Zola is one of the big guys in naturalism, and Nana is one of his most "shocking" books.
I can totally see why Nana would be shocking for Zola's conteZola is one of the big guys in naturalism, and Nana is one of his most "shocking" books.
I can totally see why Nana would be shocking for Zola's contemporaries. The main character is a prostitute, though she doesn't see herself as one most of the time, and she appears naked throughout the story pretty often. The amount of men that she does (off page, of course) is by the end of the novel probably in the dozens, if not hundreds.
Generally I enjoyed the story, though it was a bit boring and nothing happened, until about three-quarters in. Most of the book we just follow Nana around, seeing her wind some men around her pinky finger, seeing her trying to be something she's not, and basically just doing her prostitute thing with her prostitute friends. This wasn't really the most exciting reading material I've come across, but it was entertaining enough to see the men making utter fools of themselves to get a moment alone with Nana. Then, after about three-hundred pages in, Zola realised that he hadn't made his message clear yet, and he started pounding into our heads that Nana is a disgusting and terrible person that's defiling society.
Truly, as I see it, Nana isn't such a bad person at all. Yes, she's petty. She's a hypocrite. She is utterly childish. But from the first three-hundred pages or so I never had the impression that she meant any harm. She kinda knows what kind of effect she has on men, and of course she flirts with them and sleeps with them at any time she feels like it, but I didn't see anything particularly bad about her. She's very fickle in her affections, but more often than not it felt as if she did feel affectionate for her son or whatever other person that caught her fancy. I wouldn't call her role model of the year, but she didn't seem much worse than the average person. We're all imperfect, though some more than others.
But in the last hundred pages Zola goes all out. From petty and childish Nana turns into a devilish beastly animal for no reason at all. She devours men, sucks them dry, and discards them afterwards. It felt so out of character for her, that I was left wondering what made Nana so bitter. Sure, she always used the men around her, but never with the sole purpose of ruining them like at the end. To show us how disgusted he is with Nana, Zola tells us:
"...Nana was turning this whole society putrid to the rhythm of her vulgar tune"
He then proceeds to compare her with a fly spreading germs over society, and making it rot from the inside out. To be honest, I don't think that makes any sense. I found the men at fault, not Nana. She takes advantage of them, yes, but the men in Nana are insanely obsessed with their penises and where to put them in. You can hardly blame a prostitute for men that are crazy enough to sell their entire estates to bring her presents, even though she never blackmails them or forces them into anything.
The society was rotten as it was, it didn't need any Nana-germs to become ruined. ...more
This could have been boring and degrading. Instead, The Blue Castle is a lovely story that warmed my cold and bitter heart.
Valency Stirling is the thiThis could have been boring and degrading. Instead, The Blue Castle is a lovely story that warmed my cold and bitter heart.
Valency Stirling is the thirty-year-old product of living in a small-minded and snobbish family. She has never been courted by a man, no one has ever taken an interest in her, and she feels like she is going through life but not living. After unfortunate news from a doctor, she decides that she can't live like this any longer, and goes her own path.
In its heart, The Blue Castle is a romantic story. But it's quite important to point out that the book isn't just romance. In the first half of the book, there are some small hints and some minor attractions, but the romance isn't the focus at all. The Blue Castle is about Valancy, and how she changes. And I loved that she didn't need a man to change - she her emancipation is all of her own doing. Only after she becomes her own woman, she finds love. It seems to me that in many books relationships are seen as miracle workers - once a man comes into your life you're cured of depression, anxiety, trauma... Men aren't miracle workers. They can be amazing at supporting you on your own road to becoming a happier or better person, but it's not just because of them. I loved how Ms Montgomery let Valancy stand on her own and be her own person, and didn't define her by her man.
The story is set in Canada, and one of Valancy's passions is nature, and books about nature by her favourite writer John Foster. There are plenty of beautiful descriptions of the weather and the trees. I'm personally not much of a nature person (hate all the icky insects) but I do like reading about it. Ms Montgomery is a great writer, and it was great to see rural Canada through her eyes.
