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Beyond Anne McCaffrey We know Anne's not the only author you read and enjoy. Come here to discuss and discover authors beyond Anne!

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Old Jul 15 2010, 12:01 PM   #1
Lanen
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Default The oddest book I've ever read

Ok, folks - I've just finished a book by one of my all-time fave authors, and it was deeply strange.

C.S. Forester, Randall and the River of Time

Warning - spoilers - if you intend to read this book don't read any further!


C.S. Forester was the man who wrote The African Queen and who created Horatio Hornblower. He wrote amazing adventure tales that all centered around the brilliant, introverted, courageous, emotionally wounded Hornblower. I've read and loved the Hornblower books for decades. Then the other day I came across a reference to a book by Forester that I had never heard of - Randall and the River of Time. Naturally I was curious, and as the price was reasonable, I bought it.

That was the most bizarre book I have ever read. Now, ok, it was still good writing: it is based mostly during the First World War, and the scenes of the central character, Randall, in the trenches are harrowing and indeed riveting. Characterization, Forester at his best.

The story follows Randall through his war experiences, and when he is home on leave his encounter with a married woman who tries unsuccessfully to seduce the wildly innocent young subaltern. When her husband dies she traps Randall into a hasty marriage while on his next leave from the Front. Then, after the war, it gets terribly soap-opera-ish. The young-ish wounded war veteran whom Randall knows slightly has become an habitue at their home, and it's no real surprise to anyone except the still astoundingly innocent (despite years of war and a year of marriage) Randall that when he returns from work early one day it is to find his wife and the guy in bed together. And what does this heretofore calm, rational man do? Shoves the guy out a window! The ending is a courtroom drama, and to be fair if anyone wants to read it I shouldn't tell you the result.

I was left disturbed by this book, for a number of reasons.
1) Every woman Randall encounters is either weak (his Mother), venial, scheming, adulterous, or all of the above. The only exception is the wife of his friend, and she is not really much of a character in her own right.
2) Randall's innocence is a large part of his character in the beginning, and fair enough he is very young, but it seems inconceivable that anyone intelligent - Randall is shown to be inventive and very intelligent throughout - could be as naive as Randall is painted.
3) Randall's reaction to his wife's infidelity is shocking and not really believable - though I guess this might be because I am reading from a modern sensibility and have not been through a war.
4) It was very strange, but as clearly as Randall was delineated, I didn't much care for him or give a darn about what happened to him. He struck me as not only cold but emotionally about 12 years old. In some ways, much like Hornblower, but without the human warmth! IMHO Forester is always at his weakest when attempting to deal with intimate male-female relationships.

He makes much throughout of chance - turning this way instead of that in a trench making the difference between life and death - but to be honest I didn't see how that has any real bearing on the main story, except to show that Randall is superstitious.

Now to the main question of this thread -

Have you read any bizarre books by a favorite author that have left you scratching your head? Or, indeed, a good book by an author whose other works leave you cold?

I really am curious, you bookworms. Tell all!

PS - a review at the time described the book as "scattering in Hornblower's wake a fictional mess for the gulls' - Time Magazine, Nov. 27, 1950, the year the book was published.
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Old Jul 15 2010, 12:13 PM   #2
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

I would not say this is actually an odd book, more unusual. I have a copy of a book called "Swiss Family Robinson In Words of One Syllable". These books were copyrighted in 1900 by Henry Altemus. It was one of a series of books for Young Readers which also included Aesops Fables, A Child's Life of Christ, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Gulliver's Travels, and several more bible related books. It is a small hardcover with many black and white illustrations and the cover itself is beautifully decorated, not like today's hardcovers where the "dustjacket" is sought after but the REAL book is plain and boring (to me, at least). Also, along with the list of other books in the series is the suggestion that the Price, is 50 Cents Each!

I've read the book several times over the years quite carefully and cannot find a word over one syllable.
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Old Jul 15 2010, 01:25 PM   #3
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

Hmm... I've not read that particular book by Forester but I know that the weak woman thing is supposed to be a bit of a trend in his books.
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Old Jul 15 2010, 01:52 PM   #4
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Hmm... I've not read that particular book by Forester but I know that the weak woman thing is supposed to be a bit of a trend in his books.
, with/ and one hand not typing easily + cat 'talking to me', who on my lap purring.

