Context: This seemed to go on forever. So long in fact that I thought I’d been reading it since birth.
Absolutely awful, long-winded and over-elaborate. The novel doesn’t deserve a lengthier review than that.
Evelina was bad enough, but Burney has yet another novel, Camilla, on the 1001 list. If it’s as bad as Cecilia, I’d be more than happy to die before reading it.
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Context: It rained for the first time in 7 months while I was reading this. And boy, did it rain!
This is a book about time and what it does to us. In particular, it’s about how time gives us a different perspective and how, horrifically, it can bring us to the point where we see how utterly wrong we were in the past.
I read a lot of reviews of this online and, for the most part, nobody really likes Tony Webster, the protagonist. Although I don’t think I’d like to spend a weekend in a country cottage with him, I felt a very real affinity with him. I’ve been through enough of those moments of blinding new perspective in my 40 years that I have humbly resigned myself to them coming along like buses every 5 years or so. And I’m usually so undone by them and the new insight I get into myself that I feel for anyone who goes through it no matter how justified a shock it might be.
Tony grew up with a close circle of boyhood school friends. As university takes them their separate ways, he finds himself involved [click to continue…]
Context: Visited the Grand Mosque in Bahrain when the wife came out to visit while reading this
Now I know what many are going to say on finishing this: ‘what the heck was that about? Where was the story? What was the point?’ And I have to say that had the 1001 books list not pushed me deeper into fiction than I’ve been comfortable going, I would have said the same thing earlier in my reading career.
Now, however, I can appreciate literature that doesn’t need a point, a plot or a polished ending. I can just appreciate it for what it is – literature pure and simple; writing for the joy of being written.
McGahern is Irish and writes about a couple returning from London to a rural community in their native Ireland. That there is no point and no plot is the point and plot. This is Ireland, people. Life is life, and that is what the writing consists of. Beautiful, lyrical, this is an ethnography of a vanishing world.
So, as I started out, I did find it a challenge keeping track of who [click to continue…]
Context: Toured Iceland with the wife while reading this and visited the incredible iceberg-filled lake of Jökulsárlón.
About fourteen billion years ago when I was a young child, I remember my mother had this book on my parents’ bookshelf. I remember three things about it. Firstly, it was one of the few titles on that memorable shelf that I could understand at that age. I also remember the strong vivid colours of the cover, so redolent of the 70s. The final thing I remember is that it was definitely my mother’s book and not my father’s. I think in later years, although my memory is scratched from my furious efforts to erase it, in one of her many drunken rages, she actually claimed that, for her, it was her Bible.
I avoided the book for decades not because of what it held inside it – I had no real idea – but rather because of who recommended it. If my mother claimed to live by it, I reasoned, then I might well end up something like the relational mess she represented to me.
That I did not read this book until my 43rd year is one of many tragic things about my childhood – albeit a minor tragedy in comparison to the ones that almost prevented me entering adulthood. I should have read this book very many years ago. In fact, along with [click to continue…]
Context: While I was reading this, I bought a car. Probably the last time I’ll ever buy one new.
Been quite a while since I’ve read any Conrad. In fact, I started this back in about 2006 but never finished it. This time, I listened to it on Librivox and let someone else do the hard work for me.
Important book because of the century that followed when it was written. At the time it was published, organized groups of anarchists/terrorists were just getting started. To capture this moment in novel form makes this a much more important book now than when it was first written. That’s a sign of a great writer.
Verloc is a spy who uses a dubious bookshop as cover. Involved in a plot to bomb a London landmark, things don’t quite go as planned when the bomb goes off early. The aftermath forms the majority of the novel which, being fairly short, skipped along for me.
The characters are interesting and worth a longer reading which I don’t have time for at the moment. Verloc himself is a bit of an enigma. [click to continue…]
Context: Was reading this on my trip back to the UK from Saudi where I stopped in Bahrain and sampled some dates.
