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.

Lord Jim

Joseph Conrad

I randomly picked this book. It was sitting on a shelf near some other classics so I thought it might be interesting. I deeply regret spending my time on it. This was probably the most boring book I have read yet.

The story of this book could be told in less than half of the time. Its about a young sailor named Jim that has some hard luck with a shifty captain. They jump overboard, along with a few other mates, from a ship that they believe to be sinking, abandoning several hundred people to sink to the depths of the sea. Unfortunately the ship didn’t sink and the crew is blamed for poor behavior and is banned from sailing.

Jim takes this very hard because he is a romantic. He dreamed of bravery and magnificence, but failed miserably and suffers for it. He ends up going to a forgotten trading location where he tries to escape his past. He succeeds in becoming a sort of hero to the natives. In the end he dies because of a misunderstanding. I’m telling you this because that is the whole story and you don’t need to waste you time telling it.

It sounds like it might be interesting, but I think my problem with it is the style of writing. I don’t really know how to describe it. Its like its being told from a narrator that is at a dinner party. The narrator is a part of the story and knows Jim as an acquaintance, and maybe his only friend. The boring part is that he draws out the story when you just want to get to the point.

Personally I would not recommend this book to any one. I was sorely disappointed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Return of the Native

Thomas Hardy

I decided to read this book because it is by one of my favorite authors, Thomas Hardy. I have thoroughly enjoyed the other books of his that I have read. I thought I would try another and see how it goes.

This book was very well written. Hardy does a wonderful job with his descriptions. That is one of the reasons I like him. They aren’t too full of words, but describe precisely the scenery or the persons. In this novel I felt that some of the descriptions went on a little too lengthy. But taking into consideration the atmosphere of the book, the long depictions of the scenery add to the moods of the characters in a way that helps one to understand the characters more clearly.

The main character of this book, Eustacia, is a woman of dreamy sentiment. She is selfish in her desire for love and thinks of it only in a romantic ideal. She likes the idea of love and all the passion that comes from a forbidden lust, but once she can take hold of her object she is sorely disappointed and discontent.

Her first love is a man named Wildeve. He seems to make promises to Eustacia but after a time he courts another woman, Thomasin, and ends up marrying her to avoid a scandal. Eustacia quickly forgets her love for Wildeve and is passionately in love with Thomasin’s cousin, Clym. They marry and soon after Eustacia’s ideals are throw away. She becomes discontent and there is much fighting between the two.

Near the end of the story there is a tragedy that ends in the deaths of two of the characters. Another becomes sad and mopes for the rest of the book, but one remarries the man that loved her since childhood.

I must say that I was a little disappointed in this book. The drama between the characters was a little unrealistic. Most of Hardy’s books are on the unrealistic side, but this one seemed even more so. The storyline was a little far stretched as well.

I was pleased with the ending. It ends happily for a few of the characters. I always enjoy when there is a definite ending to a book. Some I’ve read have endings that don’t really tell you where the characters are going. It just ends. This is not the case in The Return of the Native. And that pleased me very much.

I would recommend this book to someone that wants to compare Hardy’s books to one another. But as far as wanting to read only one of Thomas Hardy’s books I would recommend a different one, such as The Mayor of Casterbridge or A Pair of Blue Eyes. Both were very good.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe

My sister recommended this book to me. I never read it in school, although it’s usually required. The book tells the story of pre-civil war South and the about the lives of slaves. It really touched me mostly because I’ve never thought about it in this way before. Even studying the civil war and slavery and how awful it was, I never really knew how horrible it was. I feel a lot wiser in understanding the deep tension between races.
Uncle Tom is the main character of this story. He starts off in a kind family in Kentucky. The Shelby’s love him dearly because of his honesty, but are forced to sell him due to heavy debts. Tom has to leave his wife and children and is sent “down river” where the hard plantation owners live. Fortunately Tom is sold to an indulgent owner named St. Clare. His daughter Eva has a particular fancy for Tom and wants him as her own. She is an only child and very dear to her father.
Eva is one of the best characters in the story. It’s hard to describe her. The most I can put into words is that she is an angel. She embodies a spirit of love to those around her and spreads her innocence and depth with others. Tom loves her greatly and it eases his pain of leaving home. Eva is only in the story for a short time due to her failing health.
After some unfortunate events in the life and death of St. Clare, Tom is sold at an auction to one of the harshest slave owners in the South. Legree is his name. He is so cruel to his slaves that it makes me sick. To know that there were really people like this man that nearly starved his people to death and made them work much harder than any person should. Tom’s death comes at the hands of this cruel master. It makes me angry because Tom was so good. He has the strongest faith in the Lord that I’ve read about in a secular book.
Another important slave family is that of Eliza and George and their little boy. The same family that first owned Tom, the Shelby’s, also owns Eliza and her son. The boy is sold at the same time as Tom and Eliza cannot bear it. She escapes before the trader comes and gets him. George escapes shortly after that, disguised as a Spanish noble. They are all of light skin due to the greed of white owners on their poor slave women. Each George and Eliza with her son succeeds in escaping to Canada. Their story is wonderful to hear and their success is a victory.
The plot of this story is to tell the world the atrocity of slavery. Most of the story is written to an audience that is either ignorant of the pain of slavery or is ignoring it and looking the other way. I don’t really know how to describe this book. It is very much an awareness story. Mostly relevant to the time it was written, but still powerful in its message.
The story of Tom is one that breaks my heart to know it really happened. I wonder what is going on now that I’m unaware of or am turning a blind eye to. This book can change a person. Usually I don’t get emotional about a book, but I do feel very strongly about this one. One part that really hit me hard was the strength of the faith of Tom. He really loved God so deeply. To see the suffering he went through, yet still trusted God, really challenged me. I see how easy my life is and how weak my faith is and I realize that it shouldn’t be so.
I think everyone should read this book. It may not affect them in the same way. But it is good to read a little part of American history and what has contributed to us a nation. This probably isn't a very good review, but is how I feel about this book right now.

