This book took me three tries to finish. The first time I picked it up was back in 2010 and I got about three chapters in before my attention wanderedThis book took me three tries to finish. The first time I picked it up was back in 2010 and I got about three chapters in before my attention wandered to other books and never came back. Then in 2012, I tried again. I re-read the same three chapters and then I realized: This book is just TOO LONG. I liked the writing. I liked the characters. It was all very interesting. It was like a Jane Austen novel. But I don't think I could've even kept on with Pride and Prejudice if it was over 900 pages.
So I tried it on audiobook. And that did the trick.
I really did enjoy this book once I found the right medium. Eliot has a brilliant understanding of people, and her characters are rich and very human. She makes clear-sighted observations, and has a talent for clever writing. It is a character study of a small town teetering between tradition and innovation and various people one would find in rural English life.
There's several intertwined plotlines going on:
(1) Dorothea Brooke, a pious and idealistic young woman, who decides to marry the old and ornery Edward Casaubon. Dorothea lives in a time when women couldn't easily take their own place in intellectual life, so she wants to dedicate her life to her husband's intellectual endeavors. She learns too late that Casaubon is not the great scholar he pretends to be, but instead has endless writer's block. Dorothea forms a friendship with Casaubon's nephew, Will Ladislaw, and Casuabon becomes even more harsh and miserly out of jealousy.
(2)Tertius Lydgate, an idealistic young doctor who has ideas about reforming medicine (and it is one of this book's cruel ironies, I think, that Dorothea and Tertius would've complemented each other perfectly but both get trapped in unfulfilling marriages to other people). Tertius falls for Rosamond Vincy, a spoiled beauty who sets her sights on Tertius because he's new and he has aristocratic relatives. Things do not go well. Tertius was one of my favorite characters and I was heartbroken he married someone who was unworthy of him.
(3) Fred Vincy, Rosamund's brother and an irresponsible university student who is expected to pursue a profession in the Church and is resentful about it. He's lazy and a gambler, and lives his life waiting to become rich upon the death of his uncle. He's in love with Mary Garth, a plain and sensible girl who refuses to have Fred until he becomes more responsible. Mary's love and support helps Fred to grow up and find a job he enjoys and flourishes in instead of being the restless layabout he was turning into. Fred/Mary is my absolute favorite storyline, because they are just so good for each other and I love that Mary sees the potential in Fred and supports him to become the man he could be.
The subplots about English politics of the time I could really lose. I'm sure they were very relevant at the time, but now its boring and confusing.
But overall I am very glad I read this, and completely understand why it's a classic. I'm excited about reading more Eliot. ...more
I WANTED to like this a lot more than I did. The only other Dickens I have read was A Tale of Two Cities which was wretched through the first half andI WANTED to like this a lot more than I did. The only other Dickens I have read was A Tale of Two Cities which was wretched through the first half and then beyond incredible for the second half (mostly because Sydney Carton is made of awesome). So I figured Great Expectations would be like that, too.
Unfortunately, it just kind of remained slow. It didn't help that it took me about five months to get through, which means every time I picked it back up I had forgotten characters and plot points. But part of the problem was also that I hated Estella and I hated that Pip was in love with Estella. I mean, why? He never had any reason except that she beautiful and I guess in his village there weren't many other options. And also, with his sudden inheritance Pip doesn't actually DO anything with his life, which I guess was considered the ideal at the time. But I was thinking he'd go to Oxford/Cambridge, go into business, have actual great expectations. But, no, he became just a gentleman and thus led a rather not-great life (which I guess was his Great Expectation).
On the other hand, Dickens is great at creating characters. And when he's not being overly verbose, his writing is pretty beautiful and often clever. ...more
Have you ever wondered what its like to be a prisoner in a gulag (prisoner of war camp, concentration camp, etc.)? This book will take you inside theHave you ever wondered what its like to be a prisoner in a gulag (prisoner of war camp, concentration camp, etc.)? This book will take you inside the life and the mind of such a person and demonstrates admirably and brutally how harsh it is and how much it warps you. Things that would seem like a negative on a regular basis are suddenly minor miracles (a whole 400g of bread! half a cigarette!).
This is a short, direct book. I wouldn't call it entertaining, but it was enlightening and Solzhenitsyn did an impressive job portraying his characters. ...more
A children's classic that really does not feel like a book for children. It has some fun adventures in it, but this is not really a light read. It isA children's classic that really does not feel like a book for children. It has some fun adventures in it, but this is not really a light read. It is more a commentary on society, a la Watership Down and Animal Farm than the lighter children's reads like Winnie-the-Pooh.
