Sunday, December 21, 2014

132. Uncle Silas

Uncle Silas
Sheridan Le Fanu
Around 500 pages

I FINALLY finished Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time (the longest book on The List) so I am able to return to you all in the 1860s.  Now comes the question: when we do finally get to Proust on The List (#685 I believe) do I confess that I have read it before or pretend that I finished it in a week and shock the world?  Time will tell!

I am sure any reader could tell you that after you are reading a book or a series for a long time, it is a bit hard to get your land legs back.  I had a tough time adjusting from Proust's prose to this.  Yes, I will be exploiting the fact that I read Proust for the rest of my life.  Deal with it.  Anyway, I am hoping this is the reason that I didn't enjoy this book at all since the premise is absolutely genius.

Maud Ruthyn must stay with her sinister uncle after her father dies.  For a reason that is never fully clear, her father put a stipulation in his will: if Maud dies before she turns 21, her estate will go to her uncle.  This is one of those million dollar ideas, like Crystal Pepsi or comedy sequels.

The cheesiness of a gothic novel can be definitely be fun at times, but it can be somewhat exhausting in a 500+ page book.  I did enjoy how dark the novel got; I wasn't expecting real horror.  Worth a read?  Perhaps.  Worth a place on The List.  Debatable.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

First example of a locked room mystery genre.

Trailer for the BBC drama, Dark Angel, which is based on the novel.  From YouTube:

UP NEXT: Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Saturday, November 15, 2014

131. Notes From The Underground

Notes From The Underground
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Around 130 pages

I told you in the previous post that I was reading In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, which is why my posts have become somewhat sporadic.  I don't like to be unfaithful to my books, but I decided to take a break from volume 5 of 7 in order to stop myself from overdosing on intellect.  I suppose this shouldn't be too big of a concern since I watched a segment of Jerry Springer the other day.  In any case, I managed to fit this relatively short novel in and will hopefully get back in the swing of things with this blog.

I found this novel a bit hard to understand, so I apologize if my summary isn't the usual inspiring piece of writing that you have become accustomed to.  The narrator is a very sad, Oblomov-esque man who has become increasingly paranoid due to pain and inactivity.  I guess the main event in this novel is when he decides to bump into a policeman...and nothing happens.  The police officer doesn't even notice.  Now, this sounds like a cause for complaint.  Really, how boring can you get?  Well, maybe I am getting soft in my old age, but that scene actually intrigued me.  Honestly, the most significant event in this man's life wasn't even noticed by anyone?   How heartbreaking is that?

Unfortunately, my criteria for this blog isn't just "does this Russian novel make me sad?".  If that was the case, we would have a lot of raves on our hands.  This book was a bit on the dull side still and just felt like a very rough first chapter of Crime and Punishment.  I would just stay tuned for the real thing.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Friedrich Nietzsche reportedly said that Dostoyevsky was the only psychologist that he had anything to learn from.

UP NEXT: Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

130. The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby

The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for A Land Baby
Charles Kingsley
Around 300 pages

This particular Land Baby had trouble sitting down to write this review.  In addition to reading this novel, I have been working my way through Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust.  The language in that novel is so unbelievably beautiful that I now feel like a complete idiot every time I open my mouth or put pen to paper.  But despite the discovery of my new suck factor, we must carry on and get to Water-Babies.

I got my hands on an absolutely gorgeous illustrated version of this novel.  Although I suppose it is not too hard to find a copy of this book with pictures, since it is essentially a children's novel.  Since it isn't listed in 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Die, I assumed it was going to be a fairy tale for adults.  But honestly, you would have to be a child to be able to swallow all this preaching without gagging.

Our main character here is a young, extremely dirty chimney sweep named Tom who is often beaten by his master.  After breaking into a young girl's house, Tom is chased by a mob to a pond, where he ultimately drowns.  He then becomes a water-baby and is only allowed to become a land-baby again if he can realize the error of his ways (ie it is actually not that nice to try to break horses' legs all the time).  He meets a lot of interesting creatures such as talking salmon and extremely annoying, self righteous fairies.

What can I say about Pilgrim's Progress for Kids?  At least this had talking lobsters.  I do enjoy fairy tales, but I hate having morals shoved down my throat.  I guess anybody who names a character Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby isn't a master of subtlety.

Still, this book is good for a few cute lines and pretty pictures.  Did I really just say that?  This blog is really in a state of decline.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Includes many slurs against Jews, Catholics, the Irish, black people, and Americans.  Well, I am glad that Kingsley insulted Americans as well so that I could be insulted too.  It is nice to feel included.

Considered a satire of the moral tales often published during this era.  Oh, so it was meant to be annoying?  Nope, still don't get it.

UP NEXT: Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

129. Les Miserables

Les Miserables
Victor Hugo
Around 2000 pages

I have returned, after reading one of the longest books in existence.  The internet has been trying to cheat me out of my success; quite a few websites say that this novel is around 1300 pages.  However, my version of the book was divided into five volumes, with each volume containing around 415 pages. I may be an English person as opposed to a math person, but even I know that equals upwards of 2000 pages.  Do not minimize my anguish, Internet!

I am so sick of this story by now that it took some effort to sit down and write today.  I think most people are familiar with the plot largely because of the musical.  Jean Valjean is an escaped galley slave trying to redeem himself in the eyes of God by helping as many people as he can.  Of course, he must frequently (and I mean frequently; it was like a Tom and Jerry cartoon that just wouldn't end) escape the clutches of Inspector Javert, who understands nothing but his duty to the law.  One of his acts of kindness/penance, involves saving Cosette, the daughter of the miserable prostitute Fantine, from the evil Thernadiers, who treat her as a slave.  Got all that so far?  Good, we are about two-fifths through the novel.  When Cosette grows up, she captures of the heart of a young revolutionist, Marius.  This is unfortunate for the eldest daughter of the Thernadiers, Eponine, who loves Marius jealously and viciously.  Did I mention the 1832 Rebellion in Paris?  My head hurts.  Oh whatever, just watch the movie.

There are many interesting things about this novel, although the sheer length of it makes the interest fade after awhile.  I loved analyzing Jean Valjean.  He is supposed to be such a "good" character but was he really?  After all, he was only doing charitable acts, it seemed, to get into heaven.  Would he have been so good if he had been an atheist?  Probably not. And man, was he selfish at the end.  But, of course, no spoilers...

