Want to read with me? Follow this link to view the list and pick a book (or a few!) to read along with me. I'd love for this project to be collaborative, and will post anyone's thoughts beside my own.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Why does a ripe persimmon taste delicious? Why does wood smell smoky when it burns?

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Memoirs of a Geisha is a story of hardship, child slavery, the arduous path to womanhood, and the pleasures and pitfalls of getting exactly what you always wanted in the end. It chronicles the life of Chiyo, a young daughter of a fisherman in Japan, from her early days in Yoroido to life as a bonded slave in Kyoto in an okiya, a household supported by a geisha. Geishas are professional female entertainers who are skilled in the arts of dance, singing, sometimes acting, and keeping men happy at the teahouse. Chiyo leads a troubled life in her first few years at the okiya, and her rebellious streak coupled with the pure venomous demonhood of the okiya's geisha, Hatsumomo, nearly keep Chiyo from becoming a geisha.  She ends up getting apprenticed to another 'older sister', Mameha, a much nicer geisha, and Chiyo becomes Sayuri, one of the most appreciated and asked-for geishas of her time.  After a period of success, Sayuri is left fighting to stay free of a life in the factory when World War II hits and the geisha districts close.  A previous acquaintance with an interest in Sayuri, Nobu, uses his business influence and wealth to send Sayuri to live with a kimono-maker and his family. They lead an impoverished but safe life for nearly 5 years before Sayuri is able to return to her life as a geisha.  After another series of plot twists and would-be sugardaddies, Sayuri ends up with the sugardaddy she wants (here, called a "danna") and happily ends up his mistress for the rest of her days. She and her illegitimate son with said sugardaddy (known as 'the Chairman') eventually leave Japan and move to New York City, where they spend the rest of their days.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I wouldn't recommend that anyone go running out to grab a copy.  If I wanted to teach a group of children about geishas and a little smattering of Japanese history, this would be a fun way to instruct them. To me, the book read more like a very thorough encyclopedia on geishas than a novel. I admit that to cobble together the various pieces of history must have been difficult, and Golden does a decent job of creating a believable storyline - what the book lacked, though, was any real zing. I found it eminently forgettable. (And as a testament to this, I realized about halfway through that I had read it before for a high school assignment, yet I remembered nothing from the first read during this time through.)

- Translator's note 
I started off confused. The book is obviously in the fiction section and considered a novel, but Golden starts out with a "translator's note", which took me nearly 2 days to figure out was fake, and was supposed to be a part of the narrative. I found it very contrived, not to mention VERY CONFUSING. I kept thinking, the book is in English. It's always been in English. Right? So why is there a translator's note? Maybe this was much easier for other people to understand. I, however, had to ask both my mother and my sister before I was convinced that I had surmised correctly it was a "created" part of the fiction.

- Mrs. Tanaka singing to the crabs
One of the women in the book sings to animals that she has to cook while they're still alive, which reminded me of the scene in Julie and Julia where Amy Adams can't keep the lobster in the pot (to kill it) and her husband has to step in.

"If she has to cook a crab, or anything else still alive, she grows teary-eyed and sings to them.

Little bass, oh little bass!
Speed yourself to Buddhahood!"

The other day I laid to rest a squirrel which seemed to have expired on the curb directly behind my car, and I found myself talking to it rather loudly, trying to comfort the little creature and assure it I wouldn't leave him there on the street for his body to be run over and mutilated. As I struggled to move it (without touching it with my hands) off the street into the nearby garden bed, I realized after roughly five long minutes of chatter that there were several people on the street walking their dogs and watching me with a queer look in their eyes. What, you've never found yourself talking to a dead squirrel? OBVI a normal thing to do.

- Very superstitious
Geishas don't go out for the evening without someone sparking a flint on their back for good luck. This sounds like a good practice. Now, who can I enlist to spark flints behind my back every time I leave the house? Suzy? Are your chubby little paws up to the task?

