This book is a first love. I was about 15 at the time and it was the first book I ever stayed up all night to read. Literally--7pm to 7am. Couldn't he...moreThis book is a first love. I was about 15 at the time and it was the first book I ever stayed up all night to read. Literally--7pm to 7am. Couldn't help myself.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is the first book I've read that made me feel so queasy I had to lie down or risk fainting. Must be getting soft. I'll blame it...more**spoiler alert** This is the first book I've read that made me feel so queasy I had to lie down or risk fainting. Must be getting soft. I'll blame it on pregnancy. But seriously, Part III needed to cut me some slack. It was more than just the physical torture, it was the fact that it went ON and ON, getting more and more grungy and depressing, and then ending at a point of total hopelessness. I was glad to finally close it.
Much like Animal Farm, 1984 is a piece of political writing. It's not a particularly good novel as far and plot and characters (and even writing) are concerned (although it's better than Brave New World in this sense). However, Orwell does an excellent job at making his message clear: a lot of power in the hands of a few = not a lot of anything good.
I was really into it to start with. The following quote by Julia to Winston about halfway through the book made me hopeful: 'It's the one thing they can't do. They can make you say anything--anything--but they can't make you believe it. They can't get inside you.' I was hoping that Winston would, in the end, prove that quote to be true. It reminded me of Viktor Frankl, jewish concentration camp inmate during Nazi Germany. In his 1946 book Man's Search for Meaning he writes the following: 'everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.' Making a statement like that, after what he must have been through, is really saying something. And yet, despite my hopes, we're left with...
'He loved Big Brother.
Haha. Awesome. Orwell wins the prize for hammering his point home to the last. Big Brother and INGSOC--so out of control (or in control) that there is just no chance of anyone overcoming them, ever. That's some serious power. Hardly realistic, but it is a work of fiction. I think that Orwell's appeal for human freedom is clear and genuine, and I am a big fan of anything that speaks out against control and manipulation in any form that it may take. So, despite the fact that this book is insanely black and gritty, and didn't quite meet my expectations, I give it 4 stars for 'anti-control factor' and 'founding-giant of political dystopia status'. I do think I preferred Animal Farm though, so maybe 3.5.(less)
I can't believe it has taken me this long to finally pick up To Kill a Mockingbird. It seems to be a popular choice in American high schools, but not...moreI can't believe it has taken me this long to finally pick up To Kill a Mockingbird. It seems to be a popular choice in American high schools, but not so much in New Zealand. I thought Harper Lee was a man. (Was stoked to find the opposite as I generally prefer the writing of female authors.) And I knew it had something to do with racial issues in the south, but the rest was all a surprise to me.
I will try not to give anything away for prospective readers, but I just want to list a few of the things that I love about this book:
1. Atticus Finch. My new favourite protagonist. It's all about him really, isn't it. The model father. The model of character. The model mercy giver in spite of the faults of the people he is granting it to. The epitome of courage. Harper Lee must have had some amazing man in her life to write Atticus. I don't think he is too perfect because he reminds me of a couple of people I know in real life. It is not often that a fictional character makes me want reread the story purely to soak up more of them.
2. Scout Finch. A very endearing protagonist. I loved seeing her world from her perspective. I think it was a clever move by Harper Lee to write about such heavy themes from Scout's point of view. There is something untainted about the mind a child and seeing life through their eyes can strip away baggage and provide a fresh perspective (as well as allowing for a little more humor).
3. It surprised me. I think I must have been expecting a literary version of A Time to Kill or something--plot driven and with a heavy focus on racial issues and the court case--so at first I was wondering where the story was headed. The case doesn't begin until over half way through and is far from the sole focus of the story. The book is much more about life in small town Alabama in the 30s. It is about people and prejudice. It dips in to the themes of politics, justice, law, religion, class systems, racism, gender, parenting, child abuse, the state school system, societal pressure and the right to personal freedom (among many) yet, as a reader, I did not feel particularly weighed down or preached at. I loved Boo Radley and Maudie Atkinson, both of which Lee uses to touch on the theme of personal freedom amidst societal pressure. Both Boo and Maudie are fantastic characters.
