The Age of Innocence was an elegant read, the likes of which we don’t find much of these days. The attention to detail was both reflective of Old New...moreThe Age of Innocence was an elegant read, the likes of which we don’t find much of these days. The attention to detail was both reflective of Old New York society as well as of the characters’ psychological thought processes, which is some of my favorite kind of reading to do. I love being shown the ways characters think as well as the varied and often senseless/illogical reasons why characters act the way they do. Aside from showing us how silly human beings can be, it makes it a relatable narrative. These detailed reflections combined with the writing style therefore make for a slower read, but I loved reading simple things described in a prose no longer commonly used. At times some of the character’s names—which change after endless marital unions—can get a bit confusing, but it’s nothing so drastic as to prevent you from eventually catching on.
The ending is perhaps best described as bittersweet, but as with most things in life, it’s largely based on perception. Regardless of the outcome—or what I might want it to be—I feel the point driven home by Wharton is that theirs was a world largely influenced and subject to a society’s strict set of rules which had to be obeyed, leaving little room for a ‘simple solution.’ (less)
I’ve finally done my Russian roots proud by reading one of its most treasured classics. I finally know what the fuss is all about—although I knew befo...moreI’ve finally done my Russian roots proud by reading one of its most treasured classics. I finally know what the fuss is all about—although I knew beforehand the fate of AK: truly I despise when spoilers are revealed without any warning! I suppose it was also a timely read for me, seeing as a remake of the film will be released in November starring Kiera Knightley and Jude Law. In any case I would not rely on any film to carry the breadth of the novel and so it merely served as a tool for motivation.
To start off: the main thing that might be ‘intimidating’ about this book is its length, as its language—and thus readability—is not. If you must find motivation to read it somehow, I point out that it’s written in very short 3-4 pages chapters which might psychologically lessen the ‘daunting’ factor.
It might also help to know ahead of time that it encompasses three different—although related—storylines, all reflective of Imperial Russia. I am pretty darn sure that I would’ve gone nuts with 754 pages of AK’s antics, although my feelings towards her are rather ambiguous. And I have a feeling that was done on purpose? I know, I know; she’s tormented, in love, deserted, bla bla. Meh, regardless of the feelings she incited in me, the novel is amazing and so honest in its reflections that it makes it hard not connect with. It’s like looking inside someone’s mind and—at least for a few moments—sympathizing with someone’s troubles (even if they were self-inflicted, lol). The couple I found myself most rooting for was none other than Kitty and Levin, and I’m glad Tolstoy added part 8 (the last part) to the novel, otherwise I definitely would’ve felt like he left it ‘unfinished’ and/or with too abrupt an ending.
I was also reminded that in Russian culture/literature, characters have about a million nicknames for each other, so it’s easy to think that tons of characters are being mentioned when really, it’s the same few characters being talked about. I felt that Tolstoy’s writing was so clear that it left no confusion as to who is being talked about at a given moment, further testifying to Tolstoy’s skillful writing.
The bottom line: the characters are very complex and it’s very interesting how they often mirror each other, especially in instances when characters are from completely different backgrounds. You’ll agree and disagree with everyone all at once, and in short, it’s something that must be experienced for oneself. (less)
This nearly 700-page story was an enjoyable read about a pagan Roman soldier Vinicius who falls in love with Lygia, a Christian girl. As such, the sto...moreThis nearly 700-page story was an enjoyable read about a pagan Roman soldier Vinicius who falls in love with Lygia, a Christian girl. As such, the story alternates between romantic and historical plots, highlighted by the cruel treatment the early Christians suffered at the hands of the Roman empire. In many ways, the novel is also the story of the twisted Roman emperor Nero. Paul of Tarsus and Peter also appear in the story as characters with whom Lygia interacts with as a member of the underground—yet growing—Christian community. Depending on one’s religious/spiritual beliefs, the notion of these biblical characters’ presence in Rome might not be seen as entirely factual, however they’re unlikely to affect the story’s impact and spiritual angle. I found this story about faith and love to be as relevant and relatable as ever, as issues involving spirituality are often challenging for couples of both similar and different religious backgrounds.
In terms of book format, I add that the edition I read (ISBN 0895263459) was fraught with editorial errors/typos. This made reading a bit confusing at first since it always takes a while to get into a new story and its characters. Although I could eventually figure out who or what was being referred to—as opposed to thinking something else was happening, ha!—it really was quite surprising to find so many errors in my book. Therefore I presume that it’s probably best to read another edition.
