Review: Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

38 - Great Expectations

Rating – 3*

I decided it was about time I finally picked up Great Expectations, I had wanted to read some more Dickens for a while and this one was just staring at me. After A Tale of Two Cities being a huge disappointment, I had a little block in place when it came to which Dickens to read next. I’m glad it was this one.

Most people know the bare bones of Great Expectations, a young orphaned boy – Pip – dreams of stepping up in the world and becoming a gentleman. On the way to him discovering his “great expectations” he meets some very interesting characters, and one of the most iconic Dickensian characters of them all, Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham, having been left at the altar as a young woman now spends her days in her wedding dress with all the clocks in her house stopped at 8:40. I found myself drawn to her, and I do wish this book was about her not Pip because damn, Pip is boring.

The biggest issue I have with this book is Pip. He is self absorbed and, as the story is told from his perspective, it’s very hard to enjoy. It is told in three sections, and while the first story about his younger years is quite interesting – mainly due to the presence of Joe and Miss Havisham – the second part following his journey to his expectations in London was so dull! However, come part three, after finding out who his benefactor was and the fallout from there it does become more interesting and the pace picks up considerably. There was some intensity to some chapters which really made up for the drab chapters which came before it. I also like that Dickens does wrap everything up, it’s quite satisfying (if a little contrived)! On the whole, I liked the way this book went, even if I did find Pip insufferable.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed The Old Curiosity Shop, but it was still enjoyable. I will be giving it some time before picking up my next Dickens! I will, however, be watching both the TV Miniseries and the 2012 movie adaptation of Great Expectations as reading it, I could see how well it would translate on to the screen and I’m pretty excited about that!

Classics Ahoy || Book Haul IX

So I’ve gone a little classics mad as of late. Since the start of December I have acquired quite a number. I received a good number of book tokens for my birthday at the end of November and a fair amount at Christmas, combined with relatives who are now no longer trying to not buy me books I’ve been very happy. I also was lucky enough to win a book token of £50 for my local store, Jarrold where I added to the classics!

 So, I bought a lot of Clothbound Classics this past few months. I have more than doubled my already quite large collection. First off I purchased the Dickens collection from Amazon – it was in their flash sales at £40 and with student discount I really couldn’t say no. I already had a copy of A Christmas Carol which was a gift a few years ago and I have gifted that to a family member.

The set contained Bleak House, Oliver Twist, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and, as I said, A Christmas Carol.

Then, between birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and gifts to myself I added a few more to the collection. Tess of the D’ubervilles was a present from my grandmother, my parents (mum) bought Far From the Madding Crowd because she liked the bees on the cover! I preordered The Tenant of Wildfell Hall back in November when it was first announced as a clothbound edition as I loved the book and really wanted to add it to my collection.

The Woman in White was a bargain – I found it in an Oxfam shop for £5. It was a little battered but I couldn’t say no at that price! War and Peace was an impulse buy. I went in Waterstones to buy a paperback edition of Frankenstein and came out with that. I loved Anna Karenina so I decided it was definitely a good purchase even though I have a paperbakc somewhere… I want to read this this Summer for certain! Finally there is Dracula. I love Dracula and have been lusting after this edition for quite some time. When I won the gift voucher I decided that buying it was acceptable.

20160201_225840364_iOSPenguin owns my heart. I also went a little mad with PEL editions. What you’ll notice here is I have some duplicates. There are some books I own as Clothbound here. I’m not going to lie, I like to have collections in both and I do find a paperback easier to read. Essentially, I collect the clothbound editions as pretty objects and the paperbacks as functional objects.

So, since December I have accumulated these. Jane Eyre, Hard Times, The Sign of Four, Daniel Deronda, North and South, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Frankenstein, The House of Mirth and finally, A Room with a View.

Phew.

Daniel Deronda was the one I paid a bit for. I have discovered a love of George Eliot and Daniel Deronda is pretty much impossible to find new. This edition was about £10 from Ebay and I really don’t regret it. I also purchased another book with it from the same seller for about £2.50 so it averaged out at the £6 a book I would ordinarily pay for them.