There is more to this book than I expected and I love it for it. Want to reread.
A couple of quotes:
'You are too young to understand it ... but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of--oh, of your father.' Maudie Atkinson
'I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness ... I just hope that Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town. I hope they trust me enough.' Atticus Finch
'It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.' Scout Finch
'I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.' Atticus Finch
And the last quote sounds cliche but it is so true and I love that throughout the novel Atticus does this with any character despite their being sympathetic, misunderstood or purely wretched:
'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.' Atticus Finch (less)
Ooh this is good. Was up LATE last night finishing it. Completely freaky concept. I liked that it was written in present tense too--it added to the su...moreOoh this is good. Was up LATE last night finishing it. Completely freaky concept. I liked that it was written in present tense too--it added to the suspense. Can't wait to read more ... and now for 'Catching fire'!(less)
Reading Rebecca was fun--it was like a postmodern Bronte novel. It actually felt like a combination of The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heigh...moreReading Rebecca was fun--it was like a postmodern Bronte novel. It actually felt like a combination of The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights: The Great Gatsby for the Art Deco element--characters in Jazz Age attire, smoking cigarettes, ordering cold lunches and throwing parties on the terraces of grand estates. Jane Eyre for the shy young bride factor. And the big old house aspect. And the being haunted by the dead wife of your older husband thing. Wuthering Heights for the disturbing turn the plot takes towards the end (I won't give anything away, but there's a definite Heathcliff sort of twistedness to it).
It's hard to say much about the story without spoiling it for prospective readers (there are a few twists I don't want to risk giving away). But I loved du Maurier's evocative writing. I'm not normally a fan of long setting descriptions and overly flowery language, but I was actually quite captivated by the scenes described in this book. I felt almost as if I were on the grounds of Manderley. Eerie and haunting and beautiful. I also loved the attention she gave to detailing food. You'll want to read this book while eating a boiled egg and cold shaved ham with a pot of coffee on the side.
Recommended if you love haunting romantic fiction. (It is a little disturbing though, just to say I warned you.) I might have to get my hands on the film version--apparently it was Alfred's Hitchcock's first.
One of my favourites. It's like one of the first novels ever written--you could never get a book like this published now days. Looong, and a lot to ch...moreOne of my favourites. It's like one of the first novels ever written--you could never get a book like this published now days. Looong, and a lot to chew through. The narrator soliloquizes through huge chunks of it--hilarious. But I loved it. Actually inspired the name choice for my daughter. Go Henry Fielding. You know, he's the guy who founded the police force too. Crazy!(less)
**spoiler alert** The best YA I've read this year. It's early January, but still ;)
A few little gripes, including the fact that at the end no one unde...more**spoiler alert** The best YA I've read this year. It's early January, but still ;)
A few little gripes, including the fact that at the end no one understands Frankie and nearly all of the characters who've featured somewhat in the story either hate her or think she's a freak. It made me almost wonder if she was slightly crazy and felt a little let down by the author. I loved Frankie's character and just wasn't entirely satisfied with what the story dealt her. Or is that what Lockhart is saying? That even today any woman who dares to play well in a man's game can never really win? Not sure. BUT, right up until the last few pages I thought it was generally brilliant.
Definitley 4.5 stars. So close to 5. Actually, I just might give it 5.
ps-I secretly wished Frankie would end up with Alpha (he was, after all, the one who seemed to 'see' her the most) but that obviously couldn't happen as it would have conflicted with so many of the themes the author was dealing with. His name is Alpha for goodness sake. I just wanted to have my cake and eat it too. Ah well.
pps-Am needing to go & check out more of the last few year's Cybils Award/Printz Honor books.(less)