Sunday, 29 January 2012

Austerlitz - W.G.Sebald

This one was a struggle. To be honest I always expected it would be, I don't really like the Author's style of writing. I started it nearly a fortnight ago and had visions of being able to say it was a lot easier read than I expected.
This is because the first hundred pages flew by, or if they didn't they did at least hold my captivation to an extent. I know that this is because I read them while on a train journey, it helps, it definately helps. I got home however and hit a standstill, I didn't even pick the book up for nearly a week, not a good move when you're doing a challenge which requires you to read. I read an entire book in the middle of it, and had to bribe myself through the final 150 pages using a third book.

I won't say the book was awful, it wasn't, parts of it were very easy to read, but I don't get on with Sebald's style. My biggest issue with this book was not the style or the content however. It was the fact that it was approximately 400 pages with no breaks. There wasn't a new paragraph, a new chapter or a page break in the entire thing. Maybe I wrong him. There may have been three. This made it incessantly hard to read, and when I put the book down it became very difficult to find my place, something I usually have no trouble with.

It was interesting and I did feel I learnt something. It just wasn't for me.


Friday, 27 January 2012

Book Five - Ivanhoe

With the historical setting of the King John and King Richard then throw in a dash of Robin Hood, and what do you get? Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe is the Victorian equivalent of Action Man I would go to as far to say, and 500 odd pages later and you have a satisfying happy ending.

Ivanhoe's journey for love is a story to the knights of old, chivalrous and moral, because the Victorians liked a moral story.  He fights along side King Richard after being disinherited for a) supporting the king and b) loving the beautiful Lady Rowena.

The reference to Jews was surprising, the character Rebecca faces persecution after being accused of witchcraft due to her incredible beauty and being confused for the Lady Rowena.

Though set in a different period, Scott does not make it a historical novel, he romanticises the part of King Richard who often sweeps in to save the day. Both Ivanhoe and Richard symbolise hope and unification.

Themes of bravery, false identity, love and passion for country are the key players.

It is the book for boys the equivalent of Chris Ryan or even Ian Fleming just without the gadgets and set in 1194.

The Quest to complete 52 books continues....

Rowen's Review

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Book Four - Tom Jones

This was a steep book, 851 pages but it was amusing even if it is in old English.

Tom Jones has his heart set is in the right place. He is compassionate and thoughtful, but his flaws often make him look a villain with the other characters. The irony is that it is the deception and villainy of the other characters such as Blifil that makes the ending satisfying.

Also I loved Sophia, she does not come across pathetic as other women in literature do trying to win their love. She fights her father, who she was the apple of his eye to be with Tom, rather than marry for status or a good match.

Now Lady Bellaston, she is the epitome of a jealous woman who will do anything to get rid of the competition. Where Sophia represents the breed of women we should look up to, Lady Bellaston is nothing more than scheming and callous to the point of blood boiling,

With themes considered quite risque for the 18th century, sex outside marriage, mistaken incest, attempted rape, jealously and violence. Fielding did his bit as the narrator, often coming in and interjecting in a way which said Don't judge me, just get off your high horse and read it.

It was an entertaining book, but you have to take time to absorb it. Often I would read it and misinterpreted it and it changed the context completely. The best parts are the names of the chapters, no author I have ever read puts that much effort into giving them names.

Tom Jones is enjoyable and broke conventions of the time, its worth the reward when you get through it, and hey its book four off the list!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Cranford - Elizabeth C. Gaskell

From looking at my Version of Cranford I always held the belief that Cranford was a much longer book than it actually is. My version also contains selected short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell, making the compilation about 3 times the length of the novel in question.

Although it was written a long time ago the novel contains many of the same characteristics as a favourite soap, only it doens't contain the Vulgarity.

The women, and it is almost entirely women, who inhabit Cranford are a unique species. Entirely polite and proper, maintaining their claim to the aristocracy on incomes scarcely sufficient to do so.

Cranford definately deserves it's place as one of the Great Classics.


Clarissa's Review

Fanny Hill - John Cleland

I once tried to read Fanny Hill, about 2 years ago.  I struggled, so much so I never got beyond the second page. I think this had a lot to do with the fact that I was essentially trying to read a book written in old prose in a place where I was surrounded by people talking. The two don't gel well, and I gave up and moved onto easier pastures.

Fanny Hill is a relatively short book, and once you get into the style of the language is actually quite easy to read, I read it in about 5 days.