The main villain of the novel, Thernadier, was interesting as well but he disappeared and reappeared so many times that he lost his appeal.  For me, Cosette was insufferable.  In one scene, she threw a tantrum because she wasn't included in a conversation but, of course, since she was beautiful, it was charming.  She was also incredibly bossy, with such commands as "be happy", "laugh", and "be mad".  Eponine was a lot more interesting, but she didn't get as much print time.  Seriously, Hugo?  You can lecture us on the sewers of Paris for fifty pages, but can't devote more time to the only proactive female in the novel?

I should probably wrap this up soon.  It really sounds like I hated this novel.  I did think the writing was beautiful and will probably be more charitable in a few weeks.  Right now I am still reeling from the chunk of my life that this book took away from me.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

A quarter of the book is devoted to essays that don't advance the plot.  It was much more charming when Henry Fielding did it.

Fantine's assault was actually based on a real life incident that Victor Hugo witnessed.  Thankfully, Hugo was able to intervene and save the prostitute.

What did everybody think of the recent movie adaptation?  I was disappointed with Marius's and Javert's characters.

UP NEXT: The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley.  I might have to take a break and read something completely trashy to cleanse my palate.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

128. Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons
Ivan Turgenev
Around 215 pages

I really enjoyed this book, so of course I have been putting off writing this review; I always have trouble with raves.  I actually read a few other List books in between this and Silas Marner that I am excited to complain about later.  Isn't it refreshing to meet someone who likes to complain?

Arkady Kirsanov returns home to his family's estate with his friend Bazarov, who quickly pisses off Arkady's father and uncle with his nihilistic views.  Bazarov doesn't believe in anything at all, that is, until he meets Madame Odintsova.

I am discovering that I absolutely love Russian romance novels.  First of all, it is quite common for married people to fall in love with other people so the woman isn't always a naive virgin and the man isn't always a perfectly honorable gentleman.  I also love the clash of traditional and modern thinking particularly in regards to courtship.  In this novel, even though duels are now considered a bit dated, the men still must participate in them because what else are they going to do?  Let the woman decide?  Pshaw.  It is a weird transitional period that makes for really good literature.

I loved watching Bazarov develop.  Most college age men go through the whole nihilistic, nothing matters phase but they tend to outgrow it as soon as they fall in love or actually have to pay taxes.  But Bazarov's stubborn streak makes his path a little more interesting.

A great novel and definitive proof that not all Russian novels have to drag on and on, ad nauseam.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Popularized the term "nihilism".

Considered to be the first modern Russian novel.

UP NEXT: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  See you in nine years.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

127. Silas Marner

Silas Marner
George Eliot
Around 200 pages

I have been so behind on my blogs lately.  I started physical therapy for my leg and have been pretty burnt out by the end of the day.  I finally had some energy to write yesterday but it was my birthday so I had to party!  Now I am back and I think we can get a few of these out before I crawl into my bed and refuse to move.

This is a pretty short book but I had a lot of trouble picking it up and reading, so it took me about a week and a half. It simply wasn't very interesting; if I wanted to see an old man doing old man things I would go to a diner at 4:30.

Silas Marner flees his town after being framed by his best friend for stealing money from the congregation.  Does this kick off an amazing story of revenge?  No, he just becomes a recluse weaver in another town.  One day, a two-year-old girl shows up at his house with seemingly no relations.  Silas takes her in, but what happens when her real father shows up?  Nothing terribly interesting, I promise you.

It is cool for the time, I suppose, that in this story the bond between a family doesn't necessarily have to be genetic.  It doesn't make for that entertaining of a read now, though.  I would definitely skip this one; particularly because Eliot has much better offerings in her works.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Adapted on BBC with Ben Kingsley.

UP NEXT: Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev.  Excited to see what all the fuss is about.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

126. Great Expectations

Great Expectations
Charles Dickens
Around 400 pages

I recently did a count of all the Dickens novels I have read.  I came up with four that I absolutely loved and seven that I absolutely hated.  Conclusion: I am formally recommending him on this blog.  I know; it is such an honor that you are freaking out.  Don't worry; I still think he is capable of being dreadfully dull but on the other hand, he is capable of being hilarious and compelling.

Phillip Pirrip (which is possibly the worst name I have ever heard; subsequently, he is nicknamed Pip) is an orphan who only has his sister and her husband to look after him.  Since this is a Dickens novel, the sister is, of course, a total monster. Pip is eventually anonymously sponsored to be a gentleman.  Oh right, who is the incredibly creepy woman pictured above?  You know, the one from Insidious: Chapter Two?  That would be Miss Havisham, a creepy spinster who takes Pip on in order to provide a companion for her adopted daughter, Estella.  Side note: there were a bunch of sexy pictures of Gwyneth Paltrow as Estella that I could have used for the above picture but I instead chose Helena Bonham Carter being frightening.  You're welcome.

I actually tried to read this book in high school and failed, so I was a little weary going in.  However, I had so much fun with this one, particularly since my sister is currently reading David Copperfield for the first time.  We had a good time reading out loud humorous passages and relating to how melodramatic the characters were (we have a tendency to overstate things).  I still prefer David over Pip, but Great Expectations is a close second.

So after being extremely disappointed in A Tale of Two Cities, we get this novel to make us fall in love again.  It won't last long; we have Our Mutual Friend coming up.  Shoot me.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Mixed reviews by critics but considered by Charles Dickens to be his best book.


UP NEXT: Silas Marner by George Eliot.  I am seriously falling in love with this woman.

Monday, July 7, 2014

125. On The Eve

On The Eve
Ivan Turgenev
Around 115 pages

Can you believe I am back already?  This novel only took me around an hour and a half and it is Russian!! I feel as though I deserve some sort of award for that.

Before we get started, I thought I would address a question I get asked frequently: where do you get all these books??  This is a personal preference, but I really love paper books.  To that end, I check the libraries around me first.   If I am near a city, the selection is usually pretty good.  However, smaller libraries usually suck.  That is when I use eBooks.  I have an iPad and use Project Gutenberg.  Most of the List Books (at least the early ones) are available for free.  I don't think I have ever absolutely had to pay for a book.  If you come across this problem, contact me and I can usually help you find the novel. So that's that and I hope it helps!

