Welcome back Classic Club! I apparently needed a four, almost five, month break from the club. There wasn’t a specific reason other than perhaps the epic-ness of War and Peace, but I’m glad I took the break. I think this was an even better break because I came back with such a wonderful book! There were so many cool things that I learned that I didn’t know, or some how avoided knowing, came from Dracula!
I thought for sure I was familiar with the plot of Dracula, we all are aren’t we? But I was so wrong! I’ve never seen a film version of this and most of what I know is what pop culture has co-opted over the years. One of my favorite podcasts, Good Job Brain, even did an episode titled Very Superstitious which included a lot of fun trivia (some I think might’ve been wrong) about the myriad versions of Dracula. However, what I found out that most caught me off guard was that although the book was about Dracula he wasn’t the main character AND there was a bad ass female protagonist who rocked. There are spoilers, the book is over 120 years old so get over it! :-D
I received a copy of this via request on NetGalley and I am so happy I requested it. This is my honest opinion and I received nothing in return for it.
It’s times like this when I wish I went into teaching at some level to share a story like this with my students. It’s heartbreaking, but hopeful and I can only imagine what it would be like if I were an Irish teen reading this in the mid 1990s after it was written. Honestly, I would’ve felt just like Neil when he found out he wasn’t ‘the only gay in the village.’
I wasn’t sure what to expect of this novel and Tom Lennon (a pseudonym to protect his Catholic-school teaching identity and he’s still unknown) as an Irish author writing about LGBT characters had the decks stacked against him: Jamie O’Neill can do no wrong, John Boyne won me over with The Absolutist, Damian McNicholl put up a good effort with A Son Called Gabriel and Oscar Wilde is, well, Oscar Wilde. Needless to say, Tom Lennon did not disappoint, and as I listed all of those authors I realized his story pre-dated all of the rest by at least a decade with the exception of Oscar Wilde, so I’m excited his story is being introduced to the US.
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)!
Now THIS is how you end a series. Although I’m definitely sad about quite a few things, it took until the final ten pages for me to find out what was going to happen. And when I realized I scared the dogs because I yelled out ‘NO WAY!’ in excitement and wonder and then jumped up and paced while I read the last few pages.
After the lackluster ending to the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the last book of Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, but I am glad I did. Although I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have (it’s been over a year since I read book 5), it was definitely an awesome ending! I think I’m going to have to purchase copies of the series and re-read them next year. Good thing work got me a $100 gift certificate to a local book store and I recently purchased to Groupons/Google Local coupons for a total of $50 (I only paid $25) for two local used book stores :-D
I wasn’t sure about this book going into it. One of the best books I’ve read this year was The Absolutist by John Boyne, which is the story of a young gay man coming of age written by an Irish author; and one of my all time favorite books is At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill, which is the story of a young gay man coming of age written by an Irish author.
Overall I was completely underwhelmed until the last 15-20 pages of the book. I think McNicholl did a great job portraying working class Northern Ireland and interlacing just enough of the political landscape to keep the focus on the main character and not the conflict, but I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t feel like Gabriel was a sympathetic character and I just kept wanting to tell him to shut up. I honestly kept thinking, good grief I hope I wasn’t that annoying when I was his age (even though I’m sure I was more-so).
What an ending…It’s not very often an author can write an ending to a series that is simultaneously powerful and lackluster. Perhaps when I re-read this series I won’t think this (similar to how I was not impressed with Rowling’s inclusion of an epilogue 19 years later), but I’m not sure. There were good and bad parts to The Last Guardian, but honestly, I’m still digesting this book. I read it in less than 12 hours (had to get some sleep didn’t I?), but I’m not sure that was a good thing.
In this, the final installment of the Artemis Fowl series, I have to say I was somewhat disappointed. However, I can’t say why. There wasn’t as much hype, for me, as there was in either Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle or Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I think it has to do with the fact that the books within this series have really been hit or miss, and maybe even that I didn’t read them when they were first coming out and I was younger. I did review all the other books on this blog (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7), and perhaps my lack of WOW for this book is because I didn’t re-read the prequels before I read this, the final.
Where to begin…seriously. I finished this novel Monday night after a whirlwind read—I could not put it down. I stumbled across this novel on Net Galley and requested a copy from the publisher and I am incredibly glad I did! The following is my honest response and the views/opinions are my own. I did not receive compensation to review the novel.
I’ve divided my response into three parts: my response to the novel, a brief comparison and my (rambling) thoughts and questions to those who have also read the novel. If you have any desire to read the novel (WHICH YOU SHOULD ALL BE!), don’t read part three. I’ll try not to say explicitly, but it may give some parts away. Sorry it’s such a long post, but it’s such a good book! I will definitely have to re-read it as I didn’t come close to discussing everything I wanted to discuss!
My Response to The Absolutist
WHOA…for once, it is fairly simple to describe my feelings about a novel I knew nothing about going in: I fell in love. The overall story is incredibly gut-wrenching and heartbreaking by the ending, but you have to fall in love with it and the characters (even those you want to hate) because of the story and Boyne’s writing. I have never read Boyne, but have seen The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.