Private detective Joe Lassiter suspects more than a simple murder, when his sister and her son are burned to death in a manmade fire. He uses his comp...morePrivate detective Joe Lassiter suspects more than a simple murder, when his sister and her son are burned to death in a manmade fire. He uses his company and contacts to find some explanation, and it leads him all over the world to a small community in Italy, where a priest has received a mindblowing confession.
I like the fact that this is a historical novel with elements of non-fiction. The characters existed in the 16th century, and according to the writer,...moreI like the fact that this is a historical novel with elements of non-fiction. The characters existed in the 16th century, and according to the writer, she has tried to stay true to their personalities. It's interesting to follow the married, but not at first lovingly attached, couple, Barbara and Alfonso. Barbara is of course a product of her time, but at the same time she stands her ground surprisingly well, and is rather witty and headstrong. Alfonso II d'Este, duke of Ferrara, is used to people obeying his wishes, and doesn't know what to do with his new curious and "disobedient and difficult" wife. The biggest problem for Barbara to find out and Alfonso to hide, is his past. Rumor has it he killed his first wife. Barbara decides to solve the mystery, find proof and expose the person responsible for the murder, even if it is her new husband. Unfortunately, Alfonso has spies all over the grounds, reporting back to him, so that might be a problem for the duchess.
The characters felt real, perhaps due to the fact that they really were. It's always interesting to follow a strong woman in historical times. I think the duke and duchess were a good match, and eventually they seemed to realize that, as well, as they grew more gentle towards each other.
The book reminded me of Rebecca, but at the same time it was different. It shared a lot of elements, but took some different turns. The reason I give it only three stars is because I felt the main characters were alive, but the others felt flat and faded into the shades, not especially convincing. Unfortunately, that lost the book some of its charm, but never the less I would recommend it to people who like conspiracies and mysteries, and especially history.(less)
The story was interesting, with elements of history and conspiracy, which I like. The strongest part was the last fifty pages of the book, where you g...more
The story was interesting, with elements of history and conspiracy, which I like. The strongest part was the last fifty pages of the book, where you get to follow the arguments of a meeting at the White House, which apparently is a pretty accurate description of such a meeting in real life.
The only setback is the characters. Selena is not a female stereotype, but at the same time, she is kind of a modern female but-at-the-same-time-tough woman stereotype. In the modern society women are expected to be such, not the timid and innocent type, but the confident, successful, independent-and-at-the-same-time-charming-and-beautiful woman. Selena seems like the perfect woman from that perspective. I like strong female characters, but she bothers me because I don't buy into it. She seems rather flat and difficult to get to know. She seems written just to be the beautiful woman on the side, without personality, that can serve Carter with sex, when appropriate. At the same time, Nick Carter isn't convincing either. I didn't manage to get inside his head. The characters are the most important part of the story, and they are a delicate ingredient in convincing the reader, according to me.
However, if you don't care about character credibility, and are looking for an adventure that speeds up gradually, this is the book for you. (less)
Casaubon, Belbo and Diotallevi work for a vanity publisher in Milan, and they are used to reading manuscripts with conspiracy theories. Eventually, th...moreCasaubon, Belbo and Diotallevi work for a vanity publisher in Milan, and they are used to reading manuscripts with conspiracy theories. Eventually, they get bored and decide to create their own conspiracy. They use many historical mysteries and with some fantasy and creativity connect the dots between them. It's called "The Plan" and at first they have no idea how they could make people believe in it. But, scary as it seems, the longer they work with the story, the more they realize that there are too many coincidences. The Plan becomes real.
It's interesting to follow the change in the characters when The Plan totally consumes them. The obsession isn't healthy. What really happens to people who need something to make them going? To fuel their lives. What happens when there is nothing left?
You stand no chance to understand it all. Even though I've read some books about the Knights Templar, one of the main things in The Plan, I didn't catch some of the details of the other stuff. There's probably something from every mystery on earth in The Plan, and Eco doesn't bother to explain the historical events or characters, which demands a lot of the reader.
The character I found most interesting was Belbo. Here are some of his universal truths: 1. Never run in a straight line! (When someone is chasing you with a gun) 2. There are four kinds of people. Cretins, fools, morons and lunatics. A genius uses one component in a dazzling way, fueling it with the others. 3. "A pompous, self-important, overweening individual is thought to hold himself the way he does because of a cork stuck in his sphincter ani, which prevents his vaporific dignity from being dispersed. The removal of the cork causes the individual to deflate, a process usually accompanied by a shrill whistle and the reduction of the outer envelope to a poor fleshless phantom of its former self."