Finally the very little popular fiction I acquired.20160201_230158477_iOS It’s a very small pile indeedy. I purchased The Chimes and The Buried Giant with the voucher I won. I really want to reread The Buried Giant as I didn’t much care for it initially but it’s a book which has stuck with me quite a bit so I’m interested to see if my opinion of it changes on a reread.

I also picked up some charity shop bargains in the shape of KitchenCollected Stories of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Poor Things.

What can be drawn from this haul is I’m going to be reading a lot of classics in the near future and I’m very excited about that!

Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

THotBI’m really uncertain as to what I want to say about this book. I’ve been putting off writing a review for about 3 or 4 days now and yes, I have had work to do but normally I can do a review in 20 minutes or so but The Hound of the Baskervilles has been an interesting ride and I don’t really know where to begin.

I guess I should say this was my first Sherlock book. I’ve been a fan of any adaptation as long as I can remember but this is my first foray in to the source material! That in itself is an exciting thing. I don’t really know why I’ve been putting this off? Maybe I was concerned I wouldn’t like it or it would be above my head… who knows?

What I can say is that this book – and the story itself isn’t very long – is a damn good read! It’s not the first in the series and I didn’t feel too lost, which is a good thing. I think having that familiarity with the characters through TV really helped in this instance because I didn’t feel too lost. Maybe reading an earlier Holmes book would have been a better move? I don’t know. This was good though! The actual scope of the book is quite broad for such a short novel, there was supernatural and science… it all came together quite brilliantly I thought!

But… while it was good it didn’t really live up to my expectations of Holmes. I can’t lie. It’s by no means going to be my last Holmes, I’m going try some of the shorter works, but I think I went in expecting more than I actually got. Still, it’s a solid book and worthy of 3/5!

Tag: Classics Book Tag

So, I’ve been debating doing a tag blog for a while but have been worried about translating a BookTube tag to a blog post because a lot of things are reliant on reaction to things. I’ll say it again – I wish I had the confidence to be a part of the booktube community. But more on my introversion in a future post (I’m currently reading Quiet by Susan Cain which is about introversion/extroversion so seriously, watch this space).

Anyway, the lovely Samatha (Novels and Nonsense) posted a video on the Classics Book Tag which is right up my alley and, also, very easily translated to a blog post. So I decided to give it a go! The original can be found here as a blog post!

Questions:

1. An overhyped classic you really didn’t like:
2. Favourite time period to read about
3. Favourite fairy-tale
4. What is the most embarrassed classic you haven’t read yet
5. Top 5 classics you would like to read (soon)
6. Favourite modern book/series based on a classic
7. Favourite movie version/tv-series based on a classic
8. Worst classic to movie adaptation
9. Favourite edition(s) you’d like to collect more classics from
10. An underhyped classic you’d recommend to everyone

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Review: Moby Dick – Herman Melville

MobyDickI genuinely don’t know where to start with this book. It’s just… boggling. Truly this is a masterpiece. While it was a slog, while it was hard to get through at times it was so completely worth it. The prose in this book is just mind-blowing to the point that I actually read it more slowly, reread things, I just wanted to consume it. I know that I really cannot do it justice in a review so instead I’m going to focus in on little bits rather than trying to just go through everything. It’s just so vast it would genuinely be hellish to try and cover everything!

Firstly, I need to thank the wonderful Choncey Boddington (who can be found here and here. Seriously, check her out, she’s wonderful.) because without her review of this book I really would never have even dared to pick this up. Really. Her review of Moby Dick was just so passionate that I decided that I needed it in my life. So I put it in my life and I’m very grateful to her.

Now, on to the actual review, which is a lengthy one.

This book just says so much about life. Ultimately, he links whaling back to the human psyche and with it gets in to the depths of humans souls to show that deep down inside, regardless of our differences, we all run on the same desires and also the same spirit. It can be said that Moby Dick as a character is a metaphor; that thing that all people chase but it’s how we chase it that sets us apart as individuals. How Melville got so deep in to the soul by talking about a whale is just astounding. It just says so much and so little all at once, it’s all subtext that you extract and it’s amazing.

