BOOK REVIEW #8: WATCHMEN BY ALAN MOORE AND DAVE GIBBONS

We are stepping slightly further away from the usual fare here on A Tale of My Twenties.This is the first, and only, graphic novel on my list. Reasons later.

Rating: 

This was, unsurprisingly, very good. As stated in my previous book entry, I had seen the movie version of Watchmen years before I read the book. I was intrigued by the movie from the previews that had haunting music, stunning visuals, and dark overtones. I love depressing stories, they seem more real to me. I always wanted to read the graphic novel, but when I saw the movie I was too embarrassed to read a ‘comic book,’ since it would have been impossible to hide from my family and friends.

I’m glad I finally got around to reading the novel. I was extremely surprised at how similar the adaptation was to the novel. Having never read a graphic novel before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The Watchmen graphic novel looks like a storyboard for a movie, especially the chapters that have several scenes intercut with one another. Many of the framing and ‘shots’ of the graphic novel are used exactly the same in the film.

Since I knew the story already, I’ll keep my critique of it short. Watchmen reimagines a world very similar to our own, but with a few differences. The same historic events occur, but are interpreted and impact differently. This alternate timeline imagines a world where several select people in the 1940s begin to dress up in costumes and act as vigilante heroes. Basically, it shows comic book fantasies coming to real life in a historical context. This changes the world. Children of the future (the story itself is set in the 1980s…where Nixon is still president!) read pirate stories, not superhero comics. The greatest aberration in the timeline is the appearance in 1960 of Doctor Manhattan, the supernatural naked blue man who can seemingly do whatever he wishes including creating matter, moving objects, seeing the future, and walking on the surface of the sun. Created by an accident upon a scientist in a nuclear physics research center, Doctor Manhattan is treated by the world as a walking, talking nuclear bomb who serves to protect the United States against the Soviets. Everything changes. USA wins Vietnam. Doctor Manhattan becomes affiliated (somewhat) with a new group of ‘masked heroes’ who appear in the 1960s and are made illegal by the will of the trodden down police force.

My favorite stories are the ones with strong backstories. I believe that the mark of a well told story is that the events that are said to have occurred in the past of the story are interesting enough to garner their own story. Hopefully that sentence made sense. The above is all background, but it is tantalizingly interesting, however the story told by the Watchmen is of a world on the brink of disaster. The retired masked heroes are being attacked and killed. Doctor Manhattan is losing interest in the world. The Russians are becoming militarily aggressive. Is this the end of the world?

One of the greatest strengths of Watchmen is its ability to interweave so many different plot lines. There are too many to name off here (and maintain your interest), but they all fit together seamlessly by the end. The characters are all interesting, dark, and flawed. Many moments are bitterly sad, such as Sally Jupiter’s love for the Comedian, Rorshach’s death, and the death of the original Nite Owl especially stood out to me.

One thing I thought we better executed in the film (which could get me critics) was the ending. The creation of an alien monster using artists and scientists by Veidt struck me as bizarre. His plan to transport the being into New York and have it die almost instantly to draw sympathy from the world didn’t quite ring right to me. The movie has Veidt setting off bombs in several different cities across the world using materials that mimic Doctor Manhattan’s powers. I think this ending tied off more ends because one of the great themes of the story is the world’s relationship with and reaction to Doctor Manhattan. This ending had everyone’s worst fears realize, that Doctor Manhattan wasn’t actually on their side. It also nicely tied in Doctor Manhattan’s work for the government, which was never described much in the graphic novel.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the story and would love to read another graphic novel. I have heard this one claimed many times as the ‘greatest,’ so I’m not sure how possible that wish is!

Favorite Scene:

As I stated earlier, I love interesting back stories, so my favorite part was when Doctor Manhattan’s past was revealed. For so much of the story he is wrapped in mystery: who is he? Where did he come from? How does he think/feel? The reveal of his innermost thoughts and private story was eyeopening, and beautifully done in both the graphic novel and film.

Book #9: Dracula by Bram Stoker

I’ve decided to go on a vampire trek. First this, then Interview With The Vampire. This is another book that I was shockingly never forced to read in high school, I’m excited!

