Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bittersweet, by Colleen McCullough

8/100 When we were in college, my best friend Laksh Guda and I were voracious readers and had plenty of warm discussions about the merits of various books. "Gone With The Wind" was one of them - she was a huge admirer of Scarlett o'Hara and I thought her (Scarlett, I mean) a spoilt selfish b*tch (I have since altered my opinion somewhat - she's a spoilt selfish b*tch with unlimited courage and when it counts). Similarly with "Thornbirds", by Colleen McCullough. I thought it was a good read, but not in the class of Gone With The Wind - and of course Lakshmi had to consider both books to be on a par. Not that we ever fell out over a book, though.
So, all that rambling was merely the build-up to my opinion of another book by Colleen McCullough that I read recently, called "Bittersweet". Once again, it was not a bad read - the book is set in Australia during the Depression, and it charts the story of four sisters (two sets of twins born to different mothers). Each of them has a distinct personality - Edda is the oldest and the strongest, the most opinionated and ambitious; Grace is dreamy and unpractical (at first, anyway); Tufts is pragmatic and ; and Kitty, the youngest and the most beautiful, the apple of her mother Maude's eye, is disturbed and oversensitive because she feels (rightly) that everyone just sees her as a beautiful woman but doesn't bother to get to know the real her. The girls leave home to train as nurses at the local hospital, which turns out to be the fire in which their iron of their character is forged. I liked that the author inserted bits of the history and the politics of those times along with descriptions of society from the perspective of both the haves and the have-nots. That said, I can't say that I found the narrative to be flowing, as it were...there's lots of "masala" but it doesn't quite gel (pardon the sloppy metaphor). Also, the men in the novel seemed one-dimensional, almost caricatures - either overbearing and judgmental or needy, or just weak. The girls' father, the Rector, is the character I liked best - non-judgmental, strong, loving, accepting... an excellent specimen of fatherhood and manhood.
NB: I meant to only write about books I really loved...but that would probably make the ‪#‎100bookpact‬ a lifetime project. I didn't really want that, plus I thought I might as well write about books that are meh or downright awful, so that other people can avoid them!
PS. A review on the book's front cover said "...think of Scarlett o'Hara and multiply by four". Ha! In their dreams! It's not within light years of "Gone With The Wind", never mind four times as feisty!

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