Like I said, this was a super fast read.  I almost felt like it was the Reader's Digest version of War and Peace.  There were similar themes and characters but it wasn't a month long project!  Two friends, a philosopher of sorts and a sculptor,  are in love with the same woman.  Wait, didn't this just happen in yesterday's book?  Anyway, her affections may belong to someone else entirely.  To add a little spice, all this takes place during the Crimean War.

Can I just copy and paste my review from Castle Richmond?  I want to make the exact same points.  Seeing the juxtaposition of a courtship against the backdrop of a national tragedy was kind of startling.
Did I use enough synonyms to make it seem like this isn't exactly what I just said in the last post?

This is basically a better version of Castle, so read this one instead.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Not received well by critics upon its initial release.

UP NEXT: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  Oh crap.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

124. Castle Richmond

Castle Richmond
Anthony Trollope
Around 510 pages

After pissing off several men in my life via text, I thought I would hop onto the computer and write this review.  Yes, my words of wisdom are that important.

This is pretty much your typical romance novel, with a few notable differences.  For one thing, a mother and a daughter are romantic rivals.  Of course, the mother is "old" (i.e. early forties) so apparently, there is not much of a contest.  Still, I haven't seen that before and it was quite interesting to have an author acknowledge that a mother figure could still be sexually attracted to young men.  Additionally, this novel takes place in Ireland during the Great Famine.  So for instance, two characters will be discussing marriage and other sickeningly sweet things and a woman will come up behind them, begging for money to feed her starving children.  It is certainly an odd juxtaposition to get used to.

I have to say, I was mostly interested in the love square (??) between the Countess Desmond, Lady Clara, Owen Fitzgerald, and Herbert Fitzgerald.  Unfortunately, that didn't get as much attention as the "fascinating" story of Herbert's mother's ex-husband. I almost wanted to scan those sections, since it was clear Trollope thought he had the reader at the edge of their seat so was drawing it out as long as possible.

I had fun with this one.  I liked rooting for my guy to get the girl (although he failed, damn him) and reading about the Countess trying to repress her crush on Owen.  Still, it is entirely skippable, particularly if you are not heavily into romance.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Did not sell well upon its initial release.

UP NEXT: On the Eve by Ivan Turgenev

Monday, June 23, 2014

123. The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss
George Eliot
Around 500 pages

Despite the fact that this novel has a good deal of annoying children, which ruin even the most promising of stories, I actually enjoyed it.  It was a definite improvement from Adam Bede and I look forward to seeing more of George Eliot.

Which horrible human being from the Tulliver family should I describe first?  There's Mr. Tulliver, a weak man who has driven his family to financial ruin and subsequently takes out his anger on bystanders.  Mrs. Tulliver, is similarly weak and asks her children such loving questions like "should I have even married your father?"  Tom Tulliver bullies his little sister and believes that nothing he ever does is wrong.  Maggie is the best of the Tullivers, but she still got on my nerves.  She is extremely kind and looks up to her brother Tom, even when he is an ass to her.  However, I think I was supposed to like her a lot more than I did.  Eliot kept exclaiming "Poor Maggie!" which I sort of hated.  Let me reach my own conclusions about the characters, please.  I don't need your pushy descriptions!

 Anyway, Maggie is one of those people who is just content to be miserable and never actually wants to fix any of her problems.  Granted, she was a woman so she couldn't control much.  Still, it is frustrating when a character won't take a simple action that would solve all of her problems.

A great deal of this story took place during Tom and Maggie's childhood.  I have probably mentioned this before, but reading about a couple of bratty children isn't my favorite pastime.  I have an older brother and if he had acted like that to me or my sister, my mom would have sent him to an asylum.

Once the pair are older, the story gets a lot more interesting.  The love square was fun to follow until the ending made everything ridiculous.  I had a fun time reading this but it is definitely not high on the 100+ Book List that I usually recommend to every person I meet (it is a rather off putting quirk).

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

George Eliot lived with George Henry Lewes, a married man who had an open relationship with his wife.

UP NEXT: Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope.

Monday, June 16, 2014

122. The Woman in White

The Woman in White
Wilkie Collins
Around 700 pages

Like I said in the previous post, this is a book I had already read in high school, mostly because I couldn't resist reading a novel by someone named Wilkie.  I definitely had to read up on this on again since the plot was ridiculously complicated at the time, let alone years later.  While this is probably worth a read, it is certainly not the best Collins book.

I am getting stressed out just thinking of explaining this, but I will do my best.   Walter Hartright is hired as a drawing master for the Limmeridge household.  His pupils are Laura Fairlie, whom he falls in love with, and Marian, Laura's half-sister and resident third wheel.  Unfortunately, Laura is already engaged to the evil Sir Glyde Percival.  Oh yeah, and there is a woman walking around in white who looks like Laura and just escaped from an asylum.  It's less creepy than it sounds, unfortunately.

This is one of the first instances of detective fiction and let's just say the art has been refined since then. I really don't think a detective novel should be upwards of 300 pages.  The Woman in White is around 700 pages which is frankly ridiculous.  Collins seems to be trying to mash the romance and detective genre together but doesn't seem to be giving enough attention to either.  If you are going to make me read 700+, at least leave me satisfied.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Commercially successful, but panned by critics.

Wilkie Collins considered this his best novel.

UP NEXT: The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Sunday, June 15, 2014

121. The Marble Faun

The Marble Faun
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Around 315 pages

I am still confined to my bed, so I have to wait for people to bring me books based on my orders from the library or around my house.  Once they do, a scene plays out highly reminiscent of the goat being fed to the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.  Anyway, after a couple rereads I was able to get this book from my library friend.

Brace yourselves everyone: this novel is not boring.  I know, I know.  A Hawthorne novel that doesn't take years off your life?  You must think I am crazy.  Let me explain.

