Showing posts with label Classic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Classic. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classic Tuesday: Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck ClubJoy Luck Club
by: Amy Tan
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
The Joy Luck Club explores the tender and tenacious bond between four daughters and their mothers. The daughters know one side of their mothers, but they don't know about their earlier never-spoken of lives in China. The mothers want love and obedience from their daughters, but they don't know the gifts that the daughters keep to themselves. Heartwarming and bittersweet, this is a novel for mother, daughters, and those that love them.


My Thoughts: 
I called this a classic even though it is pretty contemporary mainly because I believe that it is a book that will be read for generations. Amy Tan has a wonderful way with words and knows the human character and holds great insight to human relationships.

I didn't come across this until half-way through my junior year of college (last week). I somehow made it through school without being assigned to read this. It makes me sad that I wasn't able to read this sooner. It is a wonderfully written novel. I love the structure, the style and the stories. Lots of books focus on a plot, on moving the story along to one final climax and happy resolution. Well in this case it felt a lot more like it was focused on getting to know the characters and their lives rather than on getting through a story. 
It showed so many complex relationships between mothers and daughters and more importantly went back to reveal what caused these women to be this way. 

I loved this novel and would highly recommend it to any reader man or woman.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Classic Tuesday: To the Lighthouse

To the LighthouseTo The Lighthouse
by: Virginia Woolf
Genre: Modernist, Classic
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Summary:
The lives of the Ramsay family are followed at their summer home which over looks a lighthouse.

Short summary I know, but you don't really read modernist literature for the plot. You read it for the words and for the ideas which they evoke.

I don't like modernism as a general rule, my modernist class this year is trying to change that, but unless you're Conrad, you don't really stand much chance.

So with that in mind that's why I have refrained from giving it a superb rating.

There are passages in the novel which are truly stunning, especially in the third portion of the book. Woolf has a wonderful way with words about her. The thing about the book that clung to me the most is the idea of identity.

Identity is what other people label our souls.

Mrs. Ramsay, for instance, is labeled: wife, mother, hostess, daughter. None of these are labels which she has given herself. When she is in those moments of alone she faces this blackness which is really what we are without the identity which others have given us.

I liked this one and if you are looking for a slower read (really emphasize "slower") which has some pretty deep currents this one will work perfectly.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Special

Product Details
Isn't that a pretty cover?
So horror is not something that I generally like to read. The most intense book I have ever read...well, I'm currently in the process of reading...is Dracula. Because of the new craze on Vampires, I decided I wanted to go back and see how they all began.  And I am loving it so far. It has been written in a series of letters and journal entries which gives Stoker an excellent control over what the reader knows and when it comes to horror when dramatic irony comes into play. I sadly haven't had the time to finish it but the second I do I will let you know the rest of my review.


So what about the rest of you? What is the book you turn toward when it's Halloween? Are you an Edgar Allen Poe fan? Or does Henry James' Turn of the Screw do it for you?

Comment and let me know what your favorite spooky read is I would love to get a head start for next year.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Classic Tuesday - Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre
by: Charlotte Bronte


Genre: Classic
Rating 4 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Having grown up an orphan in the home of her cruel aunt and at a harsh charity school, Jane Eyre becomes an independent and spirited survivor-qualities that serve her well as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him whatever the consequences or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving her beloved?


Isn't that the coolest cover you have ever seen? I really love this series that Penguin is producing.


And while you are judging this marvelous cover I shall talk about my impressions of the story. I have heard that you either really love the novel or you really hate it. I am happy to say that I defy this saying...I..um..didn't really love it or hate it. 


I loved the language of the story, the Bronte girls really know how to write. I just wasn't impressed with Rochester. He was too gushy for me. I had just finished my Austen course and was used to all of the gushy parts were glossed over so that may have contributed to it. But I was swept up in the novel's story and Jane herself. I am still trying to figure out how she forgave her aunt, I don't think that I could have in her situation. 


Read it, it is something that should be read - very good book for a winter day with a blanket and cocoa.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Classic Tuesday - Eight Cousins

Eight Cousins
by Louisa May Alcott


Genre: Classic
Rating: 4 stars


Summary from Goodreads:
Life with seven boy cousins isn't quite what Rose expected. Left an orphan after her father's death, Rose Campbell is sent to live at the "Aunt Hill" with her six aunts and seven rowdy boy cousins. For someone who is used to a girl's boarding school, it all seems pretty overwhelming. Her guardian, Uncle Alec, makes her eat healthy things like oatmeal, and even tries to get her to give up her pretty dresses for drab, sensible clothes.


