Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Circle of Friends

After putting down Guernsey, I was in dire need of another novel that would talk of beautiful island life in a far away world where things were simple and normal. Where everyday life was considered interesting. Luckily for me, my mom had already introduced me to just the thing a little over a year ago.

I renewed my love for Circle of Friends with the hindsight of knowing the ending already. This alters your perspective of your old friend, the novel. Not only do small parts you had forgotten become more magical but it helps you to refresh your opinions of the characters. This time I found myself, quite delightfully, not being swooned by Jack Foley's boyish charms and movie-star good looks. Rather, I fell a little more than head over heels for Aidan Lynch. Somewhat of a class clown, but unafraid to be strikingly honest and witty at the same time. Aidan Lynch is the face of a real gentleman. I love how he consistently jokes with Eve about the eight children they will one day have. How they will spend lovely days in her Knockglen cottage on the quarry while he finishes his law degree. (Okay, the lawyer thing makes him a little more appealing as well.) Aidan is a true gentleman through and through, and in a world becoming increasingly filled with Jack Foley's, he is a breath of fresh air. Attentive, direct, and unashamed, Aidan is more manly than all the Rugby playing Jack's in the whole world. A relationship should be much more like the one shared by Eve and Aidan, and nothing like those moments with Benny and Jack because the roller-coaster they ride on will never build the foundation for a stable life. Just know, Aidan Lynch's of the world, I finally appreciate you and am on a mission to find you.

I am sad to say, that through my first reading the romance of Aidan and Eve took lesser notice, but the Jack Foley's of the world have a tendency to steal center stage. It isn't surprising with all his charisma, easy friendship, devotion, and that winning smile that he overpowers his cute sidekick. Things about Jack Foley cause you to overlook his faults, compensate for them, and even want him back despite whatever has happened. Yet, this time around I have learned my lesson. Jack Foley...I AM OVER YOU! (Even if you resemble Chris O'Donnell.) Your deceptive plans and inability to deal with real issues has helped me to look beyond all your superficiality. Be a man. Confront the situation. And definitely don't come crawling back like a lost puppy once all is said and done. Maybe you should take a card from Aidan's book. He is the real winner in the end. He isn't overcome by his selfish desires. He sees all of Eve's beauty and color despite her somewhat coarse exterior. All the confidence in the world couldn't save you now. For me, and the rest of the Dublin crew, you and the likes of you will forever remain on the outskirts of the circle of friends. 

I did once again want to walk the main road of Knockglen and stop for a bite at Mario's cafe. I wanted to mock Mrs. Healy with her pretentious attitude next to Clodagh and her aunt, Peggy Pine. I was ultimately satisfied when the greasy and weaselly Sean Walsh earned his due and was cast out. I wanted to traipse the streets of Dublin while visiting the cinema, the rugby club, and attending debates. I want to stay the night in Dun Laoghaire. I want to stop at Carlo's cafe with Benny. I wanted to tell Simon Westward how shallow he was, and Nan Mahon how she was even worse. The charm of Ireland is only enhanced by the magnificent story and rich language found in the eloquence of Maeve Binchy. I guess you could say she has truly taught me the lessons of becoming more independent and standing on my own two feet. She has helped me to recognize a true friend. She has taught me to form a Circle of Friends

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Reading Good Books Ruins You For Enjoying Bad Books" (53).

My mom and sister have been bugging me forever about reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. For whatever reason I was putting it off, but last week, with a lack of fresh reading material at my fingertips I finally picked it up. Very quickly I realized that I couldn't put it down. This book is honestly one of the most delicious pieces of literature I have read in a long time, despite how unappetizing the concept of a potato peel pie sounds.

The book not only renewed my love for reading--how it is magical, how one can relate to it, how it can distract and amuse, and mostly how it can bring people together--but also made me long for a time filled with the romance of the written word. I don't mean romance in the literal sense with love and longing, but rather a romance for long-forgotten ideals that gave people more character. A time when people actually believed in something and stood up for it. A time when emotions drove a person's actions to help them stay human.

