The reader gets an inside view to love, revenge and lust all played out like a game of chess. The Marquise de Mert...moreLetters. And what letters they are.
The reader gets an inside view to love, revenge and lust all played out like a game of chess. The Marquise de Merteuil is heartless in her manipulations and she has no second thoughts in her pursuit of revenge. Her friend and ex-lover the Vicomte de Valmont is just as ruthless in his desire to seek out pleasure and to win a bet.The Marquise wants revenge on a former love interest a Comte de Gercourt - to accomplish this revenge she suggests that the Vicomete seduce and 'spoil' the Comte's betrothed, Cécile Volange. Complicating things is that Cécile simultaneously falls for her music teacher, Chevalier Danceny.
To be an aristocrat at that time meant that boredom ruled and there was plenty of time during the day to think about your next strategic move.
I enjoyed how Laclos uses the epistolary frame for displaying this game of intrigue. Letter writing is so personal and I would imagine that writing provided a way to speak openly at that period of time - very much like email, it is so easy to write than to say your thoughts in person. It was also interesting to see how everyone understood the time frame for mail delivery and could correspond fairly rapidly. Without the 'modern' mail delivery system, this story could not be told.
Initially I sympathized with Cécile and Danceny, but after a while I felt that they were as shallow as their puppeteers. I feel like they were both narcissistic which provided the opening that the Vicome and Marquise needed in order for the game to work. I also thought it must of been exhausting to be the Marquise or the Vicomete; neither had the luxury of letting down their guard even for a moment. And they certainly couldn't trust even each other. It is also ironic that there is a lot of talk of convent life and praying, much hypocrisy which I am sure wasn't avoidable if you were in the game.
Thank you to Simran and Margaret for the buddy-read! I have started watching this on Amazon Prime and Malkovich is perfectly cast!(less)
For the most part I liked this book. There were some parts and themes that I really enjoyed and others that left me scratching my head. I was so impre...moreFor the most part I liked this book. There were some parts and themes that I really enjoyed and others that left me scratching my head. I was so impressed with the heroine, Helen Graham. Her ability to leave her terrible husband and seek out and find a better life for herself and her son is something to cheer. And yay for Anne Bronte for developing this woman. Leaving is the one thing that even modern women in bad relationships will find really difficult to undertake. To top it all off, Helen is an artist and can/wants to support herself through these efforts which I find wonderfully endearing.
The format is epistolary which makes for an interesting perspective. As I read more and more of these types of novels, the more I like this way of telling a story. Helen is introduced as a widow with a secret past and some odd behavior (she never lets her son out of her sight and is not too social). Immediately gossip follows the mystery causing all kinds of revelations and situations.
Throughout my reading, I liked Helen *which is important* and gave her credit for showing initiative and leaving a not-so-good-situation. I wondered about her observations around her husband and his behavior (and that of his friends) - her naiveté was equal to that of Gaskell's Ruth. Anyone could see that he was a nut and that he wasn't going off on trips just to relax. He was rather brutal and even downright mean. His behavior towards their son is also very dramatic and almost overly so...Helen did exhibit a few not so bright moments i.e. when she writes down plans that were later easily discovered. FYI: no paper put on a desk or in a drawer is private for goodness sake!!
Gilbert Markham is the gentleman who pursues Helen while she is "independent" and a "widow". I thought that he was a bit immature and did some really stupid things. So I really wasn't a fan. Believing that Helen is seeing someone else, he brutally attacks this individual and causes some pretty serious harm. Later he realizes what a bad call he has made, but by then I have already decided that he is too impulsive and immature for me to fully like. There is some maturation by the end of the book, but I am not sure yet if it is enough for me to decide that I am happy for Helen.
This may be a book that will grow with a second reading in the future.
Cold. Very cold. And as a reader, you are visiting a prison camp in Siberia for only one day. A lifetime or multi-year sentence is hard to process.
Shu...moreCold. Very cold. And as a reader, you are visiting a prison camp in Siberia for only one day. A lifetime or multi-year sentence is hard to process.
