War and Peace really has to be one of the very best novels ever written! It has to be in my top-five favorite books too. This was the third time that...moreWar and Peace really has to be one of the very best novels ever written! It has to be in my top-five favorite books too. This was the third time that I have read this wonderful book, and I really enjoyed it ever so much this last time; I savored every word and sentence. You can't help but become swept up in the characters and the stream of history that goes by during the ten years or so that War and Peace encompasses. I really don't understand what scares off so many people from reading this novel. In fact, I didn't want it to end - as though I wanted to see how the characters lived out the rest of their lives. Read this book!(less)
This is a pretty good novel that once started is very hard to put down. It builds, and builds relentlessly to its horrific climax at the end. Dickens...moreThis is a pretty good novel that once started is very hard to put down. It builds, and builds relentlessly to its horrific climax at the end. Dickens paints a bleak and stark picture of the terror that was the early days of the French Revolution. His characters immediately immerse you in a Europe full of spies and friends and foes. The contrast between the goodness of Charles Darnay, and the Manettes, and the evil of the Defarges (especially Madame Therese Defarge!) is striking; and then the ambiguity, for much of the novel, of Sydney Carton. This book is full of moral lessons for all of us, even in this age of globalism. It is so easy for the moral fabric of society to completely breakdown in a matter of days if all of us are not continually vigilant.
I have to say, in closing, that A Tale of Two Cities, in my humble opinion is not one of my favorites. I understand it, and I understand why Dickens wrote it. While this may be heretical to some, I don't find ATOTC as compelling or elegantly sweeping as, for example, Dombey and Son, Little Dorrit, Bleak House, or Our Mutual Friend. (less)
This was a compelling and absorbing novel from the get-go! One that I simply could not put down. I felt like I just wanted to bundle little Jane up an...moreThis was a compelling and absorbing novel from the get-go! One that I simply could not put down. I felt like I just wanted to bundle little Jane up and take good care of her throughout her time at Lowood School (God, what a hellish institution!). This book makes you laugh, and it makes you cry; but it always makes you think. I really enjoyed Charlotte Bronte's expression of, in my opinion, modern feminism throughout the telling of this tale. I am stunned that I have waited this long to read this most beautiful novel; and highly recommend this book. I believe that Jane Eyre, Villette, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are my three favorite Bronte sisters novels. Also, I went out and rented two versions of Jane Eyre film adaptations through Netflix, including the recent BBC production. The earlier William Hurt/Charlotte Gainsborough version was priceless too.(less)
I just finished reading A.S. Byatt’s novel, Possession, again for about the fourth time. It has been several years since I last read it, and I have to...moreI just finished reading A.S. Byatt’s novel, Possession, again for about the fourth time. It has been several years since I last read it, and I have to say that I saw it in a completely new light. It is a literary masterpiece that is exquisitely plotted and written.
This time around I very carefully studied the epigraphs leading off most of the chapters and all of the beautiful poetry included in the text. I don’t know that I gave much more than a cursory glance to the poetry during previous reads. This time though, I focused on Byatt’s poetry and discovered just how much it enriched and influenced the novel’s dual plots.
Regarding the epigraphs, I recommend that the reader carefully study each epigraph before reading the chapter; and then upon finishing the chapter, go back and read it again and see if you correctly figured out the true meaning of it. There are little puzzles and clues throughout the entire novel, most of them residing within the poetry sections.
