**spoiler alert** At first blush, the book is a romance: a well-educated young woman with a chaperon steps beyond the boundaries of her well-regulated**spoiler alert** At first blush, the book is a romance: a well-educated young woman with a chaperon steps beyond the boundaries of her well-regulated life and finds passion. Young people might take this up as an instruction manual on how to find happiness despite their parents' tight control. The characters are dramatically drawn, so it's fun to watch them inhabit their extreme behaviors.
Looking more closely, the book is a war of ideas where abstractions and order are refuted by the tactile and the spontaneous. That's an interesting premise, but I find that Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility makes a much more complex argument by showing two characters tempered by these tensions (Elinor finds happiness by becoming more passionate, Marianne by being more rationale). Austen's dialectic between reason and passion is more complex than the kangaroo court Forster sets forth. For this reason, the novel ends up being fairly predictable since the clear villains are so extreme in how they judge, criticize, condemn and inhibit others. We watch the chaperon Charlotte "tut tut," the chaplain Mr. Eager show uncharitable attitudes, and the fiance Cecil make the most despicable comments. Lucy's brother purposely pronounces "fiance" as "fiasco"--as a way to hit readers over the head with the conclusion that he's an unsavory choice for Lucy.
But viewing the novel from a feminist perspective shows that British women of the early 20th Century still have a journey ahead of them. Although I watched the 1986 film version and bought the soundtrack, I didn't pick up on constraints and conditions of Lucy's liberation.
Lucy is tightly controlled by Charlotte and Cecil, but freed not by her own efforts on her own timeline, but by some fairly rough shoving by Mr. Emerson and George Emerson.
While it might seem romantic that George keeps grabbing Lucy and kissing her, it presumes that women can't be aggressors sexually. They have to be "awakened to passion" by men pushing them past their comfort zone. The same is true for Lucy finding her voice. George criticizes Cecil for silencing Lucy or making her a puppet. However, Lucy declares her independence from Cecil by quoting verbatim George's entreaty to her. George puts words in Lucy's mouth and she simply repeats them. How is this an example of Lucy finding her own voice?
It's maddening to read.
Even in the closing scenes where she and George playfully banter, he insists that his interpretation of Charlotte's behavior is correct and Lucy's is wrong. True, George's interpretation allows Charlotte more complexity and growth, but it's recited in a way that gives George the upper hand and Lucy is being corrected. Maybe George and Mr. Emerson see Lucy in more complex ways, but they still are patronizing to her in ways that echo Cecil's treatment.
I suppose Forster never met a young woman who removed her own shackles, so he had to make the Emersons the knights in shining armor rescuing Lucy.
All this being said, I still really enjoyed many passages of the novel. For it's day, I suppose it was radical to have a woman elope with an unbaptized, Socialist with limited funds because she's sexually attracted to him.
I think just having a fling* with him for a week might have helped her find her own mind, voice and passions, but I won't say that in case my teen daughter ends up reading this review.
*This could just mean passionate kissing, so don't clutch your pearls and grab your smelling salts, people. ...more
Why haven't I read this book earlier in my life. It's a jewel! Gibbons does a very good job satirizing British novels that romanticize and sexualize rWhy haven't I read this book earlier in my life. It's a jewel! Gibbons does a very good job satirizing British novels that romanticize and sexualize rural life while containing a degree of gothic gloom, foreboding and tragedy. That being said, readers do not have to read (or see films based on the novels of) Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence or the Bronte sisters prior to reading Cold Comfort Farm. The satirical target can easily be inferred. In many ways, the novel is parallel to Austen's Northanger Abbey in satirizing novels and novel readers. They differ in that Gibbons' characters are completely flat whereas Austen's novel simultaneously stands on its own with fully formed characters.
But Cold Comfort Farm is well worth its status as a classic. Every page contains laugh-out-loud descriptions of characters and settings. The plot is at once ridiculous and in-hindsight predictable. Every little detail from stilted diction to the constitution of curtains works to paint a picture that delights and amuses. I could go on and on, but let me just leave you with one quote of many.
