The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares #NovNov22

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
Length:  103 pages
Genre:  Fiction,Classics
My Rating:  3 stars

This novel is set on a mysterious island; a place that was heard to be once inhabited by a small group but was now abandoned. A man on the run flees to this island. But there’s something odd going on. He hears what sounds like footsteps. Then he sees some people. While he hides and tries not to be seen, he ends up exposing himself; but reactions are really odd. What’s going on?

The opening sentence is a great one:

Today, on this island, a miracle happened: summer came ahead of time.

That sentence is beautifully written, with a mysterious hook that makes you wonder – what does this mean? The first few pages grabbed me. But the further I read I found myself wanting to ditch it at different points and move on to something else to read. Yet I kept on with it. It had this odd mix of at once beautiful writing then next, short, less than engaging writing. I think this gave it an odd feel maybe.

As far as the story itself goes, I found this novella strange. There’s multiple elements to this story: partly science fiction, partly philosophical, partly mystery all with the element of romance thrown in. And I do think all those elements were weaved together fairly well. At times, it reminded me a bit of a Robinson Crusoe by Defoe meets Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro.

I felt in the dark for a good portion of the story but then things started being revealed and I began to piece together what was going on. By the end, I could see how this book might need a second reading and that second reading might be a better read. I admit, though, this first read was a bit disappointing. In the end it was just okay and I give it 3 stars.


Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Length: 333 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Classics, Mystery, Detective
My Rating: 4 Stars

A wealthy, beautiful heiress.
Her good friend.
The friend’s fiancé.
A surprise love twist.
A honeymoon.
A boat trip on the Nile.

Quite the set up before a death by murder takes place. Death on the Nile is only the second Christie novel I’ve read; and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story is well-paced. With the murder occurring later in the novel, Christie set the mood giving more time for the characters and the plot to develop. The reader really gets a chance to get to know the characters, see their surface sides but also begin to get glimpses into what lay below the surface.

The mystery was very well written with excellent use of red herrings that could throw the reader off. I chuckled at one point when Poirot was trying to explain the potential way things happened to Colonel Race and Colonel Race said:

“‘No…I don’t see it. Mind, I’ve got a faint idea what you’re driving at, but as far as I can see, it doesn’t work.’” (p. 259)

I was shaking my head saying, yep…I’m with you Colonel Race. I don’t quite see it either. What did the nail polish have to do with anything? And what about this……and what about that……

A good mystery, well-written characters, and a great set-up, this book was cleverly crafted. I felt that Christie did a good job at writing a compelling storyline that keeps you reading. There’s intrigue, betrayal, deception….all which make for not only a juicy story, but a good mystery set-up.

My Other Posts On This Novel

Reading Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Death on the Nile Ch. 2-11

My Family and Other Animals – Nature and Other Musings

My Family and Other Animals started right off the bat with the potential of being a fun ride. As the Durrell family decides to move to Greece, the journey is quite humorous. They certainly know how to make an entrance! As they were riding through town in a cab, with their dog Roger hanging his head over the side of the cab, they attracted quite the attention. Some other dogs were lying about in the sun and when Roger saw them, he let out some serious barks. The dogs started chasing the cab, barking like crazy. And then:

Our pose was irretrievably shattered, for it took two people to restrain the raving Roger, while the rest of us leaned out of the cab and made wild gestures with magazines and books at the pursuing horde. This only had the effect of exciting them still further, and at each alley-way we passed their numbers increased, until by the time we were rolling down the main thoroughfare of the town there were some twenty-four dogs swirling about our wheels, almost hysterical with anger.” (p. 9)

Oh my stars! Can you just picture the scene? Quite the entrance into town!

I did a bit of research on the flora and fauna of Corfu. It gets a lot of rainfall in the winter time and the summers are warm. Because of the climate, the island gets very green and has thick vegetation. It is located in the Ionian Sea and has beautiful beaches and rock formations as well as a variety of plant and animal life.

The climate of Corfu is warm in the summer and damp in the winter with heavy rainfall. As a result, the whole island is green and covered with thick vegetation. The flora and fauna of Corfu are spectacular and vary from olive trees to pine forests, chestnut groves to thousands of wild flowers.

