Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quick Reviews - The English Patient, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders, and Madame Bovary

"The English Patient" by Michael Ondaatje

Booker-prize winner story of the intersection of the lives of four damaged people in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. If you've seen the movie, it follows the book closely. Which is to say that this is hard book to keep track of as Ondaatje goes back and forth in time with each of the characters, Hana (a nurse), Caravaggio (a thief), Kip (an Indian sapper), and the hideously burned, unnamed English patient. This book is simply beautiful and poetic.

"Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders" by Neil Gaiman

This group of short stories alternatively intrigued, bored and confused me. I quite enjoyed some of the stories and thought I might want to read more Gaiman. Then the next story would leave wondering "what the heck?"

I know a lot of you out there are big Gaiman fans. Please tell me why I would want to risk spending the time reading an entire novel. Because I saw enough to convince me that Gaiman can write a good story; just not enough to convince me that all of them are.

"Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert

The synopsis of this book on calls this book "a brilliant portrayal of infidelity." Huh?

A motherless, dreamy young woman marries a country doctor but soon becomes disillusioned with her life and yearns for passion in her life. She begins having affairs and running up massive bills. See, I think I was supposed to feel sorry for Emma Bovary. But I didn't. I thought she was whiny, and needy and selfish. I get that for a woman of that time, in those circumstances, her options were limited. But I still think she could have made choices that would have made her life more fulfilling. Which made me not really care whether or not the book was well written.


  1. I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman, but I had the same reaction to Fragile Things-- I found it extremely uneven.

    I'd recommend picking up one of his other books-- maybe one of his books for younger readers, which also read well for adults.

  2. I could not stand The English Patient in book or movie form. It bored me to tears.

    My book club read Madame Bovary. At first glance I was like "meh" but after discussing it, I saw a different side to it. I ended up liking it quite a bit.

  3. I love The English Patient movie and have the book but have yet to read it. I bet the book is better than the movie.

    Madame Bovary-I just couldn't finish that book no matter how hard I tried.

  4. I haven't seen The English Patient film but absolutely adored the book. It's lovely, isn't it?

    I've Fragile Things on the tbr pile. I like Neil Gaiman. His novels to me are just really light, enjoyable reads, perfect for unwinding. Nothing spectacular, but a sort of guilty pleasure. I'm really looking forward to his shorts. If you try something else by him, don't expect too much. Just have fun with it. :)

  5. Claire, there's nothing light about some of the stories in Fragile Things. But I'm already getting the impression that I need to give Gaiman another chance. Maybe audio; I never feel quite so put out if I listen to a book and don't like it.

  6. Great mini reviews! I've heard so many hits and misses with Neil Gaiman...I have yet to read one. And Madame Bovary...just never seemed that interested in it enough to give it a try.

  7. Well, I was bored to tears with the movie The English Patient, so I'm thinking I wouldn't like the book. I've always been curious about Madame Bovary, thanks for the recap.

  8. I've heard so many people say they just didn't like Emma Bovary and that she's basically a wretched character. All that has left me with little desire to read this one. English Patient is indeed beautiful, though! I really liked his Anil's Ghost, too.

  9. Lisa, I've heard listening to Gaiman is amazing as he's apparently a wonderful reader. I'm not sure if I'm ready to try audiobooks yet. I also haven't read anything very serious by Gaiman, so based on what you said I might indeed like Fragile Things. I'd like to sample his not-so-light fare. All the other ones I've read are geared more towards children (Neverwhere, Stardust, MirrorMask, Graveyard Book).

  10. I read Madame Bovary, or parts of it anyway, in college. I didn't like Emma either, but I'm not sure we're supposed to.

    I've heard good things about The English Patient. It's been on my shelf for a while; I really should just read it. I hope it's okay to link to this post on War Through the Generations.

    Diary of an Eccentric