Shukhov (Ivan) has been sentenced to a labor camp in Siberia under Stalinist rule. It's a cold, brutal and dark existence. He's a practical man and doesn't spend a lot of time wishing for his past life or family. It is this practical and methodical personality that has allowed him to survive for so long in such tough conditions.
There is a definite social structure in his camp and favors (cigarettes/food) can be bartered for by being smart with relationships. The guards assigned to the camp feel as if they are tired of being there as well and are under the same punishment as the prisoners they are there to watch.
This is a slow read; many small things happen in very few words. Each action and situation is composed of many layers. Is the bread given out to be eaten or saved for a later time? If it is saved, where to keep it so that it isn't stolen? Is it shared, could it be used later for bartering for another better prize? Each day is filled with decisions that impact survival.
It's an uncomfortable book both physically and mentally.
3.5** A major character in this book earns his fortune by drawing scenes on booklets bound together. When they are flipped through, the illustrations c...more3.5** A major character in this book earns his fortune by drawing scenes on booklets bound together. When they are flipped through, the illustrations come to life. It's a picture story with fits and starts depending on the skill of the person flipping the pages.
This feeling of watching a disjointed but continuous story is what Ragtime was to me. Different characters float in and out of the main storylines all adding momentary interest. We are privy to bizarre conversations between JP Morgan and Henry Ford and the muddled thinking of Harry Houdini. This was pretty fascinating in and of itself and for a moment, I could imagine that Doctorow had some secret information about who these people "really" were.
The family at the center is nameless: Father, Mother, and Younger Brother are anyone and everyone who is middle class during a rapidly changing time. They have a real disconnectedness between one another that goes along with their names. Younger Brother is searching for love and purpose and makes his choices to fit his desires. Father is a traveler to remote locations and seems to leave a bit of his personality behind each times he leaves, bringing back less and less of his "real" self.
Mother evolves from a "typical" housewife who waits for her husband to a woman who can call the shots in the relationship. Other characters: Tateh and his daughter, Sarah and Coalhouse and Little Boy add much but are larger than life. I enjoyed each but really couldn't care about them. Exaggerations are hard to relate to.
I liked this novel more than I thought I would but didn't love it. I feel like I need more of a connection although I am sure that Doctorow's intention was to keep it at arm's length for the reader.(less)
Confession time: I was initially hesitant to read this book because I had heard so many criticisms both in person and on-line. I am so glad that I wen...moreConfession time: I was initially hesitant to read this book because I had heard so many criticisms both in person and on-line. I am so glad that I went ahead and gave it a shot. I would have missed out on a great novel otherwise. Haddon does an excellent job of capturing the essence of the main character, Christopher Boone. I am always impressed when an author can make me believe that he/she has lived an experience and I get totally absorbed into the story.
Although the book doesn't specifically state it, the main character has a form of Aspergers. Christopher is brilliant when it comes to mathematics but he lacks social skills and does not like to be touched. He is hyper focused on specific rituals and is absorbed by colors and patterns.
The book is a fairly quick read. Christopher is a 15-year old who 'investigates' the death of his neighbor's dog and discovers family secrets and how complicated human relationships can be in the process, although it really can't change how he processes his thoughts. Christopher is a black and white thinker and it shows in how he makes decisions around relationships. Although brilliant in practical matters, such as math and science, he lacks the ability to see how we all need to adjust and adapt to the subtleties that define human relationships. Human motivations are a total mystery to him. My heart went out to Christopher's parents; the difficulty in loving a child who judges so definitively must be ever so difficult since we (as parents) are not perfect and continuously make mistakes. It's a lot to think about.
One thing that I thought was different in this book are the illustrations the author provides as Christopher explains his reasoning/thinking. I am not especially great in mathematics but I could actually follow along and found it a great way to share in his thinking.
