Category Archives: The Classics

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Verne

Jules Verne 1870

(Note: 1 league = 3.45 miles)

If you wanted to write a book about all the cool places in the ocean, and if you were a scientist who had studied the classifications of many hundreds of species, you would write this book. What better frame: a professor, curious about everything, who gets invited on a fantastic-al submarine voyage, where he studies both the enigma of Nemo and the enigma of the seas. With creative yet impressive or too-convenient inventions, the furtive Captain Nemo takes Prof. Aronnax from wonder to wonder circling the globe–and then some.

Prepare yourself for awe. Verne wrote this I feel to talk about the splendid places below the waves that he could share his visions with the people of the 1850s. But I said to prepare yourself because the moments of awe are sometimes tucked in long paragraphs of descriptions of fish and fauna. Jules Verne loves himself a fish. He also loves a startling vista, which he offers many even fathoms under the ocean, and he loves a scene of human interest. Continue reading

The Time Machine

1957 cover art, courtesy of monikalel42 on flickr

H.G. Wells 1895

Thanks Wishbone for exposing a young mind to another great story, this, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

This book harbors more than just the era-typical beginnings of sci-fi and drawing-room stories, topics of communism, social stratification and Darwin-ism murmur in its pages.  Furthermore, the cover portrays the most striking part of the book, the end where The Time Traveller witnesses the eclipsing of a very red, cold sun.  The rest of the tale revolves around H.G. Wells’ speculations on the direction humanity was headed, namely towards a complete stratification into two separate species in 800,000 years.  The “Haves” or Eloi live  in beautiful comfort but also ignorance, the “Have-nots” or Morlocks live below ground in darkness and savagery.  The future the inventor emerged into is humanity in decay.

His book is interesting and imaginative, although at times he speaks like the fluttering of a moth, the character tiring and resolving and worrying constantly.  I liked very much his imagined mechanics of time travel, with days blurring in and out to grey.  The Epilogue holds a gem not really explored in the book but great at an ending thought as a friend of the traveler reflects on what he has witnessed and his lost friend: “And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers–shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle–to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man.”

And being a Doctor Who fan, I found this intriguing: “The Time Machine book appears in Doctor Who when the Doctor is reading the novel in the 1996 TV Movie. H.G. Wells’ story is the inspiration for many modern time travel science fiction, including Doctor Who.” ~ Monikalel42‘s flickr page

More on Richard Powers’ sci-fi cover art, or this fun selection of his images

The Three Apples (Arabian Nights, 1001 Nights)

An annotated index of the Arabian Nights tales (very good), Full-text: dasburo.com/Sacred-texts.com, translated by Sir Richard Burton 1850

I love the Arabian Nights tales!  Reading Guys Lit Wire last night & their list of favorite short stories I was prompted to read The Three Apples:

The story begins with governors going to the streets to ask how their officials are doing.  They meet a man, very poor with no fish to bring home to his family, and bring him back to the river with the promise to buy anything he catches.  He goes home happily with coins in exchange for the large chest that they pulled out of the river.  Inside, in a basket of palm fronds and wrapped in a hanging, is the corpse of a fair lady.  The Caliph charges Jafar to find the murderer or die in his place. 

After three days Jafar is up on the scaffold to be hanged when two men approach and insist that they murdered the lady.  The young man tells that his wife had been sick for many days and desired an apple, he loved her dearly so he searched and had to travel many days, but he brought her back three apples.  Later he saw a slave in the marketplace tossing an apple, and the slave said that he dined with the lady and she gave him the apple.  In a rage the man returned home and killed his wife, cutting her to pieces and putting her in the chest.  When he returned home his son was weeping by her bed, and he told how he had taken one of the apples to play outside when a slave had walked by and beaten him up for his apple.

On hearing this tale the Caliph is again furious and charges Jafar to find the slave or die in his place.  Again after three days Jafar has written his will and is saying goodbye to his family when he discovers an apple in his daughter’s pocket.  It is the same apple, and he discovers that the slave is one of his own.  He brings the slave to the Caliph but saves him by offering an even more impressive story than the one of the three apples that the king just witnessed in exchange for the slave’s life, the story of Nur Al-Din Ali and his son Badr Al-Din Hasan.

Brave New World

by Alduous Huxley

A vision of our future world from Huxley’s view in the 1930’s when the helicopter was a striking new invention and Ford was changing the world with his mass production lines.  After a big disaster the world has been condensed and formed into nine World States, each with a supreme leader.  People are no longer born but are grown in conveyor-belt style, and specially engineered to fill their regimented social roles.

