Initial thoughts on completion: I absolutely adore this book. It is such a breath of fresh air to read such a charming, uplifting tale of this familyInitial thoughts on completion: I absolutely adore this book. It is such a breath of fresh air to read such a charming, uplifting tale of this family of four sisters. I was struck particularly by the little life lessons tucked away in each story as well as the ones stated outright. I just love Mrs. March and her wisdom! She is a model mother and yet still has her own fire. I found I identified most strongly with Jo, but that may be because she is the primary character and her thoughts are explored the most. Amy I found a really hard time understanding and really kind of despised her, even though I wanted to like her as part of the book. It wasn't until she grew up and I saw her courtship with Laurie that I really accepted her as a terrific addition to the whole. Beth is a beautiful little treasure and I'm not ashamed to say that I shed quite a few tears when she passed. She made me cry the most, as it was also really touching to watch her relationship with Mr. Lawrence help her to blossom out of her shyness. I guess you could say I identified with that part of her pretty deeply. Meg and her worldliness made me a little frustrated at times, but then again it's understandable as I feel that way from time to time. So again, the character embodies a portion of myself and the occasional frustration is really just a way to direct the frustration inherent in that part of myself.
Pros: There are so many, it's hard to tease them apart. I am really pleased that Laurie and Amy end up together. They complement each other surprisingly well and it's amazing how his wealth doesn't corrupt her, but help her refine herself and gives them both the means to fulfill not only their own lives, but everyone else's as well. I love the graceful, tactful person Amy becomes and the way she uses her intuition to help Laurie get over Jo. I don't know if I would have the courage to do something like that, coming right out and calling out sloth. Then again, they have known each other for practically all their lives, so they have a rapport to fall back on. That was one bit of wisdom I really appreciated. We don't need to perpetuate the thinking that "boys will be boys." Let's help them be men!
I'm really glad Meg's story wasn't "and she got married and lived happily ever after." Her married life was much more intriguing than her maidenhood and it was really great to watch her chart her way through newlywed troubles and new mom syndrome. Watching John rise to the challenge of parenting Junior was especially heartwarming. I wish there was more of this in today's literature and media. The fairy tale ending delusion is ruining so many lives, contributing (I feel) to many divorces and unhappy people. If only we could all realize as a society and as individuals that it is rising above these struggles and solving them together that brings the true happiness and satisfaction to marriages and to life. It was funny to watch Meg make mistakes and assumptions about John because it seemed very obvious to me that her trouble lay in not thinking of him as a person and not communicating with him openly. Then again, I had the benefit of third person omniscient narration, so of course the solution was obvious to me.
Jo is a fantastic character the whole way through. I wish I could find her in real life; I think we would be great friends. Her longing to be a boy and the little quirks that go with it never fail to make me smile. Her romping with the other boys and her total disregard of socially acceptable practices is wonderful; she is just real, herself, and true to that identity. She is comfortable with who she is and doesn't try to fit into society's box, or anyone else's. Yet she does recognize personal weaknesses - her temper - and makes valiant efforts to ameliorate them. It was really great to watch her relationship with Professor Bhaer flourish, but the fact that it did so slowly was more beneficial than jumping straight to the end result. He respected her always, and yet separated that personal respect from her initial actions and gently used his example to help her see the error in her thinking. He was so patient with her and even as he was trying to test her feelings, did not push her. The fact that we get to watch Jo soften through her grief and loneliness was really soothing. It was great to realize that even in this book, where the stories could have unfolded in such a saccharine manner nevertheless included hardship and waiting periods. It's a good reminder that life is not picture perfect and we sometimes have to journey through such periods, but that we ought to do so bravely.
I really appreciated how Marmee was so good at gently guiding each of her daughters. She understood and loved them as individuals and realized that different approaches were necessary to successfully reach each child, girl, and woman. Mr. March too was a terrific influence on his family and I was mildly surprised and yet infinitely glad that when he does finally show up halfway through the book that his presence integrated seamlessly; he didn't feel like an outsider.
Cons: Laurie reminded me a little too sharply of a certain person in my life, but it was also good to work through those feelings with Jo as a guide. I also felt that Laurie and Amy hit a wall by the end of the book and I couldn't see where their life was going to lead.
Overall, this is a marvelous little gem and I hope to treasure it for years to come. ...more
This book is definitely a classic for a reason. I admit, I began it in large part to placate my sister and to check off one of those "I can't believeThis book is definitely a classic for a reason. I admit, I began it in large part to placate my sister and to check off one of those "I can't believe you still haven't read that" books off my list. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but I guess I was expecting it to be a little bit more geeky. A conversation I once had sums it up really nicely: it's not fantasy, because it's written to be more believable; the elements of "magic" are not over-the-top impossible, but in a future state of our universe could be seen as plausible. However, they serve more as thematic elements, extensions of the better part of human virtue. It is also written with the air of a historian; Tolkien was really fleshing out the history, culture, and language of a land that he had invented so completely that it could very well exist. Thus it would be more like historical fiction. However, this it cannot be, as that genre is usually rooted in actual historical fact, and as much as we wish it were true, Middle Earth does not actually exist anywhere but the imaginations of we the readers. Thus we concluded in that conversation that The Lord of the Rings is fictional history.
