I'm wimping out on this synopsis. It's on the book page.
I am surprised by how much I liked this book. I had to read Of Mice and Men and The Grapes ofI'm wimping out on this synopsis. It's on the book page.
I am surprised by how much I liked this book. I had to read Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath for school, and I pretty much hated them both. Of course, I hated almost everything I had to read for school, so I don't know if that says more about Steinbeck or about me. Either way, I was left with bad memories of Steinbeck.
I have several friends on GoodReads comment on how much they love this book, so when I found this edition with this cool retro cover at a library book sale, I went ahead and picked it up. It would probably have languished for a few more years in my stacks if I hadn't decided to read it for Banned Books Week. (See, book challengers? You are only hurting your case and giving authors publicity. Leave it alone, and a lot of books will fade into obscurity).
Anyway, I started to love this from the first page. Who could resist this prose?
"I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother. They were beckoning mountains with a brown grass love. The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding--unfriendly and dangerous. I always found in myself a dread of west and a love of east. Where I ever got such an idea I cannot say, unless it could be that the morning came over the peaks of the Gabilans and the night drifted back from the ridges of the Santa Lucias. It may be that the birth and death of the day had some part in my feeling about the two ranges of mountains."
I was blown away. Where was the grim author who had written such depressing books that I had been forced to read against my will? This wasn't the same guy, surely!
And that was kind of how I continued on through the book. Oh, it got dark and grim (more on that momentarily), but Steinbeck can write! Who knew?
Let me just jump right in with Cathy. What a psycho bitch. Seriously. I don't know if they used words like psychopath back in the day, but she really is. My status update after she is introduced: "Wow. *blinkblink* Cathy." That said with wide, surprised eyes. She certainly made her mark on me in a hurry. She is just pure evil.
My edition was deceptively thin, so I didn't realize it was over 500 pages of tiny font until I'd gotten a good start. Still, I made my way through this quicker than I expected to. Cathy was the character that I felt the strongest about, but I'm also intrigued by Caleb. He's the one who is truly struggling to be a better person. He thinks that he was born evil, yet he still tries to fight it and be good. I have much more respect for him than for Aron, who just pretended that evil didn't exist and so of course it couldn't describe him. Cal has a bit of "Jacob wrestling the angel" in him.
I find myself almost wishing that I had read this in school. There's so much to mull over and discuss here. I think my younger self would have hated the ending, and even now I wasn't immediately taken with it. But as time goes on, I keep chewing on it, thinking it over, and liking it more and more. Really, it's sneaking it's way onto a special new list I'll have in my head called "Strongest Ending to a Novel." Right now it's all alone on the list, but I'm sure I could come up with some others if I had to.
There are so many things I loved about this book. I loved the philosophical conversations between Lee and Samuel. I loved that I could follow along with them! They had a way of suddenly getting me to see something in a new light. I loved that Samuel Hamilton loved his land even though it wasn't very good, and the way he loved to invent things. I loved watching his son Tom struggle to become himself. I loved that Lee made me think about my expectations and how they affect my perceptions. I loved how Adam made me think about how we choose to either move on or not, because it is always a choice.
I highly recommend this when you're in the mood for a book that will actually make you think rather than just help you escape. We all know I love escapism, but sometimes even I need something meatier, and this certainly fit the bill....more
Set in the early days of the USSR, Doctor Zhivago is the story of the doctor and the sweeping changes he bears witness to.
Oh, I had a hard time with tSet in the early days of the USSR, Doctor Zhivago is the story of the doctor and the sweeping changes he bears witness to.
Oh, I had a hard time with this one. It was sheer stubbornness that got me through. I didn't particularly like Doctor Zhivago, I thought Lara was crazy, and I couldn't keep up with the politics. I kept thinking that I should look up the Russian Revolution (or whatever it's called) and try to make some sense out of what was going on, but I didn't care enough to even do that.
There were philosophical discussions planted smack in the middle of conversations. Of course I didn't believe anyone has ever actually talked that way. I couldn't follow the philosophy and then I lost the thread of the conversation by the time the characters got back to talking about something I was interested in.
The doctor was the epitome of "not to decide is a decision." He just went with whatever situation he found himself in. He had some ideals when he was young that he fought for, but then he became jaded and seemed not to really believe in anything. But I could be wrong about that. As his family life changed, he never fought for anyone. He just took the easiest path before him.
Lara was at least passionate but I felt she was inconsistent. Who did she really want to be with? I'm not entirely sure. She said one thing but did another.
What I did take away from the book is how confusing it must have been to live through a time like this. I have a feeling the confusion about who was fighting whom and why was done deliberately. I can't imagine living through a war and never being sure who was on what side and which side I should be on to get through safely. You can see how tightly I would hold to my ideals--I just want to make it through!
And Russian novelists and their character names! Holy cow! I can't keep up with everyone and their nicknames. I just can't. That adds to my confusion as well.
