‘A Year of Marvelous Ways’ by Sarah Winman

I had just finished reading A Year of Marvelous Ways by Sarah Winman and goodness it has to be one of the most beautifully written book I have ever read. An absolute favorite and this is the first time where my need to read more things by an author is independently based on my good experience with the authors work. It has never happened to me before. Usually, I depend on critics review of an author. My preference would based on suggestions by reviewers, critics, their popularity and credentials – the more awarded, the more respect and attention I pay to it. 
While reading this book, I felt like I finally found something that I personally preferred and enjoyed, also something that I can proudly suggest for other people to read. This book is my cup of tea and Ill drink anything made by the author whether critically acclaimed or not. Sarah Winman is great story teller. This book just oozes with sweet syrupy story telling that gentally flows through a bubling fountain. To read this book is to dip your hand in that fountain and taste something so deep and rich that makes you feel warm and sentimental. But it does not give you a sticky sensation, the only thing I believe will stick is the story in our minds – definitely for me. The book made me fall in love – with life – and made me a believer in love and magic. Its a feel good book.  

I know I am babbling on and on about how good AYoMW is , which again I assure you, it really is, and if you find the book, I highly suggest that you pick it up and read it. Okay going straight to it now – so here is a small run through of what the book is about. I am aware that spoilers are a major crime in writing book reviews or even a reading reflection, so Ill give you the basics of the book; why you might like it and also what some might find offputting in the book – which for me, a slightly snobbish reader, I actually thought made the flow of the book better. 

AYoMW is a 2nd novel by Sarah Winman after her best selling debut novel – When God Was a Rabit. I havent read her wildly succesful debut novel but AYoMW really did it for me, and I am eager to read WGWaR. She also has a new novel out, released last month titled The Tin Man. I am going to have a real good time catching up with Sarah Winman books. 

This is novel about an 89 year old lady called Marvelous Ways who has lived beside a Cornwall creek for almost all her life. She lived a remarkable life alone – an independent woman who planted, fished, cleaned, fed, dreamed, fell in love and swam by that deep and wide creek. She has this very magical presence with her and she talks alot about magic because her life has been filled with so much magic. She collected things and made a home for herself, which overtime, you could imagine it must have become something to marvel at. While reading I can smell the mustiness and feel the warmth of her caravan by the creek, filled with lovely ornaments, antique furnitures, tattered brown books, wooden jewelery boxes, dried herbs & flowers, old glass bottles, sea shells, beads and a few jewelleries on a dresser table with an old oval mirror at the foot of an old cozy bed.  

At the 89th year of her life, she found herself waiting for something which she hadnt a clue of what it was. That thing she was waiting for came in the form of a person – a young soldier damaged in spirit by the war, who was out to fulfill a promise he made to a dying soldier he met and very briefly got to speak with before he continued his journey. I have read quite a few books about the great World Wars this year and the experiences by people who fought is similar – they witness the worst and it leaves a lasting impact on them. Drake was raised by a single mum and she died when he was still young. After which of course he recruits and joins the army. 

The present day for this book is after the war, when the rebuilding is slowly taking place and life slowly returns to normal with remanants of the way still lurking about in the air. Actually Drake became more gutted and torn apart into pieces after the war when he meets a childhood sweetheart and has a very brief but intense randevouz with her. You should read the book for its juicy details. He found her years later, and she had grown into an outstandingly beautiful young woman. They caught up with each others lives and after a night together, Drake decides that they should just stay together but she disappeares very dramatically leaving him in great shock and pain. He drinks his pain and sorrows away, unconscious of where he is headed – even without a care because the guy was in so much pain, he was falling in love, he found something and so quickly he lost it. All of a sudden we find him washed up on the shores of old Miss Marvelous Ways creak. She nurtured him back to health and housed him by the boat house. When he was back in good health he continues on his journey to delivering the letter of the dying soldier. Obviously he returns back to Cornwall and thus continues the great stories. 

