Tag: classics

A great month and hopefully a greater summer of reading.

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Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reid

I listened to the audiobook because it had an ensemble cast. The audiobook made it for me. I found the Evelyn Hugo novel more engaging. I am a less interested in celebrity musicians than I am with old vintage Hollywood. There were also way more characters in this one and I found the ending a tad less satisfying. I think if I had read the book, I would have found it much more boring. I didn’t really care about the star crossed romance or most of the band dynamics.

3.5/5 stars. Audiobook. Listened 1.3-1.4x. May 3-7, 2023.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I read this one with a friend. I am trying to read more classic books again. We both had the book but had never read it. This was not long thankfully but it was slow because there is no one to really root for. Poor bored Emma Bovary. I know she’s suppose to be insipid and vain, but it doesn’t help the reader to cheer for her. I didn’t like any of the characters. I felt sorry for her husband Charles who was a mediocre man. The tone is strange as this is a black comedy and satire. In terms of classic novels about women being exploited or taken advantage of because they are romantic, I prefer Anna Karenina and Thomas Hardy’s female characters. I also wonder if my translation of it affected the quality.

3/5 stars. May 2-8, 2023.

Kurashi at Home by Marie Kond?

This is a coffee table book that does not really add anything to Kondo’s other books. I found it relaxing to read. It’s well translated and keeps her gentle tone. I am not a minimalist like Kondo but I really find her style so cozy and comforting. While it didn’t teach me anything, I found it a lovely book to sit with.

3.5/5 stars. May 9, 2023.

How to be alone by Lane Moore

This title is misleading. It’s not a self-help book. It’s a collection of essays by someone who has felt lonely in their life. I am someone who has felt a lot of loneliness in their life. Some people are prone to it. Often it happens because of bad or inadequate childhoods. Unlike the author of this book, I did feel loved at times thankfully. I tried to listen to the audiobook but I gave up very quickly. I don’t really like the author’s style. She is not that funny to me and she used a lot of capital letters for emphasis. She spent time discussing her various relationships and her anxious attachment style. While I did not like her writing style or would recommend it, I actually related to a few things. I do not see a lot of people writing about loneliness in this manner. Her discussion about looking for love as a romantic, dreaming about their soul mate, or their attachment to pop culture ships were all things I experienced as well. I appreciated her for being vulnerable in her writing about these things. I wish there was more of it in the world.

3/5 stars. May 9, 2023.

Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis

And we’re back to reading. I had a bad week between the last book and this one. I read this on the plane. I read the first book in this series on a flight in late 2021 and enjoyed the characters and central romance. I found myself a less engaged this time. It’s a really light series. I may continue and finish the trilogy.

3/5 stars. Read on Kindle May 21, 2023.

Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers

As someone who likes Agatha Christie, I’ve been curious about Sayers for years now. She was a Golden Age mystery author as well. I have read about people’s adoration of Lord Peter Whimsey too. This book feels like P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster but with murder and whodunit aspects. I’ve read all those stories but they blur together after awhile with a silly aristocratic single protagonist and a very competent valet. Just like Jeeves and Wooster, I like the Golden Age era and side characters. I liked Peter’s mother in this and the valet Bunter. Peter was a bit silly and I did not get a good read on the character. I was impressed with the brief PTSD flashback scene and the way Sayers deftly addressed it. Other than that, I found the book was bogged down by the criminology and too many details on how the murder happened. The novel felt unpolished in parts and it did not make me want to read more from this series. However, I did like the supporting characters and lots of reviews noted that Peter has great character development in the series. This was something those Jeeves and Wooster stories didn’t have. Apparently, there’s a romance too so I think I’ll keep reading on.

3/5 stars. Read on Kindle May 21-23, 2023.

She and Her Cat by Shinkai, Makoto

This is a one volume manga about a young professional woman and her cat. There are themes of adulting and loneliness. It’s short and rather melancholy in parts. I could relate to this and I think a lot of young women can as well in this new more isolated age. A short but sweet read.

3.5/5 stars. Read May 30-31, 2023.

John Wyndham was an English sci-fi author known for his works published in the mid-20th century. I read The Chrysalids by John Wyndham as assigned reading in middle school and remember it leaving an impression. It was helped by the fact that I had one of my favourite English teachers at the time. In any case, I wanted to try more Wyndham especially since this book is in the 1001 Books list and I managed to get a copy.

