Saturday, December 24, 2011

32. The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia

The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
Samuel Johnson

Three posts in two days.  I am on a roll!  Actually, these books have been really short lately but I prefer to attribute my success to my extreme awesomeness. The next book is pretty expensive and unavailable so I am going to read Moby Dick first.  Wish me luck!

This novel was similar in style to Candide but carried a completely different message.  While Voltaire was saying that life sucks because horrifying things will always happen to you, Johnson communicated a more relatable message.  Johnson's message was that even if you live a life of fortune and pleasure, you will still be unhappy because human beings themselves are unhappy.  You don't have to be raped, tortured, or robbed to be miserable; you simply have to exist.  Johnson's story followed a prince and a princess who were tired of living a life of isolation and pleasure and wanted to see the world (something I can really relate to).

Like I said, this book is often compared to Candide and often loses.  Though I think they are both great, Rasselas carried a more unique message.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

I need some more pronunciation help here.  Raze-ul-lay?

Johnson wrote the book in order to provide for his sick mother.  Awww...

Rasselas, Pennsylvania was named after a guy who was fond of the story.  U S A!

Referenced in Mansfield Park, Jane Eyre, and Little Women.

It was quite a relief to not have to read about another ridiculous love story.

Friday, December 23, 2011

31. Candide


Look at me, doing two book posts in one day.  I actually just finished Candide; it took me about an hour.  I was listening to the Beatles White Album and didn't even finish the album.  You have to admire Voltaire's directness.

I found this novella extremely startling.  For one thing, I have become accustomed to reading happy, light novels on the list that all end in harmony.  This book was really disturbing.  The characters in this book are raped, tortured, killed, robbed, and enslaved.  I was also surprised because my prior knowledge of the book was flawed.  In high school, my world studies teacher said that by praising England in Candide, Voltaire was able to simultaneously condemn France.  Do you guys agree with that?  Voltaire seemed to attack England as well.  Actually, Voltaire pretty much attacked everything that had mass.

Like I said, this story was really depressing.  However, I really liked it.  Candide slowly loses his optimism as he experiences complete calamities.  His mentor, though, thinks that everything turns out for the best and that a preestablished philosophy is the best kind.  Something to think about.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

It is pronounced like Can-deed, right?

There are so many for this one that I might as well give you the link to the Wikipedia.  Click here for some interesting reading.

30. The Female Quixote

The Female Quixote
Charlotte Lennox

This is a really light and comedic read.  I will try not to compare it to Don Quixote too much because even though the books are similar, comparing any novel to Don Quixote just sets it up for failure.

This novel is about Arabella, a beautiful rustic who believes that romance novels are fact.  She fakes swoons, believes that it is a grave crime to tell someone you love them without first attempting suicide, and dresses in retro fashion.  The secondary characters, however, are what really makes the novel shine.  Mr. Glanville is in love with Arabella and is often mortified when she goes on ridiculous tangents.  Sir George, a friend of Glanville's, realizes that Arabella is a little bit insane and plays that part of the chivalrous knight, presumably to get in bed with her.

I was surprised that this novel was so hilarious.  Up until now on the list, the books by women have been mediocre and only placed on this list because they were written by females.  I particularly liked this novel because I had read a couple of Greek romances for the purpose of the 1001 journey (see Chaireas and Kallirhoe) so I was able to understand what they were making fun of.  Highly recommended.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

This novel was used as a model for Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.

Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson both "approved" the novel.

This novel was a comment on the power women held over men.

Monday, December 5, 2011

29. Amelia

Henry Fielding

Before you think that we have another Clarissa in our hands, I want to tell you that my long hiatus is due more to my infidelities than the length of Amelia.  I read the newest Sue Grafton and Tenant of Wildfell Hall since Peregrine Pickle (both were pretty amazing novels).  I am back with a vengeance, though, and will hopefully churn out more than one a month.

This was Fielding's last novel and I am sincerely sorry to see him go.  While this book certainly does not hold up against Tom Jones, it was truly great.  The story centers on a young couple, William and Amelia, who are very poor but very much in love.  Amelia is so charming and beautiful (we should count how many women have fallen under this category so far) that many men fall in love with her, much to her chagrin.  I think I have said this before but characters who are absolutely perfect often bore me, and Amelia is one of those characters.  However, the rest of the characters more than make up for her perfections.  Possibly the most interesting two characters are Colonel James and his wife who mutually hate each other.  Colonel James falls in lust with Amelia and comes up with really evil schemes to make her his mistress while Mrs. James loves William Booth.  This has the makings of a great romcom!

Henry Fielding's writing style is, as always, flawless.  Women are insulted a bit too much for my liking but it comes with the times.  I wouldn't recommend this as your quintessential Fielding but it is certainly a great novel.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Fielding became involved in a "paper war" because of this novel.

John Cleland loved this novel.  I am sure Fielding was glad to have his support...

Many allusions to literary works were about books that I have on the list (Metamorphoses, Clarissa, Tom Jones, Fanny Hill).  I felt so smart!