• Reading

    King Lear Mini-Review

    I read this for my Shakespeare class. This is one of my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays; one of the worst Shakespeare plays, I think. I “had” to read it for a class and dissect it,  and that certainly did not invite me to enjoy the play, but I still do not think I would have enjoyed it much anyway.

    I felt like this play had so many characters, but I am not sure that it contained any more than other plays, but the impression probably came from the fact that no characters really stood far and above any others in development and importance. The play has one and only one truly likable character and that is, Edgar, the legitimate son of Gloucester, and he does not dominate any more than does anyone else. Any other tolerable characters rarely appear.

    The play is mainly coarseness, vileness, and death, and Lear, the one wronged, is an egotistical old fool, so it is rather difficult to feel sorry for him. Shakespeare set this play in pre-Christian Britain, and the play is more brutal, senseless, and hopeless (which was a point in our class, and I think something of the point for our last essay) than Shakespeare’s other plays. Edgar  and some good and “better” characters survive amid the wreck and ruin, but I did not really know those characters; they just existed. The play is rather blah overall.

    Sexual crudity included of course.

  • Reading

    Clouds of Witness Review

    Ah, yet again I could have published somewhat closer to when I read this novel, but as you can see from past published reviews I am working on this.

    Well, I do like variety. This mystery was quite different from the first one. The story felt more human and personal . . . as it certainly had to be for Lord Peter, and later Parker, given the nature of the story. I feel like the first novel is the formal introduction while the second novel pitches you headlong into friendship with Lord Peter. I like that mimicry of life in style, but I think that the acquaintance should have been slower especially since it is British.

    Anyway, the mystery was greater in this novel than the mystery in the first. And the explanation less intellectually satisfying to the same degree. Instead of the “how” as in the first book, the focus is on the “who,” “why,” and etc. More the traditional mystery story approach.

    I strongly dislike the false honor and delicacy stance (as ascertained from literature, oh what trustworthy source, this is the traditional British honor code). The duke committed adultery and it is not honor to hide the other person, it is deceit. (He who covers his sin will not prosper . . . Proverbs 28:13). If he really wanted to protect her honor, he would not have had the affair in the first place. Duh. This ugly immorality and false morality darkened the whole story, and the final scene of drunkenness which could have been humorous (cringe-worthy humor to some, but still humor) merely dragged everything down more with that behavior and flippancy.

    I realize drunkenness is a sin, but I do not consider it harmful here and although in real life it is disgusting at best and murder at worse, it is rather funny in fiction. Judge me, and do not laugh at Otis :/

    P.S. Despite the sanctimonious tone of my review, I did enjoy the novel. Um, it is Lord Peter we are talking about people!

  • Reading

    Adam Bede Mini-Review

    I came to this novel in almost perfect ignorance of the story. I highly recommend this method. I learned a little from the chapter titles (I love chapter titles although these could have been improved in the creative aspect) and through fill-in-the-sequence logic, but I still found myself totally unprepared for certain events and aspects.

    This is the author’s first published novel and although sometimes sections of the story seem “artificial” or disjointed, the incongruity is slight and probably heightened by my sensitivity about said sections. I think the story read well despite these wrinkles.

    Be careful with this. There is ill-placed/sorted blame, excusing, and dehumanizing elements. Great sin is lessened. The topic has been taken further today, and this story in the hands of a modernist or post-modernist would be depraved, and the conduct misconstrued (lessened) further.

  • Reading

    Whose Body Review

    Despite writing notes during/soon after reading Whose Body and typing them up weeks ago, I am just now editing and publishing them. I need to publish current reviews and procrastinated reviews (if that is not an adjective yet it should be) at the same time. I will improve, I will, I will! (Said like “I do believe in fairies!” of course!)

    Lord Peter is the Sir Percy of mysteries and Bunter is his Jeeves. I am guessing Lord Peter was in WWI with Parker (who is more of the Sherlock Lestrade than the original Lestrade is; Sugg is like or worse than the original Lestrade), whom Lord Peter calls by his first name after his (Lord Peter’s) relapse, thus revealing that they are good friends and not just friendly business associates (I love that artistic detail and what it reveals). What a spoiled boy Lord Peter is (kind of like Shawn in Psych).

    I suspected Freke but still found the story interesting. I do not like that Lord Peter gave Freke the chance to kill himself. (This is the most sickening murder imaginable and you warn the criminal, because of your own ego? “I found you out.”? “He is a great man so warn him”? “I feel bad so warn him”? And all of Lord Peter’s qualms about suspecting Milligan . . . rules rather than morals, I suppose). I am in love with Lord Peter although this received quite a chill thanks to the above. This was such a cold-blooded, long premeditated murder. And the confession plus details (dissection especially) made it quite freaky.

