Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

fingersmith

Fingersmith was a really fun book to read from beginning to the end, though I thought it almost touched the borderline of being “wordy” (being 550 pages). The first twist (probably the biggest too) left me in a state of euphoria, as I got so excited that I did not see it coming at all. I love unpredictable book!

If I have to describe the book in two words, it’d be Lesbian Dickens (stealing that from a goodreads reviewer which I totally agree with). The style of writing is in the style of those novels written by real 19th century writers, but a couple of things gave it away, like the use of swear words (very rare, do not worry) and the fact that there’s lesbian relationship. I don’t think those ever appear in real Victorian novels. But that’s one of the fun things about it I guess! (I knew about the LGBT aspect before I started reading)

If there’s one thing that I did not quite like, it was the ending. It kept me from giving this book a perfect score unfortunately.

(Spoiler ahead, highlight to read)

I just thought the author took the easy way out: Kill all the obstacles! I had a really bad feeling once one of them started dying, and true enough the rest followed.

(end of spoiler)

sarah waters

This book though has set me firm to read more Sarah Waters books (Fingersmith is my first). I am currently looking forward to read either Tipping the Velvet or the Night Watch next. Probably not this year as I try to read just one book per author per year, but we’ll see!

In term of “fun”-ness level, I think it’s comparable with the Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (also comparable in size).

Interesting fact: Fingersmith was beaten by Life of Pi for 2002 Booker Prize, and by Bel Canto (Ann Patchett) for 2002 Orange Prize (it got shortlisted for both prizes that year). I have to agree that Life of Pi is a probably better book, but I read mixed reviews for Bel Canto.

4.5 stars
(2002, 548 pp)

War Horse at New London Theatre

Last Tuesday I was invited to see stage play adaptation of War Horse at New London Theatre. I received the invitation before Christmas and was ecstatic when I read it, as the play has been looming over me for a while!

First, a little back story. As regular readers probably know I work in visual effects industry for movies. My company was working on the visual effects for War Horse the movie (2011) when I just arrived in London. That was the first time I learned about War Horse, from the movie that was adapted from the book by Michael Morpurgo. At the time I did not know what it was about, except that it’s about a horse that’s probably involved in a war (doh!), and that to make the movie they could not possibly use real horse at one of the scenes because they did not want any horse get hurt. (So if you’ve watched or intend to watch it, you can probably guess which scene it is. All effects/3D horse! Can you tell? :)

That way the book has been on my radar, though since I’m not a fan of war stories, any kind of war stories, I never really intend to read the book. The play though, intrigued me. Why would anyone make a stage play about horses?! How big of a challenge is that?! I read and saw posters about the puppets and thought they might work like puppets from Sesame Street of some sort. So I was in for a total shock, when I finally saw the stage play with my own eyes.

First of all, and most importantly, the horses, OMG. The puppetry of the horses is done by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company and it is something that has to be seen to be believed! They were sooo life-like that sometimes I forgot that they were not real horses. There was so much attention to details, like the breathing of the horses, and the little movement of their ears and their tails, even their neighing sound, the horse-y snorts and the blows. You can see the puppeteers holding the horse puppets but at times it felt like the horses were dragging the humans. It was absolutely amazing. At certain points my jaw was literally dropping, literally. I could not believe what I was seeing. It was beyond what I expected.

As an added bonus my companion of the night has read the book, just before the play (he actually started to read the book before I invited him to come with me, thus it was absolutely the right timing), so he was able to tell me the difference between the book and the play (for more of War Horse stage vs page we recommend this piece). As I learned earlier, the book is told from the horse point of view, while it is not the case for the stage play. So they did need to make a few adjustments for that — adding scenes and combining some characters.

As wonderful the first part of the play was, I thought the second part wasn’t as strong. My first problem was that we came upon some characters who speak French and German, which I did not understand one bit! Though it felt quite original as the war brought us to meet British and German soldiers, along with French peasants, the non-English dialogues were lost on me. My companion understands French and he has also read the book, so he liked it more. We both agreed though that the ending wasn’t as dramatic as we expected. I am now curious how the movie has handled that, and will probably watch it soon to find out.

All in all we absolutely enjoyed the stage play of War Horse, and if you get a chance I’d definitely recommend you to go see it. I have seen lots of plays and musicals and I would say that War Horse takes the trophy for the best use of props! Unlike the usual case, there’s no lead actor/actress here as such, because the horses were the main characters. And what wonderful characters they were!

We were not allowed to take photos, so pictures are taken from the War Horse website. Hope they entice you even more to watch it:

War Horse stage play

War Horse stage play

War Horse stage play

You can also see snippets of the movement of the horse in the video:

2012 and 2013 Stuff

Happy belated new year y’all! I just came back from my 17-days road trip around Spain, Gibraltar, and Morocco a few days ago (follow Wandering Mee for travel related content), got a bit ill, got back to work, and overall am just trying to catch up with real life!

