Eligible

After the downer that was Fates and Furies, I was excited to start something lighter, a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld.  She is one of my favorite authors and Pride and Prejudice is probably my all time favorite book, so I knew this would be a good pick.  I read it quickly in only three days and even though I knew what was going to happen, I really enjoyed the journey to get there.

Instead of England, Eligible takes place in Cincinnati and follows the story of Liz Bennett and her family of four sisters as she meets, hates and ultimately falls in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Being so familiar with the original, it was fun to see the differences in the characters: the cousin Collins character is not quite so annoying here and the original Wickham character is divided into two separate people in Eligible.  The ending is not a surprise, although I would have maybe liked one or two more scenes between Liz and Darcy as they were finally getting together; it seemed a little rushed at the end.

Like I said, I flew through this book and enjoyed every minute.  Anyone who loves Jane Austen will definitely enjoy this retelling.

Fates and Furies

My book club that’s not a book club chose Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff, for our recent read. I had suggested it to the group not knowing anything about it, only that it had been on the best seller list last year. Boy, am I embarrassed now. It’s a group of Christian women from my life group and I cringed my way through this book. There is so much sexual content that does not really even advance the plot and both the main characters have very little to recommend them. 

The book is told in two parts: first from the point of view of Lotto, the husband, and then the second part of the book is from the perspective of Mathilde, the wife. I actually enjoyed the second half of the book more and thought Mathilde’s story was more interesting. The book details the ups and downs of their marriage and disfunctions and also intersperses excerpts from Lotto’s plays that he has written. 

So, yeah, this book was a little rough to get through. I don’t mind books where the characters are flawed, but it’s hard when they don’t have any redeeming qualities. We’ll see when my book club meets; I feel bad that the book wasn’t better.  Considering Amazin named it their book of the year, as did President Obama, I expected something more. 

Gone with the Wind

After three nights (hey, it’s over 230 minutes!), we finished Gone with the Wind last night, the sixth movie on our AFI movie list.  I had seen this several times all the way through and read the book as a child, but my husband had never seen it.

The movie, based on Margaret Mitchell’s book, follows the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a Southern belle through her romantic pursuits throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Vivian Leigh plays Scarlett and the movie also stars Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, her third husband and true love.  The film won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress and Supporting Actress.

I absolutely love the character of Scarlett, even though recognizing she is obviously flawed.  I like her steadfast determination and her ability to get through even the most difficult situations.  She is so frustrating in her unwillingness to give up pursuing Ashley Wilkes throughout the whole movie and then when she finally realizes that Rhett is the right person for her after all, it is too late.  Even at the end, Scarlett remains determined that she will be able to find a way to win him back.

The set pieces on the film depicting the Old South and the Civil War are amazing.  They must have used hundreds of extras, especially in the scene where all of the Confederate soldiers are injured in the middle of the street.  The movie really captures that period in history.

Whoa! You Shall Not Pass

From 1050BC to 587 BC, Israel was an independent nation.  Then, Babylon destroyed it and exiled the people.  They struggled with the question of what it meant to be Jewish without a country.  In 539 BC, Persia conquered the Babylonians and allowed the Jews to return home and rebuild.  The Israelites found it was hard to go back to the same when everything was so different.

In 332 BC, Alexander the Great basically conquered everything and spread Greek culture throughout the region.  Between 319 BC and 302 BC, Jerusalem changed control seven times and chaos ruled.  In 200 BC, the Seleucid Empire conquered the area and outlawed Jewish worship.  There was this constant battle with Greek influence and religion.  Groups emerged to bring back Jewish traditions and one group specifically focused on the Law as the key and they devoted themselves to this.  These were the Pharisees and they loved their faith and at the time, these were the good guys.

So how come, in Matthew 15:3, Jesus asks: why do you break the Commands of God for the sake of tradition?  The Pharisees had wandered from their original path.  Matthew 23:1-7 says that the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, but do not practice what they preach.  They are not willing to bear the load.

There were 613 laws from Moses.  Thinking of a way to keep these laws, the Pharisees created little laws around each of these big ones.  This was the oral law and was later written down as the Talmud.  The Pharisees would pile guilt and shame on you if you didn’t follow all of the rules.  Jesus showed up and said it should be about service and love and not following all of the rules.

Jesus made 7 states about the Pharisees all beginning with “Woe to you….”  Matthew 23:13-14: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”  The Pharisees were using an in versus out mentality and religion was an exclusive thing to them.  However, this determination should only be used by God.  The irony in all of this is that the Pharisees couldn’t get in either.  There were so many laws that it was impossible for anyone to follow all of them.

In Matthew 9, Jesus met Matthew, a tax collector.  Matthew began following Jesus and Jesus ate with him and other sinners.  The Pharisees asked why He did this.  Jesus told them that the healthy do not need doctors, but the sick do.  Jesus desired mercy, not sacrifice.  He came to call not the righteous, but sinners.  Jesus is upset with the Pharisees’ judgement and tells them at the tax collector and prostitutes will enter God’s kingdom ahead of them.

1 John 4:8 states that God’s love is the defining characteristic.  In Ephesians 2:14-16 we are told that Jesus has made two groups into one humanity, making peace.  He came to unite people and there should be no division.  Our faith should be based on Jesus and not the law.

Brooklyn

We watched Brooklyn the other night (my choice) and I absolutely loved this movie!  It seriously is one of the best movies I have seen in awhile.  It was one of last year’s Best Picture nominees, and it’s star, Saoirse Ronan was also nominated.

Brooklyn tells the story of a young Irish woman, Eilis, in the early 1950s who immigrates to New York in search of a better life.  She falls in love and marries an Italian-American before having to return to Ireland after her sister dies.  Eilis is torn between the life she left behind in Ireland and her new life in New York.  The acting is so well done and you can really tell exactly what Eilis is thinking without her even having to say anything.

One thing I really like about this movie was that it was just a feel good story.  There was no violence or bad morals (except for one sexual encounter pre-wedding night).  The Catholic Church was depicted positively, which was a nice change from most media.  It was very easy to root for Eilis throughout the film.

Morning Star

I recently finished Morning Star, the third book in a trilogy by Pierce Brown.  I loved the first book, Red Rising and while it wasn’t as good as the first, also liked the second one, Golden Son.  I was excited to see how the story ended with this third book.

All of the books follow Darrow, a low class young man in a futuristic society based on class, where everyone is divided into colors based on their position.  Darrow is a Red, the lowest, but he is chosen to go undercover as a Gold, the highest, to start an uprising.  In this third book, the war has begun.

The book moves quickly and contains a lot of action and especially in the later half is a quick page-turner.  The ending of the story is satisfying and gives a fitting ending to the characters that have been followed throughout the books.