Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Anne Bronte

I needed this book. It was a good old English Literature book. This is the story of a woman whose hasty choice in marriage ends sadly, but is redeemed in the end with a happily ever after.

I don’t want to tell too much of the story because it will only ruin it. Most of it is easy to figure out as you read it. There aren’t any big surprises through the book, I can only think of once when I didn’t see something coming. The ending of this book was very pleasing for me. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out as I wanted it to. But I was pleasantly satisfied with the turn out of the story.

The main character, Helen acted very much like a woman in this book. She was hasty in her choices and didn’t think out the consequences when she married. She later made the right choice to leave her first husband until he could take care of his alcoholism. At this point she meets another man and falls in love with him. She makes wise choices to not act upon this love and returns to her first husband when she finds he is ill. I’ll leave it at that because I don’t want to spoil the end.

Anne Bronte writes similarly to her sisters. Fortunately her stories aren’t as dark. There was a sort of melancholy air about this book, but it didn’t end sadly. I was very glad about this. Sometime a good English Classic is needed to weigh out the not so good books.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Main Street

Sinclair Lewis

Main Street is about a young woman that marries a country doctor for a chance to get to a small town. Carol has a grand idea of creating a charming little village out of a preexisting average town. Once she is in the town of Gopher Prairie she realizes what she faces. The people are very set in their ways. There will be no changing what already exists. Over time she can’t take the trouble any more and takes a two year trip to a big city. In the end she realizes that she can be somewhat content with the simple life that goes on at Gopher Prairie.

I liked Carol. She was not so complex that she was difficult to understand, yet she did have some high ideals for how things ought to be. She felt that she wasn’t accepted into the town when she moved there, but over time as she learned to accept them as they were she got along much better.

There wasn’t anyone in this book that I felt like I could relate to. It was somewhat a satire on small town life, which was very stereotypical. The characters were the typical small town people you would think of. There were the merchants, the banker, the doctors, farmers and teachers. I found that no one was extreme in their personalities. Only a few times did a character vary from how I thought they should act when they were introduced to a situation.

I found that I did like the storyline, although it was a little long. It’s a good picture of how small town America developed. The prejudice against the farmers that were mostly foreigners was very strong.

There isn’t anything really else to say about this book. I enjoyed reading it, but probably won’t read it again. Its not bad, but its not exceptional. I would recommend it to someone that was interested in reading more American literature. Its good as far as deep study goes.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy

This book was suggested to my by another Thomas Hardy fan. And it was a good choice. It isn’t my favorite of his, but I definitely liked it immensely.

The story follows a young woman that struggles with her passions for two men. Tess is first seduced by a man that is believed to be her distant relative, Alec d’Urberville. She goes to claim kin with him and restore her poor family to the good name it once had. She later moves on her own and falls in love with a gentleman, Angel Clare, that is learning the trade of being a farmer. They marry but right after the wedding they separate due to the fact that she was with another man before him. Abandoned for almost a year she returns to Alec and lives as his wife. Her husband does return after realizing the mistake of leaving her to fend for herself. Finding her with another man shames him and he is guilty of leaving her. After a dramatic twist Tess runs off with her husband and enjoys a few days of bliss until her life ends tragically.

Tess is a girl that almost got on my nerves. But after reading the whole book I was able to understand her better. She really was the typical female character. She was weak and couldn’t stand up to hard emotional trauma. She was very hard on herself, more than she needed to be. I could almost relate to Tess in her despair of missing Angel. She loved him so devotedly and he would not forgive her. It made me quite angry that he would be so firm in his unforgiveness. I really could have used a little more communication between Tess and her husband. She really couldn’t spit out the details of her previous relationship and it ruined her marriage.

The drama of the story was a little over the top. Granted it was set in a time and place where chastity was of utmost importance, but I do believe that the morals and beliefs of the characters were to harsh or laid back at times. The characters changed their minds constantly as to their beliefs and standards. It wasn’t very consistent. It drew out the complexities of the human spirit.

I did get angry several times at the characters. Tess mostly. I had to set down the book several times to clear my head. It was about three fourths of the way through the book before I really started getting into it and enjoying the story. By the time I did start to enjoy it, it was nearly over. The ending was sad, but expected.

Overall this is a very good book to read. I felt good after finishing it. It’s probably my second favorite Thomas Hardy book. I’m still a fan even though these stories are tragic.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Canterbury Tales

Geoffery Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales is a book that I had a glimpse of in college. We read a few of the stories from it in one of my English classes. I decided to read the rest of it so I could say I’ve read it. I’m very glad with my decision.

