Let's just call this a "need to reread" book. I remember thinking it was just okay when I read it. But then, that was back in high school when the tea...moreLet's just call this a "need to reread" book. I remember thinking it was just okay when I read it. But then, that was back in high school when the teachers made us pull it part and dissect the language. I was bound to hate it. And everyone seems to love Gatsby, so hopefully a revisit will help me see why.(less)
In terms of language and style, Romeo and Juliet might possibly be the best of all Shakespeare's work. It's crammed full of some of the most beautiful...moreIn terms of language and style, Romeo and Juliet might possibly be the best of all Shakespeare's work. It's crammed full of some of the most beautiful poetry I've ever had the pleasure of reading. But the story of lust-filled teens sacrificing themselves because of an extreme burst of instalove? Never really been my cup of tea. (less)
I've just finished rereading this book for my book club but, to be honest, I've liked it ever since my class were made t...moreKids are evil. Don't you know?
I've just finished rereading this book for my book club but, to be honest, I've liked it ever since my class were made to read it in high school. Overall, Lord of the Flies doesn't seem to be very popular, but I've always liked the almost Hobbesian look at the state of nature and how humanity behaves when left alone without societal rules and structures. Make the characters all angel-faced kids with sadistic sides to their personality and what do you have? Just your average high school drama, but set on a desert island. With a bit more bloody murder. But not that much more.
In 1954, when this book was published, Britain was in the process of being forced to face some harsh realities that it had blissfully chosen to ignore beforehand - that it is not, in fact, the centre of the universe, and the British Empire was not a thing of national pride, but an embarrassing infringement on the freedom and rights of other human beings. Much of British colonialism had been justified as a self-righteous mission to educate and modernise foreign "savages". So when put into its historical context, alongside the decolonisation movements, this book could be said to be an interesting deconstruction of white, Western supremacy.
This is not a tale of "savages" who were raised in poor, rural villages... but a story about upper middle class, privately-educated, silver-spoon boys.
I can understand why some people interpret this book as racist. The racial aspect is a big factor, Golding establishes from the very first page that Ralph is not only white, but WHITE. And Piggy even asks "Which is better - to be a pack of painted niggers like you are or to be sensible like Ralph is?" I'm not going to argue with anyone's interpretation, it would be difficult to say exactly what Golding intended, but I think there is room to see this as the opposite of racism. For me, I always saw it as Golding challenging the notion of savages being dark-skinned, uneducated people from rural areas. With this book, he says screw that, I'll show you savages! and proceeds to show us how these little jewels of the empire are no better for their fancy education and gold-plated upbringing.
I think that seemed especially clear from the ending when the officer says "I should have thought that a pack of British boys - you're all British, aren't you? - would have been able to put up a better show than that." Golding's way of saying that human nature is universal and no one can escape it.
Some readers say that you have to have quite a negative view of human nature already to appreciate this book, but I don't think that's true. I'm not sure I necessarily agree with all the implications running around in the novel - namely, the failure of democracy and the pro-authority stance - but it serves as an interesting look at the dark side of human nature and how no one is beyond its reach. Plus, anyone who had a bit of a rough time in high school will probably not find the events in this book a huge leap of the imagination.
The fascinating thing about Lord of the Flies is the way many historical parallels can be drawn from the messages it carries. You could choose to view the charismatic and manipulative Jack Merridew as a kind of Hitler (or other dictator) who takes advantage of a group of people at their weakest. Dictators and radicals often find it easy to slip in when a society is in chaos... we do not have to assume that Golding believed that everyone everywhere is evil, only that we all have the capacity for it when we find ourselves in unstable situations.
Still a fascinating book after all these years.(less)
“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
I was walking along earlier today with Jacquie and discussing the important things like, you know... books. And the subject of our top favourite books of all time came up. Oddly enough, two of our top three were the same - Wuthering Heights and Crime and Punishment. Then Jacquie said her third was a book that I hadn't thought about in a very long time. That book was Frankenstein. It hit me like a shot of good literature: I had forgotten all about this classic that had so affected me, made me think and completely torn my heart out multiple times.
Frankenstein? I said. I must go review that right now.
You see, though, the best and worst thing about this novel is how distorted it has become by constant movie adaptations and misinformed ideas about the nature of Frankenstein and his "monster". For years I thought Frankenstein was the name of that slightly green dude with the bolts in his neck. Nuh-uh.
