Peace and Victory

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Daphne du Maurier was partially inspired by Jane Eyre when writing this book, so I could not help compare it to that book which I love. The characters are not exactly the same, but I enjoyed reading this book almost as much. It is very well written. I’m not someone who reads a lot gothic or mystery literature, but the atmosphere is almost perfect. Du Maurier is an excellent writer. The prose can be poetic. She’s good at dialogue especially with characterizations as well. Mrs. Danvers is incredibly creepy, de Winter is mysterious, and the nameless protagonist is relateable. While very naive at the beginning, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic for the character. She’s also been put in a very hard situation when they go back to Manderley. The use of the nameless protagonist device is something I encountered in Fight Club, so I was not put off by that. Though it did feel du Maurier was teasing the reader at the beginning with the fact we’d never find out. All in all, a very good read with lots of atmosphere, suspense, and just enough romance.

I did not read this book for awhile because I had seen the Alfred Hitchcock adaptation with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. I did not have the time to rewatch the film, but I remember liking it very much as I do most Hitchcock films, and I also like Olivier. I recommend it as a companion to the book.

Reading Challenges Update

They are all the rage, and I love joining new challenges, but I also like a lot of time allowances and flexibility so I can’t join all of them.

Current Challenges

  • Something About Me (0 of ?) – When I picked out my books for this, I knew I was not going to be read all of them. I am currently one from this list, and a couple more before this ends in Dec 31.
  • Book Awards (5 of 12) – Progress is going well, and there is lots of time for me to complete this before July 1. I’ll read at least one from the list before the year is over.
  • Book to Movies (2 of 3) – Currently reading third book, and set to be finished by end of month.
  • Second Chances (0 of 3) – Most books will be read in the last month (December).
  • Seafaring Reading (0 of 2) – I have the second book in the series, not the first yet. Probably Christmas reading as well.
  • Pulitzer Project – No time limit, and each update will say if I’ve read a Pulitzer since the last one.

Pending Challenges

  • Decades 08 – Eight books from eight decades in 2008. Want to do 16 decades.
  • In their shoes – I picked six bios/memoirs to be read in the calendar year.
  • Russian Reading – Four Russian related books in one year.
  • What’s in a Name? – Six books in one year.
  • TBR 2008 – Twelve books in twelve months. Plan to sign up so list will be up next month.

Completed Challenges

  • Summer Reading Challenge, Round 2 – Completed my goals, and read all the books.

Fitness Updated: Completed Couch to 5K

After a long time, I have completed the Couch to 5Km running plan on my fourth attempt of the plan. I’ve been interrupted by laziness, injury, laziness, sickness and more laziness, I’m done! I haven’t run (and probably been fit) like this in years.

The last week of the plan was not that fun. I had some inconsistency in the last couple of weeks so it may have contributed to the sheer boredom and fatigue that happened on all three of my 30 minute runs. The runner’s high wasn’t kicking in fast enough, and I would just count down until 30 minutes were up. It wasn’t that enjoyable.

Today, I had great run. I was full of energy. Maybe it was because it was in the morning (usually run in the evenings), the weather was beautiful (it rained overnight but was sunny and just the right temp), and I had finally achieved some consistency from last week. The high was there after the first ten minutes as opposed to the twenty last week. I ran for 35 minutes straight today. I plan to do that for at least another week then up it another 5 minutes, eventually reaching my goal of 45 minutes 3x a week. Then keep that up in the gym or in a field house (ugh) for the rest of the winter. I’m considering running a 10K in May.

I  still do 20min of yoga after every running though I’m in a dire need of a new yoga DVD. I am not doing pilates these days though, but I’ll take up again next month. I’m also trying to work on the idea of doing pushups, lounges, and squats until I do. I can do like 2 push ups, but I need to do some strength training.

“What’s in a name?” Reading Challenge

This challenge goes from January 1 to December 31, 2008. One title from each of the six categories. I only intend to read one book under each category, but I’ve given myself options and alternates as usual.

1. A book with a color in its title.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Color Purple by Alice Walker

2. A book with an animal in its title.
by Sebastian Faulks
Wings of the Dove by Henry James

3. A book with a first name in its title.
Life and Times of Michael K by J. M. Coetzee
Anil‘s Ghost
by Michael Ondaatje
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

4. A book with a place in its title.
Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Known World by Thomas P. Jones

5. A book with a weather event in its title.
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell

6. A book with a plant in its title.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
The Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco

Bookfair Books

Bookfair Books

There’s a great annual book fair in this town that I’ve been going to for the last couple of years. The selection was not as great as last year, and I ended up buying a bunch of books that I plan to read in the future, but not necessarily soon. All of thirteen of the books cost me $15. Unless otherwise said, I haven’t read any of these books.