I liked this one a lot more than Little Women, while it is still on the more didactic end of the spectrum it is a most wonderful little story. Now I must state that if you have read any Alcott the same basic principles apply. But unlike little women rather than having a narrator tell you how to live your life, the lovable Uncle Alec does so in a not too preachy manner. Now as the children are still children they are overly perfect and sweet, yet the adults (who are for the most part overlooked) are what makes the book for me. I love Aunt Jessie and wish that I had one or that I could be one sometime in the far distant future. 


I like how there is an emphasis on children remaining children. With my 6 year old sister asking to dye her hair blonde it seems like the final nail in the coffin of childhood is very close to being hammered down. This is a wonderful childhood classic and one that should be read rather than looked over.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Classic Tuesday: King Lear

King Lear
by: William Shakespeare

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary:
Deciding to divide his kingdom between his daughters, King Lear portions out his land to those whom he believes love him most setting the stage for the most classical of Shakespeare's tragedies

Now I wonder if plays count as books, but that is the beauty of the Bard. He has an all-encompassing reach for both the English and Theater worlds with influences on everything in between. There is so much going on that there is no way for me to cover it all in a little 300 or so word blurb but I shall try my best.

I have read this one twice for school and both times I was struck with how powerful it was. It deals with love and all of it's forms, with the fears of old age, with the battle for power everything needed to create an amazing story. Written toward the end of his life, I believe that a lot of Lear is Shakespeare's own personal fear and struggle of growing old and losing the respect that he feels he deserves. Lear is one of the most complex characters simply because of how dynamic he is. He begins Act 1 as a spoiled man who doesn't know himself, who is not wise enough to know what love and devotion really are. From there he descends into madness until finally being able to see the truth only in time to die himself. (Sorry if I spoiled but it's a Shakespearean tragedy, you know that everyone is going to die.)

I could go on about Regan and Goneril as the first evil (step)sisters that I have come across - they certainly make Anastasia and Drisella look like perfect angels. Or about Edmund a truly evil character rarely to be rivaled in literature. Shakespeare manages to capture human nature in all of its interesting shades so wonderfully that it is impossible to do him justice.

Read (or if possible watch) this wonder of Shakespeare, it will leave you satisfied and, hopefully, thinking.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Classic Tuesday: Crime and Punishment


Crime and Punishment

by: Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption. 

This was the first book assigned for my high school AP English class it was summer reading and it was something which was dreaded by all. I am finding that classics are a lot like vegetables, we eat them because we are told to and then realize..."hey I actually like broccoli!"  I must admit I started the summer with good intentions and kept telling myself I would start it tomorrow until I found myself looking at the first day of classes. Never fear I got it done and I loved it. Russian Literature just might be one of my favorite genres. 

What I love about this piece is how deeply it delves into the psychology of man. By getting so directly involved with the thinking process of Raskolinkov we delve deep into human psyche.  The book isn't so much about the crime and punishment themselves but rather about the internal crime of pride and the internal punishment which Raskolinkov goes through. This could be the very first psychological thriller ever written, a genre which hadn't ever been tried before and Dostoyevsky did a masterful job at creating marvelously shaded characters and writing a story that is absorbing and thought provoking.

I love this piece and believe it should be one of the first “vegetables” forced upon readers who are lacking in the classics. 




Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Classic Tuesday

Cranford
by: Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: Classic
Rating: 4 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Gaskell's witty and poignant comedy of country town life - a gently comic picture of life in an English country town in the mid-nineteenth century,Cranford describes the small adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle- aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances.

Rich with humor and filled with vividly memorable characters—including the dignified Lady Glenmire and the duplicitous showman Signor Brunoni,Cranford is a portrait of kindness, compassion, and hope.