What also blew me away about this is the intimate knowledge that he had of whales. I mean, he knew all of this, he didn’t have Wikipedia at his fingertips he actually had to go to libraries and research and understand all of this and that’s just completely astounding if I’m honest. Some of the chapters which dealt with whale anatomy and the differences between species were really interesting too; it’s a fiction book but it’s educational with it (okay, it’s a little dated, but I went away and I googled things and googled the whales and learnt the differences for myself. Again, it’s amazing that Melville knew all of that, he didn’t have google-fu!)

A lot of reviewers of this book said they had trouble with the language and while that is partly true, I found it was quite easy to pick up. There is a glossary in the back for specific terms but generally, the style and flow of language is in keeping with the period. Having read Dickens last month this is just as accessible in terms of language and story! It does get a little confusing but truthfully it is a book that I couldn’t sit and read for an extended period of time, a couple of chapters was more than enough before I had to take a step back and focus on something else for a while!

Also, as with Dickens it’s first-person narration which can be a bit of a pain. It was done well to an extent, but sometimes first person narration has a tendency to get a bit of ‘tunnel vision’ and be a little frustrating as a reader. Once I got through that wall I was fine, but it is something to be aware of when you go in to it. On the whole though, characters were well developed. I also found that the flip between first person narration to the occasional ‘non fiction’ type chapter or even a chapter where it’s laid out like a script which was just something to break up monotony.

The climax of this book is one that can only be compared to The Odyssey. The tension and atmosphere created were just astounding and by this point I just could not stop reading. I didn’t want to put the book down, I just wanted to know what happened. The ending was just… boom. Boom. Seriously just boom. I think it was an inevitable way for the book to go, it would have been difficult to have been able to justify it happening any other way. There were heavy tones of fate and myth and legend leading up to it and I think it actually made the ending all the more powerful.

Ultimately this is deserving of a 5/5 rating. Seriously. It is by no means a light book, it is hard to follow at parts but some patience and determination and you’re really rewarded with one of the most astounding books I’ve ever read. Definitely near the top of my ‘favourite classics’ list and one that I will reread in the future! Ultimately, this book taught me that sometimes we don’t get the whale, but that’s okay, sometimes not getting the whale is the best thing that happens to us.

Review: Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

madamebovary“Love, she thought, must come suddenly, with great outbursts and lightnings,–a hurricane of the skies, which falls upon life, revolutionises it, roots up the will like a leaf, and sweeps the whole heart into the abyss.”

Madame Bovary is essentially a book about a woman who loves the idea of romance. Emma Bovary is a gem of a character, she’s entered a marriage with an idyllic viewpoint based on what she has read and finds out that love, marriage and sex isn’t like what she read about (I feel you, Emma. I feel you.). So, she decides to do something about it. The book follows her, and reads as an outsider looking in, as she embarks on a number of affairs.

There were a few glaring problems with this for me though; Emma as a character was far better than the book as a whole. I wasn’t keen on the writing style or the flow in parts. There are some beautiful passages, some descriptions are just so vivid but I think the core problem is that I didn’t feel like I was part of the story, I did just feel like an observer and that not being able to fully engage with it bothered me.

But Emma, oh Emma Bovary. You are a breath of fresh air and I love you. Just a little bit. It would be very easy to actually hate every character in this book, even Emma, but I found myself liking her. She’s quite conceited and narcissistic, she has an addictive personality but… She’s just awesome. She’s not perfect, she’s full of flaws actually, but she’s just intoxicating in a way.

I read this as part of my reading challenge for the year as a romance novel but, really, it’s not really a romance. It wants to be a romance and every character in the book wants their life to be a romance novel. But there’s a lot more to it than that and it’s not your typical fluffy romance either. By the end, it’s actually quite a sad book – beautiful – but heartbreaking.

Overall I’m glad I read this and I’m going to give it 3/5.

