"Eustacia Vye was the raw material of divinity. On Olympus she would have done well with a little preparation. She had...moreIntroduction of Eustacia Vye...
"Eustacia Vye was the raw material of divinity. On Olympus she would have done well with a little preparation. She had the passions and instincts which make a model goddess, that is, those which make not quite a model woman."
I have always had a soft spot for Hardy's works; but, sadly there are some novels that I still haven't read. RETURN OF THE NATIVE was one such book. I remember, twenty years ago, choosing this book on the recommendation of a good friend. After reading (or let me say: trying to read) the first chapter, and failing miserably, I gave up. However, I have now become more patient in my allowing a story to develop, and appreciating the sheer poetry of an author's words. Hardy is a master. A master of literature, and all its types. Hardy is a poet, and short story writer, who happened to write novels...cuz he had to make a buck, and poetry just wasn't gonna put any bangers 'n mash on the table.
Introduction of Damon Wildeve... ...
"He was one in whom no man would have seen anything to admire, and in whom no woman would have seen anything to dislike."
With RETURN OF THE NATIVE, literary critics have analyzed the meanings behind the words to the point of utter exhaustion. I would suggest to people unfamiliar with the story to just read the work before tackling the criticisms.
On marriage... ...
"I am your wife and sharer of your doom."
But, getting back to that dreaded first chapter...the entire chapter (yes, all of it) is about the setting. A little English hovel, known as Egdon Heath. It has been said that Hardy chose not to have a character enter the story until the second chapter--but, I would disagree. Egdon Heath is the most important character, and no matter how hard it is to struggle through, the reader has to not only finish, but understand the complexity of that character by reading the first chapter! This character affects all the other characters, in their successes and failures.
On death... ...
"He was looking for the earth some months afore he went."
And, characterization is where Hardy shines bright. All the characters, main and sub, are three-dimensional to the nth degree. They are real. And, the reader becomes attached to them because we find bits of ourselves in them, or bits of our adversaries in them. And not all readers agree on who is good, and who is bad. For me: I find Diggory Venn to be one of my most favourite characters in all of literary history. A kind and gentle-hearted soul that personifies Egdon Heath itself. Yet, some critics portray him as a type of devil. Other characters are even more complex. Eustacia Vye might be one of the first "feminist" characters in literature, and loved by many; however, I believe she would make other literary villains, such as Hannibal Lector and Fagin fetal by her absolute cruelty.
On love... ...
"What a strange sort of love, to be entirely free from that quality of selfishness which is frequently the chief constituent of the passion, and sometimes its only one!"
"To have lost is less disturbing than to wonder if we may possibly have won."
"He recoiled at the thought that the quality of finiteness was not foreign to Eden."
I found that reading THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE was similar to watching/reading Shakespeare. The story revolves around the actions, and reactions, of characters decisions; and how one trivial act (e.g. someone returning to their native town) can become the catalyst for all the happiness and misery that follows. Hardy uses many quotes and comparisons to Shakespeare's works, as he does with Homer. But, a lot of the allegory and parables are from the bible, and the more familiar the reader is with these analogies, the more appreciative and understanding the novel becomes. I can confidently say that Hardy may know his bible inside and out, but, he has no love-or maybe, belief-in an omnipotent deity; and, if he does, then his God is gonna have some 'splainin to do!
It has been a very long time since I enjoyed a novel so much. And, this is one of the few that I will tackle again in the future, because I am sure to find additional meanings that I may have missed. It is such a complex book, that it reminds me of a story I once heard about a sci-fi author (Asimov or Heinlein, not sure which). Apparently, this author sat through a University lecture concerning one of his works, and the meaning behind the novel. After the lecture concluded, the author waited until the hall was cleared before he introduced himself to the professor who had lectured his analysis of the work. The author informed the professor that he had got it all wrong. That was not the meaning the author had intended about the work. The professor is said to have smiled and said, "Just because you wrote the book, doesn't mean you know what it is about."...I am sure that Hardy can relate to this author.
Here are some of my other favourite quotes from the book. Hardy sure knew what it means to be human.
On human nature... ...
"Can a man be too cruel to his mother's enemy?"
"When every obvious channel is blocked we grope towards the small and obscure."
"Sometimes more bitterness is sown in five minutes than can be got rid of in a whole life."
"Why is it that a woman can see from a distance what a man cannot see close?"
"When a woman once dislikes another she is merciless!"
Recommended? One of the highest I can give! Persevere through that first chapter because the reward is so worth it. So much, that you might just re-read that first chapter once you are done. 5 furze covered STARS! (less)
I began this book with high (massive, actually) expectations. All because a certain well-appreciated reviewer on Goodreads, who shall remain nameless...moreI began this book with high (massive, actually) expectations. All because a certain well-appreciated reviewer on Goodreads, who shall remain nameless (but, her name is like LoriAnna, only without the L!!!) used a phrase that you don't often read in someone's review: "best book ever!" Best book ever? Really? Like ever?
