Posts Tagged With: Classics

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Waterstones Synopsis:

Martyrs to hypochondria and general seediness, J. and his friends George and Harris decide that a jaunt up the Thames would suit them to a ‘T’. But when they set off, they can hardly predict the troubles that lie ahead with tow-ropes, unreliable weather-forecasts and tins of pineapple chunks – not to mention the devastation left in the wake of J.’s small fox-terrier Montmorency. “Three Men in a Boat” was an instant success when it appeared in 1889, and, with its benign escapism, authorial discursions and wonderful evocation of the late-Victorian ‘clerking classes’, it hilariously captured the spirit of its age.

I really enjoyed this book! I mean, what is there not to like? Snobby men who suffer from a severe case of hypochondria who believe they can cope with a trip down the Thames in a boat. The storyline is great. The author Jerome K. Jerome is a talented writer who kept me entertained all the way through.

I loved the commentary of the journey. Everything they saw had a story and the recollection of them made me laugh. These men thought they were more superior and their thoughts on the surrounding areas where very entertaining. The synopsis says this book was an instant success and it is easy to see why.

My favourite chapter was probably involving tie-ropes. I loved the idea of girls pulling boats along, and then getting distracted and letting the boats drift into the middle of the river. I laughed at how these men were happy to annoy larger boats and fellow sailors.

I loved these men simply because of their attitudes. They believed they could cope – although they also believed they had life-threatening diseases; and following their story was great fun. This is well worth reading!

4/5

Audiobook downloaded from: http://librivox.org/three-men-in-a-boat-by-jerome-k-jerome/

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Waterstones Synopsis:

“Wuthering Heights” is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.

This is not the first time I have read this book, but I must admit it was the first time I enjoyed it. The first time I read the book was for my English Literature course and I really did not like it, but this time I read it for enjoyment and it made all the difference. This time was different also because I listened to it, which I found helped me get into the story.

Wuthering Heights is a great classic. A tale of love, jealously and revenge set in the Yorkshire Moors. Catherine and Heathcliff are in love, but Heathcliff leaves thinking Cathy does not love him. When he comes back he is angry and out for revenge. The story follows their families, they way they clash and how they each manipulate one another.

Oddly, even though I enjoyed this book, I didn’t really like any of the characters. I found them all quite similar: selfish, grumpy and manipulative. Everyone was out for themselves, even Nelly the narrator. However, I think this added to the enjoyment of the book, because I was forming opinions about them instead of being indifferent to them all.

I liked how Emily Bronte wrote. The book was descriptive and it is a great story.

4/5

Audiobook: http://librivox.org/wuthering-heights-by-emily-bronte-2/

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Waterstones Synopsis:

From the famous episodes of the whitewashed fence and the ordeal in the cave to the trial of Injun Joe, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is redolent of life in the Mississippi River towns in which Twain spent his own youth. A sombre undercurrent flows through the high humour and unabashed nostalgia of the novel, however, for beneath the innocence of childhood lie the inequities of adult reality – base emotions and superstitions, murder and revenge, starvation and slavery.

This is my first Mark Twain novel, which I read because it is on The List of Banned Books. I am really pleased I picked this book to read – it was full of life, adventure and mischief. Tom Sawyer is a boy out there looking for fun. He runs off to play pirates for a few days and conning other boys into doing jobs his Aunt has assigned him. Twain was a wonderful writer and took me into this world of boy’s play and games.

This book is not just about games Tom plays however. On his adventures he discovers a crime with Huckleberry Finn. This twist and the suspense surrounding the event added depth and flavour to his novel. I liked how it played out, the way it fitted into adventures that make this book special.

I enjoyed reading all the characters, and I loved Tom and his cheekiness. He made for an exciting read, and it was fascinating following his activities. I loved his Aunt and the way she wanted the best for him. And I liked Huck Finn too. He was fun but poor – a risk to be with but great fun.