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BOOK REVIEW #7: JANE EYRE by CHARLOTTE BRONTë

jane eyreOh ho ho, it has been a while. I blame graduating college (congratulations are welcome). But don’t worry, I have kept reading! I am caught up to my twenty-second year and have two more books to add today. They may seem random, the only theme I can pull them together with is that I saw the ‘movie version’ before I read the ‘book version’ of both of these works.

Rating: 

My favorite movie is Psycho(1960). I have always loved horror movies, so this should not come as a surprise to anyone who really knows me. I realized Psycho was my favorite movie about halfway through the movie, before I had even finished it (and gotten to the twist ending!). Before this, I had always stated a number of movies as my ‘favorites,’ without ever really having one to pick. It was the same for books, I have always listed off several when someone asked me what is my favorite, knowing that I am a book lover. So I figured one day I would be reading a book and suddenly, halfway through, would realize it was my favorite. This finally happened with Jane Eyre. 

I have seen both the 2006 mini-series version and the 2011 film version, and I loved both. However, I always expected there was more to the story, more depth and feeling that I was missing by not reading the book. One day after watching the 2011 film version (with my number 1 celebrity crush, Michael Fassbender), I was inspired to finally pick the book up.

What truly won me over about Jane Eyre, was the titular character herself. Jane is intelligent, passionate, individualistic, moralistic, and solitary. I confess that I found myself connecting to Jane more than I have with any other fictional character. I too am extremely independent, not willing to let my passionate emotions overtake my sense of logical rationality. Jane wishes for more than her life has given her. She does not resent her family, her upbringing, or those around her who do not treat her with civility or kindness. Instead she strives to achieve, to become independent through good work she enjoys.

Through this search for independence, of course, comes along an epic romance. Mr. Rochester is the Byronic Hero to a fault. He is endlessly described as ugly, not handsome, but something about him is certainly attractive. His connection to Jane comes through their similarity of situation. They are both intelligent, feeling, and passionate creatures who have been forced to take the facade of a different stereotype. Rochester plays the brooding, almost wild gentleman while Jane plays the demure, silent governess. Their peculiarity sets them apart from others, and draws them to one another.

Of course all these things above have been said again and again about Jane Eyre. There is more to be said about what struck me individually about the novel. First, I enjoyed the first third of the book more than I expected. Most adaptations pass over Jane’s upbringing at Gateshead and her time at Lowood, as they seem to find her time with Rochester the most interesting and important. I confess I loved the parts at Lowood. I loved Helen Burns character. In the movies and tv series she is always shown to be kind and Christian, however her character is so much more interesting in the book. Helen follows her Christian ideals of forgiveness and salvation completely, she surrenders no feelings of ill will when things in her life do not go well.

I also loved the portion where Jane stays with the Rivers’ and gains true independence through her own employment. This also was never fully explored in adaptations. I was fascinated by the character St. John Rivers, with his devotion and strident belief in doing good work and never giving a moment to idleness. I thought his love for Rosamund Oliver was very interesting (though, again, never explored in adaptations), and was included to show his true character.

In the end, Jane gains her deux-ex-machina fortune, which enables her to be truly independent (though I could argue that she was already independent as a teacher in Morton) and is drawn supernaturally back to Rochester who is miraculously single. I love the ending. I love how she is not subservient or lesser than her husband. Indeed, in the end Jane is greater than Rochester. She has her own independent fortune and he must depend on her for sight and care.

Favorite Scene: 

Another difficult one, but I suppose the scene I am destined to read over and over is the proposal scene. What can I say, at my heart I am a true romantic. Even knowing that their marriage is not to be…yet….I love the proposal. The language used by Rochester and Jane is beautiful and peculiar. I love how she does not believe him at first and states that she doubts him entirely in his love. It is quirky and lovely.

Book # 8: Watchmen by Alan Moore

As I stated earlier, I have already finished this and have only to write the summary and thoughts! Apologies for never reading The Catcher in the Rye.

