Finally I can say I have read all of Jane Austen's long novels! I still haven't read Lady Susan, but I've hit the big six. I've long loved Pride and PFinally I can say I have read all of Jane Austen's long novels! I still haven't read Lady Susan, but I've hit the big six. I've long loved Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey, but only had exposure to Mansfield Park through the rather good ITV adaptation that showed in 2007, starring Billie Piper, of Doctor Who fame.
This novel isn't really talked about or read by people who aren't die-hard English literature lovers, and I can kind of see why. The main character, Fanny, is not witty and strong-willed like Elizabeth Bennett, or romantic and dramatic like Marianne Dashwood, or vivacious and charming like Emma Woodhouse. Instead, she is rather prudish and retiring, suffers from ill health, and defers to her domineering relatives in every way. This is because she has been taught from a young age that her opinions don't matter, and her desires and feelings must always come last in the family. She is a poor relation of a very wealthy family, and she knows her place. Therefore, her inner thoughts usually revolve around disapproving of someone else's impropriety or bad behavior, and chastising herself for being critical or acting above her station.
I did find some of Fanny's mannerisms to be a bit annoying, as it does feel like she complains quite a bit throughout the novel. But she also proves to be incredibly kind and selfless when it comes to her family, especially her Aunt Bertram. She is also deeply in love with her cousin, Edmund, who is himself infatuated with a newcomer. Mary Crawford, in the area to visit her sister, has brought her brother Henry with her. Between the two of them, they almost turn Mansfield Park upside down. In addition to Edmund and Mary's courtship, there's an intrigue between Maria Bertram, Julia Bertram, and Henry Crawford. But before long, Henry decides to make Fanny fall in love with him. This plan pretty much backfires on him, as he falls in love with her, but she has no positive feelings towards him whatsoever. Rejected by Fanny, Henry vows to love her forever, but his true nature comes through and he ends up eloping with Maria, even though she is a married woman.
In terms of plot, this novel really has a lot, but in between exciting events, there's a lot of time devoted to Fanny's inner thoughts, as well as speeches by various characters. Austen really seems to have used this book to espouse some of her thoughts on conservatism versus modernism, preferring the former. I very much enjoyed listening to this novel as narrated by Juliet Stevenson. She did an excellent job, and I loved her soft, even voice giving life to the many vibrant characters. ...more
I have very few positive things to say about this book. I'm going to gloss over them quickly so I can get to the fun part: mocking this frankly awful,I have very few positive things to say about this book. I'm going to gloss over them quickly so I can get to the fun part: mocking this frankly awful, but somehow still entertaining book.
It has been a few weeks since I read this book, and I've actually forgotten most of the "plot". I see this as a positive because I no longer have the stupidities and mind-numbing prose in my mind. In the interest of writing a proper review though, I will go to wikipedia to refresh my memory.
Ah yes, according to wikipedia, "[Eclipse] continues the story of Bella Swan and her vampire love, Edward Cullen. The novel explores Bella's choice between her love for Edward and her friendship with werewolf Jacob Black, along with her dilemma of leaving mortality behind in a terrorized atmosphere, a result of mysterious vampire attacks in Seattle."
Right, so the things I liked about the book.
1. Meyer actually addressed some of the mythology quibbles I'd had about the werewolves in previous books. Even though the Quileute legends were silly and borderline insulting, she did manage to explain that the wolves only surfaced in those with the right bloodlines when their mortal enemies, vampires, were nearby. I thought this was a neat explanation as to why Jacob was a werewolf but his wheelchair-ridden father was not.
2. Jasper's life story, though convoluted and ill-told, was rather interesting and game dimensions to the rather boring character. I particularly liked the idea of warring vampire factions in the South. Of course, I also liked them in True Blood and I'm pretty sure Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels came first.
That's it, the only two things I liked about the book, and they're both to do with relatively minor characters. The rest of the book was alternately mind-numbingly boring and atrociously awful in terms of writing, plot, and characterization. I hated what happened to Jacob and Leah Clearwater. Throughout the course of the book, Jacob becomes this possessive, jealous bastard who is willing to assault Bella to try and show her how he feels. Bella doesn't put up with the pushiness, but she doesn't do a very good job of choosing between Jacob and Edward, her sparkly, emo vamp boyfriend. Leah's treatment is even more reprehensible. She starts out as a glum young woman, and ends up a glum young werewolf. The rest of the tribe isn't intrigued or impressed by the fact that she's the first recorded female werewolf. Instead, Jacob and the pack complain about how her ugly thoughts and jealousy pollute the communal mind. In my opinion, Bella and Leah act just the same when it comes to their men. The only difference is that Leah's insecurity and anger is heard. So she is hated while Bella is revered. It left a bad taste in my mouth and made me wonder if Meyer hates every woman besides her precious Bella.
