• Reading

    Daniel Deronda Review

    I think that part of the reason why I have enjoyed some of the Dickens and Eliot books so much is because I am quite unfamiliar with the stories. I also greatly enjoy the writing style; so much so, in fact, that I do not have to love the characters (or many of them at least) to enjoy the book.

    I would have liked Daniel Deronda far more if not for his-not-truly-honorable interactions with Gwendolen. Sometimes it is enough for actions to be bad if they look bad. Gwendolen had no reason to have confidences with a man not related to her and not her husband, and Deronda had no business receiving them.

    Gwendolen was obnoxious. Grandcourt was awful, but I think that Gwendolen deserved some awful. I hate the might-have-been implied/hinted at between Deronda and Gwendolen although I was relieved that he never actually liked her too much. But still. I hate salvation separations from outside or offensive party’s side! And the Deronda/Gwendolen interludes are so intense especially compared to the (far fewer) depicted interactions with Daniel and Mirah.

    Mordecai is rather weird and the Hebrew issues are disturbing, particularly as religions are portrayed relatively. There are some passages that are freakishly prophetic though.

    I liked Hans and Sir Hugo although they are underdeveloped characters.

    There are some humorous incidental sentences that made it into my quote book. I am not sure that I will reread this novel though; I found it interesting and enjoyable, but I preferred Middlemarch and Adam Bede.

  • Reading

    Bleak House Review

    So I did not entirely like this novel. Oh, I enjoyed it while I read it, but I found many aspects that I did not like.

    I found Esther rather irritating. I thought her false modesty and silly “innocence” of why other people like her was extremely annoying; true humility and goodness do not focus on self at all. She spoils her character by speaking, and her character would have been better not displayed in first person. I thought her silly humility rather out of character for Dickens; I feel like he usually caricatures this type of person.

    Mr. Jardyce annoyed me because he avoids issues instead of repairing them. I loathed Mr. Skimpole* and the way Mr. Jardyce aids his leech behavior is disgusting. Speaking of disgusting, how gross and selfish of Mr. Jardyce, who might almost be Esther’s grandfather, to propose to Esther?! I had wondered before I reached this point in the novel whether or not he had been in love with her mother.

    I did not really feel sorry for Lady Dedlock. She is so selfish and proud. She had married into great wealth and made herself famous. She does not help Rosa, except to thwart Mr. Tulkinghorn, I think. I felt sorry for Captain Hawdon. I want to know why Hawdon and Lady Dedlock had not married. What happened? Whose fault was the separation? I kind of wondered/wished she had been the one who broke off the connection. Had her sister a hand in it? I did not think that Hawdon was the Willoughby type at all. Plus he had kept her letters. He had sent her letters of instruction. He helps poor Jo. If Lady Dedlock did not know that the baby survived, I wonder if Hawdon ever knows about the baby at all. What were those letters of instruction George Rouncewell delivers to Esther? George seems to be very loyal to Hawdon as if Hawdon deserves some help or has some merit. I do not like all these unfinished ties.

    Ada Clare and Allan Woodcourt do not have enough character development. Except towards the end they have hardly even any personality. I liked what glimpses and shadows of Allan I saw until I received a chill at his reaction poor Jo.

    Jo is probably my favorite character in point of unmixed favor. George Rouncewell comes next in that respect. Poor Jo. What cruelness and neglect and manipulation he endures at the hands of the evil and/or more noticeably selfish characters and the world in general. What cold “pity” and “aid” the “kind” characters extend to him! And this: “He wos wery good to me, he wos” . . . and his tears!

    I felt the number of the characters more in this novel. Everything seemed less developed and every character either barely connected (the Jellybys)* or too connected. I know Dickens has random characters, but often they are harmless and/or turn out to be more important than first appears. Not so in this novel.

    * All of these characters are typical Dickens caricatures or displays of certain types of troublesome people; I appreciated them for that because, as is usual, these descriptions of error and selfishness ring quite true.

  • Reading

    Review of Little Dorrit

    The miniseries preview first somewhat inspired me to know this story. I was not ready for Dickens at this point, and when I picked up the book and perused it, Mr. Clennam’s age and that awful Pet disgusted me. I still loathe Pet and her family. How dare she exist for Clennam to love. How dare he love a young woman who is not Little Dorrit. I hate that it hurts him for so long, and it is not him that separates them but her. If he had ceased to love her, that would make all the difference in the world. I wish she had turned out shallow, so that he never could have truly loved her.

