Books 9/19/05

I finished The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon, which I found disturbing and not quite as enjoyable as the movie version. It think it was intended to be disturbing though, so that’s ok. While the point of the movie was a beleaguered, betrayed woman coming into her own and enacting some vengeful justice and fixing some wrongs in the process, the book has our lead (still a beleaguered soul) framing her husband, manipulating people, making bad situations worse and people miserable, and ultimately, getting extensive plastic surgery so that she can resemble the woman who stole her husband. Along the way she loses any goodness and becomes the product of her determination and hatred, ending up in a final situation that is sadistic and dysfunctional. And I hope that’s the moral, because if those are the only two choices, that’s pretty sad.

Following that I needed something to cheer me, so I read Theatre by W. Somerset Maugham, another story about a woman seeking revenge, which was also made into a fantastic film (Being Julia with the divine Annette Benning). This book was also different from the movie, but I can enjoy both equally. Many of the changes were condensings of storylines for time, but one change I found extremely interesting was the portrayal of her son Roger. In the movie, Roger is played by the stunning Tom Sturridge, a young man who will rival the handsomeness of Cary Grant and others of his ilk once he gets a little older. His Roger is aloof but charming, and clearly adores and is adored by his parents. The Roger of the book is repeatedly referred to as not possessing beauty, and he doesn’t feel loved by his parents; in fact, doesn’t think them capable of love. There’s a fleshing out of the relationship between Julia and her husband Michael, and the book paints Julia as less “warm” than the movie does. But it does a fantastic job of presenting a woman who acts her way through life, and knows no other way to interact or experience life. It’s a beautiful, fun book, and I need to purchase it so I can read it any time I want to.

From there I moved on to another book that’s been made into a film, which I haven’t seen– The Haunting of Hill House. I normally avoid scary books because I have an overactive imagination, but I was drawn to this book because it’s written by Shirley Jackson. One of the first stories I remember being stunned by was her short story The Lottery. Before I read it I didn’t know stories could do what that one did, and it really made an impression on me. So I took a chance on a scary story as it was written by her, and I’m very glad I did. It has the element I think is awesome in a supernatural story- nothing is explained. Four people go to a house which is purported to be haunted, and lots of scary things happen, many of them centered around the narrator. As the narrator becomes effected by the strangeness, it’s difficult to tell whether her perceptions are real or tricks of her mind. Many clues are given about previous residents of the house, but at the end nothing is resolved. There’s no discovery of an indian burial ground, not even a sighting of a ghost who explains everything. I can see how haunted house stories after this were influenced by it, especially Stephen King’s Rose Red.

Thinking of Rose Red, (and watching a crazy show called Most Haunted, which we have lovingly renamed British People Freaking Out in the Dark) reminded me of the Winchester Mystery House, which is about 10 minutes from me, and which I hadn’t visited since I was about 7. We went this weekend, and man, is it crazy! I’ve decided that for this year’s NaNoWriMo I’ll be writing a murder mystery that takes place in a mansion very much like the Winchester House. My only problem is how to have a murder investigation without getting the police involved, since I don’t want the detectives to be police. Any ideas anyone?

Current total: 70
Just Finished: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Just about to start: Judgement of Tears: Anno Dracula 1959 by Kim Newman

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