I’m reading The Idiot by Dostoevsky for my Classics Club spin. I’m using this character list, someone took the Sparknotes version and took out the spoilers (why do these character lists have spoilers in the first place?!!!!). I printed it out, so I could have it handy.
I’m reading on the Serial Reader app. I did get the paid version, so I can read ahead and have more than one novel going. It’s not a subscriptions, so it’s more than fair for me the excellence of it, I mean I’d give more.
Marian of Classics Considered is rereading it, so if anyone wants to join us, the more the merrier. I’m going to try to post as I go along so we can discuss, she has posted some already on her Instagram, she’s reading a book of notes about the novel so this is really in depth! I don’t think I can think that deep, but we shall see.
I’m WAAAY behind, I’m about 22% of the way through, per the app, and on chapter 8. My impressions/emotions thus far have been:
“oh, this is going to be painful, poor precious baby”
to “I’m bored out of my mind with his pointless boring stories (why must authors stuff their pages so baldly?)”
to “ooh, now it’s getting interesting”
back to “oh, this is going to be painful, poor precious baby”
to “I think some second-hand embarrassment is coming”
Someone shared this list of general plots of British, German, and Russian novels on Instagram. Can’t speak to the German novels, but the other two sound about right.
I was thrilled that I actually participated and read a work off my list the last time, and I’m happy to participate in this newest spin.
- An Anton Chekhov novel
- The Wimsey Papers by Dorothy Sayers
- A Good Man is Hard to Find or other Flannery O’Connor novel
- A Portrait of A Lady and/or Turning of the Screw by Henry James
- A Toni Morrison novel
- Beowulf (Tolkien’s translation)
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Henry VI, Part 1
- Henry VIII
- King John
- O’ Pioneers and/or Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
- 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or another novel by Jules Verne
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
- Richard III
- The Crucible by Arthur Miller
- The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- The Scarlet Letter and/or The House with Seven Gables by Nathanial Hawthorne
- Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
I read Frankenstein this month for The Classics Club October Dare. I’m a procrastinator, so I’m really lucky that I have a review done at all; I’m actually proud of myself since I did think ahead, takes notes, and make an outline. I just didn’t leave myself enough time for a couple drafts. And I have more words on this book/the background than the close to 1,000 below.
I’d never really wanted to read Frankenstein; I am not drawn to horror which is what I thought this book was. I procrastinated to start it, and then quickly realized that the book is incredibly dull, predictable rather than suspenseful and frightening. Then I procrastinated because of the tedious verbosity and dull, slow (because of said verbosity) plot. This book requires far too great a suspension of disbelief and not for creativity but for plot holes and devices. I knew some of the circumstances of the writing, written by a teenager during a sort of dare (although undergoing revisions, possibly with her eventually husband’s help). But because it was a classic I was expecting a solid story and prose vs obviously written in Romantic vein by uncontrolled, undisciplined teenager! I think it is famous for the barest plot concept that more recent portrayals have developed and that readers then insert into the story.
This book features absolutely atrocious prose. I was gagging over the stock Romantic language and expression; the flowery verbosity and excessive, sanctimonious and fawning emotionalism and sentimentality. The author is tedious and repetitiveness with details that take away from the story rather than add to it. These fountains of extraneous detail fill in most of the story which would have little substance else because concepts pertinent to the plot are vague and general. And I didn’t find a hint of irony in all this language either.
In amidst all this fluff, some scatter trails of a plot float. With much unrelated verbosity we are get the story from various narrators in a general and literal way (and Frankenstein continually drops spoilers). Everything has told us by the author via her narrators rather than displayed via art; she gives no detail (regarding the actual plot), not from mystery, but from ignorance and lack of creativity. In addition to having a spare plot delivered literally, the plot has so many devices, holes, and implausible points. Shelley exhibits total unawareness of any other class than her own (and any other point of view than her coterie) and this leads to so many of the issues.