I'm not sure whether I consider it a pro or con, but Tolkien spends and extraordinary amount of time describing the scenery, painting the environment with words descriptive, but not overly flowery. If I had attempted to read this when I was younger, there is no way I would have gotten through it. Those kinds of passages take a lot of concentration for me, especially when they matter so much to the story and the experience of Middle Earth as a whole. I don't know if it was because I wasn't paying attention well enough by that point, but after Lóthlorien, I got really directionally challenged as pertained to descriptions of the compass rose. But as it ultimately doesn't affect the fate of the quest, I contented myself to understand that Mordor lies ahead and it is to that destination that the fellowship is reluctantly moving.
Pros: The hobbits are characterized extremely well, especially if one reads the introductory material. They may seem simple folk, but their motivations and culture are nonetheless engaging and understandable and do not give the impression of flat stereotypes. It is interesting that they can be at once so old in years, at yet so young at heart.
The passages pertaining to characterizing Aragorn are exquisite. He is given such an air of mystery, yet you know that behind the shadowy façade, there are incredible depths. He knows so much and has such strength yet reserve, such patience. What I want to know is when he found time to gain such experience and knowledge. And when he sleeps. It seems like he never sleeps. But I guess that is one of the signs of greatness in any good literary leader. Anyhow, when we are first introduced in Bree, I was practically screaming at the hobbits to trust him. Why would they not? Couldn't they feel the good intentions radiating from him? But then, I'm coming from a biased hindsight position.
Getting to Rivendell was a delightful journey, probably the most compelling for me. Glorfindel is such a fantastic character who plays really well off of Strider. It is awesome to see how men and elves really can work together and each can contribute equally to the success of all. The bit where they came across the trolls added a nice levity to an otherwise grave situation and is a nice cameo to The Hobbit who came before.
The council of Elrond was one of my favorite parts. All the elements of the story are woven together in such a way that you get the entire picture of just how grave the situation of the world has become. Yet it isn't pedantic or dull, one character after another droning on and on about what happened in their region. It is all tied together beautifully, centered around the issue at hand and what is to be done with the Ring.
I particularly enjoyed the incident at the pass of Carradras. It was so artfully thought out, and really adds to the validity and characterization of the Ring itself. The concept that the landscape itself is taking sides in preparation for the great conflict to come is beautiful. Along that same vein, the incident in the forest with Tom Bombadil was incredibly intriguing. That there could be anyone so impervious to anything but his own affairs when such a polarizing effect is going on in the rest of the world is interesting. Yet it would take just such a person to be able to care for a place such as the forest, so confusing and befuddling to those with a narrow view of their desired direction of travel. Moria was a good episode, and much as I hate to admit it, the film adaptation was playing through my mind throughout, particularly the soundtrack; that part is very well done, I might even venture to say better than the book.
Cons: Tolkien is so enthralled with his scenery and languages that he often fails to develop his characters. Legolas and Gimli were two such characters; it's almost as if he forgot they were part of the fellowship until he decides to through some racial/political bits in and they uses them to spar. You don't get a good sense of where they have come from or what is most important to them.
The songs got a bit longwinded at times. But that's me being picky. In point of fact, I'm rather impressed that everyone is so well-grounded in their traditions and can use that method to transmit their histories to others. It makes me wish we in the real world knew so much about where we have come from and could recount it more artfully than to recite dates, names, and places.
Overall, it is a great book. Great themes: friendship, standing against evil, treachery and betrayal, the corrupting influence of ultimate power, and the virtue found in simple things. Despite my poor initial motivations, I am better for having read it....more
I like that this one has an Austen-esque tone, yet its storyline is unique. So much to think about afterward: the meaning of love, moral courage, dutyI like that this one has an Austen-esque tone, yet its storyline is unique. So much to think about afterward: the meaning of love, moral courage, duty, commitment to God, and how to find true happiness in life. I was great to watch as love softened Jane's revengeful nature to patient forgiveness. St. John drives me up the wall! His thoughts are almost logical, in a twisted way and he is too obstinate to be persuaded out of his opinion; he has to be right. It is interesting to see that he can be devoted to selflessness in the service of God and at the same time, be very selfish in his subconsciously carnal desires. The love between Jane and Edward is by far the best "true love" ever. It is motivated entirely on personal merit, as class and beauty cannot cloud the issue. On the whole, a fantastic book!...more
This is a very interesting look at a group of people who live so simple, yet complex lives. I enjoyed this comprehensive introduction to such a fascinThis is a very interesting look at a group of people who live so simple, yet complex lives. I enjoyed this comprehensive introduction to such a fascinating culture. Thomas' writing style is very easy to read; I love the way she is able to draw the reader into these people's lives....more
I love the wordplay involved with the Hatter and the Gryphon. It really capture the spirit of imagination and how everyday occurrences and things we dI love the wordplay involved with the Hatter and the Gryphon. It really capture the spirit of imagination and how everyday occurrences and things we don't pay any particular attention to can impress themselves in our subconscious and then twist themselves into some very adventurous dreams. It it interesting to consider that Alice is on a journey of self-discovery. I never realized it before, but she is trying to find her identity through various mental exercises and trying out different sizes. I liked it. Had Disney songs running through my mind the whole time. :)...more
The story about Heather is so tender, one of my favorites. This book is good if looking for something to motivate you to work on personal improvementThe story about Heather is so tender, one of my favorites. This book is good if looking for something to motivate you to work on personal improvement as well as deal with affliction and hardship in life....more
So well-written! It is surprisingly easy to read and goes quite quickly. I really enjoyed the ghost of Christmas yet to come in particular because DicSo well-written! It is surprisingly easy to read and goes quite quickly. I really enjoyed the ghost of Christmas yet to come in particular because Dickens really captures the universal feelings involved in dealing with the uncertainty of the path ahead....more