To close on a positive note: although I know that the book is always better, I do look forward to seeing the 1951 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie version! :)(less)
When I purchased the book nine years ago, I had the eagerness but not the literary background—and set it aside after page 75. Nine years later, I have...moreWhen I purchased the book nine years ago, I had the eagerness but not the literary background—and set it aside after page 75. Nine years later, I have the literary background and lingering curiosity… none of which created a huge shift in my reaction to the book. I do realize that I chose to start my Proust experience with this book, which is the 4th volume of a 7-book series, and while some may think it isn’t ideal, this was the volume I was most motivated to buy and read—and there wasn’t much to convince me otherwise. Mostly though, I know I’d bought the book to view its ‘modern’ exploration of homosexuality, which I only ended up feeling wasn’t its main topic. Instead, I feel like I got to know more about endless parties and characters of high class society, most of them vapid in their own ways.
The next thing obviously has to be its writing style; I mean this IS Proust.
Seriously though: why paragraph—if not PAGES—long sentences?! I realize it may be one literary way of mimicking the natural stream of memories, but there are ways of making it at least a bit more readable. And yet, even then, after a while, you get so used to that too that you might actually start writing like him and explaining so many minor details that you almost, if not entirely, forget what the original premise of the sentence was meant to be, because there’s so much going on all at once that in light of all the meditative stuff I’ve been reading, I can’t help but think that in some ways this could be an indirect—or shall we say direct?—indication of either the character’s and/or author’s own overwhelmed mindset. Phew! I can’t believe I just did that, but I did… LOL!
But hold up now: I can look at things from multiple angles.
Indeed, I do realize—and can appreciate—how much focus (if not offbeat skill) must be required to create such novels. But the end result is the same: it’s just not really my cup of tea.
In a nutshell, I can definitely say that it wasn’t what I expected. It did have its moments of humor and the enjoyable passages of introspection where the narrator speaks about himself as opposed to everything and everyone else around him—which I felt were all too rare in a 724-page book. Despite the cliff-hanger ending—which, again, I felt was a bit annoying after having dragged through the lengthy book—I’m just not that curious to know how it turns out (although I can very well make an educated guess as to what happens). And while I’m glad I read it and I’m not completely boycotting ever reading anything else by the author, I cannot add Proust’s work to my list of ‘soul shattering’ authors.(less)
This book tells the story of a French boy named Aucassin and a Saracen girl named Nicolette who fall in love despite their parents’ wishes and, of cou...moreThis book tells the story of a French boy named Aucassin and a Saracen girl named Nicolette who fall in love despite their parents’ wishes and, of course, go to great lengths to make it happen anyway. “Aucassin et Nicolette” is the only example of a ‘chantefable’—or ‘sung story’—from the Middle Ages. As such, the reading alternates between sung verse and recited prose. This edition came with the original Old French on the left and contemporary French on the right side, which is interesting in itself in that the Old French is at times downright incomprehensible to me! I will say it was pretty funny though for I felt that I could read it and ‘understand it’… but not really. LOL! While I can get exasperated over Old English (sorry Shakespeare), I generally feel the gap between Old French and contemporary French to be even more drastic. I did note that the original text tends to rhyme, which is lost in the modern translation, and the text is sometimes written in past tense and others in present tense—which served as a reminder of the stylistic influence of oral tradition. A story which, although simple, provides a glimpse into a once vastly popular literary tradition. (less)
I don’t think I’ve ever been so annoyed by a book’s characters yet still interested enough to want to keep reading (*cough, Emma Bovary, cough*). I as...moreI don’t think I’ve ever been so annoyed by a book’s characters yet still interested enough to want to keep reading (*cough, Emma Bovary, cough*). I ascribe that to Flaubert’s writing style, which I’d first enjoyed 8 years ago when I was 21 living in Paris (and visiting Rome) and read “Salammbô.” Although I knew of the famous Madame Bovary, whatever compelled me to read the other novel first was on point because it’s still my favorite of the two. Needless to say, the stories are quite different seeing as Bovary is set in the 19th century French countryside while Salammbô is more like a gory, ancient Carthaginian war story tinged with romance. I did draw some comparisons between the characters of Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina, and although one may empathize with the themes of boredom and sadness, these stories point to the dangers of assuming that happiness automatically lies elsewhere. (less)