This is a beautiful love story, achieving a level of romantic passion, emotion, and anguish like that of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but with the Byronic or Gothic touches of the Bronte sisters. It is clear, to me, why Byatt was awarded the Booker Prize for Possession in 1990; and that this novel is clearly destined to be a classic work of literature.(less)
Following on the heels of the "five-star" "The Nutmeg of Consolation," I am giving this, the 15th volume in the Aubrey-Maturin series, a solid 4.5 sta...moreFollowing on the heels of the "five-star" "The Nutmeg of Consolation," I am giving this, the 15th volume in the Aubrey-Maturin series, a solid 4.5 stars. This 'chapter' of the canon continues the voyage of HMS Surprise in the Pacific Ocean following her departure from New South Wales, Australia. We meet the beautiful and mysterious Clarissa Harvill, and become aware of the influence and affects that her presence aboard the ship have on her crew. Miss Harvill helps Stephen Maturin clear up a mystery that has played such an important role in the preceding four or five volumes too. Finally, the reader accompanies Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin as they visit the Hawaiian Islands to deal with French and American intrigues. A wonderful, erudite, and eminently readable addition from the pen of Patrick O'Brian.(less)
The last completed novel in Patrick O'Brian's superb Aubrey-Maturin series of seafaring novels set in the early 19th century. This installment has it...moreThe last completed novel in Patrick O'Brian's superb Aubrey-Maturin series of seafaring novels set in the early 19th century. This installment has it all: a bit of the home-front with the families of Jack and Stephen; a long voyage across the Atlantic and around Cape Horn and into the Pacific; battles ashore and at sea; and the fascinating politics and espionage associated with nation-building in the budding South American republics; and we finally find out if Captain Jack Aubrey will be allowed to hoist his blue ensign as a Rear Admiral. Whilst I've not read 21: The Final Voyage of Jack Aubrey, the book unfinished by O'Brian before his death in early 2000, I felt that Blue at the Mizzen proved to be a very satisfactory and ultimately quite satisfying conclusion to this brilliant canon of great literature. Jack and Stephen will always be sailing on in my imagination -- Just as it should be!(less)
I have to say reading this novel resulted in a bit of a shock to me. Patrick O'Brian uses deus ex machina to address some apparent 'loose ends,' and I...moreI have to say reading this novel resulted in a bit of a shock to me. Patrick O'Brian uses deus ex machina to address some apparent 'loose ends,' and I shan't say anything further to spoil it for the reader. Superbly plotted and deftly written, "The Hundred Days" refers to the period of time between Napoleon's escape from exile on Elba to his subsequent defeat on the battlefield of Waterloo in June 1815 by the Allies. In that same time frame, our intrepid Royal Navy Captain, Jack Aubrey, now made Commodore, is gallivanting about the Mediterranean Sea harassing French ships and ports; whilst Stephen Maturin is involved in some sensitive diplomatic and intelligence activities in Algiers, mixed in with his usual bit of bird-watching and 'botanizing.' There's even some lion-hunting; and, of course, lots of exciting naval action too. An excellent and most worthy addition to this sublime series.(less)
I know that some might be tempted to label this, the sixth installment in the 'Aubreyiad,' to be "slow." In actuality, this novel is one of the most b...moreI know that some might be tempted to label this, the sixth installment in the 'Aubreyiad,' to be "slow." In actuality, this novel is one of the most brilliantly crafted and erudite novels written in the English language. Like pealing an onion, the reader discovers in the layers that Patrick O'Brian has not only provided some incredible naval action with the great guns and all; but has also taken the opportunity to provide a significant amount of backstory and extensive character development associated with both Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. O'Brian does it via Jack's and Stephen's 'personal reminiscence, and as Jack and Stephen exchange stories whilst prisoners of war. A very clever literary device masterfully executed.
It was interesting to experience the cunning of Stephen in his role as intelligence agent too. One can't help but be caught up in the excitement and anticipation as Stephen deals with the fledgling American and very deadly skillful French intelligence services; while at the same time trying to rescue the beautiful and headstrong Diana Villiers. Finally, the reader is given the 'bonus' of the showdown between U.S.S. Chesapeake and H.M.S Shannon, in a brilliant description of two frigates mauling each other yard-arm to yard-arm.
This is a dangerous and heady brew that Patrick O'Brian has served up in the pages of The Fortune of War; and, oh, so wonderful to partake in from the first page to the last. I loved this book!(less)
H.M.S. Surprise will always be one of my favorites of O'Brian's twenty completed volumes in the Aubrey-Maturin series; and the reason is that it is wh...moreH.M.S. Surprise will always be one of my favorites of O'Brian's twenty completed volumes in the Aubrey-Maturin series; and the reason is that it is where we first meet the "bluff, weatherly, and stout" little frigate Surprise. Surprise, her crew, Captain Jack Aubrey, and the ship's doctor, Stephen Maturin embark on a long voyage to delivery His Majesty's Envoy, the elderly and frail Mr. Stanhope, to the East Indies, with stops in India, and interspersed with some terrific naval actions at sea.
One of the most riveting examples of combat/tactical sailing maneuvers I've ever encountered is superbly described by Patrick O'Brian on pp. 288-298. The naval action that follows, to a large degree, mirrors the real-life naval battle of Pulo Aura of 15 February 1804; which pitted French Admiral Linois's squadron's attack upon the East India Company's annual China Fleet convoy. Somehow O'Brian, in this passage, has made hundreds of square miles of open ocean and the tactical movements of the French squadron and Jack's Surprise unfold like a new leaf for all to see and easily understand. I found myself almost holding my breath as I read it. Very exciting stuff!