Did Frankenstein scare me? Did it have me staying awake and sleeping with the light on, jumping at every slight creak in the house? Was I terrified of the monster and technology and the dangers of playing God? No. Because the beauty of this story is that it isn't the one so many people think it is. Which is almost my favourite thing about it. This book is not a Halloween kind of story with Halloween kind of monsters. This story is nothing short of heartbreakingly sad.
“...once I falsely hoped to meet the beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding.”
The book offers many interesting avenues of philosophical exploration if one is so inclined to ponder such things; for example, allusions to religion and Genesis, possible criticisms of using science to "play God", the relationship between creator and creation. All of these things interest me, yes, but it is the painfully human part of this book that has always so deeply affected me.
Because the sad thing, the really sad thing, is that pretty much everyone has heard of Frankenstein's monster... but so many don't know how human the character is. Created as a scientific experiment by an overly ambitious man, he comes into a frightening and hostile world that immediately rejects him on sight. Even the man who made him cannot look upon his creation without feeling horror. It's that same thing that gets me in books every time: things could have been so different. If people had just been a little less judgmental, a little less scared, and a little more understanding.
This being, created from different parts of corpses, seeks love and finds hatred, so he instead decides to embrace it. Fuelled by his own rage at the unfairness of the world, he gradually turns towards evil. Everyone knows him as "the monster" so it's hard for me to call him anything else, but I basically always saw him like this:
He belongs in my own little mind category with the likes of Heathcliff and Erik (aka The Phantom of the Opera). Scared, angry villains who were made so by their own unfortunate circumstances that plunged them into worlds where they couldn't find a place. The kind of characters you simultaneously hate and love, but most of all hope they find some kind of peace.
So call it science-fiction, if you will. Call it horror, if you must. But this story is brimming with some of the most realistic and almost unbearably moving human emotion that I have ever read.
As we all should know, reading and enjoying a book is largely about interpretation. People are not the...moreNow, this is going to be embarrassing to admit.
As we all should know, reading and enjoying a book is largely about interpretation. People are not the same and we all view things differently, one individual might see a relationship in a book as "passionate" while another could see it as "damaging". When characters make bad decisions, some will view it as stupidity and others will view it as an accurate representation of humanity's imperfections. Not only that, but time often changes the way one person sees things. A teenager does not usually have the same outlook on life and relationships that someone of thirty does, and neither of them have the same outlook as someone of seventy does.
So it's time that I admit, when reading this at thirteen, my younger brain actually romanticised Humbert's depravity and saw the relationship between him and Lolita as some tragic love affair that could never work out for the obvious reasons. It was (surprise, surprise) Tatiana's review that made me wonder if I'd had a screw loose when reading this years ago, her interpretation was so far from what I remembered that I simply had to find time for a re-read. This summer, I did just that. I am going to point my shameful finger of blame at my age when I first read it, I was as fooled by Humbert as the young Lolita was.
Humbert is not a reliable narrator, his declaration that Lolita was responsible for seducing him is repulsive and wrong. Because, in the end, an adult has no excuse for having sex with a child, even if they're walking around half-naked and offering it up - adults have a responsibility not to take advantage of children, and I now realise how this case is no exception. This is not some tragic romantic tale about forbidden love, it is the story of how a grown man repeatedly raped a young girl. The fact that it is so easy to be taken in by him either says something about how brilliant a writer Nabokov is (which he is), or how much society still loves to blame the victim.
I don't know whether to feel better about my original feelings or be horrified that even the description for the audiobook describes the novel as: "a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness." And I also know that I have no right to criticise other people who saw it in such a way, but I would ask you to read it again, to look beyond Humbert's snivelling and self-pity, to see the man who considers murdering a woman so he can be free to have sex with her twelve year old daughter, the man who feels sorry for himself when a pubescent girl doesn't want to have sex with him because she's still hurt from the last time. Is that love? Maybe it was for a thirteen year old looking through Humbert's perverted eyes, but I'm glad I understand it better now.