This novel is full of life. It has mystery and adventure. It is fun to read and I felt like I was there and just wanted to know what was going to happen. There was a range of characters and some great mischief occurring. I will definitely be reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn very soon.

4.5/5

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Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Waterstones Synopsis:

When her family becomes impoverished after a disastrous financial speculation, Agnes Grey determines to find work as a governess in order to contribute to their meagre income and assert her independence. But Agnes’ enthusiasm is swiftly extinguished as she struggles first with the unmanageable Bloomfield children and then with the painful disdain of the haughty Murray family; the only kindness she receives comes from Mr Weston, the sober young curate. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Bronte’s first novel offers a compelling personal perspective on the desperate position of unmarried, educated women for whom becoming a governess was the only respectable career open in Victorian society.

This is the first Anne Bronte novel I have read, and the first completed in my Bronte Sister’s Challenge. I was unsure as to how this would read, seen as Anne’s sister’s seem to be more successful than her. However, I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and interesting. From the start I was gripped and enjoyed being taken to Victorian society. To be honest, the ending didn’t surprise me, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think I would regard this as female fiction as well as a classic.

This book provoked mixed emotions in me. There were times when I really felt for Agnes and her situation, and times when I found her acting superior to her charges, and her self-righteousness annoyed me. However, being the daughter of a clergyman this is probably not a surprise; and some of the children were horrid – although reading about their mischief did make me chuckle. I did like Agnes’ mother and sister though – such a lovely family unit and I found myself looking forward to her visits home.

I found this an enjoyable book that was easy to get into, and easy to remain involved with. It didn’t take me long to get through it and I am glad I started my challenge with this book. I’m looking forward to reading more by Anne Bronte

4/5

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The Vendetta by Honore de Balzac

Amazon Description:

October 1800: a foreigner, accompanied by his wife and their young daughter, stands before the Tuileries, waiting for an audience with Napoleon – the only man who can understand his wretched plight and the Vendetta that has driven him here. When Ginevra Piombo falls in love, fifteen years later, with a young Corsican officer hiding from the authorities in the aftermath of Waterloo, she does not realise that this one moment from her past will force her to make the greatest decision of her life: a choice between two loves, a choice of life or death.
I read this book a few weeks ago and to be honest, this is what has stayed with me: it is a love story, where a girl meets a soldier who is hiding while she is learning art, they fall in love, it is discovered their two families are enemies, they marry anyway and she is disowned. This is an old fashioned love story essentially.
Now don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed reading this. It was not very long and interesting. I wanted to know what decision the girl would make – would she honour her father or follow her heart? I wanted to know if her father’s love for her was greater than his hatred. I was happy reading this, I did enjoy it. As I reflect on the book I find myself remembering the art room and how the light shined into it and where the soldier was hidden. There are some elements that have stuck with me.
One comment I would make is this: the title is Vendetta, which suggests that the book will primarily be about the dispute two families had with each other. I found that this was only mentioned a couple of times and the focus of the book was in fact the love story, not the hatred.
Overall, this is not a bad classic. I think essentially it is a love story, but there is fire and revenge and hatred in the book too. If you like Classics and quick-reads, this one is for you.
3/5
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The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Synopsis by Amazon:

Everyone has a dark side. Dr Jekyll has discovered the ultimate drug. A chemical that can turn him into something else. Suddenly, he can unleash his deepest cruelties in the guise of the sinister Hyde. Transforming himself at will, he roams the streets of fog-bound London as his monstrous alter-ego. It seems he is master of his fate. It seems he is in complete control. But soon he will discover that his double life comes at a hideous price …

Dr. Jekyll is a scientist with a dark secret – he has created a drug which transforms him into his sinister dark side. At first this is OK, but then Hyde, his alter-ego starts making trouble and goes as far as committing murder. Jekyll’s friends start to get suspicious when Mr. Hyde is seen coming and going from Jekyll’s home – and then the hideous secret is out….