Marvelous Ways has some great stories, she is 89 years old and its a great treat to listen to stories of life shared by people who have lived it the longest. There is so many wisdom we can take out of it and it can also make us less impatient. I believe stories from older people can strip down life to the essential stuff for us – what matters the most in life and also it makes us take a sit, be less fidgety, anxious and be more accepting of all that comes our way. Marvelous Ways had a normal father but a perculiar mother. She lost her mum very young because of that uniqueness. She moved in with her Aunts in the city as her father went in mourning and he came for her again and on this great trip – sort of a prilgrimage where they healed and helped people on the road along the Cornwall peninsula. She learned a lot of skills which became useful to her, making her sort after by the locals later. Marvelous ways fell in love a number of times and she talks about it beautifully with Drake and the new girl – Peace, a baker who came back to town to open up her grandparents old bakery. They share stories after meals with sloe gin – the only alcahol beverage being served throughout the whole book. It aids the storytelling I bet. Their lives intertwine, you have to read the whole book to figure out how and the centre of all the magic was Marvelous Ways. They share stories of love, loss, yearning and adventures. I loved this book. 

It has a consistency about it. There wasnt a point in the book where I rolled my eyes over some thing in a book. There was a flow. It was like being rushed through a series of events that captures the beautiful essence of life. A week ago I came across a post on Instagram that highlighted the need for great character development in a novel by a Kenyan reader and I have to say that for this book, character development is strong and all the characters are very interesting, even the two who came near the end – Peace and Ned Blaney.

The bad bits, some might consider is the magical realism – magical events, superstitious beliefs and a mermaid in the book – might put some people off.  Also the missing talking points “..” to mark conversations, none of that in this book. But as we read on, we get to see how it all fits together and I believe that Sarah Winman is a genius for pulling it off effortlessly. She is a very talented story teller for being able to do what she did in this book, while taking a few risks. When I noticed these I was a bit sceptical of the book, almost never read it but to have picked it up and read it was worth it. I really enjoyed this book and I cant say enough how much I do. So yeah, I am leaving out plenty juicy details of the book but I am declaring my great enthusiasm of it. She is now one my favorite writer and this is a favorite unique book I have read so far. And that was my slightly scattish reading reflection of it. 

I am going back to my reading now. Vinaka. Moce! 

Proudly Narrate the World Around You – The World You Know 

I have collected a lot of interesting things along the way in my blogging journey. Some from writing but mostly from reading. Recenty I came upon this article shared by the WordPress team titled ‘Magic can be normal‘ by the site Hazlitt. In the article an Asian writer talks about her great joy and other thoughts on seeing a fellow Asian actor play a significant character on a Shakespeare play. She felt proud and was happy that her child could also experience the same joy years on, when an all cast Asian Shakesphere play was performed in a nearby city. The article highlighted the importance of representation in mainstream media, how it can help young peoples confidence in life. How representation can help young people of color feel normal and believe in endless possibilities – that they can be hero’s and heroines in their own lives. I urge you to read it and feel the same magic I felt while reading the article.  

Reading that article I became very inspired and it urged me to have some pride in who I am and where I come from and to proudly narrate it for the world to read it. To make my stories part of the new normal. Which is what we should all do more of. I always felt intimidated being in this blogging world, I felt like I dont have a story to tell and part of the reason is because most of the blogs that I follow are not from the region that I come from, there is vast differences in lifestyle and culture. So I felt like I couldnt be actively part of the conversation, because to be part of the conversation I would have to know what they are actually talking about. 

But I do enjoy reading other blogs, really, especially for the general universal truths they talk about which breaks down all boarders and boundaries. Two blogs I am loving at the moment is a poetry blog by Robert Okaji, and the narrative blog On BeingBut writing becomes difficult if you are literally from an island of your own where your story is in abundance but may seem unrelateable to others around the world. After reading that article by the website Hazlitt, I felt really empowered, like, oh my goodness, yasss, I have a story to tell, its all around me, my life, my everyday existance in this place in the middle of nowhere is worth telling because it is unique. No one else is telling this kinda stories from this region and I will tell it as authentically as possible – very importantly. 