Nabokov has written a brilliant and disturbing novel, my opinion of it hasn't changed in that respect. I found it surprisingly easy to read and became absorbed quickly - even all those years ago. His portrayal of Humbert's perverted mind is scarily good, perhaps even too good if people can so easily be convinced to side with a paedophile - which is often regarded as the ultimate crime of all, isn't it? Even cold-blooded murderers go after prisoners who've messed with kids. And, as much as I feel ashamed for being so taken in by Humbert, I know that it's not just me who was fooled. Hell, even the GR description proves it. But, believe me, Lolita is a victim and no amount of saddening flashbacks to Humbert's past can change that.
In certain crowds, my rating and the words I'm about to write (well, type) would probably get me shot. But The Hobbit is still, to this day, the singl...moreIn certain crowds, my rating and the words I'm about to write (well, type) would probably get me shot. But The Hobbit is still, to this day, the single most boring book I have ever read. That's including The Globalization of World Politics. And Moby-Dick. I feel like I'm missing something with all of Tolkien's work. I don't get the love :((less)
The Brontes fuelled my love for reading and convinced me that the classics weren't all mean, nasty books that fascist teachers made you read in school...moreThe Brontes fuelled my love for reading and convinced me that the classics weren't all mean, nasty books that fascist teachers made you read in school just to torture you. I grew up with Austen and Dickens, whom I loved, but the Brontes always seemed to come out on top for some reason. Jane Eyre is my second favourite after Wuthering Heights. I love the darkness and sadness of their novels, but the more... simplistic style than you'd find in Dickens's wild tales of orphans, drunks and epic family betrayals.(less)
This was the book that started my love affair with the dystopian genre. And maybe indirectly influenced my decision to do a politics degree. I was onl...moreThis was the book that started my love affair with the dystopian genre. And maybe indirectly influenced my decision to do a politics degree. I was only 12 years old when I first read it but I suddenly saw how politics could be taken and manipulated to tell one hell of a scary and convincing story. I'm a lot more well-read now but, back then, this was a game-changer. I started to think about things differently. I started to think about 2 + 2 = 5 and I wanted to read more books that explored the idea of control.(less)
This is a book that I was actually dreading reading for quite some time. It was on a list of books that I'd been working my way through and, after see...moreThis is a book that I was actually dreading reading for quite some time. It was on a list of books that I'd been working my way through and, after seeing the size of it and the fact that 'War And Peace' was voted #1 book to avoid reading, I was reluctant to ever get started. But am I glad that I did. This is a surprisingly fast-moving, interesting and easy to read novel. The last of which I'd of never believed could be true before reading it, but you find yourself instantly engrossed in this kind of Russian soap opera, filled with weird and intriguing characters. The most notable theme is the way society overlooked mens' affairs but frowned on womens', this immediately created a bond between myself and Anna, who is an extremely likeable character. I thought it had an amazing balance of important meaning and light-heartedness. Let's just say, it's given me some courage to maybe one day try out the dreaded 'War And Peace'.(less)
“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.”
I first read Great Expectations when I was thirteen years old. It was the first of Dickens' works that I'd read on my own volition, the only other being Oliver Twist, which we'd studied parts of in school. You know, I missed out on a lot when I was thirteen; by this, I mean that I didn't always understand the deeper meaning lying beneath the surface of my favourite classics. I favoured fast-paced and gritty stories and didn't understand the love for Austen (later cured). But there was something about Great Expectations that hit me hard on all levels and there was a deeper understanding I took from it even back then.
I should say first of all, this book makes me feel sad. Not a Lifetime movie emotionally overwrought pass-me-the-kleenex kind of sad. I have read it several times and have never once cried while reading it. But the book never fails to leave me with this hollow feeling that things could have been so different. When I was a kid, I often wished I could jump inside the TV and warn the good guys not to do something, stop something horrible from happening. This is that kind of book for me. All the not-knowing and mistaken assumptions that float between the characters in this novel is torture.
Some readers don't like Dickens. He's been called melodramatic and lacking in style, as well as a bunch of other things. Well, I think he's like the Stephen King of the Victorian era. He loves his drama, his characters are well-drawn but sometimes edging towards caricatures, he has a wonderful talent for painting a vivid picture of a scene in your mind but a bunch of his books are a hundred pages too long. Whatever. I love his stories. And I love his characters, especially in this book.
