Friday, January 22, 2016

157. The Temptation of Saint Anthony

The Temptation of Saint Anthony
Gustave Flaubert
1874
Around 260 pages











Well that was truly horrendous. I never expected anything like that to come from Flaubert.  I feel more betrayed than when the man I was in love with chose another woman over me.  After all, I trust my books far more than I have ever trusted men.

Where to begin on this "novel."  It is actually written in the form of a play script, so I don't know if it can be rightfully called a novel.  It is clear from how fantastical it is that it could never actually be performed so perhaps writing it in that format was some kind of Joycean stylistic choice to convey....something.  I have no idea.  The "story" follows Saint Anthony as he tempted by a myriad of things over the course of one night.  I think.  My knowledge of early church/Roman history isn't great.  I really had no clue what was going on and Flaubert didn't seem that troubled to let people in on anything if they didn't get the references.

I felt like I was reading Maldoror 2. Some of the images in this story were truly horrific, like when Flaubert walked us through the castration of some crazy guy.  I could not believe that this was the same Flaubert who delighted me with Madame Bovary and A Sentimental Education.  It felt like it was written by an uber religious Russian hermit.  According to Wikipedia, Flaubert worked on this novel "fitfully" for most of his adult life.  Wow. I hope I can forgive him for this and remember the good times.  It will take a lot of healing to get back to that place.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Has overwhelmingly positive reviews on Goodreads.  I find that mind boggling.

Before this, I read Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day.  Absolutely beautiful.

UP NEXT: The Hand of Ethelberta by Thomas Hardy.  Back into the safe, warm embrace of Hardy.

Monday, January 18, 2016

156. Far From the Madding Crowd

Far From the Madding Crowd
Thomas Hardy
1874
Around 500 pages








I completely devoured Ian McEwan's Saturday, but as I was having trouble with nausea because of my pain medication, I made myself sick from reading so much.  I was still eager to know the ending, so I had my mother read the last twenty pages out loud for me.  Thankfully, I don't have that problem anymore and could read Far From the Madding Crowd without vomiting.

Bathsheba Everdene is a beautiful young woman who inherits her uncle's farm.  Despite Thomas Hardy's barely contained sexism, Bathsheba commands the respect and love of her employees.  She attracts the attention of three men and each romance plays out in shocking ways.

I absolutely loved this novel.  I became completely obsessed with these characters and all I wanted to do was to sit with my bowl of M&Ms and read about Bathsheba's farm.  I know Thomas Hardy always describes landscapes beautifully, but I didn't expect him to make me laugh out loud with his narration.  I thought watching the three types of love develop was the most compelling part of the story.  You had Gabriel Oak's love of Bathsheba, which was solid, unwavering, but also a bit dull and unromantic.  Then you had Farmer Boldwood's love, which was irrational and crazed.  Finally, you had Francis Troy's "love" which was based on sexual desire and self flattery.  Being in my 20s, I have experienced quite a few Troys.

I think a lot of people find Bathsheba annoying, but really, I don't think it is her fault that the men around her are a bit loony.  I probably should wind this down.  I loved it and it is certainly a promising start to our Hardy phase.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Fourth of Hardy's novels and first major literary success.

The title comes from a poem; the word "madding" means frenzied.

Trailer for the latest adaptation.  Readers, is it worth watching?

UP NEXT: The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Gustave Flaubert.  I do adore Flaubert but that is a rather frightening title.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

155. The Enchanted Wanderer

The Enchanted Wanderer
Nikolai Leskov
1873
Around 300 pages













I can't believe my last post was almost two months ago!  I have several good excuses for this.  In the past month and a half, I have moved then had my long distance boyfriend visit for two weeks.  On Friday, I had surgery that will leave me confined to my bed for months.  The silver lining of this is that I will have plenty of time to read and update this blog!  My pain is your gain.

Basically, we have an insufferable male character who was "promised to God" by his mother.  He refuses to join a monastery and so must suffer through many trials.  I almost felt like this was a parody of a Russian novel since everyone was so miserable.  At one point, a man ordered vodka.  He said he couldn't pay for it so instead ate the glass.

With a name like "the Enchanted Wanderer" I expected some bright eyed, earnest person who explores the world.  Instead, we got a complete psychopath who gives away babies and tortures cats.  What a waste of time that was.  I am in quite a bit of pain right now and I need really amazing books!  Hopefully the next one will impress.

RATING: **--- (two stars only because it was a bit short)

Interesting Facts:

Critics were generally lukewarm about this book upon its first release.

UP NEXT: Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.  I have actually heard of this one so maybe it will be a good read.