This was one of the first gothics I tried to read, one or two years ago. I couldn't get through it. I returned to it, expecting a terrific slog, but n...moreThis was one of the first gothics I tried to read, one or two years ago. I couldn't get through it. I returned to it, expecting a terrific slog, but now that I've done Udolpho and others of its ilk, Otranto was practically like Sophie Kinsella. To my surprise I had polished it off in a matter of days.
Notes: Poor Conrad. Poor, poor Conrad. What was your offence, again? Were you a murderer? Did you chase after young virgins? No. You were just inclined to be sickly. So you had to be (view spoiler)[disposed of (hide spoiler)]. And incidentally: double standard alert. Evidence would suggest that women in the Gothic Industry are sickly as h--- (seriously, ladies, get your blood pressure checked), but that's fine. In fact, that's apparently kind of sexy. But if you're a man, you have to run around stabbing people in the gut with a broadsword just because you CAN. Which brings me to...
Theodore, o Theodore. I have encountered many exasperating gothic heroes in my time, but you are by far--by FAR--the most exasperating. Rule of thumb: Think before you stab, hmm? (UPDATED TO ADD: Just read Clermont. Never mind.
Hippolita! Why are you such a pushover? Why don't you ever just punch your husband and tell him to stuff it? It's a little bit ironic, considering your namesake...
Frederic! The kid tried to STAB you, okay? He tried to kill you without even asking who you were. That is not a good thing. That is not proof of his manliness, or whatever. That is NOT a good reason to let him marry your daughter!
Matilda, dearest Matilda, how tiresome you are. You might think that being good, in the end, benefits you. Don't you know that (view spoiler)[the most virtuous maiden must be sacrificed at the end? (hide spoiler)] Haven't you read The Monk?
Bianca. Ah, Bianca. You have more sense in your left elbow than all the rest of the characters put together. Don't change a thing, okay? Incidentally, do you know Annette from Udolpho? Because I think you guys would really hit it off. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This may very well be THE BEST BOOK I have EVER EVER READ EVER. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is everything I look for in a book: Magic...moreOh.
This may very well be THE BEST BOOK I have EVER EVER READ EVER. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is everything I look for in a book: Magic, fairies, gothic-ness, the nineteenth century, mad royalty, magic mirrors, socially awkward recluses, revenge, true love, London, Venice, Lord Byron, Ann Radcliffe, footnotes....the list goes on.
The characters were fully developed and amazing (I particularly fell in love with the gentleman with thistle-down hair) the settings well-described, the language beautiful. It's really extremely difficult to find fault with this book. Well--that's not true. There was one thing that left me feeling a little unhappy after finishing it: (MINOR SPOILER ALERT AHEAD) The ending was one of those slightly-unresolved ambiguous endings. (Think Inception or The Princess Bride.) It was a well-executed ending, but it did make me want to throw the book across the room a little bit. However, with the possible exception of one person, everyone got exactly what they deserved as characters, which was nice. (Comeuppances were well-done for the people we didn't like.)
Overall, this book was AWESOME. I kept seeing it described in reviews and chat sites as "a difficult read" "a sizeable commitment" "slow-paced" "don't worry if you don't get through it; not everyone will." etc. This kind of makes me despair for humanity. Everyone wants their fantasy Stephen King-ified, Meyer-ified, dumbed down. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell IS long, but it really isn't that difficult or slow paced; I read it in a little less than a week. Everyone is a bit over-dramatic about the length and the reading level.
The final thing I loved was the footnotes in this book. I'm such a sucker for footnotes. They make my life, especially when they mock themselves. (See Jasper Fforde and William Goldman for exemplary use of footnotes.)
This book is a must-read for fans of Jane Austen, Dickens, Rowling, Holly Black--actually--everyone must read this book. Go out and get a copy right now. (less)
This was a bizarre book. It had no real plot and no real beginning, middle or end. The story flipped back and forth between the life of a normal, midd...moreThis was a bizarre book. It had no real plot and no real beginning, middle or end. The story flipped back and forth between the life of a normal, middle-aged victorian man (who's point of view the story is told from) and his dream sequences. In the real world, the man and his various acquaintances have profound discussions about life. They talk about the nature of love, about physics, about evolution, and about God and who He really is. Whenever the man falls asleep--which is surprisingly often--he dreams continuations of the same dream, about a ten-year-old princess, Sylvie, and her five-year-old brother, Bruno. Their father is being usurped by a motley gang of chancellors and officials, and their stupid, ugly, and cruel families. Sylvie and Bruno learn that their father is really a fairy king, and hence they are a fairy prince and princess, and their attitude from thereon in seems to be along the lines of "Oh, let them take over the stupid kingdom, we've got Fairyland." Meanwhile, in the real world, the narrator's friend Arthur has fallen in love with a beautiful, intelligent and spunky young lady. All is going well in the wooing until her handsome cousin turns up, and appears to be competition for her affections. (Yuck.) Eventually, the two stories integrate, as Sylvie and Bruno begin to appear in the real world. The whole story is magnificently interlaced with distinctly Carrollian wordplay, poetry, and political allegory. Overall: Fantastic characters. Brilliant language. And at that, quite a step forward for the feminist movement, especially when you consider that it was written by a man. As a book, though, it doesn't really work. Half of it is a fairy tale, plain and simple, clearly aimed at a child audience. The other half--the real world bit--is very much an adult novel, largely a collection of fascinating thoughts, ideas, and opinions that Carroll had kicking around at the back of his head. One wonders who exactly his audience was. Still--I loved it. Amazing, fascinating, but really, really weird. That's kind of my thing. (less)
*There are some minor spoilers in this review, but not large enough ones that I felt the need to click the "this review contains spoilers" button. If...more*There are some minor spoilers in this review, but not large enough ones that I felt the need to click the "this review contains spoilers" button. If you are really paranoid, don't read it, I suppose.*
I saw a write-up for this book in my city's newspaper, and based on what I saw in the review, immediately became desperate to read it. When I finally got my hands on a copy, I was not disappointed. Elliot Allagash tells the story of Seymour Herson, a chubby boy in grade eight who is the lowest of the low popularity wise at his New York school. All this is changed when he meets new student Elliot Allagash. Elliot is the heir to one of the world's largest fortunes. He is arrogant, brilliant...... and a juvenile delinquent. The only reason he is at Seymour's school is because it's the only one that would take him: his father has donated an astronomical amount of money to ensure he isn't kicked out. Bored out of his tree, Elliot decides to take up a new hobby: raising Seymour to the most popular boy in the school. The first half of the book is light and hilarious. The two boys have a series of highly entertaining escapades, culminating in Seymour's winning the title of ninth-grade president, and ending up being the most popular kid in the school after all. The second half, however, is much darker. In the second part of Elliot Allagash, we have fast-forwarded to Seymour's grade twelve year. He has gotten ahead by lying and cheating his way through every exam, under Elliot's instruction. Officially speaking, he is the extremely popular--but because he appears to be so perfect and good at everything, no one, in actual fact, really likes him. His relationship with his parents, which was close and loving in the first half, is now terrible, and he has no real friends except Elliot. Managing to be both hilarious and tear-jerking, Elliot Allagash is a terrific read, recommended for the tween-to-infinity set. It's quick and easy to whip through, but good summer reading. Simon Rich is an excellent new author and I'll be watching for anything new he may produce! (less)