I really do owe my friend Zach an apology. He texted me after watching the BBC's most recent adaptation of Emma: "If you like Emma, then you should tI really do owe my friend Zach an apology. He texted me after watching the BBC's most recent adaptation of Emma: "If you like Emma, then you should try Vanity Fair." I kind of shrugged my shoulders and sent him an okay. My mind drifts back to the copy of the The Tin Drum which sits dog-eared, collecting dust, and yet-to-be finished on my shelf. His recommendations are usually a hit or miss, but being the bibliophile that I am, I had to go out and buy a copy.
So here's where the apology comes in because it took me three frickin' years to finally open this book. And he was right. In many ways, Vanity Fair is like Emma. Except that Vanity Fair is the bigger, badder version of Emma. Vanity Fair is Emma on steroids. It's the Madonna that Lady Gaga aspires to be. Whereas Jane Austen's satire of Regency England is evoked through demure dialogue and subtle quips, Thackeray shatters the 4th wall and goes on long, meandering, often rambling tangents about the follies of mankind. At times, he condemns his characters, and at times he sympathizes with them. He even has the gall to attack his audience-- how dare we, as readers, pass judgement on the characters in Vanity Fair when we ourselves are just as shallow, and self-serving? Although Thackeray's depiction of humankind is bleak and cynical, the tone of his narrative remains humourous and light-hearted.
Both books are either loved or hated because of their strong, domineering, female protagonists. Emma--beautiful, intelligent, and fabulously rich, passes her ennui by meddling in other people's lives. However, had she been born poor, and was armed with nothing but her beauty and her wit, I believe she would've turned out like the badass that is Becky Sharp.
We're introduced to Becky as she exits her boarding school with her classmate and frenemy, Amelia Sedley. Becky is determined to carve a niche for herself in society, while Amelia eagerly awaits to start a domesticated life with her fiance, George Osborne. Osborne's best friend is William Dobbin-- who is easily the most heroic, and sympathetic character in Vanity Fair, but spends most of the novel pining away over Amelia. Throw Becky's exploits, and Amelia's love triangle against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, and voila we're in Vanity Fair.
Being a twenty-something year-old woman with somewhat feminist sentiments,and oodles of platonic love for my gender, I couldn't resist Becky Sharp. What I love most about her character is that she had the makings to become a tragic heroine,(and trust me, I've had it up to my tits with tragic heroines) but instead of succumbing to suicide by arsenic, or train track jumping, she grabs the proverbial bull by the horns and makes the life that she wants. I may not necessarily agree with her actions--she flirts with men to advance her husband, she becomes an alleged adulteress, she's accused of murder, and she is a downright shitty mom-- but in those days especially, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Perhaps if Tess of the d'Urbervilles was blessed with brains instead of stupid virtue, she would have met a happier end. Although Becky is perceived as an amoral bitch, she does redeem herself in the end. She's the only character in the book who can recognize the honour and integrity of the worthy Dobbin and *spoiler alert* finally unites him with Amelia.
Although I've focused my review on Thackeray's narrative and Becky, there is so much to enjoy about this book. The novel is populated with memorable characters, and Thackeray's vivid descriptions of of Waterloo would satisfy any history buff. Yes, there are inconsistencies with the who's, what's and when's (this was initially a serial after all), and yes, Thackeray goes on tangents and rambles on, but if you can make it past that, I promise you a worthwhile read. ...more
I was actually pretty skeptical going into this book. I've heard so many people compare this to Jane Eyreand I didn't believe that anyone could ever d I was actually pretty skeptical going into this book. I've heard so many people compare this to Jane Eyreand I didn't believe that anyone could ever do justice to it.I read past the famous opening line:
Last Night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
I was hooked.