Olive groves – they dominate the landscape. And in this book, it is a prominent feature in Durrell’s writing. I have been tabbing with a green tab any mention of olives or olive groves. You can see just how many times it’s been mentioned just in this first part of the book that I’ve read so far.

The olive groves and olive trees are a backdrop in the narrative. Here’s a handful of passages just from the first thirty pages that show this:

The mist lifted in quick, lithe ribbons, and before us lay the island, the mountains as though sleeping beneath a crumpled blanket of brown, the folds stained with the green of olive groves.” (p. 6)

We passed vineyards where the tiny, stunted vines were laced in green leaves, olive groves where the pitted trunks made a hundred astonished faces at us out of the gloom of their own shadow….” (p. 16)

In those early days of exploration Roger was my constant companion. Together we ventured farther and farther afield, discovering quiet, remote olive groves which had to be investigated and remembered…” (p. 28)

From what I understand, we will continue to see the groves as part of Gerry’s adventures; not just where he played, but also where he learned because he will observe so much of nature and wildlife there.

Much of the lush landscape of Corfu is from these multitudinous olive groves. It is said that there are millions of olive trees there. As I read about the olive groves of Corfu, I learned that it’s connection with the olives goes back well into the island’s history. And to this day, Corfu still produces a lot olive oil.

Given this long history of olives on the island, it makes sense that Durell’s adventures as well as various family outings would feature the groves.

My Family and Other Animals – Epigraph and Author’s Note

Do you ever read the epigraphs or author’s notes in books? I didn’t used to read either of them much. But that has changed at least for epigraphs. Once I understood the purpose of an epigraph, I started reading them more consistently.


What is an epigraph in a book? It is a short saying, phrase, or quote/passage given at the beginning of a book or chapter which was chosen with the intent to represent a theme. Once I understood the purpose of an epigraph, I began to read them more consistently. And sometimes, maybe most times, maybe even all the time, it is good to go back and re-read the epigraph once one has finished reading the book. Do I do that? Ummm….nope. But it is a practice that I want to be more consistent about. 😉

Because I’ve watched the BBC series The Durrells in Corfu, I already have an idea of the adventures that likely await in this book. So right off the bat, when reading the epigraph, I found myself pondering the passage quoted and holding it up to what I know of the show.

The epigraph in this novel is from Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It” and it says:

As I read the novel, I hope it will be clear as to why this passage was chosen to represent a theme in the book. And I plan to go back and re-read it once I finish the book.

Author’s Note

I sometimes may read the author’s note in a book; but not always. Often I will briefly scan it to see what’s talked about. I find that with a genre like historical fiction, the author’s note sometimes shares about the author’s process of research and/or what inspired them to write the novel. And I do find that very interesting.

I did read the author’s note in this book and I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read it. I knew I wanted to read it when I saw the epigraph for the author’s note:

I love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass; so how could I not read this note after it having that epigraph?!

Here’s what really struck me when reading it. First of all, I got a peek at the author’s writing style and I am loving it. Second of all, it is also quite humorous! Take, for example, how Durrell starts out his author’s note:

This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I and may family made on the Greek island of Corfu. It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters. It was only with the greatest difficulty, and by exercising considerable cunning, that I managed to retain a few pages here and there which I could devote exclusively to animals.” (p. xi)

I mean seriously! Don’t you just love that? At one point, he pays a special tribute to his mother. In fact, the book is dedicated to her. One of the first things he says about her is this:

Does that not just capture what it feels like to be a mom sometimes?

I absolutely loved Durrell’s Author Note. I think this has possibly set the tone for the book well. I’m ready to dive in to Ch. 1!

Note: Even though this is posted on Tuesday, I wrote this post on Monday as I began reading the book.

My Family and Other Animals Reading and Schedule

It’s time! Time to travel to Corfu through the pages of Durrell’s book My Family and Other Animals. Silvia and I are buddy reading it and we both plan to post about it along the way. We also are going to share our schedule that way if anyone would like to read along with us, you can see how we have our reading planned out. This is what I would call a loose schedule; meaning this is what we will be aiming for but it is simply a tool and will be flexible. This will be very laid back. Enjoyment of reading at whatever pace fits is the top priority!