Thank you Sera for the buddy-read; this was on my list for quite a while! (less)
This is a very tough book for me to review since I don't feel like I have gotten the full experience of Proust's writing. After finishing the last pag...moreThis is a very tough book for me to review since I don't feel like I have gotten the full experience of Proust's writing. After finishing the last page, I knew that this is a book to be read not only once but several times. There are many subtle references and connections I know I missed.
My strategy going in was to read it for the story and not to worry about interpretations or how the writing was constructed. For me, it was easier to read it on my Kindle so that I could highlight a word or phrase and then instantly Google it. Very handy.
I also have to confess that initially I was thinking 'what in the world is the big deal', but once I entered into the world of Swann and Odette I was hooked. The cadence of the story telling is lovely.
One thing is for sure, Proust's influence on writing cannot be underestimated; a great case in point is in the book I am currently reading 1Q84;the heroine of the book is working her way through Proust's work. Fun to watch someone else having the experience. (less)
There's this skirt, see and she's got these jewels that would make a rich man cry. There's been a murder in a dive and the heat is on the trail of che...moreThere's this skirt, see and she's got these jewels that would make a rich man cry. There's been a murder in a dive and the heat is on the trail of cheap hood who's bumped off the manager while looking for his dame Velma Valento. While on the trail of the bird, Marlowe is called by a sucker who is being blackmailed to provide some protection from some goons. The sucker is bumped off and Marlowe is left holding the bag. This leads him to the blond with legs all the way to Canada; the same dame who owns the jewels. There is a killer out there, and it is Marlowe's job to find him (or her).
The Aspern Papers I read first, and it wasn't the kind of storytelling style I enjoy. The writing was choppy and a little hard for me to follow. I fel...moreThe Aspern Papers I read first, and it wasn't the kind of storytelling style I enjoy. The writing was choppy and a little hard for me to follow. I felt the same as I read The Turn ( although the psychological aspects of The Turn are rather fascinating). Many years ago I read Daisy Miller and remember that I wasn't fond of James's style at that time as well.
Outside of the writing, some of the trouble I had with The Aspern Papers is that the main character is rather loathsome and sneaky. His quest for Aspern the poet's lost papers has him seek out the former lover and muse of Aspern, Juliana Bordereau. This nameless young man talks Juliana into renting him rooms in her home in Venice. From there he woos the niece and only companion of Juliana with the purpose of gaining access to those valuable papers. To the end, I hoped that he would not be successful in this quest. Where James does well is in bringing Venice to life; as a reader I could feel the heat, smell the flowers and see the canals.
The battle of the wills between this nameless young man and Juliana is intense. Will he or won't he get his hands on those oh so valuable papers?
This was my second reading of The Turn of the Screw and it is completely rich with hysteria and creepiness. Again we have another nameless narrator relating the story of a governess and her experiences with two children in a remote country home. The governess from the beginning was dramatic and totally convinced that evil was surrounding the pupils in her care and in their home. The two children she is responsible for, Miles and Flora, seem innocent enough but the governess seems to always be on the hunt for evil influences. It is like watching a guilty person pointing the finger at everyone else. When she discovers that the former governess, Miss Jessel and the former manservant of the estate,Quint, were lovers and the primary caretakers of Miles and Flora, all hell breaks lose. There is the implication that these two were inappropriate with the children and it it is all left up to the reader to interpret. By the end I felt like a little bit of crazy turned into a lot of crazy. (less)
How sad and tragic can one book be? So much so that you think about it for days and days.
This is also a member of the “finish it and then pick it up a...moreHow sad and tragic can one book be? So much so that you think about it for days and days.
This is also a member of the “finish it and then pick it up again and start at the beginning” book group. It is like the pain that feels good.
Tragic Ethan Frome; he marries his cousin Zeena just because she is there. I did not like Zeena. She was much too whiny and a dead-weight on the marriage. Zeena eventually developed a strong case of hypochondria, and needed the help of an aide to get along day-to-day. What was interesting was how she made this switch to dependency so rapidly after marrying Ethan. This is where Mattie, Zeena's cousin, comes in. Mattie comes to live with Ethan and Zeena to help out around the house.
