#Book Snap Sunday – The God of Small Things

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This week I’m borrowing an idea from Sharon from Gum Trees and Galaxies, who used the beautiful pond at Laurel Bank Park for her snap of Claude Monet’s Mad Enchantment a few weeks ago. The floating water lilies and reeds was the perfect backdrop for Arundhati Roy’s debut novel, The God of Small Things, which was awarded the Booker prize for 1997.  Set in India, the novel tells the story of a multi-generational family, from 1969 to the early 90’s. It is a time of change, however… “Change is one thing. Acceptance is another.”

Beliefs about caste, especially about the relations between the Touchables and the Untouchables, run very deep. “The Love Laws lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.”  The price for crossing the line is very steep.

Much of the story focuses on twins Rahel and Estha, whose lives are irrevocably changed by a complicated mix of malice, violence, cultural beliefs and social discrimination. Rahel and Estha are two-egg twins, unalike yet sharing a “siamese soul.” Separated for 23 years, they bear the guilt for a sin they never committed.

“You’re not the Sinners. You’re the Sinned Against. You were only children. You had no control. You are the victims, not the perpetrators.” 

Their mother, Ammu, is a woman “already damned.” After a foolish marriage to escape “the clutches of her ill-tempered father and bitter, long-suffering mother” resulted in divorce when her husband turned out to be “a full-blown alcoholic with all of an alcoholic’s deviousness and tragic charm”, she knows for herself “there would be no more chances”. But Ammu has “little left to lose, and could therefore be dangerous.”

And then there is Velutha, a Paravan, Untouchable, “not allowed to touch anything that Touchables touched.” However, Velutha is given opportunities not usually afforded Paravans. Trained as a carpenter, he is “allowed to touch things that Touchables touched” and for this “he ought to be grateful” because it was “a big step for a Paravan.”

His father, though, is still an “Old World Paravan”. He remembers the days of crawling backwards and “sweeping away their footprints so that Brahmins or Syrian Christians would not defile themselves,” and covering their mouths “to divert their polluted breath.” His gratitude to Ammu’s family for their benevolence and generosity, “widened his smile and bent his back.”

Velutha’s quiet assurance, pride and sense of worth disturbs his father’s entrenched beliefs about caste segregation but when he realises his “Untouchable son had touched…entered…loved” what he had no right to touch or love, the Terror is unleashed.               

The God of Small Things is a somewhat complicated narrative, moving between past and present without the usual text markers so it does require the reader to pay careful attention, however the rich imagery used by Roy brings all the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of India and the passing seasons to life. It reminds us that it is the small things that can bring about massive change and that things can change in just one day.  

#Book Snap Sunday – Wyoming Stories

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Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx is a collection of short stories that features a wonderful array of characters and depicts the poverty, hardship and resilience of the people of Wyoming. It was originally published as two volumes: Close Range in 1999 and Bad Dirt in 2004. This combined edition was published in 2007 and features one of Proulx’s most well-known stories, “Brokeback Mountain” which was adapted for film in 2005 and starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Wyoming is one of the largest states of the US but also the least populous. The state capital of Cheyenne had a population of around 63,000 in 2017 while Toowoomba’s population around the same time was about 135,000. I was quite surprised to read that, however given that two thirds of the state is covered by mountain ranges, the climate is described as semi-arid, and it is drier and windier than anywhere else in the US, well that puts it into perspective. Wyoming is also home to the Yellowstone National Park.

Some of the stories are sad as the old world of ranching is passing away. Some are a little gruesome but with a dark sense of humour, like “The Blood Bay” in which a cowboy, in need of a new pair of boots, discovers another cowboy frozen to death in the snow. Eyeing off the dead man’s “fine pair of handmade boots” he requisitions the boots with the help of his knife and leaves them to thaw out – still containing the previous owners…

My favourite story was “The Contest” in which the men of Elk Tooth sign up for a beard growing contest over the Winter. At first the contest is just a bit of light-hearted fun, but it soon becomes “cruelly competitive” and some competitors resort to desperate lengths to promote beard growth, even consulting a book, of all things. While the residents of Elk Tooth would have been astounded that “there were shops devoted entirely to books”, they soon discover the mystery of “sideways leaning words” (italics) and ponder whether Umberto Eco, in fact,  resides in a “home for old cowboys”. I particularly enjoyed the beard-growing efforts of Kevin, aged 14,  whose father told him he “didn’t have the chance of a pancake in a pigsty” however, in time his “few whiskers made up in length what they lacked in profusion”. Sounds just like the hairs on Dan’s chin!

The photo was taken out at our new place which is not in Wyoming, but the drought in eastern Australia is certainly making it look rather dry and barren.

