I own the original 1902 copy, which belonged to my great-great-aunt Gladys -- it was a childhood favorite of mine, and what a surprise to see it's bee...moreI own the original 1902 copy, which belonged to my great-great-aunt Gladys -- it was a childhood favorite of mine, and what a surprise to see it's been re-released in a new edition! I'm so glad, since it's such a funny, sprightly book and I've always thought it would still be popular if only people knew about it.(less)
Delightful as ever. I do think every edition needs a brief intro giving modern readers a little context, since this is written as a satire of the over...moreDelightful as ever. I do think every edition needs a brief intro giving modern readers a little context, since this is written as a satire of the overwrought sensationalist fiction young ladies read at the time (novels being much more mainstream and low-class than poetry, history, etc -- think the kind of stuff Jo March reads and writes when she's young). Catherine is a realistic character who's constantly being contrasted, tongue in cheek, with the romantic heroine she "ought" to be, and letting her imagination run away with her due to reading too many of Mrs. Radcliffe's novels. Meanwhile, real and serious marriage transacting is taking place all around the innocent Catherine, which Austen uses to show up her innocence and modesty (while still poking a little fun at gender relations and Catherine's conforming to the contemporary ideal of an ignorant, pleasant, malleable woman's mind). The happy romantic ending is still witty and dry, and I do love Henry Tilney and his witty speeches, even if he's a little hard on Catherine at times without her realizing it.(less)
I thought I would rate this five stars because of how much I adore the DS column; turns out the words lose a little of their punch when they're not be...moreI thought I would rate this five stars because of how much I adore the DS column; turns out the words lose a little of their punch when they're not being posted in weekly format to a live community (I remember having some excellent comment discussions on the Rumpus after a few of these columns). But they're still incredibly powerful words, and I still teared up at more than a few of these, even rereading. Highly recommended, especially to those encountering Sugar for the first time.(less)
I don't know how I missed this in childhood, when I read most of the Victorian/Edwardian "good invalid" books -- Little Women, The Birds' Christmas Ca...moreI don't know how I missed this in childhood, when I read most of the Victorian/Edwardian "good invalid" books -- Little Women, The Birds' Christmas Carol, Pollyanna -- but I guess I've read it now. Too bad about the super-preachy moralism in the last third, because the first part of the book is about real children behaving realistically, reminding me of the best of L.M. Montgomery or Laura Ingalls Wilder. The children are charming and fun, kind of like the Five Little Peppers except not poor, and I would much rather have read more about their adventures than about the School of Pain.(less)
Nice premise (lesbian Persephone retelling with a female Hades), rather simplistically/amateurishly executed. I do wonder, as with the lesbian Cindere...moreNice premise (lesbian Persephone retelling with a female Hades), rather simplistically/amateurishly executed. I do wonder, as with the lesbian Cinderella novel "Ash", if I would have liked this better as a curious teenager, since it's aimed at the YA set, who is of course pretty lacking in same-sex romances of any sort. However, I am left just wanting to recommend my friend Katherine Beutner's marvellous "Alcestis", a retelling of a Greek myth which involves a girl's descent to the Underworld in place of her father (and where she has an affair with Persephone). It's not YA but hits many of these same themes a little more deftly.(less)
The first third was good, with some good bits sprinkled throughout. Way way too long, though, and not quite the blowout ending I expected it to be. I...moreThe first third was good, with some good bits sprinkled throughout. Way way too long, though, and not quite the blowout ending I expected it to be. I agree with my friend who compared it to Mockingjay in terms of taking all the action away from the main characters and just making them react to other people's revelations, except the ending wasn't as dramatic and the revelations weren't as shocking. It's not a horrible ending to the series, but it's like there were about forty loose ends and instead of an amazing braid, just a handful of them got tied up in a conventional bow.
