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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

LOTR Read-Along: Catching up with Bilbo

I expected this post to be up next week only, as I wanted to read The Hobbit at a slow pace, but it's hard not to keep turning the pages to find out what troubles the heart of my favorite hobbit next. Having never read this book before, I was surprised at home much I liked Bilbo Baggins. I didn't like him much in The Lord of the Rings series, since I felt he was portrayed as a little too selfish in those books. But now halfway through The Hobbit, I find I can really understand him and his actions better.

As I said, I'm reading this book for the first time, but I've already read The Lord of the Rings a few times. Comparing The Hobbit with my recollections of LOTR, I noticed a lot of interesting aspects. I've heard it said many a time that this book was written for children. On reading this edition, that's precisely how I felt. I wouldn't say this edition should be lapped up by children, but it's definitely meant for a younger crowd (younger than me, that is :D). At times, though, I wished it was written for an older crowd, or that such an edition existed, something to the style of The Lord of the Rings.

I am surprised at how much I've come to like Bilbo Baggins. I found Frodo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings, to be a more brooding and reserved hobbit. Of course, that could be attributed to the ring he was bearing on his risky journey. Bilbo, on the other hand was very cute, for want of a better word. Always dreaming of his nice hobbit-hole, seated in his favorite sitting-room by the fire, with the kettle singing. I found his innocent thoughts very entertaining, and his tendency to feel miserable during inconveniences, very endearing.

As for Gandalf, I found him a bit of a disappointment. In The Lord of the Rings, he was portrayed as a brave unconquerable wizard, who always had a trick or two up his sleeve, and also knew several ways out of sticky or dangerous situations. Seeing him described as being mortally scared one time too many, was a bit of a downer. I guess it probably had to with the fact that this book was not meant to be as dark as book as The Lord of the Rings.

For someone reading this book after The Lord of the Rings, I found this book a good prologue to some settings or incidents in the next 3 books. I was excited to find the answer to the troll statues that were mentioned in The Lord of the Rings (I don't remember in which book it was actually mentioned). Plus Frodo's Sting has a lot of history in The Hobbit. Gollum's first appearance, most of the dwarf references, the Mines of Moria, the alliance of the Eagles, all made for a very interesting reference. I'm sure the rest of the book has many more answers to provide. As other bloggers mentioned, the elves are there and then suddenly not there. I loved the elves in The Lord of the Rings, so was hoping for a greater elvish presence. But The Hobbit probably compensates by giving the dwarves a greater presence, since they are not felt so much in The Lord of the Rings.

Now, Eva @ A Striped Armchair has provided a good list of questions to serve as a discussion meme.

Where are you in the story? So far, has the book lived up to your expectations (for first-timers)/memories (for rereaders)? What’s surprising or familiar?
Bilbo Baggins has just heroically rescued the dwarves from the menacing spiders and in their slumber afterwards, they have noticed that Thorin is missing. Thorin, meanwhile, has been imprisoned by the wood-elves and is refusing to tell the story that brought him and his companions to Mirkwood. (I think I remember a reference to the wood-elves in The Lord of the Rings, but for the life of me, I can't remember what that was.)

So far, I am totally riveted with this story. I would have preferred a more-adult oriented writing, as in the LOTR trilogy, but that's no damper, really. It has probably exceeded my initial expectations. When I revisit scenes that are mentioned in the next three books, I get all excited and feel a sense of deja-vu. It feels great to revisit some of my favorite characters and places from Middle Earth. I wish there was more of Rivendell in this story too. But even Elrond appears to be like an extra in the story. Bilbo's amiable and innocent disposition has been surprising. When I started this book, I didn't expect to like him at all.

Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?
Not yet. On the contrary, at times, I am reading too fast to know how this bunch escapes from one mire after another. Ah, the perils of reading something for the first time!

Let’s talk about the songs…are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not?
Actually, I'm singing them. *blush blush*. When I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time, I admit I skimmed through them initially and eventually skipped them. I read the songs during the next time I read the book. At that time, I really enjoyed them. So this time, I am not skipping any songs, but actually singing them. LOL!