I am from the Pacific Islands, South Pacific, Fiji to be more specific. I am not going to sugar coat or glamorise things and make it sound like some tourism brochure. No our life is very different from what is presented to tourists. We have a life,  a real life, just like that of people who are escaping theirs by coming for holidays in our islands. We love our tourists and are greatful for them visiting our islands and we all do work together to keep you coming back to our shores. For real. But my point is that our life, its not tropically glamorous, we do not eat from coconut shells or beatifully crafted spoons and bowls. We eat from silver spoons and plates. We dont always eat healthily, going backyard with our woven baskets to fetch vegetables and rootcrops – matter of fact Non Communicable Diseases is a major cause of concern – its at an alarming the rate. And then there is climate change which we are regarded as victims of. However I choose not to see ourselves as victims, we are victors and we will fight back by being a smarter generation, economically sustainable, growing and advancing – thats my fight. I am of the view that ‘we dont need handouts,’ we can do things by ourselves. We have universities breeding scientists and business students that will protect and propel our countries to greater heights. 

We are a beautiful places with beautiful smiles that is authentically welcoming. We also have an interesting way of life. We have our own hustles and we try to keep up and be on the same page with the rest of the world. For me I represent the dreamers from where I come from. We dream normal dreams as other young people do. We consider ourselves modern millenials pushing envelopes, creating new pathways. We aspire to be Actors, Singers, Writers, Models, Fashion Designers, Business Moguls, Influencers and so many other things that the imagination can conceive. Very importantly we have our own stories and I am a blogger who will tell a part of that story. Welcome to my side of the world. 

First and Foremost: Stop being dishonest with ourselves! 

“Now comes the harder part, Nick. I need total honesty from you, it wont work any other way. So tell me everything about your marriage, tell me the worst. Because if I know the worst, then I can plan for it. But if I’m surprised, we’re fuck#d. And if we’re fuck#d, you’re fuck#d.”

 ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn

It is indeed the hardest part to have to admit things – problems, weaknesses, threats, failures and defeat. It’s uncomfortable having to not only admit to other people (totally unnecessary if it is none of their business) but also having to admit to our ourselves. In the above situation before Nick can give as honest as possible to his Lawyer all the raw truth, he needs to be aware of the raw truth in the first place and acknowledge it. Choosing to be oblivious to our raw truth or being dishonest with ourselves is often the ‘easier and comfortable’ alternative – which mostly presents us a short term or immediate satisfaction yet breeding long term consequences.


Do you at times feel like you lie to yourself? Because I sure as hell do. I prefer to be more irresponsibly optimistic. I lie to myself that everything is alright and their is no need for concern. I hate the thought of wrecking my brains delving into my problems, I fear that I might become too stressed out and depressed. It’s also hard having to analyse things about myself and I am not good with another person doing it for me either. I am very laid back which could be attributed to me being a 24 year old Fijian living in the land of sand and sunshine where life  is idyllically laid back. I often find that it is easier to say “Oh I am fine,” or “Its no big deal,” or “Its not that serious at all, nothing that cant be fixed,” – without a care and a clue of how to fix it.


Reading the book ‘Gone Girl’ has taught me one thing and that is the importance of being honest with ourselves. We don’t need someone else to come and coerce the truth out of us or maybe to actually capitalize on our weak areas and use it against us. We need to take ownership of our ugly truths and use it to fix things about ourselves that we know needs fixing.


It’s totally a personal decision if you want to reword the truth, make it colourful and tasteful for other people but when it comes to telling yourself the truth – you say it as it is – in its ugliest, yuckiest true state. But it doesn’t have to be a demeaning activity where we drain out our self esteem, we should see it as a way of giving ourselves constructive criticism. Not only identifying the areas where we lack in but also thinking of solutions and creating a very strategic action plan for ourselves.