The book is shocking, especially when you take into account the period when John Cleland was alive. The books of the day tended to be very subtle and very neat and rarely even made allusions to the bedchamber, let alone included candid descriptions of sordid acts.

Fanny Hill, who is the mains Character of the book, is someone with whom you can sympathise, because she really was left with few options but to pursue the line of work she did. It leads to feelings of gratification when she does eventually get the happy ending which you're earnestly hoping for.


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Book Three - The Woodlanders

So just read book three of the 52 book challenge because I am trying to get ahead before the work of university kicks in and takes over my life.

I always enjoy reading a good book (or in this case 52) and The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy was no exception. Looking at his previous work it is all set up to be another tragic and miserable tale like Tess of the D'Urbervilles. To me Hardy enjoys being miserable, or he enjoys having the power to never allow his characters to be happy.

Here is the conflict of the old movement (the Woodlanders of Little Hintock) versus new modern ideals (the genteel doctor and educated Grace) and those who fail are the characters who could not adjust.
Another factor all the main characters have flaws, some to the extent of it being fatal and this is where I turn to Giles Winterbourne.

Giles is the nice guy who looks to have a bright future because he is betrothed to Grace, she is beautiful, they've known each other all their lives and has she returns after finishing her education. Yet this education brings modern ideas to the village and Giles does not fit into that environment, she is snobbish and he is no longer any good for her. Her father sees this and turns on his promise to Giles in search of status with the local doctor Fitpier.

You have your head in your hands for this man. Giles has no self-confidence and he tries to win back a girl who until the end does not want to love him because of his status. Only until she is dumped good and proper by her cheating husband for his previous lover does she connect with Giles because she remembers who she truly is. However Hardy thinks this is not meant to be and Giles dies being the nice guy.

Marty South is a character that gets overlooked and that is Hardy's plot for her journey. She is secretly in love with Giles but has to take the back seat because a) her father is ill b) her father dies c) he is set to marry Grace d) he has his heart broken by Grace and so on. She shines on two important occasions and most poignantly the ending where she is alone with Giles, she wins him in death.

The Woodlanders is emotive but not as depressive as I thought it would be.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Book Two: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

For anyone who has seen the Disney movie you will need to cast the voices out of your head because the book is very different.

It is indeed dark, with themes of obsession, jealousy, murder and death, Disney has to adapt the story to suit younger eyes.

The characters are structured, but each of them have their flaws. Esmerelda is seen as pure but her pure sexuality tempts Phebus, captain of the guard, which then causes Frollo to act murderously. Frollo orders Quasimodo to do his evil bidding because he is the master and Quaismodo is a "poor excuse for a human being."

The key scenes in the book are heart-wrenching. Esmerelda shows Quaismodo kindness even though he brutally tried to kidnap her the night before, Frollo's obsession makes your skin crawl and the ending, is the most touching.

Victor Hugo used the central backdrop of Notre Dame to great effect. By hiding Quasimodo in there for sanctuary and later Esmerelda, as she escapes Frollo, it shows the safety of the church, but it is not enough to have faith in religion. Because the consequences of their actions outweigh the power of Notre Dame.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Room with a View - E.M.Forster

A Room with a View wasn't at all what I was expecting it to be. Lighthearted and funny it was a far cry from the tedium that for some reason, and I have no explanation, I was expecting.

The wit produced by Forster in this novel is subtle and produced by the use of stereotypical Caricatures, for various groups of the great british public. It was brilliant that before I'd finished the first page I could envisage what characters looked like, what they were, and most of all what they sounded like.

It was a brilliant novel and I can see why it has it's place on the list of Classics everyone should read.

Next on the list; Fanny Hill - John Cleland

Friday, 6 January 2012

Book One - For Whom The Bells Toll

For Whom The Bells Toll is a brilliantly written book.

Ernest Hemingway's experiences of the Spanish Civil War are central to the plot. The sometimes squimish details appear real because he has experienced them.

One scene in particular, the dealing of Fascist priests is one to read when you have an empty stomach. It is powerful and reveals that the Republicans could be just as brutal and the Fascists.

His descriptions are meticulous, and you can see his journalist instinct as he records everything.

The inclusion of his character, Robert Jordan's romance with Maria, possibly reflects his relationship with Martha Gelhorn, a fellow American journalist as he dedicates the book to her.

It is 490 pages long and its ending is an interesting one, leaving many questions about the war and the people in it.

So 1 down 51 to go.

Rowen's Review