Set in post WWII England, you cannot help feeling touched by the daily hardships these people suffered in the war and how they coped, using literature, to rise above their difficult circumstances. The novel tells stories of sorrow, resistance, humor, joy, and reconstruction. The Guernsey Islanders tell how some German officers were cruel and some friendly, some vain and some simple. Their entire story is told through exchanged letters which add intimate details of the characters on a more personal level. The main narrator at one point states, "I'd be ashamed of myself if the war hadn't touched me" (60). And truly, the characters of this novel share the various way they had been touched and their lives forever changed by the horrors of war, for better or worse.

The literary society of Guernsey was brought together under unexpected circumstances during the occupation, but it helped them to endure. "We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to one another" (51). The great variety and tastes in types of literature adds flavor to the novel as various people discuss what books brought them comfort. Their own stories are intertwined with their new found love for literature, showing how words on a page can become timeless when they can be related to the human experience. As the novel suggests, "Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers" (10).

When I reached the final page of this novel, not only did I find myself not wanting it to end but I desperately found myself wanting to visit the island of Guernsey. I, too, wanted to have picnics and play tag at the cemetery. I wanted to have races in the meadows and play Dead Bride. I wanted to attend literary meetings and, yes, partake of Potato Peel Pie. I wanted to ride my bicycle alongside Elizabeth McKenna and watch Dawsey reconstruct dilapidated walls. I wanted Isola Pribby to read the bumps on my head. I wanted Eli to carve me something beautiful from a piece of wood. Every character was an ordinary human being to me. They weren't phenomenal or impossibly perfect. They were real.

All I can say is that others who have yet to read this book should pick it up now. Especially if your eyes are itching for something fresh, interesting, and intriguing. Like the war had touched the characters in the novel, you will not put this book down without being touched by its characters.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Falling In Love With Love

I have found myself guilty. I am someone who falls in love with the idea of love. Unlike Bernadette Peter's in Cinderella though, I still believe that there is more to love than foolishness. Of course, many people fall in love with love. But I am realizing that I don't really have a focus for those feelings. I don't really have a clear idea of what is best for me. In recent ponderings during free time at work and home, and with another empty Valentine's Day looming ever closer, I have been distinctly wondering if I actually know what I am looking for, aside from love.

I guess, I want to find someone who really complements me. My true other half. That doesn't go to say that I have regretted past relationships. They have been good in their own ways. I have learned so much about myself and about relationships in general, but I have never felt that I found someone who balanced me. Or someone who appreciated me as I appreciated them. Aside from school girl fantasies of a handsome stranger who wears waistcoats, enjoys old movies, and loves witty banter, you wouldn't think it would be all that difficult to discern what you want to find in someone else. But alas, I have become a fool for the idea of love.

I must clarify that it isn't necessarily foolish to be a helpless romantic. To buy into the hopes that every chick flick that Hollywood produces could come true. Yet, all too often, these movies either make one's expectations impossible or create a skepticism of the actual chase. As much as I would like to find my own "Joe-Jouster" (yes, you may note the J's) or Joe Fox, I need to come back to reality. Real love isn't like the movies. Hate to break it to you, but Hollywood does not depict reality in love.

Real love should be simple. Small things each day that tie two people eternally together. Shared joys and shared pains. Shared laughter and shared tears. It will be patient and enduring. It will bring two people's dreams together. It may not be perfect, but it will work toward the same goals. It will not be guided by fear but rather by glorious light.

Don't misunderstand me. I completely believe in this real love. And I am guilty of being a helpless romantic sometimes. But it is time for me to take a step back. To fall out of love with love. Then I will be able to pursue the right things and find what I am really looking for. It may be right in front of me. Or it may require some additional searching. But I need to stop being lured in by the possibility of love so that I can actually find real love. Not just the idea. All I can say is, I have a great deal of soul searching ahead. Here's to finding an enduring love. A love that doesn't appear one designated day of the year, but reaches for the eternities.