terça-feira, 29 de janeiro de 2013

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

I know the huge inspiration Paulo Coelho is to so many people, the inspiration he gives to so many of his readers and how loved and admired he is all over the world.
This was my first "Paulo Coelho book" so to say. I heard soo much about him, about this book, about how it would change my life and be one of the best ones I have ever read. 
I dont know if it is because I started the book with so many expectations that I felt a bit disappointed with it. I am not saying it isn't good. It is! I enjoyed it very much and there were parts which made me think and see how I was living my life, if I was having enough faith and courage to go after my dreams - and this was great! But it wasnt a book that changed my life or that made me want to re-read it over and over again. Nevertheless it is still written in a very easy way to read, simple vocabulary and not too thick causing you to get sick and tired of it. I read it right before I went on my two month trip to Europe to discover a bit more about the world, others and myself as well. And this book is all about a traveler's story and the faith he had to take the first step into the unknown - as I read Paulo Coelho's words I felt very much like his main character - the traveler boy - first uneasy, doubting and insecure; then gaining strength, experience, faith and guts to live his adventure as he knows that it's either that or dull monotony for the rest of his life. The boring life of a shepherd. 
And so even though I haven't been "converted" into one more of Paulo Coelho's fans I do give him credit for a good book and a strong story which spoke personally to me. Who knows tomorrow I begin another book of his, no?! :D

"The Alchemist" - Wikepedia 

The Alchemist is a novel by Paulo Coelho first published in the year 1988. Originally written in Portuguese, it has been translated into at least 56 languages as of September 2012[1]. An allegorical novel, The Alchemist follows a young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago in his journey to Egypt, after having a recurring dream of finding treasure there.
The book has gone on to become an international bestseller. According to AFP, it has sold more than 30 million copies in 65 different languages, becoming one of the best-selling books in history and winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.[2]. Micah Mattix, assistant professor of literature at Houston Baptist University, however wrote in September 2012 in his blog that Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist has been "translated into 56 languages and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide"[3].


The Alchemist follows the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Santiago, believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, decides to travel to a Romani in a nearby town to discover its meaning. The gypsy tells him that there is a treasure in the Pyramids in Egypt.
Early into his journey, he meets an old king, Melchizedek, who tells him to sell his sheep to travel to Egypt and introduces the idea of a Personal Legend (which is always capitalized in the book). Your Personal Legend "is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.[4]" He adds that "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." This is the core theme of the book.
Along the way, he encounters love, danger, opportunity, disaster and learns a lot about himself and the ways of the world. During his travels, he meets a beautiful Arabian woman named Fatima, who explains to him that if he follows his heart, he shall find what it is he seeks.
Santiago then encounters a lone alchemist who also teaches him about personal legends. He says that people want to find only the treasure of their personal legends but not the personal legend itself. Santiago feels unsure about himself as he listens to the alchemist's teachings. The alchemist states, "Those who don't understand their personal legends will fail to comprehend its teachings." It also states that treasure is more worthy than gold.


