The Sheltering Sky

April's book from my New Years Resolution reading list is The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles.

I'm not sure how to characterize this book.  After I read it I went looking for something on the web that might help me come to grips with it.  I read a review by one guy and he said you can only say you 'like' this book if you're an asshole.

True.  And it made me laugh.

While I am not prepared to say that I liked the book, I am glad that I read it.  I certainly think it was worthwhile and in some ways I don't think I've stopped thinking about it since I finished it.

The short summary of the book is that it's about a married couple who go to Africa after World War II in an attempt to save their failing marriage.

The way I would summarize it is to say that it's sort of like reading about a married couple's voluntary journey into hell to look for a vacation home. 

And, you know, they just keep going. 

You want to scream "Turn around!  Go back to New York!  What in the hell are you doing????  You're rich Americans!  Hire a therapist!   Go to Paris or something!"

But they don't.

They go to Africa and then they just keep going and every time you think they've really bottomed out - well it just gets worse.

I mean, when they got to the hotel with no electricity, a dining room which smelled of human waste, bedbugs in the beds and rabbit stew with fur still on the rabbit, I really thought they'd go back.  But they decided it wasn't so bad and kept at it....

I also read something that said the last third of the book is the damnedest thing you'll ever read.

And it kinda was.

Suffice it to say that the husband doesn't fare well and then the wife just goes completely ape shit.  I still don't understand what this woman was doing, although I suppose one could say that she would rather have been insane than to be responsible for anything.  Or maybe she went insane because she couldn't NOT be responsible anymore?  Like I said, I'm still not sure.

Are y'all intrigued?  Don't you wanna read it?  

Anyway, I'm still mulling it over and I'd love to hear from anyone else out there with an idea about it.

Anyone?  It's time for you English majors to make yourselves heard!!


  1. I actually was an English major, and I had the exact same reaction. I spent two-thirds of the book yelling at them to either do what you said (Paris, therapy, whatever), or to at least get some wine and drink their worries away like the rest of us.

    And then I read the last third of the book...and had no idea what to do with myself. Except to tell everyone I knew that they had to read it too, if only so they could feel my pain!


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