The scene is between Flora (the practical, no-nonsense city guest living with her distant country cousins) and her hostess, Judith (the emotionally distraught mother of three nearly grown, dysfunctional children and the daughter of a reclusive, cursed/cursing autocratic matriarch):
[Flora remarks to Judith]“By the way, I adore my bedroom, but do you think I could have the curtains washed? I believe they are red; and I should so like to make sure.' Judith had sunk into a reverie. 'Curtains?' she asked, vacantly, lifting her magnificent head. 'Child, child, it is many years since such trifles broke across the web of my solitude'.”
My only caution is this: Because every sentence is drenched with hyperbole, the novel did overwhelm me. When I was 1/3 of the way through, I felt done with the exercise of mocking the "loam and lovechild" genre of British novels of the 19th century. Nevertheless, I persevered. I was rewarded when the plot points picked up the pace to create a dramatic conclusion. So I would just warn readers that the middle of the book slows down a bit, but it contains important details for setting up the denouement. I was happy to finish it, and I look forward to rereading it sometime with the insights of knowing up front how it's all going to play out. ...more
A fun ride through London and outlying areas with a team of sleuths who have had near-death experiences that allow them to see the dead. And even thouA fun ride through London and outlying areas with a team of sleuths who have had near-death experiences that allow them to see the dead. And even though that sounds really far-fetched, the dialogue reads like you are hanging out with some hip-cool contemporary young adults who have a great balance between snarkiness and sentimentality. ...more
I know that many people love Horowitz, but this is the second novel of his I read, and I just don't like his style. I had to force myself to finish itI know that many people love Horowitz, but this is the second novel of his I read, and I just don't like his style. I had to force myself to finish it. His plot lines are pretty good, but his prose style is stale if not cliche. I have seen a few episodes of Foyle's War and liked it. I enjoy detective stories, but I just don't connect with his writing. Sorry! ...more
Actually, I'm only 400 pages into 1,000 pages, but I need to take a break. It's interesting to read a novelization of London's history. I'm getting aActually, I'm only 400 pages into 1,000 pages, but I need to take a break. It's interesting to read a novelization of London's history. I'm getting a more complex view of the city, people, trades, geography, and politics. But I have a stack of library books due soon, so I'm putting this down for awhile. ...more
Finch does a lot of research in order to create a story world around armchair detective Charles Lenox. He is educated, rich, understated, charming andFinch does a lot of research in order to create a story world around armchair detective Charles Lenox. He is educated, rich, understated, charming and sarcastic in very subtle ways. It fits in the Sherlockian subgenre (meaning like Sherlock but not another Sherlock story). I have to admit that I didn't finish it.
I read the first 70 pages and didn't find the "hook." It was rich in detail of the interior rooms of Victorian England. However, I didn't get hungry to solve the murder. I was distracted by a ton of detail. I skipped to the very end and read the last chapter, then the penultimate chapter, and then the third-to-the-last chapter and so on until I read the last 50 pages or so. I thought the ending (really endings) showed a very complex plot, one that made it a little too complex for my tastes. I see that many others just love the story world and love Lenox. It just wasn't a good fit for me. ...more
This is a book you can read quickly and slowly, and that's a real accomplishment for a writer.
Stroud continues his series about teen ghost hunters wiThis is a book you can read quickly and slowly, and that's a real accomplishment for a writer.
Stroud continues his series about teen ghost hunters with Lockwood, George and Lucy working against a number of forces. Not only do they have to outsmart various types of ghosts, they have to compete with other teen agents and keep from being investigated by the police. And then there are a number of shady living characters (some barely so) complicating their investigation.
Shroud knows how to tell a fast-paced tale that also includes a lot of great detail about the setting, the characters and their various props. So I am torn on how to read the book. Should I read quickly so that I can keep up with the adventure story? Or should I read slowly to see his craft? Because his writing holds up to such scrutiny where other plot-driven books do not.
It's a fun story world to inhabit. I like that he has created a setting with a strong Victorian feel, but it's also a bit of "suspended in no time" because of references to Velcro and credit cards. It's got the feel of Dickens, Poe and Canon Doyle and other 19th century writers but with the snark of late 20th century post-modernity and the pacing of our early 21st century hypermedia-saturated society. Not only am I entertained as I read, I feel smarter. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is a kid book. It has cross-generational appeal because of the quality of writing. ...more
The plot, concept, literary history, and setting earn high ratings from me. The dialogue, however, was very stilted--especially when it involved romanThe plot, concept, literary history, and setting earn high ratings from me. The dialogue, however, was very stilted--especially when it involved romance. But if you can ignore these eye-rolling love scenes and focus on the history of a handful of books and other documents, it's a compelling read.