Santiago is the protagonist of The Alchemist. Born in a small town in Andalusia, he attends the seminary as a boy but longs to travel the world. He finally gets the courage to ask his father's permission to become a shepherd so that he can travel the fields of Andalusia. One night, in an abandoned church, he dreams of a child telling him that if he goes to the Egyptian Pyramids, he will find a treasure. Later, he meets a mysterious man in the town of Tarifa, who sends him on a journey to the other side of Africa.
Santiago is a curious boy whose open mind makes him particularly suited to find his Personal Legend. He also values his freedom very highly, which is why he became a shepherd and why he is reticent to get involved in things which threaten his freedom. In the end, he realizes that playing it safe is often more threatening to his freedom than taking a risk.
Melchizedek is the king of Salem, a mysterious, far off land. Melchizedek appears to Santiago in the town square of Tarifa, where he tells Santiago about the Soul of the World and his Personal Legend for the first time. Melchizedek always appears to people who are trying to live their Personal Legend, even if they don't know it. While he appears at first to be dressed in common Arab dress, at one point he pulls aside his cloak to reveal a gold breastplate encrusted with precious stones. He also gives Santiago the magical stones Urim and Thummim.
The Shopkeeper
Gives Santiago a job in Tangiers after he has been robbed. Santiago takes the job at the crystal shop and learns much about the shopkeeper's attitude toward life and the importance of dreaming. The shopkeeper, while generally afraid to take risks, is a very kind man and understands Santiago's quest - sometimes more than Santiago himself. This is the case when the shopkeeper tells Santiago that he will not return to Spain, since it is not his fate.
The Englishman
Santiago meets the Englishman on the caravan to Al-fayoum. The Englishman is trying to become a great alchemist and is traveling to Al-Fayoum to study with a famous alchemist who is rumored to be over 200 years old and to have the ability to turn any metal into gold. Santiago learns much about alchemy from the Englishman, who lends Santiago his books while they travel across the Sahara.
A beautiful girl who lives at the Al-Fayoum oasis. Santiago falls in love with her at the well there. He and Fatima talk every day for several weeks, and finally he asks her to marry him. Fatima, however, insists that he seek out his Personal Legend before they marry. This perplexes Santiago, but the Alchemist teaches him that true love never gets in the way of fulfilling one's dreams. If it does, then it is not true love.
The Alchemist
Very powerful alchemist who lives at the Al-Fayoum oasis in Egypt. Initially, Santiago hears about him through the Englishman, but eventually Santiago is revealed to be the Alchemist's true disciple. The Alchemist dresses in all black and uses a falcon to hunt for game. The Alchemist is also in possession of the Elixir of Life and the Philosopher's Stone.
The Coptic Monk
A very important but short piece in the writing. Santiago and the alchemist stop at the monastery, and the monk invites them in. This is considered a very important point in the plot, as this is where the alchemist produces gold from a pan of lead(which the monk provides), separates the disk into four parts, gives one to the monk, one to himself, and essentially two to Santiago. The monk tries to refuse the offering, but the alchemist tells him that "life may be listening, and give [him] less the next time". Afterward, when Santiago crawls back beaten and elated from the Pyramids, the monk gives him the other part of the gold disk and helps him recover.

[edit]Inspiration for the story

Coelho wrote The Alchemist in only two weeks in 1987. He explained he was able to write at this pace because the story was "already written in [his] soul".[5] The basic story of The Alchemistappears in previous works. In 1935, the Argentine writer, Luis Borges, published a short story called Tale of Two Dreamers in which two men dream of the other's treasure. Another version appeared in E. W. Lane's translation of The Thousand and One Nights.[6] The story also appeared in Rumi's story, "In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad."[7]


The book's main theme is about finding one's destiny. According to The New York TimesThe Alchemist is "more self-help than literature".[8] An old king tells Santiago, "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true". This is the core of the novel's philosophy and a motif that plays all throughout Coelho's writing in "The Alchemist".[9]


The Alchemist was first released by an obscure Brazilian publishing house. Albeit having sold "well," the publisher of the book told Coelho that it was never going to sell, and that "he could make more money in the stock exchange."[10]
Needing to "heal" himself from this setback, Coelho set out to leave Rio de Janeiro with his wife and spent 40 days in the Mojave Desert. Returning from the excursion, Coelho decided he had to keep on struggling.[10] For Coelho, he was "so convinced it was a great book that [he] started knocking on doors."[5]


According to The New York Times, The Alchemist has been translated into 67 distinct different languages. This gave Coelho the position as the world's most translated living author, according to the 2009 Guinness World Records.[8]

[edit]File sharing

Paulo Coelho is a strong advocate of spreading his books through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. He put his own books on file-sharing networks like BitTorrent, and noted that The Alchemistreceived a boost in sales due to this.[11] He stated that "I do think that when a reader has the possibility to read some chapters, he or she can always decide to buy the book later."[11] Currently, chapters from The Alchemist can be found on Google Books and Coelho's agency Sant Jordi Associados.[12][13] Entire copies of his books, including translations, can also be found on Pirate Coelho, a blog off Coelho's main blog.[14]