There's ideas of class and Englishness in here that I would really love to dissect in a classroom. The characters are both loveable and representations of different types of Englishmen: irascible Mr. Toad, an aristocrat who is jolly and good-humored but also selfish and short-sighted - too easily carried away by his latest obsession; homey Mole, good-natured and a little naive; friendly Ratty, who enjoys messing about with boats and enjoys a life of leisure, but who can be useful and helpful, unlike Toad; and Mr. Badger, an old-school gentleman, gruff but kind. The story and characters are helped along by Grahame's poetic and clever writing.
This was not an un-puttdownable book, but it was pleasant and enjoyable and fulfilling, like a boat ride down a beautiful river on a sunny summer day.
**spoiler alert** Another of those books I thought would be better. It started out strong. But then it kind of died. I mean, when all those quotes tal**spoiler alert** Another of those books I thought would be better. It started out strong. But then it kind of died. I mean, when all those quotes talk about OMG WHAT AN EPIC LOVE STORY!!! and the love story cannot even touch the hem of epicness, something is wrong. I checked to see if all the review blurbs were from men, but some women apparently also fail to know what a real love story is (hint: it’s not a torrid love affair That Society Disapproves Of followed by the woman leaving the man when she gets pregnant and hiding the baby’s existence from him and never seeing him again and Jesus Christ, I realized I just described the (not really romantic) romance in Possession as well! THIS IS A HORRIBLE PLOT LINE THAT SHOULDN’T BE USED ONCE, MUCH LESS TWICE!!!). Ahem. The plotline of Stephen/Isabelle’s daughter was pretty pointless. Also, she was dumb. Her comments about WWI and how shocked (shocked!) she was that battlefields could be in cities and not just on fields made me wonder (1) if she had ever been to school (2) if she was brain dead. And her affair with a married man (the fact that he had a wife was his responsibility, not hers!) did not make me like her any better. As to the WWI part, which is why I think this story gets so much attention...it’s okay. Stephen is pretty much dead inside by this time, and it also causes the story to feel a bit dead. And there’s a lot of jumping around in POVs and I’m sorry, but I just could not keep track of the characters, especially since they kept dying, so it was really hard to care about anyone (Stephen I hated for most of the book, but sadly he lived). There are far superior war books out there (Cold Mountain, for one, handled war and its effects much better, though I hated the female POV in that one). ...more
The first part of the book was amazing and lived up to all the expectations I had of it (though the "flash-fowards" to a grown-up Pi were distractingThe first part of the book was amazing and lived up to all the expectations I had of it (though the "flash-fowards" to a grown-up Pi were distracting and oddly placed). The middle half of the book dragged on a bit long...I began to feel like I was spending the entire 227 days in the boat. Then came the surrealness that was the Frenchman, the island, etc. Was that bit a hallucination? Was that real? Why was it even included? WHAT DOES IT MEAN? That is the kind of thing book club discussion fodder is made of. And then the end of the book REALLY cranks it up a notch by making you question everything you've just read. I don't feel like the book lived up to the promise of the first part but it will stick with me. It's one of those books you just have to discuss with someone and you can't just put down and forget about. ...more
This was a really good book for most of it. A little too wordy, a little slow to get started and Kingsolver cannot write from a five year old's POV asThis was a really good book for most of it. A little too wordy, a little slow to get started and Kingsolver cannot write from a five year old's POV as well as she think she can, but otherwise quite good. But the last 100 pages were completely unnecessary and squandered most of the goodwill I had for this book. I loved Anatole and Leah became my favorite daughter (partly because the rest were annoying, partly because she became awesome by her proximity to Anatole) but the last 100 pages made me sorry I had ever rooted for the two of them as Leah became increasingly sanctimonious and I liked her adult self very little. Basically, Kingsolver stopped writing a novel and just started preaching in the last 100 pages. I get it! Foreign powers effed up Africa! We shouldn't think we know better! The first 300 or so pages showed Kingsolver could get her message across without shoving it down the readers' throats, so it's a shame she felt she had to bludgeon us over the head with it at the end. ...more
I will say this straight out: ghost sex is an almost automatic rating deduction. It didn't work in Grey's Anatomy, it didn't work in The Lovely Bones.I will say this straight out: ghost sex is an almost automatic rating deduction. It didn't work in Grey's Anatomy, it didn't work in The Lovely Bones. It comes off as weird and creepy AND a complete WTF. Other than that, the book was...okay. I liked it in the beginning but it kind of swiftly went downhill from there. I HATED the mother. And maybe her reaction was very human but it didn’t make me like her any better. This book felt treacly. Like it was trying too hard to be a Jodi Picoult novel and came off as more melodramatic than tragic. I think the topic is very powerful, but there has to be an author who has done it better. ...more