It seems as though the author really understands the more academic and historical aspects of the novel. The author information indicates that he has worked for decades as an antiquarian bookseller / collector. I was very happy that he's sharing what he's learned by being a participant (even if he's fictionalizing a good bit). But his depictions of emotional and physical intimacy were awkward and cartoonish. The workplace conversations were more authentic than the bedroom scenes. The discussion of how books, letters, and other texts pass from one set of hands to another and then another was fascinating.
Criticisms aside--I loved entering the world of authors, playwrights, book sellers, book collectors, book binders and librarians. I thought the novel was well plotted. Lovett did a very good job moving through the various centuries and threading themes among these settings that tied the novel together.
It's a bumpy ride, which makes it all the more interesting and all the more a marvel that we enjoy a good number of antiquarian books. Or given the long-standing existence of forgers, do we actually have as many antiquarian books as we suppose?
The narrator of this novel has dementia. We have to sort through her distorted thinking and ask, "What is real and what is imagined?" In the process wThe narrator of this novel has dementia. We have to sort through her distorted thinking and ask, "What is real and what is imagined?" In the process we get fragments of several mysteries told from 82-year-old Maud's point of view.
Mystery One: What happened to Maud's friend and neighbor Elizabeth?
Mystery Two: Who was the mad woman who lived in her neighborhood when Maud was a child?
Mystery Three: What happened to Maud's older sister who went missing decades ago?
There are a few other mysteries that emerge as the novel progresses, but these three appear in the first few pages and get things rolling.
It's interesting to watch Healey turn the fragments in Maud's mind over and over again until various patterns emerge through the kaleidoscope of her thoughts.
I read it in one afternoon on a cold day when I wanted to hide under the covers and read. It was the right book for the moment. ...more
I recently saw the 2002 film adaptation of The Time Machine starring Guy Pierce, and I was struck by how much it differed from the 1960 film adaptatioI recently saw the 2002 film adaptation of The Time Machine starring Guy Pierce, and I was struck by how much it differed from the 1960 film adaptation starring Rod Taylor. So I decided to read H.G. Wells' novel to see which version was closer to the novel. The 1960 version is closer, but they both change the story significantly.
The novel contains a lot of analysis that serves as political commentary as inspired by Darwin and Marx. In the films, the Eloi are seen as innocent victims and the ending is changed in both films from the novel so that the Time Traveler enters committed, romatic relationship with an Eloi woman. However, in the novel, the Eloi are examples of what the elite class will become if they continue to live "soft" lives at the expense of the working class, who are the Morlocks. The Eloi are pathetic: childlike, stupid and lazy. In the films, especially the 2002 version, the Eloi are romanticized and held up to be the noble savage, superior to the their technologically advanced ancestors.
The novel was meant to inspire social political reform. Instead, it helped to launch the genre of science fiction, which admittedly does often entertain a lot of themes intended to demonstrate the outcomes of bad social-political policies run amok.
It's interesting to watch Wells apply ideas of social Darwinism just 36 years after the publication of Origin of Species. I wonder how our imagined worlds will betray our own concerns when people read our fiction 100 plus years from now? ...more
Another information-rich mystery from Tremayne. A lot about the transfer of power from king to king and contested claims to thrones in 7th century ACEAnother information-rich mystery from Tremayne. A lot about the transfer of power from king to king and contested claims to thrones in 7th century ACE Ireland. It took a while for me to get hooked, but by he half way point, I carried the book everywhere hoping to steal away some time to finish. Fun and informative. ...more
I loved watching Alma come into her own as a botanist. She's smart, creative, assertive, and curious abPart of this book was a 5 for me, part was a 2.
I loved watching Alma come into her own as a botanist. She's smart, creative, assertive, and curious about the natural world. It was interesting to learn a bit more about the plant world and the business side of growing and selling plants. There are also interesting elements about the life of mariners from her father's youth. (His rise to power as a botanist launches Alma's story.)