The Advertiser, an Australian newspaper, published one of the first reviews of The Alchemist in 1993, saying: "of books that I can recommend with the unshakable confidence of having read them and been entranced, impressed, entertained or moved, the universal gift is perhaps a limpid little fable called The Alchemist... In hauntingly spare prose, translated from the Brazilian original in Portuguese, it follows a young Andalusian shepherd into the desert on his quest for a dream and the fulfillment of his destiny."[15] Since then, the novel has received much praise, making it to the top spot on best-seller lists in 74 countries and winning prestigious awards in Germany and Italy.[16][17][18] It has been called a "charming story", "a brilliant, simple narrative" and "a wonderful tale, a metaphor of life", from people in places as diverse as South AfricaFinland and Turkey.[19] It has been praised by public figures like Will Smith[20] and Jorge GarciaArash Hejazi, the Iranian publisher of Paulo Coelho, believes that The Alchemist is exceptional on several counts: he notes that the book has had a "longer than expected life-cycle… It was not supported by high marketing budgets in the first few years after its publication. It was not written in French or Spanish. It did not enjoy a film tie-in and was not recommended by positive reviews and the media, but it is still selling, only relying on the word of mouth as its main marketing tool."[21][22]
One of the chief complaints lodged against the book is that the story, praised for its fable-like simplicity, actually is a fable–-a retelling of "The Ruined Man who Became Rich Again through a Dream" (Tale 14 from the collection One Thousand and One Nights).[23] Coelho, however, does not credit this source text anywhere in the book or in the preface, passing the story as an original work of fiction. Also the life story of Takkeci Ibrahim Aga who is believed to live in Istanbul during 1500s, has the same plot. So too does the English folk tale, the Pedlar of Swaffham. Despite its international acceptance by critics, this book didn't enjoy the same reception in Brazil. It is believed that translators have improved the text, correcting the linguistic flaws of the original.[citation needed]


The novel was not an instant bestseller. Published by a small publishing house, The Alchemist, like its predecessor, The Pilgrimage, sold "slowly" in Brazil. Its commercial success took off in France when it became an "unexpected" bestseller early in the 1990s.[24]
The Alchemist has sold 65 million copies worldwide.[8] As of the week ending October 28, 2012, the novel reached its 240th week on The New York Times' bestseller list.[25] Its paperback edition remains a fixture on bookstore shelves.[26] 

sábado, 26 de janeiro de 2013

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Definitely one of my favorite classics.
Usually I read the book first and then watch the movie - but this time it was the contrary. I was but a young girl when I watched this movie and the funny and delightful characters never left my memory. Now reading the book I became even more immersed in each the our sisters which compose this story: the beautiful Meg, sharp-tongued Jo, fragile Beth and vain Amy. And of course not to forget the wild and carefree Laurie.
It is such a simple story with no crazy plot or out of the ordinary happenings in it but it has a way of entering your soul and making you sit still until you are finally done with it. That must be because it is so similar to real life, everyday life with its routines, monotony, lessons and things to learn. The quarrels and fights with those you are nearest to, simple little joys, life's tolls and uncorresponded love. Louise May Alcott writes of all these things and you can't help but feel but sympathize, understand and feel like you could be one of the characters yourself.
Another thing that makes this book enter as one of my favorites is the unexpected and happy ending. In the end Meg raises her happy family, Beth is freed from her suffering, Amy and Laurie get together despite you never expecting it and Jo finds the love of her life, Professor Bhaer...and they live happily ever after making others happy as well. 

Wikipedia on "Little Women":


Louisa May Alcott's father Bronson Alcott approached publisher Thomas Niles about a book he wanted to publish. Their talk soon turned to Louisa. Niles, an admirer of her book Hospital Sketches, suggested she write a book about girls which would have widespread appeal. She was not interested at first and instead asked to have her short stories collected. He pressed her to do the girls' book first. In May 1868 she wrote in her journal: "Niles, partner of Roberts, asked me to write a girl's book. I said I'd try."[1]
She later recalled she did not think she could write a successful book for girls and did not enjoy writing one.[2] "I plod away," she wrote in her diary, "although I don't enjoy this sort of things."[3] By June she sent the first dozen chapters to Niles and both thought they were dull. Niles's niece Lillie Almy, however, reported that she enjoyed them.[4] The completed manuscript was shown to several girls, who agreed it was "splendid". Alcott wrote, "they are the best critics, so I should definitely be satisfied."[3]
Alcott wrote Little Women “in record time for money.”[5] Since Alcott never married and wrote that she was “often lonely and in ill health,” some people questioned how she was able to write so beautifully and reflectively about "American home life.”[6]
When using the term “little women” Alcott was drawing on Dickensian meaning. Little Women represented the time period in a young woman's life where childhood and elder childhood was "overlapping" young womanhood. Each of the March sister heroines had a harrowing "experience" that alerted her and the reader that "childhood innocence" was of the past and "the inescapable woman problem” was all that remained.[5]


