The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison

downloadIt took me about ten days to finish “The Silent Wife”, even though the actual reading time was five or six hours. This was mostly because I felt like abandoning the book mid-reading multiple times. I should have known this book would be kind of a waste of time ever since I read it has been hailed as the new “Gone Girl”. In no way is this book a ” chilling psychological thriller”, as it is described on the back cover. It is more of a dull story about the eternal cheating husband and the revenge of his ex wife. I couldn’t care less for any of the characters to be honest. They had no substance at all and the book was neither thrilling, nor captivating.

Reading “The Silent Wife” was part of my last year’s resolution of reading more mainstream literature. The downside of this decision is that such books are often hit or miss. I regret the choice of reading this one. It felt like a “Gone Girl” copycat. Even the structure was the same, with “him” and “her” chapters intertwining throughout the story. Jodi is perhaps the dullest vindictive wife I have ever come across and I have absolutely no opinion about Todd, who does not even seem able to cheat properly, as he keeps whining about the lost wife every time he gets a chance. The other woman is also a cliche of dullness. Overall, I found this book less than original, full of cliches and unnecessary details that we’re irrelevant to the story. Why would someone start to describe the childhood of the heroine’s brother in the middle of the thriller when said brother is not even involved in the story? Anyway, I understand that the author passed away before the publication of the book and maybe this is one of the reasons it became a best seller. Still, “The Silent Wife” lacks substance and the story is so predictable that you wonder why you still go on with it.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

“Dear Leonard. To look life in the face. Always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it. To love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. Leonard. Always the years between us. Always the years. Always the love. Always the hours.”

The Hours CunninghamA party that slips into a wake. A woman who wants to kill herself because she can’t cope with a peaceful, suburban family life. Virginia Woolf fighting the demons in her head. Apparently three stories without any connection. Read “The Hours” and you’ll be amazed how one can imagine a book that intertwines them all. I first read Michael Cunningham‘s “The Hours” in 2006. Since then, I’ve read it twice more, and I am positive I will do it again sometime in the future. This is one of those books I wish I wrote myself. I do not think that any review can do justice to this book, so I’ll try to stick to my very personal and subjective opinions about it.

Cunningham wrote “The Hours” in 1998 and the book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1999. It’s not a very long book and the first time I read it in 3 or 4 hours without pause. It’s not that it has a thrilling plot that makes you not want to put it down. This is the kind of book you don’t want to put down simply because it talks about everything in less than 250 pages. Love, time, death, emptiness, family, abandonment, suicide, gay/lesbian relationships, books, poetry, depression, life in the big city, rural life, mental illness, physical illness, you name it, “The Hours” has it. It’s actually remarkable how Cunningham integrates all these seamlessly in his triptic story. All the elements are where they should be and as I read the book I didn’t feel overwhelmed by all these topics, but by the power of the characters instead.

Even though it may seem that “The Hours” is crammed with all these topics, there is actual a main motif to the story. As you turn the pages, you can almost feel that time is an invisible character in the book. Time is not only the element that lays at the base of the book, but also a recurrent motif in the stories of all characters. We witness the painful struggle of three of the main characters with the hours that align inexorably before them.

What do you do with the hour after the one that passes so slow it feels like a perpetual agony? And with the hour after that? Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown, and Richard Brown all seem to think that the only way to stop the hours from swooping upon them is to take their own lives. Virginia chooses to put some stones in her and drowns herself. Richard puts an end to his pain by jumping from the window of his flat. Laura Brown is the only one who thinks that she should give the hours another chance, but even though she doesn’t get trough with her suicide attempt, she decides to change the way she is going to spend the hours she has left. If this means leaving her family, starting over in Canada, and live 50 more years of solitude, then so be it.

The intertextuality in “The Hours” is poignant. There are strong echoes of “Mrs. Dalloway” in a book that has Virginia Woolf as a character. It’s a pretty smart thing to do in a novel and Cunningham makes it look so natural. The play with time is what makes the novel remarkable, though. Everything happens in a single day, but the stories overlap as Cunningham jump-cuts masterfully through the century, only to converge unexpectedly for the grand finale.  “The Hours” is very much concerned with creativity and even though the poet and the writer in the novel see themselves as failures, ironically this is not the case with Cunningham, who has written one of the most imaginative books I have ever read.

The second one is about books

I’ve recently come to realise I have so much catch up to do with fiction it’s scary. To give you an idea, I have yet to read some of the most talked-about books of the last years. “The Book Thief”, “Wolf Hall”, “1Q84”, “White Teeth”, “Solar” are just some of the titles gathering dust on my Goodreads to-read shelf since forever. I have never been what you would call a mainstream reader, but the state I’m in is truly appalling.

Before I hit 20, I was mainly into classics. By the time I was 18 or so, I had read so much Austen, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Dickens, Henry James, Hugo, the Bronte Sisters, Goethe, Fitzgerald, and so on there were few good titles actually left in that area. Not to mention the “original” classics in the form of ancient Greek and Roman authors. So I decided to branch out a bit and started dipping into the 20th century literature. A whole new world opened before me and the possibilities became endless. I began devouring Marquez, Rushdie, Ishiguro, Sartre, Cunningham, Nabokov, Orwell, Bulgakov, Murakami, and the likes. Life got brutally in the way at some point and I found myself downsizing from two or three books a week to two books a month, if that.

I’m now approaching 30 at a fast pace and even though I played catch up with a number of books and remained somewhat connected to what was new and worthy of reading, I still haven’t managed to return to the two to three books per week mark. The good thing though is that there are no longer things in my life that prevent me from reading as much as I want, so I’ve decided that from now on, there is only one reason for not reading constantly, and that is pure laziness. So I am currently  in the process of brushing up my Goodreads account, which I’ve always considered a splendid idea, but never got round to actually use it. When I was younger, I always had to-read lists  somewhere on my desk and I would have killed for something like Goodreads, by the way.

And since it’s sharing time, one of the things I actually regret not doing is keeping a book log or journal of some sort over the years. There are so many books I loved, books that inspired me, books that I was jealous I wasn’t the author of, but when I think about them, I can only remember the way I felt reading them, not the actual story. This is truly frustrating for me, as I have revolved most of my life around books and I’ve got nothing to show for it. If book-blogging were a thing 15 years ago, I would have probably been on top of it. But I’m starting now. I’ll try to document the books I read in a way that will make me remember them 20 years from now. I am currently reading Alice Munro’s “Dear Life” and hopefully I’ll come up with a review in a couple of days.