However, I thought there was too much attention to describing her sexual frustrations. I felt as though I was intruding on her privacy. And I felt as though she was demeaned in a few of the scenes to be groveling and crawling to men for their sexual favors. As a woman of financial means, I think that she would probably have married or even had lovers. I didn't like to see her sexuality so roadblocked. ...more
The second in a series featuring Sister Fidelma, a 7th century female detective/lawyer (a dalaigh) from Ireland. The setting is Rome with its politiciThe second in a series featuring Sister Fidelma, a 7th century female detective/lawyer (a dalaigh) from Ireland. The setting is Rome with its politicians, merchants, clerics, politicians, soldiers, and pilgrims. The murder takes place in the guest rooms of the Lateran Palace in Rome. There are a number of Catholic clerics as well as Roman soldiers and Roman politicians among the novel's main characters. But we also leave the palace in order to visit bars, hostels, catacombs, churches, brothels, storehouses, gardens and ports.
As in his first novel, Tremayne shows that many places in the ancient world were filled with a mix of people confronting each other from various cultures and subcultures. In this novel, Sister Fidelma encounters royals and peasants, locals and foreigners. Tremayne highlights a number of languages--either spoken, written or read by the novel's characters: Latin, Greek, Arabic, Gaelic, and other languages and dialects make an appearance in the novel. (Not that we have to decode them; the characters must.) Decoding these languages, cultures and various personalities is vital to learning more about the suspects and the victims.
Guessing the murder was harder for me than it was for the first novel. There were several twists and turns. I finally decided to just learn what I could from the historical setting while reading instead of pushing myself to unravel the truth from the many possible characters and their motives.
It was interesting and entertaining to travel to Rome with Sister Fidelma. I look forward to learning more about her world in the next novel in this series. ...more
This novel took me on an emotional journey similar to the film Dying Young (1991), which also features a young, attractive, aimless working class girlThis novel took me on an emotional journey similar to the film Dying Young (1991), which also features a young, attractive, aimless working class girl working as a caregiver to a young, attractive, monied young man with a health problem. She gives him vitality, love and hope; he gives her lessons in culture and a tour of the high life, but his illness puts them on more even ground.
Moyes writes believable dialogue and well developed characters. Yes, the novel can be sentimental at times, but there are also passages that show the gritty realism of the challenges faced by quadriplegics. An interesting exploration of how circumstances can invite love and affection between two people who would have either ignored each other or had contempt for one another otherwise. ...more
The first 50 pages were extremely challenging. I picked up this detective novel featuring a female detective (really, a nun-lawyer), expecting escapisThe first 50 pages were extremely challenging. I picked up this detective novel featuring a female detective (really, a nun-lawyer), expecting escapist literature. Tremayne makes some demands on the reader by setting this mystery in 7th C. Northumbria during a meeting between Roman-influence Catholics and Irish-influenced Catholics of Britannia.
An historian by training, Tremayne gives a lot of background about people from various backgrounds (Irish, Saxon, Franks, Picts, Romans) and various religious orders and various political alliances in order to set the stage. But once he set the stage and the murder takes place, then I was more engaged and didn't have to force myself to plod on.
It was a wonderful read once I accepted the author's demands and gave up my expectation of a fluff read. I looked up geography, architecture, church history, etc. online as I read. It took me days longer to read, but I was enriched by the process. I believe that his subsequent novels will be easier to read now that I have a toe hold. ...more
Toibin takes on an impossible task: writing a literary novella featuring Mary, mother of Jesus, as the protagonist. On the one hand, he is handling aToibin takes on an impossible task: writing a literary novella featuring Mary, mother of Jesus, as the protagonist. On the one hand, he is handling a religious icon. That's potentially explosive. On the other hand, he's writing a literary novella where the craft of his writing in every aspect of fiction writing will be scrutinized -- probably even more than if he had set out to write a theological treatise or a hagiography.
So how is he going to succeed by all of these standards of measurement?
