Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

Book #868

Reviewer: Bronwyn


I loved this book as a kid, and love it even more as an adult. It comes under a genre called ‘literary nonsense’ and it’s not hard to tell why – with whimsical, anthropomorphic characters and perfectly nonsensical poems, this book brings your imagination to life. Wonderland is a figment of Alice’s imagination, and so I guess all the whimsy is supposed to be reflective of a 7 year old girl’s mind. It’s been a long time since I was that age, so I can’t remember if my imagination was that vivid or not!!

Being a bit of a maths geek, I’ve always been interested in the maths aspects of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – the most obvious bit being the deck of cards theme (followed up with a chess theme in Through the Looking Glass). Without going into all the technical aspects of mathematics hidden in the story, there’s plenty there to keep very high-level mathematicians busy for a long time (if you’re really interested, have a look here for some of the mathematical aspects).

My favourite part of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has got to the be the poems – many of which are parodies of other poems (such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat).

This is definitely a book that everyone should read before they die – I’m putting it in my Top 100 books of all time. It’s aged well – some of the language shows its age (the number of times Alice says something is ‘queer’ makes me giggle a wee bit!), but for the most part, it has very easy-flowing language that makes for a quick and enjoyable read.

As for reading it to children, since it is actually a children’s book… I wouldn’t read it to my 3 year old, not because it’s inappropriate (although, some may say that the hookah-smoking caterpillar is), but more because he’s likely to get bored at his age. Once a child is a wee bit older and at school, they would be better able to appreciate this book, I think.

A keeper in my bookshelf, that’s for sure.

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Book #93

Reviewer: Bronwyn

Publication Date: 1997
Publisher: Random House
# of pages: 428

Summary/Inside cover of book:
This story is a rare and utterly engaging experience. It tells the extraordinary tale of a geisha – summoning up a quarter century, from 1929 to the post-war years of Japan’s dramatic history, and opening a window onto a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation.

‘Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha with such gentle courtesy and determination that you are quickly brought under the spell of her character. She takes you by the hand and leads you into a world that is both formal and intimate, a world that I had only before glimpsed in the fleeting and beautiful images of traditional Japanese ink paintings…Memoirs of a Geisha is a wonderful achievement.’
Julia Blackburn

Reviews:
goodreads.com 3.92/5 average rating (293,366 ratings)
amazon.com 4.4/5 average rating (2,543 ratings)

I have read this book a dozen times, at least. It sits in my bookshelf, and is one I often pull out and re-read, because I love it so much. So, I guess that means that this is going to be a slightly biased review. Or do I love it because it truly is a good book? On Amazon, 1679 people (66%) gave it a rating of 5 out of 5 stars. On Goodreads, 99043 people (33%) gave it 5 out of 5. So perhaps I’m not the only one that loved it, after all.

The story is written in the first person, from the perspective of a retired geisha, known in her childhood at Chiyo, and later by her geisha name of Sayuri. It follows her training years as a geisha in intimate detail, and gives us an insight into what has traditionally been a very private and secret world. How much of it is true to what actually happened back in the 1930’s and 40’s that the novel is set, I don’t know, but it reads very well. The story basically follows Sayuri’s struggle to accept that a geisha has to take the life and men given to her, while she has her heart set on one particular man, known as the Chairman. For a full synopsis of the book, have a read here.

If you’re interested in Japanese culture, I definitely recommend this book to you. It is easy to read – it’s as though Sayuri is having a conversation with the reader. And, in fact, that’s exactly the way it is supposed to have been written, as there is a “translator’s note” at the start that tells us that Sayuri spoke to him and her voice was recorded on a Dictaphone, rather than Sayuri writing any of the book herself.

It took me by surprise that the end of the book reminds us that this is a novel, not true memoirs, because I had completely forgotten that as I read the story!

Overall, I’m going to have this book a rating of 5 out of 5 as well – it’s very well written, and is one of those books that I will continue to read over and over. And over. I love it.