Tag: classics


If This, Then That: Emma and Clueless

Posted 14 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

If This, Then That: Emma and CluelessEmma by Jane Austen
Published by Wild Jot Press on 1815
Genres: Classics, Fiction
Pages: 298
Goodreads
four-stars

Arrogant, self-willed and egotistical, Emma is Jane Austen's most unusual heroine. Her interfering ways and inveterate matchmaking are at once shocking and comic. She is 'handsome, clever and rich' and has 'a disposition to think too well of herself'. When she decides to introduce the humble Harriet Smith to the delights of genteel society and to find her a suitable husband, she precipitates herself and her immediate circle into a web of misunderstanding and intrigue, from which no-one emerges unchanged. Juliet Stevenson, an incomparable reader, is for many the voice of Jane Austen.

I’ve long known that Clueless was based on Jane Austen’s Emma, but since I’m not a huge Austen fan it took me a long time to verify for myself. I listened to Emma on audio and actually found it immensely enjoyable. Naturally, I was trying to figure out who was who in Clueless. According to the Wikipedia page, I was pretty on point except that I thought that Dionne and Murray were Ms. Taylor and Mr. Weston, instead of Isabella and John Knightly.

Clueless poster

Despite being set in ’90s Beverly Hills, Clueless is actually a pretty faithful adaptation of Austen’s classic. I loved Emma, even if she was a little shallow and well, rather… clueless. There were times when I pretty much wanted to shank her dad, Mr. Woodhouse. I wanted him to just let the people eat. I mean really. As if!

as if gif

I enjoyed the push and pull of Frank Churchill and Austen’s expert rendering of Emma’s inner dialogue. Her tumultuous feelings about Jane Fairfax that seemed to change at the drop of a hat, the cattiness and youthful irritation she feels towards Miss Bates — I just enjoyed it all.

I love that Emma is both a classic comedy of manners and a cautionary tale to young people who presume to know it all before their time, the dangers of assumptions, and why we should just all be up front and honest.

While when listening to the audio, I didn’t visualize most of the characters from Clueless, George Knightly was the exception I couldn’t envision the character chasing Emma up the hill or socializing in her sitting room without thinking of the adorable Paul Rudd.

prudd

I enjoyed Emma more than I thought I would, based on experiences by similar authors of this time period. It’s definitely worth the read. Clueless is definitely worth the comparison watch.

What about you, Reader? How do you feel about Austen? Clueless? Emma? Let’s chat!

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

11 Comments/ : , , , , , , ,

Divider

1001 Mini Reviews

Posted 24 July, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

So, as you can see from my tabs above I’m attempting the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010) challenge. I’m not reviewing every book, but when I get low on other things to talk about they make for some good backlist discussion. I have three recent reads turned mini reviews for you.

1001 mini

Zorba the Greek by: Nikos Kazantzakis – #573

Short Synopsis: Two men travel to Crete together. The narrator opens a lignite mine and Zorba talks a lot.

Itty Bitty Review: This book was definitely not my cuppa. I know it was originally published in 1946 but I found Zorba’s attitudes towards and about women to be nearly offensive. The meandering conversations between the narrator and Zorba feel absolutely dated and dull. Maybe something was lost in translation, but this book didn’t work at all for me. 2/5 stars.

Neuromancer by: William Gibson – #233

Short Synopsis: Gritty sci-fi, dystopian future where data thieves and hackers are major players in the criminal underworld and one hacker has to take on an AI for a mysterious employer.

Itty Bitty Review: This book was almost too gritty for me. I have to disagree with comparisons to 1984 and Brave New World, those are way better than Neuromancer. By no means is this book bad, I read it in a matter of days, but it was kind of ‘meh’ for me. I think that people who really enjoy this genre will really enjoy this book. 3/5 stars.

Underworld by: Don DeLillo – #71

Short Synopsis: … I can’t even. Here’s Goodreads:

While Eisenstein documented the forces of totalitarianism and Stalinism upon the faces of the Russian peoples, DeLillo offers a stunning, at times overwhelming, document of the twin forces of the Cold War and American culture, compelling that “swerve from evenness” in which he finds events and people both wondrous and horrifying.

Itty Bitty Review: I know… what? Which is pretty much my reaction to the whole book. Anyone who cares to explain this book to me I would greatly appreciate it. For real. I missed something deep AND important with this book and I love DeLillo’s White Noise. I can’t even rate it because I don’t know what the hell it’s about.