- Almanac, shmalmanac
When Chiyo tries to run away and it fails miserably, Mameha tells her that she should have looked at her almanac to see if it was an auspicious day to run away. Chiyo later swears by her almanac, and when she finds out Mameha has a big day planned for them, she tries to guess by reading in the almanac which days are 'favorable for traveling westward' and so on and so forth. Admittedly, it sounds like hogwash to me, but different strokes, I guess! I hope it's favorable for me to travel eastward in a bit and fetch some food from the kitchen for tea!

- "We change the weight of our clothing by the calendar, not by the actual temperature outdoors."
This line from the narrator reminded me of my time studying abroad in France. As we moved further from fall into winter, the house got exceedingly cold, and my host family, instead of turning on the heat, simply bundled on more layers. This led to an exchange between me and my host mother as follows:

Me (wearing a perfectly normal one pair of jeans and one warm sweater): Excusez-moi, est-ce que je peux avoir une autre couverture? (Sorry, may I please have another blanket tonight for sleeping?)
My host mother (wearing 3 pairs of jeans and two very bulky sweaters): Pourquoi? Tu as eu froid? (Whyever would you ask? You weren't cold, were you?)
Me: (do I really have to answer that question?) Oui, normalement chez moi on utilise plus du chauffage. (In my country, we have this thing called the HEAT that we use.)
My host mother: Ah, ben oui. On va utiliser le chauffage le premier Novembre. (Here, we turn on the heat on November 1st.)
Me: (bafflement)

- Taiko
Among the many courses geishas take is Taiko, a form of drumming, I had to give a little shoutout to my friend Margalit, who has taken Taiko for several years and is an Excellent drummer and speaker of Japanese. Go Mar!! :)

- Dritta! Dritta!
"At first I thought perhaps Mameha took me with her so that she could teach me things like proper posture - for she was constantly rapping me on the back with her closed folding fan to make me stand straighter..."  This line reminded me of my grandmother, Doris, and her penchant for running her thumb up my spine and shouting "Dritta! Dritta, Meredith!" (I'm not even sure to this day what "dritta" means - I think it's Italian for straight, but I'm not 100% sure. What I do know is that it's grandma for Stand Up, Silly girl!) ;)

- "When debutantes disagree, they say it with their eyes!"
Mameha: "You're going to make a fine geisha, but you'll make an even better one if you put some thought into the sorts of statements you make with your eyes." This line made me think of the hilarious scene in She's the Man where the ridiculous woman from the debutante society ball is trying to train Amanda Bynes to be a Lady and says the line above.

- Sumo / luttes
One of the men Sayuri entertains takes her to a sumo match and tells her that only three things matter in life: business, sumo, and war. My brother-in-law, Lune, is Senegalese, and they have a form of wrestling that is similarly regarded. Matches often last only a matter of minutes (or occasionally seconds!) but the wrestlers spend months preparing and trash-talking on television and the day of the event usually includes holy-men and spiritual advisors, as well as songs and rituals that take up much more time than the wrestling event itself. I find it hard to believe that the event is that exciting (since it sort of looks like two big dudes waving their arms and waggling their fingers at each other) but don't tell any Senegalese people I said that! They'd go nuts! :)

Passages I particularly enjoyed:
  • "Even when he summoned a look of concentration, you could run outside and drain the bath in the time it took him to rearrange his features."
  • "He seemed to see the sap bleeding from the trunks of the pine trees, and the circle of brightness in the sky where the sun was smothered by clouds. He lived in the world that was visible, even if it didn't always please him to be there."
  • "Dreams can be such dangerous things; they smolder on like a fire does, and sometimes consume us completely."
  • "I saw life in all its noisy excitement passing me by."
  • "Beauty itself struck me as a kind of painful melancholy."
  • during the bombings of World War II: "Many evenings we watched the moon turn red from the fires in Osaka."
  • "Adversity is like a strong wind. I don't mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be."
  • on the prettiest Geishas often being the nastiest: "I had to wonder if men were so blinded by beauty that they would feel privileged to live their lives with an actual demon, so long as it was a beautiful demon."
Onwards to Michael Sterlingpasture and more adventures. Join me if you dare!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The dyin' ain't over. It's just got started.