Does it help the devotee complicate her faith? Perhaps. It reviews indirectly some of the events of the New Testament, which gave me a chance to meditate and ponder the NT canon through another lens. That was useful. It helped me better imagine, "What would I do if I lived then?" and "What would it look like if a divine being walked among us today?"
However, depicting the life, attitude and emotions of a religious icon is too immense for me to judge based on a theological standard set by scholars in that field. And I believe he's not even trying to make a theological statement anyway, so why go there?
As a writer of literature, he's making a statement about the human experience, mortality, the emotional landscape of one person who might serve as every woman.
Yes, he does describe some complex emotions, some interesting attitudes, some thought-provoking situations. But I found myself not being emotionally engaged with the book. Other reviewers talk about being emotionally moved. To quote a line from the musical Chorus Line: "I felt nothing." Was this my fault? Were my expectations too high?
So should I judge the value of his novella by its style? He does have elegant sentence structure. He knows how to present a detailed character sketch. And the tension between the content (Mary, mother of God, for heaven's sake!) and his style of presentation (laconic, detached, disillusioned) makes it a good example of late modernism. ...more
McCann's novel tells a series of interlocking stories starting in the 1840s and ending in the 21st century. While the events seem unrelated at the begMcCann's novel tells a series of interlocking stories starting in the 1840s and ending in the 21st century. While the events seem unrelated at the beginning, connections among character emerge. As the title implies, the novel shows travel, correspondence and shared ideals between people in the US and people in Ireland. McCann somehow manages to have a lot of structure and intent to his prose while presenting an understated, clear style. Never dramatic or overwrought. He lightly brings about his themes but through strong images of place and expertly drawn characters rather than through over-the-top action or hammering dialogue. Lyric and lovely. Some of the characters are historical figures, but the most compelling set of characters are women--half born the 18th Century and half born in the 19th Century--giving the novel an epic feel. ...more
Let me first confess that the novel is really not historical fiction (as I have shelved it) but historical fantasy. Pratchett creates a world in whichLet me first confess that the novel is really not historical fiction (as I have shelved it) but historical fantasy. Pratchett creates a world in which fictional characters and historical figures rub shoulders. But what is more fantastical is the depiction of the lowest class in Victorian London mixing with some of the most rich and powerful people from the upper classes of that era. And mixing beyond master and servant.
But that aspect is precisely what gives this novel it's emotional impact. Our hero searches the sewers of London in search of a lost coin here and there. And through the pages of the novel he meets a number of people who never really get their hands dirty--in a literal sense: Disraeli, Peeler, Dickens, Mayhew and a few other famous (and infamous) Victorians glide across Dodger's path.
The overt plot concerns the kidnapping and rescue of a mysterious fair maiden. But I really think the driving force of the book is to play "what if" with a trickster figure from the London underclass, with Dodger functioning as a composite character.
If you want to reach back to the origins of the gothic novel, you must read Walpole's "Castle of Otranto." The novel is set in England during the crusIf you want to reach back to the origins of the gothic novel, you must read Walpole's "Castle of Otranto." The novel is set in England during the crusades. It centers on how a handful of characters contend with each other over the period of two days over two questions: 1) who will be heir to the property/title and 2) who will marry the two fair maidens--Isabella and Matilda.
As the conflict unfolds, we witness libidinous regents, swooning women, virtuous knights, long-lost sons and undeclared heirs. These characters operate in a setting filled with dark passages, trap doors, menacing woods, and rocky crevices. We also get a recitation of events in Italy and in the Holy Land as one of the characters, a Crusader, recounts his adventures. And if that isn't enough, we have a few supernatural events to deepen the mood further.
I found the language to be simultaneously elevated and melodramatic. The novel lends itself easily to interpretations within the framework of Marx (claims for inheriting land and property), Freud (machinating to possess the bodies of young women) and Jung (symbolism in the swords, armor, chambers, and archetypes portrayed by the characters).
It's short for the tradition of gothic novels, so pick up a copy and keep the lights on and the doors locked. ...more
On paper, I should love this book. It's historical fiction. It features strong female characters. It's peppered with many literary allusions. It's gotOn paper, I should love this book. It's historical fiction. It features strong female characters. It's peppered with many literary allusions. It's got some great plot twists. But I struggled to connect with it. After reading for 100 pages (based on the strength of glowing reviews), I finally just flipped to the last chapter and read it backwards for another 50 pages.