Like what Lawyer Tanner Bolt says to Nick Dunne in ‘Gone Girl’ – if we know the truth than we can plan for it. Being very honest with ourselves give us an opportunity to have a proper insight and perspective into our own flawed life. Having a good understanding of just what we are dealing with helps us to manoeuvre ourselves better around problems making sure that we have control on our life. We are also able to prepare ourselves for the worst and in countering risks. By taking full responsibility we can challenge ourselves to make some changes. We will posses a foresight that should help us to create a game plan – a game plan to play the game better.


So friends let’s stop being dishonest with ourselves. Stand up, be brave and accept your truth. No one can attain perfection but we can do little things to improve ourselves. Let’s be responsible and be honest with ourselves first and foremost. Philosopher Lao Tzu says that “Mastering yourself is power.” You got the power!! Claim your power!!

Reading Reflection: ‘Mr Mac & Me’ by Esther Freud

It’s a lovely book about friendship, life during the war, life in small communities and artistry. Reknowned Artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh moves to the beautiful coastal village of Dunwich and develops an unlikely friendship with the young local Thomas Maggs who has a small disability – a twisted leg – but posseses a great ambition for sea fairing adventures. 

The only dominating difference between Thomas and Mr Mac lies in their age, besides that, they have so much more in common which naturally united them. The book has a first person narration, told from the point of view of young Thomas Maggs. It takes place in 1914 during the great world war in the village of Dunwhich on the English coast of Suffolk. It’s a fishing community and Thomas is from a family who has lost a great number of its men at sea. They were the sort of brave sea men who were naturally drawn out into the sea – it was in their blood – and it is that natural inclination that took them to their early grave. 

Thomas has brothers who never survived, they died early due to illness and the only ones to survive were his 2 sisters. He was the only boy to make it and the youngest in the family too. Being the only surviving boy child, both the parents especially the mother became determined to keep him alive, to have Thomas outlive them unlike the other 3 brothers. They forbade him from going out into the sea and tried to extinguish any interest – which naturally ran in his blood towards – towards sea fairing activities. However that yearning to be out in the sea roared within him like the sound of waves hitting on the reef.

Charles Renneie Mackintosh is a real iconic artist and this book provides a fictional narrative on his brief stay in the village of Dunwich which I assume produced some of his greatest work. He grew up with the natural interest and inclination towards the art however this was greatly shunned upon by his father who insisted on a more economically practical career path. Luckily he came upon the field of Architecture which balanced his artistic enthusiasm and the promise of financial stability. He melted into the field of architecture naturally, the money came and he was touted as a great talent, his works were of great success. However as a young artist taken under an agency, he was wasn’t given the credit that he rightfully deserved for his art. He was unfairly treated and a single act of defying the big bosses had him cast out and he struggled to find work. Plus his art was sort of unconventional and revolutionary for that era, so as you can imagine it was not easily accepted by everybody and there was always tough resistance present. However there was a niche market who were appreciative of it. I have to mention that his wife was an artist too, a great artist and together they moved to Dunwich and worked on separate passion projects. 

Life was hard for people and behind these hardships were a lot of factors, some referenced mildly in this book. There was poor health care and a significant number of people died due to this and the most vulnerable being young children. The young men were going out to war leaving behind heartbroken mother’s, wives and girlfriend also those men who were left behind felt disheartened and resorted to drinking developing a drinking problem resulting in battered wives and battered families. 

Life was difficult for both the characters. Thomas had an abusive father and they were struggling to get by and their business of running the Inn was not doing well in that time of war, they struggled to pay the rent and make ends meet. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was having a hard time financially too, he was actually painting to make ends meet. Also he was strongly plagued by the strong feelings of injustice he felt he had been dealt being an architect. 

They had there own unique set of suffering but what was very similar about them was their ambition and there yearning to realize it. They were both ambitious individuals and had a flair for art. The least of their troubles was what the difficulties that arose from the war but their concern had more to do with their personal dreams and all that stood in their way against. 

What I loved about the book was the description of both Mr and Mrs Macs commitment and focus to their work. They moved to Dunwich for the beautiful scenery and the variety of flowers that grows there. So Mr Mac would go out, pick out a flower and make a real life impression of it. He was focussed. They even built a shed to carry out their work and hold all their artwork. So when they are in there they are in the zone – just going for it with an intense focus. 