Review: The Old Curiosity Shop – Charles Dickens

OldCuriosityShopThis really wasn’t what I was expecting. If we’re being honest here, I was expecting a Dickensian version of Victoria Wood’s Acorn Antiques and, if like me, that’s what you were hoping for, I’m sorry to ruin it for you but it isn’t. Quite sadly, the eponymous shop barely shows face but don’t let that distract you because honestly? This book is quite the masterpiece.

A lot of people have a love-hate relationship with Dickens. His writing style is quite unique. He’s the definition of superfluous (but when you get paid by the word, it literally pays to be that way so he had his reasons) and that annoys a lot of people. When reading through this, it was often quite dry in places and I was reading through a rather unnecessary paragraph when bam – there’s a piece of beautiful prose. This happened frequently. There’s no denying that Dickens could write and I’m really glad I started with this book (aside from A Christmas Carol) as my venture in to Dickens this 2015.

The Old Curiosity Shop follows the story of little Nell Trent and her beloved Grandfather. Along the way we meet the adorable Kit, the evil Quilp, Punch and Judy, a waxwork woman, Mr Dick Swiveller (hehe) and Miss and Mr Brass to name but a few. Dickens is a master of characters, each of them is unique and distinguished from the rest. I actually can’t remember the last time I read a book with such a large ensemble of characters and could really remember them each as individuals. The growth in each of them, their development, it’s just something that I actually found refreshing as it’s not often found to that scale.

I found it quite slow paced, it took me much longer than I was anticipating to actually get through it. It’s one of those books that is a bit varied in it’s momentum; the first 100 pages were slow, 100-300 were quite fast paced and then it became quite slow and rather difficult to read again; this was on a repeat cycle and the final 150 pages I just whizzed through. I’m glad I persevered though because it really was worth it! Sometimes a slower read is a good thing, it was just frustrating in parts as it’s a book I found I had to devote all my energy to, I couldn’t have another book going on the side!

Ultimately, this is wonderful. Absolutely amazing and I will definitely be reading more Dickens. Primarily because of the slump in pace I give it 4/5.

Review: Peter Pan – J. M. Barrie

peterpanQuite shamefully, this is another children’s classic I’ve never read. As I’ve got in to my 20s, and friends are having babies, I’m realising how woefully deprived of children’s classics I was when I was little. It wasn’t that I didn’t read, or wasn’t read to, but that I seem to have jumped from The Gruffalo to Harry Potter with nothing much in between. So I set out to remedy this and added Peter Pan to my Christmas list. I was lucky enough that Santa brought me the beautiful Puffin Chalk edition (along with Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz from the same series) and I settled down Christmas Day to make a start on this.

I do, once again, have to just gush momentarily for the beauty of Penguin/Puffin publishing. I adore their reissues of classics. The Puffin Chalk series are all absolutely beautiful and have decaled edges and just feel so beautiful in your hands. I’m in no way sponsored by Penguin (if only!) but I just love their publishing.

On to the book. It’s not a story I’m actually particularly familiar with. Truthfully, I’ve never even seen the Disney movie! So I went in to this story pretty much blind. I thought it was going to be a sweet tale as from what little I do know it appeared to be a lovely story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s enchanting and whimsical and perfectly lovely but in the same breath it’s really quite sinister. There is a lot of violence; I’m not sure how many parents would appreciate the unapologetic violence that is present in this book truthfully. Then there’s the misogyny – which though woefully period accurate – seems to be quite a bit heavier in places than in other books from this time frame. It made me a cringe in places. When there is such blatant sexism, I do find it hard to put it aside and enjoy the story that I’m reading.

But, it absolutely has to be said, it is a beautiful story. A story of flying and mermaids and all the innocence that childhood entails. All the things I was expecting in this book were present, just not quite in the way I expected them to be! Neverland is one of the most wonderful places in fiction (save for the Pirates). It’s written with such whimsy and delicacy the writing itself is a pleasure. There are some wonderful metaphors and explanations to things; it’s just magical.

My main issue was the characters. Peter was a manipulative, cocky brat. Tinker Bell was a jealous, spiteful little madam. Wendy was a wet blanket. The Lost Boys were just blah. It just really didn’t inspire me, or make me want to know more about them. Yeah, the characters were not all that great.

