1001 BooksTag Archives

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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Reason for Reading:
  • This was the first choice for a book club that I joined for the summer.

I also recommend:

  • Anything by Kafka

Summary from GoodReads:

Awe and exhiliration–along with heartbreak and mordant wit–abound in Lolita, Nabokov’s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love–love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

My Review:

This is not a book for the faint of heart. Wow, I don’t even know where to begin with a review on this one.

I was hoping to make the book club discussion centering on this title so I could get my thoughts in order – but alas, life stepped in and I was unable to make it so you all will have to suffer through my trying to get everything straightened out.

Vanity Fair, for its blurb on one edition of this book, says it’s “the only convincing love story of our century,” which, frankly, scares me to death. Why? Because the nitty gritty is that this love story is between an older man and a 12 year old girl.

That’s the surface of the story – but then there’s so much more to it than that. The narrator of this book is filled with so much remorse and justification and self-loathing that it’s nearly impossible to not be captivated by his voice and follow along the story. I was seriously disgusted with myself because, at one point, I was nearly as eager as he was when contemplating murder or scheming to get his way. That scared me – and Freud would have a field day with that (Yes, I read those essays of those Mr. Freud.)

It’s that type of writing, the one that binds and drags you along on a journey you really do not want to go on, that makes for great writing. And Vanity Fair’s blurb? Well, I think in a way it addresses that narrative voice, it’s harsh reality, bitterness and despair. Who can tell the heart where to love, or why it shouldn’t?

This is a tough read for many of those reasons and more. If you attempt it, I recommend you do so with a friend so these are the things you can discuss.

 

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Sunday Brunch | Roofbeam Reader| The Mantle


Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

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Reason for Reading:
  • Part of the 1001 Challenge – plus I’ve always wanted to read Balzac!

I also  recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Nobody writes about money like Balzac, and his classic chronicle of a young man from the provinces clawing his way to success in 19th century Paris, even as an older man is victimized by the same milieu, shrewdly captures the financial dimension of so much that goes on between people. The boarding house in which the two protagonists live is a microcosm of their world, and Goriot’s treatment by his daughters would make Lear blanch.

My Review:

This book floored me.  I mean, jaw on the floor, gaping as I read, type of floored me.  Who knew Balzac could be so approachable?  I picked up this book fully expecting to struggle through it, much like my earlier trials with Middlemarch, and instead I found myself thoroughly intrigued by this drama.  And Balzac himself, as narrator of the story of Father Goriot, calls it a drama, although he hastens to explain that it isn’t quite the same as those other dramas of the time.

The word drama has been somewhat discredited of late; it has been overworked and twisted to strange uses in these days of dolorous literature; but it must do service again here, not because this story is dramatic in the restricted sense of the word, but because some tears may perhaps be shed intra et extra muros before it is over. – Father Goriot by Balzac

The story is focused around two characters – Father Goriot and a young, law student named Eugene Rastignac.  They are acquainted by being one of several boarders in a respectable, if a bit shabby, boarding house in Paris, France.  Goriot is the father of two married daughters, and Rastignac is, at the expense of his parents and two sisters, attempting to marry into society and wealth – but in a respectful way!

This drama has everything – murder and intrigue through the character of Vautrin, the Trick of Death.  It has humor – there is an entire scene which made me think of our modern day Snoop Dog “shizzle” moments – Balzac talks about how the diorama has recently been unveiled, and as a result, in passing, humorous conversation, the morpheme “orama” is added to the end of random words – such as Goriot-orama.  There is an entire scene at the dinner table in which words are bantered about, and even referenced later in the book that had me laughing out loud in sheer delight.  It has tragedy – the outcome of Father Goriot and his daughters relationship is one that, as Balzac foretells, worthy of tears.  It showcases both the good and bad sides of the human character, and provides an interesting commentary on situations and feelings that are relevant still today.