Book Review #6 — Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder_on_the_Orient_Express_First_Edition_Cover_1934So, although I promised to upload this on the same day I have inevitably failed you. It takes me a long time to put these posts together, and as I have been pretty low energy recently (cough mono cough) I decided to take a little break. Then work piled up and I moved back to school for my last year of college (yikes) so here we are now.

 

Rating

Oh snap. I feel that I must justify my lowest score to date. While I did greatly enjoy reading Murder on the Orient Express, there was a point early in the novel where I realized it just did not add up. I could not compare this to the other great pieces of literature that I have picked apart for the sake of this project. As a huge fan of Agatha Christie, most especially of her Marple books and And Then There Were None, I had high expectations for Murder on the Orient Express. Like Christie’s other work, it was engrossing and fun, but it just did not have the same literary value as And Then There Were None. To prove this to myself, after finishing this novel I immediately picked up And Then There Were None and devoured it. The characters were more complex, the story more believable (if fantastical), and the pacing quicker.

The premise of the novel immediately intrigued me. A group of seeming strangers trapped on a train when a murder occurs. A small cast of just twelve where one must be the murderer. Somehow, although all of the pieces fit together, they did not set off sparks in the way I imagined they would.

I mainly put this down to the pacing and the main character. Hercule Poirot, while undoubtedly popular, is just not a very interesting narrator. He comes off a little full of himself, a trait which I do not enjoy. His interactions with Monsieur Bouc always came off as him purposefully confusing the other in order to make himself look more intelligent by comparison. An ongoing dialogue of “Ah, how could you never see that? It is obvious!”

The murder itself is presented wonderfully. I love murder mysteries and I always enjoy the examination of the crime scene and the medical exam of the body. These cold facts offer data, which I enjoy observing and analyzing. However, in this story the data only proves contradictory and illogical. It is in the emotional and personal reading of the characters on the train from which Poirot solves the case. I must say I thought the Daisy Armstrong story, while sad and obviously based off the Lindbergh baby, was too horrific. It made Ratchet completely unsympathetic and one dimensional.

One thing the story does do well is show the rippling effects of a tragedy. The death of Daisy Armstrong and of those closest to her brings together an odd assortment of people filled with grief and rage strong enough to stab a man twelve times successively.

The conclusion is neat, and I must say that I did not see it coming at all and enjoyed it thoroughly. I was surprised by the decision of Monsieur Bouc, Dr. Constantine, and Poirot himself to not punish the murderers. Typically, Christie’s crime solvers are adamant keepers of justice, unwilling to sweep murder under the rug. However, it just seems an easier ending if all twelve train passengers are not to be sent to court and most likely hanged.

Favorite Scene:

I have already hinted at this, but I just loved the initial forensic reading of the body and crime scene. The analysis of the stab wounds and the pieces of uniforms and other hints sent me in a tizzy of excited curiosity. I generally do not seriously attempt to solve the crimes before the main character solves them, I believe it is more fun to be confused and greatly admire when an author can really keep the reader guessing. At this point in the novel I was just so excited at how these irregularities of the crime scene would be resolved.

Book #7: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Another classic high school read that I managed to slip past. I have heard that this novel is more enjoyable as a teenager, where you can connect with Holden’s whininess more, but oh well. I will probably find him incredibly annoying, but I will try not to let this cloud my judgement of the book. I already know a decent amount about this book, that the main character is a teenager, that he hires a prostitute, something about a red fox hat, so I’m excited for all the pieces to come together!

 

Onward!

Book Review #5 — Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

wuthering heights….what? So I’ve come here to tell you that while it may seem that I have woefully abandoned this blog I indeed have not! While I stated in my last post that I would read Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie next, fate intervened. I have read that book, but not as my fifth. For one of my classes (The History of Literature 1600-present) I was required to read Wuthering Heights. It just so happens I had to read many classic novels and plays for this class such as Faust by Goethe and many short stories by Kafka, but only one overlapped with my list here. In the interest of portraying my tale accurately I will write these posts in order even if it may be slightly confusing.

 

Rating: 

 

Ooh she liked this one. It is true that I do love classic romances, and Wuthering Heights is nothing if not a classic romance. My first real encounter with this novel comes through a shameful course, that is to say through the numerous allusions found in the ‘novel’ Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. After reading Bronte’s work, I finally understand what on earth Bella is talking about. Turns out the romance that she idealizes in this book is as twisted and almost repulsive as Bella and Edward’s.

