Sunday, March 31, 2013

74. Melmoth The Wanderer

Melmoth The Wanderer
Charles Maturin
Around 400 pages

Happy Easter everyone!  I spent the day gorging myself on candy, reading this novel, and listening to Steely Dan.  What good times.

Usually I have either heard of the book or heard of the author, but this entry in the list was completely unknown to me.  For the hundredth time, I am grateful to the list for introducing me to another gem that I never would have heard of otherwise.

This is an extremely hard plot to describe.  Maturin takes the "story within a story" concept to a whole new level.  At one point, I think I was in a story within a story within a story within a story.  The author even acknowledges how confusing it is at end by saying that the reader has probably forgot the main character's name.  Indeed, I had.

The main plot follows John Melmoth, who inherits his uncle estate.  His uncle's dying wish is that he destroys a manuscript and a painting of one of his relatives.  The relative is pictured in the year 1646 but Melmoth's late uncle swears that he just saw the man.  John Melmoth is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and in his quest, comes across a man named Alonzo, who has his own story to tell.  Some character's in Alonzo's story have stories to tell as well, which resulted in a real clusterfuck of a novel.

Despite what a mess the structural plot of this novel is, I really loved this book.  Alonzo's story is by far the best.  Alonzo is forced to become a monk and we follow him for a good 100 pages as he tries to escape the monastery, only to fall into the hands of the Inquisition.  Previously on the list, we have had Diderot's The Nun, where a woman is imprisoned in a convent.  This is a very interesting concept and I am glad I have gotten to read a few stories about it.

The book condemns the Catholic Church which, no offense to Catholics, is not that hard to do considering what a bloody history the Church has had.  It makes for an interesting read; not only is it entertaining but also has great historical value.  Highly recommended and I am surprised that this book is so obscure.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Influenced Poe and Wilde.

Referenced in Lolita.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

73. The Monastery

The Monastery
Sir Walter Scott
Around 350 pages

First of all, thank you so much everyone for voting in the poll.  Your input really means a lot to me.  Jackasses.

Moving on, we have our third Scott novel on the list, The Monastery.  I loved Ivanhoe, I liked Rob Roy, and I hated this novel.  Scott really should have quit when he was ahead.

Half textbook, half melodrama, I can't really tell what kind of person would enjoy this novel.  I suppose historians would find the setting intriguing but the lame love story would no doubt get on their nerves.  It certainly got on mine.

This the story of two brothers who end up falling for the same girl during the Scottish Reformation.  Amazingly enough, it was actually more dull than it sounds.  Scott has a very distinct writing style that makes it easy to zone out.

Overall, just a huge snore; Scott is getting worse and worse in my book.  Hopefully, this is the last we see of him.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

One of Scott's Tales of Bendictine sources.  I know that is not even slightly interesting but I did not have a lot to go with on this one.

Monday, March 4, 2013

72. Ivanhoe

Sir Walter Scott
Around 530 pages

All right, now I am really running out of time for these posts.  Damn Jane Austen personality quiz that got me off track (by the way I am an Elizabeth).

Ivanhoe is a romanticized version of Robin Hood.  Evidently, Sir Walter Scott was really obsessed with this guy, since this is what Rob Roy was about as well.  Anyway, be prepared for massive anti Semitism.  At least, on the part of the characters.  There is one "Jewess" named Rebecca who is actually portrayed in a positive light.

Sorry to make this so short as I really did enjoy this book.  It is very romantic and adventurous.  The bow and arrow scene is one of the most exciting scenes in literature.  Check it out!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Our idea of Robin Hood nowadays (dashing, heroic, etc.) is mostly due to Ivanhoe.

Historically accurate, for the most part.

71. Frankenstein

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Around 260 pages

As you already know, I do these posts chronologically and we have recently come across a streak of books that I have read already, which is why you are being hit with around six posts at once.  Normality will be restored soon.

I only read horror books in October, so I maybe read this book around two years ago.  It is still fresh in my mind, however, mostly because it was so different than what I expected.  I was, of course, expected some monster horror novel.  I was very wrong indeed.