    The switch to 2nd person was intriguing, especially because of the depth and different outlooks these switches added:
            ~The poor young man and his blunders; most authors do not allow inferior people feelings or such a sense of their own blunders.
            ~Lord Peter and the freaky scene, reverting back to WWI, AWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The name switch is in this scene too which intensifies the sense of Lord Peter’s fear.

    The mystery is not outrageously convoluted and unbelievable. The method and  manner of the crime are what provided the shock to the senses. The absolute callous depravity of the sociopathic and psychopathic murdererhe intended to have his “work” published (!). Unlike a Christie novel, the characters in this novel are developed, each is a person and not primarily a tool in a mystery plot.

    I hope there is more mystery (I have since discovered that there is) in other novels of the series, but I think that constant drama (especially of the overwrought Christie variety) is too much, and I find it refreshing that a more realistic murder story can be presented. This story rested more on finding evidence and learning how the murderer committed the crime than on finding the murderer.

  • Reading

    The Absentee Review

    As you can surmise from the title, some of the content of this novel dwells on the problem of absenteeism of Irish landlords (in the 18th and 19th centuries). The young hero, Columbre, discovers the worth of his native land and sees firsthand some of the issues caused by his father’s absence. His mother wastes money trying to outstrip her London acquaintances in glamour, and so she stands in the way of the careful stewardship of the family’s Irish estates. For money and vanity she also stands in the way of her son’s love match.

    Circumstantial salvation saves the day (erg). While in Ireland Columbre almost falls prey to a scheming mother and daughter, despite being warned by an older person, and he only escapes after overhearing the schemers (the worst of this circumstantial salvation). His match prospers (I do not think he falls in love until well into the novel, and after the Irish trip) because the lady his mother intends him to marry discovers the love match and is too dignified and generous to disrupt it (I think she too marries for love eventually; I like when every decent character finds love and am disappointed when it does not occur). And I think Columbre’s mother is convinced to move back to Ireland only after realizing how low her London acquaintances think of her. I do not know, but I do not think that she should have been allowed to waste money and force a marriage just because she is the mother (I do not think the father exerted much will-power although I think he was alive).

    I am sorry for another scrambled review from a book I read quite a while ago.

  • Reading

    Hard Times Review

    This novel caught my interest faster than the other Dickens’ novels that I have read. A brief glance at either the preface or introduction indicated that this novel is about a quarter the size of some of his other works which explains the lack of filler and tedious drag of plot and/or over-filled plot. I wonder if this work is short because not written as a serial? Anyway, for a Dickens’ read to to start so smoothly and proceed so quickly I found quite refreshing. 

     A note of caution. Readers easily absorb the outlooks of an author especially when the author does not consciously state his world-view but rather displays his concepts of morality in the tone, action, and outcome of the story. I do not agree with Dickensian reasoning and morality always, especially in regards to the personal responsibility question which is an issue in this novel. The major issue in this novel for me regarded Louisa. Louisa was to blame for what she was and what she did. People are not merely acted upon by others; they also make choices, and Mr. Gradgrind neither could control Louisa’s thoughts nor did he force her marry Mr. Bounderby; he did not really attempt to even strongly persuade really.

    I found the mini-plot stories and the characters quite interesting (I apparently have a thing for mills and factory towns and master/worker strugglesNorth and South, Shirley, Mary Barton . . . ). I greatly appreciated the redemption of Louisa; she, unlike so many in her position, literally followed the Biblical principle to “flee sexual immorality.” I also appreciated the belated repentance of Tom (whom I liked better than Louisa; Tom had to bear all his responsibility and his father did not receive much or any blame, quite unlike the Louisa situation). I found the obnoxious absurdity of Mr. Bounderby and the ludicrously extreme nosiness of Mrs. Sparsit quite well-executed, but Dickens’ applied his humor, which is always rather grim, rather darkly in this novel. I found the mortifying of Mr. Harthouse quite satisfying. The story had no wholly good romance (certainly no happy one) and ended sadly (although less gloomily than much of the plot seemed to indicate), yet I still enjoyed it.

  • Reading

    The Story Girl Review

    Montgomery wrote with her usual luminous, magical style of simplicity and enchantment, weaving in nature’s beauty with an artist and poet’s skill. I love the charactersboth their uniqueness in themselves and their overall types. I love the freedom and silliness and jolliness and innocence of the children’s escapades. Their view of grownups and the grownups treatment/reaction to them. The little fights, trials, adorations/admirations, and skills. I love this sort of homespun story with sparkle. The world of these children is so different from ours.

  • Reading

    Review of Camilla

    Another review from a book read a while ago; I did have a rough draft from a time closer to the time I read book though, hence the length of this review.

    This is going to be rather rambling–reflecting the style of the book!

