Unlike 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.
However, as with Missing Manuscript, James’ has a distinct ability to write as and embody Jane Austen. Many Austen fan-fiction novelists are able to mimic Austen, but I don’t feel are able to get into her psyche as well as James’ has shown she is capable over the last two novels. James takes snippets of fact and builds amazingly detailed stories around them and as a reader I couldn’t help but appreciate her ability to spin a believable story around the most basic and minimal facts.
After my amazing luck with John Boyne’s The Absolutist last year, I decided to always keep an eye on Other Press releases and I’m glad I did. I requested a copy of this book directly from the publisher and I quite enjoyed it. This is my honest response and I received nothing in return.
To start, I’d like to say that the only other review on Goodreads is worthless (to me, at least). Why bother reviewing a book if that’s all you’re going to say? The person has, in essence, re-written the synopsis of the novel (on the back cover), without any additional insight or synthesis and it came across as snide to me. If you didn’t want to read “frothy froth about rich French people and their angst,” then why’d you read it? It never pretended to be anything else and that’s why I appreciated this novel. It’s times like this when I wish I could give half stars on Goodreads because it’s not quite what I would consider 5 stars, but not quite as low as 4 stars. Now on to my response.
This novel is everything that it claims to be, an amusing inside look at the codes, manners, and morals of high society, and it’s nothing more.So if you don’t want to read a comedy of manners, then don’t. It’s sort of what I imagine Austen’s works were like when they were first published and reactions were similar to the Goodreads reviewer’s.
WARNING and APOLOGY: this post starts with a rather long tangent about literature, art and people. (Sorry! Probably should be two posts, but I’m lazy.) If you don’t really want to read it (but you should there are a few great quotes) skip to after the third block quote. And to get it out-of-the-way, The Picture of Dorian Gray is the January read for my books into movies book group at the local library and conveniently appears on my Mount TBR (extended) list and my Classics Club list!
Now for my tangent, I’ve noticed as I read a wider variety of literature that the authors I’m drawn to have a lot to say about books, reading and writing. I have a lot of respect for authors who are able to reflect on writing, books, and literature within their own books and stories. In his forward to The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde writes the below quote.
“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” (4)
And I can’t help but appreciate how incredibly insightful and powerful this is. Imagine if all the people threatened by books, who’ve burned books, who attempt to ban books, and those who just refuse to read certain books actually understood this. I love this quote so much it’s my new email signature and I’ve added it to the great book quotes on my sidebar (only the third)!
It may have taken two weeks to read this book, but it was completely worth it. I don’t know the last time I’ve spent this much time basking in the beauty and wonderment of a novel. 1Q84 counts for my 2013 Mount TBR and Tea & Books challenges. Now on to my response, which is jumpy and hardly all-inclusive, but hopefully it portrays some of the wondrousness this novel is. Let’s just say I can’t wait to read more Murakami, regardless of if it’s a mind f*ck like Kafka on the Shore or like 1Q84, which is also technically a mind f*ck.
How does one even begin to classify Murakami. From the two books I’ve read the only things I can definitely say are that he defies genres and bucks trends, is incredibly well versed in classic literature and music and popular culture (films and music) and his descriptions are so vivid you don’t have to strive to imagine things because you see them completely formed in front of you. What I can appreciate is Murakami usually drops a line into his books which perfectly explain the books (so far, again I’ve only read two) and this books is (NOT A REAL SPOILER, but maybe skip the quote if you don’t want to know anything – the rest is okay though.), Click here to continue reading