Posts from the ‘Classics’ Category

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Summary:  Many people, generally those who have never read the book, consider Wuthering Heights to be a straightforward, if intense, love story — Romeo and Juliet on the Yorkshire Moors. But this is a mistake. Really the story is one of revenge. It follows the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious gypsy-like person, from childhood (about seven years old) to his death in his late thirties. Heathcliff rises in his adopted family and then is reduced to the status of a servant, running away when the young woman he loves decides to marry another. He returns later, rich and educated and sets about gaining his revenge on the two families that he believed ruined his life.

Synopsis courtesy of The Reader’s Guide to Wuthering Heights.

Brookie’s Review:  I finally finished this book.  I feel like it took ages.  Because it did.  You know, it’s not as bad as I expected it to be.  I know that sounds horrible, considering this is classic literature, and I should be clamoring to read it.  But I wasn’t.  Why?  I’ll let you in on a little secret – I’m not a fan of the classics.

Some people are.  I have friends that will fall out of their chairs in a dead faint when someone mentions Mr. Darcy or Heathcliff.  I am not one of these people.  And I know what you’re going to ask – why did you read it?  Because I like to challenge myself sometimes.  I like to have a working knowledge of the classics.  I don’t want to be the one person that hasn’t even thumbed through Sense and Sensibility (which I actually have read) or Moby Dick (which I have not).  If I’m telling the truth, which I usually am around here, the classics mostly bore me.  I find the language difficult.  Not because I have a limited vocabulary, because I don’t.  I think it’s because I have a short attention span.  These classical writers take an entire paragraph to describe a single shrub.  I appreciate the imagery, truly, but I’m more of a cut to the chase girl.  Some people love the classics for that reason – the words.  And while I am a word person, it’s just not my gig.  I will continue to read the classics of course, because I like to broaden my horizons when it comes to the literary front.

Now, onto the good stuff.  Heathcliff is one crazy dude.  For serious.  He’s definitely earned a spot on my list of Top 10 villains.  I’m pretty sure I’ve got him right behind Lord Voldemort, who now resides at number one.  Heathcliff isn’t broody-sexy like some other literary bad boys (I’m lookin’ at you Edward Cullen), he’s just a bad person, straight down to his core.  The man kills a puppy y’all, for no better reason than just to do it.  So few villains act the way they do out of pure spite, but Heathcliff is one of them.

Surprisingly, there aren’t too many characters in this book.  And it’s also one of the few books in which I don’t have a favorite.  No one jumped out at me, as if to say, “Me!  I’m awesome!”  Which is strange, because there’s usually always one character that I feel strongly about.  Not this time, unless you count my vehement hatred toward Heathcliff.

I’m glad I finished this book, though it was much easier to read than some of the other books I’ve picked up from this time period.  I won’t tell you to read it.  If you’re interested in the classics, chances are you’ve already read it once or twice.

 

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Synopsis:  Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to give rise to two authorized sequels and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time.

Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath.  None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With The Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feels their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives.

In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet.

Synopsis from back cover.

Brookie’s Review:  Love doesn’t even cover it.  It doesn’t even begin to cover it.  Behind Lonesome Dove, I think this is my favorite book.  There are so many books and series that I really love, but I’m always drawn to timeless stories, such as Gone With The Wind and Lonesome Dove.  These are books that my grandchildren will read and still enjoy.  This book was originally published in 1936.  76 years old, and people still love this story.  I do.

This is the second time that I’ve read this particular story.  I lost my first copy (I cried), so I bought a new one and immediately had to read it again.  It’s one of those stories in which you discover something new each time you read it.  This time I learned that I really don’t like Scarlett.  I knew that I disliked her the first time, but I really disliked her this time.  Of course I admire her tenacity, her drive, her will to see that she (and those around her) never go hungry again.  She’s a fighter and a survivor, there’s no denying that.  But she’s so hard to love.  She’s selfish, mean, and definitely not a very good mother.

And I get that she’s a product of her society.  Trust me, I know.  She wasn’t particularly raised to be concerned with “lesser” people, or worry about anything, or wonder where her next meal would come from.  But she has no compassion for other people, unless you count Ashley Wilkes, and I don’t think that compassion is something that is taught.  Either you have it, or you don’t.  Most people do.

