Genre: Realistic Fiction/Philosophy/Mental Health Copy: Paperback Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌖
“Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
This line from Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie perfectly summarizes Veronika Decides to Die for me.
Inspired by events from Coelho’s past life, this book tells the story of Veronika — a 24-year-old woman who seems to have everything anyone could ever ask for. Nonetheless, she feels dissatisfied and makes a decision to end her life. She lives and survives and finds herself in a mental asylum where her life completely change.
I finished Veronika Decides to Die last week but it took me a while to wrap my emotions around it. Not sure if it’s the timing, since I was going through another anxiety phase when I was reading it; or because I haven’t considered suicide yet; or because Veronika’s troubles hit very close to home.
Life and death are the central themes of the story, as are madness and conformity.
This book will make you ponder on the consequences of living a repressed life, one that conforms to the norms set by society or that is bounded by one’s own limiting beliefs. It will have you thinking about the days when you feel like Veronika (tired of your prosaic life), or Zedka (unable to keep your emotions at ease), or Mari (too afraid so you choose to escape the real world), or Eduard (constrained by other people’s demand and pressure). It will make you question your authenticity — and insanity.
What would I do if death comes sooner than I expected? Truth is, I don’t know. But just as Vilette is a “safe place” for these people to express themselves, I’d say poetry is my own. Perhaps through these poems, I’d get to figure out myself and life.
Overall, this novel left me more questions than realizations (which is a good thing). Looking forward to finding the answers as I live my numbered days. 😀
Short Synopsis: Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood—the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers—Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah—the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.
What I Liked:
Diamant’s writing. Poetic and lyrical were my reactions when I read the first few pages of the book. I love the tone of voice Diamant used for the main character Dinah. Her prose is very visual and animated. It felt like listening to a spoken word poetry.
A breath of fresh air. I’m not a keen Bible reader. I am one of those who only knew Dinah as a name mentioned in the Bible. That is why I find it refreshing to read a fictional first-person narrative about her version of her life. Through the eyes of Dinah, we get an insight, if only re-imagined, of biblical times. We get to learn about their cultures, practices and way of life.
The curiosities in the Red Tent. In the book, women we’re treated by men as subordinate — submissive, used, cursed — a scene still recognizable in today’s world. However, their resilience shines within the boundaries of the red tent, where I would say most of the interesting scenes happen. It is where women go during their periods (although I find it a little weird that all the women in the story has a synced cycle). In the red tent, the lives of women are kept alive through storytelling and memories. In the red tent, secrets, conversations and feelings are shared. In the red tent, you get a sense of how powerful women can be. Blood signifies both life and death, beginning and end, pain and pleasure, tears and joy. Such interesting things to ponder.
What I didn’t like: The book, in general, takes a feminist slant so I understand that the POVs are focused mostly on women. However, there were slightly biased depictions of men. Some lack character development, while others seem like trifling characters.
“If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully.”
“The painful things seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place.”
“Of all life’s pleasures, only love owes no debt to death.”
“I could not get my fill of looking. There should be a song for women to sing at this moment (giving birth) or a prayer to recite. But perhaps there is none because there are no words strong enough to name that moment.”
“Death is no enemy, but the foundation of gratitude, sympathy, and art.”
“It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing.”
Final Thoughts: Captivating. Rich. Beautifully and poignantly penned. It may only be a fictionalized version but every page brims with life.
I’m glad that this novel did not end with forgiveness of sins and starting all over because some sins are far too great to be forgiven, more so forgotten. But not forgiving others does not necessarily means living every day with anger. This is what Dinah showed me. It is choosing to walk away from the bad and move forward. And, sometimes, the closure we seek cannot be found in others but within ourselves.
My reading heart is full.
Have you read The Red Tent? Did you like it as much as I did?
So today, my first book haul for the month of March arrived in the office. It’s The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I have been looking for a cheaper preloved copy of the book for quite some time and, although payday is still far away, I just couldn’t miss the chance when I found one in Shopee.
I think it’s meant to be too since today we remember Bulgakov’s 81st death anniversary. Have you read The Master and Margarita? Sharing this quote from the book. 😀
Do you have a book that scares you? It could be of any genre but mostly it’s horror or suspense thrillers that raise some hairs.
Five years ago, on this day, I found and bought this book in Booksale (SM City Cebu). Fast forward to 2021, I still have not finished it.
Why? Nightmares — every. single. time. i. read. it.
I am a sucker for crime thrillers, books or movies. Give me gore, give me blood, give me mystery (so long as there is no paranormal involved). I also love watching and researching true crime stories. I am passionately interested in what goes into the mind of the mad. So, my experience with Cornwell’s Portrait of a Killer honestly came as a surprise. I’ve had countless attempts of continuing the book which resulted to countless of nighttime terror too.
By 2018, I gave up. It’s not about Cornwell’s writing (I am a big fan of her Scarpetta series by the way). It’s just that the scanned letters, the sketches, the newspaper clippings and the police reports — they all felt so close. It’s different when you’re watching things on the screen. Touching the pages with my hand felt like Jack the Ripper breathing on my nape.
