If there is one suspense book that strikes me the most PSYCHOLOGICALLY, it’s Whispers And Lies (referred as W&L below), by Joy fielding, one of my favorite contemporary mystery writers. I wrote a review years ago, but that’s not enough. I even wrote an email to the author a while after I read the book and was thrilled to receive her kind reply. I also purchased a copy for my friend in China. How my friend enjoyed it I do not know (her English might be obstacle of enjoying the story thoroughly), but all these years, this book remains as the best psychological thriller to me, and that’s why I purchased another copy recently, and re-read some of my favorite parts of it.
W&L starts slowly and gently, with the main character Terry Painter, a middle aged single woman and hard working nurse, interviewing her potential tenant of her cottage, the 29 year-old good looking Alison Simms:
“She said her name was Alison Simms.
The name tumbled slowly, almost languorously, from her lips, the way honey slides from the blade of a knife. …”
I just can’t get enough of Jane Eyre! Words cannot describe how much I love this book. Up to now, it sits undisputedly on the top of my favorite literature books, even on top of Les Miserable. Of course, I do not doubt the profoundness of Les Miserable regarding to human nature in general, but Jane Eyre is more special to me personally, as I feel related to “her” in so many ways.
Jane Eyre not only strikes me with her independence, as I put it in my previous post, but also with countless other aspects. For examples, her rebellious disposition – “I resisted all the way.” (beginning of Chapter 2); her sharp inquiry about blind religious obedience, which is reflected in her friendship with Helen Burns; her unusually pre-matured intelligence, such as her quick learning ability, her art talent; and above all (even above her independence), Jane Eyre strikes me with her tenacious reason, which never gives way to her frail sentiment.
I consider myself a highly “self-principled” person regarding morality. However my principles are simple and fundamental, not emphasizes on behaviors, courtesy or any kind of superficial traditions, and they are not made by any other human beings but myself. In a word, I follow my inner voice.
My first moral principle is clear and firm: never do anything to purposely hurt anyone. Just like Jane Eyre, I learned kindness through my hardship: When I was bullied during my childhood, the pain I felt when I was savagely beaten, only “inspired” me to make resolution, that I would never exert the same kind of pain to any other persons. Yes, I learned that before I heard the name of Jesus Christ, or Buddha, or any other “Saint”‘s voice. And I can proudly say that in my life I’ve never done anything purposely hurt anyone.
(They say that Jane Eyre is a required reading materials for high-school students. So does this mean a high school student can have a decent understanding of this literature classic? I read it when I was 16 or 17, but what I understood back then? “None”! (I maybe exaggerated a little. I loved the book and watched movie 6 times). Because over 30 years later I re-read this book again, it struck me anew, electrified me like no other books!)
Jane Eyre, an orphan, an outcast of her own kindred, a ward of abusive institution, grows into a well learned and highly intelligent young woman. She learned kindness through hardship, learned love through her hateful abusers. Beside all these qualities, she has an earnest disposition for independence, which strikes me the most. Jane RESISTS anything that imposes upon her without her consent, not only cruel abuses but also mellow sweet love. Nothing can stay her way to hinder the will of her own. Yet she is soft, kind, sensitive and forgiving.
When Jane Eyre leaves Thornfield with astonishing resolution, she drops the heavenly happiness behind, throws herself into an absolute unknown fate. She spends 2 days in a coach, which takes all the money she has, which drops her in middle of no where. In the following 2 days, she is nothing but a beggar – who is ready to give up her last bit of pride for a slice of bread.
After more than 2 weeks I finally “tottered” through over 600 pages of The Idiot. I first tried in Chinese translation, somehow could not stand it, then moved into English translations, jumped back forth between two different translations: one by Eva Martin, another by Henry and Olga Charliele. I found overall Eva Martin version was easier to read, but also bears a few “hard errors”, which might not be such big deal (except one that made me very confused and I had to go to another version to clear it out). I checked on internet that the best translation should be the one by Pevear and Volokhonsky, so I ordered from amazon, decide that I will read it again, may be not whole 600 pages but at least some parts of it.