The reader follows some characters on the top of the scale, the Alphas, Bernard and Hutch.  One struggles to fit into his social role and the other fits easily but longs for forbidden poetry.  They both push the limits of their society and get entangled with a savage from one of the wild tribes left in southwestern America.  Their struggles carry them to the top of society and end in disappointing, exhilarating, and utterly devastating ways.

Good book to read, just to be aware of it, and for it’s good points about society and good descriptive scenes.  Some things are ludicrous, like the fact that this world structure would work, and the parts where John the Savage can argue eloquently and fully understand the depths of Shakespeare from seeing the book some while he was a child.

This book was among the ranks of Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Gulliver’s Travels that we covered in AP English my senior year.   Personally, I wanted to cover more books.   What about Slaughterhouse FiveMiddlemarchIn Cold BloodGrapes of WrathInvisible ManCatch-22The Things They CarriedOf Mice and Men Heart of DarknessDavid Copperfield?  Come on, let’s read people!

I did enjoy Wuthering Heights and Hamlet, but I think Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland would be a better substitute for Gulliver’s Travels.  I’ve heard Brave New World and 1984 compared a lot, as Orual said in a conversation about AP books on College Confidential: “I recommend Brave New World over 1984, but it depends on whether you’d prefer to read about how things we like destroy us or about how things we hate destroy us.”

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It was lovely; I really enjoyed it.  One thing though, reading this book was like living in a haze.  Maybe Fitzgerald was trying to capture the ambience of the flapper 20’s, or maybe that was how these silly characters’ minds worked.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness…” (pg. 114) These people live the decadent life of the roaring twenties. The mindless, indulgent, irresponsible life style where consequence is just an afterthought.” homework-online.com.

I encountered this story when I saw the movie last year.  Looking back I would say that the film, I saw the version starring Robert Redford, was a wonderful rendition of this book.  And I think seeing the movie first made the book better; it was easier to visualize the period clothing, parties, and attitudes, and to understand the plot to be able to look for important clues and symbolism.

> You can read the whole book online thanks to eBooks@Adelaide.

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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë

Another classic to cross-off of the NEA’s Big Read: Top 100 list!  I liked this book, especially when I got farther into the story.  The novel is framed by the premise of a new tenant learning the turbulent history of two families on the moors, the Earnshaws and Lintons.  It covers three generations, so it is helpful to have a family tree for reference.  Some books include a family tree or you can find one on the internet.  This timeline is also very helpful.

The love between Cathy and Hareton at the end was so wonderful.  When the love was realized, they were so happy together and made their surroundings blossom again.  And probably my favorite part was when Nelly confronted Heathcliff about his new mood, and he explained how he had the means right before him to completely destroy the two families forever, but couldn’t.  He looked into the young lovers’ faces and just let them be happy.  He still looked like a demon when he died but that choice to not wreck the two young people redeems him a lot in my eyes.

Critics of the time thought this to be a horrible book, and one even said, “We rise from the perusal of Wuthering Heights as if we had come fresh from a pest-house. Read Jane Eyre is our advice, but burn Wuthering Heights…” (Reader’s Guide to WH).  I am inclined to believe quite the opposite; I’ve never read Jane Eyre but from movies and my sister’s interpretation I think Wuthering Heights is far more interesting, less depressing, and more thrilling.

This is my favorite book from AP Lit & Comp this year.  Some study questions that could be turned into essays:

  • What role does Joseph play in the novel?
  • Compare the marriages of Catherine (senior) and Isabella.
  • How did Nelly alter the image of Heathcliff through her narration?

Read poignant observations and comments about this book on Only a Novel, also where the cover image comes from.

And if you’ve read this story, you must watch the Kate Bush interpretation.  It’s good for a laugh but also somehow appealing.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

The ladies have their bows and their game-faces on.

The ladies have their bows and their game-faces on.

by William Shakespeare

After reading Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night in English class, I can say that I truly enjoy Shakespeare.  I always loved attending the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, a masterful production of two Shakespeare plays every summer, but until reading enough Shakespeare to get used to the prose did the words jump off the page and into imagination.  I could understand the lines in a faster manner and consequently get in to the story and experience  plot flow.  When understanding happened, I could also appreciate the word play more fully. Of which no play has more than Love’s Labour’s Lost.

“Love’s Labour’s is often thought of as Shakespeare’s most flamboyantly intellectual play. It abounds in sophisticated wordplay, puns, and literary allusions and is filled with clever pastiches of contemporary poetic forms. It is often assumed that it was written for performance at the Inns of Court, whose students would have been most likely to appreciate its style. This style is the principal reason why it has never been among Shakespeare’s most popular plays; the pedantic humour makes it extremely inaccessible to contemporary theatregoers.”