In Great Expectations, you have the orphaned Philip "Pip" Pirrip who has spent his short life being poor and being bullied by his sister who is also his guardian. You have Joe Gargery, a kind man who also allows himself to be bullied by Pip's sister (his wife). Then you have the infamous Miss Havisham who was abandoned at the altar and now spends her days wandering around her mansion in her old wedding dress, hating men and raising the young Estella to be just like her.
“You are in every line I have ever read.”
At its heart, this is a book about someone who is given an opportunity to have all their dreams come true, to be better than they ever thought they could be, to be loved by someone who they never thought would look at them. We all yearn for something badly at times; imagine having the chance to get exactly what you always wanted. Imagine becoming better and higher than you knew was possible. Imagine having all of that and then realizing that perhaps the most important thing you ever had got left behind.
Pip was always my favourite Dickens protagonist because he wants so much and I sympathise with him. I can understand why he does what he does and why he wants what he wants. But the saddest thing is that ambition can make you lose sight of other important things and Pip has a lot of hard lessons to learn along the way. It's a book that was extremely relevant to the times when social class was of utmost importance in Britain. Essentially, the book deconstructs what it means to be a "gentlemen" and makes a not-so-subtle criticism of a class-based society.
Who are the real gentlemen? The top hat wearing men of London with all their fine china and ceremony? Pip, who gets a chance to become one of them? Or Joe Gargery, the rough-talking blacksmith who even years later tells Pip: "you and me was ever friends"?
There is a powerful lesson in here and I love it. Even after all these years.
Still my favourite Shakespeare play? I think so. Language-wise, Shakespeare is always a master. He invented many a word and phrase that we all use even...moreStill my favourite Shakespeare play? I think so. Language-wise, Shakespeare is always a master. He invented many a word and phrase that we all use even today, centuries later. But some of the stories and characters are better than others. Macbeth, in my opinion, sits near the top of the pile. The witches and their fateful prophecies, the bloody betrayals, the madness of Lady Macbeth, and the tragedy of Macbeth himself. Bringing about his own prophesised downfall, step by step. Nothing short of genius.(less)
Othello and Macbeth have long been competing for the title of my favourite Shakespeare play. I'm still not sure. The protagonists are similar in that...moreOthello and Macbeth have long been competing for the title of my favourite Shakespeare play. I'm still not sure. The protagonists are similar in that they both instigate their own downfall through fear and paranoia and jealousy - that's what makes their tales so wonderfully tragic. The fantasy aspect of Macbeth works in its favour, but then, it doesn't have Iago. It's a difficult one.(less)
It makes some people feel better to believe that the rampant misogyny in this play is supposed to be ironic. Well, whatever. I still don't much enjoy...moreIt makes some people feel better to believe that the rampant misogyny in this play is supposed to be ironic. Well, whatever. I still don't much enjoy watching a woman having her spirit broken down until she's nothing but a shell of what she once was. (less)
So strange that this was ever considered a comedy. I've yet to see a performance of it that has seemed anything but tragic. Such an odd play all aroun...moreSo strange that this was ever considered a comedy. I've yet to see a performance of it that has seemed anything but tragic. Such an odd play all around and is - along with the Taming of the Shrew - one that makes you want to ask the old boy what his intentions were. It's criticised by many for being anti-Semitic and yet it offers Shylock the spotlight to make an infamous speech about the unfair treatment of Jews. Strange.(less)
This is not a fast-paced adventure book but it does create a beautiful picture of quiet country lanes, honeysuckle on the breeze and both the wonders...moreThis is not a fast-paced adventure book but it does create a beautiful picture of quiet country lanes, honeysuckle on the breeze and both the wonders and tragedies of living so far out in a world controlled solely by the forces of nature. It's a lovely portrait of childhood innocence and growing up, after reading it I got a desperate urge to visit the Cotswolds. The world of childhood is a very small bubble and this takes that alongside the equally small world in which this novel is set and it creates the idea of a place quite apart from the rest of the world, almost secretive. Did you ever make a secret den in the countryside when you were a child? If so, imagine crawling into it to discover that it led to a secret world that kept to itself and the outside didn't know about... that's the feeling you get about the setting of the novel, like you've crawled into a secret world. And what's more, it's completely real. A beautiful story. So why did it only get three stars? Because as much as I marveled at this beautiful world that the author told of so wonderfully, nothing much happened. It's a very sweet and subtle story but it could lead to boredom at times. I don't regret reading it though.(less)