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 But now that things have changed in regards to labor laws and the food industry it is a little outdated in its views on politics.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.