If you are anything like me, Susanna Rowson is not a name you've stumbled across at any point in your life. I've read a lot of books, but I tend, gene...moreIf you are anything like me, Susanna Rowson is not a name you've stumbled across at any point in your life. I've read a lot of books, but I tend, generally, to avoid early American novelists because, well, the puritan thing really gets to me. However, now I'm in a class that has me studying four of those novelists and Rowson was first up on the list. I got a taste of her in reading CHARLOTTE TEMPLE, but REUBEN AND RACHEL really took that taste and made it into a full-fledged meal, including dessert. If you are at all interested in exploring this author, let this review serve as a guideline to help you through the book.
The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time favorite "classic" reads. I know it's totally cliche, but such a small book packs such a punch, every time I re...moreThe Great Gatsby is one of my all-time favorite "classic" reads. I know it's totally cliche, but such a small book packs such a punch, every time I read it I get something new and fresh and different from the story. It embodies everything about the 20's that I love and tacks on some other scintillating topics as well: lust, secrets, murder, lavishness, drama...you name it, it's in the story. That's why, when I saw that Sara Benincasa was doing a 21st century retelling of the story of Gatsby with Great, I jumped at the opportunity to read it. I've had some luck recently with classic re-tellings and figured this might just continue my streak.
When I first heard about The Austen Project (modernization of Jane Austen's works being put out by Harper) I was a bit dubious. I mean, I love Austen'...moreWhen I first heard about The Austen Project (modernization of Jane Austen's works being put out by Harper) I was a bit dubious. I mean, I love Austen's books - count me amount the hordes of fans who think they are just perfect. Now, mind you there are a few books out there, like Longbourn by Jo Baker, that play with some of the characters a bit, but I enjoyed them due to their authenticity and the respect that was evident for Austen's writing. But still, I was wary about Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope.
It's always a daunting task to write a review of a book not only widely read but also extremely popular. Especially after one read of the primary text...moreIt's always a daunting task to write a review of a book not only widely read but also extremely popular. Especially after one read of the primary text (and no knowledge whatsoever of the musical, aside from the minute or so of the previews shown for the upcoming release). So rather than wax poetic about Hugo's insanely thorough, beautiful writing as many others have done, let me simply give you my impression of Les Misérables.
The first 10% or so of the Kindle edition that I read dealt primarily with a description of Bishop Myriel. About 5% in I was a bit confused, wondering why all this information was necessary for a character that, admitted by Hugo, was not an integral part of the book. However, I managed to fall in love with that sacrificing Bishop and felt I knew him so intimately that by the time Jean Valjean arrived on the scene, I could predict the good Bishops movements. And aside here, the letter and actions of the Bishops sister and housekeeper had me laughing and thoroughly enjoying myself, mostly because I, as an unmarried woman in today's society, would never have been able to so meekly assist my brother in that way.
Jean Valjean - such a character. 19 years spent in horrific conditions all because he stole some bread. After his run-in with the Bishop, his encounter with Petit Gervais, and his arrival in Montreuil-sur-Mer I began to get an idea of why the Bishop was such an important character to begin the book with. It was a beautiful thing to see the changes being wrought in Valjean.
And then there comes Fantine. Honestly, I think Fantine is my second favorite character of the book (second to Bishop Myriel, I really did love that old man). She is the perfect tragic figure: mother to a beautiful child, abandoned by her lover, trust-worthy to a fault, abused, neglected, self-sacrificing, and all of it unrewarded until she lay on her deathbed... but even then happiness is denied to her. As miserable as Valjeans life was throughout the book, I think Fantine's situation is what really gives weight to the title that Hugo chose.
And from Fantine there comes Cosette. Although there is plenty in the book about the girl, and then the young woman Cosette, I came away with less of an impression of her than of the other characters. In fact, I felt more connected to Marius than Cosette - although that might have been simply because Cosette comes off as a bit of a wimp, not due to anything that Hugo does, necessarily. It's just strange to read about her passive behavior from a 21st century perspective.
