Memoirs of a Geisha is sort of a rags-to-riches story. How Chiyo, along with her older sister, is sold into slavery by her father after her mother’s d...moreMemoirs of a Geisha is sort of a rags-to-riches story. How Chiyo, along with her older sister, is sold into slavery by her father after her mother’s death in Japan, eventually becoming the geisha Sayuri, accomplished in the art of entertaining men, is the main focus of this novel.
The descriptions in this book are – for the most part – great. And Sayuri is a well drawn character in the first half of the book; she has pros and cons to her personality and a wide range of emotions. The other characters are interesting though some of the characterizations are shallow.
When we reach World War II, the story goes downhill. Sayuri flees to a safe part of the country and hardly seems really effected by the war. The only thing she is really worried about is if she will be able to continue being a geisha when she returns to the city because she is hurting her usually smooth hands by working and not getting enough to eat.
There is a lot of sexual content in this story. The book insists geisha are not prostitutes; yet there is a practice of auctioning off the virginity of each geisha-to-be. The main “love story” is Sayuri longing for the Chairman, who inspired the desire in her to become a geisha when she was nine. In a surprising twist, just as sugary as a Hollywood film, she discovers the Chairman has secretly loved her for years and they finally are together. I could not root for this…happy ending because the Chairman was married and had a family.
Overall, this was a fairly interesting book but was morally disappointing.(less)
This is the worst book I've read in my entire life. The plot wasn't interesting, the characters failed to engage me, and the "love story" was simply p...moreThis is the worst book I've read in my entire life. The plot wasn't interesting, the characters failed to engage me, and the "love story" was simply pure lust. When I finally finished the book, I felt like I'd wasted my time reading it. (less)
A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson is about a young countess, Anna, who has fled revolutionary torn Russia with her family. In need of money, she...moreA Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson is about a young countess, Anna, who has fled revolutionary torn Russia with her family. In need of money, she works as a maid for a wealthy English family, hoping to keep her aristocracy a secret. She is nearly overwhelmed not only by her new duties, but also by her attraction for the handsome -- and engaged -- Earl of Westerholme.
While the premise of the story is a bit predictable, I was soon drawn into the story. The second half of the book was very good and I was nervously wondering how things would work out up to the last chapter. Ms. Ibbotson is a great storyteller, with wonderful drawn characters. Her writing of the time period was very good as well as her descriptions and dialogue.
Both emotional and funny, I highly recommend this. It is a real treat.(less)
It seems readers either really like Mansfield Park or really dislike it. I love it. This book was not as quick a read as Sense and Sensibility, Pride...moreIt seems readers either really like Mansfield Park or really dislike it. I love it. This book was not as quick a read as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, or even Emma was for me. Yet I enjoyed it very much.
Fanny is a wonderful, real heroine. She has many morals yet is not perfect. I identified with her a lot and cared about what happened to her. Edmund I both wanted to hug and strangle at times. He is Fanny’s truest friend, yet falls away from her when he becomes smitten with Mary Crawford. At times he wants his cousin’s advice, but instead tries to convince her – and justify himself – for why he does not hold to his moral convictions when it comes to decisions having to do with Mary. Aunt Norris is very hard on Fanny, and readers really have no trouble disliking her. Henry and Mary Crawford are…I hate them both, pure and simple. Mary’s characterization is very much like that of Elizabeth Bennet. Henry is proud and has fun causing young ladies to fall for him; eventually he turns his attentions to Fanny and actually falls in love with her. Among other supporting characters, Tom, Mr. Rushworth, and Julia are my favorites.
This is not Jane Austen’s most popular novel, yet it has become my personal favorite. (less)
**spoiler alert** This was my first reading of Thomas Hardy. Man, this book was depressing! It was hard to root for anyone: Tess I never really grew t...more**spoiler alert** This was my first reading of Thomas Hardy. Man, this book was depressing! It was hard to root for anyone: Tess I never really grew to care for; Angel was disappointing with how he abandoned her; and Alec I despised completely from his first appearance. The story seemed to offer no hope. And I did not understand the ending.(less)
Similar to North and South with it’s themes of the class-divide and gap between the poor and rich, the story centers on Mary Barton whose world is sha...moreSimilar to North and South with it’s themes of the class-divide and gap between the poor and rich, the story centers on Mary Barton whose world is shaken when her rich suitor, Henry Carson, the son of a mill owner, is murdered and Jem Wilson, her rejected lover, is accused of the crime. While the book has its faults (this was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel), I enjoyed it very much, more than North and South. She painted clear, vivid pictures of Manchester’s filth and disease. Her characters were also well drawn human beings. Seeing Mary change as her world was crumbling around her, I came to like her very much. (less)
**spoiler alert** I must confess I have never been a Darcy fangirl. (I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with P&P. Darcy I tend to want to sl...more**spoiler alert** I must confess I have never been a Darcy fangirl. (I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with P&P. Darcy I tend to want to slap upside the head, while Elizabeth gets on my nerves more and more. It is the supporting the characters — Jane, Bingley, the Colonel, and the Gardiners at the forefront — that save the story for me, and whom draw me back to the book and film adaptations.) And after finishing this book I’m still not a big fan.