Read any big classic or modern classic novels lately, Reader?Does anyone understand Underworld?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

5 Comments/ : , , , , , , , ,

Divider

Manga Monday: Les Miserables

Posted 1 September, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Manga Monday: Les MiserablesLes Miserables - Manga Classics by Victor Hugo
Published by UDON Entertainment Corporation on August 19th 2014
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Manga
Pages: 336
Goodreads
two-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo's classic novel of love & tragedy during the French Revolution is reborn in this fantastic new manga edition! The gorgeous art of TseMei Lee brings to life the tragic stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, and the beautiful Fantine, in this epic adaptation of Les Miserables!

 
So. Les Misérables. I knocked reading the original off of my bucket list, last year sometime(?) – and hated it. (Review) But I dislike the book, not necessarily for its length, but because I hate most of the characters. (Exceptions: Eponine and Jean Valjean) It’s also worth noting that I love pretty much every screen and stage adaptation that has been put out there, so a manga version seemed like it could be a lot of fun.

Sadly, I did not find this to be a ton of fun. It’s not awful, it just feels like most of the depth of the original (and the movies) was lost in the adaptation. I completely understand (and it is noted in the book itself) that when you are cutting a 1,000+ page novel down to 360 pages of manga that you’re going to have to leave some stuff out. Still. Perhaps two volumes would have been better to flesh out Javert, Eponine, and Jean Valjean. 
 
The writing itself was also a bit overly simplistic with this adaptation. Just because its manga or a graphic novel doesn’t give authors a pass on the writing of ‘the script’. 
 
While the illustrations were pretty, they were seemed standard as far as manga-style goes. (Not that I’m an expert.) Full color might have added a lot to making the artwork more impressive.
 
I don’t think that I’ll be picking up any other books in this line unless they just jump into my hands at the library. I think that there’s already a version of Pride and Prejudice in the works.
 

Unless you’re hardcore into manga or you happen upon it at the library or a garage sale I’d probably recommend passing on this one. 

What about you, Reader? Does the idea of Manga Classics seem intriguing to you? I know there are a lot of Austen fans out there, anyone think they might pick up Pride and Prejudice? I’d be interested in hearing about it! 

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider

Guest Post: The Very Hungry Zombie

Posted 6 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in guest post, Reviews

Guess who’s here today?! One of my favorite people on the internet! Vicki Lesage! I’m so super excited that she’s agreed to write a delightful side by side review of two classic (or soon to be classic) children’s books! 

The Very Hungry Zombie
Review by: Vicki Lesage
The Eric Carle classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, follows a caterpillar through the stages of metamorphosis: birth, killer munchies, passing out in his cocoon, and emerging as a beautiful butterfly. See kids – science is fun!
I loved the book as a child and my toddler has the same adoration for it. He excitedly flips each page (when he’s not using the thick cardboard as a teething ring, that is) and animatedly counts along with ONE apple, TWO pears, THREE plums… Then he gets distracted since he can’t count higher than that.

 

The Very Hungry Zombie, A Parody takes this children’s book to the next level, which is what any good zombie tale does, really. It takes everyday life and goes, BAM! Flesh-eating, walking dead IN YOUR FACE. Makes you rethink everything. No more stuffing your face with Doritos and passing out on the couch, hoping you wake up as a beautiful butterfly instead of a lazy bum with orange Dorito fingers. You’ve got to fight for your life lest your brain become an appetizer for the living dead.
Admittedly, the theme is a bit heavy for a kids’ book. Luckily, my son is still young enough he hasn’t really noticed the difference between the two books. The zombie eats ONE astronaut, TWO clowns, THREE football players… it feels pretty much the same. Once he understands more, I’ll have to pull Zombieout of the rotation unless I want to scare the crap out of him.
Trying to decide which book is right for you? Here’s a breakdown:
Story: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Both make for a fun read-along, where you can exaggerate certain phrases and use different tones of voice. Zombie is funnier but Caterpillar is more realistic. It’d be way easier to find four strawberries than four pro-wrestlers who’d fall victim to a zombie.
 