The only other main character I want to touch on is Javert. Javert was the epitome of fear to me. He had a nasty habit of always showing up in a city filled with people, leaving the correct impression that he and Valjean were connected in a way that could never be broken. I appreciated Hugo's treatment of the torment that filled Javert at the end of the book and thought that his story ended in a most fitting manner.
Hugo spends time not telling the stories of these main characters by elaborating on everything from an incredibly detailed description of the Battle of Waterloo (of which I now know more information than I know how to deal with), slang, the street urchin or gamin, the sewers of Paris, religious orders, and politics. Of these I found Waterloo, the religious order description, and the information on slang to be the most interesting. I read the Hapgood translation of the book for Kindle, and was rewarded with a lengthy introduction and beautiful illustrations throughout the book that enhanced the reading. I laughed, cried, felt sympathy, and completely immersed myself in this story and came away from it feeling richer - and that feeling is how I know I just read something incredible.(less)
The Surrounded by D'Arcy McNickle is a heartaching story of the Salish Indians who were forced into a place of "in-between" through the conversion of...moreThe Surrounded by D'Arcy McNickle is a heartaching story of the Salish Indians who were forced into a place of "in-between" through the conversion of the tribe to the Catholic faith and the loss of their reservation land, through sale, to the white man.
The narrative follows Archilde, the second to youngest son of Max Leon, a Spaniard, and Catharine, a Salish woman. Archilde is one of seven sons - each of whom has chosen to live in a sort of disregard for the traditions and desires of Max.
Every character in this book has layers of layers of complexity. Archilde is viewed by his mother as one person, his father another, and the people surrounding him as yet another. Max Leon surprises again and again with his choices, Catharine's character is a beautiful portrayal in the heartbreak that can occur when tradition is squashed beneath the ideas of "civilization," and the supporting cast provide the necessary surroundings for the story to evolve in a way that was representative of the time and history of the Salish people in Montana.
I loved this book for it's honest, relevant message. It was written in the 1930s, but continues to be a treasure of a book. The Salish live in these pages - not in their original lifestyle, but rather a as a reminder of what happens when one culture pressures another into a life and set of beliefs which are not their own.(less)
This is not a book for the faint of heart. Wow, I don't even know where to begin with a review on this one.
I was hoping to make the book club discuss...moreThis is not a book for the faint of heart. Wow, I don't even know where to begin with a review on this one.
I was hoping to make the book club discussion centering on this title so I could get my thoughts in order - but alas, life stepped in and I was unable to make it so you all will have to suffer through my trying to get everything straightened out.
Vanity Fair, for its blurb on one edition of this book, says it's "the only convincing love story of our century," which, frankly, scares me to death. Why? Because the nitty gritty is that this love story is between an older man and a 12 year old girl.
That's the surface of the story - but then there's so much more to it than that. The narrator of this book is filled with so much remorse and justification and self-loathing that it's nearly impossible to not be captivated by his voice and follow along the story. I was seriously disgusted with myself because, at one point, I was nearly as eager as he was when contemplating murder or scheming to get his way. That scared me - and Freud would have a field day with that (Yes, I read those essays of those Mr. Freud.)
It's that type of writing, the one that binds and drags you along on a journey you really do not want to go on, that makes for great writing. And Vanity Fair's blurb? Well, I think in a way it addresses that narrative voice, it's harsh reality, bitterness and despair. Who can tell the heart where to love, or why it shouldn't?
This is a tough read for many of those reasons and more. If you attempt it, I recommend you do so with a friend so these are the things you can discuss. (less)
This book has been on my bucket list of books to read for years. Last year I attempted to read it, but ended up putting it down after a mere 20 pages...moreThis book has been on my bucket list of books to read for years. Last year I attempted to read it, but ended up putting it down after a mere 20 pages in, admitting defeat. Then, when I looked at the syllabus for my British Literature course this last semester I noted with both glee and dismay that, at the end of the semester, we'd all be reading it together.