The premise that a small town of women are suddenly impregnated after a day out through xenogenesis is horrible. The concepts in this book and in Wyndham’s books make him one of the most interesting of sci-fi authors. Having read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, I can see how Wyndham influenced them more so with the Chrysalids though.

It has been decades since I read the Chrysalids so I can’t offer a great comparison on the writing except that the children in that book were the central characters. Here, the children are the antagonists. The writing feels a bit heavy handed since it’s a bunch of mostly male adults talking a lot. There are not enough from the female characters at all which is disappointing given that they suffer so much by the plot.

I do think the themes and the creepiness make this book and Wyndham’s interesting.

3.5/5 stars. Read January 3-4, 2022.

I packed this classic and another for my time abroad. I’m trying to read from my stash and in particular, classics. This one was a quick novella that I should have read it sooner. It was an hour and some change in a beautiful park on a sunny day down under. Location was better than the novel. While not bad exactly, it was a parable novel which the short intro forewarns. It does not have rich character work. I read that it is taught widely in middle and high school and has that assigned reading feeling about it. I still like Steinbeck and should re-read East of Eden one day.

3/5 stars. Read January 1, 2023.

This review is overdue. I am writing and finishing it now in another country but posting it after my holiday. This novel was the last novel I read in 2022 and one of the best.

This is a true classic. It is well written with a large, diverse cast of characters, some that you root for and some that you love to hate. It feels humane and true to life. It’s very similar to classics such as War and Peace, Far from the Madding Crowd,, Middlemarch (which I haven’t read yet but it always feels like I have), and Jane Austen novels.

This is one of the longest single volume novels in English literature. I was fortunate to read this over the course of three days including Remembrance Day so I did not have to work. I was was feeling poorly due to my covid booster but it allowed me to get through most of this novel thankfully.

Like the war parts War and Peace, I did find the political aspects of the novel a tad boring and my attention waned. Other than that, everything else was engrossing. The characters are rich. Everything happens in the space of the year but it did not feel tedious or long. I did worry that things would not resolve quickly enough because the pace was not as quick as it could have been. Then again, that sort of reflects life.

There is some tragedy and I was surprised that I was triggered by a mentally ill character in this novel. One of the characters experiences episodes of psychosis. I’ve had experiences with someone very close to me who has gone through it. I felt very sad and disturbed when reading the passages.

I know a sequel was announced about 14 years ago, and I am looking forward to it whenever it does get published.

Reading this novel reminded how much I love classics and reminded me about the 1001 books list. I revived it and will aim to read more classical books fro my stash in 2023.

5/5 stars. Read November 10-12, 2022. Review finished January 1, 2023.

When I was around the age of Sara Crewe, I had seen the 1995 movie adaptation of this book and liked it. It was magical. I really adored the message about every girl being a princess and the sense of magic in the work. I didn’t know how true the movie was to the book until now.

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I had somewhat high expectations for this novel given how much I liked Agnes Grey and the style of Anne Bronte’s writing overall. I found my expectations were not quite met. In general, this is a good novel and like Grey, it is a very interesting view about Victorian marriage. As a proto-Feminist novel, I can appreciate it as well.
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I have mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand, I think Walden’s ethos and philosophy is largely positive and relatable for me. His views on the appreciation of nature, solitude, and civil life are good and important. I think more people should do the things he recommends.

On the other hand, this book was hard to read. Much harder than I thought it would be. I realized that not many people I know offline and online have read Thoreau’s work. Yes, he is often cited for his subversive views, but how many people today actually do read Walden? I’m sure some people gave up, and I almost did a couple of times.

I liked the content, but I was bored by the style and delivery.

I read this for the Classics Spin and it took me ages. I put it away for nearly a month because it did not engage me. Philosophy in general can be hard to read, but he is sometimes less forthright cut about it than Plato or the Enlightenment philosophers. I think this book would have been improved if there was a plot or more concrete examples. It was as if I was reading a long diary entry in Thoreau’s life. He meanders and his style changed.

Most of this book is not actually about civil disobedience or vegetarianism, it’s largely about nature. Long, overwrought passages on nature. I actually don’t think Thoreau is a bad writer, but there was something incredibly dull about most of this book. Too much waxing poetic. I remember many a number of pages on lakes and ponds and rivers.

In the beginning of the book, I did find Thoreau was erudite, intelligent and true, but at the same time, I found him florid, pretentious and bourgeois. This was the first 10% of the book, the rest he just talk about nature, solitude, and his neighbors. I am not sure if it was the time frame, but that should not be a problem since I have read so many nineteenth century books, but not necessarily philosophy. There was sometimes a feeling of insincerity in his words or slight arrogance about his knowledge of the world. He was only about 30 when he wrote this and I can see that his relatively young age can have contributed. He had not travelled very much and it shows in this book. I also suspect he was sarcastic at times.

