Don’t steal sweet rolls

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annaI’ve started reading Anna Karenina again, after reading about 300 pages (out of 817)  two or three years ago. I knew from the start that I wasn’t ready for it. You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you wish to explore infidelity and its consequences. Perhaps, I felt it too serious and realistic a subject to immerse myself in. And three years ago, I’m just not that serious enough of a person to commit to it.

But this year, I know I’m different. I know I’m more serious, but the good kind of serious. And this book was just sitting in my shelf, almost forgotten. And then it happened quickly. One day, I was watching an 8-minute video on breakups, with no intention other than to be entertained, and the next thing I knew, I was holding this book with fear and earnestness, just like Levin and his regard for Kitty.

And I must say, after reading only about 200 pages, I knew why everyone should read Anna Karenina at least once in their lifetime. I can say, without having yet read it fully, that the novel is the greatest book ever written mainly because Tolstoy left no stone unturned, meaning, he wrote it in a way that leaves you no doubt about the characters and their motivations. I both love and hate them as if they were my own family or close relatives. It’s truly remarkable.

Just to give you an idea of what the book is about, here’s a brief description: The story is about the unhappy families of the Oblonskys, Scherbatskys, Levins, and the Karenins. Each, as Tolstoy famously narrates, is unhappy in its own way. The Oblonskys, with Stiva as the head, is at the edge of breaking up because of Stiva’s cheating on his wife, Dolly. The Scherbatskys, on the other hand, is also facing a crisis that is focused on Kitty’s heart being broken by the carefree Vronsky. The Levins, headed by Konstantin Dmitrich, were unhappy in their own way because of Levin’s  unrequited love for Kitty, his older brother’s illness, and the elements that continue to oppose him in the successful running of his farm. And lastly, the Karenins, where the eponymous Anna belongs, are experiencing life that Anna’s husband, Alexei Alexandrovich, deems unnatural, because of Anna’s forbidden love for Vronsky.

There’s this passage in page 142 (Part 2) that sticks to me and it’s funny because it was related to Anna’s deceived husband, Alexei.

Alexei Alexandrovich stood face to face with life, confronting the possibility of his wife loving someone else besides him, and it was this that seemed senseless and incomprehensible to him, because it was life itself.

Because it was life itself. I like that line because it sums up everything that is happening in this novel, which is rightly labeled as realistic fiction. Life happens to each of us and Tolstoy captured it so beautifully, not with words,  but with a deep understanding of people and their heartaches.

The title of this post is one of the metaphors that I like in the novel and it came from Levin who was giving Stiva advice on how to deal with his crisis with Dolly. Don’t steal sweet rolls. There are other metaphors and double entendres in the book and it makes the reading less stiff, I suppose, and more familiar in its preciseness.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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Shadow of the Wind

Shadow of the Wind

A writer whom no one reads might evoke some sympathy.

But a writer whom no one reads, but whose books cause enough hatred that all existing copies must be burned is a promising and interesting start of a narrative. Combined with diverting characters and their melodramas and an atmosphere that immediately reminds one of ghost stories, Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind is an entertaining read.

The story within the story starts with Daniel Sempere. He visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and discovers Julian Carax’sThe Shadow of the Wind. Enchanted by Carax’s work, Daniel decides to find his other books and finds out all throughout this mission that the books are as rare and nearly non-existent as Carax himself.

Ruiz Zafon doesn’t hold back in his storytelling. He gives everything in this novel—-humor, suspense, romance, father and son dynamic, sidekicks, closet gays, loyal friends, narrators with unbelievable memories, spies in the bus or street corners, and other such crazy and colorful storylines and characters.

When Ruiz Zafon goes back to the heart of the story, after about 300 pages, I was almost relieved to be finally getting the secret.

And here’s what I realized: I wish there was more to the Byronic hero in the story, to Julian Carax, other than his suffering.

Rooting for the romantic hero who is deceived and hunted is all well, but I think Julian Carax would have been a more interesting antihero if he was given a chance to be successful in Paris before succumbing to the dark side.

I would have wanted to read more about his charisma and sophistication (he is living in Paris!) so that I’ll feel the loss of the person loved by Penelope Andaya, sponsored by Miquel Moliner, protected by Nuria Monfort, and loathed by Fumero.

But Ruiz Zafon only gives us one reason to believe that Daniel Sempere should save Julian Carax: he must write again.

Overall, the mystery that is Julian Carax is what Daniel Sempere needs. Most interesting is the role of Nuria Monfort, who for me, is the real hero in the story.

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