Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Opening Sentence: Living

Bridesley, Birmingham.
-- Living by Henry Green.

I have a pet peeve about books that open with non-sentences punctuated like sentences.  It's a very small pet, though, only a hamster-sized, or even goldfish-sized peeve. I can get over it.

The first real sentence is better:
Thousands came back from dinner along streets.
The opening scene is of all the workers returning to their factories after going home for lunch.

Living is one of Henry Green's three best-known novels, along with Loving and Party Going, compiled in my editionLiving contrasts the lives of factory workers and owners at an English iron foundry. 

I am reading this for the Henry Green Week reading challenge, hosted by Winstonsdad's Blog.

Review: The Mandelbaum Gate

There are plenty of great novels of ideas out there; books that cause a reader to question assumptions and wrestle with big issues. What makes The Mandelbaum Gate stand out is Muriel Spark's presentation of her ideas against the backdrop of early-1960s Jerusalem, a city recently divided between Israel and Jordon.

Barbara Vaughan is a British, half-Jewish, Catholic convert on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, determined to see the holy sites on both sides of the divided city while she waits for her agnostic, archeologist boyfriend to secure an annulment of his first marriage from the Vatican and return to his archeological dig on the Jordanian side of the border. Aided by an amnesiac British diplomat, a Christian Arab merchant, and a family of charming and corrupt travel agents, Vaughan survives her adventures with a mix of stiff-upper-lip British fortitude and religious fatalism.

The dramatic setting if the perfect foil for Vaughan's struggle to unify the conflicting parts of her own identity. Her struggle, coupled with a little cloak and dagger espionage and mildly farcical sexual exploits, make for a compelling read. Anthony Burgess included The Mandelbaum Gate on his list of best novels, calling it "a well-wrought and stimulating novel hard to forget."


If you would like your review of this or any other Muriel Spark book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


This was the second James Tait Black Memorial Prize winner that I read for the 2011 Battle of the Prizes, British Version.

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