Friday, July 29, 2011

Soap Box, Reading, Review and History

The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

I finished the book several days ago, but I’ve been hesitant to write my review. What with the hot weather addling away any brain function I might hope to have and well I’m always afraid of not doing justice in my reviews. Time to get over that feeling, I guess, because this book review keeps looming over my right shoulder saying “Madelyne you better write me right this second!”

I found out the second Montmaray Journal was out a few weeks ago (a little late) when I was on the author’s website. It was a nice surprise and I promptly ran to the library to procure a copy.

When I finished the first book I had my doubts about whether or not to continue reading. There was an underlying theme that I was a bit weary of reading about in nearly every other novel that comes out these days. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about and some people would even call me homophobic or a prude. Fine, if that is what you want to call me, you’re entitled to your opinion, just as I am. I wouldn’t be an individual with my own thoughts and opinions if I didn’t stick to my beliefs, if I became tolerant. I’m not saying to hate homosexuals, far from it. I’m saying I believe it is wrong and therefore I’m not going to bow down and stop believing because you tell me to. I wouldn’t and don’t do it to you. At least I’m learning not to. Why beat a dead horse? If you want to go on living in what I term as sin…be my guest. I’ll pray for you, but I’m not going to continue to waste my breath and energy hoping I can convince you of it otherwise. I realize (sometimes rather begrudgingly) that I have no say, no power…only God can change those people if He sees fit. Okay so by now you realize that I’m on my soap box about the scene in the first book where it is implied that Simon and Toby are a little more than just harmless friends.

I decided to put that behind me and enjoy the book for what its other enjoyments bring me. That is when I thought “Run to the library as fast as you can and get the next book,” and off I went.

Michelle Cooper has a gift. Her writing style in so many ways reminds me of Dodie Smith that it brings a warm glow of happiness to my face that I’ve found another “Dodie Smith-ish” book. Stories that weave characters from our real history into that of fictional characters are my favorite. Ms. Cooper makes it vivid and believable that Sophie and her family could and did live. Connections . . . love them!

The Montmaray’s as a whole are wonderful. I don’t know if you’ll ever meet a family more caught up in the welfare of each other, than they are. I’d like to meet them, does anyone know where they live now? It is hard to say which character is my favorite, but Henry has to be a close call for first. She is so funny.

Perhaps one of my favorite scenes in the book is when Sophie and Veronica meet Daniel for lunch at a cafĂ©. At the end of the meal when the mustard pot becomes Germany, the sugar bowl Czechoslovakia, the spoon the Sudetens, and so on, I found that scene so riveting and almost sad. As everyone joins in the on the conversation, the tables around them even . . . strangers, I was led to ask myself what have we lost over the years that we don’t talk this way anymore? We don’t know these things, nor do we feel comfortable leaning over to our neighbors and talking, whether it be the news or some such. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone with a good sense of Geography these days.

(Me: Stepping up, half way on the soap box.)

Toby and Simon’s relationship is in fact what I had known it to be in the first book. Simon seems a little more bisexual than Toby is willing to let on or believe, but it is still there. I know people who would be bothered by this and I for one, am with you. However, in the midst of this book I really examined my negative feelings toward the homosexual themes found in books (at the very least historical fiction) today. When I thought of my children someday reading books such as this one, at first I was a bit apprehensive should I allow them and so on. Then I came to realize what I’ve already mentioned, I need to let them be. I’m only human and can’t by any means expect people to change the way they are. (I’m not being tolerant, don’t hear that.) I also felt why breed ignorance in my own. Homosexuals have been around since the fall of man. I can’t raise children thinking oh the world has always been perfect, without sin, and “a right good ole jolly” place to be. The fact that there were homosexuals in pre-World War II is undeniable. Why should I say otherwise? The fact that it was illegal and now is rampant is also true. I’ve come to realize I don’t want to hide these things not only from my future children, but myself. While I may be a prude for not approving, I’ll not be accused of trying to paint a different picture of the world’s history.

This review is far longer than I intended.

Did I like the book? Most definitely! Will I be buying the book? Without a doubt! Will I be reading the next book? You bet! For not only do I appreciate attention to detail, but history, such rich and factual history, that it was a constant stream of thought provoking reading for my brain. I laughed out loud and even read several scenes to my mum, who I now have the sense will be reading the books after me. Clever, well-written, true to nature characters and a book you won’t want to put down.

I bookmarked a few quotes that I really liked. There were many more, but I thought I should narrow it down a bit.

Page 341
Bother. Sometimes I wish I could thrash all the troublesome thoughts out of my head, the way the maids beat our rugs clean each week. What would tumble out of my brain? Dust and dead earwigs and snapped-off pencil points, probably . . .
~Sophie

Page 349
Daniel once told me that there’s a word in German, Schadenfreude, which means “pleasure felt when observing the misfortunes of one’s enemies.” Trust the Germans to make up a word like that, but it does occasionally come in handy . . .
~Sophie


Despite not liking Mark Twain he is my quote for the day because it just seems to fit.

Quote of the Day:

Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else.
~Mark Twain
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