Also, (view spoiler)[I found myself really disappointed that Ryman continued to be a good guy, because I spent all of Feed convinced he and his campaign were orchestrating the attacks to get himself elected, and I hoped we were about to learn that in the end of this book. But nope, the enemies are the same as always and everyone was pretty much what they seemed. Except for Buffy, who sold them out in the first book. Wait, except then she's a martyr everyone misses for the next two books. So confusing. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Like The Wasteland, this pretty much requires you to have had a first-rate education around the turn of the twentieth century to fully enjoy and compr...moreLike The Wasteland, this pretty much requires you to have had a first-rate education around the turn of the twentieth century to fully enjoy and comprehend it, but there's some witty writing and it's interesting from a meta-commentary perspective, since Strachey is tweaking the noses of some of the idols of the late Victorian era. (less)
Some good stuff in here, but I think it suffered from being a scifi/genre book written by someone who was not deeply involved in current-day Internet...moreSome good stuff in here, but I think it suffered from being a scifi/genre book written by someone who was not deeply involved in current-day Internet and technology culture. The cutesy names for future products were extremely out of date and '80s, the games she described the teenage boys playing were less advanced than what was available at the time of publication, and even back in 2003 I could have told you CD-ROMs and DVDs were not going to last decades (or even *a* decade) longer. The genetic engineering...yeah. Implausible at best. The pacing is also very uneven, with the first two-thirds of the book stretching out for ages as bits of plot are revealed, and then far too much jammed into the ending, and I didn't really feel a continuous link between the modern-day protagonist and his previous adult self, or even between that self and the childhood version of him. Overall I wasn't really certain what the message or point of the book was, despite some excellent depictions of people and relationships (I particularly liked Jimmy's mother), and in that it reminded me of "Never Let Me Go" -- a talented literary writer who probably should have left the heavy lifting of genre plot to someone more suited to it.(less)
Feel kind of silly rating this, since it's Not Written For Me (I don't have Eliot's education, I'm not a student of poetry, etc. etc.), so I can't rea...moreFeel kind of silly rating this, since it's Not Written For Me (I don't have Eliot's education, I'm not a student of poetry, etc. etc.), so I can't really rate its intrinsic value. Four stars for my personal reading enjoyment, I suppose, though even with the book being half footnotes I'm sure I still missed most of what there is to understand. I have read "Prufrock" any number of times since I was 15 and can safely claim to love it, however. Give me a few more rereads of the rest of the book to make an informed review.(less)
Very satisfactory, though I don't know if I liked it as much as some of the other straight up mysteries. There wasn't a lot of traditional detective w...moreVery satisfactory, though I don't know if I liked it as much as some of the other straight up mysteries. There wasn't a lot of traditional detective work, and while I did enjoy the change-ringing and local color, it made Peter a rather sidelined character. I do want to know more about Miss Hilary Thorpe, however! I shall imagine she went up to Shrewsbury, naturally.(less)
Pretty astoundingly good -- vibrant and funny and true, with glorious turns of phrase. It did not go anywhere I expected it to, but the ending was ext...morePretty astoundingly good -- vibrant and funny and true, with glorious turns of phrase. It did not go anywhere I expected it to, but the ending was extremely satisfying and hardly anything I read these days has a good ending. And she wasn't even out of university when she wrote it! *weep*(less)
The writing in this novel is unquestionably wonderful; descriptive without being overwrought, and full of allusions and poetry without becoming impene...moreThe writing in this novel is unquestionably wonderful; descriptive without being overwrought, and full of allusions and poetry without becoming impenetrable. It reads best if you have some familiarity with traditional pioneer narratives, as it is a more grown-up version than Little House on the Prairie but still wasn't written in a time when people were regularly examining the concept of "civilizing" or "reclaiming" the West. A modern reader just has to acknowledge that evacuating the natives (who are almost never mentioned) and building things on their land is a worthy goal to these characters, and leave it at that.
The story is told from the 1979 point of view of an older man, disabled now and recently abandoned by his wife, going through the letters and papers of his grandmother, who was a somewhat well-known artist and chronicler of Western life. The woven narrative has, I think, mixed success. I liked Lyman's commentary on Susan and Oliver Ward's life when he was re-telling it, but found the modern story uninteresting. This is especially a problem since, after a long, slow-paced build, Susan's story comes to an abrupt halt, with the last fifty years of her life barely sketched in a few paragraphs, while events in Lyman's life comprise the ending. Since I never cared very much about him and his ex-wife is only superficially described, it's asking too much of that storyline to carry enough emotional resonance to end the novel well. To be honest, it feels like that thread was woven in later to explain why Lyman is reliving his grandmother's life and to give her story a modern-day parallel.