Today is our start day; but the readings can be split up however works best for the reader. 🙂 It will be spread over this week and next following this general guideline:

Week of July 25th – Part I through Part II Ch. 10 or approximately 137 pgs.

Week of August 1st – Part II Ch. 11 to end or approximately 137 pgs.

*Notice our start day in both weeks is a Monday.*

I plan to go by pages as my guideline vs. chapters. So for the edition I have pictured above, my daily plans are:

July 25th p. 1-16

July 26th p. 17-40

July 27th p. 40-63

July 28th p. 63-95

July 29th p. 95-123

July 30th p. 123-151

August 1st p. 151-174

August 2nd p. 175-204

August 3rd p. 205-220

August 4th p. 220-228

August 5th p. 228-251

August 6th p. 252 to end

*All days except one stick to chapter breaks and so some days have more pages read, some days less. I also don’t plan any pages to read for Sunday.*

So there ya have it! Feel free to join along with us in reading what I have a feeling is going to be a very delightful book. (Or just reading our posts 🙂 ).

Happy Reading Friends!

Adventures Await in Corfu with My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

My friend Silvia and I have been recently talking about books we might like to read together. An Ishiguro title is on the horizon for sure. We’re looking at possibly reading A Pale View of Hills in January 2023 since that is when Dolce Bellezza usually hosts the Japanese Literature Challenge. I am looking forward to reading another Ishiguro book! Now, though, we’ve decided to read My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I can’t tell you how excited I am to read this book! It has been on my TBR for awhile now.

Awhile back I started watching the PBS Masterpiece series The Durrells in Corfu and loved it. (I haven’t watched the last season or two yet though…). At the time, I was not even aware that this series was based on a book. When I found that out, I looked up the book and discovered it was a trilogy called The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell. I immediately put the first book, My Family and Other Animals, on my TBR. From what I understand, this first book is the most well-known of the trilogy.

An autobiographical book, My Family and Other Animals was first published in 1956. It is the story of the five years of Gerald Durrell’s childhood that his family lived in Corfu. I read that it may be somewhat written in a fictionalized way at times but that Durrell did a good job exhibiting the impressions of his young self in a vibrant, picturesque way. I have heard this book is quite humorous and entertaining; and I can’t wait to start reading it. I’m fairly certain this will quite possibly be an ideal summer read. 🙂

Silvia and I plan to start reading this book this coming Monday, July 25th. Anyone is welcome to join us!

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
Length: 260 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Classics
My Rating: 4 Stars

Michael Henchard, his wife Susan, and daughter Elizabeth-Jane are traveling along the road and come across a village celebrating a Fair Day. They stop at a refreshment tent where furmity is being sold (I learned that furmity was basically like oatmeal or porridge). Henchard gets his laced with rum and ends up getting intoxicated. In the midst of his drunken stupor, he sells his wife for five guineas and she takes their daughter with her. What unravels is an intricately woven story of these characters and what happens to each of them following that night.

Hardy exhibits masterly and skillful writing in this novel. I thought it was structured well with a fast moving plot. He wrote some very complex, layered characters; and the story succeeded in evoking feelings from anger and outrage to sympathy and pity. The writing is rich with descriptive prose along with twists and turns that will stun you. And the ending, in my opinion, was just right for the story. It had a Dicken-esque feel to it complete with reversal of fortune and some lessons learned.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Mayor of Casterbridge. I have to say that I think I am fast becoming a fan of Hardy’s works. I’ve read two of his novels now and am looking forward to reading more with Far from the Maddening Crowd, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and Under the Greenwood Tree at the top of the list.

And by the way, don’t you just love that cover? It feels very perfect for this novel!