Because I never fully caught the thread of the book, this is really all I can say. It was not the book for me, but if you're curious, don't let me discourage you....more
Forget the big, green, shuffling, moaning monster with bolts in his neck that we've all come to associate with Frankenstein. He does not appear in theForget the big, green, shuffling, moaning monster with bolts in his neck that we've all come to associate with Frankenstein. He does not appear in these pages. I wonder what book those old horror movie writers read? It wasn't this one.
Frankenstein's monster is big, but the only other physical descriptions I really remember are flowing black hair, watery yellow eyes, and uncanny speed, agility, and tolerance for cold. Oh, and he's more eloquent than I could ever hope to be. Seriously.
As for Frankenstein himself--a more self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-explicatory character I hope to never meet. He was terrible! This was his story:
"Oh no! Something bad happened!"
He falls over in nervous delirium and is bed-ridden for months.
He moans and groans and just generally doesn't deal.
Then one day:
"Oh no! Something bad happened! But it wasn't my fault!"
He falls over in nervous delirium, bed-ridden for months, blah, blah, blah, blah.
That really is Frankenstein's story in a nutshell.
I do realize that this story was supposed to be more of a warning about our science getting ahead of our morals, pride coming before a fall and all that. On that level, it completely worked. As I read this, the word hubris kept coming to mind, and I haven't thought that word since studying the Greek myths for months on end my sophomore year of high school. That was more years ago than I honestly want to think about. Anyway, Shelley absolutely did what she meant to do and her work is always going to be relevant. But as a reader, I need a character that I can like. I don't think it necessarily has to be the main character, just give me someone, somewhere, to root for. There wasn't one here. Clerval or Elizabeth could have filled the role, but they were little cardboard cutouts to show that Frankenstein had something to lose. The monster himself was briefly likable in his wide-eyed innocence, but then he started to learn all of humanity's nasty habits. He had his reasons, but still. Ultimately I felt kind of bad for him, but I didn't like him.
It's a classic for a reason, and it really should be read, but don't expect to be too happy with anyone....more
This sweeping epic portrays life during the Civil War and Reconstruction through the eyes of Scarlett O'Hara, a young Southern belle who has a stubborThis sweeping epic portrays life during the Civil War and Reconstruction through the eyes of Scarlett O'Hara, a young Southern belle who has a stubborn streak a mile wide. She's in love with the wrong man, marries the wrong men, and is irredeemably selfish, but she's a survivor. Through it all, she steadfastly refuses the advances of reprobate blockade runner Rhett Butler. Their story is as timeless as it is turbulent.
I feel like the last Southern woman to read Gone With the Wind. My excuse, such as it is: I did try to read it once before, when I was way too young. I thought Scarlett was mean, Miss Melly was a wimp, and Ashley was just useless. I put it down very early on and never wanted to pick it up again. However, as the host of The Southern Literature Reading Challenge, people were shocked that I'd never read this Southern classic, my aunt perhaps most of all. She has read it multiple times and re-watches the movie religiously. She finally told me last year when we were at the Decatur Book Festival together, "How about we do a read-a-long? It's been years since I re-read it and I would love to get your reactions as you're reading it for the first time." With her shove support, I finally got up the nerve to tackle this beast.
I loved it. I'm more inclined to give it 4.5 stars, but I'll round up to 5 in honor of Pat. I have an ancient old mass market paperback with the tiniest font known to man and I still plowed through. My eyes physically hurt from the strain of reading almost 1000 pages of "ant prints" as I call fonts that small, and I still could not put it down.
These characters just came to life for me. Don't ask me if I hated them or loved them because I still couldn't tell you and it's been over 6 months since I finished it. Rhett--I eventually loved him, even though there were times I wanted to smack that smirk off his face. Ashley--I didn't respect him at all. He was a weak excuse of a man. Melanie--I thought she was weak and silly at first, but she's probably the strongest character in the book in a lot of ways. She surprised me. Just when I wrote her off as hopeless, she would do something to make me change my mind. Scarlett--I was all over the place. I loathed her, I respected her. She was selfish, she was a survivor. She's a bitch, she's a forerunner of the women's movement. She is complicated. That's all I know for sure.
I have seen enough of the movie in the past to have a very good idea about the story. I was surprised when these extra kids and marriages suddenly showed up in Scarlett's life. Holy cow, she was a busy woman. Maybe I missed something, but I think they cleaned her up just a little for the movie.
Grab a copy with a readable font (I do not recommend reading until your eyes hurt), and give this a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the epic story you'll find within....more
I finally gave up shortly after starting this one. I keep meaning to go back and give this another go, but I just can't stir up the energy for it. TheI finally gave up shortly after starting this one. I keep meaning to go back and give this another go, but I just can't stir up the energy for it. There was just way too much detail for me....more
Young orphan Jim Burden is sent from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents. There is a Bohemian family on the train with him. None of theYoung orphan Jim Burden is sent from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents. There is a Bohemian family on the train with him. None of them really speak English. They all get off at the same station in Black Hawk. It turns out that the family has just bought the farm next to Jim's grandparents. Neighbors are still far apart back in 1800s Nebraska but Jim still spends a lot of time with the Shimerda family, especially Ántonia, the oldest girl and closest to his age. As he watches Ántonia grow, he realizes that she has an indomitable spirit and admires her for it.