The Stand by Stephen King

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
The Stand is a tale of death, loss, grief, love, human nature, and the struggle in each of us between our better angels and the demons beside them. It chronicles a series of events in America following the outbreak of a superflu epidemic dubbed "Captain Trips". Nearly 99% of population is wiped out, and our novel tracks the adventures and responsibilities taken on by several key survivors of the plague.  Don't be fooled, though! The plague is just the Beginning of the protagonists' problems (after all, it is Stephen King).  Our heroes and heroines survive Captain Trips only to be faced with an epic showdown with the devil in Las Vegas. (And yes. I mean that literally.) A ragtag band of rebels and a motley crew of henchmen for the devil go toe for toe and crucifixion, remote pregnancies, suicides, bombings, and pyromaniac-stoked atomic bombs ensue. (None of that is an exaggeration, fyi.) Good prevails (at least for now), and civilization rebuilds in the great city of Boulder, CO.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

I can't say that I really liked this book, but I also wouldn't say that I hated it. Gore, violence, and penetrating evil aren't really my preferred genre, so I can't measure King against contemporaries. I will say that his writing is better than the average thriller writer of today, but in my opinion it definitely clocks in under a large group of other writers on my list. This was also one of King's earlier works (and I happened to read an "extended version" - not sure how much it differs from the original - it was the only copy available at the bookstore), so it's entirely possible that his writing has "improved" (though I sort of hate that term, as I think writing and books are all so subjective that an "improvement" is highly difficult to measure and/or agree upon). In any case, if you're a King fan, I can see what all the buzz is about; that said, I'm unlikely to run out and grab more any time soon. Some thoughts, in no real order...

- Unexpected heroes
I thought King did a great job of building an unexpected cast of characters. Kudos for working with several populations that often go unexplored in literature, and for taking on so many different perspectives! A few I noted:
     - Tom Cullen (mentally challenged)
     - Nick (deaf-mute)
     - Kojak (dog)
     - Leo (semi-deranged boy suffering from PTSD of sorts)

- Anticlimax
I found this book to be a HUGE anticlimax. The devil blew up (OR DID HE?) and then the rest of the book followed Tom Cullen and Stu's return to Boulder from Vegas. Which, to be fair, was one of my favorite parts of the book, but it was NOT a fantastic showdown with the devil. I felt like there was a tremendous amount of buildup for a non-event. Not that an atomic bomb isn't an event, but in writing, it takes up very little space and seems a bit like a cop-out for an epic good/evil battle.

- God/Not-God
I am strongly agnostic, leaning toward mystic/atheistic the older I get, and while I believe in morals and leading a purposeful, service-driven life, I am not into heavy-handed Bible imagery and predestination. The idea that my life is planned out for me and each choice and action I take are merely steering my little gamepiece on a track like one on the LIFE board is frankly distasteful.  I believe that if my life is good and honest and meaningful it's because I make it so, not because God guided me to those actions. Mother Abagail, a central character, basically acts as a prophet for the rebel forces, and I found the passages from her point of view to be tedious and uninspired. It seems like a cop-out for good to defeat evil because God decided to let them on that particular day. And it certainly doesn't explain the million other days when evil wins.

- Larry's Mom 
Saddest/cutest/award-for-tugging-on-my-heartstrings moment in the book - Larry, a character who's mostly a total jerk in the beginning, shows up on his mom's doorstep Out of the Blue and treats her like crap, and when she calls him on it, he threatens to leave, to which she counters:

"'Don't go', she said softly. 'I wish you wouldn't, Larry. I bought some food special.  Maybe you saw it. And I was hoping maybe we could play some gin rummy tonight." awww! Moms!

This book was gross. I know, I'm a girl, and a person who has her own reasons for steering clear of certain morally murky violent content, but still, it seemed awfully nasty. There were a lot of things described in detail that I felt could have been briefly depicted (or left out completely) but I recognize this is also probably what makes a lot of people love Stephen King. He goes there when NO ONE ELSE wants to go there, and while he's there, he's like, HEY! Let's go a little deeper! The notes above are some of my favorites from my copy by the end. I particularly like the "Suck more, Larry!" comment. (Like I said, he's mostly a jerk. For mostly a Very Long Time.)