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

I first chose this book because it is a known classic. Leo Tolstoy is one of those names known for writing great novels. This book truly is one of my favorites. What stands out to me the most is that the people in this novel are so believable.
The title of the book points out one main character, Anna Karenina. She was a complicated woman whose fall into adultery brought on her destruction. She married at a young age to a man much older than herself. She wasn’t necessarily unhappy in her marriage due to the love she had for her son. Her downfall came when she met a handsome young man, Count Vronsky that fell desperately in love with her. Their affair leads Anna into a madness that comes from her insecurity in her relationship with Vronsky. I don’t want to give away her ending, but it is quite troubling how one can end up from the stress of an affair.
The other most interesting character is Levin. He is a country landowner that struggles with big life questions. There are many characters that are influences in his life, his two brothers, his wife, his in-laws, his close friends. Each of them are intertwined together in this story in some for or another. I love the relationships between characters. It takes a great mind to bring them all together.
Levin’s wife, Kitty, is also a favorite of mine. She at first was in love with Vronsky. He was courting her and leading her on. Once Vronsky found Anna he ran to her and left Kitty broken hearted. Later Kitty accepted Levin’s proposal realizing that she really did love him. She is a dear sweet Christian woman that is very influential in Levin’s life. Their first year of marriage was a struggle, but they overcome and are very grateful for each other. Other influential characters include Kitty’s sister, Dolly, and her husband.
Its hard to state the type of book this is. Its not quite a romance or a tragedy. It tells of the dramatic lives of the aristocratic Russian population. There are many passages of the views on peasantry and movement toward a democratic nation. Some of it was a little over my head, but it was present in a concise and interesting way. It seems to be set in late 19th century, Tolstoy’s current time.
It was a wonderful read and kept moving. There wasn’t any unnecessary information and it didn’t lack anything either. I was thoroughly pleased with the pace of the book. The story line followed many characters and it’s hard to say what the exact purpose of the book was. In some ways it just shows the dynamics of people, but also it brought in some political views and influences. For some of the characters the book has a tragic ending, but for others it ends happily.
In all, I enjoyed this book very much. Even though the size of it is long and it sound like it would be difficult to follow the different characters, it ends up being perfectly put together. Tolstoy is a genius in writing. I recommend this book to anyone that loves reading.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

I started this book because I knew it was a classic. I’ve read many other Dickens novels and I liked them. Most of his tales are hard to read because they deal with difficult social situations. The hard issues in this story was based on the French Revolution. I didn’t realize how horrible the Revolution was until I read about the mass executions performed by the common people against the nobles. But that is another issue in itself.

The story starts with a certain doctor of the name of Manette. He is a French man that was wrongfully imprisoned for reasons found out late in the book. He is brought to England where his daughter, Lucie, helps to revive him back to his normal self. She eventually falls in love with a man that goes by the name of Charles Darnay. They live happily in England until a particular event causes Darnay to return to his home country of France. He is imprisoned on account that the Revolution has begun and he comes from noble birth. Lucie and her father follow him to France to try to get Darnay out of the hands of the Republic. Dr. Manette’s former imprisonment gives him a creditable standing and the people grant his request to free Darnay. Unfortunately there are people from Darnay’s past that are determined to see him executed because of his father’s ill doing. They arrest him again and bring him to trial. There is an interesting turn of events that bring all the characters in the book together at one place. The outcome is a good ending.