Now that I've come through the reading and discussing of To the Lighthouse, let me be the first to say .. I wish I could experience it all again for the first time. This book changed me. It gave me a sense of satisfaction for finishing it - but more so it opened my mind to a completely different way and style of storytelling. Before I'd always gravitated toward the big stories (although, I also appreciated the emotional, more intimate stories as well). But Virginia Woolf writes these nuanced relationships and thought patterns with such skill that even the slightest thought becomes one of those "big story" moments ... and that is what changed me.
It'd be hard to pick one scene out of this book that's a favorite, but if pressed I think I would choose the scene where the family and their guests are seated at the dining room table. There is such complex writing in that scene that I imagined a little thought-fairy, tripping happily from mind to mind, allowing the most private, innermost thoughts there own time and space to emerge and cry out for help, for love, for hope.
This is a book that anyone who considers themselves to be an avid reader should read. It's tough, I'm not going to lie and say it's not, so sit down with a pencil, draw connections visually, have a piece of paper to write notes, actively engage with the text. Trust me, once you do that the rewards are bountiful.(less)
It's always daunting, isn't it, to review a classic that so many people have read?
We discussed Huck Finn in my American Lit...moreOriginal review posted here
It's always daunting, isn't it, to review a classic that so many people have read?
We discussed Huck Finn in my American Lit class this semester, and overall there really was quite a bit to discuss, despite the story being a very well-known one (at least to me). There is more to this book than than a simple story of a boy and a man floating down the river in a raft.
What I loved about this reading of Huck Finn is that we were also to read Toni Morrison's Introduction to it. It was through this Introduction that I was able to see the story in a completely new light - and to understand just what was so "wonderfully troubling" about it.
Morrison talks a lot about silence in the book - the silence in those moments of floating down the river, the silence with regard to learning much of anything about Jim's family, the silence with which Huck treats his friendship with Tom. Then there's the silence of Jim toward Huck - why did he fail to disclose who that man was under the cloth?
This is an extraordinarily troubling book, but yes.. a wonderful one as well. It's enlightening - it shows how hard the struggle was to accept the idea that a human is a human, no matter his or her skin color. It's educational, it reminds us of where we've come from in an effort to remind us of where we should not return. It's captured history through the dialect of Jim. It's a look at two individuals escaping slavery - Jim the actual slavery, and Huck, escaping abuse at the hand of his father.
I always recommend these books. Tom Sawyer is more suited to younger audiences (although I personally find Tom to be a scoundrel), but Huck Finn is a must read for teenagers and adults.(less)
This book floored me. I mean, jaw on the floor, gaping as I read, type of floored me. Who knew Balzac could be so approacha...moreOriginal review posted here
This book floored me. I mean, jaw on the floor, gaping as I read, type of floored me. Who knew Balzac could be so approachable? I picked up this book fully expecting to struggle through it, much like my earlier trials with Middlemarch, and instead I found myself thoroughly intrigued by this drama. And Balzac himself, as narrator of the story of Father Goriot, calls it a drama, although he hastens to explain that it isn’t quite the same as those other dramas of the time.
The word drama has been somewhat discredited of late; it has been overworked and twisted to strange uses in these days of dolorous literature; but it must do service again here, not because this story is dramatic in the restricted sense of the word, but because some tears may perhaps be shed intra et extra muros before it is over. – Father Goriot by Balzac
The story is focused around two characters – Father Goriot and a young, law student named Eugene Rastignac. They are acquainted by being one of several boarders in a respectable, if a bit shabby, boarding house in Paris, France. Goriot is the father of two married daughters, and Rastignac is, at the expense of his parents and two sisters, attempting to marry into society and wealth – but in a respectful way!