- Too many characters
There were a LOT of characters. I think literally for the first 200 pages, you don't go more than a chapter without jumping to a new group of characters. Thankfully, the epidemic kills a lot of people off and then we don't have as much trouble keeping them straight. (heh heh) I felt like a trimmed down cast might have made me care a little more about main actors on both side of the battle, though.

- No process for death
Much of the superflu felt like a news cycle from today gone very, very bad. Not beyond the realm of possibility, but seriously out of control. Maybe I'm a bit too cynical because the threat of bioterrorism has become much more real or maybe I've just watched too many crime shows, but reading about the corpses and decomposition and wipeout of the human race didn't really bother me. What made the emotion catch in my throat was this - Larry leaves his mom's dead body in a hospital crammed full of the sick and dying with nothing more than a note. Which seems callous (and is a little - it's Larry, after all!) but follows logically from this:
"No sober young doctor was going to come along, express sympathy, and then start the machinery of death." How would we mourn in an abnormal environment? What assumed formalities, once considered cold and clinical, would become a lost and longed-for comfort?

- Hating on cats
"Cats did not catch the flu, and dozens of them wove in and out of the twilit stillness like smoky shades." Cats survive, but only a handful of dogs do, one of whom plays a large role in helping the good side. Don't get me wrong, I like a "man's best friend" storyline, but hell-O! Why did Stephen King have to hate on cats? Lots of characters bemoan the fact that cats have stuck it out. Unacceptable. Cats are fantastic and wonderful in every way (obviously I'm not capable of exaggeration in this arena) and we should BE SO LUCKY as to have them survive an epidemic with us.

- M-O-O-N and that spells Tired. M-O-O-N and that spells Stew. M-O-O-N and that spells Tom Cullen. Tom Cullen knows that! 
Tom Cullen is hands down my favorite character. He reminded me of Benjy/Maury in The Sound and the Fury and Lennie from Of Mice and Men. There's a brilliant sweetness to him, and he makes for a fantastically unexpected hero. He likes to say, "Laws, Yes!" (ex: It's time for bed! Law's yes, it is!) and speak in the third person (Tom Cullen is tired. Laws, Yes!) and he develops a close bond with Nick, a deaf-mute character. He also likes to say M-O-O-N and that spells (insert a word that's Not Moon. ex: M-O-O-N and that spells Cat!) I found this adorable. When I started saying it to my sisters, I think they found it just a touch less adorable.

Here's an interaction between Nick and Tom in the early days after the epidemic:

Tom: "You movin on, Mister?"
Nick nodded.
"I don't want you to!" Tom burst out. His eyes were wide and very blue, sparkling with tears. "I like you! I don't want you to go to Kansas City, too!"
Nick pulled Tom next to him and put an arm around him. Pointed to himself. To Tom. To the bike. Out of town.
"I don't getcha," Tom said.
Patiently, Nick went through it again. This time he added the byebye wave, and in a burst of inspiration he lifted Tom's hand and made it wave byebye, too.
"Want me to go with you?" Tom asked. A smile of disbelieving delight lit up his face.
Relieved, Nick nodded.
"Sure!" Tom shouted. "Tom Cullen's gonna go!"  adorable!

- A bone-chilling description of the devil, aka Randall Flagg
"She never saw him; she didn't have to see him. He was a shadow passing through the corn at noon, a cold pocket of air, a gore-crow peering down at you from the phone lines. His voice called to her in all the sounds that had ever frightened her - spoken soft, it was the tick of a deathwatch beetle under the stairs, telling that someone loved would soon pass over; spoken loud it was the afternoon thunder rolling amid the clouds that came out of the west like boiling Armageddon."

- Eye of Sauron
The devil's eye is reMarkably similar to the Eye of Sauron, and at one point, SK even refers to Sauron's eye as a comparison. I found this a little weak, because the Eye of Sauron is so Epically awesome, and it seemed like SK could have diverged a bit more here to create his own twist.