In between, though, I was captivated. The description of the Wards' marriage is nuanced and realistic; one can really feel their love and their struggles with each other. Despite being a Pulitzer-winning piece of capital-L Literature, what makes this book most enjoyable are the sections which resemble the kind of historical fiction written now for female readers and disregarded by the literary establishment. Susan's difficulties with supporting her husband emotionally while pursuing her own artistic career are relatable, and some later romantic developments are equally compelling. I felt for her even when I was frustrated with her; it's clear that her attempts to hang onto her Eastern snobbery, particularly through correspondence with cultured friends, is what dooms her marriage, but at the same time it's easy to see why she can't just let go and fully commit to a taciturn man who's compelled to do what he thinks is right even when it brings hardship to his family. There isn't an easy answer to fix this marriage.
And Stegner doesn't provide one, which is fine, but I did object to having fifty years of a failed marriage just dumped in there at the end, after not even describing the melodramatic twist which leads to the collapse in much detail. I think the problem might lie in the interpretation of the title. Angle of Repose refers to an angle of a ditch or canal wall which is sloped enough that pebbles and debris won't roll down it. I assumed, early on, that the novel would then show the Wards having found some measure of peace in their old age after everything they endured together. A line of Lyman's near the end, though, shows that he considers this angle to only be achieved in death. If that's the message of the whole book, I can see why it ends the way it does but I also know why I don't care for it. (less)
I love the retold fairytale fantasy genre, but it's gotten crowded in the last ten years, and I'm a lot more critical of what I read. This book is ter...moreI love the retold fairytale fantasy genre, but it's gotten crowded in the last ten years, and I'm a lot more critical of what I read. This book is territory both Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip have covered, but the writing falls into a flat in-between place -- I found myself missing both McKinley's homely details and strong characterization and McKillip's lyrical magic. I didn't get a good sense of anyone in the book, but the style didn't soar into the ethereal heights that would have compensated for the long detours into fantasy description. I think teen readers would enjoy this but not find it terribly memorable, if not for the (sadly pretty unique) same-sex romance angle. Even that didn't save the book for me, though I'm glad Lo was able to publish this and get the ball rolling on more inclusive YA literature.(less)
The major thing that strikes me about this book is how very *French* it is. Unlike contemporary books from, say, England, the author makes it obvious...moreThe major thing that strikes me about this book is how very *French* it is. Unlike contemporary books from, say, England, the author makes it obvious when people are sleeping together, and flat-out says it when a woman gets pregnant (use of that term might vary between translations of course, but that's what it is in my early 20thc copy). The protagonist seduces two women during the course of the story, and the first time it's because he's young and ambitious and feels that having his first great affair, with the wife of his employer and benefactor, is a necessary step towards becoming the next Napoleon. (The book is set during the Restoration, so a lot of the plot revolves around wealthy people decrying both the Jacobins and especially Napoleon.) He's constantly on the brink of having a duel, and eventually manages to have one (they become buddies after). I *think* Julien's conception of what he needs to do to become an accomplished man of the world (have affairs and duels, dress like a fop) is meant to be tragicomic, especially since he starts off in the priesthood ("the black") despite being pretty much a nonbeliever, and that raises this book above your average Bildungsroman to something with broader social impact. On the surface, this is the typical book about a young man making bad choices out of misguided pride, so you're wincing every time he turns away from a more sensible path offered by a wiser and older friend (which is what I hate about Bildungsromans), but Stendahl doesn't seem to treat Julien all that sympathetically, or as a doomed hero. In fact, Julien holds himself apart emotionally from the increasingly-grand people he associates himself with, and both of his affairs have rather funny and relatable moments when it's clear that both parties are really playing artificial parts that they think they should.
Since it's a 19thc novel, of course Julien's impulses towards the grandiose and dramatic eventually destroy him, along with some not-so-subtle inference from the church, but there's a period of time when Stendahl's dry French wit makes it seem like Julien might really triumph over his social superiors because he's clever and removed. I don't know if Stendahl is saying that educated peasants rising above their station always leads to destruction, or lamenting that fact, but that's certainly an easy takeaway. However, Julien's desperation to do the things that will make him seem cultured and more adult feels more modern than a simple cautionary tale about social status, and he doesn't end by wishing he'd never left his carpenter father in the countryside and come to Paris, as you might expect. His philosophical lack of regret feels, again, very French, and makes this an interesting read for anyone who remembers the dumb things they felt compelled to do when they were 20.(less)