Mattie is a breath of fresh air in Ethan’s life. She is young, innocent and attractive, and of course, very much off limits. She has a complicated past and not a lot of options. Slowly Ethan becomes infatuated and then in love with her.
Wharton beautifully lets you live their love and difficult decisions. I am not sure if Ethan is really as trapped as he feels himself to be. Wharton explores this through the story and allows each to decide. Was the love of Ethan and Mattie doomed or were there other options there? The story is dark and cold, just like the winter in the Massachusetts town where they live.
The ending is very Twilight Zonish. The most impossible and long-lasting punishment I have ever read.(less)
This was my second time reading A Tale of Two Cities! The first being in high school. Although there is a lot of detail and very long sentences, these...moreThis was my second time reading A Tale of Two Cities! The first being in high school. Although there is a lot of detail and very long sentences, these two things appeal to me as a reader.
Book One and Book Two set up the novel for a fantastic ending. Social inequality and revenge is at the heart of the story in my opinion and both play out well. Dickens was skillful in showing how dogma even if for the right cause, can sweep up the innocent in a large net.
I admired the attorney, Sydney Carton and was silly enough to hope that in the end his life would be spared. Even though Mrs.Defarge had suffered tremendously in the past, I still could not forgive her ugliness to Lucie and her family. The complete opposites in good and evil.
I missed the humor that often shines through in his other books, but hey, a revolution is serious business. (less)
Very few writers can bring you to the intimate level of familiarity and comfort with the people and times as Steinbeck. I could see, smell and feel Ca...moreVery few writers can bring you to the intimate level of familiarity and comfort with the people and times as Steinbeck. I could see, smell and feel Cannery Row. I have been a fan since The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden when Steinbeck first knocked my socks off.
In Cannery Row, Mack is the leader of a rag tag group of men who really don't mean harm but seem to inadvertently cause it everywhere they go. Much time is spent scheming and planning but not in a terribly malicious way, mostly they focus on getting what they need with the least amount of work possible.
Doc runs the neighborhood lab and is a marine biologist; a stable, kind presence. To show their affection, Mack and his boys decide to throw Doc a surprise party. Good intentions and bad karma equal a disaster. There is a round two for the party- givers which has better results.
The parallel stories of Lee Chong, Dora and Hazel blend in seemlessly and add richness to the main narrative. Although a short read, I took the time to really savor the words. So much in so few pages.
I think it will take me a few days to process this novel. Eliot brilliantly made me feel, care and relate to the characters. The novel follows Maggie...moreI think it will take me a few days to process this novel. Eliot brilliantly made me feel, care and relate to the characters. The novel follows Maggie and her family the Tullivers through happiness, loss and redemption. I absolutely loved Maggie but her striving to goodness drove me crazy. As I said I need more time to wrap my mind around the ending which was so devestating to me.(less)
Eh gads - a time when unbecoming behavior was such a big deal. A slowly unfolding story of a young woman, Lucy Honeychurch, traveling through Italy (w...moreEh gads - a time when unbecoming behavior was such a big deal. A slowly unfolding story of a young woman, Lucy Honeychurch, traveling through Italy (with a chaperone, of course) who encounters an unconventional and socially unacceptable father and son. The pair, Mr. Emerson and George, appeal to Lucy and she finds their views on life/love unrestrained and more real than what society prescribes. Back in England Lucy encounters the Emersons once again but this time as an engaged young woman. I love the subtlety of the story as Lucy breaks out of the societal constraints and terminates her engagement to follow her heart. I would imagine that Lucy was definitely an exception and not the rule during this time period. This was a book that I read slowly, enjoying each line and a true favorite to be re-read. You have to also chuckle a bit with a chapter titled, 'How Miss Bartlett's Boiler Was So Tiresome".(less)
This was such a great read for me. It's a very slow build-up but it is worth it in the end.
I would imagine that most readers generally know the story...moreThis was such a great read for me. It's a very slow build-up but it is worth it in the end.