- Girls -- Tea
At one point near the climax (or anticlimax) of the book, four men set out from the rebel band (on the deathbed-recommendation/rantings of Mother Abagail) to "face down the devil" and the ladyfolk actually sit down and have tea. SK does a decent job of writing female leads, and to his credit there are actually some decently strong heroines, but I was SOOOOOOOO angry at this moment. Seriously? We're going to war with the devil and the Women. Are. Having. Tea? You should see my face, SK.

- On the best post-apocalyptic helpers not always being the "winners" of yore:
"A job application form filled out by Ralph Brentner would look as if it had been through a Hamilton-Beach blender...misspelled, dog-eared, dotted with blots of ink and greasy fingerprints. His employment history would look like a checkerboard which had been around the world on a tramp steamer. But when the very fabric of the world began to tear open, it was the Ralph Brentners who were not afraid to say, 'Let's slap a little epoxy in there and see if that'll hold her.' And more often than not, it did."

Passages I particularly enjoyed:
  • "He had thought of leaving Arnette, searching for something better, but small-town inertia held him - the low siren song of familiar places and familiar faces."
  • Nick, the deaf-mute character, and his view of the world: "He lived in a silent world. Writing was code. Speech was the moving of lips, the rise and fall of teeth, the dance of a tongue."
  • A description of the dark man, Randall Flagg: "It was the face of a hatefully happy man, a face that radiated a horrible handsome warmth, a face to make water glasses shatter in the hands of tired truck-stop waitresses, to make small children crash their trikes into board fences and then run wailing to their mommies with dead stake-shaped splinters sticking out of their knees."
  • "Nick put his hands over his face because he wanted all the things the black manshape had shown him from this high desert place: cities, women, treasure, power. But most of all he wanted to hear the entrancing sound his fingernails made on his shirt, the tick of a clock in an empty house after midnight, and the secret sound of rain."
  • "A warm night like this, the stars, the summer moon just peeking his red lover's face over the horizon, it made her remember her girlhood again with all its strange fits and starts, its heats, its gorgeous vulnerability as it stood on the edge of Mystery."
  • "In that brief time between, the night had been a fragrant puzzle, a time when, looking up at the starstrewn sky and listening to the breeze that brought such intoxicating smells, you felt close to the heartbeat of the universe, to love and life."
  • "The dance of death was about to begin, and already the strings of the fiddles and guitars were smoking and the stench of brimstone and cordite filled the air."
  • "He was an American man, she knew that, a man who would have a taste for milk and apple pie, a man who would appreciate the homely beauty of red check and gingham. His home was America, and his ways were the secret ways, the highways in hiding, the underground railways where directions are written in runes."
  • "Far away over the mountains was another cloned creature. A cutting from the dark malignancy, a single wild cell taken from the dying corpus of the old body politic, a lone representative of the carcinoma that had been eating the old society alive."
I had a 1984 moment while I was reading this book - when Flagg started crucifying people, I had to pull out and dig my heels into humanity.  I went for a run in the toxic Virginia heat. I took in blue and purple hydrangeas (iron changes their color!), giggled at little girls in swimsuits running through the hose in their front yard, glimpsed one pristine, perfect white cloud, drank in the sweet smell of summer honeysuckle, got completely and totally lost (physically - I have a terrible sense of direction) and by the time I got back home had to scrub the hot, sticky sweat off my skin. While this was my least favorite moment of the book, it says something about a writer's power - King threw me off the couch and into the world, and that's not nothing.

Onwards to Reminiscences of a Hostess. Bask in the glory of summer and join me for a read-along if you will!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The devil does not ride us anymore.