Let’s start with Victor Frankenstein, who by the by is no doctor but a pedantic, spoiled, sheltered, young fool. Because of these things, I don’t see how he had: 1) the ability to pursue this creation; he very obviously isn’t the brightest, 2) the interest/passion to pursue such a thing (so little reason had he that I assumed his friend would die and he would revive him, nope, he is just playing around, and he didn’t seem to have passion for anything except whining and protestations, 3) the stomach for such a task; he was such a hypochondriac and always talking about his delicate sensibilities, and 4) the will for such a task; he is indecisive, passive, and lazy elsewhere in the story, dragging his feet at every turn.
Now onto his implausibly created monster. He isn’t described and since the author doesn’t forget any other descriptions (however poor they are and however little they apply to the story), this doesn’t come across as mysterious but rather a lack of creativity. Everything about Frankenstein’s creation is implausible; he has a fully developed mind with the elasticity of a child’s brain with the thought processes of adults. His mind is full of Romantic sensibilities which he quickly taps into thanks to the improbably (and highly Romantic) circumstances of finding himself by educated people who coincidentally aid his learning. All of this is too convenient. He could have had the soul of a demon or another dead person or the mind of the person whose brain Frankenstein gave him. He could have truly come from nothing, truly a blank slate in which case he would have had the mind of an infant or an animal.
In the same vein, a double-minded author doesn’t equal a truly conflicted villain; that requires insight and talent. He comes across as a psychopath; only when he gets what he wants does he act anything like appropriately, his manipulations and revenge, his complaints and reviling, his vicious triple murders (two of which were in cold-blood, the other a child murder) of innocent people to wreak personal revenge all point to psychopathy. His rage isn’t the bewildered, blind lashing out of the abused and abandoned by humanity (that is also implausible, no one gives him any aid at all?), it is very specific, clever revenge. He goes from zero to one hundred in this quite fast. Of course, there are inconsistencies here, sometimes he does rage against humanity (from his tiny experience).
Overall the moral issues are grossly and falsely simplistic expressions of false choice moral “dilemmas”—more from inconsistent plot and lazy thinking, ignorant/irresponsible idle upper-class perspectives than from any understanding of the complexities of human nature and circumstances. All sorts of misunderstandings of duty and virtue. Virtue doesn’t turn to evil; doing good in good times doesn’t make one virtuous; the monster wasn’t ever virtuous, nor did he try. As to the idea that Frankenstein is the villain, I don’t think the story has the depth and irony; I don’t see any irony at all in Victor Frankenstein’s portrayal; I don’t think Romantics understood or appreciated in since they enacted in their own lives as well as in their stories such drama that is ludicrously ripe for satire). I think we can get deep discussion out of the plot and morals (or lack thereof) in the book, but that fact doesn’t make the novel itself deep.
After reading, I immediately had to look and see what other reviewers thought on Goodreads. This review expresses my opinions (and I’m sure others) in a hysterical way.
The Classics Club spin number for this spin is 12 so my book is Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell. Phooey. This is not one I particularly wanted to read nor do I think it particularly important to read. I was 22 when I first started this list; I’ve learned to be a bit more realistic and mature about deciding on books to read and about finishing books. I still want to finish my list though, and I am going to try to do this spin.
- I updated my reading challenges page (adding way too many challenges, but hey, lets have fun), and I also decided to participate a bit more in the Classics Club while I finish up. Perhaps I may do participate with another list after all. A more reasonable list . . . with more reviewable books. Anyway, I’m going to participate in the current spin.1. A Portrait of A Lady2. Brothers Karamazov3. Coriolanus4. Cymbelline5. Dombey and Sons6. Grapes of Wrath7. King John8. Le Morte d’Arthur9. Macbeth10. Mere Christianity11. Mill on the Floss12. Ruth13. Sylvia’s Lovers14. The Bostonians15. The Crucible16. The Four Loves17.The Great Divorce18. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit19. The Mystery of Edwin Drood20. The Old Curiosity Shop.
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek
My grandmother clipped an article about this book, the author, and the inspiration book years ago, and I finally ordered the book from the library. I wanted the inspiration book too, but our library does not have it (I guess I could have suggested a purchase; all of my other suggestions worked). I found Maya’s project interesting, and I could personally relate with the fashion side. But whole Border-landia culture intrigued me also even though that is not a main point. There are some few objectionable issues.