This is a book that I certainly would not take it “lightly”, for it’s philosophical profoundness. I personally feel related to the hero of the book, the prince Myshkin in many ways, though at my current age, I become more cynical than Myshkin in regard to this thing we call “human society”. The prince Myshkin is known by Dostoyesky’s readers as “Christ like”, for me, he is nothing more than a pristine model of humanity, in contrast to most people (or majority of population), who are spoiled by qualities such as greed, ambition, vanity, etc.
I have been off and on a bio of Highsmith: Beautiful Shadow – A Life Of Patricia Highsmith, by Andrew Wilson, in which there is an anecdote of Highsmith that I could not get over it:
During her late 20s, Highsmith was troubled by her sexuality and she sincerely wanted to fix it, because she wanted to marry a man who deeply loved her. So she underwent a therapy, believed it would eventually convert her to heterosexual. Since the therapy was extremely expensive, she had to take another job in a toy store to catch up with bills. It was in that store she met a female customer, who inspired her to write her second novel Price Of Salt (also published as Carol in later editions) – one of (or the only one) greatest romance books about lesbians relationship, or any love relationship!
I mentioned earlier in my blog that Edith Diary was my best pick among all Highsmith’s books I had read, but now I found I was wrong, because after I finished Strangers On A Train, I had to put it on top of Edith Diary and The talented Mr. Ripley. As matter of fact I was speechless! (As one of comments in Amazon put: “The only other experience I’ve had in life that was as ravaging as this book is sex.”) I wish I read this book before I watched the movie, before I knew anything about it.
I would love to write a more comprehensive review on this masterpiece in futre but right now, I need to vent out my owe!
After being so thrilled by the ending of Price of Salt, I could not help to go back reading it again, mainly the beginning, where I thought it was slow and boring. Oh it must be I who was slow and bored, because this time I found it enchanting and necessary, so necessary that only after we read all those passages could we be prepared properly for the arrival of Carol – “an amalgamation of all qualities Highsmith admired in a woman” (Beautiful Shadow – A Life Of Patricia Highsmith, Andrew Wilson).
I found Highsmith’s work is like an attractive person in unattractive outfits, the more you know this person, the more you find his/her irresistible charm. Usually I had to keep reading her books until quite late to find that “impossible to put down” feeling, and Price of Salt is especially the case. The first 10% doesn’t even seem relevant to the story. I actually read 5% last year and quit, simply because the boring details of “nothingness”. This time I decided to just “have a taste”, ignore her “unattractive dress” (yes, I skipped over lots of trivial details), then, I found something that not only need to be tasted, but to be chewed, swallowed and digested.
The story is about a 19 year-old girl Therese, who come from a loveless family, who is a “newbie” in adult life and romance, falls in love with Carol, a woman who is over 10 years her senior, who is experienced, sophisticated and goddess-like. The beginning of book is very slow, but story picks its pace when Carol enters the scene. How they know each other and starts dating, how they fall in love, and how their love develops is totally absorbing (I had to go through that pain and sweetness all over again!). And the ending – what an unexpected sublimation!
Though the book is above love between two women, it really is about human passion in general – the intensity and vulnerability of it; the pain and sweetness of it; and the rebirth after the pain. The forbidden part certainly adds extra spices to it. Highsmith’s writing style is plain, masculine, even painfully meticulous sometime. I often found myself impatient in dealing with some details she engaged into (maybe just me!), however, when she wrote the emotion, the affection of the main character Therese (who I believe is based on author herself), I found I did not want to skip one word, because her plain style makes each word weighs like a mountain!
The movie based on this book – “Carol” will be out this year (2015). I am so glad another masterpiece of hers going to screen, because Highsmith really deserve better!