Monday, August 21, 2006

Book Review - Four Seasons in Belgium

The second book I read, Four Seasons in Belgium, is actually an Indonesian novel, sort of chick-lit, but grown up chick-lit (well, at least it’s not about college girls love).

I discovered it unintentionally, while strolling myself into a newly opened bookshop. The title got my attention because stories with a travel-place setting always attract me, it was set in a place I've gone too, & also the fact that there was only 1 book left with this title in the shelf The comments on the cover were done by Dian Sastro, Aditya & Ninit. Although I'm not sure about the taste of Dian's in reading, at least I’m quite familiar with the taste of the later 2 (well, at least I’ve read their books before & follow their blogs). The book was tightly plastic wrapped & I bought it without opening it, trusting my instincts.

The thing about chicklit is it doesn’t require you to concentrate to read it. This book, I finished reading it in a night, maybe 2.5 hours. The story turns up to use Antwerp as a setting, where I went for holiday to visit my brother last spring. It's an enjoyable book, about a young female worker & her love life. The plot is light & it feels like reading your friend's life story or a short story in one of those female magazines. It's a good book to read if your brain cells are already suffocating from overwork or maybe bring it to the swimmingpool to accompany you sunbathing. I got to be honest, I still liked TestPack (by Ninit) better as a book in the same genre & I would just classify this novel as an 'intermezzo'.

When I told my brother about this book, it turned up the storywriter was my brother’s senior & a lot of the story in the book used glimpses of a life of trainee in the company my bro worked. This is the 2nd trainee employee in my bro’s company to publish a fiction.

Verdict: 3 stars.

Book Review - History of Love

This month I have finished reading 2 fictions:
1. History of Love (Penguin – Nicole Krauss)
2. Four Seasons in Belgium (Gagas Media – FannyHartanti)

I bought History of Love a few hours before my EuroTrip as a companion during my vacation flight or travel time. I chose it because the title sounded quite romantic and hopeful (not something about war or fight), it had good review by knowledgeable magazines, and parts of the book are in a diary format. I’ve always loved books of type ‘diary’ because when the story is told from the first subject, I feel that it reveals more feeling and also the words are easier to read just like what you would write to yourself if you wrote a diary. However, I end up only reading very few chapters during my vacation & continued bit by bit after that.

Today, I spent 3 hours without break finishing half of it. I have to say that reading this book requires some concentration, especially during the first half. This is probably why I had trouble continuing reading it at the beginning. However, this hard work of concentrating will pay you off once the labyrinth of story begins to intertwine & you begin to map the pieces together.
The storyteller cleverly reveals information bit by bit. Only when it’s time to discover, this will appear to you. During the first few chapter, I couldn’t figure out whether one of the main characters was a girl or a boy and I also had the timing background mixed up. Phew… boy was I lost. But with some patience and determination, I continued reading, then I could then see how careful & skillful this writer is, for being able to plot a story like this. It is sad, beautiful, refreshing at the same time, with added humour here & there. I also think that it will be worthit to reread this novel again & again, to discover the story more (especially that I felt loss at the beginning)

My favorite paragraph was below (p 125), I loved how she played with the words metaphorically & yet gave such powerful & beautiful illustration of the meaning of a simple word, mother :
My mother worried me the most. She was the force around which our world turned. Unlike our father, who spent his life in the clouds, my mother was propelled through the universe by the force of reason. She was the judge in all of our arguments. One disapproving word from her was enough to send us off to hide in a corner, where we would cry and fantasize our own martyrdom. And yet. One kiss could restore us to princedom. Without her, our lives would dissolve into chaos.

Ps: It turns up she is married to Jonathan Safran Foer, a writer too, who also had his book hit the top best seller list (Everything is Illuminated). This woman is only 4 years older than me.