The Black Moth
Well, I warmed to this story faster than the first one Heyer novel I read. This one had more romance, the other more humor. Again, nothing superb other than the fun and . . . the romance. Scarlet Pimpernel-esque. I did seriously enjoy the romance, especially the epic honor vs. wooing, Jack vs. Diana battle.
Jip: His Story
Gorgeous writing. Sensitive, delicate, exquisite. Another brilliant description of a difficult subject. Jip is so precious; this will shred your heartstrings. This is possible better written than Bridge to Terabithia or is at least up there with it above Jacob Have I Loved and Lyddie. I love Paterson’s writing style.
Dear Mr. Knightley
I usually scorn, deride, and snub books that try to retell classic novels. I cannot stomach arrogant, talent-less authors leaching off of classic authors or worse finishing said authors manuscripts (!!!). How arrogant can you get? I read Austenland (not well-written or clever or good) and considered trying Lost in Austen because those did not seem to be retellings precisely. Anyway. I saw this mentioned twice, once on a blog from which I have found several books which I like.
I am glad I read it; it is no silly knock-off. The author is by no means brilliant but compared to Austenland, this book is fairly decently written. I would like to try the other novels.
Here is my (somewhat) equivocal Goodreads review: Maybe 3.5. This is not what it appears. It is not really an Austen modernization. There is a lot of Austen quoting, but this story is definitely its own. It was fun, not in anyway superb, but definitely tolerably written for a modern, grown-up novel . . . of course my only major adult fiction experience has been with horrifyingly bad Christian fiction so . . .
Pat of Silverbush
Can I gush again about how beautiful these new L. M. Montgomery book covers are. Covers are SO important.
One of my little sisters thought these were boring, but I think books that have wonderful descriptions (you know the kind, they do not feel like descriptions, but you just know how things are in the book) are far better written than those that rely almost entirely on action and melodrama (e.g. Georgette Heyer novels). The L. M. Montgomery books are like that. Sweetness, humor, personality, intensity, sensibility. Unfortunately (ruining my positivity), Montgomery rather fails to develop the main male well . . . so many of the other male characters have more personality (e.g. Perry and Davy). Jingle, I feel is a bit better developed than Gilbert* (at least perhaps until he becomes know as “the doctor”) or Teddy. Barney is an exception to the pathetically undeveloped rule.
*The Gilbert in the movie is somewhat stolen from Laurie from Little Women (I am not kidding, it is not funny; Anne of Avonlea movie literally plagiarized from the Little Women novel; I am going to do a post on the Anne movies and that issue someday).
A Pocket Full of Murder
Sweet and fun. And oh, Quiz is darling. Interesting although simplistic concept. Feels rather more juvenile than the author’s other works (still hoping for a third installment to Swift someday, btw), but I am looking forward to the rest of the Uncommon Magic series.
Cry, the Beloved Country
Picked for my 2015 challenge. I thought it would be dense, but I thought it easier to read but in no way light or shallow. I found the writing moving and elegant. Definitely recommend for moving out of our safe British/US fiction zone without moving into anything unnecessarily disturbing. Brilliantly written, especially in light of the difficult subjects.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Here is my rambling, incoherent Goodreads review: Hmm. I think the historical fiction aspect well-written; I mean it could conceivably have been written at least in Dickens’ time if not perhaps in the actual time. The fairy and later magic felt authentic/similar to other fairy fiction and what little study I have done of Celtic mythology/fairytales. But I disliked the earlier Black Magic, as differing from fairy and mythology type actions which is disturbing in a distinct, violent way. I also felt that for the slower, calmer pace at the beginning and the overall, the end was discordantly fast and dramatic. I understand the change in part to go with the story, but it was too much, too fast for good artistry. I also felt that many complexities in many characters were hinted at but not developed/delivered. Also, I disliked the ending. It was too weak to cause hate but rather contempt. I enjoyed it while I read it until the end. I think 2.5 perhaps. Not worth a reread, I do not think, just perhaps a skimming.
Cute, but more notable to me because the author’s mention prodded me to try add some E. Nesbit books to my library stack.
