Books

Classic Novels I’ve Read This Year So Far

Do you remember my post about the top 10 classics I wanted to read? If you don’t, then you can read it here. Classics like Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and The Great Gatsby were on that top 10 post. I’ve read two of the four classics mentioned. Also, I read one other classic, one that wasn’t on the list. Here’s the list…

Great Expectations

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

It chronicles the story of an orphaned boy named Pip as he becomes a gentleman with “great expectations.” Coming of age stories are one of my favourites; it’s the growth, the change, in the main character, due to their experiences that I find myself able to relate with. Charles Dickens wrote such a haunting, intriguing novel with a cast of likable characters that seem real.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina cover

It centres on the doomed love affair between the sensuous, rebellious Anna Karenina and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. I thought it to be both sad and amazing. It saddens me that Anna couldn’t be with Vronsky without being ridiculed by society. I must say that the final part was disappointing; when I was expecting the reactions of Anna’s close ones, it was instead something else; one of the only times she’s mentioned is through disrespect by Vronsky’s mother. Despite that, I will read the book again and see the film starring Keira Knightley.

Jane Eyre coverJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Surviving her harsh and lonely childhood, orphaned Jane Eyre takes up a post as governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with the dark and sardonic Mr. Rochester, who hides a terrible secret; one that forces Jane to follow her moral convictions—even though it robs her of her happiness. I admire and respect Jane for being strong throughout her childhood, as well as for her independence. Novels with strong women appeal to me immensely. One line I loved was: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” I loved Jane Eyre!

There are plenty other classics that I want to read: The Count of Monte Cristo; Les Miserables; Pride and Prejudice. Next to be read will be a Jane Austen, The Iliad, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

—Luke

Books, Fancy

Spring Happiness

For us, here in the Southern Hemisphere, September marks the beginning of spring and the ascent to the warmth of summer. I love being warm, I love blue skies and late evening walks with my dog.

Source: http://www.treklens.com/gallery/photo191566.htm
Source: http://www.treklens.com/gallery/photo191566.htm

Spring and autumn are my favourite seasons – for the relative warmth in my adopted home city and for the vivid colours and smells associated with these seasons.

I have been reading two sources of literature that have reminded me about the celebration of happiness. The August 2013 edition of Harper’s Bazaar (UK) has a cheerful focus with two prominent authors’ quotes regarding happiness:

“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” Charlotte Bronte

“Happiness leaves such slender records; it is the dark days that are so voluminously documented.” Truman Capote

The other is Francoise Heritier’s The Sweetness of Life. This short book is a love song to life. She recommends “enjoying what you like without inhibitions (including the roar of racing cars).” p.7

Some of the things that make me happy include how my dog looks when we are walking, with his tongue hanging out, looking like he is grinning and there is nothing in the world other than him and I on that walk. Now that I have one, I realise what a delight a hug with your significant other can be – which is amusing to those who know me as I tend to have a large personal bubble.

the night circusIt is a joy to be recommended a book that you would never have found on your own, as I have been with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. (I always welcome suggestions for a good read! Even though I always have a pile at least five high and a whole lot more on Good Reads, I love adding books to the list!)

It is also awesome to have had my sister here for the last week, it will be so hard saying goodbye, as she is a real source of love and joy, and can be a great partner in crime!

So, happy spring or happy Friday – whichever you can claim.

Books, Fancy

Escape Antics: And Good Books to Escape With

I’m an “escaper”—when things get stressful (the compounded, excessive kind of stressful) I do a Houdini. Sometimes it is literally, but most of the time it is imaginatively. I create a plan, then imbue that plan Pink Pantherwith bucket loads of hope, and ardently look forward to the fruition of said hope. However, when I do this, I am no longer invested in the present, I am AWOL.

Three years ago, after my emancipation from an unhealthy five-year relationship, I literally escaped—I went to the Sunshine Coast in Australia alone. Two years ago, I moved cities, nothing like being nine hours drive away from home for an escape. The former escape was a relatively impulsive plan, hatched and undertaken within weeks of realising I was free. The latter was the product of six months thinking and six months planning. This was my lifeline; I endured all of the present knowing I would soon be rewarded with my escape.

The only problem was that I wasn’t enjoying the now. At the time, there was no other conceivable way to act, even with the benefit of hindsight; I don’t know what else I could have done. Now I have a choice. I stop myself from planning too far in advance.

When a situation arises, once I’ve pull my brain out of a tailspin, I find the space to look at the situation logically and make a short-term plan to deal with the problem. Lists are great. Mini to-do lists are my favourite. When I began this year redundant and half-employed, with no idea of what I wanted to do next, I was panicking (not visibly, but internally and quietly). So I created a to-do list for January, February and March. Naturally, finding a job I wanted to do (that wouldn’t bore me within two weeks, that didn’t involve central city parking or long hours etc.) was number one. But I also added several tasks that would keep me busy (like starting this blog).

I started my new position in April. Crisis averted.

Another form of escape is disappearing into addictive novels; I have been known to disappear into a series comprising several books. But single title books are still good. Below are a few good books/authors to disappear with:

The trouble with escapism is, defining when it is acceptable and when it is not. I am learning to avoid my inbuilt instinct to escape and can put in road bumps to slow me down. And it can be massively rewarding in the end to stick with something. Sometimes though, you just gotta go, and if it is just a mini-escape, there are many excellent books to go with.

Books, Top Ten

Luke’s Top Ten Classic Novels To Read

There are openings to some classic novels that I have heard:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

Despite this, I haven’t actually read any of them. And this is the reason I’ve written this list.

Below are the top ten classic novels I want to read:
Anna-Karenina-Movie-Tie-In-Edition-Tolstoy-Leo-97803458039241. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy – Who hasn’t heard of the doomed love affair between the “sensuous and rebellious” Anna and the “dashing officer,” Count Vronsky? Everyone should, even those who haven’t read the book. I’d definitely like to read it. Back in early February, my desire to read it intensified when Melissa and I watched the newest adaptation starring Keira Knightley.

2. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë – I’d like to read it because it’s about a woman’s journey for independence and love on her own terms. In her childhood, Jane was abused both physically and emotionally by her aunt and cousins, and despite this she managed to stay strong.

3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen – Melissa adores all of the Jane Austen novels. She was the one who influenced me to want to read them. I’ve seen the 2005 movie adaptation starring Keira Knightley, and definitely plan on reading the novel.

4. Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos – I’ve seen Cruel Intentions, which is a modernized movie adaptation of this book, and the thing that makes me want to read it is because I want to compare and contrast it with that movie.Jane Eyre cover

5. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald – I would like to read this because I’m interested in this period. Melissa read it and liked it, and recommended it to me. Plus, there is a new movie adaptation by Baz Luhrmann coming out soon.

6. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen – I started to want to read this after I saw a little bit of the 2007 mini-series.

7. Emma, Jane Austen – One day, I picked my sister’s little pink copy of this book and the opening line reeled me in:

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

I like how Jane Austen knows her character so well.

Evelina cover

8. Evelina, Frances Burney – I discovered Frances Burney while reading one of the author bios of Jane Austen, her early works were read and enjoyed by her. And I’d really like to read this because of the time period its set in.

9. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë – What most interests me about Wuthering Heights is that the narrator is what you’d called an “unreliable narrator.” The main characters are Catherine Earnshaw and Healthcliff, but it’s Lockwood (in the beginning) and Nelly Dean (the main narrator) who tell the story.

10. Camilla or a Picture of Youth, Frances Burney – Much like Evelina, I’d like to read Camilla because I’m interested in the time period its set in.

By Luke Parkes