Nor have I, but I have heard of them. I haven't read any of them. but this helping with an idea that writer's block isn't let me rest in the back of my mind.
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Old Jul 15 2010, 02:21 PM   #5
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

Hm, well reading that first one made me think of the book where Peter David's weird sense of humor just went too far even for me. Star Trek The Next Generation: Before Dishonor. In which a very huge Borg cube bearing down on the solar system eats Pluto. And is made light of. He utterly topped the one in which a bird hatches out of a planet.
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Old Jul 16 2010, 05:09 AM   #6
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

Yes Forester has his blind spots regarding female charcterisation (one reason why I refer Douglas Reeman/Alexander Kent {same author}.

I've had the same feeling about one or two of Geoffey Deaver's output. I love the Linclon Rhyme books, but a few of the others ..... I get about 10 pages in and throw them away: I just do not care about the characters and what happens to them.
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Old Jul 16 2010, 12:05 PM   #7
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

Kind of nice to know I'm not alone in this!
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Old Jul 17 2010, 07:24 AM   #8
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

Thanks for the warning! I'll know what to avoid. Books with unrealistic characters tend to bore me very quickly, and Randall doesn't sound very realistic. I haven't read Hornblower, but I did enjoy watching the TV show, which avoids the thorny issue of weak women by almost never showing any females at all.

I tend to prefer reading books either set in the present or a future where women are approximately equal with men. Or in the case of most fantasy (and some romance written as SF... ) books, where at least some women are able to rise above the limitations their culture sets on them. Just because a woman is limited in what she can do by her culture doesn't necessarily make her weak, that's just sloppy characterization.
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Old Jul 17 2010, 04:18 PM   #9
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

Oh, I agree, granath. I don't read many books set in the past, but there have been a few surprises. I've come to believe Nora Roberts can't help but write strong women, no matter what era the novel's set in, for example.
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Old Jul 18 2010, 06:08 PM   #10
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

Hmm.. I loved those Hornblower adventures as a teenager. And the African Queen is on my top 5 movies. (I don't remember reading the book). Randall etc. doesn't sound adventurous at all.
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Old Jul 18 2010, 08:42 PM   #11
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

The African Queen: I've read the book as well as having seen the movie. While the movie was great, the book was better.
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Old Jul 19 2010, 05:10 AM   #12
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

I love the movie, but knowing Forester (apart from the Randall aberration) I am looking forward to reading the book!
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Old Jul 20 2010, 02:52 AM   #13
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

Another of his I found a little odd was 'Brown on Resolution'.
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Old Jul 20 2010, 08:17 PM   #14
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Default Re: The oddest book I've ever read

I read this Book Oprah said was a great and she made the Movie and I STILL
didn't understand it ,starts off in this house whick is hanted and I think Oprah
was a slave and when she saw her old master she hid the kids ??? I think
nobody could explain it when I asked the DVD shop what it was about
he said a ,Little ond Lady threw the dvd at him and I can't even remember
it Dam name
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Old Jul 20 2010, 10:56 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bats View Post
I read this Book Oprah said was a great and she made the Movie and I STILL
didn't understand it ,starts off in this house whick is hanted and I think Oprah
was a slave and when she saw her old master she hid the kids ??? I think
nobody could explain it when I asked the DVD shop what it was about
he said a ,Little ond Lady threw the dvd at him and I can't even remember
it Dam name
Bats
The book you are referring to is Beloved by Toni Morrison. Personally, I loved it. It's not the type of thing I usually read, but I saw the movie & wanted to read the book. The story centres around a former slave called Sethe (played by Oprah), who murders one of her children, Beloved, in a fit of rage when her former Master comes back to claim her. The idea being, if I cant have her, neither can you. Actually she tries to murder all four of her children but only succeeds in killing Beloved, a baby at the time of her murder. Beloved comes back to haunt her mother and the story is about Sethes "redemption" for this vile act she has committed. You never find out what Beloved's real name is. She calls herself Beloved because that is what is written on her tombstone.
It is an odd story. I loved the combination of the two themes running through this book. Toni Morrisson explores the idea of racial equality by writing an eerie ghost story. Sethe is a wonderfully complex & highly flawed character.
I guess one of the main themes in this book is whether or not Sethe was "temporarily insane" when she committed the murder. I believe she was not, as she states that she would do it again if she had to.
I would actually recommend this book (btw, it won a Pulitzer Prize). I thought it was a good read & I still have my copy in case I want to read it again.
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Old Jul 24 2010, 08:18 PM   #16
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THANK_YOU so much I just hate things that I can't understand now
I understand about the Girl
NOW I only got so far with 2001 the movie then it got a bit beyond me
one day when I have a quiet time I will sit and watched it again
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Old Jul 24 2010, 09:41 PM   #17
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No worries Bats!
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