Thomas often visited them and they encouraged him to also paint. Thomas drew about what he was most passionate about – he drew the Ship that he wanted to be a crew on. He did draw other things too like a girl he had a crush on. He had a fondness for the couple. The couple garnered curiousity of the locals and young Thomas slowly unfolds the mystery in the book. I also liked the book mostly for the work that people were engaged in like the Highland girls who come down to gut fish; how skilled and graceful they were in carrying out the task, Thomas’s  mum who stoically managed the household and the inn despite having an abusive husband. 

Books about rural life appeals to me and I especially like it when it’s described in careful details. I feel that rural life is the soul of any country and you haven’t trully visited a place if you haven’t visited it’s rural places or country side. All in all I think that this book was okay, it requires patience. It’s not of high action and there are no great twists. It’s not exciting but mellow and it does feel like how life would be beside the sea. Life is influenced by the sea breeze and it dominates the pace of everything. The pace of life being like how the story in this book unfolded, very slowly yet beautifully. So yes, that’s my reading experience while reading this book, sorry if it may lack much enthusiasm but then this book does not create any room for that and I didn’t find it memorable. I wasn’t sad that the book had ended but I am proud to have had the patience to finish it. 

All Our Days are Noteworthy

I showed up to ‘today in the now.’ Living in the moment and being calm. Paid attention, like really paid attention and seing the beauty in the moment. I found joy in the little things and became joyful. My nephew he is like the most adorable little bundle of joy ever and a great teacher too, he really helps me in being in the moment. I focus on the fine strands of his hair, his cute little movements and his smile. We took a walk outside and I really breathed in the air and was happy in that moment. I tuned down the noise in my head and I opened my senses to the world around me. 

Today I finally watched The Single Man a movie I have been dying to watch for such a long time. Every moment was captured so beautifully in it as expected being passionately directed by Tom Ford. He was inspired to make this movie after reading the novel that this movie is based on and relating to it so deeply. He had undergone a phase similar to the character in the movie and so he felt that it was very important for him to turn that novel into a movie. After watching the movie, the images from it haunted me in beautiful way. It gave me a good feeling and it still remains with me now as I am writing this. Today was beautiful, everyday is beautiful. No matter how plain it may seem there are beautiful things happening now, we just have to choose to see and feel it. Take it easy, take it slow and take beautiful notes. I will leave you with this beautiful quote by the main character, Professor George from the movie: 

A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity, when for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp. And the world seems so fresh as though it had all just come into existence. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be. 

Moved by Khaled Houseini’s Novels 

Books or any medium of information we consume has to be impactful; information and inspiration has to be channelled into positive actions that should create positive outcomes in our life and in the world around us. At that point of realisation last year I have just devoted myself to reading 2 books by Khaled Houseini. So I sat down and thought deeply about what I found inspirational while reading those 2 books – his 1st book ‘The Kite Runner’ and his 2nd book ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ – keeping in mind that I have to channel some of those inspiration into action. 

The thing is, yes I was inspired from here and there during the course of reading them but I was consumed with the pleasure of reading that after completing the books I had to make some extra effort. I really enjoyed them and its weird saying that because they are books about people having to endure life with so much pain, suffering and profound sadness. Probably a more appropriate thing to say is that I was moved by it. 

To be honest – and this is to some extent selfish – it felt comforting having to feel peoples pain greater then mine, as it made me feel less of my own miseriesIn those 2 book you can’t help but fall in love with the characters despite their flaws and misgivings which is very human. For instance in ‘The Kite Runner’ I found myself criticizing and ridiculing Hassan as being selfish and just too needy. But then as I read on I discovered that their were bits and pieces that I related to and eventually I forgave him because you see most of the time its complicated, we can’t really go ahead and put a simple label on someone as there are so many facets to an individual to be considered.

