Friday, September 25, 2015

150. Spring Torrents

Spring Torrents
Ivan Turgenev
1872
Around 175 pages












I read this in a couple hours this morning as a means of procrastination from my real work.  I am still procrastinating by writing this review.  I suppose there are worse ways of wasting your time than reading and discussing Russian literature.  That might be the most pretentious thing I have ever said.

A Russian landowner named Dmitri Sanin falls in love with Gemma after saving her brother from a fainting fit.  Apparently, he did this by brushing the boy's clothes?  Who knew dry cleaning could save lives?  Anyway, Gemma is already betrothed to a boring German shopkeeper.  Gemma might also have a rival for his affections in Maria Nikolaevna Polozov.  I personally feel like Gemma should win, because her name confuses me less.

I was certain from the very beginning that I knew exactly how the story was going to go, but I will admit, Turgenev threw me for a loop with the introduction of Maria's character.  I really wish Turgenev had elaborated more on her character; she seemed like she belonged in Dangerous Liaisons.  This is definitely my favorite of the author's works so far; I just wish he had gone into more detail.  Did I seriously just wish that a Russian novel was longer?  Okay, that might be the most pretentious thing I have ever said.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Ivan Turgenev claimed this novel was autobiographical.

UP NEXT: Erewhon by Samuel Butler.  Never heard of it.  I'm worried.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

149. Middlemarch

Middlemarch
George Eliot
1871
Around 850 pages








I am sorry for the long delay in between posts.  I have recently relocated to London and having been doing my best to take advantage of the city. This, coupled with the fact that this is one of the longest books on the List, meant I definitely have been slowing down on my reading output.  However, I am back now so let's talk about Middlemarch!

Middlemarch tells the story of Dorothea Brooke, who is pretty much our stereotypical saintly, perfect woman.  Dorothea marries Mr. Casaubon, despite the fact that he is "elderly" and a huge bore.  Their marriage turns out to be nothing like what she expected, but she manages to befriend her husband's cousin, Will Ladislaw.  Of course, Dorothea has that condition that many heroines we have come across are afflicted with, where every man that meets her falls in love with her.  Poor thing.  Meanwhile, a young doctor named Mr. Lydgate falls in love with Rosamund Vincy.  She is unbelievably selfish, but since he seemingly only married her for her appearance, he doesn't get a lot of my sympathy.

There are enough side characters and plots in this novel to make Anthony Trollope look like a superficial author.  Most were interesting, some I couldn't have cared less about (Mr. Bulstrode, anyone?).  I love that we are moving away from the idea that a marriage always means a happy ending.  It is fascinating watching the shift from courtship to unequal partnership.

So yes, the length is a bit intimidating. And frankly, I could have gone without about two hundred pages at the beginning of the novel.  I mean, did we really have to hear about Dorothea's plan for improving the cottages of tenant farmers?  I suppose it was included to promote her status as a goddess among women.  Still, I loved this book and was quite disappointed when it was over.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Praised by Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson, but criticized by Henry James, who claimed that the character of Will Ladislaw is the greatest failure of the novel.

UP NEXT: Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev.  The Book is absolutely obsessed with this guy.