In the Zombie Apocalypse, pro-wrestlers are one of your safest bets.
Illustrations: Tie
Both Caterpillar and Zombie have colorful illustrations that stand the test of time.
Pretty butterfly! Pretty zombies!
Scare Factor: The Very Hungry Zombie
This is a no-brainer (see what I did there?) – of course the zombie book is going to be scarier. There’s gore on nearly every page, whereas Caterpillar’s only fear-inducing part is his intense bellyache after gorging on everything under the sun. Which is admittedly somewhat scary. Is he going to explode? How long will his tummyache last? What if he’s too sick to watch the finale of Game of Thrones? But not as scary as Zombie.
A pile of brains is way scarier than a leaf (and I should know – I ate sheep’s brain soup in Morocco and I’m still trying to get the taste out of my mouth). But what’s worse is the zombie isn’t wearing any shoes. 90% of the living have disgusting feet; the living dead are sure to be in dire need of a pedicure.
Age-Appropriateness: Tie
Caterpillar is a timeless classic that even adults can enjoy as they read it to their children. 100 times in a row. Which is what your kids will make you do. Zombie is age-appropriate in the sense that it’s not actually billed as a children’s book; it’s a book for hipsters and geeks who love zombies and think it’s funny to have this book on their shelf, likely next to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Walking Deadgraphic novels.
The Book Itself: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Both are board books but the pages of Zombie are a bit skimpy. If you’re looking for a book that will withstand the impending Zombie Apocalypse, the sturdier pages of Caterpillarare a better bet.
 
My son could tear this book apart faster than a zombie eats fresh brains.

The verdict? If you have kids and want a book that will survive a zombie invasion, go with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. If you are looking for a gift for that zombie-lover on your list or want a conversation piece, go with The Very Hungry Zombie.

Thanks again, Vicki! What’s the verdict, Readers? 

 

About Vicki Lesage:An American author, living in Paris
A midwest native, I currently live in Paris, where I indulge in wine when I’m not busy working or having babies. IT Director by day, I squeeze in writing wherever I can, from blog posts to books. My common theme is complaining about France but as an equal opportunist I complain about plenty of other things as well. I love fondue, wine, math, and zombies. Everything’s better with zombies.

April: I can highly recommend her fabulous first book Confessions of a Paris Party Girl and I’m excited to read the new sequel Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer. (I make no commission from these links.) 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

29 Comments/ : , ,

Divider

Throwback Thursday: Little House on the Prairie

Posted 1 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Little House on the Prairie by: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Source: Owned, at least since 1989. Maybe before.
Synopsis: (Goodreads)

Pa Ingalls decides to sell the little log house, and the family sets out for Indian country! They travel from Wisconsin to Kansas and there, finally, Pa builds their little house on the prairie. Sometimes farm life is difficult, even dangerous, but Laura and the family are kept busy and are happy with the promise of their new life on the prairie.

Laura and her family journey west by covered wagon, only to find they are in Indian territory and must move on.

Okay. So after I finished reading The Girl Little House in the Big Woods she wanted more Laura and Mary, so despite how re-reading it as an adult made me feel (or not feel, as it were) I decided to indulge her. After all, promoting the love of reading is more important in our bedtime stories than how much I’m enjoying the book. 

I have good news and I have bad news. What do you want first? 

Let’s go with the good news. The good news is that this book is a lot less boring than Little House in the Big Woods, it’s more character driven and while there are still a lot of descriptions about the building of the cabin, the camping in the wagon, and other things that we associate with the western expansion of the United States, but Laura gets some more sass, there are some tense moments when we think that Jack the bulldog might be gone forever, and Wilder gives us the glimmer of hope that the whole family might get eaten by wolves one night. (Spoiler alert: they don’t.) 

So as a story, this is a much more enjoyable book for an adult reading it aloud. That’s good.

The bad? Welllll…. this book was first published in 1935 and it’s about a homesteading family (and other white people) in ‘Indian territory’. Do you see where the problem might be? Yep, it gets pretty xenophobic at times. Ma is terrified of Indians*, Pa continually speculates that the government (and soldiers) are always on the verge of clearing the land of Indians (moving them west) so that good upstanding white folk can make better use of the lands than the Indians ever will. It’s true that Pa stands up for the ‘goodness’ of the Indians against his neighbors and tries to reassure Ma and the girls that the Indians (assuming that they don’t piss them off) won’t hurt them. But there is still an undercurrent of fear and loathing. 

There are whole chapters (quite a few of them) dedicated to showing how frightening the Indians are. One chapter talks about an Indian that comes in the house and basically demands that Ma hand over the tobacco and cornmeal. Was settlement during this time period fraught with danger and very scary for white settlers? I’m sure that it was. But do I feel comfortable hammering home the message that Native Americans are ‘less than’  the white settlers? No, definitely not.

