Wednesday, August 12, 2015

148. Through The Looking Glass

Through The Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll
1871
Around 150 pages








This was an easy checkmark for me, since my edition of Alice in Wonderland came with this tiny sequel attached.  This story doesn't even feel like a different book, so expect the same kind of tepid review that you got before.

Alice steps into another world through the mirror on her mantel.  Here she finds confusing poetry and giant chessboard that she must move across to become a queen.  Of course, she meets strange creatures like Tweedledum, Tweedledee and Humpty Dumpty who are completely nonsensical and obnoxious.  I would immediately go on a rampage if I met any of these characters.

Once again, there is no denying that this book is exceedingly clever for a children's story.  There are frequent references to chess, boating, and even Latin.  I am a fully grown adult and I still don't understand everything.

Definitely an outstanding children's book, but still a little too trippy for me.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Hatta and Haigha are the counterparts to the Hatter and the March Hare from the first book.

The world in Through The Looking Glass is said to be the mirror image of Wonderland.

UP NEXT: Middlemarch by George Eliot.




Monday, August 10, 2015

147. King Lear of the Steppes

King Lear of the Steppes
Ivan Turgenev
1870
Around 200 pages












It really looks like I am phoning in it with my pictures, but honestly, I think very few people care that this book existed.  There is not even a Wikipedia page for it.  There is good reason for this, since I found the novel to be rather unremarkable.

The story starts with a party talking about the Shakespearean characters they have met in their lives: the Falstaffs, the Hamlets, the Macbeths, etc.  The narrator then talks about his encounter with a King Lear type.  As a side note, I have never met a Falstaff or a Hamlet.  I have maybe met a couple of Parises in my time.  I have to hang out with more interesting people.

Anyway, Martin Petrovich Harlov is afraid he is going to die so leaves everything to his two daughters and son-in-law.  Does everything go well?  I will give you a hint: it's a Russian novel.

Like I said, this book didn't leave that much of an impression on me and I am racking my brains trying to think of something to say about it.  I didn't find anything of the characters sympathetic; they were either whiny, antisemitic, or cold as ice.  Why couldn't the characters have chosen to explore the Katherinas or Benedicts in their lives instead?  This feels like a wasted opportunity.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

This book is too obscure to find any interesting trivia on.  However, I did just get Booklovers Trivial Pursuit.  It still makes me feel incredibly dull witted, but at least it is an improvement from regular Trivial Pursuit.

UP NEXT: Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.  Already checked off.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

146. He Knew He Was Right

He Knew He Was Right
Anthony Trollope
1869
Around 930 pages








Of course, we know I am going to complain about this novel being way too long.  How could I not?  930 pages for a plot that I will be soon be summing up in two sentences is just ridiculous.  However, I am still a bit sad that I'm done with this novel.  I will miss reading chapters that have titles like "Hugh Stanbury smokes a pipe," "Shewing what Nora Rowley thought about carriages," and finally, because the first one was such a cliffhanger, "Hugh Stanbury smokes another pipe."

All right, I promised you a one sentence summary so here we go:  Louis Trevelyan believes that one of his wife's oldest friends, Colonel Osbourne, is a "rogue"and doesn't believe that his wife Emily should see him anymore.  Emily feels accused by this and does not comply, leading Louis feeling so emasculated that he starts to lose his mind.  Of course, since this is Anthony Trollope, there are quite a few subplots as well that I thought were a lot more interesting than the main one.  My favorite was the story of the courtship between Mr. Gibson and the French daughters.  He can't really decide which one he likes best and they don't take it very well.  No spoilers, but one of them ends up with a carving knife.

From the premise, you can tell that parts of this novel are going to be extremely frustrating for feminist readers.  There is a feminist character in this book, Wallachia Petrie, who is treated like a maniacal leper.  I found the other female characters, however, to be quite empowering.  I guess they are just not allowed to talk about their own empowerment or they would become "unmarriageable shrews" like Wallachia.  Still, the women in this novel refuse to let their lives be dictated for them, even if it means being miserable.  The women are still at the mercy of the whims of ridiculous, foolish men but at least Trollope is pointing out the absurdity of it.

Like I said, the main storyline didn't really grab me.  Sure, I wanted to strangle Louis (who wouldn't?) but I was mostly sick of the two main characters' whining.  Funnily enough, I think the secondary characters were pretty sick of it too.  Let's just bump the French sisters up to top billing and call it a day.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Anthony Trollope thought that this work was a failure.  He thought that Louis Trevelyan was "unsympathetic" and the secondary characters were more interesting.  Hey, that's what I thought too!  Anthony and I are tight.

This is the first part of the BBC adaptation from YouTube.  Is there a single English novel that has not been adapted in a BBC miniseries?


UP NEXT: King Lear of the Steppes by Ivan Turgenev.  This should be cheerful.