Posted in FAMILY PROBLEMS

Literary tribute to mother’s love

“Promise at Dawn” by Romain Gary

This novel, which is “inspired by autobiographical elements”, yet not an autobiographical story, highlights the unconditional and passionate maternal love of a woman who was the author-narrator’s mother. The story presents this mother as a woman devoted body and soul to her son whom she imagines predestined to a promising future.

What means the title “Promise at Dawn” ?

With maternal love, life makes a promise at dawn that it can never hold. You are forced to eat cold food until your days end. After that, each time a woman holds you in her arms and against her chest, these are merely condolences.”

Romain Gary’s mother loves her son more than anything and she is totally convinced that he will become a great man, a famous artist or diplomat who will seduce all women. She shouts it from the rooftops, much to the discontent of her son, who is often embarrassed by these enthusiastic impulses. She sacrifices herself and exhausts herself in various tasks so that her son can eat to his hunger and pursue all possible studies and artistic trainings.

Can we blame a mother for so much love ?

This is the question which the author seems to constantly ask himself while remembering the marks of tenderness and passionate love of his mother. Indeed having benefited from this unconditional love makes it difficult for him to appreciate other women’s love that inevitably suffers by comparison.

According to the author-narrator, mother’s love should not focus on one single being but be directed to several persons. Considering this, the narrator tries to find a lover for his mother.

But is it really appropriate to compare maternal love to a sort of cheese cake, each part of which becoming smaller and smaller according to the increasing number of amateurs ? Or should we rather see this love as an indivisible entity that grows as the beings to love multiply ?

Recognition and tribute to maternal love

The narrator’s questions are ultimately an effective means of reminding us that maternal love, even if it may sometimes embarrass the interested person, represents a great asset for life.

Moreover, it is to be noted that the author-narrator has finally achieved the goals sought by his mother. Having had a brilliant diplomatic career and won the famous “Prix Goncourt” twice (once under the name of Romain Gary and another time under that of Emile Ajar), the author has finally fulfilled all the hopes placed in him by his mother.

“Literature has always been the last refuge in this world for those who do not know where to lay their dreaming heads.”

Humor as a weapon

Romain Gary often makes fun of himself and of what happens to him. His humor throughout this novel brings lively and authentic tones to the story.

Humor is an affirmation of dignity, a declaration of man’s superiority to all that befalls him

Why is it not really an autobiographical story ?

The story of the narrator’s life, while inspired by real facts, is recounted in ways borrowed from the imaginary in order to paradoxically bring out the authenticity of the emotions that weave the said facts.

Reality is not an inspiration for literature. At its best, literature is an inspiration for reality.”

What is true ?

Romain Gary was born in 1914 under the name of Roman Kacew. He spent several years in Wilno, first a Russian city and then, after the First World War, a Polish one before finally becoming the town of Vilnius in Lithuania. After the departure of his father, his mother and he went to live a few years in Warsaw before settling in Nice from 1928 on. In fact, Romain’s mother placed all her hopes and romantic ambitions for her son in the country of France. In 1938 he obtained a law degree while training for a military career. Later on he joined the French Air Force as a pilot during the Second World War. Once the worldwide conflict came to an end, he began a diplomatic career and became a reputed French novelist.

Having published writings under several pseudonyms, Romain Gary is the only author who ever won twice the “Prix Goncourt”, once in 1956 for “The Roots of HeavenThe Roots of Heaven - Romain Gary under the name of Romain Gary  and secondly in 1975 for “The Life before us”  The Life before us - Emile Ajar / Romain Garyunder the pseudonym Emile Ajar (“Ajar” meaning “Ember” in reference to his mother’s actress name).

In “Promise at DawnPromise at Dawn - Romain Gary, many elements are true, but imaginary components blend together to contribute to the authenticity of emotions and feelings which the author wishes to share.

“I sat day after day in my little room, waiting for inspiration to visit me, trying to invent a pseudonym that would express, in a combination of noble and striking sounds, our dream of artistic achievement, a pen name grand enough to compensate for my own feeling of insecurity and helplessness at the idea of everything my mother expected from me.”

The importance of reality in storytelling

My curiosity has led me to discover that unfortunately the final culmination of the novel does not comply with reality.

Does it really matter? 

In fact, knowing this does not refrain from the pleasure of reading this novel which I truly recommend in more than one way. The testimony of maternal love, which is the primary and essential objective of this story, remains, for its part, authentic. It is this testimony that enriches the reader’s thinking while being moved to tears.

 

Yesterday it was Mother’s Day ! I hope you have enjoyed this day and celebrated your mother with love.