In my class we spent time not only learning about the history of literature and the era of the epic, novel, Romance, and onward but also had discussions allowing for close reading and analysis of the works we studied. In the discussion for Wuthering Heights my TA began by asking us if we liked the book. One of my classmates responded, “I liked the book but I hated all of the characters.” I found that this is a very accurate way to describe the novel. I didn’t like and almost despised all of the characters (except Catherine Linton and Edgar Linton). I viewed Heathcliff and Catherine’s love as destructive and bothersome, not allowing anyone in its vicinity to be happy. I find myself wondering if Heathcliff did not love Catherine, in fact if she were not a part of the household, would he attempt so earnestly to gain control of all that Hindley owned.

One of the most interesting aspects of Wuthering Heights is its narrative structure. There is very little action that is not mediated at least twice before it reaches the reader, through both the story telling of Nelly Dean and the listening and recording by Lockwood. It seems that all the action of the novel is too explosive and toxic for the reader to be exposed to directly, and thus it must be handled carefully through several safety layers. Indeed a book narrated by one of the main characters would be too biased to account for all of the action. Catherine would be too emotional and irrational in her feelings for Heathcliff. Isabella would be too dull, sighing from the outside wishing to be included. Heathcliff would probably be the most interesting, full of spite and disregard for others. At least the mystery of where he obtained his fortune would be solved.

Wuthering Heights is interesting and unique in that it is unclear who the reader is supposed to sympathize with. Clearly Heathcliff and Catherine’s romance is the central one, but it is difficult to believe that we are supposed to connect with their emotions or even root for them, so to speak. I found myself wishing for Catherine and Edgar to live happily away from Heathcliff, knowing that any intervention by him would be catastrophic. Maybe this shows my personal character, I am not a believed in epic romance that consumes one completely and makes one blind to all else. I prefer the quiet love of admiration and respect that Edgar finds for Catherine, though it is unclear if she deserves it. But alas, Catherine cannot be happy apart from Heathcliff to her own destruction.

I also wonder at the choice of the narrative timeline. Another author might end the novel shortly after Catherine dies, to emphasize her importance to the story. The tragic heroine dies from loving too much and no one learns much. However, Emily Bronte chose to write of the consequences of the actions taken during the typical love-triangle filled main storyline. Catherine Linton is allowed to grow up happily with her father as Hareton lives under his admired Heathcliff’s tyranny and neglect. I must say that of all the characters the one I really despise the most is Linton Heathcliff. One of my least favorite character traits is entitlement, and Linton is nothing if not an entitled, spoiled brat. In his own way, Linton is as poisonous as his father, no one can be at peace until they are gone from the world. In the end, the only survivors of the explosive love of Catherine and Heathcliff are her daughter Catherine and nephew Hareton whose quiet love is able to survive and lead to somewhat of a happily ever after at the end of the novel.

Favorite Scene:

This is a tough one, because it has been a while since I’ve read the book. But thinking back, the one part that stands out the most is Catherine’s death. Particularly the meeting between Heathcliff and Catherine just before her death. The dialogue between the two of them here exemplifies their love. They are both themselves and one another, their love is not tender but painful. Catherine wishes for Heathcliff’s suffering to be as great as her own. In the end, she cannot live with her choices as they have expended all of her strength and she dies after giving birth to little Catherine.

Book #6: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I have already betrayed that I have finished this novel, and so will not give another preview but will try to quickly write the next entry!

Book Review #4 — Mansfield Park by Jane AustenImage

Okay guys, got my goal done in time! Yay, confetti, fireworks, Nobel Peace Prize. This is a big deal guys! I came up with a project for me to do, and I completed the first leg of it, which is always the hardest. Okay, enough of me tooting my own horn, I know how annoying that is, to the book review!

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Mansfield Park is an overall enjoyable book about intrigue and romance during the Regency Period in England. Even though I am a huge Jane Austen fan, I’ve always avoided this book because of the little that I knew about it. The heroine was shy and awkward. She marries her cousin. Granted, I liked the novel better than expected, but I still don’t think it holds up next to the other books I’ve read for this blog or to the other Jane Austen novels. Why?