Some day you will find out that there is far more happiness in another’s happiness than in your own – Balzac

The human heart may find here and there a resting-place short of the highest height of affection, but we seldom stop in the steep, downward slope of hatred - Balzac

I wish I could go further into the quotes and how many things I highlighted on my Kindle – but then this entire review would be just repeated quote after quote, since there are quite a few of them.  I have to encourage you to pick up this book and read it – I hope you will find it as fascinating as I did.  Such an incredible story of the tragedy of life.

 

Check out these reviews!

A Common Reader

Expressions

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • This book was the read-along choice for February here.
I recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover–these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel “the unbearable lightness of being” not only as the consequence of our private actions, but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine.

My Review:

About half-way through this book I had an abrupt change of opinion.  When I began the book I was captivated by the language, the ideas, the ways my imagination was being sparked (and no, I’m not talking about the raunchy scenes – even though there were oh so many of them. ugh) and the gradual unfolding of the lives of the two couples involved in the story.

But then I started to get depressed.  And then even more depressed.  Soon I dreaded picking up the book and I wondered how in the world I could have gone to loving the book to dreading it so much.

I thought I understood what Milan Kundera was saying (even though I readily admit to much of it just going right over my head), but I think I got an idea.  I understand what he’s talking about when mentioning the “Unbearable Lightness of Being” – or at least I think I do.  What I don’t understand is why there couldn’t be just one character we could fall in love with, just one!  Instead, I felt as if he approached this in a clinical, hands-off manner as if saying, “Sure I thought them up, but now they are your responsibility!”.

I’ve never read a book that’s flipped me from one side to the other like this, so it’s a new experience for me and one I’m hoping to not have happen again anytime soon.  I haven’t given up on Kundera though and do plan to check his other works out.  I just hope I will end them able to at least smile instead of feeling as if I should tear up the book and cry crocodile tears on its corpse.

Check out these review(s):

Loving Books

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • It’s the Season!

Summary from GoodReads:

Ebenezer Scrooge is a heartless old miser who hates everything, especially Christmas. Then one mysterious Christmas eve, Scrooge is visited by three spirits who take him on a fantastic journey and teach him the true meaning of the season.

My Review:

Once again I find it a bit daunting to write a review of what  is arguably one of the most well-known classic stories.  I, like most people I know, grew up with Scrooge (although the form has changed).  From Donald Duck to Jim Carrey, I’ve listened to the story of the grumpy, old, miserly man and his miraculous change of heart on one fateful Christmas Eve.

My aunt actually ordered A Christmas Carol for her kindle and I saw the email and thought – oh, that would make a great read-along book for December.  Perfect season, I’ve never read it.. but oh.. it’s DICKENS.  I don’t know about you, but just the name  Dickens is enough to strike fear deep into my heart.  I struggled so much with A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield back in the day that, although interested to see  how the book was, I approached this story with not a little bit of trepidation.

It also helped to know it was short.  I’ll admit it.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, let me just say – put aside everything you know about Dickens from his other works and give this one a shot.  It’s remarkably easy to understand and, although he can go on, due to the shortness of the book as a whole, the descriptions don’t get too much out of  hand.

There were quite a few things in the book that surprised me – details that really rounded out the story much more than the movies ever have.  I regret that I’ve let all these years go by without establishing the reading of this story as atradition for myself, but it is something I intend to change in the upcoming years.

Check out these review(s):

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

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Reason(s) for Reading:
I  also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Holly Golightly is generally up all night drinking cocktails and breaking hearts. She hasn’t got a past. She doesn’t want to belong to anything or anyone, not even to her one-eyed rag-bag pirate of a cat. One day Holly might find somewhere she belongs.

My Review:

My first experience with Breakfast at Tiffany’s was, like I imagine mosts to be, colored with Audrey Hepburn’s charm and George Peppard’s blue eyes.  While it’s not one of my favorite movies of Hepburns (Roman Holiday holds that honor), it has it’s quirky, sweet moments and is quite the classic.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of Truman Capote’s writing, but I did expect a little more than I got, I think.  Without Hepburn there to make the story flow and to breathe life into the dialogue I found the book to be a little more.. snobbish.  Although, strip away the view and I guess that’s exactly who Holly Golightly was, a snobbish, flirtatious girl who treated people pretty abominably, when you actually think about it.