 

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Posted in NOVEL OF INITIATION

Hymn for freedom by a classic novel

“Jonathan Livingston Seagull”

Richard Bach

(Scribner, reissue 2014)

Novel of initiation

This classic novel, first published in English in 1970, is a true metaphorical tale of initiation which makes the apology for freedom and for surpassing oneself to reach the path of fulfillment and happiness.

It is often recommended by trainers in personal development coaching.

Summary of the story

The story tells us about a seagull wishing to improve his flying abilities while his friends only use their own wings for the sake of finding something to eat and to survive.

His non-conforming attitude deeply shocks the other gulls and finally excludes him from his clan. However this will give him the opportunity to discover new horizons and meet other beings who will allow him to pursue his quest and follow his dreams.

Richard Bach

The author is an American writer born in 1936. He also worked in the US Air Force as a pilot, which explains the numerous flight references in his books.

Self-development story

The story is not long (around 100 pages) and contains an invigorating message which encourages you to release yourself from your chains and to show perseverance when wishing to achieve a goal in life.

By doing so, you should however remain humble and try to help others following their own path.

Beneficial quotes in the novel 

“Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip,” Jonathan would say, other times, “is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body, too.”

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.” 

“You have to practice and see the real gull, the good in every one of them, and help them to see it in themselves. That’s what I mean by love.”

“Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are the reasons that a gull’s life is so short, and with these gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.”


Posted in BIBLIOCOACHING-BIBLIOTHERAPY, LOVE

Read to heal from a heartache

Reading on Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day or Lover’s Day!

Many novels speak about love, passion … and about all possible sufferings that are linked to love.

Which are the best love stories ?

The best novel about love is the one that meets our romantic need of the moment. A story evoking the first emotions during the college years will become the most beautiful love story of teenagers. Later in life, the novel about marital affairs will be more in line with the needs of the reader who wants to find an echo of his own experiences. Still later on, the loss of the loved one will find some consolation in the stories of the protagonists confronted with the mourning of the soul mate.

So, it is only you, reader, who has all the keys in hand to decide which is your best romance, the one which has marked your sentimental life by bringing you the necessary comfort or by guiding you in your own sentimental life.

Love stories that go beyond personal experiences

It is true that some love stories have marked literature and go on charming readers. These tales full of romanticism and heroic adventures do not really resemble the everyday life of the one who is seaching for love. However, the reader will be able to find an echo of his own feelings, and even a welcome escape to celebrate love in good company.

Among the most beautiful love stories in literature, there are for example the following best-sellers :

“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

It is the ideal love story that everyone has heard about at school, or seen performed in the theater or at the cinema . But how many of you have read Shakespeare’s novel written in the 16th century. Being inspired by tragic love stories dating back to ancient times, as well as by an Italian tale, Shakespeare wrote this dramatic masterpiece whose main theme is love.

“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs;
Being purg’d, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vex’d, a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears;
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet”

“Pride and Prejudice” and

“Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen

Jane Austen is an English woman of letters (1775-1817) who has probably suffered from a sentimental disappointment. Thanks to an exchange of letters with her sister Cassandra, it is to be supposed that Jane was in love with a young Irishman called Tom Lefroy. During the two years when they came to meet each other, Jane Austen wrote the two novels mentioned here. After Tom Lefroy’s wedding with another woman, Jane Austen has stopped writing for a decade. Her love disappointment may be the reason thereof.

The movie “Becoming Jane” (2007) by Julian Jarrold was inspired by this love story.

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” (Pride and Prejudice)

“I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter in all my feelings; the same books, the same music must charm us both.” (Sense and Sensibility)

 “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë and

 “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë

The Brontë family has had dark and painful moments, but the written works of the son and daughters have survived through the centuries. The novels of the Brontë sisters are world famous and much appreciated. The omnipresence of nature in all its states reflects the feelings, passions and torments of the characters in their respective novels, as well as those that undoubtedly shaked the life of the Brontë sisters.

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” (Wuthering Heights)

“Gone with the wind” by Margaret Mitchell

The plot of this love story takes place during the Civil War in America (1861-1865). The protagonists love each other at the wrong time, being mistaken by their own feelings and those of others.

“She saw in his eyes defeat of her wild dreams, her mad desires.” 

 “Mood Indigo” by Boris Vian

Published in 1947, Boris Vian’s novel looks like both an enchanting tale and a tremendous story of dreamlike love in which illness and death break in.

