Books, Fiction

What did I read this week?

Current week is to an end and I am still not finished with Wilkie Collins’ WOMAN IN WHITE. Many say it’s his masterpiece but I am reading Collins for the first time and not even a hundred pages complete. It’s a mystery novel and has a Gothic theme with psychological realism which I am yet to explore. More this week, I had more than usual amount of free time and the amount of books I have to read is always, enormous. Thus to take the matter in my own hands and with blessings of time, I decided to binge reading and ended up reading first two books of Lord Peter Wimsey, Whose Body? & Clouds of Witness written by Dorothy Sayers.


Lord Peter Wimsey, as I like to imagine, is an unusual sort of character to be a detective in detective fiction with his reputation in London’s Society and the wealth of his family.

Continue reading “What did I read this week?”

Books, classics, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

People have been reviewing Great Expectations for 150 years. It’s the essence of a classic to survive such a long time and still being read. It is also a writer’s name that adds to a classic’s character, but that is not always the case. However, with Charles Dickens it is the former case and readers have expectations. I do. Whenever I start reading a Dickens novel, I expect it to be long, and contain all the elements of a story telling. Certainly, Dickens is one of the masters of the art.

The story is of an orphan,Pip, who from the beginning of the novel is not an ideal protagonist who have to be heroes or emotionally and physically strong. The story in short is tale written in first person narrative is about a person and his “great expectations”. It is the tale of self-understanding and perception. As a young boy Pip, lives with his sister ad her husband, kind soul, of whom he is fond of in his childhood. One day his presence is at demand in front of a strange woman who lives in a grand house with her niece. This is the starting of Pip’s “Great Expectations”. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens”

Books, Crime & Mystery, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey is a different work produced by Jane Austen, not so typical Austen novel I would say, and many times referred as a ‘Gothic Parody’. I haven’t read Jane Austen in years. Last book I remember reading of hers is Mansfield Park that I consider her best work.

Most of the events described in this book take place in Bath, England and later in Northanger Abbey, an estate. Catherine Morland is this novel’s young heroine who has little experience outside her own country village until she is invited to Bath with family friends, Mr. & Mrs. Allen. In Bath she befriends two families, the Thorpes and the Tilneys.

While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers and especially a fan Ann Radcliffe’s books immerses herself in the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion and let it mingle with her mind with terrible suspicions. She arouse some questions to satisfy her own appetite of imagination such as what is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother?  Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen”

Books, classics, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Martin Eden by Jack London

Jack London’s Martin Eden is a rare book that would indulge any reader from page one. It is also rare since it does resemble the typical American writing as one can observe in the writing styles of American writers of early twentieth century. It’s a powerful book, one that will definitely have an impact on its readers and will leave a reader thoughtful in the end.

Set in San Fransisco, this semi-autobiographical work is the story of a sailor called Martin Eden who pursues ambitiously, dreams of education and literary fame. For a start with help of the girl, he falls in love with, he educates himself feverishly and becomes a writer, hoping to acquire the respectability sought by his society-girl. However, fame is a cruel mistress and takes her own time to develop but that doesn’t mean it will knock on one’s door. Martin pledges towards his writing everyday, once he feels confident of himself being an intellectual he starts writing articles, essays and stories and sends them to magazines and newspapers all across the country.  Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Martin Eden by Jack London”

Books, classics, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy

You can go on reading books after books for fifteen days or you can read Tolstoy’s undoubtedly masterpiece: War and Peace. How was it, you ask? Easier than I expected. Choosing the right translation plays a major role when you are reading books written in languages you are not familiar of.  We will talk about that more, later.

Saying that I haven’t read Tolstoy before will be an understatement since I remember my failed attempts with Anna Karenina, twice I think. The Confession is a petite novella and is lying on my shelf just like that for months. Not a single attempt-to-read yet. War and Peace is humongous. Lots of characters introduced in first few chapters will seek you attention. Don’t start this book before going to bed. Especially before going to bed when you are starting to read it. The characters introduced in those first few chapters may help you doze off to sweeter dreams, thus you might end up loosing any interest that was the result of earlier motivation.

With lots of characters comes a lot more story lines. Tolstoy does a fantastic job in describing those story lines along with timeline of historical events, recounting them deeply and the blending of the fictional characters along with the historical ones. In short I can say, War and Peace is about five families during Napoleonic War in Russia. But that doesn’t satisfy me at all. It is about a lot more than that. It explores of human emotions during various circumstances including, war, patriotism, money, love, marriage, betrayal, forgiveness, gossip, et cetera.

The book is divided into five volumes. First one starts in 1805 when Russia is at war with Napoleon Bonaparte’s France. Tolstoy introduces his list of characters at an evening gathering held by a socialite. This party introduces us to many of the characters such as Pierre Bezukhov, and Prince Andrei are major ones. The major part of the story is either played in St. Petersburg or in Moscow. Rest are shown in various fields and outposts where the French and the Russian army are getting net to neck. Tolstoy makes the reader familiar by indulging some of the major characters in war at this time. The war is interesting if Tolstoy is describing it to us. At some point in the book Tolstoy arguably defies historians and the events described by them. He certainly disliked their way of forging with historical events. He also denies the fallacy that history is a production by some great men, instead suggesting it is the result of minute moments and decisions made by a large number of men and women. Many of the events described by him are graphic and you will end up visualising them in front of your eyes just as you see reality merely by reading Tolstoy’s words. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy”

Books, classics, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Notes From Underground is not doubt one of the most challenging books I have read in years. It needs a reader’s attention from the page one and till the last page. It must be read when you aware that you are conscious and you are reading the book. This book needs time absorb in a reader’s intellect. It has the power of to kick you in your guts straightaway from the first line of the book. The narrator introduces himself as a man who lives underground and refers to himself as a ‘spiteful’ person whose every act is dictated by his spitefulness. Many people would say that Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella marks the beginning of the modernist movement in literature. Gustav Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis are some other contenders.