Ok. You've got my attention.
I attempted to borrow it from my local library. I was placed on the Hold List...number 20, for 4 copies! Who the hell was this author? I'd never read any of her other works. Never even heard of her. But, a lot of others had. Or there is a helluva lot of people who have been following a certain person's reviews (damn you LoriAnna without the L!)
Over a month later, the library informs me that the book is in. Well, of course it is. Because right now I'm having a great time with DeLillo's Underworld. In fact, I'm almost halfway done, and I would like nothing better than to continue on this literary journey. But, OH NO! Huge wait for this book, and I will have to read it, in the allotted time they have given me. (NO renewals for this book!)
(sigh) Ok, let's see what all the fuss is about...
Verdict: If Dickens had been an uncensored, alcoholic author, who smoked dope and experimented with speedballs, born 150 years later than he was, he would have wrote The Goldfinch.
Donna Tartt has a huge talent for characterization. It's like she exaggerates who they are, but makes them believable at the same time. In my youth, I probably would have hung out with Theo and Boris. Hell, I still hang out with Theo and Boris...only, now, they have families, wear suits, have lopped off their hair, and have a glint in their eye when they reminisce about the past. The best, though, is that with some of her characters (looking back: maybe all of them) Tartt shows you what is obvious about them, but, you as the reader do NOT want to accept that, so your mind plays a trick on you, so you don't see the reality.
The Goldfinch allows suffering to be a theme. Once you realize that life is just a big ball of crap it is much easier to live. Tartt might not end up doing motivational speaking, but she does have the ability as a writer to pierce into your very soul and feel the despair (and sometimes joy) that her characters feel. And, that is a gift! Tears of laughter were quickly replaced by ones of sadness, and then reverted back again.
The book helps to better explain the world of art to everyone. And, I would strongly suggest that the reader quickly Google any paintings that Tartt is referring to. Not only for explanations, but, for the sheer beauty of them.
"And as much as I'd like to believe there's a truth beyond illusion, I've come to believe that there's no truth beyond illusion. Because, between 'reality' on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there's a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic."
The mastery of characters, or art explanation aside, The Goldfinch would be an impressive book for the pacing itself. You remember those books that have those "boring" parts that sometimes last for 10 pages (and you ask yourself: Is the editor sleeping with the author?)Well, there's none of that here. The novel shines on each and every page. Plot moves forward, and never slows; but, does accelerate at times where you want it to slow down so you are able to digest every action, or reaction. But, the true beauty lies with the ending. It is not forced. It is not fairy tale. It is not bullshit. It just is, and it is beautiful. And, as cryptic as this sounds: Nothing is set in stone and ended, but everything is wrapped up perfectly.
The Goldfinch is a novel I won't soon forget (if ever). It has been a while since I have slowed down my reading progress to a snail's pace, so that I would not end a book. I believe the last 20 pages took me at least one agonizing hour. Now, I have to track down her other novels and hope to discover if they are even half as good. And, a quick apology to DeLillo, although I know he would understand.
Is it the BEST book I ever read?
No...but, it is a personal favourite. Most likely in my top 20 of all time. So, thank you Donna Tartt. And, a special thanks to "LoriAnna without the L". Cheers!
I am a HUGE fan of Vachss' Burke novels. Burke is one - if not thee - best hero ever created for any series. He was the bad guy, and I mean bad with a...moreI am a HUGE fan of Vachss' Burke novels. Burke is one - if not thee - best hero ever created for any series. He was the bad guy, and I mean bad with a capital muderfuggin B! that everyone loved and admired (Like how the hell can you NOT like a bad dude with a mastiff named Pansy?!!) Sadly, a couple of years ago, Vachss finished the series up, and he hung up Burke's revolvers? fists?
Now, he has returned after a couple of stand alone novels, and I believe we are seeing the second coming of a Vachss series. This time staring a tough as nails mercenary named Dell. Think of Burke, only this time he has some military training. And, that may sound freaking awesome, but, that is why I can't give it anymore stars than 4. This is Burke in sheep's (okay, really tough sheep) military fatigues.
The story is great. The characters are just like all of Vachss' other novels: 3 plus dimensional. But, the character was just like Burke. And, if this was a Burke novel I may have given it another 1/2 star. I miss Burke (as if you can't tell); but, I do love Vachss' writing and plots. Everyone should give this one a good go.
Recommended? Yeppers (whether you're a Burke fan or not)
This is like a sequel to Straub's LOST BOY, LOST GIRL. But, with a different perspective. It has the metaphysical aspect of a writer's character comin...moreThis is like a sequel to Straub's LOST BOY, LOST GIRL. But, with a different perspective. It has the metaphysical aspect of a writer's character coming to life, but, that's where it ends...there is no extreme development of this plot. It just happens. And, I guess that is where I was disappointed...but, only a little.
I'm sure this should be a 4 star rating, but, I'm still wallowing in my sadness. It just coulda been so much better.