This drama has everything – murder and intrigue through the character of Vautrin, the Trick of Death. It has humor – there is an entire scene which made me think of our modern day Snoop Dog “shizzle” moments – Balzac talks about how the diorama has recently been unveiled, and as a result, in passing, humorous conversation, the morpheme “orama” is added to the end of random words – such as Goriot-orama. There is an entire scene at the dinner table in which words are bantered about, and even referenced later in the book that had me laughing out loud in sheer delight. It has tragedy – the outcome of Father Goriot and his daughters relationship is one that, as Balzac foretells, worthy of tears. It showcases both the good and bad sides of the human character, and provides an interesting commentary on situations and feelings that are relevant still today.
Some day you will find out that there is far more happiness in another’s happiness than in your own – Balzac
The human heart may find here and there a resting-place short of the highest height of affection, but we seldom stop in the steep, downward slope of hatred - Balzac
I wish I could go further into the quotes and how many things I highlighted on my Kindle – but then this entire review would be just repeated quote after quote, since there are quite a few of them. I have to encourage you to pick up this book and read it – I hope you will find it as fascinating as I did. Such an incredible story of the tragedy of life.(less)
Do you have a House of Dreams? I do. I've had one since I was a little girl. Of course, it involves a white picket fence and beautiful flowers and pre...moreDo you have a House of Dreams? I do. I've had one since I was a little girl. Of course, it involves a white picket fence and beautiful flowers and pretty green shutters. I imagine that it has just enough bedrooms for a family, a warm and welcoming kitchen and it's always Spring so I can keep the windows open.
Anne and Gilbert are finally married in Anne's House of Dreams. There is so much sweetness in the days leading up to the wedding that I ended up reading through those pages with tears holding a permanent place on my cheeks. The mention of Matthew, the memories - I think that's what makes these books so strong. I grew up with Anne, of course, and so her memories are also some of my own. Memories of a slate being broken over Gilbert's head, the childish pranks of the girls, Matthew and the puffed sleeves, Marilla finally saying yes to the little Anne-girl staying for good. So when Anne looks at leaving Green Gables behind and transferring her precious little gable room to Dora, it's not just a bittersweet moment for her, but for me as well.
But then there's so much excitement ahead. Married life, a precious home, new friends and the promise of babies - because Anne is so ready to love and be a mother to her own children, and she's had plenty of training you know!
This book introduced Captain Jim and Miss Cornelia, both immensely colorful characters. There are subtle little moments when you can't help laughing out loud with Gilbert (who's bound to be hiding in another room) while listening to Miss Cornelia prattle on. But, as always, life tends to step in and give us twists.
I think I can relate to this Anne in this book more now then I could as a teenager. I've experienced some sorrow of my own and seen some of my dreams fade, but I'd like to think that I'd be "of the race of Joseph" and I know there are others out there who are as well.(less)
I'm a bit confused about the name of this book. While the story in The Scarecrow of Oz was interesting (and Jynxland, what a horrible place to visit!)...moreI'm a bit confused about the name of this book. While the story in The Scarecrow of Oz was interesting (and Jynxland, what a horrible place to visit!), there was actually very little of the Scarecrow contained within this book. While he does come off as a bit of a hero, most of the book centers around Cap'n Bill and Trot. With a dash of Button Bright and some new characters, the adventure was fun, filled with the puns and strange creatures I've come to expect. The only thing I'm not enjoying as I make my way through these Oz books is the prolonged introduction to all of the creatures introduced in past books at the end of the story. I understand that everyone wanted to see these characters, but I'm fairly certain they wanted more than a mere mention at the end of the book. Rather than getting some detailed information on the characters (I was hoping for a bit of a story about the Scarecrow) I ended up with a story about two characters, albeit fun ones, with what appeared to be a cameo mention of the Scarecrow. I'm hoping things get better from here, but at this point the stories are seeming a bit redundant.(less)
My memory of Anne of Windy Poplars is.. non-existent. It's been so long since I've read the books and I see the PBS movies (which are wonderful in the...moreMy memory of Anne of Windy Poplars is.. non-existent. It's been so long since I've read the books and I see the PBS movies (which are wonderful in their own right) once or twice throughout the year, so it's easy to forget that Anne of Avonlea (the movie edition) is a mix-match of several books in the series.