I know it's a well written book, and there is much to think about after finishing it. But there were too many slow parts and there were too many names without introduction. Apart from that, Eco keeps digressing, and it's not so exciting after a while.(less)
Dr Jekyll, a respectable man with many friends, surprises his surrounding acquaintances when starting to associate with a threatening character, named...more Dr Jekyll, a respectable man with many friends, surprises his surrounding acquaintances when starting to associate with a threatening character, named Mr Hyde, and even makes him his heir. This seems confusing and worrying from his friend Mr Utterson's point of view, and the latter decides to investigate the mysterious Mr Hyde a little closer.
This is a very famous novel, but despite the fact that the mysterious secrets are already known, it was still interesting to analyze the characters and try to understand how things could go wrong in the first place. Why do Jekyll feels the need to free his emotions? Is he a victim of repression that the conventions of society has forced upon him? Or could he be blamed entirely? I think it's an interesting aspect because all people have a dark side, and sometimes, it gets unleashed, if it is through bullshit talk, revenge, stealing, bullying, envying, grudging or whatever. But most people grow from it and want to be a better person. Rarely, these darker sides of us make us guilty of murder.
Dr Jekyll has always felt he ought to behave strict and repress evil urges that are not fitting for a man of his status. The darker side of him feels so neglected, when given no room, that he somehow brakes out and frees himself. And when he has felt the freedom of impulses that Hyde offers, he becomes this new unscrupulous person, which only sees his former self as his safety when it comes to the crimes he has committed. To Hyde, Jekyll is his "cavern in which he conceals himself from pursuit" of justice.
One personality grows on the expense of the other. The transformation between the two personalities is Stevenson's subtle way of describing the function of a man's psyche, the inner struggle between good and evil choices and the wish to avoid responsibility. Jekyll doesn't object about his elixir and transformation in the beginning, because he convinces himself that the wrongdoings aren't really caused by him. They're caused by a totally different man, that happens to share his body. He has managed to create a kind of sanctuary for his repressed emotions. Eventually, Jekyll tries to stop the transformation when realizing Hyde's power is growing and is becoming dangerous, but then it's too late. He has lost the ability to control himself. When one gives in to temptation it's hard to come back to one's senses. In that way this reminded me of Wilde's The picture of Dorian Gray.
The novel is too short, and I feel I hadn't time to get to know the characters enough. Furthermore, most of the chapters concentrate on Utterson's visits here and there and conversations with people close to Jekyll, and I had wanted to get into Jekyll's head instead, and follow him and his destructive manner. Especially, when the story was unfolding and the suspense increasing. (less)
This is the first time I've read a book that had me force myself through the first half, to then discover something of the most wonderful literature I...moreThis is the first time I've read a book that had me force myself through the first half, to then discover something of the most wonderful literature I can remember.
Therefore, it's very hard to grade The Italian. It's a slow, difficult read as much as a wonderful, subtle, psychological piece of work. The naive Vivaldi falls in love at first sight with the lovely, but poor Ellena. His mother, the Marchesa, does everything in her power to stop them seeing each other. She contacts her confessor, the monk Schedoni, who suggests a horrible action towards Ellena, and claims that's the only way to separate them. She has do die. Sounds evil, but his proposition isn't that unintelligible when you get to know more about him. Let's leave that for now. Then, Ellena is kidnapped and imprisoned in a monastery. Thereafter, there are so many twists and turns when the story unfolds that I can't even remember them all. But every character has his or her place and there's a reason they are created.
Schedoni steals the show, as really masterful villains sometimes do, but only if they are masterful enough. He's the most deceitful, deceiving, cynical, least favorable character, but at the same time the most complex. I had a hard time getting to know him, because I couldn't decide whether he is good deep down or not. Of course, he is a ruthless villain with plenty of evil deeds behind him, but it seems he has a conscience, after all.
For instance, he has some remorse about killing Ellena. He has plenty of opportunities even before he knows who she really is. I won't call him a byronic hero, but I'm aware that he inspired the gothic protagonists in the following centuries such as Rochester, Heathcliff and even Mr de Winter.
He was complicated enough as it were. Then, all of a sudden, a surprise even to himself, he's the father of Ellena! And as if that wasn't enough, I mean, perhaps there were people who thought his conspiracy with the Marchesa towards the lovely young couple wasn't ruthless enough, Radcliffe had some other surprises up her sleeve, as well. What about this: He murdered his brother, forced a marriage with his brother's wife and then killed her for not returning his feelings for her, whereupon he left her and at the same time his own, infant daughter. That's what I meant when I stated that Schedoni's suggestion about killing Ellena was logical to him. He, himself, had killed his OWN brother in want of his wife, Olivia. He knows that it's hard to force people in love apart, and people goes to great lengths to achieve the ones they love. He certainly did and it consumed him. Schedoni turns out to be nothing like a monk at all, but sought himself to that kind of life after his sins, perhaps for redemption. Unfortunately, his vicious ways leads him into muddy circumstances yet again.