There are four main characters in this novel.  Hilda is the kind of annoying virgin that I always complain about on this blog, so I will not spend too much time on her.  Kenyon is a sculptor who is in love with her (for every perfect little princess we have to deal with here, there is some guy worshipping her in the background).  Miriam is a beautiful artist with a terrible secret.  She captures the attention of Donatello, who is one of those people who always seems to be enjoying himself.  Her secret follows her to Rome and Miriam must decide whether to protect her friends by keeping them (and consequently us) in the dark.

If Hawthorne's name wasn't stamped on the cover of this book, I would never have guessed that it was his.  Not only does it take place in Europe, but it was written in an incredibly over the top Romantic style.  I know his other works are considered Romantic, but they were nothing compared to this piece.  Some of the lines actually might induce vomiting in our more jaded readers, but I happen to like that kind of thing.

Wanting to know Miriam's secret was what really kept me reading this novel late into the night.  The "I Know What You Did Last Summer"-esque plot was really fun; I didn't know you had it in you, Nate.

I absolutely loved the themes and questions in this novel, particularly those on the nature of protection, but that might just be because of stuff I am going through right now.  Anyway, this is the only Hawthorne novel worth reading.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Hawthorne was living in Italy when he wrote this novel.

So many questions were unanswered in the book that he added a postscript in the second edition to clear a few of them up.

UP NEXT: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.  I should get this one up shortly since I have already read it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

120. Max Havelaar

Max Havelaar
Around 300 pages

As you all know from the previous post, I am stuck in bed for seven more weeks after having ankle and foot surgery (I thought it was six weeks but it was really eight; isn't that hilarious?).   I have been spending most of my time reading.  After I finished A Tale of Two Cities I read Bear Season, The Goldfinch (which is a really fantastic novel), Max Havelaar, and I am about half way through The Prince.  I should get to our next book shortly.

Man, what a sucky book.  At this point, I just think it is mean to bore me with these kind of novels since I am in pain so much.  That is my personal opinion anyway.

It is clear from the author's writing style that he has absolutely no idea how to pen a novel.  He constantly second guesses himself, wondering out loud whether or not he should include a description of a place in case it bores the reader.  In some circumstances this would be charming, but when the writing actually is incredibly dull, it was just confirmation that this guy should not have attempted a novel.  I felt like I was at a really bad party but kept having to pretend I was having fun so I didn't hurt the host's feelings.

This book has historical significance and an important message that should be heard about the Dutch colonial policy.  However, maybe Multatuli would have done better to write an essay or a treatise.  It certainly would have been less painful for the reader.

At the end of the novel, Multatuli concludes that he doesn't care if the reader likes the novel: he only wants to be heard.  Well, I hated it but I read it so I guess we can all be content.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Adapted to film in 1976 but was banned in Indonesia until 1987.

Brought awareness to the suffering caused by colonialism around the world.

UP NEXT: The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Gee, I wonder if he will break our boring streak.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

119. A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens
Around 250 pages

I am currently in bed after a rather serious surgery on my leg and foot.  It is uncomfortable as hell and I am not allowed to put weight on the right foot for six weeks.  That's right fellas: I am hell on wheels.  In any case, I expect to be reading a lot this summer and updating this blog frequently.

I was willing to give Dickens another chance after Nicholas Nickelby and David Copperfield.  However, I am forced to realize that giving a man a second chance is always a stupid thing to do.  This was one of the dullest books I have ever read.

If you haven't read the book, the only part you are probably familiar with is the opening sentence, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  For those of you don't understand this quote, it means that its the best of times when you are not reading this novel and the worst of times when you are.  That is my interpretation at least.

Basically, this book is about the start of the French Revolution.  While this might sound interesting, there are so many boring characters thrown into the mix and it becomes exceedingly dull.  Lucie Manette is a character we all seen roughly 500 times?  She is a perfect, meek angel that everybody falls in love with.  Groan.

Overall, one of my least favorite Dickens' novel.  Hopefully the next one will serve as a better distraction.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Most of the characters in this novel are flat.

A Tale of Two Cities is considered the least humorous of Dickens' novels.

UP NEXT: Max Havelaar by Multatuli. Huh?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

118. Oblomov

Ivan Goncharov
Around 500 pages

I recently took a trip to Boston and miscalculating how many books I would need to sustain me for the duration of the weekend (I know every reader has been in this situation before).  Luckily, I visited Brattle Bookshop during my stay, which is one of the coolest shops I have ever been to.  I found this book here, picked up a couple of plays, and successfully resisted spending $500 on Henry Fielding's works.

I have to admit that I had a certain amount of trepidation about starting this novel.  The Russian novels I have experienced so far have been dreary, long winded, and even seemed to make it a point not to be too entertaining.  However, and I have lost track of the number of times I have said this, I was pleasantly surprised with this book and would highly recommend it.

Oblomov is truly a protagonist unlike any other.  He suffers from oblomovitis, that is to say, extreme laziness and apathy.  It takes him around fifty pages to get out of bed and he spends most of these pages dreading getting up, since doing so would involve paying bills and writing letters.  Eventually, he falls in love (which was an even bigger pain in the ass back then as it is today).  Can he overcome his lethargy to win Olga?

Actually, the real question of this post is can I overcome my own lethargy to write it?  I started this entry a couple of days ago and I keep taking breaks to stare into space.  This, in essence, is why I loved this book. The hero isn't facing some sort of external crisis that he is better for in the long run.  It also isn't something internal that, though lamentable, isn't something that a lot of people have to deal with.  But you can't relate to overcoming laziness and doing a bunch of administrative busy work that will slowly kill your soul (and no, I am not being overly dramatic; I am renewing my passport right now and it is an absolute nightmare)?

I suppose I should slip in some criticisms.  I didn't find the character Zakhar quite as charming as I think I was supposed to and his scenes went on a little too long.  The dream sequence was a little odd but I suppose it gave us background information on Oblomov's character so I will let it slide.

Overall, a great, obscure little novel that is well worth the read.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Extremely popular upon its release.

Condemns serfdom.

UP NEXT: Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  Probably one of the most famous novels of all time that I haven't read.   I think I tried it once before and hated it, but after David Copperfield I am ready to give it another go.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

117. Adam Bede

Adam Bede
George Eliot
Around 615 pages

When I first started this novel, I absolutely hated it, which is why I haven't gotten to this blog in a little while.  However, despite some annoying characters and a somewhat unsatisfying ending, I really enjoyed this book.