[edit]Margaret "Meg" March Brooke

Sixteen at the opening of the book, Meg is the oldest sister. She is referred to as a beauty, and is well-mannered. As the oldest, Meg runs the household when her mother is absent. This includes trying to keep her sisters from arguing, and they sometimes accuse her of lecturing them too much.
Meg is employed as a governess for the Kings, a wealthy local family. Though the March family is poor, their background is what was called 'genteel', and Meg attended some society balls and parties.
Meg marries John Brooke, Laurie's tutor. They had twins, Margaret "Daisy" and Demijohn "Demi" Brooke.
Once Meg and John are married, Meg becomes “dependent” on him and “isolated in her little cottage with two small children.”[7] Meg is the complacent daughter who did not “attain Alcott’s ideal womanhood” of equality. Alcott showed the virtues of democratic domesticity in Little Women. According to Elbert, “democratic domesticity requires maturity, strength, and above all a secure identity that Meg lacks.”[7]

[edit]Josephine "Jo" March Bhaer

The second-oldest of four sisters, Josephine March is a tomboy; Mr. March has referred to her as his "son Jo" in the past, and her best friend, Laurie, sometimes calls her "my dear fellow." When her father went to volunteer in the Civil War, Jo wanted to fight alongside him. She is clumsy, blunt, opinionated, and jolly. The tomboy embodied in Jo March “spoke to changing standards of girlhood. Tomboys first became a major literary type in the 1860s. They not only were tolerated, but even were admired—up to a point, the point at which girls were expected to become women.”
Jo has a hot temper which often leads her into trouble in spite of her good intentions, but with the help of her own sense of humor, her sister Beth, and her mother she works on controlling it.
Jo loves literature, both reading and writing. She composes plays for her sisters to perform and writes short stories. She initially rejects the idea of marriage and romance, feeling that it would break up her family and separate her from the sisters she adores. While pursuing a literary career in New York City, she met and began to love Friederich Bhaer, a German professor, as an equal partner. “They decide to share life’s burdens just as they shared the load of bundles on their shopping expedition.”[8]
Jo is the most popular and remembered of all the characters in Little Women. Jo did reject Laurie to marry Professor Bhaer who “is no schoolgirl’s hero, but Jo believes he is better suited to her than Laurie. The crucial first point is that the choice is hers, its quirkiness another sign of her much-prized individuality.”[9] “Bhaer has all the qualities Bronson Alcott lacked: warmth, intimacy, and a tender capacity for expressing his affection—the feminine attributes Alcott admired and hoped men could acquire in a rational, feminist world.”[8] Jo writes the first part of Little Womenduring the second portion of the novel. According to Elbert, "her narration signals a successfully completed adolescence.”[10]

[edit]Elizabeth "Beth" March

Beth, thirteen when the story starts, is described as shy, gentle and musical. As her sisters grow up they begin to leave home, but Beth has no desire to leave her house or family. She's especially close to Jo: when Beth develops scarlet fever after visiting the Hummels, Jo does most of the nursing and rarely leaves her side. Though she recovers, her health is permanently weakened.
As she grows, Beth begins to realize that her time with her loved ones is coming to an end. Finally, the family accepts that Beth will not live much longer. They make a special room for her, filled with all the things she loves best: her kittens, piano, father's books, Amy's sketches, and her beloved dolls. She is never idle; she even knits and sews things for the children that pass under her window on the way to and from school. But eventually even that becomes too much for her, and she puts down her sewing needle, saying that it grew "so heavy". Beth's dying has a strong impact on her sisters, especially Jo, who resolves to live her life with more consideration and care for others.
The main tragedy during Little Women was the death of beloved Beth; her “self-sacrifice is ultimately the greatest in the novel. She gives up her life knowing that it has had only private, domestic meaning.”[11]

[edit]Amy Curtis March Laurence

The youngest sister, aged twelve when the story begins, Amy is interested in art. She is described by the author as a "regular snow-maiden" with curly golden hair and blue eyes, "pale and slender" and "always carrying herself" like a very proper young lady.[12] Often "petted" because she is the youngest, she can behave in a vain and spoiled way, and throws tantrums when she is unhappy.
Her relationship with Jo is sometimes strained. When Laurie and Jo go skating, Amy tags along after them, but she arrives at the lake too late to hear Laurie's warning about thinning ice. Under Jo's horrified stare, Amy falls through the ice, and is rescued by Laurie's prompt intervention. Realizing she might have lost her sister, Jo's anger dissolves and the two become closer. When Beth is ill with scarlet fever, Amy is sent to stay with Aunt March as a safety precaution. Aunt March grows fond of her, and makes the suggestion that Aunt Carroll take Amy with her to Europe. There she meets up with Laurie, and shortly after Beth dies, they marry. Later, Amy gives birth to daughter Elizabeth (Beth), named after her deceased sister. Her daughter appears to have similarities with Beth, as she is very ill.

