Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I have been meaning to read Tess for a long time now, but I just never got around to it.  I mentioned to one of my co-workers that I wanted to read it and she bought me a copy for Christmas.  Love her for this.  I loved this book.  I love discovering classics for the first time.

Summary: Tess Durbeyfield is a common girl, with a father who tends to drink more than he works and a mother who is always tending to the children and household duties.  When her father discovers that the Durbeyfields may actually be descendents of the D’Urbervilles he sends his oldest daughter, Tess, off to try and claim some of their fortunes.  Tess meets Alec D’Urberville, who takes an instant liking to Tess.  What happens between Tess and Alec is not quite clear.  However, what is made clear is that Tess no longer has her virtue and is now with child.  Whether is was rape or not is sort of glossed over by Hardy.  Tess returns home, unwed and with child.  She gives birth to a son whom she names Sorrow and who dies within the first few months of his life.  Tess again leaves home and goes to work as a milkmaid.  Here Tess meets and falls in love with Angel Clare.  She wants to tell Angel the truth about her past, but fears he will no longer love her when he discovers she is not a chaste woman.  They marry and on their wedding night Tess is honest with Angel, hoping his love for her will overcome her past.  However, this is not the case and Angel cannot handle the truth.  He separates from her and heads off to South America, leaving Tess alone and devastated.  Can their love overcome past mistakes?  Will Angel ever forgive Tess?   You need to read this book to find out.

Review:  Again, I loved this book.  Hardy’s style is so engaging. There were moments when I just wanted to punch Angel Clare in the face, which to me is always a sign I am connecting with characters and am engaged in the story.

I felt as though the author sometimes hovered over the characters giving an overview of what was happening, distanced from the characters, and then zoned in on the characters and their emotions. Like a bird, who comes in for a closer look.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the role that nature and setting took.  They were crucial parts of the book, reflecting Tess’s conflicts.  I am considering using excerpts of this book with my students so they can analyze this aspect.


The Magicians by Lev Grossman

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Harry Potter discovers Narnia is real in this derivative fantasy thriller from Time book critic Grossman (Codex). Quentin Coldwater, a Brooklyn high school student devoted to a children’s series set in the Narnia-like world of Fillory, is leading an aimless existence until he’s tapped to enter a mysterious portal that leads to Brakebills College, an exclusive academy where he’s taught magic. Coldwater, whose special gifts enable him to skip grades, finds his family’s world mundane and domestic when he returns home for vacation. He loses his innocence after a prank unintentionally allows a powerful evil force known only as the Beast to enter the college and wreak havoc. Eventually, Coldwater’s powers are put to the test when he learns that Fillory is a real place and how he can journey there. Genre fans will easily pick up the many nods to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien in the climactic battle between the bad guy and a magician.

My Review:

I loved this book.  This is the Harry Potter I have been waiting for.  It is not quite so quaint and wholesome, there’s sex and drugs involved and  the characters seem much more multi-layered to me and more convincing.  I will admit that the last third of the book went a little too much into the fantastical for my taste, but the realness of the characters and their conflicts helped to keep the story grounded.  I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so I am just going to advise you all to READ THIS BOOK!!

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

My book group chose this book (mainly because we had extra copies laying around and wanted to put them to some use), but whatever the reason, I think we made a good choice.

Summary: The Namesake is the story of the Ganguli family.  The parents were an arranged marriage, as most Bengali marriages are, who move from Calcutta to America to start a family.  There the parents, Ashima and Ashoke, proceed to have two children, Gogol and Sonia.  Gogol is named after his father’s favorite author Nikoli Gogol, a name which he comes to resent in his adolescent years.  The Namesake folows the Ganguli family from the birth of Gogol all the way through his thirties.  It is about the blending of cultures, of keeping traditions, of acclamating to life in America, of both honoring and forgetting the past, of love, of pain and loss, and most of all of the ties that bind us to our families.

Review: The story is told in third-person narrative, so I felt like a voyeur looking through the living room window and into the house of the Gangulis.  Told through a series of snapshots, often skipping years at a time, we are observers, outsiders, looking into the life of the Ganguli family, who themselves often feel like outsiders in America and in India when they return to visit their families.  At times I felt very distant from the characters and removed from their lives, but overall I enjoyed this novel.  I think I connected more to Ashima’s (the mother) character than to Gogol’s, so when the narrative focus shifted in the second half, I felt a disconnect.  Still, it passed the time on a long car journey and I think it was a good choice for our book group.

Vacation Line-Up

I am looking forward to vacation and some reading time.  Here is what I hope to get through:

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

I ordered this one as an audio book to read on my drive to CT and VT.  A group of teachers have chosen this one as a book group read.  I kind of feel like I am cheating by listening to it, but hey, it will help pass the time in the car.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson.

I started this one a while back and am sort of stuck right now.  Everyone who has read it, loves it, so I am not giving up on it.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

I just bought this one over the weekend.  I read the first three pages in the store and knew I was going to dig this one.  It has been referred to as “Harry Potter for adults.”  I have high hopes for The Magicians.

Secret Santa Book Exchange

urlOkay folks- here’s my idea for December.  A Secret Santa book exchange.  Here are the rules:

1.  Fill out this form

2.  Email me the form  (msmazzola@gmail.com) by DECEMBER 5th

3.  Wait to receive your email notitying you regarding your Secret Santa by DECEMBER 8th

4.  Review your Secret Santa’s form and check out his/her website to get an idea of his/her interests

5.  Send your Secret Santa a book (new or gently used).  Let’s limit this to paperbacks only.

6.  Anxiously await your book, which should be coming soon.

*Limited to Continental US only.

Let’s see how many people we can get involved in this Book Exchange.  Please feel free to link to this post through your own website. ‘Tis the Season.

What I Am So Excited About….

imagesI LOVE Barbara Kingsolver and this books sounds promising:

You had better write all this in your notebook, she said, the story of what happened to us in Mexico. So when nothing is left of us but bones, someone will know where we went.

Born in the US, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd is mostly a liability to his social-climbing mother, Salomé. From a coastal island jungle to the unpaved neighbourhoods of 1930s Mexico City, his fortunes never steady as Salomé finds her rich men-friends always on the losing side of the Mexican Revolution. He aims for invisibility, observing his world and recording everything with a peculiar selfless irony in his notebooks. Life is whatever he learns from servants putting him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Making himself useful in the household of the muralist, his wife Frida Kahlo, and exiled Bolshevik leader Lev Trotsky, young Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot in with art and revolution. A violent upheaval sends him north to a nation newly caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. In Carolina, he remakes himself in America’s hopeful image. Under the watch of his peerless stenographer, Violet Brown, he finds an extraordinary use for his talents of observation. But political winds continue to push him between north and south, in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach – the lacuna – between truth and public presumption.

The Lacuna is a gripping story of identity, connection with our past, and the power of words to create or devastate. Crossing two decades, from the vibrant revolutionary murals of Mexico City to the halls of a Congress bent on eradicating the colour red, The Lacuna is as deep and rich as the New World itself. (Taken from borders.com)



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I am going to buy it tonight.

Those Darn Vampires….

Right now I am reading Brave New World with my seniors.  This is not a light read.  I need balance.  I need light reads mixed in with my heavy dystopic, oh no look what we have become, literature.  So sometimes, yes sometimes, I read fluff.   Right now I have discovered the Sookie Stackhouse novels and am plowing through this series at breakneck speed.   If you want a book that requires not a whole lot of thinking, but will definitely keep you entertained- I recommend Charlaine Harris.  She’s funny. Think Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, kind of funny.  Go on read them, you know you want to.