This is a novel that lulls you into a state of complete and blissful immersion in Trollope's fascinating borough of Barsetshire. This is the story of...moreThis is a novel that lulls you into a state of complete and blissful immersion in Trollope's fascinating borough of Barsetshire. This is the story of a country doctor, the eponymous Doctor Thorne, and his lovely niece, Mary Thorne, and of their interactions with the landed 'Old World' gentry and the nouveau riche. While this is certainly a novel about romance, it is also a hard and critical social commentary directed at class differences and manners. This novel explores the old adage that "money is the root of all..."
Frankly, I've come to realize that Anthony Trollope is simply one hell of story-teller, and with this tale I'd swear that the shade of Jane Austen was perched over his shoulder as he wrote Doctor Thorne. It has a Dickensian cast of characters without the grotesque or patently comedic, and actually ends up leaving the reader with the sense that this was probably a fairly accurate portrayal of life in rural Victorian England.
While Doctor Thorne is included within Trollope's series, The Chronicles of Barsetshire, it stands alone quite nicely, and there are even a few characters from his later series, The Pallisers, that briefly appear in the tale. In sum, this is a terrific novel that engages the reader right from the start and then rollicks along to its very satisfying conclusion. I highly recommend Trollope's Doctor Thorne and look forward to picking this up again for a reread sometime in the future. (less)
This is an absolutely indispensable and priceless book. You can skip about and fall in love with each and every chapter in this book! So incredibly en...moreThis is an absolutely indispensable and priceless book. You can skip about and fall in love with each and every chapter in this book! So incredibly enlightening. Gilbert is brilliant!(less)
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was a superb novel! It had a gripping plot that grabbed me from the first page and didn't let up until the last page. I li...moreThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall was a superb novel! It had a gripping plot that grabbed me from the first page and didn't let up until the last page. I liked the narrative style of the novel too. Anne Bronte uses the perspectives of her two primary protagonists, Mr. Gilbert Markham, and Mrs. Helen Graham, extraordinarily effectively through the use of diary entries and correspondence.
It seems to me that Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall addresses some very profound issues that women of all ages have faced in marriages, especially that of patriarchy and abuse. I truly believe that while this novel has some very dark, almost Gothic, undertones; Bronte has, in my opinion, written a novel that puts forth a powerful moral message and empowers women to make those difficult decisions that are best for themselves and their children. Anne also has her heroine taking up her brushes, paints and canvas in order to make money to support herself and her son--a thoroughly shocking notion for a woman of gentility to embark upon. Toward that end, I think that this book is an excellent example of early-Victorian proto-feminist writing.
To me The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is as emotionally captivating a novel as Charlotte's Jane Eyre or Villette and it may just be even more artfully crafted than those as well. It intrigues me that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall seems to always be overshadowed by Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, but then that seems to be how Anne was with her sisters--she was the quiet one. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an important book, and one that I will read again and again.(less)
Normally I don't really pay a hell of a lot of attention to the ratings given by others to the books that I read, but I couldn't help but notice that...moreNormally I don't really pay a hell of a lot of attention to the ratings given by others to the books that I read, but I couldn't help but notice that a goodly number of my Goodreads 'friends' have read Neil Gaiman's Coraline, and they either loved it (4-5 stars), or thought it was a real stinker (1-2 stars). I'm in the 'loved-it' camp--quite solidly, actually.
This beautiful little book can, and should, appeal to readers of all ages, including my precocious and intelligent seven year-old grandson (who, by the bye, is reading The Hobbit now). This little fairytale is all about the notion of "the grass is not always greener on the other side"; courage and fidelity to one's beliefs; the love of family and friends; and most importantly perhaps, that one must stand up and fight injustice whenever it is encountered. Little Coraline does all of this in spades. In short, this little girl is my hero.
As a bit of a sidenote, something else that I've noticed is that Gaiman has a thing for doors, doesn't he? Hmmm...Think about it. In his novel Stardust there is a gate to Faerie; and in Neverwhere the young woman, Door, is able to find, open, and pass through doors that are portals to other planes and places; and then our own Coraline and the 'fourteenth' door in her parents' flat that opens upon the alternate world of her "other Mother" and "other Father" and some other creepy doings.