I listened to this while driving around this summer and the characters were so adorably funny that at times I almost had to pull over because I started laughing pretty hard. One of those memorable instances was when one of the esteemed ladies got dizzy when thinking that the earth is spinning around the sun not staying still. 
Rather than having any real plot it is a series of vignettes telling all of the secret foibles which can be found in the society of women. Gaskell teases in a gentle manner however, perhaps because she was aware of the restraints of the society which she created for them, genteel enough to not work but not wealthy enough to be truly independent. There really is very little for the women to do.
It is a wonderful comedy of manners which points out faults in these wonderful women what some of us can be sure to find in ourselves. It is an extremely happy read with endearing characters and a wonderful movie to go along with it (though it is a little mixed up as most movies are). I love Gaskell, I have since I first came across North and South, and this one is simply wonderful

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Classic Tuesday: Heart of Darkness


Heart of Darkness
by: Joseph Conrad

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
Sent into the steamy heart of the jungle, this story chronicles Marlow's journey up river to the inner station where he meets the legendary Mr. Kurtz. Marlow's journey and discovery of Mr. Kurtz reveals the depravity to which mankind can seek when left to their own devices.

This is a classic novella which almost everyone it seems is forced to read at some point in either their high school or college career. The reactions run the gamut from absolutely loving it, to thinking it was the biggest waste of class time ever.  As my rating might show I am of the first camp. Now I know that it can seem slow- as if you are floating down a river...ever...so...slowly and all of the "brooding gloom" may seem too much for some people but I find it marvelously written and the ideas within it are wonderful.

The idea of what mankind is like without the social constraints of the police, of friends, of other people in general around is quite alarming as we see with the powerful Mr. Kurtz. It does make you ponder about what's inside each of us and overall if we would succumb to our own "heart of darkness" if given the chance to do so.

Now I should probably make note of the racist ideas in there. First off, remember when reading books from other eras you need to understand the mindset of the time so Conrad was simply writing within his era. Secondly, look at who the self-control and who can be described as almost regal during selections. My opinion is that this social criticism casts the Europeans in a much worse light than the natives.  So please read with an open mind.

I love this book, it is one that I have kept and reread without being assigned to do so. I love how Conrad makes us think. I love that there are quite a few hilarious quips peppered throughout the story. I simply love this book.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Classic Tuesday: Our Mutual Friend


Our Mutual Friend
by: Charles Dickens

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary:
It all starts when John Harmon comes out of exile and back to London to claim his inheritance. A myriad of characters come together and weave a story that is rife with mystery, adventure and romance.

Dickens is perhaps my favorite author. His descriptions of people, and places, his very distinctive beginnings - everyone can recite those of  A Christmas Carol  and  A Tale of Two Cities - along with his satire make him one of the funniest and most memorable authors I have ever come across. And this book is, thus far, my favorite of his. 

It is a little gem which has been almost forgotten, Sparknotes itself doesn't have a page for it, which is probably why my English teacher assigned it. This is by far and away my highest favorite novel I have ever been assigned to read. It is almost like reading a soap opera it is so complex and yet all of the story lines are nicely intertwined - you just may not see it at first.

Jenny Wren – a little girl with a “bad back and queer legs” is one who has stuck with me. She isn’t an angelic child who is patiently bearing her struggles, she is more like an old crone stuck in a child’s body. She is wise beyond her years and has a bit of a vengeful streak that had me laughing and cheering her on.  To counteract this marvelous character is Bradley Headstone, to me one of creepiest persons ever put to paper.  The image of his hands wringing and his horrid calls for “Eugene Wrayburn” can still send me shivers just thinking about them.

Now do not be daunted by its size dear readers. Despite its hundreds of pages it is a book that will suck you in and not let you out willingly. I love it and am planning on rereading it during my flight back to school.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The Scarlet Pimpernel
by: Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Genre: Classic
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
Set during the bloodiest days of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, the Scarlet Pimpernel is an enigmatic character who has saved countless lives from Madame Guillotine. Such dashing and bold escapes require the cunning and skill which no one would associate with Sir Percy Blakeney. This English Fop and his band of friends however band together as time and time again they save innocents from the likes of Chauvelin and other French leaders. This business of his is so secret that he must keep it all from those he holds dearest - even his wife Marguerite St. Just. 

Step aside Darcy I believe that you have met your match. 