I really enjoyed this book. It explores human nature and good and evil – and ultimately the choices we make. The book was exciting and gripping. It is original and well written – clearly a classic.

Stevenson’s characters were great! I liked the fact Mr. Hyde was written in such a way that I really didn’t like him – it is nice to come across a book that sparks emotion and feelings, and this book did that.

I didn’t find this book scary, just a great read.

9/10

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The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

Synopsis from Amazon:

When a Victorian scientist propels himself into the year 802,701 AD, he is initially delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty, contentment and peace. Entranced at first by the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man, he soon realises that this beautiful people are simply remnants of a once-great culture – now weak and childishly afraid of the dark. They have every reason to be afraid: in deep tunnels beneath their paradise lurks another race descended from humanity – the sinister Morlocks. And when the scientist’s time machine vanishes, it becomes clear he must search these tunnels, if he is ever to return to his own era.

In Victorian London, a man known only as The Time Traveller has beaten the odds and made a time machine. He transports himself to the year 802,701 to find out what the world will be like in the future. He discovers two races, the fearful Eloi and the scary Morlocks. It seems the latter, who hide in the darkness of the underground tunnels have taken his time machine. The Time Traveller has to go on quite an adventure to relocate his ticket home.

This was a quick book, and fairly enjoyable, however, Wells makes quite a dire prediction of the future. He writes that humans will split into two races: one will be childish and the other evil. I did not relate to the characters well, yet I wanted to know what happened. Some people have referred to this book as a social commentary but for me it was an adventure book. The Time Traveller had dark roads to travel and all sorts of beings to fight if he wished to get to his era.

I think it is clear why it is a classic. It has elements of excitment and it Wells has thought outside the box to write this book. Although not the best classic around I think this is a book worth reading.

7/10

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Synopsis:

Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne’s concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale stands as a classic study of a seld divided; trapped by the rules of society, he suppresses his passion and disavows his lover, Hester, and their daughter, Pearl. As Nina Baym writes in her Introduction, The Scarlet Letter was not written as realistic, historical fiction, but as a romance; a creation of the imagination that discloses the truth of the human heart.

Well, if truth be told, this book did not hold my attention. I felt it dragged on and I found myself not concentrating throughout the book.

The story follows Hester, who commits adultery and therefore has to wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ pinned to her outfit. This makes her a social outcast. The product of the affair was Pearl, who made the story for me. She brought a smile to my face with her little mischievous ways. The rest of the characters I was a bit indifferent too – except Roger, Hester’s husband, who creeped me out. There was something about him I just didn’t like. I did feel a bit sorry for Arthur, as he seemed to spend the rest of his life paying for his affair, but then actions reap consequences.

I thought it was interesting how they humilitated Hester, with the letter, but how she took it and understood her crime. She seems humble enough to continue wearing it. I was bemused that Pearl only accepts her mother when she is wearing the letter – her crime has become her identity – even to her own child. I liked how it linked back to England and had a dash of history lashed through the book. I was surprised by how much religion was in the book, virtually every chapter mentioned God or the Bible. I guess, however that this was a book set in Puritan times so maybe that should have been expected, and in the eyes of the Church and centuries gone by, adultery is a big sin.

Overall, I was not keen on the book. My interest was not held, however it wasn’t so bad I didn’t finish it. There were elements that made me keep reading, such as Pearl’s character, but they were few and far between.

5/10

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Synopsis from B&N:
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires…

The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning…along with the houses in which they were hidden.

Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames…never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.

Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think…and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do!

