Dracula: The name every child and adult alike in the world shivers at. The timeless story of the Count who lives in his castle far off in a land calle...moreDracula: The name every child and adult alike in the world shivers at. The timeless story of the Count who lives in his castle far off in a land called Transylvania. If you are anything like I was pre-novel, this is the extent of your Dracula knowledge. But after reading Dracula by Bram Stoker, the world of vampires was opened up to me: I was introduced to the lesser characters and the wider landscape of the story. I was transported back to a time when medicine was still developing, women were subordinate, and the term “undead” wasn’t taken as lightly as it is today. The story of Dracula is drenched in suspense and dripping with character-each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character in their journal (providing an interesting array of knowledge and personal in put to the story of the Count). We first meet the Count in his Transylvanian castle through Jonathan Harker. Harker is sent by his English employer to Transylvania to do real estate business with an unknown noble. At first, Count Dracula seems like an ideal host: welcoming, hospitable, and genuinely interested in everything his guest can tell him about England; but an overbearing sense of uneasiness plagues Jonathan throughout his stay: Dracula never eats, never drinks, and only appears around twilight. He fears mirrors and manages the house completely alone, or so it appears. He delivers strange warnings and keeps Jonathan kindly confined to his 2 room suite in the top of the castle. Soon Jonathan realizes that he is a prisoner in a nightmare from which his only apparent escape is death-if not by Dracula’s account, than by that of the castle’s unseen inhabitants. From here, the horrifying story of Count Dracula and the chase across Europe begins. On the surface, this work seems only to be an entertaining story of mythological creatures that stalk the dreams of Vampire enthusiasts. But underneath the blood curdling story lies a deeper meaning: good versus evil, light versus dark, saint versus monster. The count represents the “monster” of society: a growing power that, if not oppressed, will grow and take down all in its path. The late 1800‘s-time period of the publish date of Dracula-social system was corrupt, with a growing lower class that constantly threatened the government. Indirectly in his work, Stoker depicts the lower classes as a monster. As demonstrated in the story, the monster continues to grow under pacifism until it poses a threat large enough to generate panic and immediate action. The “ light” (represented as Van Helsing in the novel) must conquer the “darkness” (Dracula). Stoker attempted to show the negative effects that a growing society could have; panic, accident, pain, and ultimately chaos. Stoker, as a liberalist, believed in progress in politics and order in government, evident by his novel ending in peace and restored normality. As is true for all good early horror stories, Dracula is killed in the end, and peace is restored. Novels similar in theme to Dracula include Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. All three works have personified evil in a different fashion, and all three works convey similar themes: monsters in society are not always in tangible form, but the ones presented in these three stories are-the reasoning to this is unknown, perhaps to further capture the attention of the audience while still conveying a message. The battle against monsters-both tangible and figments of mind-can often times lead to self realization, human progression, or in Dracula’s case, an ongoing path to peace. The themes and horror alike in these books are what make them so timeless in American literature. (less)
Little Bee; When I myself first heard the name, I imagined a Secret Life of Bees racist-south story of individuality and triumph. After only the first...moreLittle Bee; When I myself first heard the name, I imagined a Secret Life of Bees racist-south story of individuality and triumph. After only the first few chapters of reading, however, I realized just how wrong my assumptions were. Little Bee by Chris Cleaves was the first of its breed of novel that I have ever read- and I will certainly never forget. The cover of the book in itself is misleading-It is the profile of a young girl on a bright orange background. One would think of happiness, joy, and laughter, right? Wrong. The plot and central theme of the story is the extreme converse of these misconceptions. The novel’s main character is Little Bee. She's a Nigerian refuge who has been detained in an immigration detention center forty miles east of London for two years. Little Bee's life is entangled, by tragic accident, with the life of another woman, Sarah, a white British magazine editor who lives in Kingston-upon-Thames. Sarah and her husband, Andrew, were on a beach vacation in Nigeria as an attempt to save their failing marriage when they met Little Bee. After a traumatic experience on that cursed beach, Little Bee and Sarah become linked. Sarah’s life falls apart as Little Bee finds hope in returning to find the heroic woman who saved her life. Although the novel is laced with tragedy, horror, and unjust situations, it is the story of ultimate hope. Little Bee emerges from a dark and horrific environment in Nigeria to find Sarah. The shock of culture change from Nigeria in war to Britain, one can imagine, is enormous. Little Bee represents the small amount of light in the darkness that is Nigeria-she