Book 82: War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy, Leo - War and PeaceAnd with this book I completed ALL of my reading challenges this year! I will do a wrap up post (year, challenge and month) on either the 31st or 1st, but for the record this was the 11th book of the Back to the Classics Challenge, the 6th book (but 8th counted – two were double) for the Tea and Books Reading Challenge and the 25th Mount TBR book!

But what is MOST shocking is how much I enjoyed this novel. There were portions I hated that I think were decisions of the translator and there were definitely parts that were beyond boring (the war parts, obviously), but overall I actually am glad I read this book and the investment of just over three weeks was definitely worth it. I’m not going to lie and say that I was excited about this novel and I won’t even say that it was easy, but I was a bit confused after reading this in the forward:

“The first readers of War and Peace were certainly surprised, but often also bewildered and even dismayed by the book. They found it hard to identify the main characters, to discover anything like a plot, to see any connection between episodes, to understand the sudden leaps from fiction to history, from narration to philosophizing. There seemed to be no focus, no artistic unity to the work, no real beginning, and no resolution. It was as if the sheer mass of detail overwhelmed any design Tolstoy might have tried to impose on it.” (loc. 140)

I didn’t think that the novel was that confusing. I can definitely see where the characters names are confusing! The introduction discusses the multitude of ways a character’s name can be modified and that did cause me to stop a few times but if I kept reading the context clues almost immediately told me who Tolstoy referred to.

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Book 76: Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

Brontë, Emily - Wuthering HeightsI planned to talk about how I wish I could say it is the romance that draws me obsessively to this novel, and in a way it is, but ultimately I know it is something much darker than that. For me this novel’s draw is its darkness, it’s the depth and light absorbing pit of Heathcliff’s devotion to his plans, no matter who they harm or what they require, throughout the years to achieve his ends. I can only imagine what this reveals about my personality and my own decisions in life.

As much as I am drawn to Pride and Prejudice (and Jane Austen in general) for its whimsy and lightness, I can’t help but appreciate and truly resonate with the depths of despair and the tortuousness all three Brontë sisters write about. And I don’t know why, it’s not like I’ve had a tragic love story. I mean sure I’ve had my fair share of unrequited love stories (more often than not), but I know that I’ll get over them and eventually find someone who loves me for me and I love them for them and we just click, but for some reason these darker novels resound with me on a deeper level. It’s as if they touch a part of me that I know is there but am too afraid to even consider bringing to the surface out of fear or terror of what I might actually feel if I let myself.

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Book 70: No Name – Wilkie Collins

Collins, Wilkie - No NameUnlike Dickens, I could read Wilkie Collins ALL DAY. There are those of you out there that will find this shocking, but it’s the truth. This is the first novel I’ve read by Collins and I am VERY glad I added it to my Classics Club list! In addition it counted as a bonus book for my Tea & Books reading challenge coming in at just over 750 pages (according to Goodreads).

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you are aware, and often horrified, of my intense dislike of Dickens’ works (or at least the few I read). It’s not even that I don’t like his stories, characters or style, it’s that I don’t like the lengths of his ‘novels.’ As Dickens works were serialized I think he dragged out too many things and didn’t make them as action packed or as concise as they could’ve been. Whereas Dickens really could have used an editor, Collins took advantage of the serialization (IN DICKENS’ MAGAZINE!) and created an amazing work of fiction.

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Book 52: Les Misérables – Victor Hugo

Hugo, Victor - Les MiserablesIf Les Misérables is one thing, it is too damn long. I’m sure there are people who will disagree with me and I partially disagree with myself, but 1,729 pages is just outrageous. My advice to you if you want to read this novel, unless you are seriously interested or enthralled by French history, is to read an abridged version.

Don’t get me wrong, the story is amazingly, heartrendingly beautiful, but there was a lot of history that, yes, adds to the story, but is a long hard slough to get through. I’m talking upwards of 900 pages is just history and setting and had very little consequence on the story other than to set the scene. By time I got to volume five of the book it was a struggle to get through. I mean there were fascinating facts like how much sewer there is below Paris, but I did not need to know who put it there and who mapped and cleaned it!

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Book 48: To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Lee, Harper - To Kill A MockingbirdWhat a great re-read. This was required reading in high school and I remember reading it, but I had little-to-no recollection of the story other than the major plot points. This re-read counts for my Back to the Classics, a bonus for my Mount TBR and The Classics Club reading challenges.

Before you read my review read the To Kill A Mockingbird review in the list of 19 Depressing One Star Reviews of Classic Literature and then once the shock has fully settled in you can come back and read my review.

As bad as the review is, it’s not necessarily wrong in many aspects; this novel is a very specific and very short novel, but I would not go anywhere near so far as the person who wrote the review. I can easily see where someone would not be impressed with the book for its slow pace, but that’s what I love about it. Lee sets the setting, and thus the book, up perfectly:

“People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A Day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.” (5)

So you can’t say you weren’t warned, I mean come on its page FIVE. However, where I disagree is the characters and their one dimension-ness according to the reviewer.

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Book 45: Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's CabinThis was a surprising read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Unlike many of the ‘classics’ I’ve read the writing style and even the vernacular speech patterns were easy to read and kept the story constantly moving forward. This book counts for my Mount TBR and Back to the Classics reading challenges and is also on my Classics’ Club List.

I didn’t have to read this in school and I’m actually glad I didn’t. I know if it was a requirement to read this in high school I would not have had a good reaction to it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was an above average student when I applied myself, but I just would not have found this book interesting or a good read. And, to be honest, I’m a little shocked I did find it as interesting as I did with the strong basis in religion the author clearly had. But somehow it wasn’t so overpowering that it turned me off from the story/novel so well done.

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Book 42: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows - The Gurensey Literary and Potato Peel SocietyI didn’t want this book to end and that’s really all I want to write for this review, but I’ll harp on for a good while I’m sure. I’m sad that it’s over but happy that I read it. The ending made me both smile for the cuteness of it, but also made me sad it was finished! I wanted to know so much more about the characters and the stories and everything! There was just so much left unanswered, but not really because we’re left on the precipice of the amazing post-World War future. I bought a copy of this back in April of 2012, so it counts as a bonus book for my Mount TBR challenge.

Two things stood out for me in this book and those are the multitude of unique voices for the numerous characters and their point of views and the fact this was a World War II novel without the war taking the role of protagonist or overshadowing everything else.

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