When reading one can revel in the lyrical quality of this play.  Sometimes the individual characters start talking and I forget what their prose means in context; that the things they’re saying are actually quite silly in the real world, and that the characters are delusional fools.

I did a research paper on this play and proposed that Love’s Labour’s Lost is a parody on courtly love.  Next on my Shakespeare list is definitely Taming of the Shrew, which I hear is quite good.

Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver and the Lilliputian army

Gulliver and the Lilliputian army

by Jonathan Swift

This book is interesting but not high on my list.  In fact it’s pretty low.  I think my understanding and hence appreciation of this novel would be tremendously more great if I lived back then and knew all of the social intrigue of court and the happenings and personages of the political arena.

From Orwell Today (where I also found the illustration):

“It is considered one of the greatest pieces of satire ever written, comparable even to some of William Shakespeare’s works. George Orwell was so impressed with Jonathan Swift’s writings – especially Gulliver’s Travels – that he used them as models for his own writing. Animal Farm and 1984 are Orwell’s attempts to be as clear and creative as his literary hero.”

It is important to be familiar with this novel because of the references to it you encounter in every day life.  ‘Yahoo’ is one word straight from Gulliver’s Travels.

As Swift is writing this story his mental health is steadily declining.  One can see parts where Swift is a little “off.”  One may or may not agree with some of his philosophical points.

Twelfth Night, Act I

Already in AP English we have read Macbeth and Hamlet, now we’re reading our final Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night.  This one seems easier to understand, maybe because it’s a comedy, or maybe it’s because of the old adage, “The more Shakespeare you read the easier it gets.”

The test is tomorrow, so to review I will type up the summaries provided by our “Folger Library” books before each scene.

Act I, Scene i
At his court, Orsino, sick with love for the Lady Olivia, learns from his messenger that she is grieving for her dead brother and refuses to be seen for seven years.

Act I, Scene ii
On the Adriatic seacoast, Viola, who has been saved from a shipwreck in which her brother may have drowned, hears about Orsino and Olivia.  She wishes to join Olivia’s household, but is told that Olivia will admit no one into her presence.  Viola decides to disguise herself as a boy so that she can join Orsino’s male retinue.

Act I, Scene iii
At the estate of Lady Olivia, Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s kinsman, has brought in Sir Andrew Aguecheek to be her suitor.  Maria, Olivia’s lady-in-waiting, says that Andrew is a fool, and Andrew himself doubts his ability to win Olivia, but Toby encourages him to woo her.

Act I, Scene iv
At Orsino’s court, Viola, disguised as a page and calling herself Cesario, has gained the trust of  Orsino, who decides to send her to woo Olivia for him.  Viola confides to the audience that she loves Orsino herself.

Act I, Scene v
Viola, in her disguise as Cesario, appears at Olivia’s estate.  Olivia allows Cesario to speak with her privately about Orsino’s love.  As Cesario presents Orsino’s love-suit, Olivia falls in love with Cesario.  She sends her steward, Malvolio, after Cesario with a ring.

Once again, these summaries are courtesy of Folger Libraries.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

 

Art by princendymion on deviantArt

Art by princendymion on deviantArt

by William Shakespeare

 

A short synopsis found on eNotes.com:

 “On the level of human evil, Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy is about Macbeth’s bloody rise to power, including the murder of the Scottish king, Duncan, and the guilt-ridden pathology of evil deeds generating still more evil deeds. As an integral part of this thematic web is the play’s most memorable character, Lady Macbeth. Like her husband, Lady Macbeth’s ambition for power leads her into an unnatural, phantasmagoric realm of witchcraft, insomnia and madness. But while Macbeth responds to the prophecies of the play’s famous trio of witches, Lady Macbeth goes even further by figuratively transforming herself into an unnatural, desexualized evil spirit. The current trend of critical opinion is toward an upward reevaluation of Lady Macbeth, who is said to be rehumanized by her insanity and her suicide. Much of this reappraisal of Lady Macbeth has taken place in discussions of her ironically strong marriage to Macbeth, a union that rests on loving bonds but undergoes disintegration as the tragedy unfolds.”

This is Shakespeare’s shortest play, written for the attention span of King James.  It is loosely based on historical events.
      Watch out for Act 3 Scene 5, it is believed that that scene was added at a later date and not written by Shakespeare.  You can see that the lines are shorter, the very small part is almost superfluous to the surrounding plot, and it just doesn’t have the feel of the illustrious playwright.