Fanny Price is a lovely, sweet, morally righteous, shy young woman. She’s always in the right opinion, no matter what, even if others do not usually recognize this. She’s looked over, forgotten, and generally derided by most of her company. The exception from this, of course, is her cousin Edmund. Edmund is always there for her, notices her, and shares correct opinions about events and people.

What I like about Fanny is that she’s out of place. Her mother married imprudently, so Fanny and her siblings grew up in relative poverty until her rich uncle Sir Thomas and her Aunt Norris took her away to grow up in the fabulous Mansfield Park, the residence of the Bertrams. Fanny does not fit in in this world at first, she is quiet and shy where everyone wants her to be lively and witty.

I do not like characters like Fanny, ones that the author obviously adores. Fanny does nothing wrong, incorrect, rude, or even mean spirited throughout the entire novel. She is loveliness personified, and it is everyone else’s fault for not noticing her, not her own. She is also boring, insipid, and barely speaks. Not that this makes her a horrible person, it just makes her a kind of boring heroine, especially when compared to Emma Woodhouse, Lizzie Bennett, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Anne Elliot, and even Catherine Morland. Mary Crawford is more like a Jane Austen heroine, a comment I’m sure others have made. She is witty and fun, and does not have entirely correct opinions. But somehow in this novel she is cast as the villain, alas!

Mansfield Park is an interesting Jane Austen novel, in that it’s even more scandalous than the others. Other Jane Austen novels including eloping, men and women living together when unmarried, and children out of wedlock. In Mansfield Park a woman who is married runs away with a man who is not her husband, lives with him in sin, divorces her husband, then leaves the country in shame. What drama!

In my mind, Fanny caused all of this drama. When Henry fell in love with her and began pursuing her, she was unable to give up her preconceived notions about him based on his actions towards Maria. While this is understandable, the way she treated him pretty much drove him towards what he did with Maria. Not going to lie, I was kind of rooting for Fanny and Henry while knowing she would end up with Edmund. Henry was so much more interesting! A former rake and unrooted gentleman falling for a lovely, principled young woman! The story of him reforming in his love for her and the potential for her to better him and fall in love with him as well in marriage would have been compelling, instead we are taught that our preconceived notions about people are right and we should never give anyone chances. Marry your cousin, he’s always been nice to you and there are literally no other young men that you know!

My favorite character was probably Sir Thomas, which is probably an odd choice. At first, he is the intimidating uncle and step father figure who is always strict with his children and inspired fear in all. After visiting Antigua (and apparently owning slaves, was I the only one who did not pick up on that subtext?) he comes back to Mansfield Park a man more inclined to love his family. He opens his arms to Fanny, who he finds out he gets along with well and holds many similar opinions. The development of Sir Thomas and Fanny’s relationship is one of my favorites in the book. I love how Sir Thomas is portrayed as a multi faceted character, not just an intimidating uncle as he is shown in the beginning. As the novel goes on, he realizes that Fanny is a superior creature and he supports her marriage to Edmund, despite being against the idea when Fanny comes to live with them.

Another character I have to mention is Mrs. Norris. Goodness what a deplorable but realistic character. She seems obsessed with the idea of running Mansfield Park and being close to Sir Thomas, you’d think she’d want to switch places with her sister Lady Bertram. Her devotion to Maria and Julia and neglect of Fanny ends up the ruin of the former and the making of the latter.

Despite all appearances, I actually did enjoy this book. It is well written with the wit and fun of any Jane Austen novel. But as I am such a fan of her other work, I can’t help but compare this unfavorably to her other novels.

Favorite Scene: This scene isn’t the most interesting, but it just warmed my heart. I loved it when Sir Thomas returned from Antigua, and Fanny hung back so he could be with his nuclear family. Then he called out for her, calling her “dear” and “sweet,” and gave her a hug. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship indeed. Then everything spun out of control when he found out about the acting, but it was a lovely return before that.