[edit]Additional characters

Margaret "Marmee" March: The girls' mother and head of household while her husband is away. She engages in charitable works and attempts to guide her girls' morals and to shape their characters, usually through experiments. She once confesses to Jo that her temper is as volatile as Jo's, but that she has learned to control it.

Robert "Father" March: Formerly wealthy, it is implied that he helped friends who could not repay a debt, resulting in the family's poverty. A scholar and a minister, he serves as a colonel in the Union Army and is wounded in December 1862.

Hannah Mullet: The March family maid and cook, their only servant. She is of Irish descent and very dear to the Family. She is treated more like a member of the family than a servant.

Aunt Josephine March: Mr. March's aunt, a rich widow. Somewhat temperamental and prone to being judgmental, she disapproves of the family's poverty, their charitable work, and their general disregard for the more superficial aspects of society's ways. Her vociferous disapproval of Meg's impending engagement to the impoverished Mr. Brooke becomes the proverbial "last straw" that actually causes Meg to accept his proposal.

Uncle and Aunt Carrol: Sister and brother-in-law of Mr. March. They take Amy to Europe with them.

Theodore "Laurie" Laurence: A rich young man, older than Jo but younger than Meg. Laurie lives next door to the March family with his overprotective grandfather, Mr. Laurence. Laurie's father had eloped with an Italian pianist and was disowned. Both his parents died young, and Laurie was sent to live with his grandfather. Laurie is preparing to enter at Harvard and is being tutored by Mr. John Brooke. He is described as attractive and charming, with black eyes, brown skin, and curly black hair. Alcott did not make Laurie as multidimensional as the female characters. Laurie is primarily a “model good boy.,

James Laurence: A wealthy neighbor to the Marches and Laurie's grandfather. Lonely in his mansion, and often at odds with his high-spirited grandson, he finds comfort in becoming a benefactor to the Marches. He protects the March sisters while their parents are away. He was a friend to Mrs. March's father, and admires their charitable works. He develops a special, tender friendship with Beth, who reminds him of his deceased daughter, and he gives Beth his (deceased) daughter's piano.

John Brooke: During his employment with the Laurences as a tutor to Laurie, he falls in love with Meg. When Laurie leaves for college, Brooke continues his employment with Mr. Laurence as an assistant. He accompanies Mrs. March to Washington D.C. when her husband is ill with pneumonia. When Aunt March overhears Meg rejecting John's declaration of love, she threatens Meg with disinheritance because she suspects that Brooke is only interested in Meg's future prospects. Eventually Meg admits her feelings to Brooke, they defy Aunt March (who ends up accepting the marriage), and they are engaged. Brooke serves in the Union Army for a year and is invalided home after being wounded. Brooke marries Meg a few years later when the war has ended and she has turned twenty.

Fred Vaughan: A Harvard friend of Laurie's who, in Europe, courts Amy. Rivalry with the much richer Fred for Amy's love inspires the dissipated Laurie to pull himself together and become more worthy of her.

The Hummels: A poor German family consisting of a widowed mother and six children. Marmee and the girls help them by bringing food, firewood, blankets and other comforts. Three of the children die of scarlet fever and Beth contracts it while caring for them.

The Kings: A wealthy family who employs Meg as a governess.
The Gardiners: Wealthy friends of Meg's.

Mrs. Kirke: A friend of Mrs March's who runs a boarding house in New York. She employs Jo as governess to her two girls.

Professor Friedrich "Fritz" Bhaer: A poor German immigrant who was a famous professor in Berlin but now lives in Mrs. Kirke's boarding house and works as a language master, seeing some of his students in Mrs. Kirke's parlor. He and Jo become friends and he critiques Jo's writing. He encourages her to become a serious writer instead of writing "sensation" stories for weekly tabloids. The two eventually marry, raise Fritz's two orphaned nephews, Franz and Emil, and their own sons, Rob and Teddy.
Miss Norton: A worldly tenant living in Mrs. Kirke's boarding house. She occasionally takes Jo under her wing and entertains her.