Despite his books being based in his homeland Afghanistan the stories he tells is not about the war but it is about the ordinary people who are living through such unimaginable extraordinary circumstances, yet despite having all that darkness and despair surrounding them their is still that glimmer of the universal light of hope within them; “And I dream that someday you will return to Kabul to revisit the land of our childhood. If you do, you will find an old faithful friend waiting for you,” Hassan writes in a letter to Amir. That quote really made my heart ache. In his 2nd book ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ he shows how strong the human spirit is, that it is able to go on even in the most extreme and painful of circumstances just like how Mariam endured all throughout her life, from being an unwanted child, to being married to a very violent and abusive man, the miscarriages and eventually the sad end to her life.

Is he my favourite writer? He is definitely in that list of my favourite writer, but I haven’t gotten to the point of labelling someone as my most favourite writer and I don’t know if I ever would because I think every writer has a different way of writing which makes them unique. I love Khaled Hosseini’s very visual and emotional way of writing. He takes us on a journey with the characters through his description of their deepest thoughts and feelings and with a very vivid description of the surroundings. Oh and its also remarkable how Khaled Hosseini understands his female characters to the detail in his 2nd book – he decodes movements, mannerisms and actions and explains the feelings and emotions attached to it. Quite remarkable for a male writer to be able to do that, don’t you think?

I often get inspired by subtle things and I transform them into my own context. In both the books I was inspired by how people treated their religious practices so diligently without failing. They would do their prayers every single day as it is required of them and daily it meant waking up early in the morning. They were fully committed to it so I was intrigued by that unwavering commitment and devotion. So for me it inspired me to do things that are required of me even when it its not within the range of comfort. It supports my bid to be consistent and to be single minded when it comes to attending to tasks of great importance. Also in the process to be selfless and to focus on the bigger purpose.

In The Kite Runner; I was really inspired by Baba and how hard-working he was. How he would go ahead and achieve the impossible and always proving naysayers wrong. “But despite Baba’s successes, people were always doubting him. They told Baba that running a business wasn’t in his blood and he should study law like his father. So Baba proved them all wrong by not only running his own business but becoming one of the richest merchants in Kabul.”  He was a hard working man and even when they moved to America he never wanted to accept those food stamps handout saying “I work always. In Afghanistan I work, in America I work. Thank you very much…but I don’t like free money.” I am inspired by Baba’s great example. When in doubt I shall think to myself what Baba would do and I know what Baba always does, he goes head to head with the challenge and come out victorious pounding his big broad chest.

I was also inspired by Hassan and Mariam’s selfless sacrifices. They were very brave individuals and they showed great bravery, also protecting the people that they loved. Like how Hassan would take on a group of bullies in order to protect his friend Amir. Hassan also had this unwavering loyalty towards Amir and I found it a bit stupid that he would do so much for Amir who I felt to some extent did not deserve it, but then its one thing I realized like I have mentioned earlier – the complexity of people. Mariam, dear Mariam lived such a solemn life from the time she was born a ‘Harami’ or unwanted child to her death. She had regrets, she was betrayed, she was looked down upon, she was unhappy and was violently abused and mistreated and you think that she would escape and find some freedom and happiness in her life – she didn’t. She is one of those people who never found that happiness but it is the little happiness that she managed to grasp from Laila and her kids that she felt proud and content enough to make the ultimate sacrifice that led to her end amongst spectators in a Pavilion during the half time of a soccer match. Nobody saving anybody, no heroes, no 11th hour intervention, it was just the end but she felt at peace because she was “.. a woman who had loved and had been loved back,” and it “..was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings.” Always we hear the story of people who escape, who gets saved or who survive an ordeal but we never hear the stories of people who never get to see the light or breathe the fresh air. The truth is that these stories exist in abundance however we choose not to hear them because we all hope for the best ending which is good but nevertheless what this stories should teach us and definitely it has taught me is to be more grateful for the simple things in life because some are not privileged to experience such simple pleasures.

