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.

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.