I recently saw a list of classics that no one ever reads even though they say they have and Moby Dick was the only one on the list I've actually attem...moreI recently saw a list of classics that no one ever reads even though they say they have and Moby Dick was the only one on the list I've actually attempted (and of course I can't find the list now). Let's just say if this wasn't an audiobook I listened to, mostly while doing yard work, I likely wouldn't have made it through this weighty tome.
A sailor named Ishmael tells the story of his first time on a whaling ship. Unfortunately, the captain has gone off his rocker after nearly being killed by a white whale called Moby Dick on his last whaling voyage. Needless to say, this leads Captain Ahab to do some stupid reckless stuff while seeking his revenge.
The descriptions of life on a whaling ship are interesting for awhile and the characters are well fleshed out, but most of this book lacks plot until the final confrontation with the white whale. There's the kernel of great novel here, but a more active editor would have sped up the narrative.(less)
Right now I'm just dealing with the fact that Emma Bovary is an immensely less likable heroine than Anna Karenina (yet another 19th century literary c...moreRight now I'm just dealing with the fact that Emma Bovary is an immensely less likable heroine than Anna Karenina (yet another 19th century literary character who finds out that cheating isn't all it's cracked up to be), and yet I still like it. The main difference is that Tolstoy is earnest, while Flaubert is trying to poke fun and point fingers. I tend to be earnest, but even though it sometimes makes me feel guilty, I can enjoy poke fun and pointing fingers too.(less)
This is one of those times where Victorian literature totally failed me. Part of the problem could be that I took forever to read this book. I started...moreThis is one of those times where Victorian literature totally failed me. Part of the problem could be that I took forever to read this book. I started it as an audiobook just as I left my job one hour from home for a job 10 minutes from home, so it took me several months to finish it. More disturbingly though, I, unlike most people could not stand Becky Sharp, one of the two "anti-heroines" of Thackeray's masterpiece.
While Becky is clever and charming, able to adapt to every social situation with ease, Amelia Seddley, is shy and meek, incapable of even uncharitable thoughts. While Amelia's a total doormat, I prefer her to Becky, the whirling dervish who ends up destroying nearly everyone who cares about her through her selfish conniving schemes.
Actually, this book sort of reminded me of Sarah Grand's The Heavenly Twins, written on the other end of the Victorian era. Both books have multiple heroines to contrast society's ideas of what's proper with a more earthy view of what life sometimes ends up being like.
With how long this book was, I'm sure I could come up with more to say, but really I'm just glad to be done with it.(less)
When I read Anna Karenina in high school (the same year I read The Grapes of Wrath because I was just that bored), it quickly became my favorite book...moreWhen I read Anna Karenina in high school (the same year I read The Grapes of Wrath because I was just that bored), it quickly became my favorite book (well, after anything written by L.M. Montgomery). After rereading it, I'm glad I've since replaced it, but I still think it's definitely worthy of being called a classic of world literature.
The one thing I've never understood about the book is it's name. Both times that I read it, I didn't feel that any one character was central to the plot, especially not Anna, who neither begins nor ends the book. She's not even my favorite character. Her affair and the way it affects those around her is interesting enough, but the character I'm always worried about and my favorite through both readings is Constantine Levin. Part of it may just be the fact that he's the only rural character in the book, but I know it's more than that. When Levin falters, you still feel that there's hope for him, that eventually he'll figure things out. With Anna things only seem to get worse, and mostly from her own doing. I don't blame her for having an affair, but I do blame her for her insane jealousy and hopeless despair when she realizes that society will not easily accept her in her new position.
I suppose I should say something about the social issues brought up throughout the book, especially since they seemed to be important to Tolstoy, but I don't really want to. The only time they seemed at all interesting was when Levin was privately reflecting on such things. The rest of the Russian society buffoons were just that when discussing social matters, as I think Tolstoy intended. From what little I've read this book was his way of making fun of society and extolling some of the virtues of a more simplified country life.
I think I sound kind of flippant and brusque, but that's mostly because this really is a loooooong book, especially, when it kind of stalls out 2/3 of the way through where we take a break from the 2 main love stories and get wrapped up in some political nonesense for a couple hundred pages. Then quickly there's Anna's finale, some more boring stuff, and finally a resolution for Levin.
While Anna & Levin are the only characters I've mentioned, there's quite a cast a characters, as I explained after my first reading, it's a bit of a Russian soap opera - several characters loosely related to each in various ways & so we're constantly jumping from scene to scene, but somehow they all work together to form a coherent story (and the plot lines aren't terribly different from soaps).(less)
I've been reading so many quick and easy books lately that I was worried I wouldn't enjoy a classic, especially a very long one like Jane Eyre. How si...moreI've been reading so many quick and easy books lately that I was worried I wouldn't enjoy a classic, especially a very long one like Jane Eyre. How silly of me to think I wouldn't still enjoy this, especially now that I wasn't reading it for a class and could listen to the audiobook at my leisure, rather than being forced to rush through the whole thing in one weekend.
As with a lot of classics, the set-up is not surprising. A plain, but spirited orphan is hated by her few remaining relations and finds life with them intolerable. When she's sent to boarding school things only marginally improve because the school is run by a miserly tyrant. Later she becomes the governess for the ward of a dark and mysterious lord, and sparks fly between Jane and her master, but a dark secret threatens their happiness. As the summary suggests, this is a favorite of teenage girls, and if you're trying to push "good" literature to teens, this is a lot less painful than other "classics", except for the fact that it's extremely long. Another plus (for me at least) is that Jane does not live in the same rule of overly complicated manners that the heroines in Jane Austen's do, so she is a refreshingly no-nonsense kind of narrator. If you're into Victorian chick lit, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.(less)