Weezie’s Reading Roundup: April 2011

I seem to be posting these closer and closer to the middle of each following month. C’est la vie, I suppose. But it doesn’t speak highly to my organizational skills, that’s for certain.  In any event, there are few more in the Read pile now. For some reason, though, the To Read pile never seems to shrink. In fact, it seems to be growing… exponentially. Hrm. Interesting.

Madame Bovary
By Gustave Flaubert

I can certainly understand why this novel is considered to be such a masterpiece. It’s an absolutely beautifully written, lushly descriptive story. But, seriously?  Emma Bovary is a dick. A truly spoiled, deceptive, manipulative bitch. She cheats on her long-suffering husband (who, previous to his wife, was pretty much his mother’s lap dog) and spends money they don’t have (then lies about it!) in order to (in her mind) escape from her boring and banal existence. Whatever. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for her. But she’s really not where the beauty in this novel lies. Interestingly, Flaubert was actually charged with obscenity when the book was first published. I suppose the subject matter of extramarital affairs and the blatant flouting of religion was considered to be pretty racy stuff in 1856. The Madame aside, I’m glad I decided to finally take advantage of the stash of classics that came pre-loaded on my Kobo. The intricacies & realism in Flaubert’s storytelling is nothing short of incredible.  And, given that this was a translation, I can only imagine how beautiful the language must be in its original French.

The Countess
By Rebecca Johns
(Crown Publishing Group)

I’ve long been fascinated with the stories of Elizabeth Bathory. So, when I stumbled upon this fictional account of her life, I jumped at the chance to give it a read. We all know the story of the Countess Erzsébet Báthory – who, in 1611, was actually walled up in a tower prison for crimes so gruesome she’s actually been called the first (and worst) female serial killer. But, what author Johns has done is create a fictional world where, perhaps Bathory isn’t quite as guilty as history would have her. Perhaps she’s simply been falsely accused by those more interested in absconding with a poor widow’s land and fortune. Perhaps. Told from Bathory’s point of view as she writes to her youngest son – who’s been kept in the dark with regard to the sinister tales surrounding her imprisonment – in an attempt to tell her version of events, the novel paints a different picture of the so-called Blood Countess. But, despite this sanitized version of events (“the dozens of missing girls and the bodies piling up in shallow, unconsecrated graves? Meh. Totally the maid’s fault. She didn’t take care of them properly after I rightfully beat them within an inch of their lives.”), the subtle viciousness shown is actually quite a chilling interpretation of how the Countess evolved from a sweet, innocent child into a brutal, murderous monster.

The Girl Who Played with Fire
By Stieg Larsson
(Penguin Group Canada)

Apparently people in Sweden eat a lot of sandwiches & drink a lot of coffee.  Or so Stieg Larsson would have us believe. I know it’s a weird thing to point out but I also know I’m not alone in having noticed. Odd & reoccurring culinary choices aside, The Girl Who Played with Fire is so, so fun. This, the second tale in his Millennium Trilogy, is even more twisty and turny than the first. Murder, mayhem, criminal bikers, sex trafficking, delinquent fathers and some seriously sweet computer hacking are part and parcel for this adventure. This time our hero/journalist Mikael Blomkvist has to help clear our bad-ass heroine/hacker Lisbeth Salander’s name when her fingerprints are found on a smoking gun (literally.) I’ve said it already, but it bears repeating that I would totally want to be friends with Salander, were she more than just a fictional character. Mind you, I’d pay particular mind to never piss her off. Because I’m pretty sure that, despite her diminutive stature, she could kick my ass. Do yourself a favour and pick up all three of these books – you’ll smoke through them in no time, but they’re a highly entertaining (not to mention an easy) read.