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Rebecca is a tale of deception, passion, grandeur, beauty, and horror. It tells the story of Maxim de Winter and his first wife Rebecca's death, as well as the budding romance between Maxim and his second wife, the new Mrs. de Winter, during their time at Manderley, his vast estate in England. The new MdW (we'll call her this, as she gets no other name in the novel) is young, inexperienced in the world of rich living, and clueless about Maxim's past. It is clear, though, that the new MdW adores Maxim, and she'd do anything for him. I won't reveal the particulars of the plot (so I suppose I should call this section "ersatz spoiler alert") because this novel relies on mystery and the obscuring of certain details, and revealing them would deprive you of the pleasure of discovering them on your own. If you've read Rebecca, then you can happily recount the story to yourself (or read the SparkNotes if you've forgotten). If you haven't, go grab a copy. It's a great summer read, and one you'll be glad you grabbed.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

I read this book for the first time in Mrs. Hibschman's (sp?) class in 7th grade. I greatly enjoyed it then, and I thoroughly enjoyed it this time around. A few thoughts, in no real order:

- "One of the bestselling novels of all time" (according to the book jacket)
I found this particularly amusing because I was talking to a friend about The Voice, a TV show, and how they find increasingly hyperbolic superlatives for their judges each week. Christina Aguilera, widely acclaimed as the best female vocalist of all time. (Hm. Excellent, yes. Talented, yes. All time? hrm.... Suzy - widely acclaimed as the best cat of all time.)

- Typos
I found not one, not two, but 6 typos in this novel. Dear "Avon fiction", as Rebecca has been in print since 1938, you've had plenty of time to get your act together. Snap to it and hire a copy editor!

- Happiness as a state of mind
The new MdW speaks about finding happiness with Maxim in the early part of the novel, and I particularly liked this line: "Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind."

- The new MdW's description of Maxim
"He belonged to a walled city of the fifteenth century, a city of narrow, cobbled streets, and thin spires, where the inhabitants wore pointed shoes and worsted hose. He would stare down at us from a long distant past - a past where men walked cloaked at night, and stood in the shadow of old doorways, a past of narrow stairways and dim dungeons, a past of whispers in the dark, of shimmering rapier blades, of silent, exquisite courtesy."

- Lilacs
Maxim, on the many-splendored scents of Manderley: "His sister used to complain that there were too many secrets at Manderley, they made her drunk. Perhaps she was right. He did not care. It was the only form of intoxication that appealed to him. His earliest recollection was of great branches of lilac, standing in white jars, and they filled the house with a wistful, poignant smell." I still think fondly of wriggling through the hole in the hedge at 419 East Pine to pick lilacs next door, filling every jar, vase, and bowl in the house until the aroma pervaded every room.

- A little Proustian moment of MdW's
The new MdW talks about the small sorrow she feels each time she leaves a place, and how a little bit of herself is left behind. It reminded me very much of Proust and the descriptions of sensations of place and belonging in Swann's Way:
"I am aware of sadness, of a sense of loss. Here, I say, we have lived, we have been happy. This has been ours, however brief the time. Though two nights only have been spent beneath a roof, yet we leave something of ourselves behind. This house sheltered us, we spoke, we loved within those walls. That was yesterday. To-day we pass on, we see it no more, and we are different, changed in some infinitesimal way. We can never be quite the same again."

- Maxim proposes to the new MdW while she's in Monte Carlo working as a companion for Mrs. Van Hopper. It reminds me of the scene in Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Bennet tells Lizzie she must be a stranger to one of her parents after Mr. Collins' proposal:
Maxim: "So Mrs. Van Hopper has had enough of Monte Carlo and now she wants to go home. So do I. She to New York and I to Manderley. Which would you prefer? You can take your choice."
Narrator: "Don't make a joke about it, it's unfair."
Maxim: "If you think I'm one of the people who try to be funny at breakfast you're wrong. I'm invariably ill-tempered in the early morning. hehehehe. me too, Maxim! The choice is open to you. Either you go to America with Mrs. Van Hopper or you come home to Manderley with me."
Narrator: "Do you mean you want a secretary or something?"
Maxim: "No, I'm asking you to marry me, you little fool."

- Barricade, stack of books
It is within the realm of possibility that I finished this book in the wee hours of the morning at my mother's house, barricaded into my room because I heard voices outside during the creepiest scene in the book. It reminded me of when my host brother, Vianney, had a party when I was living in France, and how I tried to stack all of my books against the door so drunken teenage revelers wouldn't accidentally come into my room. They did anyway, and I looked like a fuddy-duddy (I was in my pajamas and in bed at 10 pm) who creepily stacks books on the floor. haghaghaghaghhag. They looked at me and thought, hmph! Americans!