However, it was interesting seeing how Ms. Grange created Darcy’s personality. Thankfully, he did not annoy as much as he does in Austen’s novel. He truly seemed unaware of his faults, being prideful, looking down on others, having such a control on Bingley’s affairs. Once aware of his growing attraction to Elizabeth, he strongly struggled against his feelings. I liked how he tried to privately persuade Bingley that Jane did not return his affection after coming to London, instead of him and Bingley’s sisters all ganging up on him. In this book, he genuinely wanted a match between his friend and Georgiana. I really, really, really liked how he came to realize how badly he’d done in the first proposal; while she had less than desirable connections and family, he was guilty of the same as well. And that he had gone in arrogantly believing she was expecting his suit and was all too eager to accept him. Very well done IMO. Here he was not completely aware of Miss Bingley’s interest in him until late in the book, which I found very surprising. After encountering Elizabeth again, I felt a bit sorry for him at his being caught between hope and despair regarding his being able to win her.
Ms. Grange allowed us to see the Darcys’ first Christmas together at Pemberley, and it was the highlight of the book for me. And, as in Mr. Knightley’s Diary, she created a match that made me wonder why Austen hadn’t thought of it herself.
**spoiler alert** The Watsons, a fragment by Jane Austen, is about Emma Watson who returns home after spending 14 years with a dear aunt. Life with he...more**spoiler alert** The Watsons, a fragment by Jane Austen, is about Emma Watson who returns home after spending 14 years with a dear aunt. Life with her family is drastically different from her old well life: her family is poor, her father ill and weak, and she does not get along very well with her siblings, except for her oldest sister. Emma is introduced to the neighborhood at a ball and, among the guests, meets Mrs. Blake, her son Charles, her brother Mr. Howard, and catches the attention of Lord Osborne and Tom Musgrave. Joan Aiken's Emma Watson completes the story.
As a historical drama it was a pretty good read. As a continuation of Austen’s fragment it was a disappointment.
I was surprised by how Aiken handled (and got rid of!) some of the characters Jane had introduced. Mr. Howard, for example, I was distressed by how willingly he lived under Lady Osbourne’s thumb and seemed concerned about marrying well. (I wanted to smack him upside the head many times.) There was barely any character development, and it was hard for me to really root for Emma. (This felt like a washed-down version of Cinderella.) It was strange introducing…”Aiken’s gentleman” so late in the story, and having him appear and disappear like a genie. I didn’t notice any sort of spark between him and Emma to foreshadow his confession later and her realizing her own feelings in turn. And the ending did nothing for me.
**spoiler alert** Charlotte, Julia Barrett’s continuation of Jane Austen's Sanditon I found to be very disappointing. The plot (or lack there of) was...more**spoiler alert** Charlotte, Julia Barrett’s continuation of Jane Austen's Sanditon I found to be very disappointing. The plot (or lack there of) was all over the place once Barrett picked up the story. She did a great deal of explaining characters’ motives and mental states instead showing them really accomplish anything.
Here I did not get to know Charlotte as I had in Another Lady's Sanditon; she wasn’t a fully drawn character. And the romance between her and Sidney was a series of short encounters, and even shorter conversations…not much opportunity for the two to get to know each other very well and fall in love. (The end was disappointing with Sidney coming to see her and “had as much as an hour gone by, before his partiality for Charlotte was understood by every Heywood old enough to notice?” Surely we could been told a bit more about the meeting between the two, perhaps actually witness it?)
I was surprised by Clara Brereton longing for Sir Edward when in Jane’s fragment she seemed aware of his real character and had no interest in him. And he didn’t seem to be quite the cad he was supposed to be.
While we’ll never know just where Jane would have gone with this fragment, I have a hard time believing she would have made bootlegging and gambling major plot points in the story.
Skip this one and try Sanditon completed by Another Lady instead. (less)
I absolutely loved An Old-Fashioned Girl, it’s heart, realness, and simplicity. Alcott’s style of writing and descriptions is delightful. Polly Milton...moreI absolutely loved An Old-Fashioned Girl, it’s heart, realness, and simplicity. Alcott’s style of writing and descriptions is delightful. Polly Milton is so much like the many literary heroines I love: good, moral, gentle, selfless, loving girls who rise above their trials and temptations. I came to care deeply about her and how things affected her. I was so so so happy when I reached the end. I was Tom’s champion from the first! This book will definitely be read again at least once. :D(less)