The Red House Mystery
Not brilliant but fun and less ridiculous than Christie. I must have a thing for grey-eyed, 30-something, fastidious upper-class detectives. I picked this from this list of mysteries.
A Long Walk to Water
A tough subject, and new to me so enlightening. Overly simplistic and not artistically managed. Picked for my best-seller book on my 2015 book challenge.
I am going to be changing a few aspects of my Classics Club participation. I originally chose to participate in an effort to gain blog readers, but I doubt that I garnered many, if any this way. I have myself not found (or really even tried to find) any blogs this way.
I find the process of marking date read, reviewing, sending in the review, and linking the review to my posted list rather tedious. I already keep track of date read via Goodreads and blog readers can simply Google my reviews or look under my book labels. I also do not want to feel forced to write a review, particularly if I forget about it until months after reading the book,. All this to say, I am not going to follow Classic Club procedure for book reviews.
I altered my list a couple times in the beginning and I am going to alter it again. I stupidly put all of the Leatherstocking tales on the list without trying a single novel seriously. I found them indescribably tedious and would prefer not to waste any more time on them. I am sick of Greek and Roman mythology, and those stories have such hideous morals, and I just do not want to read The Iliad and The Odyssey. I am going to add some replacement titles beneath my list and remove the titles that I do not want. After I finish the list I will probably remove it as a tab and make it a post without links.
I still want to read my list within the stated time frame. I do love book lists, but I prefer to be able to add and amend them.
I had tried this novel before and this time around I took awhile to warm up to it, but then I enjoyed it greatly. Well, I enjoyed the Wellers immensely anyway.
The plot was intentionally mishmash, if you could even say that the book had a plot. The tone varied from the lightest type of humor to rather serious at times to more sophisticated humor and many blends of all these tones.
I could feel that this was Dickens’ first novel; his deep characters could be a little stock and his caricatures a bit shallow. I suppose he had not gotten into his characterization stride yet. Mr. Pickwick himself was rather a sanctimonious, pompous prig who was often rather rude to poor Winkle. Winkle’s cowardice and ineptitude could be funny at time but painful at other times. Mr. Snodgrass was my favorite of the quartet but received the smallest attention. Dickens rather abruptly dropped and picked up characters in this novel.
In the Wellers Dickens gets very near to his later greatness. “Samivel” “Veller” and his father were definitely both the most excellently created and developed characters and my favorite ones. Often I find lower class accents in Dickens’ novels irritating (that could be because the characters are usually irritating people), but I enjoyed the Wellers’ accents.
This novel is not superb compared to Dickens’ later works, but for a young man in his mid-twenties it is a brilliant first novel. And there dies any mercy for all the so-called “writers” that are all over the home-schooled/ Christian fiction internet world.
Just read them.
I read them.* I loved
himthem. I refused to read the sacrilegious last “book.”
*I still have a few I need to order through interlibrary loan, but I think those might be mostly collections.
I recommend complete ignorance for first time readers (which means do not read covers, reviews, prefaces, chapter headings, and etc.). I remembered a little of what my sister told me (albeit it was sometimes quite a distorted memory) as I read and constantly referred to the headings of future chapters.
Oh, Eugene. Eugene! Oh, Julius Handford/John Rokesmith.
I enjoyed this book intensely, even thinking that it was my favorite Dickens’ novel . . . until the last 100 pages after which I felt hoodwinked.
This novel took me back to Dickens’ characteristic humor which was rather lacking in Little Dorrit and Bleak House. Three marriageable, wonderful heroes. One sweet heroine. One annoying (first because of being a brat, later because of being a baby). 3-2=Mortimer is mine!
One thrilling love scene when John comes bursting in on Bella and her father which was rather spoiled after the last 100 pages. Actually, I (heartlessly) enjoyed the scene of his first proposal because of the disparity(?) in John Rokesmith and John Harmon’s reactions.
Eugene is a work of artistic skill in himself. As is Bradley Headstone or at least the description of his behavior, thought processes, and etc. The Eugene and Lizzie dynamic is intriguingly intense and unique. All of the multitude of characters in this novel are interesting.