The ending might be predictable if you're familiar with the genre, which is why it wasn't a five-star read for me. The ending didn't blow me away, but I enjoyed it in a quiet way. In the end The Blue Castle made me happy, and that's the only think I was looking for....more
I saw the latest movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby when it came out and fell in love with the story of the mysterious self-made man Gatsby and hisI saw the latest movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby when it came out and fell in love with the story of the mysterious self-made man Gatsby and his obsession with his crush of when he was young. Set in the abundant age of the 20s in New York, The Great Gatsby is a beautifully written story of the meaninglessness of money and the futility of the rich. Hope to read the other books by Fitzgerald too, he is a terrific writer....more
The only Shakespeare play I know is Romeo and Juliet, which I listened to as audio-play (is that a thing?). I missWhew, old English people talk weird!
The only Shakespeare play I know is Romeo and Juliet, which I listened to as audio-play (is that a thing?). I missed a lot of what was going on in that one, but since it was people talking I didn't rewind to try to understand it better. When reading Hamlet as a book, I noticed I don't understand a thing this guy is saying.
I barely notice that I'm a non-native English speaker when I read normal books. I'm at that stage where you just understand the words instead of translating them to your own language in your head, and I read English as fast as I do Dutch. For me it seems that Shakespeare doesn't speak English at all at times. I understand the words - but in the sentences he makes they just don't make sense at all. I was constantly rereading parts to no avail. I understood what was happening and the general story, but once a character started a monologue I was completely lost.
I did enjoy the parts that I did understand. A girl that completely loses her mind, an incestuous marriage, emo dude that sees ghosts, what's not to like? People drop like flies in Hamlet, which I found amusing.
I'll try to watch the play - maybe that will help me understand it better. As for now, I feel a bit lost....more
Journey to the Centre of the Earth is Jules Verne's third book, first published in 1864. Axel lives with his uncle, professor Lindenbrock, in Germany.Journey to the Centre of the Earth is Jules Verne's third book, first published in 1864. Axel lives with his uncle, professor Lindenbrock, in Germany. Professor Lindenbrock discovers a document from the 16th century, which describes the place of an entrance to the centre of the earth. Set on being the first to venture inside the earth's crust, Axel and his uncle travel to Iceland and enter the cave system of a volcano.
Heavily inspired by fiction from the Romantic period, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is deliciously dramatic. I find it fascinating how a male main character like Axel is constantly fainting when things get too scary. Try to imagine a male character like that in contemporary fiction. Hard, no? Now, we would only ascribe properties like this to a female. Axel's fiancée, Grauben, is actually the rational, brave one. Unfortunately it's not acceptable in the nineteenth century for a woman to travel with men who aren't directly related to her without a chaperone, so Grauben doesn't join the expedition.
Jules Verne is often seen as the father of science-fiction. He blended thrilling stories of wonder and danger with actual scientific theories as they had been posited in his time. Now, we know you can't actually just walk into a volcano, and find underground caves that span under the entirety of Europe. In Verne's time, this was plausible, which explains why his tales of natural wonders were so popular.
For the modern reader it can come as a culture shock to read a book like Journey. True to its title, the actual journey is important, not the end point. Finding the document, travelling to Iceland, finding a guide; all of these elements are skipped over in contemporary fiction, but these preparations have their own importance in this book. Some readers feel like they have read a hundred pages before "something happens", which is all a matter of perspective. Nineteenth century readers are more concerned with the how and the why and the what, and less with the internal ramifications of the main character. Less emotions, more descriptions. Some readers might find this boring, but I thought it was refreshing.
Journey to the Centre of the Earth has an ending worthy of an Indiana Jones movie. The book might not be as thrilling to us as it might have been a hundred years ago, but it's still highly entertaining....more
To be honest I'm not even near eloquent enough to do The Picture of Dorian Gray justice. It is a wonderful book containing spot-on descriptions and coTo be honest I'm not even near eloquent enough to do The Picture of Dorian Gray justice. It is a wonderful book containing spot-on descriptions and commentary of life of the upper class during the nineteenth century.
Unspoiled and pure Dorian Gray becomes acquainted with Lord Henry through painter Basil Hallward. The Picture of Dorian Gray describes Dorian's journey into the darkest side of his soul under the influence of Lord Henry.
I knew the story of The Picture of Dorian Gray vaguely, but the book turned out to be completely different from what I was expecting. Instead of the picture, that shows the ageing and degradation of Dorian, the thoughts and feelings of Dorian and conversations with Lord Henry are the focus of the story.
