Showing 371 - 380 of 566 annotations in the genre "Novel"
At the heart of this novel is a simple love story. Dr. Bruno Sachs, a slight, stooped, and somewhat unkempt general practitioner in a French village is dedicated to his work and loved by his patients. Sachs is a solitary, self-effacing man who takes his Hippocratic duties seriously and is especially sensitive to the needs of his patients.
In addition to his private practice, Sachs works part-time at an abortion clinic, where he performs an abortion on a distraught young woman named Pauline Kasser. Soon the doctor and his patient fall in love. She moves in with him and becomes pregnant. An editor by profession, Pauline also encourages and assists Dr. Sachs in completing the book he is writing.
The story has many additional layers and dimensions. The reader views Sachs through the eyes of multiple narrators--his patients, colleagues, friends and acquaintances, all of whom write in the first person and present Bruno Sachs as "you" or "he." Thus, the reader gradually builds up a "connection" (empathy) with Sachs by synthesizing multiple glimpses of his behavior and facets of his character. At the same time, Sachs is trying to find his own voice, his own connection, by becoming a writer. At first he jots down random thoughts, then he keeps a notebook, and eventually he produces a complete manuscript.
The book has innovative structural elements that introduce other layers of meaning. For example, the 112 short chapters are organized into seven sections, corresponding with the components of a complete clinical case history: presentation (as in "chief complaint"), history, clinical examination, further investigations, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Similarly, the narratives delve progressively into Sachs' "illness" and follow the "patient" through his course of "treatment."
Another structural element is the cycle of fertility and gestation. The story takes place from September through June, precisely 40 weeks, a pregnancy of nine months, during which Sachs is re-born.
Late in 1918, the "Iolaire," a Royal Navy yacht carrying several hundred soldiers home to the Scottish islands of Lewis and Harris, sank in a storm off Stornoway Harbor. Over 240 were drowned, a crushing blow to an island community that had already lost 800 men in the Great War. The "Iolaire" tragedy served as the stimulus for this fictional account of friendship and love in the Hebrides islands during the War of 1914-1918.
At the book's center are three characters who form an emotional and spiritual triangle: Iain, a young poet who survives the European battlefields only to die by drowning in the "Iolaire" on his way home; the beautiful and vivacious Mairi, pregnant with Iain's child, but in reality in love with Callum; and Callum, a small town newspaperman whose disability keeps him out of the army, and who falls head-over-heels in love with Mairi.
Mairi leaves the island and travels to England to have her baby, planting the seeds of a future that we learn about in stages as The Dark Ship moves back and forth in time from 1916 to 1939 to 1996, and the fates of the characters are gradually revealed. In particular, we learn that after his death Iain Murray became world renowned as a soldier poet. Iain, whose friends never knew that he was a writer, left at his death a manuscript of poems, which his friend Callum Morrison arranged to have published in 1919. On the basis of that book, in MacLeod's fictional world Murray has come to rival such great first world war poets as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. (Murray's famous collection, called "A Private View," is appended to the novel.)
Reta Winters, a 44-year-old translator and writer, faces a crisis in her otherwise ordinary and loving family life when her oldest daughter Norah suddenly and without explanation decides to live on the streets of Toronto, with a sign around her neck that reads GOODNESS. The novel, written in Reta's voice, is the story of her and her family's efforts to cope and make sense of this event. But it is also the story of the everydayness of her life and her feminist ruminations on the writing process, motherhood, friendship, and marriage.
This historical novel is set in 16th century Venice, where the great anatomist and physician Mateo Colombo has just been charged with heresy and placed under house arrest. The book proceeds in a series of short frames or fragments, presenting Colombo’s story from a wide variety of perspectives, ranging from the perspective of Mona Sofia, the most prestigious whore in Venice, to that of Leonardino, the crow who waits each morning to scavenge an eyeball or piece of flesh from one of the anatomist’s cadavers.
What is Colombo’s heresy? True, he has consistently violated the Papal Bull of Pope Boniface VIII that forbid obtaining cadavers for dissection, but his scholarly eminence and friendship with Pope Paul III have protected him from recrimination. His heresy is far worse than simply ignoring a Papal Bull; in fact, Mateo Colombo has discovered a dangerous new anatomical structure, the clitoris!
Mateo was called to the bedside of an unconscious holy woman named Inés de Torremolinos. In the process of examining her, the physician was amazed to discover "between his patient’s legs a perfectly formed, erect and diminutive penis." (p. 105) He took hold of the strange organ and began massaging it. As he did so, there was an amazing response in his patient: "(Her) breathing became hoarser and then broke into a loud panting . . . Her lifeless features changed into a lascivious grimace . . . " (p. 107) Subsequent research undertaken with Mona Sofia, the resplendent whore, as well as with cadavers, confirmed the significance of Colombo’s discovery.
At his hearing before the High Tribunal, Colombo explains his findings, which are far too complex and subtle to summarize (pp. 138-165). The finding of greatest interest, however, is that "there is no reason to believe that there exists in women such a thing as a soul." (p. 151) In fact, Colombo contends he has proven that the "amor veneris" or clitoris performs in women "similar functions to those of the soul in men, " although its nature "is utterly different since it depends entirely on the body." (p. 153)
You’ll have to read the book to discover what the verdict of the High Tribunal of the Holy Office was and Mateo Colombo’s fate.
Sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood suffer similar reverses in appearing to lose the affection of their chosen suitors. But whereas Marianne indulges her exorbitant sensibility in her relationship with, and loss of, her suitor Willoughby, Elinor's quiet good sense enables her to bear up when it seems her suitor, Edward Ferrars, will marry another woman. Austen rewards Elinor with Edward's hand, while Marianne must be content to learn to love a steadier husband, Colonel Brandon.
Joe Rose, a popular science writer, and his partner Clarissa, a Keats scholar, are picnicking in the English countryside when an accident happens: a hot air balloon carrying a man and his grandson goes out of control. Five men, including Joe, run to help, holding onto the balloon's ropes; when a gust of wind lifts the balloon, four men, including Joe, let go but the fifth holds on, is lifted high in the air, and falls to his death.
One of the would-be rescuers, Jed Parry, becomes obsessed with Joe, and begins to stalk him, interpreting all rejections as veiled invitations. Jed wants both to convert Joe to charismatic Christianity and, it seems, to become his lover. Communication is impossible, the police are no help, and under the strain Clarissa and Joe's relationship comes apart. In a restaurant, someone at the next table is shot, making Joe realize that Jed is trying to kill him. After breaking into their apartment, threatening Clarissa at knifepoint, and then attempting suicide, Jed is arrested and committed to a psychiatric hospital.
In a subplot, the dead man's widow suffers a loss exacerbated by the belief that her husband had been having an affair. Joe learns the truth about the suspected affair and is able to reveal to the widow that her husband had been faithful after all.
The book ends with two appendices: an invented article from a British psychiatry journal presenting Jed's case, and a letter written to Joe by Jed three years later, still hospitalized, and still, deludedly, in love.
It is 1965. Graduate student, Adam Appleby (the name is significant), twenty-five years old and father of three, is terrified that his wife, Barbara, is pregnant again. He loves her and is faithful, but their commitment to Catholicism turns their sex life into a furtive obsession, encumbered with calendars, thermometers, and guilt.
This day in his life, like all others, is spent in the British Museum, researching an interminable thesis on 'the long sentence' in minor English writers. But Adam cannot concentrate for frustration, anxiety (over Barbara's delayed period), and financial despair. When a young descendant of a minor writer tries to seduce him in exchange for a steamy manuscript that could easily make his career, Adam discovers a shocking willingness to compromise on his principles.
Daughter of a wealthy businessman, tall, beautiful Emily Stockwell Turner falls out of love with her stolid professor husband, Holman, halfway through their first semester at a small college for men in northern New England. She is lonely and miserable in this remote place. Encouraged by her confidante and fellow faculty wife, Miranda, she embarks on a secret affair with the college musician, Will Thomas.
Divorced and sexually experienced, Will initiates Emmy into the powerful romance of physical love. But their on-again, off-again relationship is fraught by its own secrecy, Holman's jealous suspicions, Will's infidelities, Emmy's lies, Miranda's disingenuous disinterest, and the not-so-irrational hatred that Freddy, Emmy's four-year old son, bears Will.
Emmy and Will take ever greater risks with their clandestine encounters; eventually they admit to being truly in love and she decides to join him in his move to New York City. But Holman falls ill and nearly loses his contract position at the University when he tries to kill a student demonstrator whom he wrongly suspects of being Emmy's lover. Emmy postpones her departure indefinitely, because Holman "needs" her more.
At the height of campus unrest over Vietnam, Brian Tate, the conventional, politically moderate, foreign policy professor at Corinth (clearly Ithaca), has an office affair with his blonde graduate student, Wendy, but only after the vapid flower-child has pursued him relentlessly for months. Brian’s wife, Erica, learns of his infidelity when she reads Wendy’s ungrammatical but explicit letter.
Miserable at home with their two shockingly difficult adolescent children, Erica is unemployed because Brian disapproves of her working. She confronts him; Wendy apologizes to her; Brian lies; Wendy is forced to have an abortion; Brian moves out; Wendy moves in; Erica grows thin and ages prematurely. She takes up with an old friend who has become a wan new-age ’guru,’ but he is often impotent.
Wendy becomes pregnant again, terrifying Brian into believing he must marry her. But she spares him this punishment by moving to a California commune with Ralph, who, unlike Brian, does not care about biological origin of her child. Hoping to return, Brian visits Erica; she is expecting him with wary resignation.
The narrator of this historical novel, Anna Frith, works as a servant in the household of the local minister. The story recounts the horrific events in a plague-ridden village of 17th-century England. Anna, having lost her young husband in a mining accident, loses both her sons to the plague, as well as a boarder in her household who seems to have been the first case in the village.
After these losses, she stays her grief by tending the sick in many families. Particularly after the village works out terms of quarantine with the earl, no help but food and supplies comes in from outside. She learns much from the local herbalists, two midwives whose work she carries on after their violent deaths. In this work she develops a close partnership with the pastor's wife.
The story takes us through the whole trajectory of loss, accusations, spiritual struggle, shared grief, creative adaptations, and eventually emergence from sickness and quarantine. Anna's own journey takes some surprising turns as her confidence and clarity about her own mission grow and deepen.