Excellent novel; I wasn't initially impressed when I finished reading it but after reading several works after it in my class on postcolonial literatu...moreExcellent novel; I wasn't initially impressed when I finished reading it but after reading several works after it in my class on postcolonial literature, I've realized that a) PoCo fiction is a difficult genre in which to write; b) Kate Grenville does it better than lots of other people. The Secret River is sensitive to its own unavoidable hyprocrisies (Grenville is a white Australian writer, a Pakeha writing in part about injustices to Aboriginal peoples). At the same time it backs down before those hypocrisies, at times, not always willing to face as brutal a truth as might be faced. Will and his family are protagonists, and by the structure of the novel – starting off in England, where we see the lifelong marginalization of the poor – we are obliged to feel sympathy for them and keep rooting for them, even when they begin to commit atrocities themselves. If this book illustrates anything, it's that we allow ourselves to be corrupted and blinded by power because it feels good. It feels better than the alternative of NOT having power. The end is perhaps unexpectedly chilling, and the epilogue a minor masterpiece, in my opinion. There's a great deal to be said about the treatment of female characters in this story (which I think is one of the strongest critical elements here), but I finished it last month and I'd want to reread it before going into the issue.(less)
- That socially-ubiquitous phrase, "The horror! The horror!" - ? It's from here. I really hope you knew t...moreWhat you really need to know about this book:
- That socially-ubiquitous phrase, "The horror! The horror!" - ? It's from here. I really hope you knew that already. - Approximately every tenth word is 'darkness.' You'd think Conrad had patented it. - The fat woman and the slim woman knitting in the Belgian office are like guillotine ladies. Creepy-keen. By the way, the guillotine remained the official method of execution in France until the country abolished its death penalty in 1981. Their last guillotining was that of torture-murderer Hamida Djandoubi on September 10, 1977. - It's fun to make comparisons between Kurtz and Darth Vader. - Please, please DON'T make references to, never mind base your whole lecture around, this story's view of 'darkness' in relation to the holocaust. That unspeakable event had not happened yet and besides, the example is deplorably overemployed. - I believe there's a hell of a lot more to the portrayal of women in this story than my prof does, but that's just me. I plan to lengthen this review and my musings on the topic at a more opportune time. - Heart of Darkness can be tedious, can take a long time to read for so short a work, but (I think - ultimately, I'll go here with the general literary verdict) it's worth it.(less)
I rather liked the other two Ibsen plays I've read (A Doll's House and Enemy of the People) but I wasn't crazy about this one. At all.
I won't pretend...moreI rather liked the other two Ibsen plays I've read (A Doll's House and Enemy of the People) but I wasn't crazy about this one. At all.
I won't pretend that it's poorly written. Ibsen creates a story here that is remarkably well-populated by characters you'll just love to hate. Oh, wait, correction. I was okay with Aunt Julle. She is my idea of a generally decent, if 'impassionate,' person. So there's the ONE example of human goodness in the play, but there are (obviously - it's Ibsen) many more examples of human yuck, in my humbleish opinion. In spite of feeling a few tweaks of situational sympathy for Hedda, Jörgen, Thea, Ejlert et al., you really won't like them. And I'm not saying this sarcastically - that takes some talent on the part of the playwright. It feels like a soap opera. Lots of cheap drama (no pun intended) between the figures, and a clangity-bang payoff at the end that left me cringing.
Otherwise? The plot's pretty lacklustre, though it could just be dated. There's also the question of whether or not I have a good translation; it is a pretty old one. Anyway, my entire reaction to this play consists of Meh so I'll spend no more time on it.(less)
**spoiler alert** shortly after finishing: One more classic down. No less tragic than expected. I have to admit, however - by the last pages I though...more**spoiler alert** shortly after finishing: One more classic down. No less tragic than expected. I have to admit, however - by the last pages I thought more of this book than I sometimes did in the middle of it.
My annoyance and even hatred of the characters was, at times, my strongest feeling for them - Tess because she is so inconsistent, strong one moment and self-effacing the next; Angel because he's the worst damn hypocrite ... I mean, he's just too realistic for comfort; is that a legitimate criticism here?! - and Alec, well, because he's Alec. But, to shorten this, my roller-coastering opinions ended up on a level of greater sympathy for our two protagonists than I had projected. I had to wrap my head around the sense that they are essentially allegorical, while at the same time being very true to life in their inconsistency and late realization of serious mistakes. Ah, me.