NEA’s Big Read: Top 100

This was originally posted by Ginny over at http://bookiesandmilk.blogspot.com/. She has a really cool blog, you should check it out.
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The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has an initiative you may have heard of called the Big Read. According to the Web site, its purpose is to “restore reading to the center of American culture.” They estimate that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.  For fun, let’s see how many of the top 100 books we’ve actually read. My list is below. How well did you do? Have you read more than 6?

Here’s what you do:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you own but haven’t yet read.
3) Put a star by those you intend to read someday but don’t own.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens*
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott*
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (now why is this one separate from the other Tolkien series?)
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck*
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame*
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy*
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden*
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown*
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood worst. book. ever.
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon*
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck*
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas*
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White*
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom*
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery en francais bien sur
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury

This book is ripe for discussion. So many intricate ideas bursting from the pages.  The image of the mechanical Hound was quite frightening to me and well-played by the author.  The aspects of the story that suggest a nihilistic existence, such as nothing to do but watch TV, Montag wandering around with a group of bums, etc., gave me a depressed feeling similar to the futility in other dystopian future books (1984, Brave New World).

I liked this book more after I had read the author’s note.  Ray Bradbury sounds so interesting on a personal level!  Did you know he wrote this story intending to show his great love for books and libraries?  As I read these 50’s and other early books I sometimes struggle to get into the story, they seem fundamentally different somehow.

An interesting historical note from GradeSaver.com:

Developed in the years following World War II, Fahrenheit 451condemns not only the anti-intellectualism of the defeated Nazi party in Germany, but more immediately the intellectually oppressive political climate of the early 1950’s – the heyday of McCarthyism. That such influential fictional social criticisms such as Orwell’s Animal Farm 1984 and Skinner’s Walden Two were published just a few short years prior to Fahrenheit 451 is not coincidental. These works reveal a very real apprehension of the danger of the US evolving into an oppressive, authoritarian society in the post-WWII period.

Stemming from a similar basis of a future literature-less society, The Last Book in the Universe, YA and written in 2000, is another good book to read.

the Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia

by C.S. Lewis

I started this series a while ago, at the wee age of 12 or so, the age when every young person picks up this series with delight. But I didn’t fall rapturously in love with it. I had this weird thing against chintzy old stories of English kids, like Narnia and another book called The Amulet (which I refused to read, and still have not read to this day, maybe it’s next).  But this summer I decided to finish it.

I found the rest of the books very interesting and full of scintillating story details and frankly transparent views on religion.  My favorite books in the series are The Horse and His Boy and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

In The Last Battle, the end was slightly shocking when it was revealed that the children had died and entered heaven.  I’m glad C.S. Lewis let one of the true-hearted Telmarines into heaven, but he was still very biased against people of different religions.

All in all this is a very creative series and one necessary to read because it is such a famous series in literature history.

Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger, 1951

Banned by multiple groups, controversial, and different, this is a book that has emerged into our pool of literary classics and is increasingly taught in high schools around the US.  I read it in 11th grade with mixed emotions, first apprehension from how other high-schoolers described it, next confusion but at the same time an empathetic understanding, and finally sadness that came from the truths that were revealed at the end.

{This novel follows the protagonist Holden Caulfield through his oppulent yet empty and confused life in New York City for the period of one week after he is expelled from prep school.  The reader shares his fancies, his fears, his memories and his struggle with the death of his brother Allie, and in that way also learns about his mental illness and alienation.  It is not stated openly, but in this book Holden sees the world through something akin to OCD or depression.  His anchor in life is his little sister Phoebe, a wise and intuitive force.

His most trusted mentor, a past teacher, urges Holden to change his mind and not run away, that it is the stronger man who lives humbly, rather than dies nobly, for a cause.  Holden had the idea of becoming a “catcher in the rye,” a godlike figure who symbolically saves children from “falling off a crazy cliff” and being exposed to all things “phony,” the evils of adulthood, and losing their kindness, spontaneity, innocence, and generosity.}

The hardest part of reading this story is deciding whose side you are on, the side of reason or the side of the antihero, Holden?  Will he be happier in reality after he goes to a mental hospital?

Knowing the historical and literary context of this novel would add to understanding and appreciation.  I would caution anyone who starts to read this book to keep their head about them, and I would specifically caution adults to not base any perceptions of teenagers on the teenager portrayed in this novel.  In June 2009, Finlo Rohrer from the BBC wrote that, 58 years since publication, the book is still regarded “as the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager. Holden is at various times disaffected, disgruntled, alienated, isolated, directionless, and sarcastic.”   But I would disagree.  Yes most humans probably go through a period of feeling isolated and directionless, not necessarily as teenagers, but what Holden is feeling and how he is acting is not the norm for all adolescents.  One must also remember that his mental state is shaky, which indubitably colors his experiences.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson 1886

Great story!  Make sure to add this short novella to your list of classics to read.  It has suspense, angst, mystery and admirable development of empathy for the main character for such a short text.  The setting offsets the plot and amplifies it flowingly.