Let me start by saying that Wikipedia says that the plot revolves around a "love rectangle".  Why would it be a rectangle?  There are five people involved, which would mean it is a love pentagon. Even if we exclude one of the less important characters, Seth, wouldn't it be a love square?  Am I neurotic for getting irrationally annoyed at this?  Yes?  Okay then, I will move on.

Hetty Sorrel is a beautiful, selfish milkmaid beloved by both Captain Arthur Donnithorne and Adam Bede.  Adam's brother Seth is in love with Dinah Morris, Hetty's cousin, who is one of the most annoying, self righteous characters that I have ever encountered.  Hetty, of course, falls for Arthur since Adam is a rather dull character who strangely switches dialects throughout the novel.  Let's just say Arthur does not intend to make an honest woman out of Hetty.  Oh, the scandal!  Do you have all the that?  The plot is even more confusing than the choice of shapes assigned to describe it.

Overall, this was quite an entertaining novel, but, as your fearless reviewer, I have to nitpick.  Like I said, Dinah Morris is one of those Melanie Wilkes-esque characters that is so "good" that her dialogue is just plain irritating.  It did, however, lend itself to a funny scene where Hetty dresses up in the plain clothes Dinah does. The only thing that would have made it better would be if Hetty started singing "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee".  But you can't have everything in this world.

Hetty and Arthur are by far the most interesting characters but, of course, Eliot wants to treat them as a cautionary tale.  I never give away endings, so I will just say that I was quite disappointed with the one that Eliot came up with.  Everything was tied together a bit too neatly, people seemed to settle, and some dick moves were made.

Overall, a good book but it would have been better if it had been titled "Hetty Sorrel" rather than "Adam Bede".  Of course, in that case I guess the story would pretty much be "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" or "Madame Bovary" so I suppose it is fine as it is.

Great first experience with George Eliot.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Praised by Charles Dickens but criticized heavily by Henry James.

Adapted by BBC in 1991.

UP NEXT: Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov.  Here come the Russians!  I am in the middle of doing a few rereads but I will try to get back here within a couple weeks!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

116. Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary
Gustave Flaubert
Around 500 pages

This is an old favorite of mine and one of the most classic-y classic novels on The List (that's the technical term).

Emma Rouault marries Charles Bovary, thus condemning herself to the dull provincial life.  Emma then kind of transforms into a Desperate Housewife and chaos ensues.

Emma is one of my favorite heroines (can I call her that?) of all time.  I myself am often romantic and would prefer to live in a fantasy world of my own creation than face reality.  Emma stands for any woman who has ever dreamed that her life is going to play out like a romance novel.

I personally love stories that have to do with bored people.  For starters, the story rarely is dull (that would be a bit of a mindfuck actually).  Additionally, the characters are usually completely unpredictable, which makes for a fun read.

A great novel, but keep a box of tissues handy!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Sorry for the short review.  I have so much to do that my head hurts.

Said to be influenced by Balzac.

Trailer.  Oh my god this acting is horrifying:

UP NEXT: Adam Bebe by George Eliot

Saturday, April 12, 2014

115. North and South

North and South
Elizabeth Gaskell
Around 520 pages

I have had this book for roughly two months (which means it came to London and returned to me unopened) and still have struggled to find the time and interest to read it.  This is Gaskell's third and final time to impress us; so far she has only run the gamut from dull to mildly entertaining.  I finally sat down and banged it out last night.  While it wasn't terrible, it still kind of felt like the poor man's Pride and Prejudice.

Margaret Hale (our typical heroine of utter perfection) returns home after living with her cousin, only to find that her father is leaving his job at the rectory of the idyllic town of Helstone.  Due to his "goodness" he has become a dissenter of the Church of England, which is a fancy way of saying he is a selfish bastard (he forces Margaret to tell her mother because he is too scared, probably because moving will cost his wife her health).  Anyway, Margaret and her family move to an industrial town, which is pretty much as terrible as you would imagine any town during the Industrial Revolution is.  Margaret meets her father's student, Mr. Thornton, and they are instantly at odds with each other.  Will they ever get along??  Too bad there is no precedent to figure it out!

Like I said, Margaret is virtually perfect, which never really makes for a fun main character.  Feminists are quick to point out that she displays an inner strength that is unusual for female characters during this time.  For one thing, she stands by Mr. Thornton when he is being confronted by an angry mob of workers.  That is, until someone throws a pebble at her and she becomes practically catatonic.  Literally, it is described as a pebble that grazes her forehead.  I don't think you have to go to the ICU just yet.

While I did enjoy some of the interactions between Thornton and Margaret, their conversations are not nearly as well done as what can be found in Austen's novels.

Wow, I have rambled on long enough.  Overall, not a complete miss but not worth the five hundred pages.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Many male critics panned the novel by saying that a woman couldn't handle writing social critiques.  Oh, shut up.

BBC version trailer.  This actually looks pretty great:
UP NEXT: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.  A personal favorite.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Liebster Award!

Hi everyone,

So Catherine from, was kind enough to bestow upon me the Liebster Award (check out her blog; I just discovered it today and it is really addictive).  People who read my other blogs might recognize this award, as I won it for my movie blog.  It always great to hear that my blogs are interesting and entertaining people.  I would love to return the favor, so if any of you have blogs that you want me to take a look it, stop by the comments section and give me your URL.
First, I have to list eleven interesting facts about myself.  It has been while, but I will try not to repeat any from my movie blog post.

1. My pet peeves include women who refer to themselves as "bitches", cutesy names for genitalia, and people who tell you something really private when you first meet them.
2. I love the Nancy Drew computer games by Her Interactive.
3. I write a long email to my sister every night before I go to bed which recaps my day and is mostly aimed at making her laugh.
4. I make amazing peanut butter cookies but they are the only thing I can cook.
5. I love African American romantic comedies and horror films.
6. I love to sing but the last time I sang in front of someone was in the eighth grade and it was the worst.
7. Incidentally, my friend told me the most common thing I say is "_____ is the worst."
8. The most desirable trait I am looking for in a man is the ability to make me laugh.  Unfortunately, very few can do it.
9. My favorite drink is Sex on the Beach.
10. Right now I can't stop listening to the song "Love Like Mine" and I don't even watch Nashville.
11. I love wearing crazy lipstick colors and am usually wearing plum.