[edit]Publication history

The first volume of Little Women was published by Roberts Brothers in 1868.[13] The first printing of 2,000 copies sold out quickly and more printings were soon ordered but the company had trouble keeping up with demand. They announced: "The great literary hit of the season is undoubtedly Miss Alcott's Little Women, the orders for which continue to flow in upon us to such an extent as to make it impossible to answer them with promptness."[3] Alcott delivered the manuscript for the second part on New Year's Day 1869, only three months after publication of part one.[14]


G. K. Chesterton noted that in Little Women, Alcott "anticipated realism by twenty or thirty years," and that Fritz's proposal to Jo, and her acceptance, "is one of the really human things in human literature."[15] Gregory S. Jackson argued that Alcott's use of realism belongs to the American Protestant pedagogical tradition that includes a range of religious literary traditions with which Alcott was familiar. The nineteenth-century images he produces of devotional guides for children provides an interesting background for the game of "playing pilgrim" that, in part, comprises Book One's plot structure.[16]
When Little Women was published, it was well received. During the 19th century, there was a “scarcity of models for nontraditional womanhood” which led more women to look toward “literature for self-authorization. This is especially true during adolescence.”[17] Little Women became “the paradigmatic text for young women of the era and one in which family literary culture is prominently featured.”[18] Adult elements of women’s fiction were in Little Women, such as “a change of heart necessary” for the female protagonist to evolve in the story.[10] However, even with much critical acclaim, there were criticisms. Some felt that Little Women was the beginning of “a decline in the radical power of women’s fiction,” partly because women’s fiction was now being idealized with a hearth and home children’s story.[19] Both women’s literature historians and juvenile fiction historians agreed that Little Women was the apex of this “downward spiral.”[20] Elbert argued that Little Women did not “belittle women’s fiction" and that Alcott stayed true to her “Romantic birthright.”[21]
Little Women’s popular audience was responsive to ideas of social change as they were shown “within the familiar construct of domesticity.”[22] Even though Alcott was supposed to just write a story for girls, her main heroine, Jo March, became a favorite of many different women, including educated women writers through the 20th century. The girl story became a new “new publishing category with a domestic focus that paralleled boys’ adventure stories.”[23] Other women, such as Jewish immigrant women, also found a close connection to Little Women. One reason Little Women was vastly popular was because it was able to appeal to different classes of women along with different nationalities. Through the March sisters, women could relate and dream where they may not have before.[23] “Both the passion Little Women has engendered in diverse readers and its ability to survive its era and transcend its genre point to a text of unusual permeability.” [24]
Young girls had a social perception that marriage was their end goal. This was evident after the publication of part one of Little Women when girls wrote Alcott asking her “who the little women marry.”[9] The unresolved ending added to the popularity of Little Women. Sicherman said that the unsatisfying ending worked to “keep the story alive” almost in hopes that if the reader read it enough times the story would conclude differently.[9] “Alcott particularly battled the conventional marriage plot in writing Little Women[25] Alcott did not have Jo accept Laurie’s hand in marriage; rather, when she finally had Jo get married, she picked an unconventional man for Jo’s husband. Alcott used Friederich to “subvert adolescent romantic ideals” because he was much older and seemingly unsuited for Jo.[9]
Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children."[26] It was one of the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.[27]


