Saturday, October 20, 2007


A Pulitzer Prize winning book by a Nobel Prize winning author. Fascinating, and a delightful read.

My copy of the book said that it is an 'epic of a China that was.' But more than that, I felt that it was about the people who lived in that time, a normal farmer, like any other, distinguished only by the time he was in, and the clarity of thought that brings him alive in the pages. Wang Lung, and his family are average people- but the way their thoughts and lives are brought to the fore is amazing in its very simplicity.

Once again, the language is deceitfully simple and agonizingly spellbinding. Phrases like 'There was this luxury of living' might seem easy enougfh to construct, but they aren't, and it's her amazing prowess that is revealed in the effect created while reading it.

The story starts of with Wang Lung getting ready for his 'wedding' to O-Lan. As I read somewhere later, the story has a very 'watery' beginning, with many references to water. While it didn't say what it symbolized, my guess is that it referred to the continuity of life, as seen by the fact that Wang Lung starts of with his marriage, then has children, even as he takes care of his father till he dies, ending with him becoming a grandfather and his experiences thereon.

The whole sub story based on the pondering on whether it was necessary to be beautiful to be loved, and not just very wonderful otherwise is moving. The answer it reaches is- yes, love is but based on beauty, and it moved me to tears. The horror with which you read of the cruelty of human nature- and despite that- unwitting cruelty- makes you shudder, and realize that evil is not so easily definable, humans not so easily classifiable.

The ending is haunting. The words langorously leisurely.

Enough said.

Friday, October 19, 2007


"I am going to pack my two shirts with my other socks and my best blue suit in the little blue cloth my mother used to tie around her hair when she did the house, and I am going from the Valley "

I have about three copies of this book in my house, all of them tattered, such a readable book is this. The ending launches you to the past, making you wonder about the present and the future, consequently keeping you reading. But don't misunderstand me, the book's not a thriller, it's the kind you read at leisure, over a few weeks.

And what a wonderful way to spend those weeks! The language flows, the Welsh-ness of it music to the ears. The words flow, the unaccustomed way in which they are arranged being delightful.

The story is of the everyday life of the miners, strikes and industrialisation, the gradual growth of the slag heap, that swallows up the beautiful Valley, death and loss and parting. It's the way it's written that makes it memorable. It's possible to lose yourself in the sea of lovely descriptions that fill the book- of food, and music notes, and kisses, and, of course, the lovely, lush valley, and daffodils.

The tale's told in first person, by Huw Morgan, the youngest member of the family. There are the intertwined stories of all the brothers and sisters, their loves, some truly heartbreaking, told through the eyes of a young boy growing up, and busy with his own experiences.

Sad and tragic and memorable though the ending is, a sense of humour pervades that makes you laugh at the sheer simplicity of the pleasures they had.

Flipping through the book now, trying to find passages to quote, lines catch my eyes, making me laugh, and, cry, and wonder at the irony of life and the cruelty of humans, and their amazing endurance, too. None of the passages I can quote, for the story behind them is what makes them poignant, and pretty beyond words- other words, I mean.

There are sequels to this book, by the same author, thankfully, but I can't find them anywhere. However, this in itself is as complete as it is possible to be.