The Great Gatsby is a beautifully written book set in an affluent area of Long Island in the summer of 1922. Nick Carraway, a recent Yale graduate and...moreThe Great Gatsby is a beautifully written book set in an affluent area of Long Island in the summer of 1922. Nick Carraway, a recent Yale graduate and bond salesman with Midwestern roots, is the narrator of the story. He is renting a small house next to an opulent mansion owned by Jay Gatsby. Gatsby throws huge extravagent parties every weekend with many uninvited guests. He hopes that Daisy, the woman he loved as a young man, will show up at one of his parties and be impressed by his success. The beautiful Daisy, married to the bully Tom Buchanan, is a shallow woman interested mainly in money, especially old money.
The book paints a portrait of the Jazz Age and the world of the super wealthy. In spite of having so many material things, none of the characters in the book is truly happy. They are superficial and self-absorbed as they try to grasp the American Dream.
With political discussions in the last few years covering bank bailouts, corporate corruption, and the wealth of the top 1%, it seems like The Great Gatsby is still relevant today. I enjoyed reading it again after many years.(less)
This book can be read on one level as a humorous adventure as Huckleberry Finn fakes his own murder, then escapes from his abusive father and paddles...moreThis book can be read on one level as a humorous adventure as Huckleberry Finn fakes his own murder, then escapes from his abusive father and paddles down the river in a canoe. Meanwhile, the slave Jim overhears that he is going to be sold and also heads down the river on a raft to reach a free state. The two meet up and have a series of adventures in the towns along the Mississippi River. The book is written in several dialects which makes the dialogue seem very authentic.
On another level, the book is a satire about Southern society in the 1800s, and it reflects Mark Twain's hatred of slavery and racism. There can be a parallel drawn between Huck Finn's father enslaving and locking him up, and the plight of a black slave like Jim. Jim is portrayed as a good, caring person. He's smart, even though he's uneducated. Jim even puts himself in a position to get captured again by helping a doctor tend to Tom Sawyer, Huck's friend.
Mark Twain wrote a very colorful and entertaining book with a serious message behind it. I thought it was an exceptional book back when I read it in high school, and still feel that it is a five-star book.(less)
The book comes from an interesting viewpoint of the victim who is now in Heaven looking down at her family. The family is being torn apart after she v...moreThe book comes from an interesting viewpoint of the victim who is now in Heaven looking down at her family. The family is being torn apart after she vanishes, each trying to cope in their own way. As a parent myself, it haunted me as I was reading it since I could imagine the nightmare her parents faced.(less)
Although it was published in 1847, the classic Jane Eyre features a heroine that people can admire today. Jane spent her childhood as an orphan in the...moreAlthough it was published in 1847, the classic Jane Eyre features a heroine that people can admire today. Jane spent her childhood as an orphan in the home of cruel relatives and in a charity school. But she maintained her dignity and spirit, learned from her experiences, and became a governess.
Mr Rochester, a brooding, intelligent man with a family secret, is her employer. He's tired of superficial society women, and enjoys sparring with the inexperienced Jane in a flirty battle of wits. She has to make a decision whether to stay with this passionate, but flawed, man. Jane also meets another man--ambitious but cold--who is interested in her. Jane weighs what she considers important in a marriage--honor, some independence, a meaningful life, an intellectual equal, love, and passion. She truly was a strong woman who wanted control over her own destiny.
The book has a delightfully dark Gothic atmosphere. Rochester's dark secret, strange noises in the night, unexplained fires, a gypsy telling fortunes, desperate walks in the pouring rain, and a bit of the supernatural all contribute to the Gothic mood.
This was my second time reading Jane Eyre, and I was even more impressed with how Charlotte Brontë was ahead of her time in her portrayal of a courageous woman. In addition to Jane's story, the book also showed the sharp divisions in social class. The religious figures in the book ranged from the hypocritical to the charitable. The book gave me a look into Victorian society in an engaging story.(less)
Told through the eyes of Atticus Finch's children, To Kill a Mockingbird is a story set in a small Alabama town in the 1930s. Atticus is a lawyer defe...moreTold through the eyes of Atticus Finch's children, To Kill a Mockingbird is a story set in a small Alabama town in the 1930s. Atticus is a lawyer defending a black man charged with the rape of a white woman. The book explores the themes of prejudice, class, and that life is often unfair.
There are also humorous and tender elements in the book since Scout is an outspoken tomboy and Jem is changing from a boy to an aware young man. Atticus is a caring, wise man that showed his children how to live by his good example. This book deserves its place as a well-loved classic.(less)
Reverand Nathan Price brought his woefully unprepared family to a small village in the former Belgian Congo to do missionary work in 1959. The people...moreReverand Nathan Price brought his woefully unprepared family to a small village in the former Belgian Congo to do missionary work in 1959. The people speak Kikongo, a language where a word has multiple meanings, depending on its intonation. When the Reverand Price thunders, "Tata Jesus is bangala", meaning "precious", his intonation changes the word into "the poisonwood tree", a poisonous plant that causes skin eruptions. That is just one of many mistakes this arrogant preacher makes in The Poisonwood Bible. He is also clueless about why the villagers refuse to have their children baptized by immersion in a river full of crocodiles.
The story is told through narrations by his wife, Orleanna, and their four daughters. Orleanna helps us understand the source of Nathan's problems, their history back in Georgia, and the role of mothers in the Congo. The oldest daughter is Rachel, a self-absorbed, materialistic teen, whose malapropisms are a source of amusement. The youngest is Ruth May who befriends the village children, but who is in the most danger from diseases and other threats. In the middle are the twins, Leah and Adah. Leah is the social conscience of the novel. Adah limps and very rarely speaks, but writes her feelings in her diary. She has an intelligent, sarcastic wit, and often records events in palindromic phrases.
The author lived in the Belgian Congo as a child, and has woven political and cultural problems into the story. Colonial governments were paternalistic, and worked the Africans in rubber plantations and mines as indentured laborers. After the Congo declared independence, foreign governments played a part in the assassination of the Congo's elected leader. Barbara Kingsolver was a great storyteller, while also showing social injustice, cultural divisions, and religious differences in the Congo.(less)
Catch-22 is a satirical book about the bureaucracy in the military in World War II, with many situations that also could be applied to civilian life....moreCatch-22 is a satirical book about the bureaucracy in the military in World War II, with many situations that also could be applied to civilian life. The novel's main character is Captain Yossarian, a bombardier in the U.S. Air Force. He is in a squadron on a small island off the west coast of Italy. Every time the airmen fulfill the number of combat flights needed before they can be sent home, their commanding officer increases the number of flights. Yossarian sees his friends die in combat missions one by one. In order to survive, Yossarian tries to come up with a plan to be sent home.
Catch-22 is a self-contradictory circular rule that is used to keep the airmen from being released from combat flights. If an airman is crazy, he can ask to avoid bombing missions. But if he asks to be released from combat missions, that proves that he is sane. It's a no-win situation.
The book uses humor to examine ideas of sanity and insanity, the misuse of power by the military superiors, patriotism, survival, disregard for human life, exploitation of individuals by bureaucrats, greed, and profiteering. Behind the absurb humor of the novel, Heller has created some very tortured characters trying to survive, and others trying to grab power and get promoted by any means. Heller may have also been influenced by the excesses of McCarthyism in the early 1950s when this book was written.
I first read this book in the 1970s as a college student, when it was very popular during the Vietnam War. On rereading it now, Catch-22 is still a wonderful satirical novel that has withstood the test of time.(less)