In Anne of Windy Poplars the dreaded Pringles make their appearance. And it's oh so much more than the movie shows. They are so dreadful, each and every one of them, but everything else is an absolute delight. Windy Poplars, Rebecca Dew, Little Elizabeth and most of all - a character we rarely get to see in the book, Gilbert Blythe.
Wait, how can Gilbert be so wonderful? He's hardly in the book! I'll tell you why - because this book shows the reader just how beautiful love letters can be.
A good portion of Anne of Windy Poplars is composed of Anne's letters to "her dearest of dears" and they are so tender and sweet and filled with so much news and juicy tidbits and sweetness (with just the right amount of "pages omitted") that it set the romantic in me a-fluttering. Anne is learning how to be in love, something we see all too rarely in girls literature today. She has to be patient, to wait to make a life with the one her heart has chosen, but she does it so sweetly it's impossible not to feel the excitement. Romance doesn't need to be rushed. One doesn't need to spend all of ones time before the wedding crushed up against his or her chosen. Anne learns that absence sweetens the deal and her dreams grow because of it. And, in the process, sets aside a beautiful history to share with her own children.
Today we write emails and tweet to one another and love letters such as those in this book are a thing of the past. But they don't have to be - and if you need inspiration, pick up this book.(less)
One of the most challenging aspects of reading classic literature is, for me, reviewing it once I've finished. Why is that? Well, what do I have to sa...moreOne of the most challenging aspects of reading classic literature is, for me, reviewing it once I've finished. Why is that? Well, what do I have to say that could shed some new, some interesting light on a story that has been enjoyed by so many for so many years? I can't. It's impossible. However, I can try to impart some sense of why I enjoyed the book (or disliked it if it came to that). So that's how I will handle Jane Eyre.
It's been over a decade since I've read this book. I have no clue why I've waited so long to pick it up, but I did find that the length of time provided me with some sense of "newness". I'd forgotten about St. John and his sisters, I'd remembered Lowood as a place of anger and misery, and I'd forgotten much of why I loved Jane so much.
Today I read so many books that center around beautiful men and women, boys and girls, that I forget sometimes that love transcends outward beauty in stories. Jane is not a beautiful girl, and never lays claim to being so and I was struck again by her method of reminding herself of this fact and how she dealt with it.
Listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence: tomorrow, place the glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture, faithfully, without softening one defect; omit no harsh line, smooth away no displeasing irregularity; write under it, 'Portrait of a Governess, disconnected, poor, and plain.'
I admit to choking a bit of a sob back when I read this part of the book, but I don't quite know why I did. It wasn't tragic that Jane isn't beautiful, we all know how the story ends (and if you don't, read it and stop reading this!), so why did it affect me so much?
I think because I can relate to Jane. I give myself reality checks because I tend to run away with hopes and dreams that aren't realistic. But that's not to say I shouldn't have hope and shouldn't dream - but like Jane I need an anchor, something to look at to remind myself that, as much as I love to dream, I also need to live in the here and now.
So that's what I took away from reading Jane Eyre this time. I also thoroughly enjoyed the deep mystery, the beautiful, sweeping love story and the tragic brilliance of the story. (less)
I loved this book. I loved the Patchwork Girl, I loved the lesson learned by Ojo the Unlucky, I loved the compassion shown by Ozma and the citizens of...moreI loved this book. I loved the Patchwork Girl, I loved the lesson learned by Ojo the Unlucky, I loved the compassion shown by Ozma and the citizens of Oz. I found the quest Ojo undertakes to be interesting and filled with adventure (and can I just say again that I am in awe with Baum's imagination?).
This book marks about the halfway mark through the Oz books and I still want to continue - which tells me that I'm still having fun and loving visiting with the old friends I've made as much as the new ones each book brings to life.