A very good man ventures into the land of the alter ego and the impulses not followed by decent people.  With a formula he discovers, the doctor unleashes the pure essence of his evil side.  His fascination with the other side is his downfall, because an impurity in the powders cannot be replicated, and he will be trapped forever, his own personality repressed while the beast rages on.  So in a last act of unselfish goodness, he manages to end his nightmare and spare society an evil madman.

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

Excellent.  Hemingway takes you along on the journey of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who goes out to get fish to sustain life and ends up catching a leviathan merlin, a blessing and a curse.

A short classic full of emotion, power, and epic-ness.

Silas Marner


Silas Marner

The Weaver of Raveloe
by: George Elliot

My sister gave me this book for Christmas, and I had seen 2 TV versions before I read this. Wishbone, which was very good (I always love Wishbone), the more modern-ish Steve Martin one.  It is so nice to finally read the book and learn all of the details left out on film.  For example the story of the Cass brothers and their money schemes, plus Godfrey’s situation with Nancy Lammeter.  But even more nice to know is Silas’ background, the story of his epileptic fits and his horrible friend who kicks him out to steal his fiancée.  Not as nice to know is how very sad his condition has become, and how much the villagers fear/dispise him.

There isn’t much for descriptions of English scenery in this novel, surprising to me.
Sometimes I wish George Eliot (a woman btw, Mary Ann Evans) would get to the point sooner, I just know what will happen but it takes forever to get there!
According to Wikipedia, “Ultimately, Silas Marner is a tale of familial love and loyalty, reward and punishment, humble friendships.”

*New layout btw. I like this one, it is more airy and spread-out. Reminds me of imagining and reading books.

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

I absolutely loved this book. I was slow to get into it, but that’s to be expected since it is written in a different style than I’m used to and it was an assigned book in English.

My favorite part was at the end when Sydney Carton meets the girl Charles Darnay had befriended. She instantly recognizes that he’s not Darnay, but they give each other comfort until the end, and Carton truly feels happy.

The author’s primary historical source was The French Revolution: A History by Thomas Carlyle: Dickens wrote in his Preface to Tale that “no one can hope to add anything to the philosophy of Mr. CARLYLE’S wonderful book”[11] Carlyle’s view that history cycles through destruction and resurrection was an important influence on the novel, illustrated especially well by the life and death of Sydney Carton.

~ From the Afterword of the Penguin Classics 2003 edition, cited from Wikpedia

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The Scarlet Pimpernel

Baroness Emmuska Orczy, 1905

Lovely!  Dashing and clever and heart-warming all in one small novel.

“Arguably the best adventure story ever published and certainly the most influential that appeared during the early decades of the twentieth century.”—Gary Hoppenstand

{ Summary adapted from Wikipedia:  During the bloodthirsty, early stages of the French Revolution, Marguerite St. Just, a beautiful Frenchwoman, is the wife of the wealthy English fop Sir Percy Blakeney. Before their marriage, Marguerite had carelessly made comments that had the unintended consequence of sending a French aristocrat and his sons to the guillotine. When Percy found out, he became estranged from his wife, and Marguerite became disillusioned with Percy’s dandyish ways.

Meanwhile, the “League of the Scarlet Pimpernel”, a secret society of English aristocrats, is engaged in rescuing their French counterparts from the executions. Their leader, the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, takes his nickname from the small red flower with which he signs his messages. Despite being the talk of London society, only his followers and possibly the Prince of Wales know the Pimpernel’s true identity. Like many others, Marguerite is entranced by the Pimpernel’s daring exploits.

At a ball attended by the Blakeneys, Marguerite is blackmailed by the wily new French envoy to England, Citizen Chauvelin. His agents have stolen a letter incriminating her beloved brother Armand, proving that he is in league with the Pimpernel. Chauvelin offers to trade Armand’s life for her help against the Pimpernel. She passes along information that enables Chauvelin to learn the Pimpernel’s true identity.

Later that night, Marguerite finally tells her husband of the terrible danger threatening her brother and pleads for his assistance. Percy promises to save him. After he leaves for France, Marguerite discovers to her horror that he is the Pimpernel. He had hidden behind the persona of a dull, slow-witted fop in order to deceive the world. He had not told Marguerite because of his worry that she might betray him, as she had others in the past. Desperate to save her love, she pursues Percy to France to try to warn him.

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