Should other people read it? I think parts of the book and certain quotations make provocative reading such as the last section of Civil Disobedience. I think it is also a good book about history and the setting in which he wrote it because Thoreau is clearly intelligent. In terms of reading this for fun, I really do not know many people who should actually enjoy this book.

Or maybe I am blind to how good his prose was, but for me, this was not the most memorable reading experience even though I did agree with Thoreau at times.

Read on Kindle from February 27th to April 12th 2013.

Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant

I started reading this book in original French while living in France in the summer of 2010. I managed one chapter and then I had to return to the local library. I try to read one French book a year, but it’s more like I read one French every three years. This was the last French book I tried to start and I tried reading it over two years ago! With the Classics Club, I thought I would revisit this classic of French literature.

French is not necessarily an easy language to read and an even harder language to write. I have been lucky that my comprehension in French has always been good since I took immersion as a teenager, but even then, I am not completely fluent in reading in it.

People were telling me that the best way to read in another language is to read books translated into said language, but there are not many books that I want to read in French since many of them are in English or in the older, original French. One of my favourite French authors is Dumas, but I have largely read his books in English though I have reread some of the Count of Monte Cristo in French.

I read much slower in French than in English. I can’t quantify how much slower, but this book in English would have taken me one weekend day. I read the chapters in French then skimmed Project Gutenberg’s translation to verify.

This is a novel about Paris social life in the 19th century. Paris has and always will be an all-consuming place. The protagonist is very poor at the start of the story. Georges Duroy is apparently extremely good looking, charismatic, ambitious, but he also seems to be stupid and easily becomes conceited even at the beginning. It is funny to read in the beginning how transparent the characters and their motivations are. It is very much a critique of Paris life and a political satire. While the story is unique to the setting, a lot of the themes of social climbing, intrigue, and sex are still happening in political circles across the world.

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The Classics Club November 2012 Meme Question:

What classic piece of literature most intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?)

Since I grew up with classics, they are not really intimidating to me. I think it was a bit daunting when I first started in my adolescence with the serious reads, but since then, it’s been natural to read the classics.

I think the classic I am closest to being intimidated with is Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I don’t really get scared by long reads, but this is the longest novel in literature with 1.5 million words. Secondly, I rarely hear of other people actually reading this work. People will go on about how long Ulysses and War and Peace are, but rarely do I read about people willing to read Proust’s magnum opus. It makes me a bit a curious to read it for the challenge. Also, since it’s in French, I’d also be tempted to read at least part of it in the native language to since from all I can gather, Proust was a great writer. The novel doesn’t seem particularly exciting though, but I do like some modernist works so there is a good chance that I’d like at least one volume of it.

How about you? What’s an intimidating classic for you?

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This book was epic. Once again, I was conflicted about giving it a 4 or a 5 on Good Reads. As with before, the deciding factor was if I would reread it again. I wouldn’t be against reading it, but then again, I’m not planning on it. It was frustrating and very long at times, but there is no doubt that this is a well written book in many ways and a classic.

I started reading this book September 20th, but I really didn’t read much of it until the last weekend of September wherein I read 70% of the book from Saturday to Tuesday October 2nd.

The Beginning: Not that bad, easy going, lots of exposition, lots of idyllic life of the antebellum South.

The Middle: Gripping, dark, and compelling. This was when I started to really hit my next page button.

The End: Scarlett gets more and more cruel, ridiculous and unbearable. Book just ends a bit abruptly.

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This month for the Classics Club Monthly Meme:

Why are you reading the classics?

To be honest, I’ve always read classics so I can’t say why I do it now. Even my favourite children’s books as a child were classics and I had a love for classical mythology. I just seem to like old things. My best courses in high school were English and History.

When people read fiction, it really is like travelling into another world or another time. With a classic, it is doubly so because sometimes you are reading a writer write about their own times with those details they have observed or written in the past. In any case, classics give a view that isn’t necessarily like that is offered now, but they can affect our present day.

The older the classic, the more authors add onto it or interpret it over time. Henry James liked Austen. The Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky influenced each other. Several of the classic authors appreciate Shakespeare and Milton.

Simply of course, I like a lot of classic books so I keep reading them. It’s that simple.

How about you?