Okay, next up is a set of questions that were created by Caroline:
1. If you could marry any fictional character, who would you pick?
Oh this one is hard because the characters I am most attracted to aren't exactly marriage material. I am going to say Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer because he is hot and hilarious.
2. Jeans or leggings?
3. What was your favourite childhood T.V show?
Probably Spongebob Squarepants.
4. What is your go-to Karaoke song?
I have never actually sang karaoke, mostly because that is an introvert's worst nightmare.  I would probably sing "Your Song" or "Sweet Caroline" (I am picking generic ones because I assume they would be options at this fictional Karaoke bar I have created in my mind).
5. If you were on mastermind, what would be your specialist subject?
I would probably like to study supernatural phenomena and study people who claim to be "psychic" and haunted places.
6. What's your favourite season of the year?
Definitely spring.  But will it ever come?
7. If you could live in any historical era, (other than this one) which one would you choose?
The idea of being a woman in any other era is frightening.  I have read a lot of books that take place in 1750s and wouldn't mind visiting but I would never want to stay there.
8. Frodo, Sam, Merry or Pippin?
Sam!  He is the real hero of the trilogy!
9. Which Disney character are you most like?
Probably Anna from Frozen.  I am really close to my sister and am rather easily taken in when a guy pays attention to me.
10. What is the most random situation that you've ever found yourself in?
This is a really hard question!  I once got stuck on a cable car with my sister on the way up to Mount Blanc and everyone on the ground was just like staring at our clear pod and pointing.
11. What would be your last meal on death row?
That is dark.  Probably this pasta salad my sister makes and cheesesticks.  I am obsessed with cheesesticks.

Now time for the questions that my nominees must answer:
1. Debate that you get into most often?
2. What Hogwarts house would you be in?
3. Longest you have ever gone being single?
4. Book you reread the most often?
5. Trait that a significant other must possess?
6. Weirdest thing you have ever heard at a party?
7. Your view on a news story of your choice?
8. Coolest insult/comeback that you have ever come up with?
9. Favorite Shakespearean villain?
10. Most frequently visited website (the correct answer is my blog by the way)?
11. Song that you feel most applies to your life right now?

So here we hit a snag.  I don't really read a lot of blogs.  The blogs I do read,  I nominated when I won this award on my movie blog.  Like I said, though, I am happy to read any blog that is mentioned in the comment section.  If I like your blog, I will, of course, nominate it.

Thanks again Catherine and I hope everybody had fun reading my answers!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

114. Hard Times

Hard Times
Charles Dickens
Around 350 pages

I hope the four posts I did give you enough reading material for awhile since this is a really busy time for me and I have a couple other books lined up before I get to the next one on The List.  Of course, if it takes you two weeks to read four posts, I don't know why you are on a book blog in the first place.

This is our seventh Dickens book on the list and there is no end in sight.  When I am done with all of these I am going to reward myself with cupcakes.  Hell, I am going to do that any way but at least now it will have meaning.

Josiah Bounderby is a rich factory owner who predictably is a major jerk (hey, it is Dickens after all and he is rich).  He marries his best friend's daughter, despite him being gross and her being good looking.  Stephen Blackpool, a factory worker, walks around with a halo around his head but is stuck married to a terrible woman.  And there is someone named Sissy, I think?  Damn, now I can't remember.  And I am having trouble finding any particle in me that cares.

So the good news?  I think this is the shortest Dickens on The List.  This book aims to bring attention to poverty in England at the time.  I don't know about you, but every year in school we would have a unit on the Industrial Revolution so I kind of already know that it have sucked to be alive back then.  Maybe in his time, he was divulging new information, but I was bored as soon as I turned the first page.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Mixed reviews from critics.  Yay, some are on my side for once!

UP NEXT: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

113. Walden

Henry David Thoreau
Around 350 pages

I am convinced that if I ever went into the woods to live by myself I would murdered within the first few days.  If I was able to somehow evade the crazy ax men, I would probably have a meltdown about missing my sister and not having access to Netflix.  I think most people share the same opinion as me, but believe they will reconsider these views after reading Walden.  Spoiler alert: you won't.

So, like I said in my previous post, this really isn't a novel and is more a collection of essays.  Basically, Thoreau spends most of the time whining about everything that is wrong with society (Walden, in the modern language, translates to the Internet).  He complains about meat eaters, people who can't read Greek or Latin, people who drink alcohol, people who don't do manual labor.  He is kind of like cranky old man you hope won't sit next to you on a plane.

Wow, I am harsh today.  In fact, I actually enjoyed the book quite a bit; it is always interesting to read someone else's philosophy on everything in life, from hobbies to religion (which is why I enjoyed Rousseau so much).  Of course, after awhile it can feel like a lecture so there were times when it got on my nerves.

Overall, a good read but I am certainly not buying a cabin any time soon.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Thoreau spent four times as much time on the manuscript as he did at Walden Pond.

A video game based on Walden is in development.   Otherwise known as a nature screensaver.

Camping is not a good time!  From CollegeHumor:

UP NEXT: Hard Times by Charles Dickens.  Why does he make it so easy to mock his titles?

112. Bleak House

Bleak House
Charles Dickens
Around 650 pages

Look, it is Agent Scully!  I guess she was in an adaptation of Bleak House!  Who knew?  Okay, that is the most interesting thing about this post and this novel.  You may go back to your porn now.  Is that not appropriate?  I will go back and change it later.

I actually read this book a long time ago and I am sure as hell not going to go through that horror again.  A friend actually recommended this to me when I complained to her that I couldn't find a Dickens book I liked (this was, of course, before I fell in love with David).  She was convinced that I would like it since I like Jane Austen.  Unfortunately, we are not still in contact so I can't ask her what the hell she was talking about.