As with all stories with main characters that aren’t very loveable, she learns the error of her ways, but too late, of course.  Don’t worry, I won’t ruin it for you.  Have I ever?

My favorite character you ask?  Also the hard to love Captain Rhett Butler.  There’s something about him that I love.  Perhaps it’s his no bullsh*t style.  Or maybe the way he refuses to let Scarlett railroad him as she does other men.  Then again, it could be the way that he carries himself about town, not caring that people dislike him.  He seems like such a hard man, but we learn (even early on in the novel if you’re paying attention) that he does have a very soft heart, it’s only protected by a hardened exterior.  When he proposes to Scarlett (I’m not ruining anything, trust me), I wanted to kick him.  “Don’t you know you’re making a huge mistake!?” I wanted to scream at him.  But, had he not loved her, it wouldn’t have been much of a story, would it?

Also I loved Melly.  Mrs. Melanie Wilkes.  The frail, loving, caught in a horrible situation, Melly.  The focus of Scarlett’s ever-present hate, hate she earned for marrying the man that she loved, Ashley Wilkes.  I love Melly’s unfailing loyalty toward Scarlett, because in all fairness, Melly did owe that wench her life.  But Scarlett never saved Melanie for Melanie’s sake, it was only for Ashley.  If it had been up to Scarlett alone, she’d have let the Yankees have Melanie and the baby too.  Everyone knows that.  But her sole mission in life had been to make Ashley happy, and perhaps get him to love her, so she had to protect Melanie, even though it goaded her to do so.

I really do love this book, and could go one for hours and hours about it.  I won’t, of course, because my writing window is drawing to a close.  There are little boys that will soon wake up from their naps, and towels that are going unfolded.

If you love timeless stories, and have a particular interest in the Civil War, please read this book.  You won’t be (too) disappointed.  I’m always disappointed in the ending, but not for the reasons that you’d think.  If you’re itching to know why I hate it, send me an email, and I’ll tell you.  I refuse to ruin the ending for the masses.

The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Synopsis:  The dark, fearsome Ringwraiths are searching for a hobbit.  Frodo Baggins knows they are seeking him and the Ring he bears – the Ring of Power that will enable evil Sauron to destroy all that is good in Middle-earth.  Now it is up to Frodo and his faithful servant, Sam, with a small band of companions, to carry the Ring to the one place it can be destroyed – Mount Doom, in the very center of Sauron’s dark kingdom.

Brookie’s Review:  I’ll preface this piece by saying that it took me pretty close to forever to finish this book.  Usually, I can sit for hours (in a perfect world) and read the same book.  I strive to finish books in a week or so, not because I’m a speed reader, but because I’m always dying to know how it ends.  Perhaps it was because I already knew how this one ended that gave me the go-ahead to slow down, and not read this book exclusively.  Yes, I’ll admit, this is the one book series in which I’ve seen every movie before reading the books.  And I watched them out of order at that.  I remember when Papa T drug me to the theater to see The Return of the King, before I’d seen any of the movies.  He was so annoyed at my constant, “who’s that?” and “why are they doing that”.  Serves him right.  I told him we should have had a DVD marathon beforehand.  I once tried to read this series while in high school, but it didn’t hold my attention.  While in school, my reading-for-pleasure list consisted of every novel Nicholas Sparks ever wrote.  Blame it on my inner hopeless romantic.  But seriously, I read A Walk To Remember in a matter of hours.

Now that I’m older, have a better attention span, and not to mention a much better grasp on what true literature is (nothing against Nicholas Sparks, I still read his books, and love them, a few of which are on my list of favorites).  This book is a classic tale of adventure.  Frodo is fleeing The Shire in order to take the one Ring to Mordor, and destroy it.  He’s being chased by the Ringwraiths, and he’s constantly only a few steps ahead of them.  I won’t lie, there were parts of this book that put me to sleep.  Every book has its boring parts, in this one it was the back story that Tolkien had to share with us.  As Middle-earth is a completely fictional place, we don’t know anything about it (unless you read the Hobbit, which I did, and even then you only know a few things about the history of Middle-earth), but Tolkien definitely takes an opportunity in this work to explain to us the history and things we should know about his fictional world.  And it’s things I should know, so I didn’t skip it, but some parts were literally putting me to sleep.