My thoughts:

I can’t believe I’d never read this novel before. It’s odd to think of all the English classes I’ve taken, and realize that no professor ever thought this would be worthwhile to teach. I’m sure lots of them assumed it had been read before – but that certainly didn’t stop them from making me read Huckleberry Finn 5 times! (But that’s another story…)

There is so much to consider in this short little novel – Bradbury really packed a lot into a small package. His writing style is full of simile and metaphor, which sometimes seem a little over-the-top, but they give the narrative a feeling almost like a dream. It is very visual, giving the reader detail after minute detail in which to see the drama unfolding. When Montag goes to a house to burn books one night, “Books bombarded his shoulders, his arms, his upturned face. A book lit, almost obediently, like a white pigeon, in his hands, wings fluttering. In the dim, wavering light, a page hung open and it was like a snowy feather, the words delicately painted thereon.”

Guy Montag is the focus of the book, and as such the only character who really gets a chance to develop. Mildred, Guy’s wife; Clarisse, Guy’s neighbor; Faber, the professor – we meet each of these people, but never get the opportunity to find out much about them. They are merely catalysts, propelling Guy forward on his journey. Each has their small part to play, and then they are gone, because the author is mostly only interested in Guy.

It is fascinating to read Bradbury’s vision of a world gone mad, written in the 1950s, and realize how similar it is to the world we live in today. In his world, people don’t want to read books, or be challenged by new ideas – they would rather sit in front of their gigantic television sets and be entertained. In his world, no one wants to stand out or be different, but would rather conform to the image that the majority has decided is ideal. In his world, people don’t connect with each other, but spend their time blocking out the world with the earphones in their ears. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? I have to wonder if Bradbury ever feels chilled by his prophetic vision.

Of course, what resonates most clearly with me is the few people in the novel who are trying to save the books. When Montag decides, for the first time, to sit down and read one of the books he has been secretly stashing away, his life is forever changed, and that is truly the moment of triumph in the novel. When he finds Professor Faber, and later the band of men in the forest (Bradbury has referred to them as the Book People), and decides he wants to do something – anything – to keep the books from being lost, it is the flash of hope that lifts the novel from despair.

And Bradbury knows it is not the books themselves that are important. Books are little more than ink and paper, which don’t add up to very much. “It’s not the books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books…Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

The only part of the novel that really disappointed me was Montag’s meeting with the Book People. They are a group, scattered throughout the land, that are trying to keep the ideas of books alive. Instead of trying to save the books themselves, however – which would be really dangerous – they choose to “become” a book. They memorize the book, word by word, and tell each other the stories. Eventually, they will pass their knowledge on to the next generation. Their great hope is that one day, they will once again be able to commit what they remember to paper, and the books will be born again. I just wanted MORE of this section – I was fascinated by it, and wish his time with the Book People would have lasted longer.

Fahrenheit 451 is quite a magnificent novel. I have no doubt it is one I will be reading again and again.

Finished: 2/27/09

Source: Franklin Avenue Library

Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by: Elizabeth

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The Pilgrim’s Process by John Bunyan

Synopsis:

‘I had a dream last night… large enough to fill the rest of my life.’ This retelling of John Bunyan’s classic story is filled with drama, excitement and adventure. On his journey of a life-time to the City of Gold, Christian meets an extraordinary cast of characters, such as the terrible Giant Despair and the monster Apollyon. Together with Hopeful, his steadfast companion, he survives the snipers and mantraps, the Great Bog, Vanity Fair, Lucre Hill and Castle Doubting. But will he find the courage to cross the final river to the City of Gold and his salvation?

I struggled with this book. Several times I considered stopping. I found it boring. I was not engaged with the story and no character stood out to me.

The story is split into two parts. The first follows Christian on his pilgrimage, and the second part follows his wife Christina on her pilgrimage. I found the second half of the book very similar to the first part as she is going along the same route as that which Christian walked. They met all sorts of people – very cleverly named, such as Hopeful, Faithful, Talkative etc. and some which attempted to prevent the pilgrims and some which enabled their mission. They face all sorts of struggles in their bid to get to the river. Giants and hobgoblins needed to be fought.

The book contains the Gospel story and is full of Bible verses. If you don’t like “being preached too” through books, this is not for you.

I just didn’t enjoy this book.

4/10

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