With all that I have learned from the 2 books I am going to be making a list of actionable goals. I want to be as silly as possible with those list and I am not sure if I feel comfortable to put it out here in the blog. Well don’t you make notes on your private notebook and dont want others to see them for fear of being laughed at. Well that’s exactly how I feel about my list. So I’ll just keep them to myself. But I have immensely enjoyed reading these books, it was a new sort of material that I wouldn’t have read before but now that I have read them I feel a sense of maturity. I believe that it’s when we try new things out of our comfort zones that we really get to mature. On that note let’s always keep in mind the children of war torn nations, where there is “.. a lot of children … but little childhood.” For them lets pray for a better world.

This post was originally posted last year in my old blog

Book reflection: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton 


Reading should always retain its pleasure therefore I feel that writing down my thoughts on books that I have just finished reading, shouldn’t be such a chore, not too showy or carefully planned and instead be authentic. As important as this challenge is – to reflect on every book I read this year by writing down the experience of reading it on this blog – I have made it a point of removing any sense of urgency or pressure on myself before writing and while writing. It should be laid back and enjoyable. I intend to write my thoughts down freely, as best as I can without aspiring to some form of success or general approval. 
“The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton is one of the first American classic novel that I have ever read and I am really excited for the many more to come like the works of Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain. In the first half of ‘The House of Mirth”, I have to admit finding the language a bit of a challenge. The sentences were complex; there were just so many things happening in one sentence. However once I got the hook of the language, I gripped on tightly to the storyline and all of a sudden I was comfortably riding through the story.

Despite the complex and foreign language I found this book to be an elegantly written book. I enjoyed the storyline, it’s depth, the conversations between characters and very importantly for the honest telling of Miss Lilly Barts’s fate. Her slow yet painful demise that was preconditioned especially being born to wealth and then stripped away of it. The story documents her strugle to establish her place in the world, alone, after the very loss of wealth she was born into with its teachings and its comforts – takes away her parents dignity and inevitably their lives too. 

A Beautiful & Restless Young Woman

This is a book based on the life of a young woman who is strikingly beautiful and intelligent. People admired greatly for her beauty and the charming Mr Lawrence Selden once called her a lovely “spectacle” to watch. 

There was this huge ball that happened and she happened to be one of the star performers and everyone, both men and women stood in awe of her in the dress she wore which accentuated her figure well. She could probably be the Marilyn Monroe of those days. Everyone was in awe of her. 

Lilly was of an age where she is young enough to remain comfortably unmarried for awhile but a bit old enough to start hearing the sound of the clock ticking through constant questions from those around her on her marital status and plans. Lilly being aware of the great power of her beauty, skillfully tries to use it to her advantage. So she set out at the begining of the book with a great iintention of marrying a rich man in order to restore wealth back into her life and elevate her social standing. 

Keeping up with the affluent people and their lifestyle

 Being born into a wealthy family, strong ideologies about wealth were firmly instilled within her by her mother. Her mother loathed poverty and dinginess that she tried her best  to avoid less fortunate relatives who were living such contented lives. She would sneer at the food that they eat and that was presented to them on their visit, the cutleries that they used and all that is lacking in the upkeeping of their houses. 

The most important thing that Lilly has been taught to grip firmly to is material wealth, so when her father over a lunch confesses that they were going to loose it all, one can imagine the great shame, disgust, anxiety and pain that engulfed them. Being critically dependent on wealth, having associations with people who are all wealthy, there appeared to be no way out but a viciously consuming death by heartbreak. 

When her parents both died soon afterwards, Lilly was left with no inheritance at all and she was taken in by her Aunt – Mrs Peniston – a widow living alone with considerable fortune at her disposal. 

A social life is very important for any young woman, they have to stay engaged and keep up social appearances. Lilly has a circle of friends who are all from established affluent families. Most of them are happily married to richer husbands and they spend their days going on expensive trips, splurging on dresses, jewellery and entertaining at large country houses. 

Lilly kept herself busy by attending to invitations from friends. She was given allowance by her Aunt but the sum couldn’t keep up with her expenses. One of the games that they played during those large outings with friends was Bridge. In case you are not familiar with it, Bridge is a game where you play cards for money; you play your cards right and you win money, else you loose money. 