has overcome trauma that is unimaginable to the guarded minds of first-world country citizens, she has matured through the course of these events, and she has risen from this darkness to make a better life for herself. Sarah also represents light in a dark void. She has lived a life of depression and conflict, but built herself up from these faults and found the hero in herself by selflessly giving apart of herself to save the life of a stranger. Together, these two women grow and comfort each other in their pain and advance the theme of the duality of good and evil in the world. My personal opinion of the book is a pleased one. I enjoyed the read and especially loved the suspense-it kept me hanging on to each page and every word. My favorite character was Little Bee because of her complex nature. Although dark, her innocent suicidal thoughts proved interesting and fresh (new to read, certainly not comforting!) My opinion of Sarah, however, remains neutral. I don’t respect her personal choice of promiscuity and her failure to recognize Andrew’s suicidal state (a hard task, I realize, but it can be stopped) adds to the misfortune that builds her character. However, her self-sacrifice to Little Bee and willingness to help her by returning to Nigeria were noble and definitely heroic. I take pity on Andrew’s character for the guilt and torment that he suffers after the Nigerian beach incident. The motley arrangement of characters in the novel was nonetheless entertaining. As for the legitimacy of the novel, perhaps Cleave’s history of long-distance sailing and marine navigation shed some light on the descriptions of Britain and Nigeria. No research proves that Cleave has been to Nigeria or interacted with its people well enough to understand the tragedies there, but his novel is realistic enough. As I was reading the novel, I was reminded of the film “Hotel In Rwanda.” Although Little Bee is not the story of a genocide, it is the story of cultural tragedy and overcoming those obstacles. I was reminded furthermore that the tragedies depicted in both of these works are very real and very pressing in the world around me, right beneath my nose. All in all, Little Bee was a wonderful read. It ranks in my top 10 favorite reads of all time for a number of reasons: First, the character of Little Bee herself. Her views of the world around her have been molded by her past and makes her a diverse character. Second, for the events that take place in the novel. They are terrible and wonderful, they are depressing and hopeful. Each event advances the story and develops each character. Lastly, for the suspense. For me, suspense is required to keep me interested in a story. Little Bee was full of suspense-I clang to each of Cleaves’s phrases. I would recommend this book to the entire spectrum of readers. It is a story of hope that every person-hopeful or not-must read and absorb. (less)
"On the morning the last Lisbon sister took her turn at suicide--it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese--the two paramedics arrived a...more"On the morning the last Lisbon sister took her turn at suicide--it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese--the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beams in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope."
A different approach at beginning a novel, right?
From the first sentence, I was hooked into the captivating-and often times macabre-tale of the Lisbon sisters, a group of girls plagued by an immense force of gloom, depression, and overbearing fear unknown to the reader. The Virgin Suicides is one of the most "empty" novels I have ever read. By this, I mean that the plot really does not hold as much entertainment for the reader as does the prose itself. The plot has it's moments- shining gems of human desire, pain, and loss- that are parallel to Dan Brown suspense novels. But these moments cannot surmount to the power behind the words written on the page. Each word appears to come from the diaries of the Lisbon girls themselves, although the novel is narrated by a group of neighborhood boys (the boys, I think, are what I came to love so much in the novel- so naive and lovestruck and yet so sincere in their tribute to the girls' deaths). The book made me a more patient and understanding reader (as if a novel could really teach me a life lesson- but I think it really did!) I admit that at first, i expected suspense on every page, a shocking character revelation, a bloody murder revealed and ages of family abuse brought to the surface- all the makes of a good horror story. Instead, Eugenides grabbed me by the nose and forced me to read the thought and carefulness behind each word, the deeper meaning of every sentence. I began to appreciate the actual writing of the novel and not just the 2-hour horror story that I expected and would most likely forget about the next day. By never revealing the true cause of the girls' deaths (or anything really substantial about their characters, for that matter), Eugenides forces the reader to become aware of all aspects of the novel. I can only hope that his other novels are as fabulous as this one. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, however. If you aren't a patient reader or if you are only searching for a juicy mystery as the title suggests, you will be let down. You must be prepared to appreciate the literary element of the novel and not just its entertainment factors. Maybe this novel will "whip" its readers into shape like it did to me!
I also heard it was made into a movie... can't WAIT to go rent it! (less)