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

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Books

Melissa’s Review of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler

This book broke my heart and forced me to renegotiate my recent obsession with The Great Gatsby and its author. Zelda Fitzgerald piv

Based on what is known about the devastatingly short lives of the couple of the Jazz Age, Fowler has created a version of what may have occurred.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is told in the first person over a period of twenty years, which adds to the sense that you are inside Zelda’s life. Fowler traces Zelda’s young adulthood in the haze of the First World War; Zelda and Scott’s courtship; their marriage and its disintegration; and leaves us with a wrap up of the short gap between Scott and Zelda’s deaths.

“and his speech had that dramatic flair you find in people accustomed to playacting in theatre, as I was. When you’d spent so much time performing on stage, the habit bled into your life.” p 23

I read this book slowly, devouring the writing and the detail. Fowler captured the essence of a woman who saw vivid colour, tremendous highs and shocking lows.

The presence of Scott’s control of her was abundantly clear and grew from a restraining hand on her arm (to stop her talking in a way he didn’t like), to the black eyes, to the threat of taking her daughter away and culminating in his keeping her locked up in an asylum.

“I learned that if I consented to his outings regularly enough, on other nights I could go do what I preferred.” p 223

The treatments she received in the asylums sickened me. I so dislike how they treated those whose differences they did not understand. How could they think that pumping poison into someone and causing seizures could help?

The ‘reeducation’, the idea that her sickness came from her not putting her family first, and the fact that Scott, so clearly ill himself, was able to keep her locked up and (basically) tortured – chilled me. Explorations into our not-so-distant history provide all the fodder we need to populate the dystopian and horror stories that we are so enamored with.

Fowler has created a convincing interpretation of what could have been the story of Zelda Fitzgerald. One of wasted potential, of being misunderstood, of embodying the culture of the Jazz Age.

A beautiful, engrossing and lyrical read.

Books

Melissa’s June Reading Round Up

My round up is going to seem terribly sparse this month and I also have to admit that I have lowered my reading challenge (on Goodreads) from 100 down to 80. If I could include magazines and blogs, the number would zip up fast! But alas, life gets in the road of reading and I never thought I would be so happy about it.

Looking For Me, Beth Hoffman Looking for me

The second I saw that Hoffman had a second book coming, I reserved it at the library. I fell in love with her writing style in Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. I also fell in love with the combination of her portrait of The South and her reverence for architecture, gardens and old houses. I adored Looking For Me, it is filled with beautiful description, great characters and an eloquent portrayal of the bond between siblings.

Teddi Overman is the owner of an antique store who lovingly restores furniture, with an eye for its former glory despite the decayed appearance. She is haunted by the disappearance of her younger brother over 20 years ago. The strands of her past and her present are woven together to reveal a moving story of devotion, family, hope, love and loss. It is truly worth a read.

This is just a taste of the evocative language: “He saw holiness where others saw only the ordinary. Trees formed the spires of the cathedral where his prayers were gentle footsteps over sacred terrain.” p95

Mr Penumbras 24hr bookstore Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan

This was a well-crafted literary adventure story that combines Google and old books. Clay Jannon, one of an innumerable number of 20-somethings who began their working life in the midst of the recession, was made redundant less than one year into his first full-time job. He begins working the nightshift in an odd secondhand bookstore, where few customers actually purchase books. By the end of this beautifully descriptive book, Clay (and his cast of eccentric friends) has unraveled the mystery behind the 500-year old literary cult. Read my review of it here.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

One of the best books of the twentieth-century, actually I placed Fitzgerald at number six in my Top Ten Favourite Authors ever, The Great Gatsby is a memoir of the Jazz Age. Nick Carraway narrates us through the tale of the summer he met an enigmatic man named Gatsby. He mingles with fabulously wealthy, idle characters with dubious morals and plenty of gin. At the close of the summer, Nick is left paying the price for living incongruently and two people are dead. Find my review of the recent movie here.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote

Source: adpremmagray.wordpress.com
Source: adpremmagray.wordpress.com

It’s probably no secret that I adore Audrey Hepburn, and, having recently watched the movie, I decided it was time to read the book. I didn’t love the book, except for the fact that it gave me further insight into the movie. Holly Golightly is a very young woman, of terrible upbringing, who lives fast and finds comfort in Tiffany’s (the jewelry store). She breezes into the life of a struggling writer who falls in love with her and he is left telling the story long after she is gone.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays, Joan Didion

This collection of essays released in the 1960s, was Didion’s first nonfiction book. She captures people, places and a time in a distinct, revealing way. I particularly enjoyed her portraits of the magic of New York and herself at 28.

