Book 543: The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

We moved last month and I had to shuffle books around and needed to pull one of a certain size off my shelf and this one was it so I figured might as well read it and I’m glad I did! I honestly thought this was on my Classics Club list, but apparently it wasn’t when I went to document it on my lists.

Apparently, I picked it up as part of my re-read books from high school that you didn’t like to see how they/I have changed after attending a panel at the 2012 Boston Book Festival. Although I didn’t read this one in high school, I read Ethan Frome, which of course I was disgruntled about because it wasn’t Star Wars or fantasy. Now I am again interested in the retelling that I mention, so who knows I might revisit this sooner than I think. Continue reading “Book 543: The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton”

2013 Challenges, Books

Book 214: 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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2012 Challenges, Books, The Classics Club

Book 110: The Color Purple – Alice Walker

I must preface this post with the caveat that prior to reading the novel I knew little about it. I vaguely knew that Whoopie Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey were connected to the film, but that was it. And for future reference, this is how I approach most novels I read.

To be honest, it’s hard to know how to respond to a novel like this. When an author opens a novel with a scene as disturbing as that which opens The Color Purple, how can you respond other than viscerally? How can you relate to something that is foreign to you as a reader?

Take a look at the opening line and you can only imagine where the story goes from there.

“You better not tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy.”

And that doesn’t even cover the shock/horror I felt in the first few pages of the novel. It doesn’t reveal anything, really. Clearly, however, Alice Walker wrote an amazing novel. Walker keeps the reader riveted, regardless of your relation of the experience, from the brutal opening scene to the emotionally exhausting closing scene.

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2012 Challenges, Books, Quotes, The Classics Club

Book 105: Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

Well I survived the slog. At points I honestly didn’t think I would get through the novel and really should have waited having just finished the five books of Martin’s epic saga, but I did and I didn’t. It took me nearly three weeks to read the novel (which, yes I know, isn’t a lot of time for some people – but it was never-ending for me), and they were three very long weeks.

Counting for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge, the Tea and Books Reading Challenge and The Classics Club, I am definitely glad I read the novel (aside from the story of course) because it puts me that much closer to my yearly goals! Technically I’ve finished the Tea and Books reading challenge (my original goal was Earl Grey Aficionado, or six books) but I upgraded last month to the Sencha Connoisseur level which is eight books.

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Book 86: March – Geraldine Brooks

A co-worker recommended March and prior to reading it I knew only that it detailed the mostly absent character of Mr. March in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Having finished the novel I realize it is a superb piece of ‘fan-fiction’ and well deserving of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize.

Once I realized March received a Pulitzer (about half-way through the novel) I spoke with my co-worker and she also mentioned not knowing it was a Pulitzer when she started reading it, but once she finished she felt it was a perfect Pulitzer and I couldn’t agree more. I looked up what distinguishes a Pulitzer and Wikipedia (yes I used our friendly resource) states a Pulitzer Prize for fiction is awarded “for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.” And having just finished March, I believe perfect Pulitzer fits. I’m not referring to the writing itself, as who am I to judge, but instead to the story. Brooks wrote about a time and a place which is so uniquely American and about characters which for a long time were Americana embodied.

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Book 43: A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

John Kennedy Toole - A Confederacy of DuncesWhat a peculiar novel.

I had to slog through this book and at various times was convinced it was repeating itself. I’m slowly understanding that books that win major awards such as the Pulitzer or Man-Booker are somewhat dense to read, whereas the books that almost make it, but don’t are considerably easier to read. When it comes to this novel, the author’s personal story is tragic, but perhaps not as tragic as Ignatius J. Reiley’s story, his protagonist.

This story takes place in New Orleans and has the most interesting cast of characters, from Jones and Lana Lee to Detective Mancuso and George to Myrna and Irene to Ms. Trixie, Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Levy – all have encountered Ignatius J. Reiley and have not necessarily remained the same. Having never been to New Orleans I can’t confirm this, but I felt that Toole’s writing of the accents was brilliant even if I couldn’t read or give voice to all of them.

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Book 42: Gilead – Marilynne Robinson

Gilead - Marilynne RobinsonI purchased this book with the 13 or 14 others at the Boston Book Festival last year in a bag for $20 from one of the book sellers. And although the elusive ‘they’ say never to judge a book by its cover, I would not have read Gilead If I hadn’t. From the beautiful and simplistic close up of a fading front door to the title so steeped in folkloric and mythic tradition, I never once read the synopsis until I decided to read the book and there was no turning back.

The lack of religiosity impressed me considering the book’s protagonist is a Congregationalist minister. The religion that does seep in comes across more as universal kindness and understanding than tongues and bible thumping. The protagonist, his best friend, his father, his grandfather, and various other characters are all ministers and yet they are real people–they love, they kill (in the name of abolition), they run away from the world and they live normal lives.

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