Since I’ve seen the movies, I knew how this book ended.  But that didn’t make me fall in love with certain characters any less than I normally would have, hello Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, you’re my favorite.  It was nice to already have a picture of what a hobbit looked like (because that would have been hard to come up with on my own, I won’t lie), and I would have thought elves were small, like a hobbit, but in Tolkien’s world, they are only slightly smaller than Men.  It was helpful to go into this book knowing what my surroundings were supposed to look like, and what the characters looked like.

Overall, I liked it.  It was long, sometimes boring, and took a long time to finish, but it was good.  It you’re into fantasy books, and haven’t yet read this (believe me, among us fantasy lovers, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t read this book), then you should definitely pick it up.  You’ll enjoy it.

 

What I’m Reading – December 30, 2011

Perhaps I should have made a deal with myself to take a break after reading my last Dumas book.  But, I have an addiction, and I’ve come to terms with that.  Also, I’m smack in the middle of Gone With The Wind, and I don’t like to stop in the middle.

So that’s what I’m reading right now.  I’ve read this book once before, but it was a few years ago.  I really do love it.  But I’m not going to lie to y’all, sometimes I wanna ring that Scarlett’s neck.  She’s such a little drama queen, and only seeks to better herself without ever thinking of another person.  Unless it’s her beloved Ashley, who is married to her sister-in-law.  When it comes to the ever-raging war within the house on Peachtree Street (the war that exists in Scarlett’s mind between herself and Melanie for the love of Ashley), I am definitely Team Melanie.  She’s loving, she’s the pretty and the good in everyone, is polite, but also not afraid to stand up for herself and others when the time calls for it.  I do admire Scarlett’s tenacity, and her downright refusal to give up on life, but I absolutely don’t agree with her actions.    I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I was glad to see that Scarlett gets exactly what she deserves.

I’m also picking up a book I haven’t attempted to read since high school, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  My little sister got these as a gift when she was still little, so I read them first.  Let me rephrase, I attempted to read them first.  I made it through The Fellowship alright, but then tried to read The Two Towers and hardly made it a hundred pages in.  But, I’m going to give it another try.  I went to Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago and bought the set.  And yes, before you ask, I’ve read The Hobbit.  At least three times.  I even read it to Little T early in his life when he absolutely refused to sleep.  It soothed him.  Or bored him.  I’m still not quite sure which.

If y’all have any recommendations, or would like me to review a certain book, leave a comment and let me know.  I’m always looking for new things to read, much to the displeasure of my bank account.  🙂

The Man In The Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas

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*I’m posting this from my iPhone. So, if I screw it all up, you know why. Also, the picture of the cover, taken in my living room with horrible lighting.

Summary: Deep inside the dreaded Bastille, a young prisoner has languished, his face hidden from all, for eight long years. He knows neither his true identity nor the crime that got him there. Then Aramis, one of the original three musketeers-the finest swordsman in all of France-bribes his way into the young man’s cell to reveal the shocking truth. The revelation of this truth could very well topple Louis XIV, King of France, from his throne-and Aramis aims to do just that.
But a daring jailbreak, a brilliant masquerade, and a bloody fight for the throne may make Aramis betray his sacred vow of “All for one, one for all.” And in so doing, he will pit musketeer against musketeer, bringing an end to this swashbuckling saga-and either honor or disgrace. Upon them all…
*Synopsis from back cover

