Favorite Book Quotes Tag

Rules:
1. Mention the creator of the tag (Celine @Celinelingg).
2. Mention the blogger who tagged you.
3. List down 5 of your favourite book quotes along with the reasons.
4. Spread the love and tag some people to participate and connect! (There’s no limit in number, so have some fun and just tag!).

I was tagged by the lovely Aurora for this.  I’ve actually done a couple of posts about my favorite quotes before – HERE and HERE – but those posts are from over a year ago, so for this tag I decided to focus on quotes from books I read in 2018.  None of these books are going to surprise you if you’ve been around here for a while, but let’s do this anyway!
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1. Medea by Christa Wolf, translated from the German by John Cullen

“It’s possible they sense my unbelief, my lack of faith in anything. It’s possible they can’t bear that. When I ran over the field where the frenzied women had strewn your dismembered limbs, when I ran over that field, wailing in the deepening darkness, and gathered you up, poor, broken brother, piece by piece, bone by bone, that’s when I stopped believing. How could we be meant to come back to this earth in a new form. Why should a dead man’s limbs, scattered over a field, make that field fertile. Why should the gods, who demand from us continual proofs of gratitude and submission, let us die in order to send us back to earth again. Your death opened my eyes wide, Apsyrtus. For the first time I found solace in the fact that I don’t have to live forever. And then I was able to let go of that belief born out of fear; to be more exact, it repelled me.”

Anything I can say about this passage sounds silly and trite in comparison to Wolf and Cullen’s searing prose, but this is just one of those paragraphs that I had to stop and reread and then reread again.  The imagery she evokes of her dead brother’s decimated body is striking (‘Why should a dead man’s limbs, scattered over a field, make that field fertile,’ that’s so good), and the theme of questioning faith is something that never fails to engage me.

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2. Tin Man by Sarah Winman

And I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.

This is one of those quotes that I don’t think sounds spectacular out of context (not that it sounds bad, necessarily, I’m just not one for grand statements about love and heartbreak), but paired with another line that comes later in the book, this absolutely broke me.

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3. Sight by Jessie Greengrass

“I want only what I think we all must want: to come off as better than I ought, more generous, more sure–kinder than I know myself to be; but I want also to be known, to be counted and to be excused. I can’t have both.”

This line gets right to the heart of something that I think so many women struggle with, or at least I do, certainly.  The tension between person and persona, between the true self and projected self, is something I find fascinating and while I didn’t love Sight from start to finish, this is one element of that novel that really resonated with me.

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4. The Idiot by Elif Batuman

“Even though I had a deep conviction that I was good at writing, and that in some way I already was a writer, this conviction was completely independent of my having ever written anything, or being able to imagine ever writing anything, that I thought anyone would like to read.”

I’ve mentioned this line a couple of times on my blog and I’m not sure what else to say about it other than that it makes me feel seen (which in this case feels more accusatory than validating if I’m being completely honest).  I felt such a strong connection to this character, and to her relationship with writing in particular, how she felt she perceived the world as a writer did, how she knew she had some kind of innate talent for writing, but mostly kept that inside her.  I bet if I ever write a book in my lifetime it will be something like The Idiot and I apologize in advance to everyone who will be thoroughly bored by it.

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5. In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

So here it all is, this London. A place that you can love, make rhymes out of pyres and a romance of the colours, talk gladly of the changes and the flux and the rise and the fall without feeling its storm rain on your skin and its bone-scarring winds, a city that won’t love you back unless you become insoluble to the fury, the madness of bound and unbound peoples and the immovables of the place.

The rhythm of Gunaratne’s prose in this novel is almost visceral to read, it’s the kind of writing you want to read out loud over and over to make sure you’re fully grasping the nuance of it.  I just think his imagery is wonderful (‘rhymes out of pyres,’ how brilliant) and this passage captures the frenetic energy of this novel so well.

And, bonus, from one of my first 2019 reads:

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6. Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev

When you’re fished out, you will go to your proper place in a museum to be admired by me only. I will polish your bronze name plaque, and I will be writing the small paragraph, printed on heavy card stock in a tastefully solemn font, about you as a priceless relic, a found shard, degraded, a puzzling piece of history. A head lost, bust found somewhere, a battered woman with blank eyes, erected by those who had infinite worship in their hearts.

This is from an ARC so I’m going to have to check this against the finished copy, but still, I found this passage (regarding a dream where Shalmiyev imagines her mother as a statue submerged underwater) so arresting, and such a vivid description of something that plagues Shalmiyev throughout her memoir – the unresolved love she has for her absent mother that her other family shames her for.

Tagging: Hannah | Callum | Hadeer | Patrick | Emily | anyone who wants to do this

book review: The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

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THE FRIEND by Sigrid Nunez
★★★★★
Riverhead, 2018

 

Even after its National Book Award win I was hesitant to pick up The Friend, which I feared would be saccharine and emotionally manipulative, the two reasons I tend to avoid books about animals. Mercifully it was nothing of the sort, and it was in fact nothing at all like I was expecting, but I was utterly enchanted by it.

The Friend follows an unnamed narrator whose best friend has just committed suicide, and in the midst of processing her own grief she’s entreated to look after her friend’s dog, a massive Great Dane. Animals aren’t allowed in her rent controlled Manhattan apartment, but she feels a certain loyalty to this dog which won’t allow her to give him up. But the plot itself is never really the focus; this is instead a philosophical book that mainly uses its premise as backdrop for its thematic conceits, and admittedly I understand why that doesn’t work for a lot of readers, and why The Friend has been a divisive read, but my god did I love it.

This book is filled with beautifully crafted sentences (more understated than lyrical) that meditate on certain questions about grief and loss and friendship and writing that plague the narrator. Unable to make sense of her friend’s sudden death, she’s encouraged by her therapist to write about it (does writing actually help us process grief – another question interrogated by the narrator throughout the novel), and the result is the book that the reader is holding. At times I had to keep reminding myself this wasn’t a memoir; the verisimilitude of the narrative voice was eerie, she’d mention a certain article she once wrote and I’d think ‘that sounds interesting, I’ll have to look that up’ before remembering this was all fictional. The integration of literary allusions, another element that I think may vex certain readers with its frequency, I thought was done in a wonderfully authentic way, and the various writers mentioned gave me a good sense of how this character interacted with the world.

I just thoroughly loved this, and though it brought me to tears at one point, it certainly isn’t a ‘weepy dog book,’ so if that’s what’s been keeping you away from this one I’d highly encourage you to give it a try – provided that you don’t mind your novels heavier on philosophy than plot. There’s also an ingeniously executed twist(?) in the penultimate chapter that allows you to read the entire book in one of two ways, and ambiguous endings (when done well) are always my favorites. This book is smart and emotionally honest all at once, my favorite combination.