    I do not mind his first love; he was younger then and does not love her at the time of the story. She and her “mermaid” manner and her extremely convoluted speech and Clennam’s  reaction to her, both his diffident gentlemanliness and his embarrassment are quite interesting, if not often hilarious, moments in the story.

    I loathed Mr. Dorrit; his conceit is tangible. And of the most irritating kind, sensitive. The rapier sort. I pitied poor, sweet Mr. Frederick Dorrit, and later I pitied the ill-fated Edward Dorrit. Fanny and Edmund Sparkler. They provided another rare glimpse of humor in this novel. The way Fanny “shuts him up like a box”!

    I feel like the story had some loose ends with Arthur’s story, with not fully explaining (at least to my understanding) Mr. Merdle’s story, and with the mystery surrounding Miss bitter.

    But oh, the end when Arthur is in the Marshalsea. When he finds out Little Dorrit loves him. When he loves her. Oh.

  • Reading

    The Phantom of the Opera

    I find it incredible that anyone could remain “team Phantom” after reading the novel (not that I really sympathizing with him much anyway). By the way, the Viscomte de Chagny is 40ish year old Philippe and Raoul is his 20 years younger brother the Comte de Chagny. Christine Daae is Swedish, and Carlotta is the Viscompe’s mistress. Madame Giry is an old, ignorant, superstitious woman. The narrator is sort of part of the story as is an old Persian. The Phantom’s name is Erik.

    When the Viscompte comes looking for his brother, the Phantom knowingly lets him fall in one of his death traps and die. We hear the bell and guess what happens, but Raoul and Christine have no idea until after the contest with the Phantom. Yes. Take that in. The Phantom was also quite willing to torture people to death, and he made torture instruments as part of his former occupation. He was a socio/psychopath. This story is written in a sketchy, “ghost story” sort of manner. Here a source of information, there a clue; here a rumor, there a witness. Nice and creepy. I really want to see the Paris Opera House.

  • Reading

    The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club Mini-Review

    The tone of this book was better than Unnatural Death plus for Wimsey, more personal (although much less than in Clouds of Witness). Less ghastly and only one murder. One love match. More mystery.

    Actually, towards the end the detectives make discoveries so fast and reveal so little that I was bewildered and thought that I had skipped something. On further thought, I decided I liked this twist in the style.

    And of course Wimsey is hilarious, and I garnered more quotes for my quote book. Parker and Wimsey’s habit of irritating each other—marvelously soothing!

  • Reading

    David Copperfield Review

    I started/skipped through this novel a couple times, so I was familiar with much of the story. The beginning is so gloomy I just picked up where I started last year.

    This book seemed to have a series of hurdles I had to overcome. The first is the Murdstones, but I had mostly got through this period last year. Then there is a time of hardship before he meets his aunt. Then a respite and oh, my word, the interlude chapter is just richness. After the respite: The Steerforth Delusion and Looming Doom. Yes, please let that storm break, and DAVID WAKE UP. Next to the smaller hurdle of the Dora delusion. Actually that period was not as bad as I was expecting—I found much of it quite amusing. Then David takes his time falling in/declaring love to Agnes.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed this novel, more than I was expecting. I really learning to enjoy Dickens’ style of writing with his insights into human and nature and his way of revealing those and his humor.

  • Reading

    Lorna Doone Review

    I have heard complaints about the interest and quality of this novel. I looked up the author and dates; the author was a popular Victorian novelist. This leads me to believe that he intentionally chose an awkward writing style; I think the author tried to write as lucidly and correctly as a yeoman farmer of the 17th century who self-professedly was not over-bright and did not, of course, have the time or interest for intellectual pursuits uncommon to and above his station.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the story and its oddity. I am curious to see what else the author wrote and how it compares (and to test my theory). This story felt like it was missing background and closure (Alan Brandir anyone?) because of the style, but I like that. This is called mystery when properly done (most exquisitely done in Sutcliff novels). Modernists feel that every detail of the plot has to “work out” and that this is part of what makes good writing. This is not so, and good writing cannot be broken down so easily into components.

  • Reading

    The Daisy Chain Review

    I feel like this novel is Victorian in the conventional and derogatory understanding. I found the story interesting, but the author wrote in an extremely moralistic and sanctimonious (and unorthodox) style. Anglicanism consists of morals and works and not faith and grace, and the author wrote under the influence of the Oxford movement in Anglicanism which made the practices even more Catholic.

