Book 414: Bel Ami – Guy de Maupassant

de Maupassant, Guy - Bel AmiAfter a two month hiatus I am back with the 45th book from my Classics Club list. That’s 45% of my list done and I’m only 32 books behind schedule ;-)

Going into Bel Ami I thought I knew what the book was about, but I wasn’t aware it had a subtitle, The History of a Scoundrel, which would’ve told me I was in no way correct!

If I’m honest I chose Bel Ami because it was short and accessible on my phone. (Thank you Kindle iPhone app, this isn’t the first time you’ve saved me from boredom.) I forgot the next book I wanted to read and an hour is a long time for lunch so I started this and read it pretty quickly. You’d think I would use lunch and my commute to catch up on my 10+ hours of back logged podcasts to listen to, but no why would I do that when there are more books to read!?

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Book 404: The Woman Who Walked Into Doors (Paula Spencer #1) – Roddy Doyle

Doyle, Roddy - The Woman Who Walked Into Doors (Paula Spencer #1)After seeing someone else post about Doyle recently, I decided I needed to bump this one up my list. It’s been on my shelf since December 2012 when I picked it up at the Harvard Bookstore Warehouse Sale. I had no idea it was a two book series until I started this one and Goodreads had the convenient link to the other book, Paula Spencer, which I will read at some point.

Let’s start by saying that if I judged Ireland solely by the books I read it would be full of gays, wars, alcoholics and abuse. For some reason, perhaps it’s that chip on Ireland’s shoulder, but every single book I’ve read set in Ireland deals with the darker side of humanity. And as much as I know this isn’t true, it makes me wonder what else is out there in Ireland because it can’t all be this depressing!

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Book 400: The Dante Club – Matthew Pearl

Pearl, Matthew - The Dante ClubAnd another TBR bites the dust! This book has been hanging out on my bookshelves since December of 2012 when I picked it up at one of my favorite used bookstores, Edward McKay, back in NC. More importantly, it is the 26th book from my TBR shelves this year. How awesome is that? That’s more than 1/3 of all the books I’ve read this year and I am incredibly happy and proud of that number.

I don’t know why I put off reading The Dante Club for so long. Maybe it was in some sort of effort to actually read all of Dante’s Divine Comedy before I read it, but that obviously hasn’t happened. The other thing that has left me wondering since I finished it , and honestly since I started it, is I can’t quite put my finger on why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I feel I should have.

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Book 389: Emma (Manga Classics) – Stacy King, Crystal Chan and Po Tse

King, Stacy and Po Tse - Emma (Manga Classics)Having just finished reading the Marvel Illustrated version of Emma, I figured why not try the Manga Classics version! I received a copy from Udon Entertainment in return for my honest opinion with no compensation. And let me tell you, I am very glad I requested it!

The closest thing I’ve ever come to reading manga is watching Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z in high school and I never thought I would actually read one. I’m glad however, that I happened to listen to this Good Job, Brain! podcast the week before I read this! I felt so knowledgeable going in. This won’t be a side-by-side comparison of the two graphic adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma, but I’m sure I will refer to the major differences between the two. But first, let’s start with how to read manga.

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Book 388: Emma (Marvel Illustrated) – Nancy Butler and Janet Lee

Butler, Nancy, Jane Austen and Janet Lee - EmmaBefore I conquer Dr. Mütter’s Marvels, I decided to read the Marvel Illustrated version of Emma. If you’re not aware, Emma is my least favorite of Jane Austen’s novels. (Gasp! Horror!) This being said, I’m getting ready to read my first manga which also happens to be Emma, so maybe I’ll find something to enjoy in the story.

I will start that having already read Northanger Abbey, also adapted by Nancy Butler and Janet Lee in the Marvel Illustrated series, it made reading this one a bit easier. I think a large part of this is a direct response to the cover art of Northanger Abbey, it was so different from Lee’s illustrations. This one had the same illustration style for the story AND the covers. It definitely helped and didn’t set up any false expectations.

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Book 339: Emma – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - EmmaFor book two of our Jane Austen Book Club, my friends and I decided to conquer Emma (Amazon Affiliate link). It has always been my least favorite of the six and reading Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education both confirmed that and helped me get around this problem. His talking about Emma and it’s belief in the importance of every day trivialities, as well as Margaret Drabble’s excellent introduction led me to think about the book differently.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still boring as anything in most points, but Austen wrote it this way. According tot Drabble, Austen wrote this novel in such excruciating detail in direct response to the detractors of her previously published novel Mansfield Park, which I love. Drabble says, “This is domestic realism almost with a vengeance.” (xix) AND it is! The hyper focus on every detail, the incredibly limited scope of setting, characters and even conversation topics is overwhelmingly mundane. It is an assault on the senses, and as a fellow JABC member said “i’m diagnosing myself with ’emma-induced narcolepsy.'” (Thanks Dalton!)

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Book 337: Crome Yellow – Aldous Huxley

Huxley, Aldous - Crome YellowMy friend Nick gave this to me to read ages ago and I’ve finally gotten around to it. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but the further I read the more I enjoyed the story (Amazon Affiliate link). Coming in at under 200 pages, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Huxley fit into the novel without overwhelming the sense of lackadaisical whimsy of the people.

I am incredibly glad I read the foreword though, because I don’t think I would’ve understood this was a satirical novel of the British upper-class. I probably would’ve happily read it and thought, “wow these people are petty and ridiculous,” and then thought nothing more of it. It reminded me a lot of the various upper-class dioramas I’ve read from Jane Austen to Cécil David-Weill’s The Suitors, which is what Huxley was going for in his social criticism.

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