Sweyn and Christian are brothers, who clash after a beautiful woman comes into their lives. Sweyn falls in love with her, but Christian believes she's...moreSweyn and Christian are brothers, who clash after a beautiful woman comes into their lives. Sweyn falls in love with her, but Christian believes she's a werewolf. He tries to convince his brother, but Sweyn thinks he's mad. Christian ends up showing to him the meaning of real love.
I absolutely loved that this felt like an extended and elegantly written folk tale, which also has the kind of werewolf I love. The references to Christ's sacrifice could have been less obvious. I'm more into showing, not telling. That was just a minor thing, though, and luckily it wasn't taken very far. The violence during the chase scene caught me by surprise. Pleasantly, but it was still kind of icky. I can just hear that crackling in my ears. The beginning on the other hand was creepy and subtle in just the perfect way. People are gathered around the fireplace, when suddenly they hear a voice from the outside. The way Housman desribed the darkness when the door was opened was great. She had also taken all the interesting aspects of werewolf mythology, and managed to make a seemingly simple story into a wonderful allegorical horror tale.
By the way, Clemence was a leading figure in the Suffragette movement. A suffragette writing about werewolves makes me unbelievably happy. I don't know why, but it does.(less)
I'd previously read The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), but it was ten years ago. I can't even remember the basic plot, so I probably need to read i...moreI'd previously read The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), but it was ten years ago. I can't even remember the basic plot, so I probably need to read it again in time. These don't necessarily need to be read in order, but my neuroticism wouldn't leave me alone otherwise. So, let the mysteries of Victorian London begin!
Holmes is a damn interesting and alluring character, who now became one of my favourites. He's sarcastic, inquisitive, and enthusiastic about his scientific experiments. Holmes in general just wants to do his thing, without letting anyone's expectations distract him, and doesn't feel the need to share everything about himself. This mysteriousness of course bugs the hell out of Watson, especially when Watson's social life is completely frozen. So, he has to come up with something, like pondering what the hell Holmes is up to and what is he about.
At first Watson is highly suspicious of Holmes's amazing skills of perception, but finally humbles in front of his awesomeness. Holmes himself knows he's a good detective, and isn't shamed to say it aloud. Scotland Yard is just full of incompetent asses. This isn't particularly cocky, because the reader already knows by now that Holmes is unbeatable in crime solving. Watson may seem pointless storywise, but I liked him as the (sometimes painfully clueless) narrator, not as a character per se. Hopefully he doesn't turn into a mere ego booster, but then again I wouldn't mind if there were just me and Holmes.
Doyle's prose is by no mean remarkable, but I don't expect it to be in a crime story. Descriptions of London are pretty much nonexistent, but somehow I still felt like I was there. I guess it says something about the author's skills, although my edition had both 19th century photographs and illustrations to demonstrate the locations, plot points, and special Victorian objects and things to help set the mood.
The murder illustrates Holmes's theory about how even the weirdest and most complex crime is very simple, and the other way round. The sensationalist newspapers stir the case with all kinds of theories from socialism to political refugees, but the real motive turns out to be the age-old one, seen thousands of times before. However, it's so entertaining to follow the deductions, that simplicity doesn't matter, and actually the criminal evokes thoughts of what's right after all.
The structure was a major disappointment, though. Part one was great, but Part two had a flashback that lasted five chapters, and it interrupts the plot almost completely. The flashback does show the background of the characters that are involved in the case, but there's nothing that couldn't have been told in a smaller space. Now the flachback seems like a short story within a novel, and on top of it the style is completely different as well. The chapters after that are a bit boring, because the main points of the case are heard twice, although with different points of view. I do want to know what happened, of course, but not when there's excessive rambling. Maybe in the short stories the pacing is better, since the shortness demands getting to the point.(less)
When the Masterpiece Theatre's production (Richard Armitage!) was first shown on Finnish tv, I fell in love with it (including the haunting theme musi...moreWhen the Masterpiece Theatre's production (Richard Armitage!) was first shown on Finnish tv, I fell in love with it (including the haunting theme music). I haven't seen it in a couple of years now, because I've been afraid that the enchantment will be broken or something, but after finally getting around to reading this, I'm probably going to hunt it down.
The opposites that are Margaret Hale and John Thornton are a part of the dynamics of the novel. Thornton seems a very hard man with an unpenetrable exterior, and someone who's not too keen on showing his emotions. When this break through the barrier happens, it's touching. Margaret on the other hand dislikes the superficial company of women, admires calm behavior, and her character is often misunderstood as arrogant. Both are stubborn, and despite all the misunderstandings, prejudices, and cold behavior, both understand each other in a certain way and see behind faked facial expressions.