I liked Ántonia. A lot. She's smart, feisty, hard-working, loving, and full of life. As she grew older, I got more worried for her. This is a classic after all. I expected it to take a Thomas Hardy turn. I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't.
More than that, Ántonia embodied the American immigrant spirit. Her family starts out living in a dugout, basically a cave dug into the earth. They were comfortable back home in Bohemia so this is an adjustment for them, but rather than complain about it, as her mother does, Ántonia does her best to help raise the family out of that hole in the ground. She has setbacks of course, and people talk about her and her unfamiliar ways, but she just keeps doing what needs to be done.
Ántonia lives in the town of Black Hawk for a while and becomes friends with a group of other immigrants. The wider group shows just how much these new settlers have to offer the country. Some become successful businesswomen, others become farm wives, some are content to just keep working in hotels and laundries. They all make some kind of mark on the world, no matter how faint.
My one complaint is the framework of the book. The author (I'm unclear whether this is supposed to be Cather herself or an unknown "Author") meets an old friend and they start talking about Ántonia, whom they both knew. They both remember her as being a strong character and agree to write down what they remember about her. The "Author" forgets but then she receives Jim's notes. He says, "I didn't arrange or rearrange. I simply wrote down what of herself and myself and other people Ántonia's name recalls to me. I suppose it hasn't any form. It hasn't any title, either." And then the author says that the following is Jim's manuscript, essentially unchanged. There follows a completely finished novel. There's no mention of the "Author" who supposedly knew both Jim and Ántonia from childhood. It's a small thing but it bothered me. Why not just write a book from Jim's point of view without all this business of an unfinished manuscript and deferred authorship?
Anyway, the book is very readable, with language that evokes the plains. I haven't spent any time in the Midwest but to me it just brings to mind mile after mile of corn and wheat fields. I hate to say it, but that sounds pretty boring to this mountain girl. Willa Cather showed me her plains, with rolling hills; amazing light; beautiful, life-giving streams and rivers; rich land; and people who are the salt of the earth. I won't think of the Midwest the same way again after reading this book.
I highly recommend this for a beautiful read about the pioneering spirit on which America was built....more
Walter Hartright finds a woman, all in white, wandering down the road to London in the middle of the night. ARating/Review for The Woman in White only
Walter Hartright finds a woman, all in white, wandering down the road to London in the middle of the night. As they talk and walk, she mentions that her happiest times were spent at Limmeridge House as a child. By coincidence, Walter is leaving to become a drawing teacher at this house the very next day. In talking this over, it's revealed that the woman in white has been badly mistreated and there are many more secrets surrounding her.
I find it hard to judge a book by how it would have been received in its time. I can only judge by my modern-day standards. That being said, I was disappointed in this book. I really expected more.
I found the mystery to be mostly predictable. There were a few twists and turns that honestly surprised me, but I saw the big picture from pretty far out. I know this book was supposed to be one of the first mystery novels and should receive a lot of respect for that. But my problem is that I found a lot of the elements to have become cliches. I realize that this isn't being fair to this particular book, but there you go. It hasn't weathered that well for me, personally.
The way that Collins wrote about women drove me crazy. He has one very strong, very intelligent female character who is always spouting off about how "we women can't be quiet" and stuff like that. Having a woman say it doesn't make it okay. I know this might have been pretty standard fare for the time period, but I didn't care for it. It doesn't help me feel any better when we realize that the smart woman is ugly and mostly overlooked as a romantic prospect, while her boring, weak but beautiful sister is pursued on all fronts. Irritating.
This high-handed attitude extends to everyone who either doesn't have a title or at least a "gentlemanly" occupation. The descriptions of villagers and servants really aggravated me. Less eduction or opportunities does not equal a lack of intelligence. I know, my modern approach to a Victorian novel is getting in the way again.
The novel is written from many different view points. There are straight-up narratives written by Walter Hartright, letters written by lawyers and servants, and journal entries from the intelligent sister. I like the style, but I found the voices to be pretty interchangeable. The only one who really stood out to me was the owner of Limmeridge House, a nervous man, and his whining and complaining cracked me up!
All those view points to cover every possible angle of the mystery made the book longer than I thought it had to be. I'm not sure exactly what could have been left out, if anything, I'm just left with the vague feeling that it could have been shorter and been improved for it.
But for all my complaints, I really don't regret reading this. Considering it's length and the Victorian language, it was actually a pretty quick read. I wish I could look at it a little more objectively, but I can't. If you're good at judging a book by it's originality for it's time, you'll enjoy this. Unfortunately, that's just not me....more