So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ, Modupe-Bode-Thomas (Translator)

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This novel is in the form of a letter, written by the widowed Ramatoulaye and describing her struggle for survival.

Muslim Ramatoulaye, a Senegalese abandoned wife adjusts to her new role with utter strength tinged with sorrowfulness.

“From then on, my life changed. I had prepared myself for equal sharing, according to the precepts of Islam concerning polygamic life. I was left with empty hands. My children, who disagreed with my decision, sulked. In opposition to me, they
represented a majority I had to respect.”

Bâ invites the reader entry into the depths of Ramatoulaye’s life where all parties and sides are displayed. The complexities, contradictions of Ramatoulaye’s situation adds dimension further explaining the blurred lines of religion, culture and of women.

“Our lives developed in parallel. We experienced the tiffs and reconciliations of married life. In our different ways, we suffered the social constraints and heavy burden of custom. I loved Modou. I compromised with his people. I tolerated his
sisters, who too often would desert their own homes to encumber my own. They allowed themselves to be fed and petted. They would look on, without reacting, as their children romped around on my chairs. I tolerated their spitting, the phlegm expertly secreted under my carpets.”

Ramatoulaye does not point fingers, does not ask for pity, rather she cites all she has learned from her challenge. Her life altered in unimaginable ways she manages to focus on hope rather than lose herself in despair. This beautiful creature forges on in the light of a promising future. A bittersweet story, a remarkable woman. An intimate glance into religion, culture, family and the oppressive plight of women, the ramifications of polygamy. West African customs explored.

A story of friendship, love and hope.

“The word ‘happiness’ does indeed have meaning, doesn’t it? I shall go out in search of it. Too bad for me if once again I have to write you so long a letter….”


Paperback, 90 pages
Published June 28th 1989 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published 1979)
ISBN13: 9780435905552

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The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

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‘Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.’

“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.”

By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death — and to the author’s timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.

A powerful story of out of something tragic, comes something joyous. Five lives lost through a terrible calamity. All varying backgrounds, all delicately connected, the shared traits all the victims demonstrated – loneliness, longing and unrequited love felt profoundly. The affecting message is not the WHY of the unexplainable incident but HOW can goodness be salvaged from such random devastation. A metamorphosis launches.

The provoking conclusion knits the entire narrative together, examining what was lost and how to build more out of what was. Unresolved relationships didn’t have to be, the ones left behind pull themselves from the aftermath and refuse to let the past overshadow what will be, what should have been, what is. The mighty Phoenix rises from the ashes.

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Published April 15th 2003 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Pages 160
ISBN13: 9780060088873

Recommendation: 4/5

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr

A Month in the Country

Tom Birkin, a veteran of the Great War and a broken marriage, arrives in the remote Yorkshire village of Oxgodby where he is to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in the local church.

I am convinced this is the most impressive novella I have ever read. Magnificent! Read it!!

Recovering from the traumatizing ravages and ramifications of WWI a veteran seeks respite and contemplative time in the English countryside restoring a medieval fresco for the local church.

A sentimental story of recovery as a man mends his wounds, a story of relationships, a story of setbacks and triumphs. An example of how art healed deep fissures and scars caused by war.


“And, at such a time, for a few of us there will always be a tugging at the heart — knowing a precious moment gone and we not there.”

A poignant read, absolutely perfect exquisite writing completing one outstanding novella.

Published October 31st 2000 by New York Review of Books (first published 1980)
Pages 135
ISBN13: 9780940322479

Recommendation: 5/5

 

Review: Agostino by Alberto Moravia

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Agostino
Alberto Moravia
NYRB Classics July 8, 2014
Pages 128
ISBN13: 9781590177235
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads  •  Amazon  •  Indiebound  •  Powell’s Books

Recommendation: 3/5

From NYRB
Thirteen-year-old Agostino is spending the summer at a Tuscan seaside resort with his beautiful widowed mother who takes up with a new companion. Agostino, feeling ignored and unloved, begins hanging around with a group of local young toughs, unable to make sense of his troubled feelings.

My Thoughts
Moravia addresses sexuality through the eyes of a thirteen year old young man burgeoning adolescence facing a summer of angst and turmoil. Realizing his mother is also a woman in every sense of the word and meaning, he finds his sexual attraction to her torturous and somewhat confusing. Innocent, uninformed this youth crosses paths with a group of street urchins and learns a worldly, unsavory side of life along with behavior he never knew existed.

Agostino wrestles with the changes and thoughts he is feeling, the sensual stirrings and jealousy towards his mother and her young beau. Desperately trying to squash his overbearing desire for his mother, we ride the wave of emotions puberty’s ugly head arouses along with its awkwardness.

Agostino’s mother’s self-absorption along with her amorous young suitor causes her to ignore the fact her boy is on the precipice of manhood. You have a clear sense she is unware of her son’s recent blatant behavior changes and attitude towards her bur rather she’s in tune with her own sexuality inducing blindness to her sons blossoming curiosity. A frustrating, bold and provocative read, very interesting perspective of sexuality through the eyes of a thirteen year old male.

Moravia brilliantly explores the relationship between a single woman and her teenage son as he embarks on his journey into manhood with little knowledge and even less guidance. Insightful piece of literature as well as heavy subject matter introduced.

“But the intensity of his filial vanity and the turmoil of his infatuation would linger with him for many years to come.”