2012 has been an okay year reading-wise. As older blogging friends probably know, my reading has gone down terribly since I came to London in May 2011. But in the past couple of months I feel like I start getting a bit of the groove back. So I’m feeling good about 2013!

My plan is to KISS – Keep it Super Simple ;). Read books I’ve always been meaning to read. I’ll be prioritizing British authors and books that are set in London/Britain. Fall in the categories are Philip Pullman, Jeanette Winterson, The Secret History, Sherlock Holmes, Rudyard Kipling, Wolf Hall, The Hobbit / LOTR, more Oscar Wilde, more Bill Bryson, more Jane Austen, finishing Jane Eyre (I’m currently in the middle of Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and Londoners, both of which are set in London/England and I’m feeling really good about them). Will occasionally fit in American or European authors and book that are set in Europe like Hemingway (Fiesta, Moveable Feast). (update: also E.M. Forster, Graham Greene)

Some books I read in 2012 that I would love to mention:

peter panhalftheskyShortcomingsneither here nor therethe handmaid's tale

Peter Pan — J.M. Barrie
Half the Sky — Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn
Shortcomings — Adrian Tomine
Neither Here Nor There — Bill Bryson
The Handmaid’s Tale — Margaret Atwood

Three of them I never talked about in Bookie Mee, oh no! Though I’m sure I will mention some of them again, like Peter Pan, which I absolutely completely and utterly fell in love with. Words of J.M. Barrie pierced my heart, just like Oscar Wilde (who I also read this year, but have not mentioned, because I haven’t finished his whole collection of short stories). You know, the type that make your heart vibrate and hum. Love <3.

Half the Sky, what an important book. I am not new of stories of hardships in third world countries, but I admit I had to stop a couple of times when reading the book because it got too difficult to swallow. Very painful at times, but also very hopeful. Each chapter is closed with a hopeful inspiring story of real people doing real work out there. I have the deepest admiration for the couple journalists Nic Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and am now following their social media to get updates and opinions from the field.

Shortcomings in many ways surprised me in its rawness and honesty in portraying Asian Americans. I definitely will look out Adrian Tomine’s books again anytime in the future. Bill Bryson is another wonderful finding in 2012, an author whose books I want to read all now! I have to stop myself binging his books too soon. The Handmaid’s Tale helped me in getting my reading mojo back by being extremely readable. What to say, Atwood does good stories.

So there you go, sort of mini-reviews of much loved books :)

I also feel like mentioning some books that were out in 2012 that I’m dying to read below. I’m such a bad reviewer, I would rather wait until everyone reads first before deciding that I want to read them too! So note that I have NOT read the books below! :)

building storiesgrimm talessong of achilles
Building Stories by Chris Ware, Grimm Tales by Philip Pullman, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I’m dying — DYING I tell you! — to read Building Stories! Graphic novel that comes in board-game-like packaging?! I just need to wait until I succumb and buy it! The same with Grimm Tales. I’m a BIG sucker for original fairy tales — I devour them like candies, so original Grimm tales with notes sound like absolutely my thing! Mine! (I’m probably more excited about the notes than the tales even) The same with Greek mythology, nom nom nom! It’s really only a matter of time before I get to these three books!

gone girljoseph antonready player one

Another three that intrigue me: Gone Girl — Gillian Flynn, Joseph Anton — Salman Rushdie, Ready Player One — Ernest Cline

Both Gone Girl and Ready Player One are highly influenced by my favourite podcasters Michael from Books on the Nightstand and Gavin from The Readers :).

I haven’t read many, or any reviews at all in fact, for Joseph Anton. But Salman Rushdie is someone I had heard since I was small, from my dad. Far before I knew his books, far before I read in English. I heard the stories of him being chased after by Ayatollah Khomeini for writing Satanic Verses, and it stuck with me until now. So it was rather an out-of-this-world experience when I had the chance to see him talk about Joseph Anton a few months back, somewhere near Soho. He was a childhood story then, and he is a living author now. Living to tell the experience of being hunted by the Muslim extremists and going into hiding (Joseph Anton was the fake name he used during that period). I may not get to read Joseph Anton anytime soon, but it’s definitely one I would read in the future.

Just a little personal story, after I went to his talk that night, I wrote my dad an email after: dad, do you remember when you told me the story about Salman Rushdie, back when I was in primary school? He’s able to write his story now after 15 years in hiding and I went to see him talking about it.

And he was quite impressed to say the least. First probably because I do remember everything he told me, and second that I have now seen him in person.

*cough* excuse the little father-daughter moment :)

 

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