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I read The Metamorphosis eagerly as I cared about Gregor from the start. The first scene reminded me of Monday mornings when you just can’t quite get out of bed. With his family and employers all taking him for granted; no wonder he is too tired to move.

Although my sympathy for Gregor never waned, beyond Kafka’s power to make me care about a bug, I found the story lacking. Right until the last page, I was waiting for some deeper meaning to be revealed, but the moral message never came.

The analogy that springs to mind is that of a man waking up to find he’s had a stroke or been in an accident. His family are ripped apart by the burden of having to care for someone who can no longer interact on a human level, and their own shame and guilt at always having taken him for granted and not rising to the new challenges. The only peace is in death.

My problem is that we learn nothing because none of the characters do. Gregor becomes resigned to his fate, but since he has never sought to change it, this resignation is no achievement. The family get jobs and survive, but they never really deal with what has happened to Gregor. The mother is eaten up with grief but she rarely turns this into anything positive that might relieve Gregor. The sister never tries to hide her revulsion and the father seems only motivated by anger.

Have I missed some deeper meaning, or is Kafka’s only point “if your body fails, death is the only release”?

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With my 27th birthday looming, I’ve been making a list of things to do before I hit the dreaded 30, after which, apparently I’ll be too wrinkly and old to do much. “Make Forbes’ 30 under 30” seemed a bit optimistic, but besides run the London Marathon, read more books and try blogging made the list. So welcome to my “read more books blog”, or as I’ve called it, my 21st Century Book Group. Here’s my list for 2013. Please join me and share your thoughts (on the books or Syria or whatever)!

In a randomly assigned order…

The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

The Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien

His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman

Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe (incidentally 294 years old on my 27th Birthday)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller

The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas

The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand up, Jacob M. Appel

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

The Sea Change, Joanna Rossiter (we should all read the work of our peers)

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernières

Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Solace, Belinda McKeon

The Last Hundred Days, Patrick McGuiness

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell  

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

What to Look for in Winter, Candida McWilliam

Here’s to hoping that I have something terribly profound to say about The Metamorphosis when I post again…