Although I haven't read Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813), based on the reviews and the miniseries I've seen, the relationship between Thornton and Margaret seems very similar than the one between Darcy and Elizabeth. North and South however isn't just about wallowing in love and relationships, but also a story about loss and justice, and where the meaning of death is great in the development of the characters. This isn't dark though, because on the background there are always new possibilities and hope.
Most of all this is a study of human nature, the conflicts of industrialisation, and injustices of the society. A humane story about a city, where the collisions of different people might even be dangerous. The reader is allowed the space to make own conclusions. Both the factory masters and workers have reasonable thoughts, and Gaskell shows that both sides are able to make mistakes.
There were a few times in the dialogue where the speaker wasn't identified, but luckily just a few so it didn't bother as much as it could have. At first the workers' way of talking was kind of cryptic, but when I figured out the logic behind it, it became easier to read. Reading aloud helped, although my speech kind of verged on the Irish side. The ending might seem abrupt to some, but I didn't mind. If I could have, I would have held my breath the whole time, and at the end I could finally sigh for a relief (won't admit any tears), even though we all know how these books end.(less)
As short stories maybe not that satisfying, but they sure were gripping, and the whole idea incredibly interesting. Although the first story was also...moreAs short stories maybe not that satisfying, but they sure were gripping, and the whole idea incredibly interesting. Although the first story was also frustrating, because I'd have loved to read an entire novel on the club!(less)
Some time ago I read the first volume, but didn't particularly like it. However, this second installment kept calling me from my mom's book shelf ever...moreSome time ago I read the first volume, but didn't particularly like it. However, this second installment kept calling me from my mom's book shelf everytime I laid my eyes on it. I mean, there's occultism and the setting is partly in the 19th century. Unfortunately the problems were exactly the same as in the first one.
This one moves between two time periods as well, which is also its greatest weakness. The 21st century story line didn't interest me one bit. This would have been a lot more intense without the time shift thing. Now the aftertaste was just lackluster, because all the interesting stuff gets revealed in the 19th century, leaving nothing to grab onto in the 21st. There was also no overall seamless transition between the time periods. I mainly felt like cutting out the pages of the 21st century story line.
It takes a lot of skill to make a book both heavy and superficial. Especially at the beginning there was too much certain types of detail, and all the details had the same value, making the story and the setting flat and lifeless. There are other ways to describe a setting than merely listing streets, building, and brands. In one of the more amusing parts Mosse describes how beautiful Meredith enjoys pastries, even though she's thin. Um, ok. And that's relevant because...? The most annoying parts are still the ones, where Mosse clearly wants to showcase her knowledge of history. They would jump out more clearly from the rest of the text only if they were higlighted with a bright yellow pen. Oh, and why is it that when the story is set in France and the English obviously means the French the characters are speaking, you still have to stick French expressions separately in the dialogue? No sense whatsoever.
I started to have doubts regarding Léonie during the first chapter: moans when she is treated like a child but insists on behaving like one. Maybe this is normal behavior for a teenager, but personally I would have preferred either a bit more mature 17-year-old or an adult as the main character. Of course Léonie does starts to show signs of growing up, but only during the last few pages when her emotional growth couldn't make me care less.
On top of the thinness of the characters they are also extremely cheesy. The women are beautiful and the men are either athletic or otherwise handsome. Mosse keeps reminding a few times that a certain gentleman has very broad shoulders (sounds like a protection fantasy, eh?). The crooks then are either somehow physically deformed or approach some kind of psychotic mental state. The black and white point of view was so transparent, that in the end I wasn't irritated anymore.
But is it possible to get hooked on a bad book? In the evenings you grab it from the night stand, and you get glued on it until your eyelids start to droop. I don't think it's an awfully nice compliment towards the book, that you read it when you're practically zoned out. You want to read something, but nothing that is too complicated or requires actual brain activity.
The history lectures I mostly just glimpsed, because they didn't fit to the characters' dialogue at all. I felt like Mosse wanted to patronizingly educate the reader, instead of creating a truly genuine and interesting historical environment with small details.
