Eclectic Reading: Immobility & The House of Mirth

Two very different books this time.  The first is Immobility a dystopian novel set after the “Kollaps”.  Our lead character is a paraplegic survivor with a  very valuable skill.  Awoken from suspended animation and completely dependent upon those that awoke him, he doesn’t know who he is, who to trust, or what the truth is.  Very fast paced, thriller style writing with an intriguing plot.  Dystopian books are not really my go-to genre but I found this a good read.

The writing allows you to experience the confusion and disorientation of Horkai as he makes his way through the lies and the desolate landscape.  Horkai is a sympathetic protagonist and I was rooting for him all the way.  The near extinction of the human race, the mutations, and the continuing poison in the air and water are described in enough detail to be imagined but not so much as to slow the plot.  Very good read.

The second book was also very good, however as it is a classic and considered a landmark book in American fiction so you don’t need me to say that it was good.  The title comes from the quote from Ecclesiastes 7:4:

 “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” 

The novel follows the downward spiral of Lily Bart.  A combination of unfortunate circumstances, poor decisions, and societal pressures culminating in the downfall of Lily Bart.  Lily finds a good match, personality-wise, and intellectually in Lawrence Seldon, however he is not able to support her to the standards she feels she needs, that her society has groomed her to seek.  Lawrence remains throughout the tale as  a touchstone for Lily.  He actually opens the book…and closes it, with Lily at the beginning of her story and the end. 

The novel exposed the hypocrisy that surrounded the New York society of the time.   Edith Wharton was a member of this society and attacked it with the precision of a surgeon.  The novel is both a satire and a form of tragedy, not necessarily a tragedy in a classical sense but tragic nonetheless.  The strength of the novel is this insider’s perspective of the society and revelation of how a society molds its inhabitants, impacts their choices, and  opportunities.

I read this for my One Drink Minimum book Club and enjoyed it far more than I expected to at first glance.  I haven’t really been a big reader of classics in recent year so this was a real change of pace.  I can’t wait to have the book club meeting to discuss it!

 

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Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

I read this for my One Drink Minimum Book Club.  I would not have picked this on my own to read but I am so glad that I did.  North Korea is in the news a great deal, but I will admit to being pretty ignorant about it other than in broad generalities.  Barbara Demick painstakingly reveals the horrors of life in North Korea through interviews with people who escaped to the south.  The book is extremely well written and detailed in descriptions.  I will say that it is not a light or uplifting read.  At points, it is unbelievably depressing.  Reading about what the escapees and indeed most citizens of North Korea endure makes it hard to believe that it is real.  You almost get the sense you are reading some dystopian novel.  The casual treatment of family members dying of starvation and illness, a kindergarten class whittling down from 50 to 15 due to starvation and disease, and a mother saying at one point “everyone who was going to die already had” and then you remind yourself this is real, happening now, in your lifetime and that  realization is like a slap in the face.

Highly recommended for readers of non-fiction, people interested in events occurring in Korea, and even people who read dystopian literature.