only for appearance’s sake, let it go, yet continue to think and rethink it.

In my opinion, this is not really a love story. By saying that this is a book of love, I was implying that all of them are searching for it and analysing it. I do not, however, believe that they are in love. 

“Wouldn’t you want me to be happy, rather than miserable?” she asked with unbearable logic.

“I’d rather be dead or see you dead,” I said, “than with another man.”

Wish granted.

The Beatles: “Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.”

 

“The Sorrows of Young Werther” by Wolfgang von Goethe

The Sorrows of Young Werther

(Author: Wolfgang von Goethe) + (Year: 1774) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Don’t ask about the cover, I don’t know…

I should start with the fact that Faust is one of my all-time favourite books. I think that it is just a literary masterpiece. The Sorrows of Young Werther, however…

I was saving this book, because having loved Faust, I obviously expected this to be something that I would adore. I waited until I had free time and then… I was hoping for it to just end. Both Goodreads reviews and even the book’s back cover totally spoiled the story, but to be honest, it was to be expected.

The language of Goethe is unquestionably beautiful. It had been a while since I read an old and so masterfully written book. 18th and 19th century literature just has this gravitas to itself. It usually paints the world beautifully, in detail and color. Goethe is a marvelous example of that. I could almost imagine the landscapes and taste the milk and bread and feel the characters’ presence.

This is where it ends, however.

Both the topic of the book and the characters felt foreign to me at the moment of reading. Had I read it in a moment of a broken heart, it might have resonated with me, simply because he has not made a breakthrough in explaining emotion, but just listed his own feelings. Therefore, I think it would be safer to assume that just because one understands the state of mind of the character or the atmosphere of the book, that should not be grounds to consider the book great. Stating mundane things in a beautiful language does not make them extraordinary, everyone can just explain their obsessions.

And speaking of, this is not a novel about love. It IS totally and completely about obsession. Because Werther is no Romeo and Lotte is no Juliet. And although he states many times that there is something below the surface in her behavior, I firmly believe that Lotte did not give a damn about him and she was just flattering herself that somebody likes her.

I also believe that Werther was completely delusional and annoyingly so. I have, indeed, met people who read so much more in their chosen ones’ behavior than there is. It is another rather obvious fact of life. In cases of unrequited love, they still attribute a lot of their own feelings to the object of their affections. There is none, as everyone else can see that. This is how I see Lotte’s treatment of Werther.

And more so, I found it quite annoying to read his romantic, overly-idealistic view of her. “Oh, she is cutting bread! I am in love!!!” Of course, it is different to judge romantic notions in that time period and in modern literature, but that does not mean that Werther was not sugar-coating the situation and Lotte, as a person.

Whereas, I, as the reader, found her to be very disagreeable, careless and even cruel. While Werther was obsessed to the point of becoming a stalker, kissing letters, guns, flowers and so on, she was just a childish coquette, who really did not care about anything but indulging her desire to be adored and worshiped.

Not to mention that the book gives the entirely wrong lesson about how to react in case of unrequited love.

In many of the other reviews I saw a poem by Thackeray about this book. It is VERY spoilery, so I suggest you only read it after you have read the book. It is hilarious.

I recommend this book to: the lovesick, the Emo teenagers and the overly dramatic.

“Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan

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(Author: Kevin Kwan) + (Year: 2013) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Singapore)


Review:

When I saw the title of this book, I was interested but not totally sold on it. I wasn’t sure what to prepare myself for, especially in terms of the seriousness of the book. By that I mean that I was not sure to what extent it will satisfy my need to learn about this culture by reading about it.

However, Crazy Rich Asians is a total success in terms of representation of Singaporean culture. It does so much to explain so many habits, traditions and facts about the country as a whole and its citizens, that I received an abundance of information. Not only that, but it was a great opportunity to learn about everything from food to history.

About the book itself, Crazy Rich Asians was both serious and also very fun at times. Ultimately, it was a love story, but one that is very foreign to my culture and understanding. I know more or less how life and relationships go in Europe, I can assume what they look like in the States, I have studied the culture of the Turkic countries up to the wedding and funeral traditions, but Southeast Asia is a completely different place. That part of the world is very much unknown to me and soaked in so much tradition, which is both hard to grasp and entirely fascinating, sometimes not in a positive light (i.e. I believe that people should marry out of love, not out of need for a social status, which in all fairness exists in other places of the world too, but it abides by different rules than the ones shown in Crazy Rich Asians).

Character-wise more could have been wanted of the main couple. I found the recurring character hilarious and interesting, but Rachel and Nick were not great in my opinion. Rachel was very righteous and at times a bit daft, whereas Nick was just a shell. So much was said about him that his actual personality got lost and the author could not actually prove his worth because he was busy depicting him through the eyes of others.

As one would expect, even though the book was educational, it was essentially a novel full of drama and twist(of sorts), so I could say that it offers something for everyone. Overall, a satisfactory world read and a pleasant chick-lit to get your mind off of things.

Thanks to Celeste for the recommendation.