Left column (from top down):
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Selected Plays by Anton Chekhov – Great for my Russian Reading Challenge.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes – Well, one day.
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik – The most expensive book I bought at $3.50, but I’ve read this book and loved it.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Someone priced this book at $0.25! How could I not buy such a fun book for a quarter?
William, an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton – It was a dollar, and I bought it for the nice edition and binding. I have never heard of the author or the book. It looks like a terrible read too.

Right Column (top down):
The Mill on the Floss by George Eilot – Seen the miniseries so buying the book is a type of masochism
Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
Summer by Edith Wharton
by Charles Dickens
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – More masochism?
The Known World
by Thomas P. Jones – Pulitzer book that I haven’t really heard of, but I’m trying to read more Pulitzers.

Little Children

By Tom Perrotta. I am not a mother, have never lived in the suburbs (let alone an American one), and I’m currently not in a romantic relationship. Also, all these characters are older than me by at least a decade. So I would say I am not at a point in my life to be able to relate to any of this book’s characters and their problems. I did end up relating to some of them because I found the narrative inviting. The back of the hardcover edition has Newsweek calling Tom Perrotta “an American Nick Hornby: companionable and humane, light hearted and surprisingly touching.” That’s funny because Hornby is the reason I picked up this book in the first place. He warmly reviewed the book in Housekeeping vs. The Dirt, his second book of literary essays. Kate Winslet being in the film adaptation sealed the deal. I think the comparison is actually rather apt. I found that Todd’s early scenes in the book reminded me right away of Hornby’s style. I would say that Perrotta is slightly more melancholic and darker than Hornby. The description still stands more or less, as I was able to emphasize and feel for most of the characters in this book.

Perrotta uses third person omniscient narrator on many characters. I like that you can get an idea of so many people, and he pulls it off. Many characters can also take away from the main adultery plot because novels about affairs can be tiresome so instead of being exasperated by Todd and Sarah, I found I was very curious between chapters about what they were up to.

Early on though, the affair reminded me slightly of Kar Wai Wong’s film In the Mood for Love. It was the sort of ephemeral, earnest and slightly sad nature of the two people connecting. Though Perrotta is not as pensive as Wong. The novel’s suspense seemed to indicate a sensational ending which I dreaded, but the ending was fine in the end, more or less. For the most part, the book kept my attention through out, and I found the characterizations well thought out. There is nothing excessively flowery or postmodernist about his prose, and it moved the story and characters along with relative ease. I’m not interested in reading his new novel The Abstinence Teacher any time soon (maybe for the film adaptation?), but this was a fine read.

It took me two days to finish this movie which made the film feel slow for me, but that’s my fault. It was a fine adaptation that was true to the book because Tom Perrotta co-wrote the screenplay. A few changes in the story. They changed Todd’s name to Brad because the director and co screenwriter is Todd Field. Patrick Wilson could be a Todd. Also, I was wondering if the movie’s ending would add on to the one in the book, and it didn’t really. The ending was more lurid than the book, which is appropriate for a film I guess. The pedophile casting and plot was more sympathetic than in the book.

Sarah in the novel is described as frumpy, plain, and not conventionally pretty. I had already seen clips of the movie before reading the book so I couldn’t help putting Winslet’s face in my mind as Sarah when reading the book. The passages about Sarah’s beauty didn’t connect as well in this cases because I adore Kate Winslet and thinks she’s beautiful as a film star and as a real woman. I find her more attractive than Jennifr Connelly who played Brad’s wife Kathy in the film. Though, makeup did a good job of making Winslet frazzled and plain.

They added a narrator, voiced by Will Lyman, into the film. It would seem like an unnecessary, somewhat cheap tool to use in a film adaptation because it becomes that third omniscient narrator, but I liked it. It made it feel a bit like a documentary. Not like Discovery channel animal documentary, but more like a PBS anthropological one.

There were a few humorous touches, but not enough for this film to move faster. If I hadn’t read the book, I don’t know if I would have appreciated the characters or the ending as much as I do. In these cases, I recommend to read the book and watch the movie together rather than go the movie alone. You just get a better sense of everything in the story that way.