Bold words I know, but really the Baroness has created a very undervalued hero who in all aspects outshines. The book is teeming with adventure, wit, mystery and suspense. Another one which I would recommend to gentleman as well as ladies. Always two steps ahead of the French government, the Scarlet Pimpernel still keeps us reading and wondering if he will pull it off once again. 

There is also the romantic element with his wife Marguerite. Just after their wedding, it comes to light that Marguerite just may be sympathetic to the leaders of the Reign of Terror, and her husband is forced to shut her completely out of his work. And while all this is happening Chauvelin - a French agent has been sent to sniff out the British gentleman responsible for rescuing the families who have been deemed traitors to the republic.

Goodness what more could you possibly ask for. It is extremely well written, the first in a series, and once more on just about every count - from wealth, to looks, to a romantic nature -  Blakeney is far and away a better hero than dear boring Mr. Darcy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Classic Tuesday: Persuasion


Persuasion
by: Jane Austen

Genre: Classic, Chick-Lit
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary:
8 years after Anne Elliot turned down a proposal of marriage, Captain Wentworth, comes back wealthy and waiting to prove himself.  While the years have been kind to Wentworth, bestowing him with fame, wealth, and position, they have done quite the opposite to Anne whose family has fall upon hard times. Though Anne is still in love with him as ever, he - having made his fortune - doesn't seem to feel the same about the woman who jilted him.

This is the final book that Austen finished before she died and if it is any indication, we can believe that she had reached a new depth and had she lived we would be blessed with sheer genius. I love not only, how deep the characters go, but also how different they are. Anne Elliot is 27 years old, an old maid by all standards and she appears as though she has lost her bloom. This is a far cry from our Mariannes and Lizzies of books past. 

Sadly I think that this little gem is overlooked as the better known Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility take the stage. And while I am not saying those aren’t good (I love almost all Austen’s equally) I do wish that Persuasion got the recognition it deserves. And as amazing as Mr. Darcy seems, I think that Captain Wentworth would give him a run for his money.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Classic Tuesday


Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott

Genre: YA, Classic, Coming-of-age
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Summary:
A story set in the 1860's onward that tells the story of the growing up of the March family. With four daughters as different as can be various adventures can't possibly be avoided.

Alcott as a person is a more complex character than her novels lead you to believe. The daughter of a transcendentalist (the American version of the British Romantic movement) her writings were greatly influenced by the need of morality in a country that seemed to be losing it. This is the most memorable and read of her novels though it isn't my favorite. 

It is just one step short of being a morality novel and the author preaches so much that you want to shut the book. Yes the story lines of the girls lives have a few scenes worth reading between the sermons but they are so few and far between that it is very difficult to get through. The one character who seems to have a shot at breaking the mold and being fiery in spirit of course is Jo. By the end of the story however she is just as humble and as much of a homebody as all the other daughters. 

This is a classic I know, but I wonder if it's fond memories in modern day readers stem from the multiple movies rather than the one book.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Northanger Abbey

The first of Austen's novels to be sold, though not published until 1817, after the death of the Authoress. It is a very witty satire on the Gothic novels which were so popular of her time.

It is the coming of age story of Catherine Morland who at the young age of 17 is given the chance to visit Bath with her family's friends the Allen's. Catherine has nothing of the heroine about her. She comes from an averages family, has average intelligence and is "nearly pretty." Little does she suspect the friends she will make in Bath, both charming and duplicitous. With her head filled with the stories of Mrs. Radcliffe she secures an invitation to visit Northanger Abbey with her friends the Tilney's. Her Gothic notions almost lead to her doom but she is saved by good sense of friends.

I read this book for a class I am taking and fell in love with the writing. As this is her first novel, Austen had not quite yet found her narrative style but it is still peppered with all of the wit and humor that can be found in her works. A thing that I did really like about the narrator was how she spoke directly to the audience at times and in turn became almost a character in and of itself.


Catherine, too, is a heroine I was deeply enchanted by. She is average and extremely naive. Her naiveté is nearly her undoing on several accounts and yet we see her grow and learn how to read people.


This is fairly short for an Austen novel and I recommend it for anyone who is interested in the genre and wanting to have a good laugh.

In the Shadow of Lakecrest

In the Shadow of Lakecrest By: Elizabeth Blackwell Genre: Fiction, Historical, Gothic Rating: 3.5 stars Summary: The year is 1928. Kate...