For me the most interesting character was Lord Henry. He is intentionally cross and incorrect, and has amazingly crooked logic that makes sense within itself. His dialogue shows that Mr Wilde put a lot of thought in this book, and has created a whole system of thought that's corrupt and damaging as hell. It could be a bit much at times though, and there is very little action going on, just dialogue.
Basil, the painter, was my favourite character. He is the easiest to relate too and seems to be the most normal person in the book. It's also interesting that he's pretty much the only main character that is not part of London's high society. I very much enjoyed the parts he was in, and to see Dorian through his eyes.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is an amazingly written book that consists mostly of dialogue, rhetoric and descriptions. Seekers of action won't find it here - people that like to think of issues and morals will find some very interesting food for thought in this book....more
My least favourite Austen so far. Although I loved Elinor, I didn't care much for any of the love interests for her and Marianne. The last quarter ofMy least favourite Austen so far. Although I loved Elinor, I didn't care much for any of the love interests for her and Marianne. The last quarter of the book dragged somewhat, and the resolution didn't leave me with the warm feelings I was hoping it would. The writing is amazing on a sentence-level, and her characterisations are amusing as ever, but her later works are a lot more polished and tighter in execution....more
As a Cultural Sciences student it is expected of me to read endless piles of classic works, and Kafka was one of them. Because a friend of mine lovedAs a Cultural Sciences student it is expected of me to read endless piles of classic works, and Kafka was one of them. Because a friend of mine loved his books, I decided to give Kafka a try. I should have known that this book was to be weird, as my friend has very weird taste.
K. is suddenly arrested one morning. He isn't taken to jail - it is expected of him to just keep on working at the bank where he holds a senior position. The trial continues within the nooks and crevices of the town, in a unexplainable manner that isn't even clear to those on the inside.
The Trial shows a very clear view of how confusing and opaque the law is. The law is viewed as a seperate being, something that isn't influenced by people at all. Even the highest advocates and judges can't always affect a case. It is oppressive, and the moment K. gets arrested he loses part of his freedom. He can do as he pleases - but the thought of his trial brings him down. He can barely hold on to his job at the bank and every waking moment is committed to his trial.
I had a hard time liking K. He is annoying, elitist, and doesn't hold women in that high regard while not minding using them for their bodily charms (it's not like the women are protesting though). I found his decisions quite illogical at best, but they do fit the overall style of the book. There aren't really any other well-drawn characters apart from K., all the others play minor rolls as advisers to K. and nothing else.
To me The Trial reads like one big nightmare. If I were to give an interpretation I would say that K. is paranoid, and that he isn't on trial at all. At several moments throughout the story you get the sense that things aren't at all what they seem, and the surreal setting and events seem so disconnected from reality that it feels like they can't be true, not even in a fictional setting. The way characters appear and disappear, the weird coincidences and spatial irregularities, they all add to my suspicion that the story of K. might not be that straightforward as it is told.
A quick read, but not something I necessarily enjoy. My complete apathy towards anything concerning with law might stand in the way of my appreciating The Trial, but I do recognise that it's quite a special novel. ...more
Good, but a bit long. The Russian names weren't as hard to keep track of as I was expecting. Mr D clearly has a strong disliking for Polish people. HiGood, but a bit long. The Russian names weren't as hard to keep track of as I was expecting. Mr D clearly has a strong disliking for Polish people. His early foray into the psychological novel is interesting though, and Raskolnikov's journey is both nerve-wracking and uncomfortable....more
I now understand why quite a lot of reviewers have hinted to Lewis Carroll's possible substance abuse. Alice in Wonderland reads like one long drug trI now understand why quite a lot of reviewers have hinted to Lewis Carroll's possible substance abuse. Alice in Wonderland reads like one long drug trip.
I had no clue that the book would be so crazy. I'm a great fan of everything Alice in Wonderland, and especially the video game Madness Returns. The game is wonderfully crazy and weird, with snouts you have to pepper and teapots with three legs that come after you. I always thought the makers of the game took great liberties with the book, but on reading Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass I now see the utter genius of what they've done. Of course it doesn't really follow the book, but they took so many little elements (like the vorpal blade from the Jabberwock poem) that make discovering all the details a blast.
