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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hester's Story by Adele Geras

Luminious writing and a page-turning story separates this from the usual run of romantic sagas.
The story of a ballerina's life, this is very much a 'woman's novel' but the writing prevents it from being too melodramatic or sentimental and even the coincidences at the end become believable.

This is rather a tragic and memorable story about a ballerina who struggled against poverty, adversity and the rigid attitudes of her nasty relatives who wanted to prevent her realising her dream to become a famous dancer. It also tells how Hester's love for a married man almost ruins her life and her success.

Adele Geras also combines the stories of other memorable characters in this book which also describes the life of a ballet company. These include the nasty prima donna, Claudia, beautiful and sweet Silver, determined Hugo, and Claudia's teenage daughter, Alison, struggling to find her own identity.

I liked the way that this book flitted between Hester's past and her life now and the way that Adele Geras 'ties up' the ends as well as her memorable story.

Tokien: A Biography by Michael White

An excellent biography, this is well worth reading by any Tolkien fan. Interesting and absorbing, this book tells the rather tragic background to Tolkien's great novels.

Tolkien's early life was dominated by the death of his parents when he was very young. He tended to blame his mother's family partly for her death because of their rejection of her when she converted to Catholicism. This made him cling to his beloved religion even more which annoyed his childhood sweetheart and later wife, Edith, who was Protestant until she married. Edith also lost her parents young and helped him through his tragic early life.

Michael White also analyses the tragic influence of the Great War in which Tolkien fought on his novels. The most interesting part of the book, however, concerns the influence of the Inklings and his friend, C.S. Lewis. The Inklings, the famous literary group at the University of Oxford, helped each other with their writing and discussed mythological works. White discusses how The Lord of the Rings was really a new mythology created by Tolkien for England and rejects the notion of its being a Christian allegory. Tolkien hated allegories which is one reason for the ending for the ending of his long friendship with C.S. Lewis.

White doesn't shy away from the worst, but understandable, traits of Tokien's character - his provincialism, rigid Catholicism, and jealousy of C.S. Lewis's success.

I enjoyed this biography very much and would highly recommend it.