The story of Captain Ahab and his search for the whale named Moby-Dick was of course very challenging. The major difficulty was to go through the chapters that focus on such topics as the anatomy of whales, the different species, or the organization of a whaling boat. What was also literally painful to read were the parts that dealt with the way whales were captures and killed. I'm very sensitive to these types of descriptions and do not enjoy them. There is also a (purposeful?) contradiction between the awe in which the narrator Ishmael is before the whales and the relentless killing of whales that his profession requires.
However, when I allowed myself to go past these difficult chapters (that constitute the majority of the book!), there were several aspects of the novel that I was able to enjoy, such as the soliloquies that typically belong more to a play than a novel, or the strange gradual disappearance of the narrator.
At this point I really need to buy an analysis of this novel that could help me better understand its symbolism.
18 IMPERIAL WOMAN Pearl S. Buck (USA 1956)
This is a fictionalized account of Tzu Hsi the last empress of China. It tells the story of how she entered the Forbidden City as a concubine of lower rank and gradually became the emperor's favorite and ultimately the real ruler of China.
I had read a more recent version of her story in Anchee Min's Empress Orchid and The Last Empress. Not only is it a great story, but I was also very curious to see which of Pearl Buck or Anchee Min's version I would prefer. My preference goes without a doubt to Anchee Min's version. Pearl Buck's writing is overly clean and to the point, and she does not have the ability to create the painful suspense that is central to Anchee Min's books (especially the second one). Moreover, Pearl Buck does not give as many details about Chinese customs.But overall, Imperial Woman was a good read, and readers need to give credit to Pearl Buck for fictionalizing the life of the last empress in a way that clearly paved the way for Anchee Min's superior books.