The story was dreamy and wonderfully weird, and makes no sense at all. It was very interesting to see how the not-making-sense-ness started to make sense in a while. If you know what I mean. Alice took al the weird changes great as well, it was almost as if she was expecting them. I think a lot of children would be able to relate with Alice. She has the licentiousness that only children have. She constantly doubts everything, to the annoyance of the Wonderland creatures. Her social clumsiness also leads to a lot of interesting happenings.
I had an amazing time reading both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, but I preferred the first book. The second one felt a bit more structured, but it also sucked out a bit of the unpredictability and just plain fun of randomness. Through the Looking-Glass did have some gems of word-plays, this one was one of my favourites:
"How is it you can all talk so nicely?" Alice said, hoping to get it into a better temper by a compliment. "I've been in many gardens before, but none of the flowers could talk."
"Put your hand down, and feel the ground," said the Tiger-lily. "Then you'll know why."
Alice did so. "It's very hard," she said, "but I don't see what that has to do with it."
"In most gardens," the Tiger-lily said, "they make the beds too soft -- so that the flowers are always asleep."
Reading these two books makes me want to see the latest movie again (I just love how the Queen screams "Off with their heads!"). I'm definitely keeping this book for rereads in the future....more
The first good thing about TIOBE is that it’s short. It’s a play! It’s extremely easy to read, since it’s all just dialogue. I’ve never been able to gThe first good thing about TIOBE is that it’s short. It’s a play! It’s extremely easy to read, since it’s all just dialogue. I’ve never been able to get through a classic this fast. It doesn’t use many hard words or therms you might not know. TIOBE is extremely accessible for people that would like to give classics a try, but don’t know where to start.
I can easily imagine this sort of story being the predecessor of soap series. It has everything: drama, suspense, mistaken identities, romance, cross family members. And all of that infused with a good healthy dose of sarcastic social commentary. Absolutely wonderful. TIOBE kept me entertained for a nice hour or two, and I definitely giggled at some of Wilde’s word plays and insane situations.
I highly recommend The Importance of Being Earnest, and hope to read The Picture of Dorian Grey by Wilde soon. If you decide to read it (or if you have read it), let me know! I’d love to talk about this one....more
This was my very first venture into the world of Agatha Christie. I decided to read all of her books in the order they were published, instead of starThis was my very first venture into the world of Agatha Christie. I decided to read all of her books in the order they were published, instead of starting with the most known ones.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles introduces recurring characters Mr Hastings and Monsieur Poirot. Mr Hastings is staying with a friend of his at Styles, where during his stay suddenly the elderly step-mother gets murdered. He turns to retired detective Poirot for help. One in the household is a murderer, but who?
Agata Christie's book is very accessible. Books that are written more than fifty years ago can be sometimes hard to read, filled with archaic words that are hard to decipher for a foreigner like me. I was glad to find out this wasn't the case - The Mysterious Affair at Styles was an easy and quick read.
With its historical setting this is a cozy read. There are no gruesome details, there is no explicit violence. The murderer doesn't get chased but is unmasked by sheer intelligence. Not only does this make it readable for a younger audience, but sometimes for adults it's nice to have a break from all the violence and sex of contemporary books. This would be a perfect read for a gloomy winter's day.
I had no idea who the murderer was until everything got revealed. At some point in the story I kind of suspected everyone. I love how Ms Christie makes sure you don't exclude anyone from suspicion. Poirot was a slightly arrogant but funny little Belgian fellow, that made me think of Sherlock Holmes with a strange moustache.
I'm looking forward to read more Agatha Christie books. I very much enjoyed this one!...more
Douglas Adams' books are crazy. They are over the top, impossible to understand and all over the place. Life, the Universe and Everything was no excepDouglas Adams' books are crazy. They are over the top, impossible to understand and all over the place. Life, the Universe and Everything was no exception. Maybe I'm getting tired of his style or maybe I was in a wrong mood to read this, but I felt more annoyed by his style than amused. After hundred pages or so I kind of wanted him to get on with the plot instead of introducing yet again other planets and tribes that waged war against each other. Life, the Universe and Everything was an okay read, but not my favourite....more
Cute little story. There are a lot of inconsistencies throughout the tale because of the retelling and copying by countless people who all thought theCute little story. There are a lot of inconsistencies throughout the tale because of the retelling and copying by countless people who all thought they knew best. I read the translated edition, with annotations in the sideline.
It has a clear message and is easy to follow. I liked it better than I thought I would. ...more