The second star comes from the being hooked thing, so this wasn't completely devoid of hope. I still won't be touching the last installment, I'm done with Mosse. Besides, the idea of a trilogy is somewhat bizarre, since there is very little besides the setting that unifies the three stories.(less)
A pure gothic story with basic imagery, and degeneracy as an overall theme. The vampire scene came slightly out of nowhere, and seemed quite disconnec...moreA pure gothic story with basic imagery, and degeneracy as an overall theme. The vampire scene came slightly out of nowhere, and seemed quite disconnected from the rest of the story, but otherwise a beautiful and picturesque tale.(less)
I'm a little worried. If Stevenson was inspired to write this after reading Crime and Punishment, I'm not looking forward to reading it anytime soon....moreI'm a little worried. If Stevenson was inspired to write this after reading Crime and Punishment, I'm not looking forward to reading it anytime soon. I don't know if it was because of my lack of concentration, the fact that I read it in English or what, but most of this just went over my head. I like excessive descriptions (within reason), but here the story just seemed longer than it actually was.(less)
Inspired by a real murder case, where Burke and Hare murdered fifteen people and sold the bodies to a private anatomy school. Not really scary per se...moreInspired by a real murder case, where Burke and Hare murdered fifteen people and sold the bodies to a private anatomy school. Not really scary per se (more like a tale of conscience and principles), but pleasantly moody in a traditional ghost story way. The ending reminded me of a particularly unpleasant one, that I had already forgotten. Crap. The whole body snatching thing is a really interesting topic, which shows the wonderful weirdness of people back then.(less)
Clarissa is one of the longest novels in the English language. Even the full title is staggeringly long: Comprehending The Most Important Concerns of...moreClarissa is one of the longest novels in the English language. Even the full title is staggeringly long: Comprehending The Most Important Concerns of Private Life, And particularly showing The distress that may attend the Misconduct both of parents and children, In relation to Marriage. I can't remember why and when I was inspired to read this (possibly a curiosity towards controversial classics?), but I knew it wasn't going to be easy. It sure wasn't, but it was still somewhat rewarding, and I'm quite satisfied that I finished the whole thing. Kind of like after a long walk: you're tired and at home you just fall on the couch, but soon you'll feel better and you remember all the beautiful scenery you had seen along the way.
Lovelace believes that virtue cannot be found in any woman, because his first love betrayed him, and it seems he avenges this betrayal on the whole gender. His twisted perception of love is more like an astonishingly persistent and obsessive desire to conquer a virtuous angel. Clarissa is like a caged bird captured by a lion and taken into his dark cave. Then again, sometimes the reader gets tricked the same way as Clarissa, when you start to think that perhaps Lovelace truly loves Clarissa and wants to make amends, but doesn't know how to express his love other than by hurting her.
The biggest problem is - not surprisingly - the length. The story progresses devastatingly slowly. My initial thought was to read a letter or two a day, but I had to change my pace. The story didn't simply seem to get anywhere, but I still wanted to know the ending without checking Wikipedia or skipping the pages.
I liked Lovelace as the crook, and the themes seemed to be surprisingly heavy, especially towards the ending and after all the marriage stuff at the beginning. Clarissa may annoy some people with her virtuousness, but I kind of liked her when she stood up for herself and stayed true to her principles, even though her angelic personality were emphasized a bit too much. An epistolary form also gives a chance to interpret things between lines, since all the characters aren't given the chance to tell their side of the story. However, the page count eats away most of the good qualities of the novel, because the pacing is just god-awful. Richardson would have needed a good editor. His contemporaries didn't seem to mind though, since this was a bestseller in its time (readers even travelled to the places where the story was set), but these days Clarissa as it stands pleases only a few.
During the days between finishing this and writing a review in my blog, I found out there is a radio play from 2010 with Richard Armitage. Of course I had to try, because I love Armitage's voice and I can follow radio plays better than audio books. All the actors were great in their roles, but Armitage completely stole the show with his smouldering interpretation of the snake Lovelace. I could listen to him every night whispering in my headphones. Anyway (:D), I'm glad I listened to the production, because it also enhanced my understanding of the novel (I admit, I shed a couple of tears at the end). It kind of condensed the story into a nice package, whereas reading the book felt like Richardson had come up with a some sort of fiendish strategy to exhaust the reader. Despite the novel's easy English, my eyelids kept drooping every once in a while.
Nice thick classics are great to sink into, but I have my limits. So I wouldn't recommend this to anyone without a big warning sticker, but if the story interests you, the Armitage production can be found here. If you like it and you're courageous enough, you can move on to the actual thing. Now that I think about it, I think I liked this far more than what it felt like in the middle of the reading project. Since the radio play was worth at least four stars, but the book just two, I'm making a compromise and will give this three. Despite the slow pace, I liked the themes, the characters, the plot, and there was just that "something" that classics usually have.
At some point I'm going to check out the Sean Bean miniseries, but for now I'll lay this depressing tale to rest and move on to other interesting stuff. Don't worry, Lovelace, we'll meet again.(less)