How do I address these things with my three year old? How do I emphasize that this wrong? My answer. I don’t know. I just read, trusted, and try to lead by example.

My second issue with the book is one of parenting. There’s a lot of ‘Laura knew she was a big girl and therefore shouldn’t cry.’ ‘Children were to be seen and not heard.’ that’s not my parenting style. I want The Girl to feel comfortable asking questions and knowing it’s okay to cry. Again, I think that this is a product of the book being written when it was written. So I read as is and teach my own values in different moments (or during questions she may ask during the reading.) 

Like I said, it’s better and worse than Little House in the Big Woods.

What do you think, Reader? Do things like xenophobia and outdated practices bother you when reading? What about when reading to a child? Am I nuts? 








*I use the term ‘Indian’ as opposed to ‘Native American’ because this is how the Native Americans are continually referred to in the book. 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , ,

Divider

Throwback Thursday: Revisiting Childhood Favorites – Little House Edition

Posted 27 February, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Little House in the Big Woods by: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Source: Owned forever.
Synopsis: (Goodreads)
Wolves and panthers and bears roamed the deep Wisconsin woods in the 1860’s. Still, Laura Ingalls’ father preferred to live miles away from the nearest neighbors. So Pa built a snug cabin for Ma, Laura, Mary and Baby Carrie. He hunted and trapped and farmed. Ma made her own cheese and sugar. All night long, the wind howled lonesomely, but Pa played his fiddle and sang, keeping the family safe and cozy.

Doesn’t that synopsis seem badass?

I freaking loved the Little House books when I was a kid. As I still own the original set that my mom bought for me back in the long, long ago it’s evident just looking at the books how much I loved them.

But now, I have a three year old girl – in my effort to START YOUNG! we’ve started reading chapter books together every night. Her Father reads the picture books that I loathe so much.

So, Little House in the Big Woods was the first chapter book that we ever read together. [I am April’s attempt at sentimentality.] We snuggle into bed together and I open the book and read the first sentence:

Okay, fantastic, just like I remember.

But as I continued reading chapter after chapter aloud to The Girl, night after night I was struck by something. I was bored out of my skull. At the beginning of the book we don’t even get to see Laura’s character. (At the end she starts to get willful and I can’t over-emphasize how happy I was to get a little sass out of Laura.) It’s Pa makes bullets this and Ma gives us baths that… even the famous chapter on butchering the pig wasn’t all that interesting. (Yay! Crispy pig tail and a pig bladder balloon!)

The stories that Pa shares on winter nights with Laura and Mary aren’t that interesting, even the one where Pa confronts the two bears (spoiler, one’s not a bear). It’s just… dull.

It’s not until nearly the end of the book that things become palatable. The visit to Lake Pepin, while not fascinating, at least didn’t make me want to claw my eyes out to relieve the boredom. Further, the chapter where Laura’s cousin steps on a nest of yellow jackets and has to be wrapped like a mummy (not even to mention Pa’s reaction to the incident on the wagon ride home – “Served the little liar right.”) was the first time I actually had to think. (Unfortunately that thinking was what to leave out – my inner ACLU intervened and I censored nothing.)

I have a friend, who before making the decision to stay home with her kids, was an elementary educator. To say she was scandalized about my grown-up perspective on Little House in the Big Woods would be a gross understatement.

After seeing my posting showing that I had given it four stars on Goodreads this conversation ensued:

  • Friend: What the heck…4 stars…?

     

  • AprilHave you read it recently? It’s super boring. I mean, the girl seems to enjoy it, but really… other than the horrifying story about the yellowjacket’s nest at the end it was really <yawn>.

    This is not to say that I didn’t LOVE these books as a kid. I read the crap out of them.

     

  • Friend: Yawn?…Yawn?…I am at a loss for words….

     

  • Friend: I don’t think you understand…she had a Corncob doll, April!!!!

     

  • April: I do like all the food descriptors. 

I clearly wasn’t always that bored with this story – the pictures of my battered paperbacks (and the point that I still have them) show that this isn’t the case. So all I can think is that I must have changed, though my primary source for information on living in pre-industrial American is Little House – the churning of butter and slaughtering of pigs no longer holds my interest.

I guess I need more murders in my reading now. But who knows? Mary’s gotta go blind sometime. Maybe the next one will refresh some of my childhood feelings.