Also, I was disappointed by Meyer's continuation of including references to literature that she doesn't really understand. In this case, the classic novel Wuthering Heights is unfairly picked on. It's obvious that Bella is supposed to be Catherine, never able to choose between Edgar Linton and Heathcliff (it's unclear who Jacob and Edward are respectively, one can make good cases for both). But that is where the apt connections end. Catherine's defining character trait is her absolute selfishness (Heathcliff being an extension of herself) and all of the bad things in the novel occur as a direct result of her and Heathcliff's utter disdain for others and the consequences of their actions. The parallels in Eclipse simply don't hold water. Bella thinks her actions stem from selfishness, but I'd argue that they come more from her indecision, stupidity, and self-destructive tendencies.
I watched the "Twilight" movies shortly after finishing this book, and I must say the movies do a far better job than the books. Events are tightened up, we are spared Bella's hateful inner monologues and ramblings about Edward's beauty. They also showed the action of the vampire coven and the final confrontation, both of which were rather cool. ...more
I almost gave this book three stars instead of two for a few improvements it had over the first book, namely:
1) There is actually something of a plotI almost gave this book three stars instead of two for a few improvements it had over the first book, namely:
1) There is actually something of a plot throughout.
The book starts with the Cullens throwing Bella a birthday party, which she moans and complains about because she's an ungrateful cow. At the party, she accidentally cuts herself and Edward's adoptive brother Jasper nearly kills her in a violent attempt to drink her blood. Edward then realizes what danger he's putting his one true love into and leaves town forever. Once he leaves, Bella falls into an all-encompassing depression that only lifts when she starts hanging out with Jacob, who turns out to be a werewolf... somehow. Then, Bella literally becomes suicidal. Edward takes off to Italy and finds a den of very Anne Rice-esque vampires who all have inexplicably different powers to commit suicide himself. It is all extraordinarily melodramatic.
2) The werewolf mythos is actually kind of interesting. They can turn into wolves at any time, and vampire powers go haywire around them. I only wish Meyer had explained why Jacob and his friends suddenly become werewolves. There was no indication that Forks had ever had infestations of giant wolves ever before, yet Jacob explicitly says he inherited his werewolf blood.
3) Bella and Jacob have something that is close to an actual friendship and an almost romance. They get along well together, crack jokes, and support each other. Compared with Bella and Edward's relationship, where all they do is clutch at each other, have intense mood swings, and smell each other, it is vastly more vibrant and interesting.
These improvements, however, still did nothing to hide the fact that Meyer's writing was still atrocious and did nothing to endear Bella to me. I was so disappointed that she falls apart when Edward leaves her. Yes, he may be her "true love," but they'd only known each other for a year, and been romantically involved for a few months. That is not enough time to have such a strong and anguished reaction.
I also hate the fact that Bella is so eager to leave everything and everyone behind to become a vampire and stay with Edward forever. She hates the idea of turning 18 because then she will be "older" than Edward, who is eternally 17. She fails to realize that Edward only looks 17. His consciousness is over 100 years old. If the exterior matched the interior, you can bet Bella wouldn't be falling over herself to call him "Adonis" and letting her heart stop because they kiss.
Unfortunately, I have let myself fall into the Twilight trap. I'm invested, I'm going to have to read the other two books, and maybe even the novella. As Bella would say, holy crow. ...more
Stephen King said this about Twilight: "Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. ... The real difference is that Jo RowlingStephen King said this about Twilight: "Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. ... The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."
I can't help but agree.
Meyer's writing in this "novel" (I'm more inclined to call it glorified fan fiction) sounds so much like a 17 year-old that I would be impressed if I thought she was doing it on purpose. As it is, Bella Swan seems to me to be thing single most unlikeable and pathetic protagonist of any book I've ever read. She complains about everything in her life, is self-deprecating, ludicrously imbalanced and clumsy, often depressed, and cruelly sarcastic to those around her. Yet she is loved by everyone who comes her way, and especially by Edward "the Sullen" Cullen.
