I enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express, but my enjoyment of it was both tempered and increased by having seen the PBS Masterpiece Theatre version of iI enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express, but my enjoyment of it was both tempered and increased by having seen the PBS Masterpiece Theatre version of it a few weeks prior to reading the book. I was surprised and disappointed by things that differed between the two versions but, overall, it was an excellent book. It would have been even more enjoyable and suspenseful had I not known the resolution....more
I've now read this book twice--once for a school report and the second time as an independent choice--and I feel that I can comment on it in a much moI've now read this book twice--once for a school report and the second time as an independent choice--and I feel that I can comment on it in a much more informed manner this second time around. I'll admit that I wasn't completely sold on it the first time I read it. What with the pressure of school and other external life pressures, I simply couldn't immerse myself fully in Forster's world.
But this time was different. I took my time reading the novel and I truly enjoyed it--and although I'm still a bit confused about certain aspects, I feel that I understand it a bit better now.
The overarching--and nearly overwhelming--theme of the novel is spelled out by the epigraph immediately prior to the book's commencement: "only connect." This simply statement is presented to the reader as no more than a single line of only two words beneath the title (at least in my edition). The beauty of this simply statement, admonition, and piece of advice becomes clear as the novel and the characters' lives unravel. If only Margaret, Helen, Tibby, Mr. Wilcox, etc. would learn to connect with others better--is Forster's advice as simply as that? Or is his suggestion that greater society form connections between distinct groups--but then, is this novel not an example against that?
It's tough to say too much about Howards End without potentially ruining some part of the plot for a yet-to-be reader. But I believe that I can say two things without damaging a reader's experience. First: along with "only connect," the powerful statement "[l]ive in fragments no longer" (p 175) is vital to the novel. Second, although Howards End is a novel of connections and separations and differences, it does adhere to its epigraph in that it shows what can occur when we "only connect" with out fellow human beings. What the reader is left to decide for herself is who in Howards End--or rather, the novel--(a) is the best at doing so and (b) suffers the least from doing so. The conclusion of the novel may seem clear-cut at first but the reader gradually becomes aware that some sort of deep thinking is required to make sense of this ending. I will not spoil another's experience by sharing my own questions and thought process from concluding the novel.
A side note on the qualities of the book besides the plot: Forster has a very distinct voice, and although his style may seem foreign to the modern reader at first, one gradually becomes accustomed to this style (and may even unconsciously imitate it for an online review...) and it makes the novel all the better for this distinct style. The peeks into the characters' minds are fascinating and it is thrilling to see how different examples of humanity react to different events not only in terms of plot, but in the way that Forster describes their thought processes. Also, Forster's language makes for excellent "take-out" quotations--those quotes that one may pull from a novel and apply to other parts of life.
All in all, a fascinating, thought-provoking, perplexing, and satisfying novel....more
**spoiler alert** I haven't quite decided what I think of Anna Karenina. On the one hand, I liked getting an insight into 1870s Russia and all the lit**spoiler alert** I haven't quite decided what I think of Anna Karenina. On the one hand, I liked getting an insight into 1870s Russia and all the little intricacies of such a society--and all the variations and smaller groups within such a society--but at times the plot was too disjointed. It was not simply about Anna; it was about Anna and her brother and his wife and her sister, etc. While this is certainly acceptable if one wants to write a book about all these people, I felt that the novel was written in a manner that excluded this opportunity.
Also, I disliked Tolstoy's high-handed manner of dealing with the various situations and experiences encountered by the characters within the novel. I did not consistently feel a close attachment to all the characters (or even the primary ones) and that bothered me. It was almost as if he was amused by "playing God" with the lives of the characters in Anna Karenina.
The ending in particular bothered me. I understood the decision made by Anna; she truly felt that that was her only possible course of action. But the conclusion of the plot around Levin left me particularly dissatisfied. Initially, I thought that his "ending" would be tied in with Anna's, but in the midst of that, Tolstoy seemed to almost change his mind and make a complete turn-around.
I think the main issue with my satisfaction with Anna Karenina was the differences at the heart of my beliefs and opinions and those of Tolstoy himself. He wrote what he believed and thought; I disagree with his views and, therefore, I disagree with Anna's fate, Levin's end realization, and his overall characterization of Anna. He cast her as a fallen woman; everything that went wrong was her fault. In fact, the only discernible good outcome from her involvement with Vronsky was Kitty being saved from being involved with Vronsky. But then again, who is to say that Kitty and Vronsky would not have been happier that Anna and Vronsky in the end?