“We remember the good times much better; so what are the bad for? “

“One person is missing and the whole place is deserted” said Lamartine

Certainly, but Paul Desalmand also said “There are really only two things that can change a human being: a great love or reading a big book.” So when love is missing, or when Cupid is playing ugly tricks with us, then let’s quickly find the good novel that will reconcile us with life !

Which novel to choose to relieve one’s heartache ?

« Lire pour guérir d’une peine de coeur » (=Read to heal a heartache)

by Nathalie Cailteux

My reader’s memory has helped me to realize this French compilation which gathers 24 proposals of novels likely to cheer up the ones who suffer from heartache. If it is possible to categorize love pains, this book lists novels according to various sentimental sorrows (passionate and / or platonic sorrow during youth, crumbling of love within the couple, sentimental rupture, man heartache, suffering after a mourning …). Far away from me the ambition to cover the whole field of sentimental emotions, but I really hope that these proposed novels will help the greatest number of you. You will note that the mentioned books belong to a variety of genres (romantic frescoes, humorous stories, classic works, modern novels, including a novel being part of the Oulipo movement); my goal was to target as many literary affinities as possible.

Of course your comments on Amazon or on this blog will be much appreciated.

Happy reading to all ! and Happy Valentine’s Day !

 

Posted in DEATH

Novels to overcome grief

Four NOVELS and one POEM to overcome

the GRIEF following the DEATH of a loved person

 

In numerous novels, the main character is facing the loss of a beloved parent or friend. Sharing the grief of the character might help the reader to feel less depressed or alone while dealing with his own mourning.

I recommend you the following five literary works as bereavement support :

 

The novel of Nina Sankovitch “TOLSTOY and the PURPLE CHAIR – My Year of Magical Reading » (Harper, 2011)

 The author is facing the death of her beloved sister. She wants to overcome her grief by reading a book a day during one year. This is the story of her reading help or bibliotherapy. If you want to know more about this novel, click here.

The novel of Anna McPartlin “The last days of Rabbit Hayes” (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)

 A whole family is facing the last days of Mia, nicknamed Rabbit, who is a daughter, a mother, a sister and a friend  and who is going to die because of a generalized cancer. The feelings of each close character will be described chapter after chapter in this beautiful novel. If you want to know more about this novel, click here.

The novel of Valérie Seguin “Les trois jours et demi après la mort de mon père” (Les Arènes, 2015)

 It is a French novel, but I could not omit to speak about this wonderful book which personally helped me when I was facing the death of my own father. The author is telling the story of her surprising experience during the days which followed the death of her father. In case you understand French, you may click here to see more about this novel.

A poem by William Blake

mentioned here which I read at the burial of my beloved father. The poem reveals a hopeful metaphor for death stating that dead people are crossing a stretch of water from one side to the other, and that they are meeting up lost persons when arriving at the other side.

Should you wish to know more about this English poet, please click here to get biographical information about him.

 

A novel of Natasha Solomons “The House at Tyneford” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011)

is a great novel about the life of a young Jewish girl during Second World War who must escape her country (Austria) and flee to England where she works as a domestic. She has to overcome separation with her loved ones several times in her life, but there is always a moment where she has to start again and search for happiness despite bad fate.

 

Other ideas of novels as grief support

In their famous literary work “The Novel Curepublished in 2013 by Canongate Books Ltd. the authors Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin propose a novel for each among the five stages identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the mourning process : denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

 

 

And what about the novels which have helped you to overcome grief following the death of a loved one ?

Please let us know and I will add your comments after this article.

 

 

Posted in BIBLIOCOACHING-BIBLIOTHERAPY

READ TO HEAL

Reading novels will improve your ability to overcome personal difficulties

READ TO HEAL

You are alone, you are desperate and you seek comfort.

Reading the appropriate novel at the right moment may give you the required solace.

The advantages of reading

You take some time for yourself in an elsewhere which provides a needed respite.

Reading relieves the tension of the day and helps sleep.

No side effect : contrary to medicinal products or alcohol to help sleep, reading will not make you suffer from any secondary effect, from allergy or drowsiness (except if you read all the night long). You will not be drunk or ill.

Feeling of loneliness will disappear : while reading a story, you personally enter into the private life of the writer or of his characters. As a reader, you will be the privileged witness of what is happening in the heart and mind of other people. You will be considered as a real friend who is entitled to enter into the confidence.

Your own emotions and problems are shared by others : while reading a story, you understand that you are not an alien and that other people have experienced similar situations and encountered similar emotions while facing difficulties. How the characters of the story overcome these issues may provide you for solutions to your own problems.