Will I ever get over this book? How do you deal with such fear? Hmm…
Many have compared the two volumes of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in terms of quality and singularity. I have read comments stating that its second collection ─ two novels (The Hound of Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear) and two short story collections (His Last Bow and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes) ─ fell deeply short of people’s expectations.
But, I would like to set one thing straight. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has had enough of Sherlock Holmes by 1893. When he wrote “The Final Problem,” Doyle was resolved to kill Sherlock despite the growing demand for his brilliant and remarkable hero.
Why? I see two reasons: first, it was to save himself; second, it was to save Sherlock Holmes.
Doyle did not see himself as a writer in a box. Although the adventures of his Baker Street duo greatly appealed to readers, he continued to explore other genres including fantasy, poetry and historical fiction. Killing off Sherlock had the purest intention, but it unfortunately received the worst reaction. The people of London were utterly disappointed and mad. It took Doyle eight years to give in to their pressures and release The Hound of Baskervilles in 1901 which is the first novel in Volume II.
Doyle knew that the quality of Sherlock’s adventure stories would inevitably decline. Each case required an intricate plot and, in turn, meant a lot of mental work for the writer. Additionally, the public’s demands and his publisher’s deadlines did not make it easier. This is why I empathize with Doyle. He wanted to preserve the greatness of Sherlock Holmes without the influence of fandom.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Volume II revived Sherlock in print, yet some people would say that it did not carry the same fire. Maybe, maybe not. But one thing’s for sure, kudos to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for writing such superb work.
Did you buy a book again? Have you read the books you bought last week? Last month? Last year?
I have seen how COVID-19 brought a significant boom in ecommerce — at least on my side of the Earth. Despite the tough economic times, the pandemic has drastically shifted people’s buying and selling behavior. Digital technologies, especially mobile devices, made it easier to locate (goods/services), transact (without breaking social distancing measures and taking the risk of catching the virus), and obtain (needs/wants).
But before I get tempted to stray off topic, I’d like to talk about this one subject that concerns me as a reader. And probably you, too!
Tsundoku. Described by BBC as the art of buying books and never reading them. A Japanese word whose morphology combines “tsunde” (to stack things); “oku” (to leave for a while); and “doku” (to read). While it illicit no negative opinion in Japan, Tsundoku is often viewed incorrectly by others. It is, at times, confused with the obsessive collecting of books for the sake of building a book collection. But at the heart of Tsundoku is the intention of reading — an intent so intense that leads to its eventual collection.
I find it interesting to think about the potential of this habit in times of “addutucart” (a word phonetically coined by Lee Minho during Lazada’s 11.11 sale). When adding to cart and checking out items are just few clicks away, what is there to stop a curious book lover?
Three things come to mind:
1. Cash – Like it or not, money will always be a limiting factor to our needs and wants. I’m all support for “do it for happiness” — so long as it’s your hard-earned money — but we must be conscious, still, that our spending would not overtake our savings.
Here are some tricks that I personally use as a bookworm on a budget:
Track your spending (set a monthly budget for books so you won’t go overboard)
Opt for pre-loved books (aside from a sentimental POV, used books are also the financially and environmentally healthier choice)
Patience is a virtue (though I don’t exactly follow the 30-day rule, I give myself few days to find cheaper alternatives or to make sure if I really, really need/want that book)
Give yourself some space (stay away from temptations: bookstores, marketplace, online stores)
2. Trust – While technology made it easier to acquire what we need, it has also made it easier for other people to deceive. Scammers are on the rise and we find ourselves developing trust issues. Thankfully, ever since I started buying books online, I haven’t met one yet.
Here are some trusted online book sellers/resellers that I can vouch for:
3. Guilt – Tsundoku brings with it a sense of guilt whenever books start to pile up and rest longer on the shelf. It’s sad, almost depressing, when we find our curiosity nicked by our moods, the busyness of the real world, and pressure from others and our own.
Whenever I feel guilty for my habit, here are four things I remind myself with
Do what makes you happy
Read at your own pace
Books are a lot cheaper than a psychotherapy session
It’s your hard-earned money
Tsundoku has always been around even before COVID. I hope we don’t let this misplaced guilt stop our curiosity of the worlds inside every book. I hope we continue to cultivate this love of reading in our own little circles. Be a good-natured bookworm. Keep reading and tick off your TBR list. Addutucart those books you’ve been itching to read! 🤓📚
Quick Notes: The Hound of Baskervilles is the third of four novels in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon of Sherlock Holmes. I won’t write how superb this book is for I know I will just be repeating what most people have already said. Instead, let me just point out two aspects which made this particular story unique to me.
1. Dr. John H. Watson – Sherlock Holmes’ best friend and confidant. The romantic and often sentimental medical doctor that perfectly complements the emotionally-detached and analytical consulting detective. The ordinary against the brilliant.