Little Women was one of the most influential girls’ novels. Ruth MacDonald argued that “Louisa May Alcott stands as one of the great American practitioners of the girls’ novel and the family story.”[28] In the 1860s, gendered separation of children’s fiction was a newer division in literature. This division signaled a beginning of polarization of gender roles social constructs “as class stratification increased.”[29] Joy Kasson wrote that “Alcott chronicled the coming of age of young girls, their struggles with issues such as selfishness and generosity, the nature of individual integrity, and, above all, the question of their place in the world around them.”[30] Girls were able to relate to the March sisters in Little Women along with following the lead of their heroines by assimilating aspects of the story into their own lives.[31]
After reading Little Women some women felt the need to “acquire new and more public identities”—which of course was also dependent on other factors like financial resources.[32] While Little Women showed normal American middle class lives of girls, it also “legitimized” their dreams to do something different and allowed them to consider the possibilities.[33] More young women started writing stories that had adventurous plots and “stories of individual achievement—traditionally coded male—challenged women’s socialization into domesticity.”.[32] “Little Women also influenced immigrants to the United States who wanted to assimilate into middle class culture.
Young and adolescence girls saw, in print on the pages of Little Women, the normalization of ambitious women. This acted as an alternative to the previously normalized gender roles.[24] Little Women also repeatedly reinforced the importance of “individuality” and “female vocation.”[34] “Little Women had “continued relevance of its subject” and “its longevity points as well to surprising continuities in gender norms from the 1860s at least through the 1960s.”[24] Those interested in domestic reform could look to the pages of Little Women to see how a “democratic household” would operate.[35]
While “Alcott never questioned the value of domesticity” she challenged the social constructs that made spinsters obscure and fringe members of society solely because they were not married.[6]Little Women indisputably enlarges the myth of American womanhood by insisting that the home and the women’s sphere cherish individuality and thus produce young adults who can make their way in the world while preserving a critical distance from its social arrangements.” As with all youth, the March girls had to grow up. These sisters, and in particular Jo, were apprehensive about adulthood because they were afraid that if they had to conform to what society wanted them to be, they would lose their special individuality in the process.[10]
Alcott “made women’s rights integral to her stories, and above all to Little Women.[36] Alcott’s fiction became her “most important feminist contribution”—even considering all the effort Alcott made to help facilitate women’s rights."[36] Alcott thought that “a democratic household could evolve into a feminist society.”[37] In Little Women, she imagined that just such an evolution might begin with Plumfield, a nineteenth century feminist utopia.”[37]
Little Women has a timeless resonance which reflects Alcott’s grasp of her historical framework in the 1860s. The novel’s ideas do not intrude themselves upon the reader because the author is wholly in control of the implications of her imaginative structure. Sexual equality is the salvation of marriage and the family; democratic relationships make happy endings. This is the unifying imaginative frame of Little Women.”[38]

quarta-feira, 23 de janeiro de 2013

Dreams of Joy - Lisa See

So I am at the airport in Lisbon when my eye catches this book. Nothing big, nothing special - but there is something to it that somehow makes me buy it.
Once sitting in the plane I discover it is none other than the continuation of the book Shanghai Girls which made a big impression on me and I enjoyed reading very much. I cant believe how lucky I have been and dig in this book - and just like "Shanghai Girls" - I find that I just cant stop reading it. But this one yet is even better than the one that came before it.
In "Dreams of Joy", Pearl's daughter runs off to China to find her real father, serve Mao and her country and hide from the guilt she feels with her father Sam's death. In the beginning she does all this but as time goes by she notices how wrong and naive she has been. Suffering, death, hunger and the true colors of "Mao's great nation" come to light. But what keeps her all through this is motherhood. She fights for the life of her daughter and you can't help but feel your heart tighten as you read all she goes through to do so. 
It is a very, very tough book to read as it is all based on the true facts of what happened in China, and yes, you do need a strong stomach to be able to go until the end. It is not a book for everyone that's for sure! But for those who do get to read it until the end will certainly remember it - there is no way not to. 

"Dreams of Joy" - By Wikipedia:

Dreams of Joy is a 2011 novel by Lisa See. It debuted as #1 in the New York Times list of best selling fiction.[1] In this book See completes the circle she began in Shanghai Girls. The former novel ends with the suicide of Pearl’s husband Sam and the shattering discovery by Joy that May is really her mother, Pearl is her aunt, and Z.G., the famous Chinese artist, is her father. Joy's guilt-driven journey to China to find her father and Pearl's loving pursuit are placed in the context of the tumult and suffering of Mao's China -- especially in the context of the horrific famine caused by Mao's misguided Great Leap Forward. Frank Dikotter writes that “at least 45 million people died unnecessarily between 1958 and 1962 . . . As famine spread, the very survival of an ordinary person came increasingly to depend on the ability to lie, charm, hide, steal, cheat, pilfer, forage, smuggle, trick, manipulate or otherwise outwit the state.” [2] See’s novel uses Mao’s China as her background, but her story focuses on the change and growth of her main characters – Pearl, Joy, Z.G., and May. Susan Salter Reynolds suggests that “it’s a story with characters who enter a reader’s life, take up residence, and illuminate the myriad decisions and stories that make up human history.” [3]