I don't know how I feel about Edward. Oh wait, yeah I do. He's a little shit. He supposedly falls in love with dull Bella, and he knows that she's borderline erotomanic for him. Most importantly, he knows that he is a danger to her because he is a flipping blood-sucking vampire who thirsts for her blood. Edward claims Bella's blood is alternately flower-like and mouthwatering. I guess vampires like munching on daisies in between pints of blood. In any case, he says he cannot resist her and even climbs into her bedroom to watch her sleep.
What's Bella's response to these revelations of stalking, hunger, and felony? She's pleased, but doesn't think she deserves the honor of Edward's ocher-tinted, loving gaze. Gross.
Beyond its bad characterization and even more atrocious grammar, this book fails at creating an interesting and compelling world. I do not want to live in Bella's Forks, or indeed, Bella's universe. I do not want to live in a world where vampires sparkle, drink from animals, play baseball, and are well nigh invincible. The power and interest of the common vampire story is that vampires are dangerous and evil, but ultimately defeatable, once one finds their weakness. Even with their inexplicably different magical powers, these water-downed and neutered vampires bore me. Bella bores me.
So why did I read this book? My friends who like it got tired of me making fun of it even though I hadn't read it. Well, now I have ammunition galore, so brace yourselves girls!...more
No offense to Mr. Shakespeare, but I think Heathcliff and Cathy, and not Romeo and Juliet, are the definitive star-crossed lovers of the Western literNo offense to Mr. Shakespeare, but I think Heathcliff and Cathy, and not Romeo and Juliet, are the definitive star-crossed lovers of the Western literary tradition. Nothing in their lives allows them to be together, not society, not circumstances, not even themselves. Also, their love is destructive to both themselves and those around them, just as star-crossed love ought to be.
I won't provide a summary of this novel, as it is so well-known and well-read. For good reason too. The language in this book is at times so passionate, dark, and alive. It's fascinating to read about how much Heathcliff and Cathy feel about each other at every moment. Their speeches of devotion and all-consuming love make similar speeches made by Mr. Darcy and Romeo pale in comparison.
One other thing I particularly enjoyed about the novel was its framing narrative. The tragic story of Heathcliff, Catherine Earnshaw, and their progeny, is told through Ellen Dean, housekeeper at Wuthering Heights. Her story is in turn told through Mr. Lockwood, a resident at Thrushcross Grange, the former home of Heathcliff's mortal enemy, Edgar Linton. These layers of narrative cloaked the story and made it more interesting. Instead of a straight narration, the story is told through the biased eyes of Nelly Dean, who influences so many major events.
I've read some criticism of Wuthering Heights that names Nelly as the true villain of the piece. The articles claim that her real part in the story is someone who purposefully engineers and manipulates the others to create conflict and strife. I'm not sure if I agree with this interpretation, but it certainly sheds a different light on certain moments.
What made reading this book a true pleasure for me was listening to Juliet Stevenson's narration. She brilliantly brought each character to life through the use of accents and subtle shifts in tone and voice. Her reading was even and smooth, placing just the right amount of emphasis on each word. ...more
In many ways, this book tells an exceedingly simple story. Boy becomes orphan, boy runs away, boy meets girl, girl is married, etc, etc. What makes thIn many ways, this book tells an exceedingly simple story. Boy becomes orphan, boy runs away, boy meets girl, girl is married, etc, etc. What makes the book more unique though, is the setting, namely a failing Depression-era circus. Before reading the book, I was excited to learn more about the ways of the circus, and I'm sorry to say that I finished the book knowing little more than I had before. Gruen includes some great moments that were based in truth, like an elephant who pulls her stake out to get lemonade, and then casually sticks the stake back in.
However, those moments were few and far between. A greater percentage of time is spent on the protagonist, Jacob, and his inner turmoil. For Jacob has done the forbidden thing, and fallen in love with the wife of his boss. Her name is Marlena and she rides the Liberty Horses. Jacob has other problems, his roommate, a dwarf named Walter, hates him. What is a Polish-Jewish college dropout to do?
I'm not convinced that Gruen did a great job writing in Jacob's voice. I found it difficult to follow his line of logic. There are scenes of pure action Gruen throws in that distract completely from the plot and that are not written particularly well. I never really connected with the Jacob or Marlena, and though Gruen makes a big deal of circus camaraderie among the crew, I was hard-pressed to feel it come through her characterization.
Without spoiling the ending, I found it quite disappointing and unrealistic. I was expecting tragedy, and it ended in... mediocrity. Though I enjoyed reading this book, I can only recommend it to others as a beach read. ...more