Monday, August 31, 2009

Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the King and I Governess by Susan Morgan

Since I was a young girl, I have loved the romantic tale of the musical, The King and I. I am a bit saddened to learn that the story was based almost fully on a fabrication of Anna Leonowens! Susan Morgan has done a wonderful job as she researched the true story of the Governess/Teacher to the children of King Mongkut, King of Siam. The true story is actually more interesting, probably, than one that the world is more acquainted with.

To overcome a world of classes where one lowly born could have little hope of rising up in the world, Anna created a new persona for herself upon the death of her husband, Tom. She abandoned her former identity and became another.

Fascinating historical piece. I think it is a must read for any who have come to love The King and I. The story will always have a different face for me, now.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse was a difficult read, for me. The book is written in stream of consciousness and is not very easy to follow, however beautifully written. Virginia Woolf deals with themes of mens' and womens' roles, relationships, and permanence. Recurring is the idea of the fact that so much is fleeting in this life, but all want to leave a mark and have a permanent impact on the world.

In the end, Lily Briscoe realizes how permanence is to be had. One cannot simply live in their ideas, they must actually put these ideas into works. "Lily reflects that “nothing stays, all changes; but not words, not paint.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Republic by Plato

I found this an amazingly tedious book to read. I was shocked, to a large measure, by what Plato puts forth here as he tries to define justice and the perfect State. His comments about democracy being just one step from tyranny were especially intriguing.

The most exciting part of this book, for me, were how very much his beliefs about the nature of God and the eternal nature of the soul are to my own faith.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze is a fascinating book. Elizabeth Foreman Lewis describes life in China in the 1920's. The culture described was fascinating. I loved how she brought the foreshadowing of communism into the work and helped me to understand what led China towards that choice in government.

Young Fu is an endearing character who battles the "dragons" of his life and his culture...a life lesson for all youth about facing the trials that they face (and all of us face) with courage and tenacity. The great life message in the book is found in the chapter entitled "A River on the Rampage." Young Fu ponders the outcomes of the flood:

"...For one household, at least, the Dragon had been forced to admit defeat. Dragons! He sniffed to himself. After all it simply a matter of keeping one's head and outwitting them."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Irene Nemirovsky's character development in this unfinished five movement symphony (she finished 2 of the five sections before she was taken to Auschwitz where she died) is amazing. The story was very engaging as she interweaves the lives of the characters. Set in Paris, France just after the German invasion at the start of WWII, Ms. Nemirovsky describes what was life for the French during the occupation. I think that the rather peaceful coexistence that existed between the French and the Germans will surprise many. The stories of love and family are lovely and endearing. Most interesting to me was her portrayal of class struggles and their role in the war and the lingering effect of aristocracy on a democracy.