I was hoping this was going to be funnier than it was. It’s a satirical look at the USAnian way of life through the eyes of one of the great characters of American fiction: Ignatius J. Reilly. He’s a pretty nasty piece of work, totally self-absorbed and living in an unreality enitrely of his own creation.
I didn’t find Ignatius particularly endearing. Neither did I find him entirely repulsive. There’s no doubt that society in the early 1960s was pretty messed up (as it always is), and Toole does a good job of creating messed-up characters who represent the worst of this. I rated it more highly than I appreciated it because it is, after all, an important book in the US literary canon.
There’s no doubt that Toole, whose novel was published over a decade after his suicide, has created memorable characters. But I didn’t really get the point of what Toole was trying to communicate through his creations. Is this a satire, or a farce, or a detective spoof, or all of the above or what?
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Context: Finished this off just before heading back to the UK for my first period of leave from Saudi.
My my, Hardy does it again. What an excellent novel, all the more so because of the personal price it cost him.
In dealing with the subject of marriage and infidelity, in questioning what exactly these constitute, Hardy reaped the whirwind and, allegedly, decided never to write novels again. Certainly, after the publication of Jude, he wrote only poetry for the next 32 years until his death.
Like the Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the Durbervilles, Hardy is at his best when he can pour all of his literary energy into one major character. Jude is no exception and it is a shame that this novel is far less known that those other two classics.
Jude is young when the book opens and not all that old when it closes. Like pretty much all of Hardy’s protagonists, you sense he is doomed from the start. And so it proves.
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Context: Began listening to this as we were walking along the north Norfolk coast one day.
Well, having finished this, I’m persuaded that Austen is one of the most, if not the most, hyped authors of English literature. Yet again, we find a love triangle and, yet again, all’s well that ends well. There’s the town v country prejudice and the confused innocent (albeit not typically young) who is buffeted here and there by social convention and her elders and ‘betters.’ In short, it is hard to see how this, Austen’s last published novel, stands out from any of the others I’ve read.
According to Wikipedia, our foremost source of literary criticism, this is supposed to be “biting satire.” Er, no. Swift, who predates Austen by over 100 years, set that standard and she would undoubtedly have been familiar with his writings for inspiration in that department. In fact, there’s precious little here for those who appreciate satire.
I’ve now read Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and now this. Emma and Sense and Sensibility remain. I think I [click to continue…]
Context: Read this as I settled into a new workplace in Saudi Arabia.
The 1001 books list does it again and throws something superb my way. This one just crept into Arukiyomi’s Hall of Fame, a brooding saga of a novel with symbolism written into every page.
Isak is man. No, that’s not a typo: Isak represents us as a race. As the book opens, he is nameless, faceless – a wanderer in a primeval landscape. Gradually he begins to adapt to his environment, he builds himself a shelter and finds food. And before you know it, he’s mastered his environment in ways he could never have dreamed of.
This is the story of how we have all come together to be, how we negotiate the paths open to us in life. Not only does it depict the best of our mastery, it also shows the worst of our conniving. The range of characters gathered around Isak provide a counterbalance of caprice to his unflinching focus.
Through it all Isak stands as a kind of monumental figure. Many a [click to continue…]
Context: Finished this off just a few days before I left the UK to start work in Saudi Arabia.
I usually breathe a sigh of relief when I finish a “classic” like Wildfell Hall. I certainly did after Persuasion which I shall review shortly. But Anne’s classic has a lot to offer despite suffering from the romantic literary afflictions of its time.
It’s been a while since I finished this. I’ve been busy moving job and country and getting the 1001 Books App through the next stage of its development. So, I won’t lie to you and pretend that I remember the storyline much or that the book made a huge impression on me.
But I think that if I had been a woman at the time it was written, I would have found some of it scandalously exciting. This is because it largely consists of a woman fighting her way through the world while married to a character who is designed to epitomise the worst about men who are, lets face it, probably the second best gender of humanity.
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