This is the story of Dr. Frankenstein, who figures out how to create life without his johnson.  So the doctor is actually Frankenstein and the monster is the monster of Frankenstein, not Frankenstein.  Common misconception.  Anyway, the monster is not a grunting zombie like he is portrayed in the movies, but actually quite intelligent.  This actually makes the story quite sad, because he knows he is very self aware.

This is a short one; you can probably read it in one sitting.  I was a little disappointed in it because I was expecting a horror story and it was really more of a novel on the nature of men and the danger of playing god.  Still, it is a very thoughtful book, one that has been trivialized by Universal studios.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Shelley wrote it for a competition between her friends and family.

Admired by Sir Walter Scott.


70. Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey
Jane Austen
Around 270 pages

Sadly, this is the last of the Jane Austen novels.  It is also probably the least accessible to readers.

This novel is a satire of the gothic novels that were popular at the time.  Now, having followed this list, I have read many over the top gothic novels so I really get the humor of this book.  If you haven't, you can still enjoy it, but it is almost like there is an inside joke you are not a part of.  In addition, there are many references to random novels from the time, like The Monk or Camilla.  Again, the list helps me out there.

This is the story of Catherine Morland, who fancies herself as a heroine of a gothic novel.  Like I have said in previous posts, making fun of other novels is always a fun approach.  Anyway, the story follows Catherine as she visits Northanger Abbey, which she expects to be like the castle in Mysteries of Udolpho, and falls in love with Mr. Tilney.

So this is a great novel, one that can be enjoyed by anyone.  However, if you want that extra pleasure, I would recommend reading Mysteries of Udolpho first.

Funny, witty, and romantic.  A great way to say goodbye to Jane.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Originally titled Susan.

Exposes the danger of believing that fiction is like real life.  This is something that I am guilty of 24/7.

Is going to be adapted into a teen thriller.  Groan.

69. Persuasion

Jane Austen
Around 270 pages

And we continue with Jane Austen with this little gem, which is probably the least popular of her novels.  Now, I think all Jane Austen novels are worth many reads so I will try to persuade (haha get it?) you to give this one a try as well.

This is the story of Anne Elliot.  Many years ago, she rejected a proposal of marriage of Frederick Wentworth because her parents were against, due to his lack of connections and wealth.  Now, many years later, Wentworth is rich and powerful but unable to forgive Anne.  Will these two ever get it right???

So I will admit, Anne is not the most exciting Austen heroine.  She is pretty much Fanny Price, but older.  That in itself is actually interesting, because most Austen heroines are young while Fanny is "past her prime" (aka around 27).  The plot is rather simple though, probably because Jane Austen died before she could polish up the novel.

I still love this book, though.  We have the funny scenarios, the great romance, and, though Anne may seem to be a bit of pushover at the beginning, a plucky heroine who rises above her surroundings.  It is also one of the shorter Austen books so you don't risk much by trying it.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Jane Austen's brother named this book.

The second Bridget Jones' Diary movie is loosely based on this plot.

Set in Bath, where Jane Austen spent several years.

68. Ormond

Maria Edgeworth
Around 400 pages

So for reason my computer is being ridiculously slow and when I started this post I had about twenty five minutes to write it, now because of picture problems I have around eleven minutes to write.  It shall be done!

I was really excited to read this book because it has often been described as the Irish Tom Jones and I love me some Tom.  This novel follows Ormond, not surprisingly, as he travels, falls in love, and gets into mischief.  At the beginning of the book, he decides that he wants to be more like Tom Jones.  To do this, he has to find a heroine, be a bit of a "blackguard", and then reform.  While making fun of novels' heroes isn't exactly new (Don Quixote, Female Quixote, etc.) it is always funny.

So that part of the novel was certainly interesting. However, this book did have a tendency to drag and the heroine, Dora, is rather dull.  Still, a good read and I would recommend it.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

It is Maria Edgeworth so more Irish nationalism themes.