Reading is not watching television since reading calls upon imagination.  Without readers, words on a page are neither coloured nor performing. Only you, the reader, can give them life and sense. Without readers, a novel has no sense. So dear reader, you have to work for charging a story with full colours of emotions. Being a reader is really an active approach.

Reading arouses curiosity and reflection, which may give rise to action in real life. While reading a novel, a depressed and reclusive person might get out from an internal retriet situation. Sometimes support from close people is not listened while the words of a books are saving. Quite curiously it is easier to agree with a book than a caring person.

Reading has a liberating effect – called catharsis – that allows long-pent-up emotions to emerge without suffering the trauma of the causes. Reading may relieve long-repressed pains which might heal heart and body.

 

Which novels to read ?

Generally speaking, each good written novel might heal a reader depending on the reader himself.

Are you a great reader or someone who occasionally reads from time to time ? Do you prefer romantic novel ? thrillers ? comic books ? classic novels ? coaching novels?…

What are you precisely searching in the novel you want to read now ?  Escape from everyday life ? Help ? Emotions sharing ? …

What are your difficulties at the moment ? Loneliness ? Family problems ? Exclusion ? Injustice ? Broken heart ?

A response to each of these questions gives me assistance to help you find the right novel.

Please contact me for some advice by clicking HERE.

 

Aim of the blog READ TO HEAL ?

I want to give you some advice and guide you through the mass of books published each year in order to find the best books to read to heal.

In this blog you will be able to find some novels for a category of listed problems, namely :

 

Good to know

This blog will probably be updated once a month. If you want to give some advice regarding a novel which you feel could help other people, please let me know and I might publish a post for this novel.

 

 

 

 

Posted in INJUSTICE

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

 

“ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE”

Anthony Doerr

Fourth Estate, 2014

Winner of several awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015, the bestseller by Anthony Doerr takes us into the torments of the Second World War while following two teenagers who respectively belong to the opposite camp : Marie-Laure, a French girl, blind from childhood, who fled Paris with his father to take refuge at his grand-uncle’s house, and Werner, a German boy, gifted and self-taught orphan who had to join Hitler’s armies in order to put an end to the Resistance Movement.

The paths of these two “bright” teenagers cross at Saint-Malo towards the end of the war, at the time when the bombings are destroying a large part of the city. They both experience the forces of evil and those of good, but they will allow themselves to be guided by the light of the latter.

The title of the novel refers to the question of a teacher who spoke on the radio just before the beginning of the war. His courses are followed secretly and carefully by Werner and his sister. The teacher asks himself

« So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world so full of light? « 

The author’s skill succeeds in proving the victory of human goodness – which is precisely the said light -, in a world undergoing the hell and darkness of war.

 

A real coup de coeur, Anthony Doerr’s novel  brings us into the middle of an age which should not be forgotten : a violent,  brutish, short and unrestrained period, where the bravest ones who dare to rebel against the power in place, seem to lose the game.

But are they really losers?

Among them, a blind girl and a helpless orphan succeed in freeing themselves from the chains of their time and the a priori of their nationality to follow their conscience, their inner voice.

Even the darkest hours can never destroy the beauty of the world

The novel revisits this period of history without taking sides and underlines the courage of the weakest ones against the surrounding cruelty and injustice.

Posted in INJUSTICE, LONELINESS

Written in 1948, “1984” by George Orwell … still relevant in 2015

“1984” George Orwell

Signet 1950

No doubt that many of you have already read this classic novel, maybe during your school years. Why not get back to this reading which is still relevant because it highlights the excesses of totalitarianism and the annihilation of any spirit of freedom and individuality that is essential for human being.

BIG BROTHER  is the symbolic character of George Orwell’s novel and has become a kind of metaphor used in everyday language – perhaps nowadays even more than ever  – to denounce any invasion of privacy.

In “1984” Big Brother embodies the leader of a party to which  all people are subject in deeds and thoughts, including Winston Smith. He is the main character whose feelings we are following in this story.  Winston Smith will come to doubt about the value of this almighty police state and to experience some new way of living and feeling. But not without problems…

Is “1984” a “read-to-heal” novel ?

yes because it allows the reader to escape to an elsewhere which is – fortunately – different from his daily life…
yes because it allows him to put his own concerns in perspective : indeed our thoughts are still not under control, we have the choice not to disclose our privacy provided we do not compromise ourselves on social networks
yes because this novel gives food for thought and stimulates to act in order to maintain our individual freedom.

In the following interview, the author George Orwell gives us an early warning :

Posted in DIFFERENCES, LONELINESS

“BOOKS ARE A HOME”

 

“WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL ?”