What do you think of the narrator’s voice?
Although this book is written with a younger crowd in mind, I'm actually enjoying the narrating style. At times though, I find the narrator a bit repetitive and condescending, but overall, it is such a refreshing read.

Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them?
My edition does, but sadly, its MPP and I can't see the middle portion of the maps, which are nearer the spine of the book. That's such a huge disappointment for me, since I am such a map addict I feel some information has been stolen from me. :-(

Now it’s time to play favourites! Who’s your favourite main character? Who’s your favourite minor character (i.e.: villains, random helpers, etc.)? What’s your favourite scene? Do you have a favourite quote to share?
Bilbo Baggins wins my vote, no competition! Such an affectionate hobbit, full of character! Tolkien has definitely written him well! Much better than Frodo Baggins, at least I feel. His innocence is so touching, plus his constant desire to go back to his hobbit-hole and have some tea is so endearing. As for minor characters, I liked Bombur, and actually found his grumpiness and complaints amusing.

My favorite scene is the one with the trolls. I enjoyed how Bilbo hid behind a tree, really scared for life and how Gandalf tricked the trolls into argument.

As for my favorite quote, here's what I liked (I'm sure many readers like it too):
"What do you mean?" he said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?"

Off I go to catch up on my favorite hobbit!


Tales of Whimsy said…
I really must read this series some time!
J.G. said…
Bilbo clearly grows up in this book. You are so right that he starts out as basically a happy child, with hardly a care in the world. Then by the time he shows up in LOTR he is basically used up, I think, by the Ring. It really shows the contrast and the dangerous nature of the Ring.

Gandalf matures, too. Heck, I guess everyone does. And it's fun, like you said, to make the connections!
Anonymous said…
I'm not sure I could have read this series, but I did enjoy the audio version. I listened to it with the kids when they were younger.
Athira said…
Juju, you should! It's one of my fav series in the world!

J.G., I'm glad you said that! I agree, I felt the change in the characters so intensely, probably because I read the LOTR many times and expected the same natured characters here. But I was surprised to see them lot light-hearted that I am used to seeing them.

J.Kaye, it's the other way with me, I don't think I would have listened to the audio. In fact, I don't think audiobooks work for me at all. :-( My mind just drifts away!
Molly said…
I just found your terrific blog by mention of J. Kaye and I look forward to following your posts in 2010.

I come to the Hobbit via a different route - I have never read LOTR trilogy (I find it rather intimidating) but I have taught the Hobbit for 4 years now. At this point I think I know the characters so well that it is like revisiting an old friend each year I read it. Perhaps I am now ready to try to tackle the Fellowship of the Ring?
I have the same issue with the maps in my book. At times, I want to rip the book apart just so I can fully see the map.

I also love the good morning quote.
Athira said…
Molly, thanks for stopping by!! I will be really interested to see what you think of the LOTR trilogy when you read them, esp after having read The Hobbit and having some preconceptions going into the trilogy.

Jess, I felt the same way. I now feel compelled to get the map from some other source, too.
Amy said…
I enjoyed my re-read of this one. I always feel like there is so much to re-discover on each reading. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the books now!
Athira said…
Amy, I agree with you on that! I feel the same when I re-read the LOTR trilogy. So I can't wait to re-read this one too! :)
Anonymous said…
Aths, I was like that at the beginning. It took a couple of months before I could focus. Each time, I'd have to back parts up and listen again. In time, I was able to pay attention and now I can't see going without them.
Athira said…
J. Kaye, I'm hoping it starts working out for me too. My main challenge is that I listen when I am in the gym or when I commute. My commutation time is just 5 mins one way. So that's not enough for me to get into audiobooks. Gym time works well though, and I usually find it harder to put down an audiobook. Some time though, I do intend to make it a good habit. I can't imagine giving up on audiobooks either.
Care said…
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your experience with the Hobbit in all 3 of your posts! Enjoy the rest of the readalong.
Athira said…
Thanks Care!! Thanks for reading all 3 posts! :)