I think a lot of people assume that the Disney adaptation is an accurate retelling of the book, but from what I have seen of the movie since I began reading this (snippets here and there) it’s really not all that similar. The adaptation seems far more sugar coated.

Overall, the writing style won out for me in this one. The story itself was good, in spite of sexism and poor characters, this was mainly because the writing itself was just charming. I’m glad I read it, but it isn’t a children’s classic I’ll be in a hurry to reread any time soon! 3/5

Review: A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

christmascarolI’m so glad I finally read A Christmas Carol properly this year! I’ve skim-read it in the past but never actually settled down with it and read it properly as I did this Christmas. It’s a story I think everyone and their Aunt are familiar with; I grew up with the varying movies – Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Patrick Stewart and of course The Muppets! It’s my mum’s favourite movie, it’s one that isn’t exclusive to Christmas either now. But I don’t understand why I’d never read the book when the story is such an integral part of my childhood.

Anyway, I curled up with this (and a bottle of rum) at about half past 10 Christmas Eve and finished just before midnight. Quite appropriate if I do say so myself. And I loved it. It’s definitely one that should be read in one sitting; and as close to Christmas as possible for me. Also, I think that it will be a little tradition that I start that I read it Christmas Eve as it doesn’t take a particularly long time to read.

Most of the movies do this justice, even the Muppets stick to the main story! But in reading it there is such depth to the writing that you can feel snow underfoot and the crispness of the air and I think there is a power to the written word that you just don’t quite get even with the magic of movies. I just loved it. There wasn’t really any surprises as between the varying adaptations you get the full story in one way, shape or form. But still the book was just amazing and has that little something that just makes it superior to the movies.

I have to say, in reading it properly (opposed to just skimming it as I did a few years ago) I so want to read more of Dickens work next year. I’m going to try for at least 3 of his works – so yes, there’s a Reading Resolution for 2015! I just love his writing and I’m determined to love it even more.

Definitely a must for Christmas in my eyes! I’m sad I wasn’t introduced to it properly sooner, that I wasn’t encouraged to read it sooner, but I think it just makes it all the more amazing to read now!

Review: Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

littlewomenQuite shamefully, I’d never read this book until this year. I’d read the first chapter numerous times but had just never been in the mood to dedicate time to it. However, I swore this Christmas I would find time and upon seeing a readalong for it, I did find time. Simply, I’m so glad I did.

The plot is quite menial really; following 4 sisters who were each wonderful in a unique way. From what other people had said, I was expecting to love Jo. Truthfully, I found her quite annoying in spite of the fact she is a lot more ‘modern’. She did grow on me, quite substantially, but I found her quite frustrating at times. On the other hand, I loved Beth which really surprised me; I can’t say I’m usually a fan of the meek and mild, gentle female. I usually find female characters like that really irritating, but truthfully I found her very endearing. But Jo did grow on me, it would have been pretty bleak if she hadn’t and I can tell how much of herself that Alcott put in to Jo and by the end of the book, I’m glad it was happy for her. Marmee annoyed the heck out of me though. I can understand how in reading this book young, the quotes, morals and lessons she has for every occasion would be charming. Now if I had a mother like her I’d have moved out quite a while ago! She would drive me to insanity.

On a different note, I loved the simplicity of it. Often there are little quirks and underlying titbits that can be overlooked in fiction aimed at girls on the brink of teenager-dom. Not here. This book is so sickeningly sweet and straight forward it was a pleasure to read (once I got in to the ‘language’ which is often a hard thing with a classic). I also listened to some of it on audiobook (on youtube) which I think really helped me get in to the characters; and maybe altered the opinion I would have had on them had I have read it all myself because there was one particular narrator (as it was free it was read by varying people) who really got the personalities of the girls right down, and I think she’s the reason I really liked Beth! She just read all 4 of them so flawlessly it was much easier to give them voices when I then went on to read ‘properly’.

I’m glad I read this, it’s not my favourite children’s classic. I prefer The Secret Garden or Ballet Shoes if I were to pick two books that are comparable to this. But it is a beautiful book, and one I would very happily recommend.