Dreams of Joy is organized in four sections -- The Tiger Leaps, The Rabbit Dodges, The Dog Grins, and The Dragon Rises. Joy is the Tiger – romantic, artistic, rash, and impulsive. In this novel, unlike Shanghai Girls, Joy and Pearl are both narrators. Driven by anger at Pearl and May for lying to her about her identity and filled with guilt because of her role in Sam’s death, Joy hastily leaves Los Angeles Chinatown to find her biological father Z.G. and to join the new Chinese society. Finding her father rather quickly in Shanghai, Joy goes with him to a village collective where he is forced to teach art to the peasants. Joy throws herself enthusiastically into the life of the collective and into a hasty marriage with Tao, a peasant artist. Only through motherhood and terrible suffering is Joy able to find her true identity and to exorcise her inner demons. See has written about the difficulty she faced in developing Joy’s character: “At first, Joy was hard to write about because she’s so naïve and stubborn. She makes such terrible mistakes, which, as a mother and her writer, I found hard to watch . . . But what an experience it was to watch her go through all the terrible things she experiences and see her grow up to be a wonderful artist and courageous mother.”[4]
Z.G. is the Rabbit, frequently hopping away from danger. Although close to Mao himself, the Chairman can’t trust the artist because of his individualistic streak and Western influences. Z.G. has to go to the country as a form of punishment for his subversive tendencies. What brings Z.G. through in the end are his art, his growing love for Joy and his granddaughter Samantha, his friendship with Pearl, and his devotion to May.
The Dog is Tao, the village artist who Joy marries. As Pearl sees it, the question is what kind of Dog will Tao turn out to be. “’A Dog can be violent . . . Is he the kind of Dog you can trust and love, or will he bite you’”.[5] Unfortunately Joy’s passionate view of Tao as a good Dog turns out to be false. Tao is a poor husband, an indifferent father, and a young man devoted to seeking the main chance, no matter who he has to step over to reach his goals. Even surviving the most desperate of circumstances does not change Tao's character.
Pearl is the Dragon. She is the second narrator of Dreams of Joy and the character See found easiest to write. “I was already so familiar with Pearl’s strengths and weaknesses from Shanghai Girls. Her words just flowed, because I’ve now lived with her every day for over four years.[6] In Shanghai Girls Mama speaks frequently of Pearl's Dragon nature -- and does so even when she is dying: "'There was a typhoon the day you were born . . . It is said that a Dragon born in a storm will have a particularly tempestuous fate. You always believe you are right, and this makes you do things you shouldn't . . . You're a Dragon, and of all the signs only a Dragon can tame the fates. Only a Dragon can wear the horns of destiny, duty and power'".[7] Mama's mother love in giving up her life for her daughters becomes the standard by which Pearl judges herself.
If Dreams of Joy is the story of Joy's coming of age, it also describes Pearl's growth through love, courage, and self-sacrifice. She pursues Joy to a China she never knew, living in her old Shanghai home as just another boarder, earning a living by collecting papers, and trying desperately to reconnect with her daughter. If such a pursuit requires painful patience and hard work at a collective farm, so be it. Like her mother before her, Pearl is willing to give up everything to save Joy and her granddaughter Samantha from death. Despite such trials, Pearl endures to the end to find joy in her daughter and granddaughter, friendship in Z.G., a new love with Dun the professor, and reaffirmation of her enduring bond with May. Little wonder that Pearl is radiant at novel's end.
As for May the Sheep, See keeps her offstage for almost the entire novel. She is constantly present, however, through her letters to Pearl and the money and gifts she sends to her sister and Joy. At home May endures much hardship -- especially in the context of the death of her husband Vern. Only when Vern dies does May understand the suffering Pearl experienced after Sam's death. She is also tormented by Pearl's refusal to tell her the state of her relationship with Z.G. Nevertheless, in the end May finds the love she has been seeking her entire life.


Of See's themes, Jane Glenn Haas writes: "Basically, Lisa See writes about families. Love themes. Mothers and daughters. Children and parents. Romance. Love of country. Of place. The story itself must be so strong, so enthralling, the history helps it to play out." [8] See herself adds: "One of the things I'm most proud of in this book is that it is a real coming-of-age novel . . . Joys grows up and gets to know herself."[9] One of the ways Joy finds herself is through her art, inspired in part by her father Z.G., a famous painter. According to Malena Watrous, "This is a novel about living with the consequences of bad decisions, which we all make, about how both forgiveness and growth arise from mistakes." It deals with "people who often take wrong turns to their own detriment but for the good of the story, leading to greater strength of character and more durable relationships."[10]


Although not originally intending to write a sequel to Shanghai Girls, See is now glad she did. "I got to continue the story of Pearl, May, and Joy. I learned so much about them and about myself in the process. Most important, I got to give the characters a happy ending. I loved that!" [11]