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