In the final essay of the collection Goodbye to All That, she sums up her eight year stay in New York that left her drained and depressed:

 “That was the year, my twenty eighth, when I was discovering that not all promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.” p233

I’m very excited to report that Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald has arrived from the library waiting list, so once I have finished the two I am in the middle of, I get to begin!

Fancy, Movies/TV series

The Great Gatsby Film Review

parties from Gatsby
From Imdb.com

Decadent parties, hypnotizing characters, sumptuous sets and designer dresses – Prada designed forty of the costumes. The Great Gatsby has it all. It’s a beautifully genuine adaptation of a beloved book. In typical Bazz Lurhmann style, it was theatrical – in the most grandiose, but natural way. He simultaneously captured the magic of the 20s while disemboweling a superficial, careless culture.

Matching great, current tunes with the perfectly period movie, the new Florence and the Machine song, “Over the Love”, was hauntingly dispersed through key plot points.

gatsby and daisy
From Imdb.com

Carey Mulligan plays a divinely tragic Romantic heroine. Leonardo DiCaprio cuts a fine Gatsby and embodies a perfectly heartbreaking, enigmatic young man who amasses amazing wealth in the pursuit of a hope that has long left his reach.

True to the book, we are driven through the heartbreaking story at pace with Nick Carraway’s narration, a character who is “both within and without”, much like Dan Humphrey in the Gossip Girl series. We are drawn into a world of elaborate parties and idle, wasteful people, where politicians and police commissioners cavort with gangsters and strippers – but even the seedy underworld seems shiny.

I watched this movie twice at the theatre (it was that good), and it only improved upon second viewing. Check out the official blog for more stunning pictures, the trailers and the making of the Florence and the Machine video clip. I can’t wait for it to be released on DVD so that I can watch it with director’s commentary!

Books, Fancy

Gatsby Excitement

In the excitement of The Great Gatsby being bought to life by Bazz Lurhmann (please don’t let the rumours of retirement be true), people are re-embracing the Jazz age. Magazine covers are graced with the ethereal Carey Mulligan (who plays Daisy Buchannan,) Isla Fisher, Leonardo DiCaprio or Tobey Maguire.The Great Gatsby

Harpers Bazaar has an excellent interview with leading lady, Carey Mulligan, in their latest issue.

The bob is set to make a come back a la “the Rachel” in the 90s, or rather Louise Brooks. Brooks is the subject of the book set in the same period, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is on my to-read list and I am waiting as I funnel closer to the top of the reserve list at the local library.

I have always wanted to belong to a book club, but I have either never had the time or known anyone who runs one. So I stubbornly decided this was my year to do it, and, upon Carey and Leonard gatsbyfinding other like-minded people wishing for a book club in our area, I have put one together. The most excellent array of people joined us for our first meeting recently, and I am looking forward to the different critiques of our first book, The Great Gatsby.

Look out for my review of the film and the book soon.

Books, Top Ten

Melissa’s Favourite Ten Authors

Note: Not in exact order. Except for Jane Austen, of course. 🙂

1. Jane Austen

Must re-read every year!

Pride and Prejudice

Six truly classic novels that can be for any mood or stage, incisive and witty, and insightful.

2. Jodi Picoult

Will follow her anywhere!

Lone Wolf

Around twenty novels of all different subject matters, all treated with equal tenderness, intelligence, and insight.

3. Belinda Alexandra

Favourite historical novels set in the war period!

Golden EarringsBeautiful, sweeping tales from a range of different contexts  experiencing the war, i.e. China, Russia, Australia, France, Italy, etc Continue reading “Melissa’s Favourite Ten Authors”

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