It is a two part novella and addresses the reader directly. First person narration is contributed by a forty something man, a retired mid-level government bureaucrat, who ruminates in his poor apartment. If somebody remember reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, they will some similarities between both of the work. Both works manage to share a solitary, restless, irritable protagonist and a feeling for the feverish.

This narrator is portrayed through Dostoyevsky’s words as a sensitive, intelligent, idealistic and morally paralysed. In the first part of the novel the protagonist, after introducing himself, complains about everything: industrial capitalism, scientific rationality, and any sort of predictive, mathematical model of human behaviour. He points out that some people love things which are not to their best advantage. His objection continues that the scientific trend is trying to define a way for a society that will function for man’s best advantage and the theory will prove a man to be a rational being and in this utopian society not a single man would need to suffer but the narrator argues that without suffering there will be nothing left that of a man’s desires. With the scientific way, the freedom to choose life in one’s own way also subsides. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky”

Books, classics, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens  is a book full of quotes. It is the book, in which the lines must be quoted and not para-phrased. I remember first picking up this book when I was fifteen but never finished. Until last year, when I finished the book. Charles Dickens has been a very important personality in my life. I got to know him when i was thirteen when I remember reading Oliver Twist which had an impact over me at that time.

Dickens characters always has never failed to amaze me but A Tale of Two Cities is all about the storyline which is set during era of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. It is a story of love, betrayal, courage, and of sacrifice and redemption. A Tale of Two Cities begins with Miss Lucie Manette and Mr. Jarvis Lorry make a trip to Paris because they believe they’ve found her father. Dickens describes their venture as on their, “way to dig someone out of the grave.” After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter.

Years later after Doctor’s release, Lucie and Dr. Manette take part in the trial of Charles Darnay, who is found innocent, and Darnay seeks Lucie’s hand in marriage. When revolutionaries learn that Darnay is related to an evil aristocrat, they imprison him the next time he is in France. Sydney Carton determines he can bring value to his life by rescuing Darnay. The novel successfully cover the theme of self-sacrifice and self-worth. It also provides social commentaries on British and French culture and politics.  Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens”

Books, classics, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield  by Charles Dickens is considered to be the most closest work resembling Dickens life. It is autobiographical. is the story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist.

There is a funny anecdote related to this book. At the time when I was reading David Copperfield, a friend of mine tells me that the first book Sigmund Freud gave his fiancee, Martha Bernays, on their engagement in 1882. At the moment, I wanted to question his anecdote but I thought it otherwise. I said to myself, ‘Why not read this 900 pages book and find the answer to that ‘why’ myself?’ And indeed I did.

The first half of the novel begins with the childhood of David Copperfield. The childhood starts of with his father’s death only when he is three years old. His mother, very young, pretty, and inexperienced, raises the boy with the help of her loyal maid, Clara Peggoty. Things go well, young David is growing up in a happy, loving home until his mother marries again. David’s stepfather, believes that firmness is the only way of dealing with boys. He ends up sending Davy away to a boarding school run by a cruel schoolmaster. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens”

Books, classics, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is written in 1892 as journal of a woman who failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country and is forbidden by her doctor and her husband to write. The novella can be regarded as the an autobiographical work of the author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She was a prominent figure during the first-wave feminist movement in the United States. Much of her life’s work was influenced by the experiences of her early life.

Narrated by an unnamed protagonist, the journal records are basically a reality of the protagonist’s own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper, a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Gilman formulated her protagonist’s struggle with her own experiences with depression and patriarchy in mind.

The book covers dark emotional turmoil of the narrator.  Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman”

Books, classics, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House is a novel by Charles Dickens, published in 20 monthly instalments between March 1852 and September 1853. The title, ‘Bleak House’ isn’t exactly an invitation for a reader to pick it up, and not a famous one either in terms of other Charles Dickens novels, especially A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. Even though it is not as famous as Dickens other novels yet it is one of the vast book and includes engaging variety of minor characters and sub-plots.

The novel starts by a description of a murky November day in London. Thought out the novel Dickens’ descriptions of fog over the London in various words and styles is extraordinary. This novel share the brilliance of Dickens’ manner of writing, wit, plots and sub plots and yet it is different from his all other novels. The first base of Bleak House being different is that it is not Dickens’ regular morality tale. Bleak House has been called the first detective novel in English, and there is a mystery to be solved, avaricious lawyers, a blackmail attempt, a thoroughly nasty old man who spontaneously combust whether because of his drinking or his wickedness is never entirely clear.

The book is driven forward by two figures alternatively, one an unknown, unnamed narrator and Esther Summerson who is one of the major characters of the book. Capable and affectionate Esther Summerson knows nothing of her lineage since having been brought up by her godmother. Her life is one of misery and solitude until she is placed under the care of her guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, an eccentric, warm-hearted bachelor. Mr. Jarndyce’s two other wards, cousins Richard and Ada, adore Esther as well, and she finds herself completely happy and loved for the first time in her life. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Bleak House by Charles Dickens”