What about you, dear Reader? Are there any books that you’ve revisited since your youth that you just can’t stand? Movies? TV shows?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

1 Comment/ : , , , ,

Divider

Sherlock Sunday: A Study in Scarlet/Pink

Posted 29 December, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Is everyone else as excited about the upcoming series three premier of BBC’s Sherlock as I am?

If you haven’t watched the first two series already, go ahead and gorge yourself now. Each season consists of three 90 minute episodes of brilliant filmography, excellent storytelling, and great acting. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary Sherlock Holmes is vaulted into the 21st century and is masterfully portrayed by (delicious looking) Benedict Cumberbatch.

Series three is scheduled to hit TV’s in the UK on 1 January (lucky bastards), but those of us in the Colonies must wait until 12 January. Anyway I thought that this would be the perfect time to do a TV/book mashup post. I promise if I feel the need to share spoilers I will link them to a separate page, they won’t be here.

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Synopsis (Goodreads)
In A Study in ScarletDoyle presents two equally perplexing mysteries for Holmes to solve: one a murder that takes place in the shadowy outskirts of London, in a locked room where the haunting word Rache is written upon the wall, the other a kidnapping set in the American West. Picking up the “scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life,” Holmes demonstrates his uncanny knack for finding the truth, tapping into powers of deduction that still captivate readers today.

I was going to head straight to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as it is included on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, but it’s actually the third Sherlock Holmes novel by Doyle and my compulsion to read series in the proper order would not allow me to concentrate on it, so A Study in Scarlet it was. 

This book wasn’t fantastic but it wasn’t bad either. It begins with poor, dear Dr. Watson searching for a flatmate after returning from the war in Afghanistan (o’ history is so cyclical) a mutual acquaintance introduces him to Sherlock Holmes who is eccentric to say the least. The reader is treated to the delightful prickly-ness, quick wit, and amaaaazing powers of deduction that are Sherlock Holmes. 

Something that I found odd about this novel was the abrupt complete change of direction in the middle of it. Basically the mystery is solved (but not explained) and then without warning (or even acknowledgement that it is part of the previous story) Doyle shifts gears and starts telling of a man and girl who are about to die of thirst in the great western desert of the United States and the Mormons that save them. Honestly, for quite awhile I thought that maybe A Study in Scarlet was actually a collection of short stories that had no connection. Do not despair, dear reader, this is not the case. 

I loved this novel (and suspect I will love the other novels) because the theory is so couched in logic.  True, it is fanciful to think that an ordinary human would have the skills of observation that Sherlock possesses, but it’s not necessarily impossible. It’s like reading about a superhero that you might actually find in real life, and of course Dr. Watson is always there to keep us grounded and add the observations of a mere mortal. Take it out for a spin, see if you like it. (Three stars) 

Sherlock: ‘A Study in Pink’ (Series 1, Episode 1) 

Ah. Mr. Cumberbatch and his legendary cheekbones. Check that, let’s start with the story.

Although the books take place in the 19th century and BBC’s Sherlock takes place in the 21st this episode is able to stick to the orignal story pretty closely! There are a few minor details that are changed to give the story an update but the core of the story remains the same. I will say this, there is a noted difference in the motive of the murderer from the books, it’s a tad more lazy, but I suppose the story had to be compressed into a 90 minute episode so you can’t have it all.

I love the way that Sherlock’s observations are translated to the screen through written labels applied to the screen, for example if Sherlock is doing a Google search on his smartphone, that text is superimposed on the screen so the viewer has an idea of what the thought processes that Sherlock has are.

Cumberbatch plays the title with just the right amount of snark and conceit with just a dash of common decency thrown in that I think if Doyle were alive today he would immediately recognize his character. I love all the actors. Martin Freeman is excellent as Watson, (who has just returned home from the war in Afghanistan) his vulnerability and quiet pride are a great offset to Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. Rupert Graves is also easy on the eyes (and convincing!) as Detective Inspector Lestrade.

Oh, so good. Even if you choose not to read the book, you should definitely go out and watch the show.  (Five stars)

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , , ,

Divider

Surprising Sunday: Tess of d’Urbervilles

Posted 22 December, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Surprising Sunday: Tess of d’UrbervillesTess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Published by Harper & Brothers Publishers on 1920
Pages: 508
four-half-stars

Tess Durbeyfield, a peasant girl and cast-off descendant of English aristocracy, has become one of the most famous female protagonists in 19th-century British literature. Betrayed by the two men in her life - Alec D’Urberville, her seducer/rapist and father of her fated child; and Angel, her intellectual and pious husband - Tess takes justice, and her own destiny, into her delicate hands. In telling her desperate and passionate story, Hardy brings Tess to life with an extraordinary vividness that makes her live in the heart of the reader long after the novel is concluded.

