Saturday, June 20, 2015

143. Phineas Finn

Phineas Finn
Anthony Trollope
1867-68
Around 730 pages










I have finally cleared up the numbering confusion that you are no doubt sick of hearing everyone talk about.  Now onto this novel.  Everyone I have described it to has nearly keeled over with boredom as soon as I start talking about it.  Maybe I should stop leading with the rights of Irish tenant farmers.  Anyway, hopefully I can do a better job of making it sound interesting here, because I really enjoyed this novel.

Phineas Finn is a young Irishman who stands for Parliament, despite being poor and inexperienced.  Because he is so pleasant and handsome, he makes many influential friends.  He becomes acquainted with Lady Laura Standish and her brutish brother Oswald.  He quickly falls in love with Laura, who may already be engaged to his rival, Robert Kennedy.  He also meets a witty heiress, Violet Effingham, who is violently urged by both Lord Brentford and Lady Laura to marry Oswald.  Oh yeah and he is admired by a widow named Madame Max Goesler.  Also, he is loved by Mary Flood Jones in Ireland.  Basically, he is drowning in bitches.

Like most people, I don't exactly have a firm grasp of nineteenth century British politics.  Come to think of it, I don't have a firm grasp on twenty-first century politics.  However, this did not detract from my enjoyment in the slightest bit.  Trollope at one point apologizes to female readers for talking about politics when in all likelihood all us women folk want to hear about is his love for Mary.  I am choosing not to be offended by this, since it is altogether true.

In fact, Trollope is quite forward thinking in his view of women.  Without giving anything away, a woman decides to live apart from her husband when his temper is too much for her.  Most of our principal characters support her decision.  While there are still major problems (i.e.  Mary being seen as the best of her sex simply because she has no mind of her own) but at least we have some complex female characters.

I have gone on way too long so I will wrap it up.  All in all, I would read a grocery list if Trollope wrote it.  Although, come to think of it, it would probably be 800 pages.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Second novel in the Palliser series.

UP NEXT: Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert.  Excited to read more from his canon.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

140. Little Women

Little Women
Louisa May Alcott
1868-69
Around 400 pages









I resent this novel, mostly because the plot did not go the way I wanted it to.  Yes, I realize that I am pouting.  But let me throw my tantrum; it has been a rough week.

The story follows the lives of the four March sisters.  Meg is a beauty who I suppose represents the domestic feminine ideal.  Jo is an aspiring writer and attracts the attentions of the next door neighbor, Laurie.  Beth is nauseatingly sweet and "good".  And Amy.  Well, Amy is kind of a bitch.  If you want a sappier synopsis, check out the trailer for the 1992 film at the bottom of the page.

My main grievances with this novel cannot be revealed without major spoilers, so I will refrain.  This is an important novel, though, since it at least suggests that a woman can have an identity outside of marriage and love.

So a little on the sappy side and it makes The Pickwick Papers sound like a much better novel than it actually was.  Still, worthy of its place on The List.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

There are two sequels: "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys".  I have read both; neither are that remarkable.

Considered a strong contribution to the feminist canon.

1994 Trailer:

139. The Moonstone

The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
1868
Around 450 pages












In my eagerness to review The Idiot (speaking of idiots), I accidentally skipped both Little Women and The Moonstone.  So now the ordering is a bit screwed up and the most recent review, Maldoror, will be a bit hidden.  But nobody cares about that novel anyway, so we should be good to go.

Rachel Verinder inherits a diamond, called the Moonstone, from her corrupt uncle who stole it from India.  Because, you know, white people.  Rachel wears it on her dress for a party and it is stolen that night.  Suspicion falls on the Indian jugglers hired that night (again, white people).  Her cousin, Franklin Blake, attempts to solve the case while dodging suspicion himself.

I find these early examples of detective literature a lot more enjoyable than the mystery novels that are pumped out now with alarming frequency.  I loved all the twists and I had fun trying to guess the ending.  The mystery genre will never be my favorite, but this is still a fun novel.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Considered the first detective novel.

Introduced the "gentleman detective" archetype.

UP NEXT: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.