And then, to really stir everything up, it turns out that he isn't Ellenas father, after all, but her uncle, something he never becomes aware of. His wife had two daughters in her two marriages. One with the first Count di Bruno and one with Schedoni.
And if anyone anywhere think this isn't enough complicated story lines intertwined, Radcliffe presents us with yet another twist; Ellenas mother, Schedoni's involuntary wife, isn't dead at all, but had taken refugee after the murder attempt to the very monastery where Ellena herself was imprisoned.
A very complicated story, and that's not all. There are constant twists that make you want to know how it's going to affect the characters.
One of many quotations I liked was this:
"It may be worthy of observation, that the virtues of Olivia, exerted in general cause, had thus led her unconsciously to the happiness of saving her daughter; while the vices of Schedoni had as unconsciously urged him nearly to destroy his niece, and had always been preventing, by the means they prompted him to employ, the success of his constant aim."
End of spoilers
Of course, everyone in the book spent their time being confused. I was very confused! No one in this book is what they seem to be. It was unnerving to never know what secrets the next chapter was going to reveal, but I really like feeling that way when reading a gothic book, or any book at all, for that matter.
I don't know whether to give it three or four stars. I suppose I would like to give it something in between. The construction of the plot is fantastic, but unfortunately it's slow at times. Especially the first half of the book, I found myself question whether I could endure it. Furthermore, the language is that of the muddle, philosophical, long-sentenced nature. Beautiful, but not very easy to digest and it takes some time to really understand everything that's going on, especially between the lines.
But then, it paid off. Such an amazing story with such interesting characters and such thrilling occurrences between persons!
The story is about so much more than complex relationships. It's about moral, disguise on several levels, sin and persecution. It was interesting to read about the religious conventions of the time that affected the population in different ways. The last chapters focus on the trial by the Holy Inquisition, where both Vivaldi and Schedoni are accused.
To people who like gothic fiction, I can recommend this, but it is a difficult read and takes some time. (less)
From the moment Edmond Dantès is wrongly accused for being a Napoleon agent, arrested and brought to the prison If, his life obviously changes. When a...moreFrom the moment Edmond Dantès is wrongly accused for being a Napoleon agent, arrested and brought to the prison If, his life obviously changes. When an opportunity presents itself, he manages to escape and swears he will seek out the people responsible for his fourteen years behind bars - his former friends - and avenge himself. Fortunately, his acquaintance in prison leaves him with a profound knowledge and an extreme fortune, something that come in handy on his road to revenge.
This must be one of the best written books I've read. There are so many different characters and Dumas stays true to them all. Nearly 1500 pages - a long read, but it doesn't feel extremely long due do the exciting story. There are a lot of mind games and psychological suspense and every chapter is written as excellent as the previous one.
(May contain spoilers) Edmond Dantès is using several identities on his way to vengeance as - the Count of Monte Cristo, Lord Wilmore, Simbad the sailor and Abbé Busoni - and which he choses depend on what the situation requires. For example, when he needs to come in contact with Valentine Villefort's grandfather he assumes the role of Abbè Busoni. It's very interesting to follow his constructive capacity and the ability to perform.
I really liked Valentine's goodness and the free spirit of Mademoiselle Danglars. I enjoyed the moment when Mercedes confronts Dantès and his layers of emotions. The fact that Dantès transforms from a good, humble person to this rough, authoritarian being is something I approved of. You can't be wrongfully sentenced without trial, by your own friends, without something happening inside you... I really understand Dantès, even though some of his means are a bit questionable.
Jealousy, greed and the eagerly awaited vengeance... what a way of describing them!(less)
One night, on a lonely road, Walter Hartright meets a woman dressed completely in white. What he doesn't know is that she is going to change everythin...moreOne night, on a lonely road, Walter Hartright meets a woman dressed completely in white. What he doesn't know is that she is going to change everything. After that encounter, he is constantly reminded of the woman and he becomes interested in her mysterious character. Why does she know so much about the place he now lives in? Why does she seem to fear people in that area? And why are certain people afraid of the mere mentioning of her?
This is considered to be one of the first mystery novels, as well as one of the first sensation novels. That is quite understandable, and I think there were many surprises in store for the 19th century readers. However, some of the things indicated were a little too distinct. The pace varied a lot, and was slow-going at times. Except that, there's mostly positive things to tell about it. The plot is very carefully written and has it's charm. It is written in a beautiful, very english language and some of the emotional parts are clearly memorable.