I admire du Maurier. She had the balls to take elements from such an iconic piece of literature--gothic mansion, young bride, Byronic hero,-- and she makes it her own. Let's start with our unnamed narrator, the second Mrs.Max de Winter; not unlike my beloved Jane, Mrs. de Winter is young and poor. She marries an older, wealthier man. That's where the similarity stops. Where as Jane's intelligence and vivacity is constrained by her sense of duty, Mrs. de Winter is naive and insecure. She takes on the role as the Mistress of Manderley, and becomes dependent on others because of her insecurities. And yet, du Maurier is such a great writer that we start to care about this meek character. Not only that, but we start to understand her fears.
Du Maurier is also the master at setting the tone of the novel.Every little detail in the book, from the placement of the furniture in Manderley, to the namelessness of our main heroine, contribute to the mood of the novel. Although the novel takes place after Rebecca's death, and there aren't any ghosts (in the Charles Dickens sense, at least), Rebecca's presence is the strongest in the book.
As impressed as I was with the biting satire and the wonderful cast of outlandish characters found in Cold Comfort Farm, I'm still dying to know twoAs impressed as I was with the biting satire and the wonderful cast of outlandish characters found in Cold Comfort Farm, I'm still dying to know two things:
Did the sheep die
What nasty thing did Aunt Ada find in the woodshed?...more
Hemingway embodies everything that I dislike in other authors; his writing is terse and simplistic, his views are cynical, and he often portrays his fHemingway embodies everything that I dislike in other authors; his writing is terse and simplistic, his views are cynical, and he often portrays his female characters negatively. This all works for me in A Farewell to Arms.
The story first takes place in 1916 war-torn Italy. It revolves around Frederic Henry, an ambulance driver for the Italian army. There are two stories taking place in the book; the story of Frederic's life in the army, and his romance with a beautiful English nurse, Catherine Barkley.
Through his short, understated prose, Hemingway creates a great anti-war statement. His characters are either bored, or just tired of the war. He writes about war through the eyes of common soldiers and regular men. The dialogue that takes place between the soldiers, and their own take on the war is very believable. Hemingway's cynicism works so well here because it very well reflects the atmosphere of the time he was writing in.
The reason why it's a four star and not a five star book for me is because of the romance between Frederic and Catherine. It's very hard to distinguish whether what the relationship between the characters is. Is it love? is it just an ongoing infatuation? is it a fling that went on too long because of a pregnancy? Although there were many tender moments between the two, it just felt like they were playing house.
There's an ongoing battle between Jane Austen fans about which novel is her greatest work. While my heart will always belong to Mr. Darcy and Liza BenThere's an ongoing battle between Jane Austen fans about which novel is her greatest work. While my heart will always belong to Mr. Darcy and Liza Bennet, and Pride and Prejudice will always be my favourite book, I think that Persuasion is Jane Austen at her best. The book encompasses everything we love about Austen: witty dialogue, breath-taking romance, and a satiric glimpse of Georgian society. However, this novel has more depth and maturity than any of Austen's previous work.
At the centre of the story is the beautiful romance between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Although eight years earlier they were passionately in love, Anne rejects Wentworth because she is persuaded by a close friend that she could make a better match. She never does. At the ripe age of 27, nearing the age of spinsterhood, Captain Wentworth re-enters her life. Even though Wntworth is courting another woman, Anne hopes that their love might be rekindled.
Persuasion, perhaps more than Austen's other novels, is bubbling to the brim with social commentary. Anne's family is shallow and materialistic. I remember laughing out loud at one point when her father complains about how many unattractive women there are in his neighborhood.
Anne is what every young woman should aspire to be: she's kind-hearted, strong, intelligent, and fair. It's very easy to sympathize and fall in love with this character as she reflects upon and learns from her mistakes. She is often overlooked by her own ridiculous family because she doesn't share their values of wealth and beauty, and she has come to accept the limitations of being an unwed woman. Her romance with Wentworth was the summer of her life, and this decline, this sense of longing and regret, is her autumn.
However, as in all of Austen's novels, the good are rewarded, and the bad are (mildly) punished. Captain Wentworth writes the most romantic letter you'll ever read. I'm actually contemplating getting a line from the letter tattooed on my body: