In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and...moreDear Miss Austen,
In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love your novel, Pride and Prejudice.
I would've sent that note to Jane Austen had I been born in her lifetime.
I first read the book many years ago in Project Gutenberg while at the same time listening to a Librivox recording. I didn't know who Jane Austen was, and I only picked the ebook at random. At first it was a struggle because it was my first classic fiction. But when I got used to it, I was hooked.
Austen's prose is superbly beautiful. Her wit is sharp and her sentences and dialogues are always brimming with intelligence.
I loved it before, and now, I love it anew:
1. I love the characters:
Of course, my favorites are Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. But I also like Jane Bennet, Charles Bingley, and the Gardiners.
I love them for their virtues. I love them for their character, intelligence, wit, good manners, propriety, modesty, simplicity, 'good-heartedness', resilience, courage, and elegance.
But there is also something to appreciate from the other, less likable, downright mean or even villainous, characters: They reflect flaws or defects that are sometimes, if not oftentimes, found in us. For example, to my horror, I recognized a bit of myself in Mr. Collins and Mr. Wickham!
2. I love the setting:
I love the simplicity of life in early 19th century England. I don't know anything about the Regency Period. I am sure things are far from perfect in those days. Things are especially difficult for women. But there were a lot of good things, too: People had a sense of decency and honor, so that when Lydia eloped with Wickham, for example, everyone was scandalized. People were modest, well-behaved, and civil. In other words, they had a strong sense of morality. They followed a strict code of social conduct. Nowadays, people are not very shocked when so and so eloped with so and so, or when so and so is living with so and so. It's very sad.
I love Longbourn, Netherfield, Rosings, and Permberley. I love the countryside, woods, and gardens. People were not so indolent that they were so dependent on carriages all the time. The Bennet sisters, for example, and especially Lizzy, were fond of walking. But I also love the curricles and barouches.
3. I love the plot(spoilers ahead!):
Pride and Prejudice is basically a love story. At the center of it all is Lizzy, the daughter of a clergyman, who is not wealthy, and Mr. Darcy, the son of an aristocrat and who is very, very rich. When they first met in a ball, they made terrible impressions on each other. Lizzy saw Darcy as proud and arrogant, and indeed he was. Darcy believed Lizzy to simply be prejudiced against him, and so she was. But actually, each of them had a measure of both pride and prejudice. These character flaws promoted misconceptions and prevented them from understanding each other and themselves. When these were later confronted and dissolved, true love developed.
But Darcy was already in love with Lizzy early in the novel. He was first struck by her "fine eyes", and as they became further acquainted, by her character, intelligence, and liveliness. He has never met anyone like her, who is not intimidated and dazzled by wealth and rank, and who is not afraid to speak her mind.
Lizzy's love for Darcy grew as she got to know him better. On the surface, he is proud and arrogant, but on a deeper level, he's noble, gentle, and affectionate. He is such a contrast with George Wickham, the son of the Darcy family's steward and Mr. Darcy's former friend, who Lizzy later met and immediately admired for his attractiveness and pleasing personality. On the surface, he is humble and affable, but on a deeper level, he's selfish, deceitful, and irresponsible.
Then, there's Jane and Mr. Bingley, of course. Both of them are attractive, kind-hearted and good-natured, so they were easily drawn to each other.
Mr. Collins (who reminds me of Sheldon Cooper), Miss Bingley, Mrs. Bennet, Lydia Bennet, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh are amusing, albeit sometimes annoying, characters. They spice up the story.
I love the scene wherein Lizzy and Lady Catherine faced off each other. The verbal exchanges were superb and can never be surpassed by TV soap operas.
4. I love Jane Austen.
If it's not already obvious... I adore Jane Austen. She lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries -- that's a long, long, long time ago. But because of her novels, I feel like I knew her very recently.
We hope to be blessed by a second baby, and this time we wish for a girl, so we can name her Elizabeth Darcy!(less)
I often find it hard to review books, especially if it’s fiction and a great work of literature. This novel is an example.
Where to begin? Perhaps I sh...moreI often find it hard to review books, especially if it’s fiction and a great work of literature. This novel is an example.
Where to begin? Perhaps I should simply start by saying that, initially, I liked it. But then, after watching the BBC adaptation (2008) and thereby understanding the story better, and after re-visiting some of the important dialogues and scenes in the book, I loved it.
Perhaps my difficulty in appreciating the story stemmed from my expectation that it’s going to be just as witty and funny as Pride and Prejudice and that the Dashwood sisters are going to be exactly like Lizzy and Jane. Well, there are still some witty dialogues in this story, but it’s largely drama. Also, the characters are totally different. Elinor and Marianne are quite different from Jane and Lizzy in terms of their personalities.
Here are the reasons why I love it:
1. I liked the plot:
The story is simple, yet you cannot easily guess what will happen next.
The story opens with the death of Mr. Henry Dashwood, the father of Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. Because the estate of Norland Park is entailed to their half-brother, John, they are forced to seek residence elsewhere. Moreover, they don’t like Fanny, John’s wife. She, more than her husband, is selfish and ambitious. The sisters and their mother end up in Barton Cottage, a house owned by their relative Sir John Middleton. Here, they are welcomed to a new society, meet new friends, and start a new life.
Before leaving Norland Park, however, Elinor meets Edward Ferrars, Fanny’s brother. Unlike his sister, he is very amiable, good-natured, and kind-hearted. Elinor and Edward falls in love with each other, but to Elinor’s disappointment, Edward does not propose.
In Barton, Marianne meets Mr. Willoughby. He is young, handsome, intelligent, and shares Marianne’s passion and taste for music, books, and poetry.
Elinor and Marianne are not alike in disposition and temperament. The elder sister is more calm, controlled, reserved, and prudent. The younger is more expressive, spontaneous, and romantic.
Everyone could see the love that’s developing between Marianne and Willoughby, but things get an unexpected turn.
2. I liked the characters:
What I love about Jane Austen’s novels is that they are always about people. Austen, I think, is fascinated by people. She is fascinated by their personalities. But above all, she is fascinated by their character. For her, I think, that is the most important thing in a person: his or her character. Character lies at the heart of her, well, characters, and love and happiness all depend on it: Would Mr. Darcy have fallen for Elizabeth if, in addition, of course, to her very fine eyes, she were not also virtuous, intelligent, and lively? Would Lizzy have been drawn to Mr. Darcy had he not explained himself to her and radically changed his character and personality, and had he not spurn his pride and went out of his way and his comfort zone by helping Lizzy and her family win back their honor by arranging the marriage of Lizzy’s youngest sister to his mortal enemy? Lizzy’s affection for Wickham was obliterated when she found out that the latter was actually unprincipled, deceptive, and a plain scoundrel.
I admired Elinor for her strength of character, resilience, composure, honesty, and intelligence.
I admired Marianne, too, for her intelligence and passion, misguided though it was.
I liked Colonel Brandon, and appreciated his helping Edward and the Dashwood family, but I couldn’t see any chemistry between him and Marianne. Moreover, the gap in their age is so wide!
Edward, of course, is also likable.
There are so many mean and disagreeable characters in this novel: There’s Willoughby, of course, although he did sort of try to redeem himself near the end by owning up to his wrongs; there’s Fanny Dashwood (and John, too, if you think about it, for neglecting his step-mother and step-sisters); and there’s Mrs. Ferrars.
3. I simply love Jane Austen’s writing.
Needless to say, Austen is such a great writer, and her manner of narrating and expressing her self, to say nothing of her characters’ dialogues, are always excellent. She’s a pleasure to read.
4. I liked the BBC adaptation.
The BBC series helped me understand the story better. I loved the actresses who played Elinor (Hattie Morahan) and Marianne (Charity Wakefield). The cinematography is simply beautiful! The location for Barton Cottage is breath-taking. The musical score is also great.
However, it has been criticized by the Jane Austen Society as being too raunchy. I agree. It would’ve been better had they stayed faithful to the novel in every respect — the sex was only very vaguely implied in Austen’s book. Also, it would’ve been great had they expanded the series to more than three episodes.(less)
This book was very entertaining! It was like reading a fast-paced novel, except that the story is actually true. At the end of the last chapter, I fel...moreThis book was very entertaining! It was like reading a fast-paced novel, except that the story is actually true. At the end of the last chapter, I felt like standing up and shouting, “Bravo! Bravo! Well done.” Well done indeed. Amy Chua is a very engaging and intelligent writer and reader (I listened to the audiobook version by Penguin Audio).
And this is what this book is – a story. It is not a how-to manual on parenting. At least, that’s how I understood it. It’s a memoir. It is Chua’s account of how she raised her two daughters during their formative years. It is both harrowing and interesting. Thought-provoking, too. I can understand why many Americans or Westerners hate this book. I myself, an Asian, sometimes cringed at Chua’s choice of words when she scolded Sophia and Lulu. She was harsh in the extreme, too overbearing, super strict, often stubborn, and always a perfectionist. But she often made a lot of sense. She was also very straight-forward, brutally honest and frank. I like her guts and wit.
Throughout the book, I kept on thinking, “Hmmm... I want to apply this with my kid, too!” I didn't always agree with her philosophy and methods of child-rearing. It’s too authoritarian, and sometimes I wonder if it is in fact not dangerous to worship the “Chinese model” of parenting as the best model out there, or adopt it wholesale and apply it without question. But there’s something very appealing about the values she espoused and was so adamant about – obedience, discipline, persistence, perseverance, resilience, rigorous work ethic, pursuit of perfection, and commitment to excellence. These virtues fashion and strengthen character.
However, I wondered, is parenting really black and white like that? Is there only the Western way and the Chinese or Eastern way? Is there no middle way? I’d like to think that there is. Our first baby is on the way, and I want to rear him the best way possible. I want to be the best parent for him. I want to have concrete plans for him. I want him to dream big and aim high. I want him to have accomplishments in life, and find a hobby that he can really excel at and be proud of. I want to mold his character and prepare him for the future. I want to do all of this lovingly but also firmly. I want to take the best of the “Western approach” and the best of the “Eastern approach,” and reconcile them with our own parenting style.
There is so much in this book that needs to be carefully thought and talked about. Someday I’ll read this again and list down all the principles I find useful.(less)
I liked the story. It's beautiful, in the sense that it contains truths about life: If you spend your life pursuing pleasures, comforts, and beauty fo...moreI liked the story. It's beautiful, in the sense that it contains truths about life: If you spend your life pursuing pleasures, comforts, and beauty for their own sake, and without acknowledging where they came from, or without any reference to their source, and treating them as if they are not ephemeral, or believing them to last forever; if you live your life as if all that matters is pleasure and comfort, the self and the ego -- you will lose your soul, and you will end up utterly empty and miserable.
Sketching the plot(May have spoilers ahead!)
The main character is Dorian Gray, a young, handsome, and initially innocent guy. His friend, Basil, is an artist, and he's the one who painted Dorian's portrait. Lord Henry is Basil's friend, and soon becomes Dorian's friend also.
Basil is so inspired by Dorian's good looks (one wonders if Basil, Dorian, and Lord Henry are bisexual) that he paints his best work yet -- a perfect portrait of Dorian Gray. It is, in fact, his masterpiece. It is so perfect that it looks exactly like Dorian Gray, and captures perfectly his beauty. Basil is mesmerized. Dorian, too, is captivated by his own reflection in the painting. The work of art is like a mirror that shows Dorian exactly how he looks and much more -- how Basil sees and admires him. Something is awakened in Dorian. He begins to shed his innocence.
Lord Henry is an unprincipled kind of guy. He's rich, intelligent, over-confident, trivial, and constantly tries to be witty by speaking in paradoxes. He's what you would call nowadays as a relativist. He exerts an influence over Dorian, and it's not a good one. He made Dorian realize that, with his youth and good looks, he can do anything he wants and have anyone he likes. He can pursue his heart's desires -- pleasures, adventures, lust, etc., and in life, that's all that matters -- pleasure and youth. Lord Henry tells Dorian that he only has one chance, because soon he will grow old, ugly and weary.
Dorian gives in, and, inside Basil's studio, while admiring his own portrait, he expresses a wish (that was almost a prayer) to be young forever, to never grow old, to never taste physical deterioration, and he wants his portrait to bear the marks of time in his place. Little did he know, this wish of his came true.
He falls in "love" with a theater actress, Sybyl Vane, but soon we find out that it's not really love, only infatuation. His "love" for her is conditional, dependent upon her performance on the stage. When she finally fell for him, her acting became terrible, because she realized that there’s real life beyond acting after all, so his illusion about her crashed and he left her harshly. She was driven to despair and eventually took her own life. This was the first of Dorian's many sins. Of course, the girl committed the sin of suicide, but it was Dorian's actions and horrendous behavior that brought her to her desperation. His portrait began to change. It transformed into something distorted, ugly and horrible, but it accurately mirrored the state of his soul.
He became more callous, vain, and sinful. He pursued a life of hedonism and became a corrupting influence over others. He ruined the lives of the people closest to him.
Later in the story, he eventually grew weary of all his pleasure-seeking and he became overwhelmed by his guilt. He wanted to do good, to change, to become a better person. He took the first step by not eloping with a girl whom he seduced, leaving her pure and her innocence intact. But he never quite went all the way – he didn't truly repent of his sins; he didn’t truly feel sorry for his crimes and he didn’t ask for forgiveness. He had an opportunity to truly change, but he chose to hide his sins instead.
As I've said, I liked the story. The message is timeless, and is best summed up by that old saying, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul in the process?"
The story is very relevant, especially in this day and age when a lot of people are swayed by the philosophy of moral relativism. It recognizes the reality and ugliness of sin, and its very real and horrifying effect on the soul.
It's funny how irrational and unreasonable Dorian was, and how ironic his experiences were -- he wanted beauty so much and pursued it to great lengths and at great expense, but his soul only got uglier and uglier. He didn't pursue true beauty -- a clean, honest, pure and loving life.(less)
Finally, after nine months, I'm done with this book! Marquez is a great writer, and the stories are very interesting, but I'm not captivated enough. T...moreFinally, after nine months, I'm done with this book! Marquez is a great writer, and the stories are very interesting, but I'm not captivated enough. The prose is superb, but there is something about his style that depresses me.
There are twelve stories in this collection. Some of them are haunting, some are intriguing, and some are frightening. All of the characters are Latin Americans, the settings are in Europe, and all of them seem either alienated, lonely, sad, or terrified.
I liked Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane, The Ghosts of August, and Light is Like Water.(less)
The Captain's Verses is a collection of lyric poems by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. It was first published anonymously in 1952, and many years later...moreThe Captain's Verses is a collection of lyric poems by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. It was first published anonymously in 1952, and many years later it was reprinted with the author's name.
The book is divided into four parts (Love, Desire, The Furies, and Lives) and all in all there are 42 poems.
Most of the poems are about, well, physical and emotional love and longing, while the others are political. I liked a few of the poems, because I could somehow relate to them, but the rest I either couldn't identify with (they were either too remote from my personal experience or too sensual for my taste) or couldn't understand.
The poems that stood out for me were If You Forget Me, The Queen, and Not Only the Fire:
If You Forget Me
I want you to know one thing.
You know how this is: if I look at the crystal moon, at the red branch of the slow autumn at my window, if I touch near the fire the impalpable ash or the wrinkled body of the log, everything carries me to you, as if everything that exists, aromas, light, metals, were little boats that sail toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
Well, now, if little by little you stop loving me I shall stop loving you little by little.
If suddenly you forget me do not look for me, for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad, the wind of banners that passes through my life, and you decide to leave me at the shore of the heart where I have roots, remember that on that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms and my roots will set off to seek another land.
But if each day, each hour, you feel that you are destined for me with implacable sweetness, if each day a flower climbs up to your lips to seek me, ah my love, ah my own, in me all that fire is repeated, in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten, my love feeds on your love, beloved, and as long as you live it will be in your arms without leaving mine.
I have named you queen. There are taller ones than you, taller. There are purer ones than you, purer. There are lovelier than you, lovelier.
But you are the queen.
When you go through the streets no one recognizes you. No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks at the carpet of red gold that you tread as you passt the nonexistent carpet.
And when you appear all the rivers sound in my body, bells shake the sky, and a hymn fills the world.
Only you and I, only you and I, my love, listen to it.
Not Only the Fire
Ah yes, I remember I ah your closed eyes as if filled from within with black light, your whole body like an open hand, like a white cluster from the moon, and the ecstacy, when a lightningbolt kills us, when a dagger wounds us in the roots, and a light strikes our hair, and when again we gradually return to life, as if we emerged from the ocean, as if from the shipwreck we returned wounded among the stones and the red seaweed.
But there are other memories, not only flowers from the fire but little sprouts that suddenly appear when I go on trains or in the streets.
I see you washing my handkerchiefs, hanging at the window my worn-out socks, your figure on which everything, all pleasure like a flare-up, fell without destroying you, agaIn, little wife of every day, again a h Ulllan being, humbly human, proudly poor, as you have to be in order to be not the swift rose that love's ash dissolves but all of life, all of life with soap and needles, with the smell that I love of the kitchen that perhaps we shall not have and in which your hand among the fried potatoes and your mouth singing in the winter until the roast arrives would be for me the permanence of happiness on earth.
Ah my life, it is not only the fire that burns between us but all of life, the simple story, the simple love of a woman and a man like everyone.(less)