Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth, by J. V. Hart (Four out of five stars)
Here we learn about Hook’s youth, what (might have) happened before he became the infamous Captain Hook. We follow him from when he arrives at Eton and becomes instant enemies with young Arthur Darling, to his falling in love with the forbidden Sultana Ananova and defies the Queen of England, to him and his friend Roger joining the crew of the Sea Witch and him becoming captain of his own ship. All throughout his adventures young James dreams of reaching a magical place: Neverland. This is quite a dark, disturbing, and fascinating prequel to J. M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan, and I was surprised that this was in the juvenile section at my library.
I really enjoyed Mr. Hart’s style of writing, and how he shaped the characters. Roger was James’ only friend and quite likable. What I thought the most interesting was James’ early contact with the Darling family. (I’m figuring Arthur would at least be Wendy’s grandfather.)
Nearly from the first page, I was hoping that the book would include James finding Neverland and how he heard of and/or first encountered the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. To my vast disappointment, the story ended with James as the new captain of the Sea Witch. *sigh* I guess I shall have to use my imagination for that.
Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden (Two and a half out of five stars)
This is sort of a rags-to-riches story. How Chiyo, along with her older sister, is sold into slavery by her father after her mother’s death in Japan, eventually becoming the geisha Sayuri, accomplished in the art of entertaining men, is the main focus of this novel.
The descriptions in this book are – for the most part – great. And Sayuri is a well drawn character in the first half of the book; she has pros and cons to her personality and a wide range of emotions. The other characters are interesting though some of the characterizations are shallow.
When we reach World War II, the story goes downhill. Sayuri flees to a safe part of the country and hardly seems really effected by the war. The only thing she is really worried about is if she will be able to continue being a geisha when she returns to the city because she is hurting her usually smooth hands by working and not getting enough to eat.
There is a lot of sexual content in this story. The book insists geisha are not prostitutes; yet there is a practice of auctioning off the virginity of each geisha-to-be. The main “love story” is Sayuri longing for the Chairman, who inspired the desire in her to become a geisha when she was nine. In a surprising twist, just as sugary as a Hollywood film, she discovers the Chairman has secretly loved her for years and they finally are together. I could not root for this…happy ending because the Chairman was married and had a family.
Overall, this was a fairly interesting book but was morally disappointing.
Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen (Five out of five stars)
Young Fanny Price was sent to live with her rich relatives at Mansfield Park. For eight years she has never been accepted as an equal and has been shown true kindness only by her cousin Edmund. When the dazzling and sophisticated Henry and Mary Crawford arrive, Fanny watches as her cousins become caught up in their ways.
It seems readers either really like Mansfield Park or really dislike it. I love it. This book was not as quick a read as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, or even Emma was for me. Yet I enjoyed it very much.
Fanny is a wonderful, real heroine. She has many morals yet is not perfect. I identified with her a lot and cared about what happened to her. Edmund I both wanted to hug and strangle at times. He is Fanny’s truest friend, yet falls away from her when he becomes smitten with Mary Crawford. At times he wants his cousin’s advice, but instead tries to convince her – and justify himself – for why he does not hold to his moral convictions when it comes to decisions having to do with Mary. Aunt Norris is very hard on Fanny, and readers really have no trouble disliking her. Henry and Mary Crawford are…I hate them both, pure and simple. (Whenever I watch the 1983 BBC version, my brother always exclaims, “Contamination!” when the Crawfords make their first appearance.) Mary’s characterization is very much like that of Elizabeth Bennet. Henry is proud and has fun causing young ladies to fall for him; eventually he turns his attentions to Fanny and actually falls in love with her. Among other supporting characters, Tom, Mr. Rushworth, and Julia are my favorites.
This is not Jane Austen’s most popular novel, yet it has become my personal favorite. And I’m very much looking forward to when the ITV film is broadcast in America.
Tristan’s Gap, by Nancy Rue (Five out of five stars)
Serena Soltani poured herself into her family. For eighteen years she made every effort to please her husband and protect her two daughters from the evils of the world. She was respected and admired for her parenting success. Then the unthinkable happens: daughter Tristan, sixteen, the “good girl,” disappears. As the search for her continues, unpleasant truths come to light. And Serena begins to question everything about her family, marriage, and God as she goes after her daughter.
This was an elegant, simply wonderful story. It read like a page-turning mystery. And that Mrs. Rue wrote this in the first-person was marvelous. The reader really feels for Serena as she is plunged into disbelief, fear, and endless wonderings as her world is shattered. All the other characters, Aunt Pete, Hazel, Max, and Nicky, as all well developed and we come to love, or lack thereof, them.
This is a great drama of revelation and redemption, and offers the powerful lesson that true strength is not found in regaining control of people’s choices but in learning to let go.
An excellent book, I highly recommend this.
Next on the list? Well, there is that biography on Nureyev, and I finally got my hands on Peter Pan in Scarlet, the authorized sequel to Peter Pan.