Posts Tagged ‘Centuries Challenge 2009’

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This one of those challenges , that was actually challenging. I finished books like Iliad and Caanterbury Tales which were never on my reading agenda if not for the challenge. It was a eye opener towards older literature , one which I have paid very less attention. Thanks to Becky for hosting this wonderful challenge.

My completed list:

This is my list for the challenge:

Iliad by Homer (800 -700 BC)

Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1386)

Girl With A Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier ( set in 17 th century)

Vanity Fair by William Thackeray (1847)

One thing is for sure. I am going to participate in Centuries Challenge 2010.

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Book: Girl With A Pearl Earring  by Tracy Chevalier

Category : Historical Fiction

Protagonist: Griet and Vermeer

Summary of the book : from author’s website

One of the best-loved paintings in the world is a mystery. Who is the model and why has she been painted? What is she thinking as she stares out at us? Are her wide eyes and enigmatic half-smile innocent or seductive? And why is she wearing a pearl earring?

Girl With a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts the painter’s attention. Though different in upbringing, education and social standing, they have a similar way of looking at things. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings – the still, luminous images of solitary women in domestic settings.

In contrast to her work in her master’s studio, Griet must carve a place for herself in a chaotic Catholic household run by Vermeer’s volatile wife Catharina, his shrewd mother-in-law Maria Thins, and their fiercely loyal maid Tanneke. Six children (and counting) fill out the household, dominated by six-year-old Cornelia, a mischievous girl who sees more than she should.

On the verge of womanhood, Griet also contends with the growing attentions both from a local butcher and from Vermeer’s patron, the wealthy van Ruijven. And she has to find her way through this new and strange life outside the loving Protestant family she grew up in, now fragmented by accident and death.

As Griet becomes part of her master’s work, their growing intimacy spreads disruption and jealousy within the ordered household and even – as the scandal seeps out – ripples in the world beyond.

Things I liked about this book:

Reading about art has always fascinated me . Though it is  historical fiction set in the 17 th century  ,author has done full justice to Vermeer , his muse and his painting. I loved the way the story of the ‘girl’ was woven in to Vermeer’s life.

Griet , is a very sensitive person who gets pulled into Vermeer’s life and art  when he decides that she is going to be the subject of his painting. But as eccentric and self involved as artists can be , Vermeer does not realise that choosing this girl can lead to a upheaval in her already difficult life in his house dominated by his wife Cornelia and his tyrannical  mother in law who have no respect for servants .  As the book is from Griet’s point of view , we get to see the social stratification of the period , the prejudices based on religious beliefs  interwoven into the tale of one of Vermeer’s most famous painting.

Griet’s narration holds you from the first line and it does not stop being interesting at any point. Some really good description of the Dutch life  and Vermeer’s painting style makes it a must read book  for all art lovers.

A well researched and a well written book. Highly recommended.

Things I disliked about the book : None

On my rating scale : 4.5 out of 5

Challenges for which the book is listed : Centuries Challenge 2009

Source : Personal Copy

Book : Iliad ( Penguin Classic Deluxe Edition) by Homer  ( Translation by Robert Fagles and Bernard Knox)

Category : Classics

Protagonist: Too many to list 🙂

Summary of the book :from the publisher’s website ( Don’t even ask me to summarize. It took me days to read this one .If not for this beautiful translation I would have been lost. Seriously )

The Iliad is the first and the greatest literary achievement of Greek civilization – an epic poem without rival in the literature of the world, and the cornerstone of Western culture.

The story of the Iliad centres on the critical events in the last year of the Trojan War, which lead to Achilleus’ killing of Hektor and determine the fate of Troy. But Homer’s theme is not simply war or heroism. With compassion and humanity, he presents a universal and tragic view of the world, of human life lived under the shadow of suffering and death, set against a vast and largely unpitying divine background. The Iliad is the first of the great tragedies.

Things I liked about this book:I had boldly signed up for  the Centuries Challenge where I had listed this book as one of my selections. I went to the library and asked for it. The librarian (she knows me well enough ) , gave me this look , the look  that was somewhere between surprise and sympathy. Surprise because I pick up YA , mysteries , chick lit from the library and sympathy because she could tell that I didn’t know what I was getting into.

I took me 30 minutes with the book to realise what I had done. I had got  the library’s oldest translation of Iliad. No offence to Iliad fans but I was lost . Then I had the sense of calling a friend who’s a major in literature and asking if there was an easily readable translation of  this great book. On her suggestion I got Penguin Classic  with translations by Robert Fagles and Bernard Knox.After that I sailed through. Took me a month to finish it though . Most important thing was I finished it.

The story of Final days of battle of Troy has been  told in a very beautiful manner. I had the 911 on Greek mythology after reading Percy Jackson and watching some movies like Helen Of Troy and Troy , so I was on safe grounds..

But now coming to the story , did I like it ? Tricky question.My answer , Yes and No

I was taken by the style  but this whole  Battle Of Troy scenario  has never impressed me . You might ask why. I ‘ll give you some of my reasons.

Achilles, Hector, Menelaus,Odysseus, Aias, were not just warriors they were men of valour and courage who fought a battle so long and so unnecessary(Trust me it was avoidable , but they had to keep the oath and all, so they fought) .Interference of Gods  was something I totally disliked . Could have let them fight their own battles for once( Gods being Gods had to meddle in this) .Good thing was ,these men  were immortalised by Homer  through this epic. This  blood bathed battle took  away so many years out of these mens lives , just think ..Is there anything to be happy about this story.

Even though I absolutely loved the writing  ,  I don’t always find that this story is  justified. This is  solely my opinion.And I know I will be criticised for criticising this immortal classic but it’s my opinion.

I am staying away from Greek Mythology for a few days. A month-long Iliad reading was all I could handle but that doesn’t stop me from recommending  this book, which I feel is a must read for anyone who loves literature.

Things I disliked about the book : Too many sub plots , too many characters . Too many things going wrong for everybody (exception – Gods )

Loved the writing style but  couldn’t disagree more with the plot .

On my rating scale : This is an excellent piece of literature for which I am not qualified enough to rate.

Challenges for which the book is listed : Centuries Challenge 2009

Classics Challenge 2009

Source : Borrowed from a friend (that reminds me , I need to thank her 🙂