    What melodrama! In hindsight I thought this story even more shallow than I felt when reading it. Imagine melodramatic Elsie Dinsmore with that shallow understanding of virtues; “feeling” them or having proper motivations but lack of proper follow through (high class morality without giving up luxury so to speak). The  novel was moralistic and not Christian. The author wrote under the assumption (presumption) that everyone is born good or bad and cannot change (and all good people or the best people are blue-bloods, and some blue-bloods can only be mischievous not bad even when according to the Bible those people are quite wicked). I am sorry, but no one is fundamentally good, some just have more common grace, and anyone can change.

    Camilla acted very foolishly and for trifling reasons. She was never truly in a hard place (except where, through her folly, she deliberately placed herself)–only slightly uncomfortable. I did not like that she was such a favorite–that was as annoying as the constant harping on Isabella’s perfect beauty.

    Edgar was far too suspicious (as the end of the novel points out), but I could not feel that this was entirely wrong as Camilla was absolutely ridiculous. I know Edgar was a prig, but I liked him minus the suspicions. . . and pardon his predilection for Camilla.

    I wish Sir Sedley Claredel could have been rescued. I rather liked him, but of course no one is redeemable (how like our modern times, but for very different reasons).

    Why did Lionel get away with his sin and deception? People are fundamentally good and bad remember! Do note the sarcasm. His crime was adultery (I do not believe that word existed in the novel) which is not excusable by flightiness (even Camilla’s debts were not excusable, but they could have been softened by pleading flightiness; Lionel’s more serious sins could not). ADULTERY! Edgar and Camilla’s greatest sins were the encouragement (yes) and concealment of this offense. Edgar was too easy (inconsistent) in giving Lionel money. Lionel’s public shame was just what he deserved especially as he was unrepentant; he should have been exposed. Just because he was a Tyrold did not make it less despicable. Why was Camilla in disgrace with her parents when Lionel had greater debts and extortion about which her parents knew? Lionel was hardly reproved for his tricks as they called them. I gather that he was about 20 which is far too old for such ridiculous behavior. If Mr. Tyrold was such a virtuous a man, why did he tolerate even a hint of frivolity?! He had the Bible; I know there are many verses on laziness and at least one that says “he who does not work, shall not eat.”

    I did not like Mrs. Tyrold at all. She was too harsh and yet lax. Mothers stayed at home. She had three daughters–why could she not care for them better? That was all she had to do since they were wealthy enough for her not to have too much, if any housework!, The Tyrold situtation was similar to the March and Bennet families’s situation, they were not truly poor but rather poor for their social class. She should have guided their acquaintances rather than left them to Sir Hugh which was essentially (as she well knew) leaving them to themselves (lest you think that 17 is too old to be guided–look again at Camilla and girls today!). When they were older, she went to beg her brother to essentially reward her lazy, horrid son instead of staying at home where she belonged.

    Poor Lavinia, the only proper one and resigned to be the second choice (how Elsie Dinsmore-ish) of Henry Weston (the only sensibly named character).

    Eugenia’s misfortunes were quite extreme. I did rather like Melmond minus the ridiculous Isabella phase.

    This was most definitely my least favorite Burney novel. The novel was excessively silly and dangerous in its seeming promotion of good behavior but actual rejection of Christian behavior. Most of the characters were idle and frivolous, and the virtues were more the snobby social standards of the upper classes rather than actual sincere Biblical virtues. I know this is often the case in such period drama novels (even though we like to ignore this fact), but this novel was in my view especially dangerous and silly since there was folly and deception covering actual wrongdoing (Camilla covers for Lionel and conceals her debts) presented as if it was good.

  • Reading

    Jane Austen’s Juvenilia

    Over a year ago I read a collection of Jane Austen’s “Juvenilia” (I believe I read the Penguin book entitled The Juvenilia of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronteand in a separate book I read another of her  juvenile works: her facetious “History of England.” Unfortunately, the book did not contain the complete collection, but it did contain some (more selective) examples of Charlotte Brontë‘s juvenile writing which I found to be more interesting (although, a warning, much less morally sound).

    I thought volume I and II of the Austen collection ridiculous. I suppose that in this Austen poked fun at works of the Camilla type. She handled and administered her humor heavily. I do not care overmuch for that sort of ludicrous humor. I could already see for myself the extremes present in Camilla without reading of the extremes in the way Jane Austen mocked themparticularly in Love and Freindship in which the romantic persons were rebellious and thieving and wild.

    I liked volume III much better. The humor was more mild and the story more reasonable. This section reminded me of the drafts/unfinished works The Watson and Sandition although not as promising as either. The writer of the introduction to this collection of Austen’s “Juvenilia” likened this work to the early draft of Pride and Prejudice, “First Impressions.”

    I was not familiar enough with the real kings and queens of England (pure laziness as we have a decent history of the kings and queens of England which I should have perused yet again while reading this work) to appreciate her humor (although since I think her style in this work probably resembled volume I and II in the other collection, I might not have liked it in any case).