Book # 5: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I can now take things at a relatively slow pace. I’m still studying abroad, so it might take me a while to finish this book, or I might not even start it until I get back! But four books in a year is a leisurely pace (rest assured, I also read other books).

I’m actually really excited for this one, I love Agatha Christie and murder mysteries! It should be a good change of pace from the dreary Mansfield ParkI know very little about it, other than it’s a murder mystery, has to do with a train, and is a supposedly fun read!

Onward!

Book Review #3 — Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Got it done in under a month guys! Success! Image

Actually it only took me two days to “read” this (we’ll get to the quotation marks later). Recently I’ve become sort of obsessed with Gone With the Wind, so I devoted a lot of the past month to reading about the story, reading the story, watching the movie etc. I have a very obsessive nerdy personality where once I get into something I need to know everything about it. However, this past weekend I visited my friend at Penn State (aha, a clue! as to where I go to school that is…meaning not Penn State) and on the drive there…I sort of cheated. Meaning I listened to the book on tape, read aloud by the author. I did go back and read over key passages, but I still feel like I cheated a little when it comes to this book. Nonetheless, I did read or have read to me every word in the book and therefore have ingested its contents.

 

Rating: 

Five stars! Two thumbs up! Guys, this book is really good!

I have often scoffed at the labeling of certain works of literature and poetry as ‘classics.’ I usually find this to be very subjective and meaningless, such as with The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Terrible novel. However, Lord of the Flies has often been touted to me as one of the great pieces of literature of the 20th century. It was on many recommended reading lists during high school, but I always passed over it. Boys stranded on an island? The idea was mesmerizing to me, but I didn’t want to read someone else write about it.

Boy, I was wrong. Something extra that I got out of listening to the book on tape was the introduction and comments at the end by William Golding. In the introduction, he explained why he wrote about a group of boys only and why he didn’t write about girls only, or boys and girls, or with any grownups. He believed that for some reason young boys stranded together would represent a microcosm of society. I bring this up, because I heard it before the story. Now, after listening to and reading the story, it’s a fascinating concept to reflect upon. 

The boys are all well fleshed out characters, but somehow at the same type they represents archetypes of man. The littluns represent the masses, who rally together during assemblies but are difficult to control otherwise. They never seem to completely grasp the concept that the fire is the only way that they are going to be rescued, just like people tend to get all up in arms about certain conflicts in the heat of the moment, then forget about them and do nothing afterwards. Everyone does it, myself included.

Ralph’s position, for me, is the most understandable. He was the natural born leader, the charismatic boy. Ralph was well-meaning most of the time, trying to get everyone rescued and keep the island in order, but he often slipped up. He was too concerned with popularity. His other main flaw was simply his youth. He did not yet understand the machinations of man, did not yet have the cynicism that the rest of us possess to understand why people would not do what he wanted.

Jack and Roger represent the core values of humans. We are ruthless and violent and power hungry. They are given the opportunity to strip away the rules of society, and do so willingly to become savage, violent beings. People always complain about how violent television and video games are now, which I always find hilarious. People find entertainment in violence, they always have. Just look to the Roman gladiators, fascination with serial killers, and public hangings that people went to for entertainment. Violence is a part of being a human. Our faculties are such that we can process and understand violence so as to choose not to participate in it, but it is a part of us nonetheless.

Sorry, mini-rant there. This book is great, it opens up so many discussions!

The last character I want to talk about is Piggy. What would a discussion of Lord of the Flies be without an analysis of Piggy? As I began the novel, I realized that I had heard about Piggy before, in my mass pop culture internet experience. I knew he would fall and die. I like Piggy as a character, because he always made me think about politics. Well intentioned charismatic people like Ralph become leaders, but need smarter people like Piggy to help them figure out what they want to say and do. If Piggy had been more charismatic, he could have led the boys to a harmonious rule, possibly. 