I would imagine that most readers generally know the story-line: Edmond Dantes is an innocent man framed by his jealous rivals during the anti-Bonaparte paranoia in France. He is accused of being a collaborator and of bringing messages from Napoleon to supporters. Edmond is sent to prison and leaves behind his father and true love, Mercedes.
His life sentence to the Chateau d'If is so well written - the despair, the hope and the change in Edmond is profound and Dumas portrays it all very well. One of the best and most interesting characters is also introduced, Abbe Faria. He brings hope into the darkness. The years in the Chateau change Edmond radically and he escapes with only revenge on his mind.
The rest of the novel is focused on this revenge and each person he seeks to pay back is so intricately studied and followed until the perfect net is cast. As a reader, some of the outcomes feel well deserved, others much less so.
At the beginning I felt like I knew who Edmond was as a character, his feelings and experiences were shared. Once he leaves the Chateau, the tone of the novel changes drastically, the reader is watching a stranger who is cold-hearted and remorseless. I was also sad for Edmond, so much of his life was dedicated to finding and getting his own justice that he does not experience life as a free man to the fullest or share love with a family or partner.
There is much to think about as you read the book and I am looking forward to re-reading it again. Sometimes the best part for me is getting the first impression, understanding the story and then long afterwards, reading and seeing new and important things. The same way I find in an Austen novel, lots of surprises and always a good read.(less)
**spoiler alert** There is so much happening in this story that it will take me days to process. Overall I loved it - my take from seeing other review...more**spoiler alert** There is so much happening in this story that it will take me days to process. Overall I loved it - my take from seeing other reviews is that you either do love it or hate it. It is a fantastical journey into the history and development of the Fabian socialist movement and Arts and Crafts era. There is much to ponder and enjoy.
Although it is packed with details and characters, I for one think all the detail is necessary to carry out the story well.
The novel details the lives of two families: the Wellwoods and the Fludds. The Wellwoods are headed by Olive and Humphrey, both idealists and not strongly connected to reality. Their life together appears to be the perfect combination of beautiful children, a wonderful home and a bohemian lifestyle. Olive writes children's stories for the public and customizes personal stories for each of her seven children. Humphrey also is a writer and lecturer after quitting his job at a bank to preserve his integrity (the one and only time it is shown). The novel begins with Olive on a research jaunt to a museum discovering a runaway boy and transporting him back to their estate. As the reader learns more about this family, the fairy tales conceived by Olive hide and detract from horrible parenting, tragic secrets and lies that flow through the household.
The Fludds are a highly dysfunctional family headed by an artistically but morally challenged potter. Benedict Fludd, his wife and daughters were extremely odd - this family also carries deep and disturbing secrets.
Be warned - there is incest and some heartbreaking moments throughout. I became attached to many of the characters which can be a good and bad thing.
One of the many things that I did not know before reading this book was that many writers of children's books have had their own children lead unhappy lives, many of which ended in suicide. Very ironic that individuals whose job it is to weave beautiful stories often cannot translate that happiness into their own homes.
For me this book was about conforming to social norms and how we act and feel in our day to day lives to fit into what society prescribes. Veronika, a...moreFor me this book was about conforming to social norms and how we act and feel in our day to day lives to fit into what society prescribes. Veronika, a librarian (an awesome job I would imagine!), decides to commit suicide but luckily fails and ends up in an institution for the mentally ill. As she is 'treated' by the hospital's head physician she encounters other patients who are all looking for, but seldom finding, their place in the world.
I loved the dialogue and the opportunity that her 'illness' allowed for her to finally find and express her true self. Viewed as an unstable person allowed for her to voice and act out in ways she (and we as 'normal' individuals) would otherwise never have done.
"If one day I could get out of here, I would allow myself to be crazy. Everyone is indeed crazy, but the craziest are the ones who don't know they're crazy; they just keep repeating what others tell them to."
With this (and an on-going experiment by said head physician) Veronika finds love, acceptance and her true voice.(less)