Why was it so hard for me to connect with this book?
I was constantly confused as to what was going on. Was this because 1) it was epistolary? 2 it was filled with technical language about planes (the author herself is a pilot and did tons of research that she wanted to show off, 2) the sentence style was "off" from my own thought processes? I felt lost in Night and Fog the entire time. What the heck is going on?! And I've read some complex books in my day.
Anyway, maybe it's just me. The reviews here are largely "love it!" with a few of us moaning "I couldn't finish it." Just call me Moan-a.
Knowing what I do about Oscar Wilde from his pithy quotes, I am absolutely shocked at this novel. It's very moral! Yes, the character Henry Wotton speKnowing what I do about Oscar Wilde from his pithy quotes, I am absolutely shocked at this novel. It's very moral! Yes, the character Henry Wotton spews cynical and satirical quotes throughout the length of the novel. However, the plot reveals a theme that cautions the readers against these vices: the worship of art, beauty, appearances, hedonism and youth.
I regret not having read this novel when I was in my early 20s. At 50, I am hardly tempted to worship youth. But the novel still has value to me. I identify less with Dorian at this point and more with Henry--the corrupter of youth. Another theme is the power of influence over others. Henry is full of regrets, and he fills Dorian with all kinds of desires that he, Henry, cannot or dares not pursue. Henry plays puppet master to Dorian to ill effect.
Another theme is the use of art as a place to deposit morality--on a pedestal--far away from personal choice and accountability. In the end, the work of art (the portrait) cannot really function as a substitute. By the last page, the true character of Dorian is revealed.
I find it so interesting that Wilde wrote such a work when he was a man consumed with so many trivial aspects of life. It reads like a confessional to me. I see the author wrestling with the vanities of the world (including his own wit) and seeing how hollow they can be. It's a great meditation on the role of art in society and the dangers of hedonism. It's better than any sermon I've heard on the topic. Bravo, Mr. Wilde. ...more
**spoiler alert** I gravitated towards reading this book for several reasons: 1) I enjoyed "Study in Pink," from the BBC Sherlock TV series starring B**spoiler alert** I gravitated towards reading this book for several reasons: 1) I enjoyed "Study in Pink," from the BBC Sherlock TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. 2) I was a college English teacher for 30 years who should have read at least one Holmes mystery so far 3)In reference to the previous point, I should start at the beginning and 4) I am Mormon, and I have long heard that Doyle paints a negative and fantastic portrayal of Mormons in this book (supposedly by ripping off elements from a 1885 short story "The Dynamiter" by Robert Louis Stevenson).
Well, now I've read it.
I did enjoy watching Doyle establish the characters Holmes and Watson. It was also fun to wander around Victorian England. However, the story does not follow the "fair play mystery" convention of allowing the careful reader to deduce the identity of the murderer. Also, I love novels with well-crafted plots. This story takes a jarring shift from London to Utah 20 years earlier. However, the first half of the novel contains absolutely no foreshadowing that this will happen. It also doesn't establish the importance of the Mormon faith to the lives of either murderer or victims. And the use of German is never justified. For these reasons, it was a very unsatisfactory read. I can only recommend it for its importance to the canon as a whole. It doesn't have merit as an independent work.
If I were to ever reread this, I would only examine how Holmes and Watson meet. The rest can slip into obscurity--unless I were documenting stereotypes of Mormons in 19th C. fiction, then it's a must for such a project....more
This was reminded me of a Wilkie Collin's book (Woman in White) but with younger protagonists and a fantasy dimension. I enjoyed getting to know the tThis was reminded me of a Wilkie Collin's book (Woman in White) but with younger protagonists and a fantasy dimension. I enjoyed getting to know the two orphaned children who are trying to overcome personal tragedy and impossible circumstances. The poor little rich girl who befriends them is also sypathetic. While the book employs a number of stock charcters, the dialogue and the descriptions made it all seem fresh. A friend strongly recommended this, and I was only going to read 50 pages and then claim that it didn't engage me (because my "To Read" stack was getting too high). However, after 50 pages of Splendors and Glooms, I decided the other books can wait. ...more
Donoghue takes historical documents--letters, newspaper articles, court documents--and fleshes them out into short stories. I adore her ability to imaDonoghue takes historical documents--letters, newspaper articles, court documents--and fleshes them out into short stories. I adore her ability to imagine a full story from sometimes the most scant details.