I assume that this book has been challenged many times by over protective parents of students. It is incredibly violent (but as I stated earlier, this is part of the human condition people, can’t protect your little angels from it forever). There are many horrific images contained within the book: the decapitated pigs head on a pike, the brutal murder of Simon (makes me sad thinking about it, I loved Simon), Roger stabbing the pig up the anus, and my favorite “a stick sharpened at both ends.” That line is possibly my favorite from the book, because it is so chilling. Ralph never reveals if he truly knows what this means, but he dwells on it. We the readers know what it means, but don’t really want Ralph to say or think what it really is. I won’t write it here, because it’s such a powerful narrative tool to not reveal the entirety of the meaning.

Lord of the Flies is a terrific book that I am sorry to not have read before. It encapsulates the line “that escalated quickly” perfectly. It is an extremely frustrating, humbling, terrifying read that I did not want to end (except that I did want Ralph to be safe). William Golding ended his narration by talking about the two ideas he had in his head before he started writing the novel. The first was a boy who was so pleased to find himself stranded on an actual desert island with no grownups he stood on his head. The second was when the boy realized what people truly are like at the end of this journey and was devastated. In its core, Lord of the Flies is a story about the loss of innocence. These boys, even the six year olds, are hardened by their experience at the end of the novel. They have seen the core of man and can never go back to their fanciful days of play before. At least not without a grain of salt.

Favorite Scene: This one was tough. I think my favorite scene was one of the major turning points. It was when Ralph, Piggy, Simon and a few others see a ship and run up to the fire, only to find it’s gone out. Jack took away the boys who were supposed to keep the fire going, and took everyone else to kill a pig, finally. This is the scene where it really broke for me. Ralph finally realized that Jack wasn’t on his side and that Piggy was. Jack’s savagery and obsession with meat and killing drove him outside of proper sense to let the fire go out. During this scene, I kept shouting, “Who cares about meat! You don’t need it, you have food already! How is meat more important than being rescued!” Needless to say, any book that gets me this emotional is pretty powerful.

Book #4: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

As I have stated previously, I am a huge Jane Austen fan. This is the only novel of hers that I have not read, so obviously I had to put it on the list. I am also going to London soon (for all you stalkers), so I wanted to pick a very British novel. This is going to be my last book for the year (meaning until my birthday in November). After this, my book reading is going to be less frenetic, because I am giving myself a year to read four books. 

I know quite a bit about this book. The main character is Fanny Price, something about falling in love with her cousin Edmund. There’s some mean girl who’s name I know but not off the top of my head. Fanny is a semi-controversial heroine in the Jane Austen world, I don’t know completely why but I think she’s not as strong minded as the others and is a bit of an idiot. So I’ve stayed away so far, but not any longer. To Mansfield Park I go!

Book Review #2 — Little Women by Louisa May AlcottImage

 

Looking back at my last post, I realize that I have taken two months to read this book. At first, this made me feel like a total slacker and incompetent fool who made a blog and then barely gave it a thought afterward. However, in my mission statement for this blog I said that I would read four books a year, so in a normal  year that would give me three months per book (roughly), so two months is nothing compared to the long haul my dear readers are in for!

Anyway, I finally finished Little Women! I’d say it took me so long because summer got very hectic. I started working six days a week and only really had time to read when I went to the pool (which was infrequently). Yesterday, I just sucked it up and read over 100 pages just so I could finish the book before September. I finished the book, and here is the review. Drum roll. Whatever.

Rating: ★★★★

Same rating as last time!

Little Women ended up being everything I thought it was going to be, and a little more. I expected seeing the lives of women during the Civil War, I expected to see romance and heartbreak, I expected death and tragedy. What I didn’t expect was the strong moral aspect of the novel. This can be seen in roughly every chapter, as each one has a story to tell about one or more of the sisters and how they learned a lesson from experience or from the people around them.

Another thing I didn’t expect was Jo. I’ve read a little more about the novel, and found that Jo is usually named the heroine of the story, even though it does a good job of keeping the narration evenly spread through the four sisters. Jo was more modern, more mannish, and more unforgivingly herself that I expected. What I mean is that she is constantly pressured to be more womanly and she usually just goes about being fairly unwomanly. She matures very well throughout the story, but remains very much herself. For example, in the second to last chapter she and Bhaer finally share their feelings for one another and she is described as being messy, covered in dirt, not acting coy in the slightest and not caring about any of it. She does learn a lot about manners, holding her temper, and acting kind to others, but she never gives up her love of sport and of writing.