Despite being wrongly perceived (and portrayed) as being a fool in most tv/film adaptations, Watson’s role is undoubtedly crucial to every Sherlock Holmes adventure. He serves as both a storyteller and a shock absorber of Holmes’ uncanny deductive flair for the reader. I personally find the few stories in which Watson plays a minor role (or none at all) a little lacking and dry. This is one reason why I enjoyed The Hound of Baskervilles.
In this novel, we get to see a little more of Watson in action. He sets out to solve (try) a crime ─ on his own ─ even just for a short period of time. We follow him as he simultaneously employs Sherlock’s methods and his own in search for clues. And although, Sherlock gets to hammer down the mystery in the end, this book made it apparent that there is more to Watson than meets the eye.
2. The setting – The Hound of Baskervilles is one of the few stories that uproots readers away from 221B Baker Street. Instead of a warm, comfortable sitting room, it takes you to the cold, wet English moor with nothing but fogs, bogs and fire-breathing hounds. With an added Victorian air and a touch of supernatural, this book stands out from the rest of Doyle’s detective stories.
I have mentioned in Book Talk: Books or movies? A reader’s dilemma. that I prefer watching the adaptation first over reading the book. And I’m glad I did so because a lot of the scenes were changed in the films that I wouldn’t have enjoyed had I known the original plot. Of the three versions I have seen ─ 1939, 1959 (unfinished) and 2012 ─ the latter took a complete turnaround. It was enjoyable nonetheless, thank you Benedict Cumberbatch, but definitely not the movie you’d want to see if you’re looking for Doyle’s original plotline.
Overall, The Hound of Baskervilles gets two thumbs up from me! A great read after a month of craving for Sherlock Holmes. 😀
This time, I would like to share with you the biggest bane and boon of my reading life. My moods.
Most of us, if not all, go through this kind of dilemma. There are days when it gets frustrating to pick a book to read, especially when it’s hard to pinpoint what you’re in the mood for. Some days, you try and give it a few pages, yet halfway through, you’re like “Nope. Not this one. Abandon ship.” Even those copies that you’ve been so excited to get your hands on feel distant now.
So you wait until you feel that pull to read again.
Last November, I promised myself that I will not be spending any more money on books until the end of 2020. That I will continue ticking off my TBR list instead. So far, I have not given to temptation ─ but, problem is, I have not read any book either.
All my moods seem to be in perfect unison and point me to one man and one man alone: Sherlock Holmes. The well-loved Victorian detective in the literary world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous antihero with an impressive knack for solving cases in a strange and singular manner. And the only high-functioning sociopath I am most in love with (Sorry, Sheldon. It’s not you, it’s physics.)
I have read the anthology of stories, watched all versions of film adaptations and, just this month, listened to all audiobooks I could find in the public domain. If only I have my book with me, I would re-read all 700 pages once more.
Oh, I am SHERLOCKED again. What do you do with such a mood?
So, we are down to final month of this challenging year. I know it has been hard all of us but I hope everyone is safe, sound and thriving.
November — the month that was. It’s when half of the world transitions from autumn to winter. It’s when dead souls are honored and bounties are celebrated. It’s when creatives around the world try their hands at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
I guess for me it would be “Nah, no writing November.” Anyhow, here’s a quick wrap-up.
My book collection is still continuously growing — all thanks to online resellers and Booksale. And despite the rise of scammers online, I was lucky enough to transact with kind and honest people who helped me find the books in my TLF (to look for) list. For this month, these are the gems that I got:
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (Php180 @a_bookworms_closet)
Famous Tales of Mystery and Horror by Edgar Allan Poe (Php150 @a_bookworms_closet)
Isle of Dogs by Patricia Cornwell (Php25 @Robinsons)
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (Php44 @Robinsons)
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Php125 @Robinsons)
After Nature by Purdy (Php39 @Robinsons)
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (Php100 @mgaaklatnitanna)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Php125 @mgaaklatnianna)
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (Php85 @mimilybluebooks)
Politically Correct Guide to the Bible (Php75 @mimilybluebooks)
Meanwhile, I kept getting sidetracked in between reading with all the chaos brought by typhoons, work and politics. I was able to finish two books though: Letters To My Son by Kent Werburn and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
A big shoutout as well to LibriVox for their free public domain audiobooks. I was able to revisit once again the good ol’ favorite, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes this month.
Places I’ve been…
My SMS friends and I got a chance to catch up and hike the Spartan Trail for the first time after lockdown. The heavy rains weeks before brought the trail to life. The riverbed was filled with water, the leaves were greener, the wind was cooler — it was the lovely day indeed to convene with nature. I went back to Spartan Trail on the third week of November, this time with James and his colleagues.
Posts I loved…
My virtual presence during this month was faint. I didn’t get a chance to read other people’s posts or interesting reads from the likes of Brainpickings/Medium. Let’s strive to do better this December, shall we? 😀