希望:一個悲劇 – HOPE: A TRAGEDY, BY SHALOM AUSLANDER

Taipei Book Club, Hope: a Tragedy, by Shalom Auslander

介紹

之前看書都有逼自己寫心得當交給自己的功課,最近跟好友決定不如開個線上讀書會吧!唯一比自己看本好書更幸福的是能跟別人一起討論!

我們都是習慣看英文小說, 接下來會每個月一本,月初公佈書單、月底討論心得。我們不是專業的、人也不多,希望會有更多網友踴躍加入我們!無論想練英文或有興趣的網友們(甚至有看中文版的)都歡迎加入討論。

今天我特地跑去書店找本月的書,選了Shalom Auslander的"Hope: a Tragedy". 據說是個非常幽默、令人傻眼和焦慮的劇情!這是一本歡樂與痛苦交織的小說,講述一個猶太男人在紐約州北部尋找平靜,卻在閣樓裏發現了一個祕密。這本書已得英國Wingate Prize, 作者也曾獲得Koret Award,是專為35歲以下作家設立的文學獎。除此之外,它可是紐約時報2013年度100本值得關註的書呢!我偷瞄了幾頁,發現寫得非常friendly好懂,就立刻決定帶它回家了!希望會是本好書,我們月底來討論吧!

博客來網址:http://www.books.com.tw/products/F012795457
PO心得&討論日期:4月30日

心得

Hi all! This is my first book club review 🙂 I’m very glad I picked this book as it was as funny and thought-provoking as advertised! However it’s a shame my other two book club partners had issues ordering the book online this month, so I guess it’ll be just me self-discussing the book out loud, but very very welcome to any online friends that would like to join me!! 😉

Okay, so for starters, its definitely an easy and entertaining read. For the first few days I couldn’t put the book down and was sure I’d finish the book in a few days! It’s funny in a sarcastic and ironic way and is witty and black-humoured, always a plus for me. Although I did enjoy the author’s style, towards the middle and end of the book it started getting a bit old, but it was nonetheless enjoyable.

***DISCLAIMER: BELOW SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!*** If you haven’t read the book but would like to then come back when you’re done 🙂

1. Book Overview:
The book is about Solomon Kugel, a neurotic, pessimist, Woody-Allen-esque middle-aged Jew who suffers a sort of chronic depression. He moves his family from New York City to a small rural town called Stockton to escape from the depression of city life, in hopes of starting afresh and get a chance at a happy life.

However a series of events take place that prevents this: first, the town is threatened by an arsonist, which causes an incessant  worry in Sol’s mind. Second, he has to deal with the typical pressure and issues that come with living with his mom, which causes a great deal of tension on his marriage. Third, he goes through unemployment and financial crisis. Lastly, to top it off, when the Kruger family had just begun to settle in their new home, Solomon discovers an old lady that lives in their attic: Anne Frank.

At this point I literally burst out laughing! It was so inimaginable yet convincinly plausible that was very compelling, and this is the storyline around which the book revolves. Solomon, in his quest to resolve all these issues, reveals his true character while explaining the rationale behind all his faulty decisions, which in a weird kind of way begin to make sense.

I especially liked the ending of the book, where he rounds the story up with the first chapter of the book, which tells about the irony of life: nothing ever happens as expected. The house is burnt down after all not by the arsonist, but by the fire caused by Kugel’s mom.

2.Writing style:
It’s always a pro for me when an author can write in a casual tone yet write it well. I appreciate modern style writing as much as Shakespeare, but there are just many modern, casual-toned books that are poorly written (ex: 50 Shades of Gray! Don’t even get me started…) Shalom Auslander writes in a sarcastic and ironic mood, often in perverse monologues made by Sol. He is witty and writes smart.

However, the one con that I have is that as much as I enjoyed the sarcasm, towards the middle of the book it was getting old, as there were many repeated puns and jokes.

3. Book Genre: Satire
It’s actually a comedic tragedy to be exact, which I obviously love (who wouldn’t?) It was definitely surprising and funny to have Anne Frank in the story, however it was a little exaggerated for me. I know that’s supposed to be part of the satire, but I guess I’m just more into the ‘realistic’ kind of plots. All in all though: a comical and entertaining read.

Discussion Questions:
Below questions are just a discussion guide, please feel free to discuss anything and everything!
1. Professor Jove plays a central role in shaping Solomon’s beliefs and actions. He claims that “the greatest cause of anguish and hatred and sadness and death [in life], was neither disease nor race nor religion. It was hope…because it’s the irrational hope that causes the disappointments". Kugel’s brother-in-law Pinkus, on the other hand, is more optimistic and believes that mankind is getting better and basically more humane. Whose philosophy do you think Kugel relates to better, and which do you?

2. Kugel is portrayed as a man that truly tries his best to deal and improve his family life, however no matter how good his intentions are, the result is more often than not bad, ex: he tries to protect Anne Frank so bad that he ends up hurting his family. What do you think of this?

3. Throughout the novel it’s pretty clear that Solomon doesn’t have the perfect relationship with his wife. He wonders whether it’s something bad that had grown between them, or worse, that something good between them had diminished. What do you think of this?

4. What did you think of the ending? While the Kugels were expecting harm from others, it was themselves who caused the greatest harm, while he tries to save Anne Frank, he and his mother die? Also what did you think of Alan Dershowitz saving Anne Frank?

Welcome anyone who would like to join me! 🙂 xo, Lilly

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