    Everyone points out the so-called misspelling of Austen here. I am not sure that the word actually was misspelled. I do not believe  the English language had standardized spelling, punctuation and capitalization until near/during the 19th century, and I doubt standardization took immediate effect. Even if people did consider it actually misspelled in Austen’s time period, do not you think it likely she did it as a joke?!

  • Reading

    Collective Sherlock Holmes Mini-Review

    I should have lumped all of the Sherlock Holmes stories into one section on my Classics Club list. I read them a year ago, and I should have wrote better (more general) notes. I loved the works collectively although the famous A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four did not top my favorite list. And The Hound of the Baskervilles hardly had Holmes in it! Of course neither did The Valley of Fear which I loved, but that had another absolutely brilliant detective instead of Watson as in The Hound of the Baskervilles. I am not a fan of Watson as he is so dull and so obviously nothing more than the biographer and foil of Holmes. I adore Holmes which may or may not be the result of Sherlock although that title character does not precisely match Holmes who is more of a full, well-rounded character and less um, harsh in the eccentricity and humaneness department, enough said. Anyway, I immediately embarked on a mystery reading craze and the quality of the mysteries deteriorated to Agatha Christie and then I left off reading mysteries. I have since started the Lord Peter Whimsy mysteries and thus improved my mystery reading quality after the Christie slump.

  • Reading

    The Father Brown Mysteries Review

    I read The Father Brown Omnibus after the Sherlock Holmes collection around a year ago, so again, this will be quite short as my notes are not very helpful.

    These mysteries show more of the principal players in and viewers of the mysteries than do Holmes’ stories. Chesterton portrayed the mysteries with a less scientific/logical point of view and with more humanity/sympathy/empathy. Because of this the stories include more moralizing and consideration of motives.

    Sherlock Holmes is scientific/logical; in his stories he almost always explains all of the mystery in its entirety, and the mysteries themselves are puzzles, enigmas. The Father Brown mysteries are more of true mystery with religion, romance, philosophy, touches of the supernatural, and they have lingering mystery in the end.

    Father Brown is annoying in his “helplessness” and “bewilderment” (i.e. it makes him seem falsely humble). I know that he is right regarding other people misinterpreting his simple words, but he has been enough around people to know the common interpretations (since some things are so common that they are assumed) and misinterpretations.

    I enjoyed these mysteries but less than the Sherlock Holmes. Father Brown is not as interesting and original (and brilliant and awesome) as Sherlock Holmes, and the quality of writing did not equal that of the Holmes novels.

  • Reading

    My Man Jeeves

    I was less than impressed when I tried a story from Carry on Jeeves for a long dead book club. I picked up My Man Jeeves a couple months ago, but I read it slowly and had not finished it before I had to return it to the library. I got it back and finished it . . . and wished I had ordered more. So I think I will like them more as I try more. I shamelessly dog-eared the library book, and lo and behold these dog-ears were still intact when I borrowed it again (it was a large print which might explain its, um, popularity). Here are some delicious descriptions of Jeeves which I enjoyed greatly:

    “Jeeves projected himself in from the dining room and materialized on the rug. Lady Malvern tried to freeze him with a look, but you can’t do that sort of thing to Jeeves. He is look-proof.” Page 47.

    “Jeeves shimmered in with the glass . . . ” Page 55.

    “Jeeves filtered in with the tea.” Page 59.

    “In this matter of shimmering into rooms the chappie is rummy to a degree . . . He moves from point to point with as little uproar as a jelly fish.” Page 64.

    “He trickled into my room . . . ” Page 66.

    “Jeeves was standing on the horizon, looking devilish brainy.” Page 73.

    “For the first time in our long connection I observed Jeeves almost smile. The corner of his mouth curved quite a quarter of an inch, and for a moment his eye ceased to look like a meditative fish’s.” Page 165.

    “I’d always thought of Jeeves as a natural phenomenon . . . ” Page 175.

    “Next morning Jeeves came round. It was all so home-like when he floated noiselessly into the room that I nearly broke down.” Page 179.

    “Then he streamed imperceptibly toward the door and flowed silently out.” Page 180.

    Other funnies:

    Bertie’s brilliant conversational skills : “Tea, tea, teawhat? what?” Oops, didn’t get the page.
    This made it as the first entry into my quote book. Brilliant, yes?!

    “…he had seen his aunt to whatever hamlet it was that she was the curse of . . . ” Page 188.

     Wodehouse, P.G. My Man Jeeves. Sanbornville, New Hampshire 2004 Large Print Book Company.

    Forgive my lazy quoting and citing.

    Much of the rest of the humor was the slap-in-the-face-“you must laugh” type which isn’t exactly my type of humor, but like I said, I think these books could grow on me.