Jeanette Winterson

Knopf Canada 2011 – Vintage 2012

This puzzling sentence was delivered to the author by her adoptive mother when she revealed her “difference” in sexual preference.

In the form of a lively and whimsical autobiography, Jeanette Winterson recounts her childhood and youth while being adopted by a working class family in Manchester. Faced with a stern and cantankerous adoptive mother, she finds refuge in reading and writing. Books become her most faithful companions in misfortune. Always looking for her missing part and her identity, she will eventually retrace her biological mother.

The author has often praised the curative virtue of books, and especially the curative virtue of stories, fictions, and poetry. As a result, this novel is completely in line with the principles of bibliotherapy to which I adhere and which I would like to share with you. Better than a documentary on bibliotherapy,  is an autobiographical novel that tells how books have saved a person’s mental health.

Books, for me, are a home. Books don’t make a home – they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside. Inside there is a different kind of time and a different kind of space.”

I had lines inside me, a string of guiding lights. I had language. Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination. I had been damaged, and a very important part of me had been destroyed – that was my reality, the facts of my life. But on the other side of the facts was who I could be, how I could feel. And as long as I had words for that, images for that, stories for that, then I wasn’t lost.

I believe in fiction and the power of stories because that way we speak in tongues. We are not silenced. All of us, when in deep trauma, find we hesitate, we stammer; there are long pauses in our speech. The thing is stuck. We get our language back through the language of others. We can turn to the poem. We can open the book. Somebody has been there for us and deep-dived the words.

Happy ending are only a pause. There are three kinds of big endings: Revenge. Tragedy. Forgiveness. Revenge and Tragedy often happen together. Forgiveness redeems the past. Forgiveness unblocks the future.

Posted in DIFFERENCES

Cultural DIFFERENCE : change begins with a … novel

“THE HELP”

Kathryn Stockett

Penguin-Berkley editions (2009-2010-2011)

“THE HELP” is the moving story of a project imagined by a white woman and two black women during the 1960s, right in the heart of Mississippi where racial segregation culminates, while people like Martin Luther King still fight for the civil rights of black persons.

Even if this black-and-white racism is particularly inscribed in the American history, it is nonetheless true that the topic of racism and racial superiority has always been and is still relevant in any country of the world.

It is the first novel of Kathryn Stockett who was born and raised in Mississipi.  At the end of this best seller, the author talks about her own experience and her love for her own black maid. She emphasizes one quote of the story of which she is particularly fond, namely:

“Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.” 

When this sentence appears in the novel, it refers to two persons having the same color. The meaning ? We are all different beings, physically, socially, culturally, but the differences are never as insurmountable as they seem to be … A word!

Posted in DEATH, SUFFERING

Light in SUFFERING

 

“The last days of Rabbit Hayes”

Anna McPartlin

(St. Martin’s Press, 2015)

The cover is rather joyful to address a very dark topic, that of mourning, incurable suffering and impending separation from a loved one.

The author, Anna McPartlin is a former Irish humorist turned novelist.

It is the story of the last nine days of Mia, nicknamed Rabbit, forty-year-old and terminally ill with generalized cancer. She knows she is going to die, and her relatives and friends also sense it : her mother, her father, her 12-year-old daughter Juliet, whom she raised alone, her older sister and her brother who has come back from America, as well as her best friend Marjorie. Everyone manages in one’s own way this terrible ordeal. The chapters are divided between the thoughts and reminiscences of each other. In this way memories and experiences flow to reflect all the emotional ties that have woven the web of Rabbit Hayes’ destiny.

This reading is extremely touching because

  • on the one hand, it is very realistic: the physical suffering of Rabbit is not concealed and the clumsily human attitudes of relatives are not mitigated. The author wants to describe with a touching lucidity the behavior of people like you and me who find themselves one day in the face of the impending death of their daughter, mother, sister, aunt or friend.
  • on the other hand, this story is filled with humor and love, which makes it terribly endearing. The soaked characters, the crooks and the gaffes of each other punctuate the events and above all, the love between these people illuminates the tragedy and brings a new comforting perspective.

It is a novel beneficial for people affected by grief, cancer at the ultimate stage, separation with a loved one. Of course, the sufferings from a similar experience may come back while reading this story, but this resurgence will occur as a salutary catharsis.

It is also necessary to underline the comprehensive character of this story since the various perspectives in the face of the apprehension of the impending death does not only concern the parents and friends of Rabbit, but Rabbit herself, who gives us her own point of  view with regard to her situation on the verge of death.

In conclusion I add here below an interview of the author about her novel :