An early twentieth century psychological thriller of sorts. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton written in 1911. It was one of those stories that you just didn’t know what to think about the husband falling in love with his wife’s cousin (Mattie) who was working at the house to assist the sickly wife, Zenobia. The setting was in a fictitious New England town, Starkfield. It starts as a current day where we are introduced to Frome, and then back in time to learn why Frome is lame. Over the course we learn of the love triangle that develops and Frome and his Mattie get closer and closer. Frome lies to his wife about venturing on an out of town trip, so he can be with Mattie. During the time together Mattie breaks the wedding present dish (signaling the end of the marriage), the cat just happens to knock over. After Zenobia returns she learns of the broken gift and tries to understand why. Zenobia pushes Frome to gain resources to pay Mattie when she is told by her doctor she can no longer keep the house, Frome tries to borrow money but is rebuffed. Realizing that they will have to let Mattie go, Frome and Mattie concoct a plan to commit suicide together by riding a sleigh downhill into trees. Frome’s guilt about his wife gets to him at the last minute and he avoids a direct hit, while Mattie is paralyzed. The last chapter fast forward to where we started with Zenobia now taking care of Mattie and Frome in his own pain losing the chance to be with Mattie and having his wife now care for her. Watch what you wish for huh? The pains of Frome and his inability to escape his own farm, the cemetery of his family is literally his ball and chain. How I often think how the things are family wants for us can become our own demise. Frome could never escape and ends watching the one he loves being cared for the one he was incapable of taking care of. Good depth of story. A quick read.
Missing cat, over boiled spaghetti, wife who disappears, skinning a man alive… humm… you have The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki-Murakami. This is the third book I have read by Murakami. While there are some issues related to the translation of his work into English, let’s face it, he has a very unique style. For many, the seemingly disconnected independent stories, which are all tied together by the lead character, make for a very confusing story. The reader is uncertain about which is parts are dreams, which parts are where the lead character is lost in his thoughts (is it real or is it Memorex? I mean, let your mind create your own stories). This is not a linear story, though I do think it the book has some major themes which are repeated often and leave the reader with some level of “learning” or at least message on the meaning of his life. In the book, the main character, Toru Okada, an unemployed married passive man is led on a series of unexplained experiences, some real, some dreamed, some hoped for, leaving the reader creating his/her own context for the meaning of the book. This makes your read different than mine and leaves lots of room for exploration and venturing into quite a story. One of the most impactful parts of the work for me occurs when Lieutenant Mamiya and his partners in the map planning business are confronted by members of the Russian military. The Lieutenant shares his story with Toru when he is delivering a gift left by the dead palm reader who leaves Toru a present. The present, in many respects, is for Toru to hear the horror of Mamiya who is tortured, much like Toru (but in a physical way, not in an emotional / spiritual way), when he witnesses the brutal “skinning” of his colleague and then is held captive by the Russian military. He eventually is let go years later but when he attempts to kill his captive he is unsuccessful and then he receives a curse to be lonely the rest of his life. Through each of the characters
This fictional tale recounting the history of Battle of Thermopylae is the backdrop for Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire. We listened to this book while driving back and further to DC taking my son Alex to visit G’Town, CUA (my alma mater) and Loyola MD. A heard one to listen to I think…. You have a lot going on in Thermopylae (which was the only way into Greece for the enemy) where the Greeks, with only five to seven thousand troops are to take on the Persian army off over two million!! But the Greeks have a few hundred Spartan soldiers to lead the way. Getting through the narrow mountain way into Greece would prove challenging where the enemy would need to ensure they didn’t off the cliff and into the sea which allowed the Greeks and their allies to ward off the enemy. A pretty detailed description is provided regarding the training and battles of the disciplined Spartan warriors. King Xerxes, the Persian leader, shows his commitment to the passionate leader Xeones when he is wounded in battle. The author is not afraid to share the 20th century expletives of the B.C. war heroes in action. The book exemplifies the Battle of Thermopylae as an example of the power of a patriotic, home grown, army of democratically freemen defending their native land. It also illustrates the advantages of training, equipment, and good use of terrain as ways of “beating the odds” as the Greeks used their courage against huge odds in the seemingly one-sided battle.
For me it was a “take me back to West Civ. Intro class in college. Some of the names started running in my old brain. I did well in the class, but not my thing completely. A rather quick listen, though again, maybe the book would be more engaging. Fights and army stories don’t seem to do well driving in a car. I’d take a pass on this one.
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