She is very good at adopting a variety of voices. In this collection (I've read an earlier one, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits), Donoghue brings to life the mind, heart and soul of an elephant trainer, a very earnest prostitute, a pair of gold prospectors, a wild woman of the west, a woman who gave up a child, a German mercenary, and others.
I enjoy teetering on the edge between fact and fiction, and this collection lives in that magic space. At the end of each chapter Donoghue gestures a bit to her source material. But don't read these first or some plot twists and character revelations will be spoiled.
I selected this book in part because the holiday season meant that I would not have time for sustained reading. It was perfect. I could pick up the book and get completely lost in a great story for 20-30 minutes. But I could put it down for a day or two without losing any ground. But I found myself dismissing some of my holiday tasks so that I could get back to this collection of characters who have gone astray for one compelling reason or another. ...more
My friend Gladys who is 101 years old loaned me her copy of this book. She prefers devotional literature or books with very light conflict. This novelMy friend Gladys who is 101 years old loaned me her copy of this book. She prefers devotional literature or books with very light conflict. This novel belongs to the latter category. She lives in a skilled nursing home and has very few personal possessions in her shared room. So the fact that she makes space for this among her few books signals its value to her. I read it to honor her as my friend.
Cleaning woman Mrs. Harris spends 3 years saving money so that she can go to France and buy a Dior dress. The book is a little slow until she gets to Paris where we initially see her in a clash based on nationality and social class. Ultimately, she forges some meaningful connections with a handful of Parisians. It's a cute little novel of manners with a comedic bent. The characters are a bit cartoonish, but it's a gentle little book for polite ladies wanting a quiet evening with a charming but in no way unsettling book. I was unaware how my usual tastes run to the melodramatic until turning to something much, much tamer. A book like this has its place in the world. A cozy read complete with some heartwarming chuckles. ...more
Mehran mixes up a nice little serving with many flavors. The novel centres on three sisters moving from Iran to Ireland in an attempt to rebuild theirMehran mixes up a nice little serving with many flavors. The novel centres on three sisters moving from Iran to Ireland in an attempt to rebuild their lives as owners of the Baylon Cafe after the revolution. They must combat overt opposition as well as sublte slights against them because of their ethnicity. One sister engages in a Romeo-Juliet relationship with a local that sets of a chain of events. Throughout, theses sisters employ food as a means of self-support, as an expression of their culture, as a means to sway the hearts and souls of the townies. A sweet and spicy little book, laced with a few moments of magial realism. ...more
Johnson did a good job creating relatively complex characters for a genre fiction novel. Also, she's got good pacing, an intriguing plot, a new twistJohnson did a good job creating relatively complex characters for a genre fiction novel. Also, she's got good pacing, an intriguing plot, a new twist on Jack the Ripper, elements of teen romance tempered with a little snark--all conveyed with wit and insight. Rory, an American girl living in London, discovers her ability to see the dead and soon becomes ensnared in hunt to capture someone--something--committing crimes that are earily similar to the canonical murders attributed to Jack the Ripper. I enjoyed lounging around a boarding school in the east end as well as running around the streets and underground tunnels of London. At the conclusion of the novel, the antagonist indulges in a little too much "villian monologuing." Otherwise, I enjoyed the twists and turns Johnson introduced towards the end. Towards the beginning, I anticipated some of the shocking revelations, but she truly had me on my toes for the last 50 pages. Suspenceful, informative and funny--which are difficult features to combine in one novel! I may even pick up the sequals. ...more
In order to demonstrate the relevancy of the book's ideas to today's readers, Austin starts and concludes this book by discussing the impulse to reope In order to demonstrate the relevancy of the book's ideas to today's readers, Austin starts and concludes this book by discussing the impulse to reopen narratives in cinema through the use of sequals. Even though Frankenstein and Dracula die in early films, sequals abound that bring these monsters back to fight another day, and another and another. Then he moves to his area of expertise to discuss why people desire sequals, and how the authors of that era of British literature used sequals and biblical narratives as a means to communicate their developing positions about controversial topics of their era.