Being the father of two beautiful daughters, this little tale cast me back to the days of watching their inquisitive natures and insatiable curiosities as they began exploring the world around them and the people they encountered. So, while there are some superb moral lessons for children in this book, there are an equal number of lessons for the parents and grandparents of children too. Foremost is to pay attention to and unconditionally love our children, and in so doing that is likely enough to prevent them from seeking out or, worse yet, actually finding a set of "other parents" behind the "fourteenth door".
Coraline is a wonderful little book to pass around to all of the adults and children in your life.(less)
I finished Neverwhere over a three-day period while on Christmas vacation, and loved every moment and every word. In my humble opinion, Neil Gaiman is...moreI finished Neverwhere over a three-day period while on Christmas vacation, and loved every moment and every word. In my humble opinion, Neil Gaiman is the undisputed master of the 'modern British fairytale'. He is a sorcerer with words as he successfully weaves new twists and turns into the fables and fairytales that we've all probably encountered over the course of our lives. Neverwhere is a brilliant story that looks at the 'other' world below modern London--the world of abandoned 'Tube' stations, trains from odd places and going odd places, ancient sewer systems and its denizens--in other words, the 'Land of Faerie' in an urban setting.
The story's protagonist, Richard Mayhew, falls through the cracks and emerges into this other London, and is immediately thrust into an epic adventure with a Dickensian cast of characters. The adventure rapidly turns into a titanic struggle between the forces of Good and Evil (and the Evil forces are really quite horrifyingly awful). Like most, if not all, of Gaiman's protagonists, Richard Mayhew has to dig deep within himself to find his courage, but once he commits himself he is a stolid and reliable friend to the young woman, Door, who is in desperate need of his help. I dare not say more about the plot, other than I loved this book immensely and I simply loved the ending--it was perfect! Neverwhere is a marvelous, marvelous novel.(less)
I loved this little book! What a wonderful reimagination of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Neil Gaiman is just a born story-teller, and The Gravey...moreI loved this little book! What a wonderful reimagination of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Neil Gaiman is just a born story-teller, and The Graveyard Book is such a terrific example of his talents. While there is a touch of horror and macabre in the book, it is very much a book that should appeal to young readers as well as adults. It is also lavishly illustrated by the author-artist Audrey Niffenegger which adds ever so much to the tale.
The premise of The Graveyard Book is of a mysterious man who slays three members of a family, but the fourth member--an 18-month old little baby boy--toddles off in the night and ends up in an old graveyard. He is adopted by the 'residents'--all dead themselves--who range in age from Roman times up to the present. He is taken in and 'raised' by a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, who've been dead for something like 300 years, and is named "Nobody Owens" (nick-named "Bod"). Bod also has a living caretaker, 'Silas', that provides for his material needs whilst keeping him safe as he lives and grows up on the grounds of the cemetery. Bod is in the unique position of being able to essentially cross-walk, if you will, between the land of the living and that of those dead and residing in the cemetery. Cleverly, Bod is given a basic education from former teachers (who are now permanent residents in the cemetery), via sending him out to practice his reading of English and Latin by studying the plethora of headstones in the cemetery. Bod also learns some nifty little survival tactics, like how to haunt and fade, from all of his dead 'family' and 'friends', and this serves him very well as the mysterious man is still earnestly looking for Bod in order to finish the job. Bod also begins to learn more about his protectors Silas and Miss Lupescu.
Like much of Gaiman's fiction, The Graveyard Book is a quick read, but the plot and the writing are immensely satisfying. There are all sorts of allusions and references to fairy tales and bits of folklore scattered throughout the book that, taken together, truly cements Gaiman's reputation as a master story-teller in our modern age. The Graveyard Book is a story that I'd love to see somebody (i.e., like Tim Burton, maybe?) endeavor to bring to the 'big screen', as it such a wonderful, wonderful story from start-to-finish.
This is an elegant and poignant little novel, and is truly one of the very best books that I've read this year. Gaiman is a brilliant story-teller, an...moreThis is an elegant and poignant little novel, and is truly one of the very best books that I've read this year. Gaiman is a brilliant story-teller, and this is a tale for the ages. Stardust is a story that has the feel and threads of a fairytale that has been handed down and greatly loved through the generations. There is something in this beautiful and compelling story that re-galvanizes one's faith in the good-heartedness of most people, and that Fate and Chance can also work for good.