"She had put on the dress which I used to admire more than any other that she possessed - a dark blue silk, trimmed quaintly and prettily with old-fashioned lace; she came forward to meet me with her former readiness; she gave me her hand with the frank, innocent good will of happier days. The cold fingers that trembled round mine; the pale cheeks with a bright red spot burning in the midst of them; the faint smile that struggled to live on her lips and died away from them while I looked at it, told me at what sacrifice of herself her outward composure was maintained. My heart could take her no closer to me, or I should have loved her then as I had never loved her yet." - Walter Hartright.
The characters are wonderfully crafted, with all their emotions and human flaws. Walter Hartright came off as a little too mainstream, and even foolish, walking alone on a solitary road in the middle of the night, when knowing he was being followed. But he grew on me during his struggles to reveal the truth, and proved to be very competent to take care of the ones he loved. It was interesting to follow his development.
"There are many varieties of sharp practitioners in this world, but, I think, the hardest of all to deal with are the men who overreach you under the disguise of inveterate good humour." - Walter Hartright.
"The best men are not consistent in good - why should the worst men be consistent in evil?" - Walter Hartright.
Laura was beautiful and kind, but unfortunately totally naive and transparent most of the time. She was a real lady, according to custom. She was the only character that I didn't really get to know.
Count Fosco, the italian gentleman with something up his sleeve, was one of the more developed characters. He was intelligent, manipulating, admiringly competent, self-composed and deceiving. He and Sir Percival Glyde came alive, and their personalities so differed from each other, and complemented each other, when the Count lacked moral feelings and Percival was weak.
"The fool's crime is the crime that is found out; and the wise man's crime is the crime that is not found out." - Count Fosco.
"I say what other people only think; and when all the rest of the world is in a conspiracy to accept the mask for the true face, mine is the rash hand that tears off the plump pasteboard, and shows the bare bones beneath." - Count Fosco.
My absolute favourite character was Marian Halcombe, the strong-minded and determined sister of Laura. She didn't have the best of starts, being described as having a tall, striking figure, but ugly features, and a strict and manly manner. But soon, you realized what an inspiring woman she was! The way she took care of Laura, respected Hartright, suspected Fosco and despised Percival, portrayed her character as clever and insightful. I guess women weren't supposed to think like her back then, but she didn't care and she was respected for it. She even earned the authoritative Fosco's deep admiration - and fear? - of her intelligent, independent mind. The relationship between the two half-sisters was wonderful. They were the complete opposites of each other. Marian was strong and Laura dependent, and they really needed each other. There's no doubt Marian is the star of the book, shared, perhaps, by Fosco.
"Any woman who is sure of her own wits, is a match, at any time, for a man who is not sure of his own temper." - Marian Halcombe.
And, of course, the mysterious woman in white, was a tragic character with a tragic destiny. One comment, meant to give her power, destroyed her life. Her ending was very sad, but at the same time she got what she really wanted, in a way, and that was a relief.
"So the ghostly figure which has haunted these pages as it haunted my life, goes down into the impenetrable Gloom. Like a Shadow she first came to me, in the loneliness of the night. Like a Shadow she passes away, in the loneliness of the dead." - Walter Hartright.
The book contains a lot of different themes, but is first and foremost a mystery/crime/detective-story. There's blackmail, deception, disguises, mistaken identities, secret societies, spies and people determined to find out the truth, and bring the people responsible to justice. Other constant themes are the importance of marrying for love and not for comfort or conscience, and to follow your intuition, which might be the only thing that can save you.
It was easy to be swept away, but, unfortunately, equally hard to get back into, when continued the next day. Except the tedious parts, it's a rather good read. (less)
Surprisingly interesting! Old bones and stone tool findings that have been ignored due to their anomaly. After Darwin's "The origin of species" archeo...moreSurprisingly interesting! Old bones and stone tool findings that have been ignored due to their anomaly. After Darwin's "The origin of species" archeological items that contradict Darwinism were dismissed, even not discussed. These things are reviewed and readers get to follow researchers' and anthropologists' arguments through the centuries. The fact that our ancestors might be much older than we know, actually millions of years, is thrilling. The human footprint next to that of a dinosaur's. The gold necklace in ancient coal. A super ancient beautiful vase deep down in the strata, from a time long before the existence of homo erectus. All these findings indicate a great human civilisation, lost in time. "Forbidden archeology" isn't on of those books that try to convince you of it's authenticity and reliability. This feels truthful.(less)