Honestly, I was just reading the plot summary for a quick refresher and I couldn't finish it because it was so goddamn boring.  I have been in boring meeting all day, though, so my tolerance is waning.  Basically, the story centers on the court case Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce.  Apparently, a man made several wills.  Yeah, I know.  Riveting.  Dickens uses the novel to heavily criticize the English judicial system. Do trials move slowly?  Wow, thank you for the lesson, professor.

The only notable thing about this novel is that it is narrated by a woman.  However, it is clear from reading this book (and knowing what I do about Dickens' personal life) that he really has no idea what a female point of view even looks like.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

I got nothing; here is a trailer that claims you won't be bored.  Have we touched a nerve?
UP NEXT: Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  This is technically a collection of essays, not a novel.  More lies!

111. Villette

Charlotte Bronte
Around 500 pages

Hello, everyone!  Once again, I am back after a reading break that included Life of Pi and One Hundred Years of Solitude.  But now I have returned and now have about ten reviews to write for each of my blogs.  I am also still battling jet lag, which means I have to pause and stare into space for ten seconds after every sentence.  This might take awhile.

I absolutely loved Jane Eyre and absolutely hated Shirley so for me, this was the novel that would decide once and for all how I felt about Charlotte Bronte.  Wow, that was a well constructed sentence.  In any case, this book tipped the scales in Charlotte's favor.

Villette is narrated by Lucy Snowe, an extremely passive person that is described by another character
as being "inoffensive as a shadow."  In this way she is reminiscent of Fanny Price of Mansfield Park, although in this case Lucy is not rewarded for her meekness and instead is largely ignored by the other characters.

Lucy stays with her godmother after her family seemingly dies in a catastrophe that is never described.  Lucy begins to have feelings for her godmother's son, Graham, but she is largely ignored by him and is forced to watch while Graham falls in love with women who possess stronger characters.  Isn't that wonderful?  I know this book was written by a woman, but it still cool to get away from the romance tropes that we see in virtually every book on this list.

This is the last Bronte novel on The List, which I am sincerely sad about.  I am also sincerely sad that I spent the last two minutes trying to end that sentence without a preposition and failed.  Is it too early to take another nap?

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Oh my god, I forgot to mention the creepy nun scenes.  Every once and awhile, Lucy seems the ghost of a nun who was buried alive for breaking her vow of chastity.  Sweet dreams.

Lucy heavily denounces the Catholic Church throughout the novel ("God is not with Rome!").

UP NEXT: Bleak House by Charles Dickens.  He's baaccckk.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

110. Cranford

Elizabeth Gaskell
Around 200 pages

I did not expect a lot from this book, seeing as how Mary Barton, the previous Gaskell from the list, was a huge disappointment.  However, this is a very unique book that is worth the afternoon it takes to read it.

Cranford is narrated by Mary Smith, a spinster who often stay with another "old maid" (these are quite flattering titles for unmarried women), Miss Matty.  There is really no plot; the novel just details random events in their lives.  Throughout the novel, the women take great delight in frightening themselves after there is a report of burglaries in Cranford,  Miss Matty visits her former suitor, Mr. Holbrook, and Mary attempts to find Matty's long lost brother.

So in a lot of ways, this novel is quite ordinary for its time.  The style is like Jane Austen's, only less amusing, and the characters are of a standard stock.  However, the fact that we are hearing about women who, for one reason or another, have never married is actually really interesting.  Now, granted, Miss Matty and Miss Pole seem to be quite miserable about their single status.  On the other hand, Mary Smith seemed to be quite content with her unmarried life.  There was a particularly entertaining passage where the women try to prove they are braver than their dentist, who was too embarrassed to admit that he had been robbed.  The idea that women were trying to prove they were better and more capable than men just seemed really modern to me and it was interesting reading it in a book written in 1851.

So worth a read; Gaskell is not the most talented writer but she is an entertaining feminist.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Published in a serialized form in the magazine Household Works, which was edited by Charles Dickens.

UP NEXT: Villete by Charlotte Bronte.  Yay!

Seems like a loose adaptation but still might be worth checking out:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

109. Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Around 530 pages

I read this novel in high school (that seems to be a recurring theme lately) and it definitely made an impression on me.  While it is certainly not the best example of great literature, it has such historical significance that I would definitely qualify it as a must read.

The story starts with Shelby family deciding to sell Uncle Tom and Harry, the son of the maid Eliza.  Eliza decides to run away with Harry, while Uncle Tom is sold to the St. Clare's.  The second half of the novel contains so much religious preaching that it made The Pilgrim's Progress seem blasphemous.

So on the one hand, this book did a lot for the abolitionist movement while on the other hand, it created many African American stereotypes.  Still, the good definitely outweighs that bad.  The story goes that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe for the first time he said "So this is the little lady who started this great war."

I feel petty complaining about this novel since it fueled such an important movement, but the excessive sentimentalism did get to me.  Still, there were certainly some exciting parts and overall, it is well worth the time.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Best selling book of the 19th century.

Harriet Beecher received a severed ear from a slave after publishing this novel. Ah, the South...

UP NEXT: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

108. The Blithedale Romance

The Blithedale Romance
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Around 250 pages

Several people approached me when I was reading this novel and asked what book it was.  No one had really heard of this book, but as soon as I mentioned it was a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel, everybody would groan.  I think they were all suffering from PTSD from The Scarlet Letter.  Anyway, those people are not missing much from this book.

This story is set in the utopian community of Blithedale and is narrated by a poet named Coverdale.  A girl named Priscilla is brought to the community and she develops a deep attachment to another woman named Zenobia.  If this doesn't seem like a plausible premise for an interesting story...well...then we are in agreement.

I have previously complained that Hawthorne uses way too much description in his work.  Well, when you tell a story from the POV of one of the characters, it is completely intolerable.  Even in the 1850s no one describes people like Coverdale did.  They mention Shakespeare several times; you would think that Hawthorne might have paid attention to Sonnet 130.  Apparently, the last sentence is supposed to be a big twist?  I wouldn't call it a twist so much as an obvious statement.

Another novel that should have been skipped.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Based on the commune Brook Farm.

Praised by Henry James.

UP NEXT: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Saturday, January 18, 2014

107. The House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Around 320 pages

Sorry it took me so long to get this post up.  My internet has decided to go a little wonky on me.  If someone is doing an experiment on me, you win: I need the internet.  Now, give it back please.  Please?