- Ducks & drakes, winkles
My mother keeps an enormous ancient dictionary in her den, and it came in handy twice during Rebecca. Allow me to enlighten you:
(1) Ducks and Drakes - reference to skipping stones; did you know a drake is a term for a male duck? (I didn't.)
(2) Winkles - a small herbivorous shore-dwelling mollusk with a spiral shell, sort of like a snail. Ben (a neighbor) gives the new MdW a handful of winkles on the beach and tells her she can eat them (as long as she boils them first) and during a tense moment a few hours later back at the house, she squeezes the winkles in her pockets. It makes me think of squeezing a Chompo bar. ;)

- The new MdW, on feeling uncomfortable around the servants
"The housemaid Alice had been so superior. I used to sneak my chemises and nightgowns out of my drawer and mend them myself rather than ask her to do them." The new MdW is sweet, but very shy, and several things she did felt very much like something I would do in her situation. She hides from her very first guests at Manderley (eventually unsuccessfully) and accidentally breaks a valuable Cupid doll and then hides the evidence. As a klutz and someone who really doesn't enjoy meeting strangers, I dig you, MdW! 

- The new MdW, on her relationship with the super-creep housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers:
"If she was looking at me, I should not know. Even if I turned in my chair and looked up to the windows I could not see her. I remembered a game I had played as a child that my friends next door had called "Grandmother's Steps" and myself "Old Witch". You had to stand at the end of the garden with your back turned to the rest, and one by one they crept nearer to you, advancing in short furtive fashion. Every few minutes you turned to look at them, and if you saw one of them moving the offender had to retire to the back line and begin again. But there was always one a little bolder than the rest, who came up very close, whose movement was impossible to detect, and as you waited there, your back turned, counting the regulation Ten, you knew, with a fatal terrifying certainty, that before long, before even the Ten was counted, this bold player would pounce upon you from behind, unheralded, unseen, with a scream of triumph. I felt as tense and expectant as I did then. I was playing "Old Witch" with Mrs. Danvers." Mrs. Danvers gave Me the Creeps, and she's not even real!

- Je Reviens
The name of Rebecca's boat is "Je Reviens", or "I come back", which I found delightfully ironic after reaching the climax of the story. (Sorry, I can't tell you why! Find out for yourself!)

- Politeness
At several crucial moments in the book, the characters have to stop for tea, or lunch, or pause in their discussion because the servants can't hear what they're discussing. It seemed SO frustrating to me, and I can't imagine what it must have been like to actually behave this way in the 1930's in high society. Definition of Waspiness. Yes, we're investigating a grisly crime. I'm sorry, I forgot to ask, do you take lemon or sugar in your tea?

- Favell and cousin
A man named Favell has a relationship with a woman in the novel (Sh! It's a secret!) who happens to also be his cousin. It reminded me of Mean Girls: "Seth Musakowski is looking Fine tonight." "Ew! Seth Musakowski is your cousin!" "Yeah, but you have your cousins, and then your first cousins, and... wait. That's not right, is it?" "That's So not right."

- London - rain and heat
There was a great weather metaphor at the end of the novel. As the story reached its climax at Manderley, the oppressive heat finally breaks, and a torrential thunderstorm begins. The next day, though, the characters must drive to London, and the heat hasn't broken there. The mysteries of London had not yet been revealed and the characters were still in suspense about their futures, and I thought the metaphor of the oppressive heat and it not having broken in London despite it having broken at Manderley was fantastic.

Sentences I particularly liked:
  • "Nature had come into her own again and, little by little, in her stealthy, insidious way had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers."
  • "There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the grey stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and the terrace. Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, not the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand."
  • "The house was a sepulchre, our fear and suffering lay buried in the ruins. There would be no resurrection."
  • "We all our of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end."
  • "I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth."
  • "There were no shadows between us any more, and when we were silent it was because the silence came to us of our own asking."
I'm off to finish cleaning the pond scum out from under my fingernails (and yes. I mean that literally). Onwards to The Sit, and a continued job search!