Brookie’s Review: First, I am glad to say that Mr. Dumas no longer holds me in his clutches. Thank the literary gods. I am so over novels that go on for hundreds of pages in English that was translated from French. It’s enough to make me want to pluck out my eyeballs. But, I’m not a quitter. I told myself I would finish this series, and I did. Finally. Two years later.
Now, to business. This one is my favorite. Other than the fact that’s it’s really nothing like the movie. You know which one, with Leo. Great movie. But that movie was all about the prisoner in the Bastille and his escape, going back to prison, and managing to escape again to be King. The book? Not so much. The prisoner is probably in the book for about 200 pages. The other 300 are battles, betrayals, and the deaths that I knew were coming but secretly hoped would be avoided.
I won’t ruin it for you, in case you ever want to bore yourself into a stupor. So without naming any names, my favorite character dies. That pretty much ruined it for me.
This one is still my favorite, despite the deaths (many, many) deaths. I think it’s because the story flowed so much better than the others. And because there weren’t a million characters to keep up with. That, coupled with sometimes badly translated words makes reading these books tedious. I actually managed the last 150 pages in two days. That’s absolutely a record for a Dumas book. Usually I’m lucky if I can manage a chapter without falling asleep.
My final verdict, if you’re into the classics, get this one. But I would have to recommend reading the other two. Otherwise I feel like you won’t truly grasp the characters and their back stories. Don’t cheat and rely on the movies either, because they are way off.

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

Brookie’s Review:  Sorry, I’m not providing a summary for this one.  A) I don’t think I could come up with one on my own (that actually flowed together that y’all could understand) and B) I looked online for one, but they’re all seriously 1,000 words long.  So, I’ll spare you both options.  Let’s just leave it at this – 4 friends set out to save France from a revolution.  They do it, and almost get killed approximately 3,454,757 times along the way.  The end.

It’s taken me quite a long time to finish this book, for a few reasons.  One because it’s incredibly boring.  I know, I know, people absolutely salivate over Mr. Dumas, and I’ll admit, he does have a way with words.  While I enjoyed The Three Musketeers a lot, this one just dragged on and on for me.  The plot was so complex, and I had such big gaps in between times when I would pick it up, it was so hard for me to keep everything in line.  Last night, while laying in bed making a final push to finish it, I told myself that I should have taken notes at the beginning, so that I could remember everyone when the end came.  Alexandre Dumas has a way of bringing people back on the last page that haven’t been mentioned since the first few chapters.  Difficult to read, to say the least.  Another reason is that I struggle with this style of writing.  It’s the same thing when I try to read other classics (I’ve tried to make Jane Austen my friend more than once, and we just don’t see eye to eye), and it’s because I read fast.  So I have to make a concentrated effort to slow down and take in every single word in order to understand everything.  The final reason?  It wasn’t my main book.  I read about 20 others while also trying to juggle this one in.  Very hard to do, considering that it didn’t hold my attention at all.

I should have taken my friend Seth’s advice and skipped this one all together.  See, the only reason I picked this one up is so I could read The Man In The Iron Mask.  I’m a big fan of book series, and I wanted to read the whole series, thinking that maybe there would be key things in one book that would relate to another.  But it wasn’t that way for The Three Musketeers.  There might have been one adventure mentioned in passing in its sequel.

So, my final recommendation?  Unless you are just absolutely devoted to reading every classic there is, skip it.  You’ll cry from boredom.  I did.

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Summary:  Charlie Bucket is the poor kid in class.  He lives with his parents and all of his grandparents (who are confined to a single bed, the only one his family owns).  For supper each night they split a small pot of cabbage soup.  What Charlie loves more than anything is Willy Wonka’s chocolate.  When Mr. Wonka puts out word about a contest in which 5 lucky children will get to visit his factory by finding the golden tickets stashed in his candy bars, Charlie’s heart soars.  Charlie is the last to find his golden ticket, but probably the most excited about visiting the factory.  What kind of hilarity can ensue when you have a wacky confectioner and 5 vastly different children?

Brookie’s Review:  Love.  Love.  Love.  I don’t think I can tell y’all just how much I adore this book.  I just finished reading it to Little T (a chapter before bed every night…I’m trying to create a reader, people), and it was probably my 6th time to read this book.  It’s just so darn cute!  And you can’t help but fall in love with Charlie Bucket, the poor kid.  I love characters like Charlie, the eternal optimist, even when he’s led the life he has.  I think we can all learn a lesson from Charlie and Grandpa Joe – even though you don’t have money, if you have a roof, a family, and food, you are rich.