You'll note that I am not sharing one jot about the plot of this tale, as I don't want to influence you other than to simply say that it is my humble wish that each and every person read Stardust at some point during their lives, and maybe bring a little extra Magic and Love into their hearts and souls. Upon finishing this lovely little story you simply can't help but look at the world around you just a little differently, and that'll be a mighty fine thing, I think.(less)
I rather enjoyed this slim novel. If you've read Homer's Iliad and have any interest, whatsoever, about the historical aspects of the discovery of Tro...moreI rather enjoyed this slim novel. If you've read Homer's Iliad and have any interest, whatsoever, about the historical aspects of the discovery of Troy on the Asia Minor coastline, then this book is for you. Peter Ackroyd does a wonderful job of telling an enthralling tale about the discovery of the ruins of Troy and its initial excavation. His two primary protagonists are rather tightly based upon the German amateur archaeologists, Heinrich Schliemann, and his young Greek wife, Sofia, who discovered the ruins of what Schliemann believed to be Troy in 1869 near what is now known as Hissarlik, Turkey. Being a dyed-in-the-wool Iliad junkie, I have to say that I enjoyed this book very much. The writing is spare and well-crafted, and quite poetic at times. I enjoyed this novel nearly as much I did David Malouf's beautiful little Iliad-based novel Ransom (2010).(less)
This is a thought-provoking little novel. While it doesn't take particularly long to read, it kinda sticks with you in a visceral sort of way long aft...moreThis is a thought-provoking little novel. While it doesn't take particularly long to read, it kinda sticks with you in a visceral sort of way long after you've turned the last page. It is a cold, grim and dark plot completely suited to the 14th century winter in England described in the tale. While the plot is certainly constructed around a mystery, I really found it to be a truly fascinating character study that I've come to expect from Unsworth's fiction (e.g., see my review of his terrific novel The Songs Of The Kings: A Novel). I can tell you that upon finishing this little book I learned that there is absolutely nothing in the slightest romantic or desirable about life in 14th century England during the time of the Black Death.(less)
I originally read The Silmarillion shortly after it was first published in 1977, and while I remember enjoying it, I don't remember being terribly imp...moreI originally read The Silmarillion shortly after it was first published in 1977, and while I remember enjoying it, I don't remember being terribly impressed. Clearly, I am a different reader now than I was then. This is an amazing book on so many levels, and I actually believe that I have read it at just the perfect time in my life. First, I have always enjoyed Tolkien-the-poet, and this extensive mythology that he has created with The Silmarillion just sheds ever so much light on his poetic influences, style, and his poetic voice. Second, I have come to very much appreciate and admire Tolkien-the-linguist, and The Silmarillion is a linguist's dream-come-true, as he brings the cultures of his world alive through his writing and careful attention to language(s). Finally, if you truly want to fully experience his monumental saga, The Lord of the Rings (LotR), then a close and careful reading of The Silmarillion is a prerequisite. Even after reading the LotR some half-a-dozen times over the course of my adult life, I was stunned at how many "ah, so that's what happened", or "oh, that's the back-story of so-and-so" moments I had as I read The Silmarillion. For the first time in my life, I think I can finally put the LotR in its proper context, as I am sure that J.R.R. Tolkien desired for his readers.
I have to say too, that I think my time spent reading much of the classic ancient Greek, Norse, and Celtic mythology and literature also lent itself to a more enjoyable experience for me as I read The Silmarillion. While certainly not required by any means, it made me very comfortable in allowing myself to effortlessly become completely immersed in the mythology and characters of Tolkien's world. Just as understanding the cosmogony and mythology of the ancient Greek world has illuminated my reading of the poetry of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, so has The Silmarillion illuminated and informed my reading of The Children of Hurin and the LotR. In fact, I realize that I now need to reread both of these works again in the near future. Finally, because of my reading of The Silmarillion, I became aware of and have just ordered a hard-bound copy of Tolkien's "History of Middle Earth--Volume 3", The Lays of Beleriand, as this volume contains his two long epic poems, the Lay of the Children of Hurin and the Lay of Leithian. These are both supposed to be simply brilliant poems.(less)