On one such Bridge game Lilly lost a lot of money leaving her in a very fragile and desperate state. The book talks about her financial struggle detail and its remarkable how she was able to keep it together and maintain appearances during times of great obscurity. It also led her to taking financial help from an unhappy husband of one of her friends which was her biggest mistake. She became dependent on her friends – without her friends knowing of course – and she relied on their generosity. 


Fragile reputation of an un-wed young woman

In any society, image is very important to a young woman. One should carefully maintain it, until like a flower it catches a suitable eye and is cut from the field and into a proper home as a decoration – as is the case of the world that Lilly Bart exists in. Women after marriage act as highly decorated piece of art and spend their days entertaining and they are highly industrious and organised in running a very active social life. 

Society often creates lofty ideals and restrictive social standards that makes it hard for people and this is especially true in the case of women. I believe that this may stem from people’s need to be distinct and elevated above everyone else, a marked difference needs to exist or else it will be easier for all of us to be equal. Hard to maintain and unfair ideals are created so that people who do get to achieve them are exulted and marked out as distinct and superior and those who falter in achieving it, are immediately rebuked and cast out of the circle. 

Lilly Bart being beautiful and smart made men naturally gravitate towards her but it was a scandal involving unwanted interaction and attention from few men that she wasn’t able to succesfully marry someone suitable. Eventhough those claims against her were untrue, she couldn’t justify herself because she was an independent young woman, defenseless and obscure. 

Boys, Men and the one Gentleman 

There were only 2 eligible bachelor’s that came into Lilly’s life; the rich yet boring heir to a large fortune Mr Percy Gryce and the extremely charming yet of a simple fortune Mr Lawrence Selden. 

The other suitors came into her life by circumstances and were all out to get something out of Lilly’s natural wealth and her obscure situation. She didnt like them much but out of courtesy she had to entertain them and they were all men of considerable fortune. There were 3 of them to be exact. There was Mr Rosedale; the Jewish businessman who was consistently rising up the social ladder and needed Lilly to seal his standing in society. Then there was the 2 unhappily married men who depended greatly on Lilly’s attention and craved her affection. It was with the 2 married men that things went wrong eventhough nothing really happened between. 

The thing is nothing happened with all the men hence the accusations being unfounded. In the book, generally, there was a lot of intimate conversation, very colourful and passionate however it didn’t relate to physical intimacy, not even a kiss. 

The mention of sex or the thought of it was far off. The other ladies in the book had affairs but the way it was packaged and presented in the book is some elegant and passionate interaction between an older woman with a young impressionable man and enjoying each others company by reading poems and the young men were potrayed as something like a Chiuwawa being toted around without any detailed explanation of what’s going on. 

Defeated: The Painful Fall from Grace

As she was taught Lilly loathed a dingy lifestyle however to avoid it herself she would have to get married. Single women such as characters Getrude Farish and Grace Stepney often live very solitary lifestyles in small apartments. They were uninvited into occasions and gatherings of the affluent social circles eventhough they are related to those in it. They weren’t included, and it’s not because people disliked them but simply because they were insignificant and irrelevant. Money is everything, without it, one is nothing and it could be very difficult for a single woman without a significant inherited fortune. Lilly’s fear was that she would become one of them and it would have been avoided if it was not for scandal with a few men and the altercation with the unfaithful and richly married Mrs Dorset. 

It was Getrude Farish who was poor yet had a huge heart that took her in and cared for her when all her friends abandoned her. But things only seemed to worsen for, she tries to adjust but her predicament, atleast what she thought it to be, grew larger by the day and the shadows eventually consumed her. She was a gold fish not conditioned to live in the natural wild world. 

I felt really bad by the end of the book, it felt so real to me and as we read more about Lilly we feel more endeared towards her. She was simply a lost soul fighting her way alone in that cold world that she existed in. Lawrence Selden was the love of her life and they were 2 equals who finally realised each others importance yet it was too late. It had a tragic ending. It was a good read and I suggest you pick it up, read it and let me know what you think about it or if you have read it feel free to let me know how you found it.