I could write a whole post about Jo’s love for writing. I love how she is able to be successful and that her stories, from the scandalous to the moral, are able to find resonance in their readers. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Jo is in New York and writes extremely shocking stories and is censured by Bhaer. I don’t know why I enjoy that part so much, but it just strikes me as funny.

Something else I have to comment on is the split between the first and second half of the novel. The first half is a masterpiece of itself, I probably would have given that five stars. It introduces us to the four sisters and makes us so familiar with them that they seem like real people. I adored reading about Meg and Jo’s relationship and position as the two eldest daughters. I loved the gradual inclusion of the Laurence family into the March’s household.

Of the four sisters, Jo is obviously my favorite, but I think that Meg is my second favorite. I was very upset that she was given very few story lines in the second half of the novel, except to be a conduit for lessons on how to be a good mother and wife. Although, I did love her romance and marriage to Mr. Brooke. I worried that she would marry someone unsuitable like Ned Moffat, but was pleasantly surprised by her character when she fell in love with Brooke.

Beth is bound to be loved by anyone who reads about her. She is a lovely character, but probably the least believable out of the four. Her illness and death brings a sense of realism to the story, as it is set in such a tragic time period. Her actual death was one of very few spoilers I knew about before I read the novel, because of an episode of Friends. So I didn’t really feel the impact of her death (though I am notoriously cold hearted and do not often cry or feel unnecessarily upset at character trauma). The only part I felt hopelessly sad was at the very end of the novel, in the last chapter. The entire family has found their own forms of happiness, and everyone has gathered together. At the end, Mrs. March talks to her three remaining daughters about how happy they all are and how happy that makes her. I felt so desperately sad that all the sisters had found this happiness, but Beth had died prematurely and never really been able to experience life.

Amy was probably my least favorite sister, because she was so annoying and exactly the type of girl that I don’t like in the first half. In the second half she matured very nicely and ended up being a lovely person. I was afraid that she would grow very vain and self-important, but she kept on being her mother’s daughter and never let herself sink too far into the muck of high society. Another reason I didn’t particularly like Amy is because she married Laurie.

I fell head over heels in love with Laurie when he was first introduced at the dance that Jo and Meg went to. That chapter is probably one of my favorites. Meg is described as being very beautiful and proper, so I was afraid any introduction to the Laurence boy would end up in him falling for her. I loved that he was so attentive to Jo and they became best friends very quickly. The moment I fell in love with him was when him and Jo danced in the hall, so that she wouldn’t be embarrassed by her burnt dress but still could dance. Naturally, I was very unhappy when Jo rejected his love and he ran off to Amy. I do like the inclusion of Bhaer, and very much think he is suited to Jo, however in my heart I always wanted Jo and Laurie to be together.

A final character that I wish to speak about is Mrs. March. Throughout the book, she is placed as the voice of reason and comfort to all of the girls. She is portrayed as an almost perfect mother, who shares love and special advice with all of the girls. She is highly moralistic, a little preachy, but generally lovely and adored by all. I think of all the characters she is probably the most one dimensional, but I couldn’t help but love her as she is the quintessential mother.

Overall, Little Women was a delightful book that provided a thorough snapshot of an interesting time period. It’s portrayal of women was realistic yet slightly feminist in the inclusion of Jo and her career aspirations. The characters are ones that will stay in my heart, especially Jo, Meg, Laurie, Mr. Laurence, and Mrs. March.

Favorite Scene: As I mentioned before, my favorite scene was when Laurie and Jo met at the dance and talked privately before dancing in the hall where no one could see them. It was very sweet and romantic, and buried false hope in my heart, but I loved it anyway!

Book #3: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I have picked this book because I own it. I was never forced to read it in high school or any class, although I had the option to read it twice (on group reading projects, I just never chose to read it). Obviously I know a little about it just from school book reports that others have given. Something about a shell. Something about a fat boy. Death. Chaos. I’m pretty sure it has to do with a group of schoolboys on an abandoned island and a struggle for power. This is one book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, because I always felt that I should.

So I shall.