Austin deftly weaves together theories from narrative theory in order to perform a close reading of these important 17th C/18th C works: Milton's Paradise Regained, Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Part II, Defoe's The Further Adventures of Robison Crusoe, and Richardson' Pamela in Her Extalted Station. In order to adequately explain each text, Austin situates them in their historical context, explaining the political, cultural and economic forces that shape each work. Or more accurately, the book demonstrates how these authors turned the tables on society and used their writing to serve as a cultural force.
The element that ties each of these works together is the authors' use of biblical tropes to shape both the content and form of their literary works. The book progresses from extremely overt uses of biblical features in Milton to more sublte uses employed by Richardson. Nevertheless, Austin clearly shows how each author was inspired by the major tropes, themes, and archetypes of the New Testament, often supplanting the use of Old Testament devices in their previous work. For example, Bunyan's first work, Pilgrim's Progress, shows Christian going through an arduous set of tests and observing the unclean being punished. In Bunyan's sequal, Pilgrim's Progress, Part II, Christian's wife, Christiana, adds traveling companions as she journeys, forming a community of saints similar to those that St. Paul sustained.
In order to achieve this analysis, Austin employs a number of narrative theorists: i.e., Stanely Fisth, Northrup Frye, Frank Kermode, Claude Levi-Strauss, Georg Luka'cs, and Paul Ricouer. He also draws on criticism of several experts in 17th and 18th British literature as well as a handful of evolutionary psychologists.
Chapter 1: Narrative Closure as a Cognitive Problem Chapter 2: God's Sequel Chapter 3: "His Great Duel, not of Arms": Davidic Typology and Rhetorical Combat in Paradise Regained Chapter 4: The Figural Logic of the Sequel and the Unity of The Pilgrim's Progress Chapter 5: "Jesting with the Truth": Figura, Trace, and the Boundaries of Fiction in Robinson Crusoe and it Sequels Chapter 6: Everbody's Story: Pamela as Type ...more
This poem articulates the neurosis of the modern era like no other. I memorized the whole thing while in grad school and recited it once at a party --This poem articulates the neurosis of the modern era like no other. I memorized the whole thing while in grad school and recited it once at a party -- while standing on a stair (worried about my hair) where people did come and go, but they talked more of Cicero (since it was a comp/rhet degree I was pursuing). I was full sick of rhetorica and wishing for more poetica in my life. Eliot, of course, delivered. Although I no longer have the whole thing memorized, I still quote lines when appropriate -- or even when inappropriate. So pin me to a wall. ...more
When I was working on my master's in composition & rhetoric, I took several classes in Shakespeare just for fun. This was one of the plays I studiWhen I was working on my master's in composition & rhetoric, I took several classes in Shakespeare just for fun. This was one of the plays I studied then (circa 1989). I remember that it had soldiers, politicians, a lecherous uncle, and a really messed up pair of lovers. Well, our local Shakeseare theatre troup is performing this play this month, so I decided to revisit it.
Yes, my memory was accurate but very scant. This play is set during key events in The Trojan War, specifically, the battle between Hector (Trojan) and Achielles (Greek). The play has another plot awkwardly intertwined with this battle. Troilus is Hector's brother and suitor to Cressida, a member of the court in Priam's palace. Supporting characters include other members of the Trojan court--Hector's parents, wife and sibling. Hector and his brothers spend their days toiling against the Greeks on the battle field. They spend their evenings discussing strategy, court politics and courtly romance. On the Greek side, we have Agamemnon, Menaleas, Ajax, Odesseus, Diomedes, and some servants who help advance the plot and comment on the action.
Readers will be familiar with these events and characters from the Iliad. Shakespeare uses this setting to ruminate on politics, war, and the shifty, decaying nature of humanity. Troilus and Cressida take issues of love, loyalty, and national identity into a smaller scale. I'm just realizing that some of these same themes play out in The English Patient. What are essential qualities to a person? Where are people's true loyalties? What constitutes integrity? How does war reveal a person's character and how does war change it? A sad but throught-provoking work. ...more