The story is only 111 pages long, and the one thing that it did have going for it was its short length.  I’m still not sure how they managed to make a 2ish hour movie out of it (which is actually longer than the time it took for me to read the book), but it does explain why the movie seems to drag in some places.  The book flows quite a bit and time did pass quickly while I was reading it.  But, overall, I think for a more charming example of the type of girl Capote portrays Holly Golightly to be.. I would suggest you look to Winifred Watson’s Delysia Lafosse from Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. She’s what the perfect written Holly Golightly would be to me, utterly charming, full of life and.. essentially, who Audrey Hepburn portrayed Holly to be on the screen.

Check out these review(s):

Reading and Ruminations

1984 by George Orwell

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • This was October’s Read-Along book.
  • I’ve heard people talking about it, but had absolutely no idea what the fuss was about.
I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Portrays a terrifying vision of life in the future when a totalitarian government, considered a “Negative Utopia,” watches over all citizens and directs all activities, becoming more powerful as time goes by.

My Review:

It’s always a bit daunting to me to write a review of a “classic” book.  I mean, a simple google search will provide all sorts of information and scholarly thoughts about the story held in the pages of 1984.

So instead of trying to explore the deeper meaning, let me talk about the things that really hit me hard.

- I had no idea that Big Brother came from this book.  I’ve grown up hearing the term bandied about, but never really understood where it came from and what it referred to.  I know now, and it frightens me.

- I think the most potent part of the book was, for me, the end of Part One.  When Winston opens a note passed to him and reads what is written there, I felt as it my heart skipped a beat because, of all the possibilities, that was one I was not expecting.

- What was most frightening to me was, as I was reading Goldstein’s writings held within the book, I found myself understanding why things were the way they were.  Things began to make sense – this in a book that made no sense to me when I first started it.

- All my dystopian reading I think prepared me for this book.  If I had read it a few years ago, I might not have appreciated it as much as I appreciate it now.  I totally get that there are those out there who didn’t like it, but I really enjoyed the stimulation to think it provided me.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Check out these review(s):

Chrisbookarama

A Bookshelf Monstrosity

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • Slaughterhouse-Five is frequently a banned book that is talked about.
  • I wanted to read something out of my comfort zone.
I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.
Don’t let the ease of reading fool you–Vonnegut’s isn’t a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, “There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters…” Slaughterhouse-Five (taken from the name of the building where the POWs were held) is not only Vonnegut’s most powerful book, it is as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author’s experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut’s other works, but the book’s basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy–and humor.

My Review:

I have struggled with this book for the last three days.  I was tempted more than once to put it down and just not finish it.  At the 50 page mark, 100 page mark, 150 pages mark.. each milestone I struggled with that temptation and each time I made myself read a little bit more.

Contrary to what the GoodReads summary says about Slaughterhouse-Five, this was not  book that contained an “ease of reading” for me.  It took a bit for me to grow accustomed to the jumping about through time and space to follow the story, but once I settled into a groove that aspect of the book became a bit clearer.

What I struggled with was the supernatural aspect of the book – reading about another planet, the zoo, being put on display, was just.. awkward and strange for me.  I understand (I think!) why Kurt Vonnegut put those sections in the book, but it didn’t make the book more enjoyable to me.

I understand that this is a great anti-war book and Slaughterhouse-Five does paint a very clear picture of how much a single, devastating moment in a war can define a man’s life.  I was horrified while reading the descriptions of the atrocities Billy Pilgrim suffered through and felt deeply impacted every time I read of another tragedy occurring.   But, as Vonnegut repeatedly states, these things happened.. and so it goes.

Check out these review(s):

A Literary Odyssey

Bear