Apparently, reading three of Nathaniel Haw-bore's novels is absolutely necessary for the understanding of this guy.  This time, we have The House of the Seven Gables, which upon first glance, seems like it would be really interesting (oh how I have been fooled; see Moby-Dick).  Basically, a New England family lives in a mansion that has been haunted since the Salem witch trials.  We also have the token "good girl" who is so pure and beautiful that everybody loves her the instant they see her.  You can never have too many of those, right?

I usually don't do quotes but this one has to be brought to the attention of potential victims readers of Hawthorne.  Ahem "He now observed that a certain remarkable drowsiness (wholly unlike that with which the reader possibly feels himself affected) had been flung over the senses of his auditress."  So from this quote we can gather that both Hawthorne and his character are incredibly boring and extremely self aware of their dullness.  All right, here is a suggestion.  STOP BEING SO BORING!

There were times where I thought the novel would redeem itself.  Holgrave and Phoebe's romance was intriguing, considering Phoebe's initial disdain for him.  But ultimately, Hawthorne could have been talking about a Buffy The Vampire Slayer reunion and I would still be yawning.  One more to go.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The House of the Seven Gables is a real place in Massachusetts and is open for tours.

Hawthorne's ancestors were actually involved in the Salem witch trials.

UP NEXT: The Blithedale Romance by none other than Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I might actually be taking a break to read Life of Pi, another list book.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

106. Moby-Dick

Herman Melville
Around 1500 pages

Another terrible book but hey, at least it is only 1500 pages right?  Fortunately, I had already conquered this particular literary obstacle in high school.

The story sounds interesting enough but if you are expecting anything like Jaws, you are sorely mistaken.  Actually, the most interesting thing about this novel is the beginning when Ishmael agrees to share a bed with a strange man.  I mean, I know it is a different time but what? Anyway, after sleeping together Ishmael and Queequeg are great friends and board the Pequod, captained by Captain Ahab.  Ahab, as everybody knows, is obsessed with catching Moby-Dick.

This novel is shockingly dull.  I mean, when you read an entire chapter that is devoted to the color white, you realize that Melville simply wants to talk and unfortunately, you are stuck listening.  Unfortunately, this is one of those books that everyone feels like they have to read.  God help us all.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Received scathing reviews upon first release.

UP NEXT: House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Ugh.

105. The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Around 400 pages

I can honestly say I have no idea why this novel is so praised and foisted on high school students.  There are certain books that I find boring (you can find plenty of those on this blog) but I understand why they might be of interest to other people.  However, I simply think that Hawthorne is a bad writer. You cannot just put pages and pages of description about a fucking rosebush and expect your reader to stay interested.

Everybody knows this story, even those people who were too cool to do assigned readings in high school.  Hester Prynne is forced by her town to wear a scarlet A on her chest to symbolize that she is an adulteress.  Hester refuses to reveal the father of her bastard child thereby maintaining her dignity through terrible circumstances blah blah blah.

I suppose high schools think that students will be able to relate to the isolation that Hester felt in her town.  And everybody knows that extreme boredom is the cure for loneliness!

There is absolutely no subtlety in this novel: the symbols in this novel that teachers are so obsessed with practically scream their real meaning at you. Or perhaps I am remembering the screaming of my teacher trying to keep everyone awake during discussions.'s kind of a blur.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The Demi Moore adaptation of this book was actually used as an example of how horribly novels can translate into film in my sister's Fiction to Film class.

Fans of the novel include Henry James and D.H. Lawrence.  Oh what do they know?

Trailer for Easy A, a hilarious movie that is inspired by this novel.  There's a connection I swear!
UP NEXT: Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  Don't pray for me; I already read it!

104. David Copperfield

David Copperfield
Charles Dickens
Around 800 pages

"Like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favorite child.  And his name is David Copperfield."  All right, I know it is a bit of a cheap writing trick to start with a quote but I thought it was astounding that Dickens and I finally agreed on something.  David Copperfield is not only my favorite Dickens novel, but one of the best novels I have ever read.  This has been a great shock to me since I always thought Dickens was one of the dullest, most overrated authors in existence.  I have been telling everyone I know that I have been reformed but (another surprise!) nobody really cares.

Wow, how to give a summary of a story that recounts an entire lifetime?  We start with the night David is born.  I usually don't like stories narrated by children.  There is usually lots of crying, abuse, and everyone is a caricature.  However, the first half of the book, which tells the story of David's childhood is actually quite entertaining and at times hilarious.  But more on that later.

David's widowed mother marries the evil Mr. Murdstone, who is a burning hatred for David.  David eventually goes to school and meets one of the most interesting characters Dickens has ever created, James Steerforth.  Steerforth is universally admired teenager who even the teachers try to impress.  Anyway, as David grows up he falls in and out of love, experiences both joy and tragedy, and watches his childhood perceptions of the people in his life alter and shift drastically.

There are a few traces of the Dickens I despise in this novel.  For one thing, the main villain, Uriah Heep, is made of the his typical villain mold: ugly, twisted, poor, and unredeemable. This characterization is not only a one way ticket to Dullsville, but also stretches the limits of plausibility.

However, the rest of the characters in this novel have more layers and dimensions than in any of his other stories.  Take Rosa Dartle, Steerforth's cousin, who is portrayed as a cruel, sarcastic, and angry spinster.  But can we blame her?  Rosa has harbored a crush on Steerforth his entire life and stood patiently by while she watched his mother spoil him until he became vain and selfish.  And all that Rosa gets in return is a hammer thrown at her face.  I would be bitter too.  Anyway, my point is that most of the villains in this novel are not the typical hideous and child abusing schemers that Dickens loves to create.

I will finish this review with a big thank you to the creators of The Book who forced me to continue trying with Dickens and enabled me to find a hilarious and fascinating novel.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Idea for a drinking game: take a shot every time someone bursts into tears.  Wait, scratch that; you would end up in the hospital.

Considered to be the most autobiographical of Dickens' novels.

Okay, I looked at a couple of trailers for adaptations of this book and they all contain major spoilers so I would recommend not checking them out.

UP NEXT: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne aka The Terror of The High School Senior.