Something that bothered me in the end is the seeming disintegration of what I was finally beginning to feel were appreciably lifelike characters. I felt such distance from Tess & Angel, as though they were different characters than we had seen so far, or at least as if the author had taken a few major steps backward and viewed them through binoculars. Perhaps that's the only way to tell a story that nosedives like this one. As soon as Angel returned, the resolution was simply crammed into a very low number of pages. Almost like Hardy resented what he had to write. Didn't want to linger on the destination as he did over the journey.
Still not sure how I feel about Tess's final actions. "I killed him! Love me now!" Wow, like what?! Sorrow does interesting things to the mind. Why didn't they psychoanalyze Tess instead of killing her? *I RESERVE ALL RIGHTS to that plot for the modern film version* Oh yeah, and what happened to Tess, anyway? Must admit, I am not well versed in British turn-of-nineteenth-century death penalties. Still, while I have a gruesome curiosity for detailz, I approve of the way Hardy skipped over the whole episode. He had said what he needed to say. In the end, it is his silence - his disgust and disdain to comment any further on what 'had to' follow – that hits us hardest.
I tended to skip over a lot of his descriptive paragraphs. I know I could/should have appreciated them more. No fear, I'll review (when actually studying it, in a few weeks' time). At which time I'll perhaps reorganize and add to my review. It's just notesy for now. But yowza, Hardy. I hope we'll get the option to write essays on this one. (less)
I will review this – as well as one CAN review a book of poetry, which I feel is a treacherous business – after I've read Book of Longing, as soon as...moreI will review this – as well as one CAN review a book of poetry, which I feel is a treacherous business – after I've read Book of Longing, as soon as I can bring myself to absorb more Leonard Cohen. (Right now, I'd give this at least four stars, but I'll suspend my full 'judgement' until later.) (less)
I'm not actually sure why I am giving this 5 stars. Mainly, I suppose, because it's Frankenstein. I found it to be everything great that I knew it wou...moreI'm not actually sure why I am giving this 5 stars. Mainly, I suppose, because it's Frankenstein. I found it to be everything great that I knew it would be. In my opinion this is the most important parable anyone could tell - the need for admonitions against hate is crucial and perennial. And yet I can't help but feel this story, wonderfully told in itself, hasn't dated all that well. Couldn't it have been ... well... a third of the length? That would still have afforded plenty of gushy landscape imagery, and quite sufficient passages of Frankenstein's whinging.
Speaking of him, I've got to doubt that there has been a half-sensible reader of this book who did not find herself thinking:
I hate Frankenstein I hate Frankenstein I hate Frankenstein I hate Frankenstein
- I really do prefer not to swear in reviews – but as politely as I can put it, that lowlife @$$#()!* must have turned a lot of readers from mounting the god-pedastal, or so I would love to believe. Listening to parts of this on audiobook, I was more than once moved to sympathetic tears for the fiend. Rambling as his narrative section was. (One thing Shelley didn't do too well here was differentiate her characters' voices. They sound exactly alike. Then again, she may have done that on purpose. Hm. Sorry, Shelley. Extra points for you.)
This is exactly the moral -emotional reaction intended, and I honour it. Nevertheless, as I was saying, it goes on forever. Too bad she could not have somehow resisted the style of her contemporaries – an illogical thing to wish, I know – and cut down on the floweriness. The stylistic contrast to the raw and mostly-ugly nature of the plot is chilling. That's cool - but it takes so long to read. Or it *would* if I hadn't started to merely skim most of the imagistic paragraphs by about page 20.
Altogether, by the final sentences I felt less thrills&chills related to the story itself than admiration for Mary Shelley. Because she managed to write in that really-gotta-say-it asshole Frankenstein's voice for how many pages? Far more than enough, that's how many, to convince us to join her in deepest sympathy toward the "monster." She created a "hero" indubitably more hateful to me (and i would think far less fun to write) than any in the order of Ralph & Jack, Holden Caulfield, Alex or the darling H. Humbert.
Needless to say I do not believe there is virtue in banning books; be assured my argument is hypothetical. Why would any of those characters' books be banned, and not this one? Why not Frankenstein – why unbanned the portrayal of a so-called civilized and learned man who epitomizes cruelty and ignorance, beside whom the fiend himself is innocent in an entire world of fiends? Gee - because there are no cuss words in Frankenstein, marm, that's why. What's more dangerous a social criticism than what Shelley's said over and over and over in this book? If we started to take this seriously, how much would we have to change? Appearances are deceiving. End of scanty thoughts. I revere this book. Because of it, I want to think and feel and fight more courageously for the monster in every sentient being. That is all.