The main storyline of the book is about a group of pilgrims traveling to a saint’s grave. They stop at an in where the innkeeper creates a game for them to play on their journey and acts as their guide. The game to be played is that everyone must tell a great tale to entertain the rest. The one with the best tale gets free meals and lodging. So, the book is full of short stories that are quite entertaining.

There isn’t any one main character since it is full of a lot of short stories. There was a sort of theme to the book about young ladies and men who wanted to marry them. Many of the stories contained questionable material, not suitable for a young audience. I must admit they were very funny though.

The setting and time period made an interesting mark on the stories being told. There were a lot of references to ancient Greek and Roman gods. Dante was referenced more than once, along with other ancient writers. Its very obvious that Chaucer was very well versed in the ancient literatures.

There is also an interesting amount of spirituality included. It reflects the spiritual status of the people of Chaucer’s time. The reliance on the Church of Rome and the system set up from there. The amount of religious personnel that existed is staggering. And the deceitful ways that they lived in is ridiculous. Its very evident that the “Christian” way of the middle ages was not at all what Christianity is about. It became a religion during that time.

I’m sure there is a lot that can be said about Christianity during the middle ages. I notice just from reading this book that worship of the saints became idolatrous. The good works mentality also became prevalent at this time. There were stories of good Christians, but they were only believed to be good because of their works.

But besides that, this is a great piece of literature. I think any person that is interested in classic literature should read this. It just completes a well rounded reader.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Peter Pan

J. M. Barrie

Peter Pan is one of the best children’s books ever! I really enjoyed this story. Its full of imagination and adventure. I love how as you read it you can’t tell what is make believe and what isn’t. This book gives a view into the mind of a child.

I don’t know if many adults would like this book. But I’m looking forward to one day reading this to my children and letting their imaginations take flight. I enjoyed it so much. I don’t know what else I can say about it except that its just fun to read.

The writing style runs on from one thing to the next. There’s not a break to the story. I liked it. I am interested to read other stories by Barrie to compare them with this one.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone that wants to hold on to their imagination and remember childhood.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Jungle

Upton Sinclair

This book was a change of pace. I’ve read a lot of British literature and other European favorites, but it was time to go to an American author. This book is very interesting.

It is about a man named Jurgis Rudkus. He travels to America with his family to find fortune, but is brought to the brink of death by the brutal conditions of the meat packing industry in Chicago. His family suffers and some die. He goes without food, shelter, and decent treatment.

There are descriptions in this book about the conditions that people were living and working in that makes me cringe. Being that this book is based upon true lifestyles that people had to endure, I wonder at the American Dream.

Its hard to describe the disgust I felt at the rich owners of the Beef Trust, and the corrupt politicians. The suffering that Jurgis went through, along with several thousands of people is unbelievable. All I can say is that you have to read it to believe it.

Towards the end of the book it begins to get a little preachy in favor of the Socialist movement. Since this book was published in the early nineteen hundreds it makes perfect sense. But now that things have changed in regards to labor laws and the food industry it is a little outdated in its views on politics.

This book brought about great changes in the food industry. Thank goodness it did. The changes that took place for the laborers is amazing as well. So many people died because of the greed of the rich owners. But it has changed and brutal working conditions are no longer allowed.

I recommend this to anyone studying in early 20th century America. It will help you to understand the ways of progress. I enjoyed reading it a lot, except for the nauseating tales of how they handled the meat. That wasn’t too pleasant.

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Victor Hugo

Hugo is one of my favorite authors, so it sounded good to read another of his books. This particular book is somewhat famous, although I didn’t really know the story before I read it.

This book follows a few different characters. The main ones being Esmeralda, a gypsy girl; Quasimodo, a hunchback; Claude Frollo, a priest whose evil desires ruin the happy lives of innocent people. Through a series of events these peoples lives are intertwined and all end in destruction.

I’m not sure if I really liked this book. It was a very compelling story that I followed easily, but there were parts of it that made me feel angry. I don’t usually like books that make me feel angry. There are also some random chapters about architecture. I wasn’t too thrilled about reading the intricate detail of the Church of Notre-Dame. Its nice to get a description that helps to visualize the scenes, but this was a little overboard.

I learned more about the views of the middle age in regards to the church. It is interesting in different pieces of literature from different culture the views on church and religions change. Each author has different views and beliefs even within the realm of Christianity.

I still like Hugo’s writing. It is a good story to read. I would recommend it to anyone that likes French literature. It keeps the pride of Paris alive.