Monday, June 23, 2014

123. The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss
George Eliot
1860
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
1859
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
1860
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
Multatuli
1860
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.