Also, throughout the novel we are again treated to O'Brian's brilliant writing associated with the growing love-relationships between Jack and Sophie, and that between Stephen and Diana Villiers. H.M.S. Surprise is a most worthy addition to this grand historical fiction series!(less)
This was a wonderful novel in the superb Aubrey-Maturin series! Like O'Brian's second novel in the series, Post Captain, much of this novel takes plac...moreThis was a wonderful novel in the superb Aubrey-Maturin series! Like O'Brian's second novel in the series, Post Captain, much of this novel takes place ashore and, in my opinion, also pays magnificent homage to the writing of Jane Austen. This episode focuses on the family doings involving the Aubrey's and Maturin's whilst staying at Jack Aubrey's Woolcombe home. The reader is much exposed to what English country life meant in the early 19th century. Dr. Stephen Maturin is able to spend time with his little daughter, Brigid, and wife, Diana. For the first time, all of the Aubrey and Maturin families are able to take a leisurely voyage aboard Surprise with all of Jack and Stephen's shipmates to the Island of Madeira; there only to learn that Napoleon has escaped from exile on Elba. A most worthy addition to the series!(less)
This is a tight novel that covers a lot of ground (and ocean). The novel starts in Halifax, Nova Scotia shortly after H.M.S. Shannon's victory over th...moreThis is a tight novel that covers a lot of ground (and ocean). The novel starts in Halifax, Nova Scotia shortly after H.M.S. Shannon's victory over the U.S.S. Chesapeake in Massachusetts Bay during the War of 1812. Then we experience a thrilling sea chase across much of the North Atlantic as Jack Aubrey, Stephen Maturin, and Diana Villiers are pursued by an American intelligence agent. After some time at home with his family at Ashgrove Cottage, Jack is again given a command on an important mission into the Baltic Sea that requires every bit of Jack's seamanship, luck, and courage to complete.
Unfortunately, near the end of the mission, Jack is forced to run his crippled ship onto the French shore, and he and his crew are imprisoned. The French intelligence service is now onto Stephen and his role as an intelligence for the Admiralty; and this leads to some tense and dramatic action as Jack and Stephen try and avoid disaster (and rescue Diana Villiers too!). The novel ends with quite the surprising twist too.
This was truly a page-turner from the get-go. A very, very well-written addition to the canon.(less)
This is the second in the twenty completed volumes of the Aubrey-Maturin canon, and one of the best too. While first book, Master and Commander, kicke...moreThis is the second in the twenty completed volumes of the Aubrey-Maturin canon, and one of the best too. While first book, Master and Commander, kicked off the series with terrific writing and action, this volume really develops the characters in a most Austenesque fashion (and has its fair share of action and adventure too). In Post Captain we truly come to know and care for Jack Aubrey, Stephen Maturin, Sophie Williams, Barret Bonden, and Preserved Killick, and a whole raft of other great characters. Jack Aubrey has his ups and downs during the course of the novel, but the good-hearted fellow makes well in the end. O'Brian does a masterful job of placing the reader in the age and the minds of these marvelous characters; one simply finds oneself turning page after page after page as one voyages on with Captain Aubrey and his shipmates! I cannot recommend this series highly enough!(less)
From the start this book just grabs you and off you go with Elinor and Marianne. As a younger man, I was always somewhat frightened, and even intimida...moreFrom the start this book just grabs you and off you go with Elinor and Marianne. As a younger man, I was always somewhat frightened, and even intimidated, to read Jane Austen; although I certainly don't know why now. I read "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility" many years ago, and enjoyed them immensely; but never continued with the rest of her canon. Now that I am much older, I have since corrected that terrible mistake and have read all of her works, several times, and in the order written.
With "Sense and Sensibility" I was immediately captivated with Austen's deft plotting, character development, and prose style. "Sense and Sensibility" is a beautiful, timeless novel portraying that ever so foreign and mysterious relationship that exists between sisters regarding life, family, and the loves in their lives. It is easy, very easy, to get lost in this world of life and love that Jane Austen presents for us in "Sense and Sensibility." While I love all of Jane Austen's novels, I'd have to say that "Persuasion", "Emma", and "Sense and Sensibility" are clearly my top three.(less)
This is a wonderful, high-quality, edition of the six novels, and the epistolary novella, "Lady Susan". While it weighs a couple of pounds, it is the...moreThis is a wonderful, high-quality, edition of the six novels, and the epistolary novella, "Lady Susan". While it weighs a couple of pounds, it is the version to throw in the car, or take on the airplane, when traveling. It'd make a great gift for the 'Janeites' in your life too!(less)