The Patchwork Girl however, is an instant favorite of mine and I can't wait to see more of her in the upcoming stories.(less)
I started reading about Anne's antics when I was a young girl, not yet a teenager, and had an imagination to rival even this beautiful, darling red-he...moreI started reading about Anne's antics when I was a young girl, not yet a teenager, and had an imagination to rival even this beautiful, darling red-headed girl. As you can imagine (and like so many other girls), I fell promptly in love with Anne after reading the first book and hungrily devoured every book in the series. I felt both the "flying high with anticipation" and the "thud" that came after finishing each book, knowing that I was one step closer to having to put Anne away.
It's those thuds I sadly remember the most clearly. I've gotten my Anne fix over the years by watching the wonderful PBS movies that go under the same names.. but they just aren't the same - and this book is a good example of why.
So many beautiful characters are left out of the stories. Mr. Harrison and his rascally parrot (who's Jersey cow is the one sold, NOT Mrs. Rachel Lynde's). The adorable Paul Irving, his American father and... not Anne who is the romantic interest, but the lovely Miss Lavender and her house of echoes. And then - I'd totally forgotten about the twins - Davy and Dora! Such a perfect thing having lovely twins coming back into Anne's life.
I loved this book and am glad I'm finally re-reading the series again. It was a beautiful way to end 2010 and helped me approach 2011 with hope, a few stars in my eyes and a sense of peace.(less)
Frankenstein is definitely not light reading. You have to invest yourself, push yourself through pages and pages of description of snow and nature to...moreFrankenstein is definitely not light reading. You have to invest yourself, push yourself through pages and pages of description of snow and nature to get to the meat of the story - and, as I found after pushing myself, it was worth it because the meat of the story was that good.
I remember seeing a Frankenstein movie as a teenager and being thoroughly unimpressed by it. However, the book is nothing like what I remember that movie being - and then I find out that this story that struggles with morality and creation of life was written by an 18 year old girl.. and my mind is officially blown.
I think one of the most tender, touching moments in a book read this year was the scenes involving Frankenstein and the de Lacey's. As I read I found it easy to put myself in the situation of the de Lacey's, but not quite as easy to figure out just what my actions would be. The monster was easy to feel pity for, but still - is pity enough?
And what of Frankenstein himself? Such an egotistical, disagreeable man - but still, was he worth pity as well? He loses so much that is dear to him, punishment enough for playing God? So many questions rise out of the story and again, that is exactly why I feel so much respect for the 18 year old Mary Shelley who was mature enough to write a story with such depth.
Fantastic book, if a bit wordy, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.(less)
Once again I find it a bit daunting to write a review of what is arguably one of the most well-known classic stories. I, like most people I know, grew...moreOnce again I find it a bit daunting to write a review of what is arguably one of the most well-known classic stories. I, like most people I know, grew up with Scrooge (although the form has changed). From Donald Duck to Jim Carrey, I've listened to the story of the grumpy, old, miserly man and his miraculous change of heart on one fateful Christmas Eve.
My aunt actually ordered A Christmas Carol for her kindle and I saw the email and thought - oh, that would make a great read-along book for December. Perfect season, I've never read it.. but oh.. it's DICKENS. I don't know about you, but just the name Dickens is enough to strike fear deep into my heart. I struggled so much with A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield back in the day that, although interested to see how the book was, I approached this story with not a little bit of trepidation.
It also helped to know it was short. I'll admit it.
For those of you who haven't read the book, let me just say - put aside everything you know about Dickens from his other works and give this one a shot. It's remarkably easy to understand and, although he can go on, due to the shortness of the book as a whole, the descriptions don't get too much out of hand.
There were quite a few things in the book that surprised me - details that really rounded out the story much more than the movies ever have. I regret that I've let all these years go by without establishing the reading of this story as atradition for myself, but it is something I intend to change in the upcoming years.(less)