Choosing one main character is hard. It really centers around Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie and her husband Charles Darnay. These three and their lives and adventure is focus of this story. I’m very interested in Darnay. He was a man born of noble birth. But after seeing and realizing how horrible the aristocrats treated the common people, he renounced his title and moved away. He understood the horrible condition that the country of France was in with the misuse of the common people. I admire him for that. His reason for returning to France was only to help a loyal servant from the hands of the Republic. Unfortunately the people didn’t understand him and just blame him for the horrible misdeeds of his forefathers. Another interesting character is Mrs. Defarge. She is one that denounces Darnay to the people, blaming him for the acts of his father. She is a strong, evil woman that takes a large part in pushing forward the Revolution. She is a symbol of the hate and anger of the people to the aristocrats.

This story was very believable since it was based on a historical event. I never realized how bad things were before the French Revolution and how much blood shed occurred to change things. Thousands of lives were executed in the Revolution. The unfair imprisonments of Manette and of Darnay were just parts of life in the changing system of France. Each character in itself was believable in their own way. Dickens has a very thorough of describing characters. After the first introduction of a person I feel like I know them.

The story is told in third person omniscient. That is my favorite style and also one of the most common. Dickens does a very good job narrating the story. During a lot of the reading I felt like I could hear him telling a story. It was much easier to read than some of his other novels. I didn’t think it was a dark and gloomy either, even though it contained heavy issues. The time period and location were key in the story. If the French Revolution wasn’t the center point I don’t believe it would have been a believable story. It was learning experience for me to read it. I’ve heard of the French Revolution and that it was a great change in the society of France, but I never understood the gravity of the situation.

I’m not sure there is one particular part of the story that was my favorite. I liked it was a whole. There isn’t anything that I didn’t like. The ending made me glad. I’ve read some endings that didn’t turn out the way I wanted. But this one did. I will recommend this book as my favorite of Dickens. I don’t know if it should be the first Dickens book to read, because it is different from his others, but it should be in the mix of his top books. It is definitely in my top books.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Pair of Blue Eyes

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

I wanted to read this book because I love another Thomas Hardy book, The Mayor of Castorbridge, that I previously read. I wanted to read a book by an author that I already know I like. The story is of a young girl, Elfride Swancourt, that falls in love with the first man she gets to know, Steven Smith. She plans to secretly marry since her widowed father doesn’t approve of the marriage because Steven is from a lower class. But wisdom overtakes her and she decides against it. They promise one another’s love and Steven goes to India to save money and become wealthy enough to earn the father’s approval. In the meantime Elfride falls in love with another man, Henry Knight. There is a confusing turn of events leaving Elfride alone. The end turns tragically as the two lovers of Elfride race each other to win back her love.

Elfride, the main character, is one that is hard to understand. She is very passionate about her lovers, yet is torn between the two. Her commitment to the first is very strong for quite some awhile, but time and distance makes that love fade and she falls for another man. She believes that her attempt at elopement was a dreadfully wrong deed that ruins her honor. With this belief in mind she keeps it a secret from Knight and leads him to believe that she really did do something immoral. The misunderstanding brings about tragedy. She brings it upon herself with her false beliefs in her actions.

I can almost relate to Elfride in the beginning of the book. Her strong passion for Steven and desire to secretly marry, along with their separation for him to earn a living, are similar to my situation. But once she falls for another man and forsakes her first love, I lose the sympathy I had for her. Elfride’s lovers are very interesting people. As I read I want her to end up with Steven. He is handsome and works hard to make a living and loves her for who she is. Knight is a less emotional character and somewhat dry. I don’t like him very much. Elfride seems to change who she is to match what Knight desires. Part of the problem between them is that Knight wants a woman who has never loved before and Elfride tries to hide that she has loved.

The drama in this story could be somewhat believable. Not to such an extent as the eventual outcome, but I could see the misunderstandings and the broken hearts actually happening. The story is told third person omniscient. I like this point of view because I can know what all the characters are thinking and I know all the facts. This can take the suspense out of story, but in this case there are still striking turns of events that are surprising. The time and location help make the story more romantic. It’s set in nineteenth century England, a picturesque time for romance stories.

This story evokes a lot of emotions. I felt for Elfride in her first passions of love. I also felt angry and frustrated with the characters when they were stubborn or miscommunicated. I really liked when Elfride was sharing romantic moments with Steven. The beginning was my favorite part. I didn’t like how it ended. I won’t give it away. I had to read the last few pages a couple of times to make sure I understood what happened.

Even though the ending wasn’t the way I wanted it to be, I really enjoyed the story. When I read a book and I can’t put it down I’m a big fan. I definitely recommend this book to any one that loves a good romance.