Monday, 27 April 2009

A Taste of Sunshine

Finished A Room With A View yesterday.

A lovely little novel...and very, very English.

To me, the overriding themes of this novel were repression (religious and sexual), true love, and independence - and Forster weaves them all together with sparkling dialogue and real feeling.

(SPOILER) I felt, reading this novel, that Lucy was always going to end up being with George, but it was wonderful to read of her personal journey towards true love and her discovery of who she really was. It took courage to stand up to the strict moral rectitude of the times - Lucy does this without really knowing that she is.

The title of the novel reappears throughout, giving the reader an insight into Lucy's character and the people around her. She wants a view, a different view, and is not prepared to settle for a limited one.

I had to smile at the beginning of the novel, when Lucy and her cousin are first settled in Florence. The setting of the little pension they inhabit is classic English tourist on holiday. Forster was ahead of his time on this one. You'l have to read the novel to see what I mean.

Up next...Brighton Rock by Graham Greene.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Not To Be Taken Lightly

Sorry it's taken me a while to post. I actually finished The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (spelled that correctly this time) on Friday, but it's taken me a couple of days to digest it all.

Wow - what an intense read. This novel swept me up in its characterizations, labrynthine plot lines, and political and religious imagery almost from the first page.

I must read more about 19th century is a time period I know very little about, and I think learning about it will help me understand the novel even better. Politics, religion, class systems - you name it, this novel touches upon it.

Having said that, the novel (to me, anyway) is first and foremost a tragic love story filled with extremely complex characters. Every character introduced by Dostoevsky is intense and passionate in their own way - and this intensity and passion manifest themselves in very different ways.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away for those who haven't read the novel, but I found myself sympathising with none of the characters, yet liking most of them at the same time. You'll have to read the book to know what I mean. Strange and alluring.

Had to switch already breezing through A Room With A View by EM Forster. Will update in a day or two (that's how quick a read it is...)

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Lack of Mystery and Intrigue

Have finished The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.

I suppose I am comparing this (what is hailed as) the first mystery novel with Conan Doyle's work. The Sherlock Holmes author was witty, quick, clever, and kept me guessing and interested throughout The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Collins' work bored me. I felt I knew the outcome of the novel from around page 50 (of close to 400!) I found the prose to be lacking in substance and rather patronising at times.

I suppose to put the book in context would be fair - it was the first of its genre - an out and out whodunit. I think that Dickens had already started this trend in a much subtler way with novels such as Bleak House, which contained a detective mystery within a love story, a social commentary and much else.

According to the introductory notes, Collins was somewhat of a protege of Dickens' before branching out on his own. I know I'm biased, as Dickens is one of my favourites, but he shouldn't have tried to outmaster the master.

Not holding out much hope for The Woman in White, the other Collins novel on the list.

Have already started The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - and enjoying it so far.

Friday, 10 April 2009

A Novel For Our Times

Finished Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens today.

Another engrossing page-turner from Dickens. I must confess that I saw the excellent BBC adaptation of this novel a few months ago, so already knew the plot and eventual outcome. However, as with all televised adaptations, the screenwriter had to leave out a few key plot points, and hey, there's nothing like reading the book.

I found myself not wanting to put the book down, even though I knew what was going to happen next. The characters are so flushed out by Dickens that I can see their faces, hear their voices, even feel their emotions.

Dickens makes Amy Dorrit a good, honest, selfless person without being simpering and cloying, and as the reader, I really felt for her and how she continued to be mistreated by most of her family. Dickens also makes Arthur Clennam an inherently decent and honourable man without making him a complete pushover and weakling. In another author's hands, these two main characters could have been quite unsympathetic, but I felt for Amy and Arthur, and (SPOILER) it was a happily predictable ending for the both of them.

As to one of the main themes running throughout the novel...the mismanagement and misplacement of money: What timing. I have said before that if a novel written long ago still has relevance and resonance today, I would enjoy it - and Little Dorrit definitely has relevance to what is happening in the world today. I don't think the makers of the most recent miniseries could have predicted how prescient their adaptation would be.

How the dickens did Dickens do it? Amazing. A must read for these times in which we live.

Next up: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Portnoy on Portnoy

Finished Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth today.

A novel as monologue. A man goes to his psychoanalyst and basically talks and talks and talks some more about what makes him an inadequate human being.

I really liked the idea of Portnoy's uninhibited desire to divulge EVERYTHING to his world-weary therapist, who, by the end of the novel, reveals that he has heard it all before - there are many more like Portnoy out there - does he think he's something special?

Obviously, he does - and at the same time, thinks he's a completely worthless excuse for a man.

Portnoy's monologue veers wildly between his desire to buck the ultra-traditional familial system in which he grew up and equally, his desire to prove to his conservative, eccentric parents that he is still the good and obedient son he was as a child.

Fear, guilt, rage, jealousy, confusion. Portnoy suffers from all of these, and in abundance. For me, as the reader, I felt myself sympathising with the therapist - who does this guy think he is? We all (men AND women) feel these things - but I was entertained by Portnoy's turn of phrase nonetheless.

I am eager now to read more Philip Roth - this novel was said to be a thinly-veiled characterisaton of the author - let's see if he continued in this vein.

Up next: Back to good old Dickens...Little Dorrit.