Tuesday, August 11

Kite Runner & Daniel Deronda

The Kite Runner

I really enjoyed The Kite Runner. It had the potential to be something quite special, 5 star even, if it weren't for the second half. Yet I forgave any shortcomings on the strength of the first half.

The first half is touching, poignant, subtle, heart-wrenching, gently fascinating. One of the characters stole my heart.

And the second half? It's like a different book! Suddenly there's crazy action, unlikely situations, more coincidences than you can shake a karmic stick at, obvious cliches, and all round predictability.

So why did I enjoy it anyway. Like I said, the first half won me over. When I realised the obviousness of the rest, I didn't cringe. Instead, I saw it all as a high drama. Something akin to a (better) Bollywood film or soap opera. Sure, it was over the top stuff, but it was so thrilling. Well, in a harrowing sort of way. It's a terribly sad story.

I also enjoyed reading into a different culture.

It's a short book. If you can accept the drama, it's worth it. If Hosseini had maintained the story's integrity and subtlety, it could have been a real gem.

Daniel Deronda

Another Eliot for me this year. Enjoyed it many times more than Mill on the Floss.

I was even more impressed with Eliot. She really is wonderously observant. Such a keen eye and ear. But more significantly, a keen inner ear. Reading the motives behind what charcaters do is simply delicious. I wish I had read her more back in my university days as a psych major.

However, she is also very heavy going. It feels like you're reading a classic. And that holds true for even if, like me, you read plenty of them. There were paragraphs in this one that were monstrously cumbersome. I mean, I was reading them twice over and still thinking, wth!?

And if she were writing today, an editor would cut out her lengthy ponderings. They are much too self-indulgent. Yet, they are goooood. They are lengthy, but they're not rambles. They are monologues of high intellectual order. She's just so spot on. But it makes for a classic that is 500+ pages of regular head-spining linguistic complexity. I'm okay with that, but I know everyone will enjoy it.

Okay, so what of the story? This heroine, Gwendolen, is more real for me, compared to Maggie in MotF. Maggie is good and sweet and how could we dislike her? But for me, I can't relate to the piously sweet. We may not necessarily like Gwendolen, but she sure keeps our interest. I was a little frustrated with how Eliot evolved her, but won't say more at risk of spoiling anything.

The second story, about Daniel Deronda, that weaves in, out, and through the first, was not so interesting to me. Again, characters being oh so very, very good. Too good. Yawn. But don't think I'm dismissing it entirely. There is much in the way of fascinating ideas, exchanges between characters, and historical interest, to make it worth the read.

Recommended to readers of the classics, or anyone wishing to enrich their souls.

Currently reading: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett


  1. I have the Kite runner...I should pick that up. But, I am not into reading much this summer. I read Bel Canto a few years ago...I could not put that book down! Hope you are enjoying it.

  2. I really enjoyed Bel Canto. Beautiful book.

    And in regards to the Eliot, I strongly disagree that the ramblings are self-indulgent! I would be horrified if a modern editor got hold of it and slashed. It was written for different attention spans and sensibilities, and certainly not for our generation who are plugged in and receive words in a more economical and immediate fashion. We have a far greater impatience these days for digesting our texts. So, although I can see what you're getting at, particularly in regards to the characterisation which is similarly old-fashioned, I see it as the difference between the 19th century reader's expectations and a contemporary reader's experience and enjoyment of text. For me there is a lot of beauty and complexity, and I love the challenge to slow down and enter into a narrative that requires of me a different way of reading.

    Just my two bits : )

  3. Hey Doc, thanks for your disagreement. woohoo.

    In regards to the WHEN of her writing and our modern short attention spans, we have Austen writing even earlier who is free from the monologues. Eliot was pious herself and her monologues seem to me a reflection of the sermons she probably enjoyed. There is a touch of the pulpit about her. But as I said, I personally DO enjoy them. She's brilliant. But she's most definitely not for everyone.

    As for the slashing, I did mean if she were writing today!

    Mamarose - interesting info!

  4. Have you read A Thousand Splendid Suns? If not, make it next on your "must-read" list.

  5. I think Mia has a copy. If so, will definitely read it.

  6. Thanks for the review. I'll have to put this one on my list along with Silas Marner. I also had a hard time with Mill, but loved Middlemarch.

    Re editing, I often think the same of Dickens. His books would surly only be half as long if he had a modern editor and we'd all get through more of them! However, I do think it would take a lot out of them. We need to learn to have the patience to read them again instead of cutting everything down to fit our short attention spans today. (I know you weren't advocating this, it's just my two-cents)


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