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

#Book Snap Sunday -The Man Who Was Thursday

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The title of today’s #Book Snap is The Man Who Was Thursday by G K Chesterton (1874-1936). My edition contains two of Chesterton’s novels: The Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Man Who Was Thursday. I read the first of the stories almost three years ago and then never got around to reading the second. However, I am trying to make it a project to finish off some of the half-read books I have laying around.

The Man Who Was Thursday was first published in 1908 and is regarded as Chesterton’s most well known novel. Described as a “spellbinding story of paradox”, the story features characters named with the days of the week and starts with Thursday, “an undercover poet-turned-policeman” who infiltrates an organisation of anarchists. However, he discovers that the rest of the members are not who they seem and neither is Sunday, the head of the so-called anarchists. A  humorous and at times, thrilling read.

Feel free to join in and get creative with Sharon at Gum Trees and Galaxies, reading, snapping and posting on a Sunday afternoon.

Happy Reading!

#Book Snap Sunday – Pride and Prejudice

 

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This week’s #Book Snap is the classic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have just finished reading this for my course Texts in Adaptation, and as I was reading, and taking notes for the essay, I was thinking about how I could frame the photo. My lecturer made a comment in our lecture about carriages and how they were used by the gentry to affirm their elevated status and make sure others knew their place.

Hmm, carriages. Ah – the Cobb and Co Museum! The Cobb and Co Museum in Toowoomba has one of the largest collections of restored carriages, from fancy carriages for the well-to-do, to the Cobb and Co passenger carriages, down to a cute little goat cart. The museum also has a number of other displays with an excellent science area for kids with hands-on activities. Best of all, if you are a local, entry is free!

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books. It has been a while since my last read and I had forgotten how cutting Jane can be. Lizzie’s observations and witty remarks about people and life in their small village are just as relevant today, but I am relieved that despite the prevailing issues regarding the gender pay gap, discrimination and who takes out the garbage, the lives of women no longer depend upon catching a man of great fortune. Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good romance and Colin Firth still makes the best Mr Darcy in my opinion.

After wandering around the museum displays, the Cobb and Co Cafe is a lovely place for morning tea. I don’t usually go in for snapping my snacks and posting them online, but I was impressed with the design on my latte and the chocolate and vanilla slice was delicious. And they have a great range for those of us who are gluten-free.

Happy Reading!

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Anyone for a holiday?

Mr Percival in the Creek

 

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Strolling along the West Creek walkway, we spot a variety of birdlife. We see ducks swimming on the pond or waddling near the bank, little birds that flit over our heads,  and as we start to approach magpie season,  those black and white marauders that like to swoop on unsuspecting walkers. There is even a rogue goose on the loose on which we do need to keep a watchful eye. Most of the time we see it swimming happily in the middle of the lake but occasionally we have been pushed to the other side of the road when it decides to make a bee line for us, wings flapping and honking loudly.

The other day though, was the first time I had ever seen a pelican swimming in the creek. I had to look twice – yes, it is Mr Percival! That tell-tale bill stretched wide open is always a dead give away. I couldn’t let this photo opportunity slip by, so approaching very slowly and carefully while drawing the phone out of my pocket at the same time, I managed to snap a couple of photos before it took to the sky.

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Now, I am not exactly sure that it was Mr Percival. It could have been Mr Ponder or even Mr Proud. After all, pelicans do look pretty much the same to the untrained eye. And if you are not sure what I am talking about, then it’s time to read Storm Boy by Colin Thiele, a classic Australian story about a young boy and some orphaned pelicans. I haven’t seen the recent remake but I do remember seeing the original film back in my primary school days. Perhaps it’s time to dust off my old copy too.

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#Book Snap Sunday – Mrs M

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Sharon at Gum trees and Galaxies has started a new meme called Book Snap Sunday. It is a project aimed to encourage a little bit of creativity while chronicling the books we have read, are reading or want to read. You can read more about Sharon’s Book Snap Sunday here.

The photo above is my first attempt at Book Snap Sunday. Mrs M by Luke Slattery is a fictional account of the life and loves of Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of Major General Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales from 1810-1821. It was a quite enjoyable read and has whet my appetite to learn a bit more about Macquarie, who seemed to have rather enlightened views about society, convicts and the right to a second chance.

Elizabeth was a keen gardener, hence the backdrop of the lavender peeking over the hedge. She was also somewhat of a musician, playing the viola as well as the piano. The stand on which the book is sitting reminded me of the ornate music stands on the old pianos and the candles evoke a sense of a time gone past.

If you enjoy both reading and snapping, you might like to join in too. It is giving me something to think about as I read. I may not have something every Sunday, but I’ll give it a go.

Happy Reading!