7th June 2017
Hot Hazelnut Coffee
Straight from the French Press which just lightens up my library. Perfect for beginning the slight dreamy narrative of The Sport of Kings by C.E.Morgan. The life and times of the Forge family gives you pause. Suddenly all the white supremacy and racism is a little too much in your face. All that sexism again makes it a little difficult to move forward with the narrative. However, Morgan is a master at description. The farm life, the Forge’s chauvinism and Henry Forge’s desire have been transmitted very effectively in the book.
Okay, it makes sense. The narrative is the fall of Henry Forge. As a character, he is on a downward trajectory. Regarding the physical growth, he grows from boy to man to grandfather in the course of the narrative. In terms of character and narrative growth its exactly the opposite. He devolves from the boy with dreams and innocence to a man inebriated in his own failure. The turning point was when he turned his mother and her lover over to his father. That event however felt like a stereotype.
I like the characters of Maryleen and Henrietta. They are the strongest points in the novel. They are both no nonsense characters with a clear path ahead of them. Especially in connection to the simplicity of Lavinia’s character and the devolving Forge, they shine out even more
The narrative suddenly has moved into another territory altogether. The Allmon interlude intrudes itself jarringly into the novel. Suddenly there are questions – who is this boy? Why did he suddenly come into the narrative? What connection the man who Henrietta interviewed?
It took a while to get used to Allmon’s story. While the Forge’s story was dreamy-like, the Allmon story felt more like a report – a fictional report which felt at times dry at times like a lecture quite unlike the Reverend’s fiery speech at the pulpit. It was only when Allmon’s story merged with Henrietta’s or the reader had some inkling of where the story was heading did it become more easier to read.
Allmon and Henrietta – a very unlikely story that is the likeliest of them all. They coming together, their acceptance and finally Henrietta’s death – you realize that the narrative could not have any other story than what Morgan wrote.
The story dragged itself to the end. Morgan had exhausted herself the minute she killed Henrietta. After that, it felt the narrative had come to a stand still trying to stumble towards the end which leaves you with a vague sense of satisfaction.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thein
Coffee and Ginger Biscuits
Chinese literature has been something of a mystery to me. And I have been wanting to read more of it. So reading about the fairytale story of the Book of Records was informative and imaginative. The story of Big Mother, Sparrow and Wen the dreamer was brightly patched with the history of revolution in China as well as its own brand of nationalism. Even then it managed to retain a folk element that stays with you.
Ai-Ming’s character is an interesting character. Also, very curious. What are her origins? How does she connect to Wen the Dreamer? I liked her relationship with Ma-li. It is one sweet chapter as the narrative delves deeply into the various effects of the revolution.
Ai-Ming just called to wish Ma-li a very happy birthday.
The narrative comes together in a very confusing way. So Sparrow is Ai-Ming’s father and she is looking for him. It is when the historical and contemporary weaves in together. The revolution and the after effects of the revolution reveal itself in perfect clarity in a daughter’s search for her father
Do Not Say We Have Nothing presents a very lucid narrative of the revolution in China and the use of a folk story motif has been expertly narrated by Madeleine Thein. I did feel that the story of Big Mother Knife and Ba-lute was given more importance to the point where it did dragging and lost. It is one of the main problems of revolutionary narratives – the details of war and its effects while effective in optimum doses feel like stretched when the details are over-exaggerated. The narrative would become more effective if Thein focused a little more Ai-Ming and Ma-li’s search for their fathers and what happened to them. The intermingling was uneven with Big Mother Kinife’s story dominating Ma-li’s narrative to the point when you don’t remember the latter until it is thrown in your face and even then you need to flip back pages to refresh your memory.