    I found the worship of academic knowledge (it is KNOWLEDGE not INTELLIGENCE although that and/or DILIGENCE can speed the accession of knowledge) obnoxious.* The novel displayed such inconsistency and in trying to provide meaning the author made so much futile. How can you speak of intelligence, Classical and diligent study, and spiritual things when you rely on the Church of England rather than the ancient Bible and do not read and study that carefully?! Try for school honors, but oh, be humble and do not point out Richard’s stupidity (?!). Ethel studies Latin and Greek (why?!). They (Norman especially) are haughty about the poor and yet talk so much about spiritual and moral concepts. Dr. May’s parenting is awful. Edith is a lazy slob; her falsely spiritual “spirit-above-matter” attitude was prideful and absurd.

    Also, the disparity in intelligence I found ludicrous. I am sorry, but unless a child is mentally handicapped, there is no great disparity in overall intelligence among children of the same family such as displayed in this novel. Richard was labelled dull so many times that I want to strangle the author, his father, Ethel, and Norman all together.

    Oh, and when an author destroys a match . . . !!!!!! I do not care if Ethel was annoying, I still wanted her to marry Norman Ogilvie. Main character loyalty strikes again. Oh, I could foresee it, but I was so infuriated.

    I know that no novel is perfect and England had (has?) an insincere morality and false honor code, but the author did not weave these assumptions in the book in a subconscious manner, they rather punched me in the face. Think much better written Elsie Dinsmore.

    I could not enjoy the story for the style.

    *More on this topic in future.

  • Reading

    Othello Mini-Review

    Again, a required read for class. My professor pointed out that Iago was the most interesting and developed character and this notification and the fact that we watched clips of the film version in which Kenneth Branagh plays Iago, caused me to really think that he alone was a interesting character. Okay not quite, Cassio caught my interest and someone very interesting played him in his younger days; I hope there is a video recording available somehow. Cassio at first appears a good character, but I think that he was rake. (What was the whole point of the mistress scene? He is immoral and cruel). Othello and Desdemona are flat and boring (as the professor taught us to see), and Iago, Cassio, and even Desdemona’s thwarted suitor and father seem to have more interest. Of course what I saw of the movie aided/formed those impressions.

    Rather heavy sexual crudity.

  • Reading

    Mary Barton Review

    I tried to read this novel years ago and ended up just skimming it. I read it for my British history class, and our professor said that this was Gaskell’s first novel. That might help explain why I found it harder to enjoy than her other “great” novels. I did like it better this time around though. I think the first time I thought Mary was going to capitulate if Harry Carson had not been killed.

    Mary was an irritating little snob . . . and the way she treated poor Jim! She was a fool in the beginning, but she ended up being quite heroic (which is annoying because this was painted on rather heavily). Jim still deserved soooo much better though.

    The action and plot were interesting, more so than the characters who were rather flat and stock. The description of the charaters and overall tone made the book seem rather sanctimonious in tone (which the author intended as my professor indicated, in a more positive way, remember this was a HISTORY class; we have to have preaching about social issues). I think that when novels (and movies) are action focused to the point of style and characterization degradation, the quality is quite low. Also, please show rather than preach.

    The whole factory/mill master and workers situation seems to intrigue me in novels. My professor stated (after I brought up the better, in my opinion, North and South) that Gaskell received quite a bit of criticism for Mary Barton and probably toned down North and South for that reason  . . . because of course any balance and positive light to the upper and/or master classes is wrong!  In North and South the story displays so many sides of the question and the author’s bias is less obvious (or, if possible nonexistent) which makes the story so very fascinating.

    I say do not preach because no one ever seems to preach truth in novels.

  • Reading

    Carry On Jeeves Mini-Review

    This book is the best of the Jeeves and Wooster books so far. I thought this mixed the best of both worlds. Bertie was more human and Jeeves more Jeeves (although I missed some of the descriptiveness of the first book). The stories had more variety in type. I skipped a few stories because they were the same as some in My Man Jeeves except in this one Wodehouse changed the names to Jeeves and Wooster where applicable.

    The last story . . . I could die. And it is written in Jeeves’s perspective. He was quite calculating and cruel. I need to see these shows.

    I only listed the first three Jeeves and Wooster novels for which I am thankful because although I will continue to read them, I do not find them deep enough to review easily.

  • Reading

    The Inimitable Jeeves Mini-Review

    Jeeves remained in the background in this book, and this book contained fewer hilarious descriptions of him which I found disappointing. A few of the stories focused on Bertie exclusively, but they mostly seemed to revolve around his friend Bingo Little who constantly dragged Bertie into his scrapes. Bertie seemed more of a person than a caricature in this book which I appreciated. I did not find this book uproariously funny, but I did enjoy it.

    Oh, and you will meet the ancestors of the best twins, Gred and Forge of course, in the world.