Sea and Sardinia
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"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
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- Item Weight : 15 ounces
- Paperback : 316 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-1522866060
- Product dimensions : 6 x 0.72 x 9 inches
- Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 21, 2015)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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"Comes over one an absolute necessity to move. And what is more, to move in some particular direction. A double necessity then: to get on the move, and to know whither.
Why can't one sit still? Here in Sicily it is so pleasant: the sunny Ionian sea, the changing jewel of Calabria, like a fire-opal moved in the light; Italy and the panorama of Christmas clouds, night with the dog-star laying a long, luminous gleam across the sea, as if baying at us, Orion marching above; how the dog-star Sirius looks at one, looks at one! he is the hound of heaven, green, glamorous and fierce!--and then oh regal evening star, hung westward flaring over the jagged dark precipices of tall Sicily: then Etna, that wicked witch, resting her thick white snow under heaven, and slowly, slowly rolling her orange-coloured smoke. They called her the Pillar of Heaven, the Greeks. It seems wrong at first, for she trails up in a long, magical, flexible line from the sea's edge to her blunt cone, and does not seem tall. She seems rather low, under heaven. But as one knows her better, oh awe and wizardy! Remote under heaven, aloof, so near, yet never with us. The painters try to paint her, and the photographers to photograph her, in vain."
Lawrence and his wife travel to and from Sardinia by train and ship, and while on the island, they use the motor bus, still a novelty at that time. The people, the landscape, the villages and towns as well as the interior of the inns and hotels they stay at are described in a way that definitely makes you glad to live almost a century later, with all the comfort we have gotten used to. Most of the humble places where they stay are bitterly cold, no cleaner than a cow shed, offer too little food to make up for the lack of other comforts, and so the Lawrences never stay very long in one place.
The author is fascinated by local costume and the rather archaic, simple way of life and character he finds in the village people. It helps that both he and Frieda are fluent in Italian, and he reports many a conversation with inn-keepers, bus drivers and fellow passengers.
I enjoyed this read, and also enjoyed reading up about the couple on wikipedia. Frieda von Richthofen was German, six years older than David Herbert Lawrence, who became her lover while she was still married to an English professor and he was his student. They eloped to Germany (leaving her three children behind) and married after her divorce came through. They stayed together for the rest of Lawrence's life, which ended early: he died in 1930, aged 44, from tuberculosis. Frieda married again and lived until 1956.
Times have changed, and I guess most Sardinians wear their traditional costume only for touristy events and maybe a national holiday or patron saint feast, but I'd like to know how much of what the author describes of Nuoro, Cagliari, Mandas, Sorgono and Terranova still is recognizable today.
With no explanation or preamble, D.H. Lawrence and his wife (The "Queen Bee", who he criticizes relentlessly)set off for this remote island IN WINTER apparently so he can bitch about the weather along with the poor food and service in the hotels they can afford to stay in. This is post WWI/pre-Mussolini Italy and the economy is not too hot. The Lawrences spend no more than 1 night in any city, so they never get to know any town. (One night they arrive in a rural town to find that all the men are dressed as women. It is cold, so they scurry back to their hotel, make tea, and look out from their window a while before eating a bad meal. Lawrence never explores why the people are cross dressing, but he does describe the meal in detail).
The writing at times is amazing and the book provides a peek at an area of the world at a moment in time that is long gone. For this reason it is worth reading. On the other hand, it is unclear why Lawrence ever left home.
Top reviews from other countries
Lawrence's reactions and comments to all this are hilarious. Having read his (excellent) short stories and ( often preachy ) novels I had no idea that he could be so humorous. His description of "the Bounder" one of his fellow travellers playing the piano is priceless. What an entertaining travel companion Lawrence must have been, was this why Frieda put up with him and his sex guru preaching.and unsettled living arrangements ? For a baron's daughter she was surprisingly blase about the rough conditions, she even tells Lawrence to stop whining. Of course she did get to flirt with a lot of italian officiers en route, and Lawrence has some sardonic comment on that.
Lawrence's parsimony is hilarious for the reader but must have been infuriating for his wife . He insists eschewing the cost of the ship's dinner : "Would we eat on board asked another person. No we wouldn't.......A thin cold wind was travelling. We wrapped the one plaid round us and snugged together waiting for the tea to boil. I could see the point of the spirit flame licking up from where we sat " in the dark . Lawrence insisted that they lived on tins of sardines for most of their whistle stop tour of Sardinia.
The exercise was a partial success.
I liked the fact that D H Lawrence focuses more on the people than on things. "Life is life and things are things", as he puts it, though perhaps this makes it even less likely that visitors to the island will find much still of relevance.
But, more than this, many of the opinions did not hit a chord, many of the descriptions felt contrived, the comparisons far-fetched and the language seemed stilted, even by the standards of the day. As time went on, I became distracted by the number of sentences starting with a construction of the type: "Arrived the inevitable meat....".
Eventually a single sentence convinced me that the author had been in league with Yoda: "Beautiful the goats are: and so swift."
I am pleased I read the book and it was worth it for some humorously outrageous views. However, I have not read anything else by D H Lawrence and on this performance, I doubt I will.
It makes you appreciate modern levels of cleanliness, good food and communication/transport but also engenders a feeling of loss of companionship and chances to interact with local people and enjoy their character and diversity
In short, this is a fine and classic travel novel given very poor treatment by an unscrupulous publisher.