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Length: 210 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Classics, Children’s Classics
My Rating: 4 Stars

The Wind in the Willows is a story that has enchanted children for ages; but it is just as enchanting for adults as well. I enjoy a well-told children’s story and this novel is certainly that. From the beautiful descriptions of nature to the endearing friendships of Mole, Ratty, Badger, and Toad, Grahame penned a story that is quite iconic. Cozy fireside chats, lazy hazy days of rowing on the river, capering about with Toad, or having to reign Toad in for his own good…..Peacefulness, adventure and fun are all there in this story. I loved this book the first time I read it several years back; and I enjoyed it just as much this second time around.

Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, Those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way.

The things that really stood out in this book, in my opinion, are friendship and the feeling of home.

  • Good friendship. Loyal friends.
  • The beauty of home. Of having one’s place.

This book also really engages the senses. From the smell of buttered toast, to the sights of the meadow and river, to the sounds in the forest at night, Grahame provides rich descriptions in this whimsical and magical story.

The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy

The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy
Length: 254 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Classics
My Rating: 4 Stars

The Trumpet Major was my first Hardy novel and I have to say I really enjoyed it! There were definitely frustrations, but I thought Hardy’s writing was engaging. He wrote descriptions well and from what I am hearing, there’s much more beautiful descriptions in other books of his.

My synopsis is going to very brief and general. This is basically a story centered around Anne Garland. Three very different men profess feelings for her:

  • John – who is loyal and gentlemanly
  • Bob – who keeps Anne on a chain, in my opinion, by dangling her along while he gallivants around and falls in love with other women
  • Festus – if there’s a villain in the story it is most definitely him! He’s creepy!

Important to note that Bob and John are brothers. I have my thoughts on this aspect of the story but this is a brief review. So, let’s just say, I didn’t see Hardy’s portrayal of them quite believable. Anyhoo…..

I started out loving Anne’s character – spunky, independent, and not afraid to stand up to Festus. But as the story progressed, she began to get on my nerves. I felt she sometimes toyed with John and Bob, although I think unintentionally. I think deep down, she knew who she was in love with; but those waters were very murky and so she found herself not quite knowing which way to turn.

Overall, as I said, I enjoyed this novel. It was a fun, light, and humorous read; yet it still had some depth to it. It put me in mind of what you would get if you mixed a Jane Austen novel with a Charles Dickens novel. I couldn’t help but think of various Austen characters as I read the book, right along with a good bumbling, Dickenish style villain.

I am now currently reading my second Hardy novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and am enjoying it so far as well!

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Length: 455 pgs.
Genre: Fiction, Classics
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

A few years ago, I read my first Steinbeck novel: The Grapes of Wrath. At that time, I really didn’t care for it much. Then last year, I read East of Eden and was blown away by Steinbeck’s writing. I couldn’t put it down! I knew right then that I needed to read The Grapes of Wrath again – give it a second chance. And I’m glad I did! There’s a reason Steinbeck won a Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award for this novel.

Set in the time of the Dust Bowl, this novel chronicles the story of the Joad family as they migrate west to California. The Joad family is driven from their homestead which forces them to have to migrate. They choose to migrate west to California as a result of a flyer they saw saying there was work there. We follow them as they make this long and arduous journey, seeking to eek out a living to survive.

Steinbeck does a fantastic job with structure in this book. In general, chapters alternate back and forth from a broad, generalized look to chapters specifically about the Joad family. Let me just tell you, this structure is genius! Steinbeck gives a foreshadowing of what’s to come with the Joad family by giving the reader what was happening in a broad context then showing how that played out specifically with the Joad family.

In The Grapes of Wrath, the primary literary motif is the unequal social structure – the imbalanced scales of haves and have-nots. Steinbeck portrays the horrors of the Dust Bowl in this sweeping novel calling attention to the vast inequality and injustice. The novel explores a number of themes including meekness vs. wrath and independence vs. community. It also highlights greed, selfishness, narrow-mindedness; yet it also brings out kindness, compassion, loyalty, selflessness, and community.

Both The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden are tough reads; but they are powerful. Each novel left me speechless. There is no question…Steinbeck has a way with words. His writing provokes strong emotion; it is gritty, raw, earthy. His writing certainly makes an impression. And both novels stay with you long after you’ve read them.