I decided to pick up this audio-book for my drive from Chicago to Atlanta. I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable it was. I had been dreading this book for a long time, but knew I was going to have to read it eventually if I ever wanted to complete the 1001 Books to Read Challenge.

This book was surprisingly modern. Tess is a strong female character. From the beginning she’s not afraid to do what is necessary for her family, even when her mother and father seem childish and much more naive than Tess. She takes responsibility for things that she feels are her fault and works extraordinarily hard throughout the entire novel. 

She can’t quite be classified as a feminist, as she accepts her lot and often feels as if it’s her fault. But she is stoic and strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if Thomas Hardy was a feminist of sorts. That of course, is solely based on this novel. 

Alec d’Urberville is immediately unlikable. This is (naturally) reinforced after he rapes Tess. The language that Hardy uses surrounding the rape is full of euphemisms. It probably took me about half of the book to solidly determine that she had been raped and not just seduced. 


Angel Clare starts out likable enough, wooing and insisting on Tess to take his hand in marriage, that is until he turns into a total hypocritical ass. He’s also nearly an atheist in a family of pious people. His choice to reject the faith of his father results in his loss of the opportunity for a university education – instead he decides to take up the lifestyle of a gentleman farmer, which puts Tess directly in his path. 

I was rather shocked by the ending. 

Narration was good, unremarkable.

#814 – 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , , ,

Divider

Halloween Horror: The Haunting of Hill House

Posted 31 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Halloween Horror: The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Genres: Classics, Fiction
Pages: 245
Goodreads
five-stars

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Yep. I’m going to agree with the pros. The Haunting of Hill House is a defining piece of literature within it’s genre. This is the first time I had read this book and thinking back almost every supernatural horror novel that I’ve read before it contains some echo of this novel.

It’s creepy and horrible in the best way and immediately draws you in with Eleanor, who has been unable to create a life of her own because she’s spent the past 11 years as the caretaker for her dreadful mother. I especially liked this passage:

Eleanor Vance was thirty-two years old when she came to Hill House. The only person in the world she genuinely hated, now that her mother was dead, was her sister. She disliked her brother-in-law and her five-year-old niece, and she had no friends. This was owing largely to the eleven years she had spent caring for her invalid mother, which had left her with some proficiency as a nurse and an inability to face strong sunlight without blinking. She could not remember ever being truly happy in her adult life; her years with her mother had been built up devotedly around small guilts and small reproaches, constant weariness, and unending despair. 

Hill House, like Eleanor, waits, empty for someone to fill it up. The haunting may seem mundane by modern standards, but it’s the atmosphere and the character of the house itself that really creates the atmosphere which makes this novel so effective. 

One note about the forward in this edition. IT CONTAINS SPOILERS! Luckily it’s a relatively heavy piece of literary analysis and I was ready to go so I skipped it and read it afterwards. If you’ve already read this book then definitely read the forward as it is excellent, if you haven’t, then definitely take the time to read it afterwards.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , , ,

Divider

Terrifying Tuesday: Dracula

Posted 15 October, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Terrifying Tuesday: DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker
Published by W W Norton & Company Incorporated Genres: Classics, Fiction, Horror
Pages: 492
Goodreads
three-stars

A rich selection of background and source materials is provided in three areas: Contexts includes probable inspirations for Dracula in the earlier works of James Malcolm Rymer and Emily Gerard. Also included are a discussion of Stoker's working notes for the novel and "Dracula's Guest," the original opening chapter to Dracula. Reviews and Reactions reprints five early reviews of the novel. "Dramatic and Film Variations" focuses on theater and film adaptations of Dracula, two indications of the novel's unwavering appeal. David J. Skal, Gregory A. Waller, and Nina Auerbach offer their varied perspectives. Checklists of both dramatic and film adaptations are included. Criticism collects seven theoretical interpretations of Dracula by Phyllis A. Roth, Carol A. Senf, Franco Moretti, Christopher Craft, Bram Dijsktra, Stephen D. Arata, and Talia Schaffer. A Chronology and a Selected Bibliography are included.

Trying to review this is like trying to review Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s classic – the penultimate vampire novel from whence all others sprang (sprung?).

I love the way the story is told through the diaries of young Jonathan Harker (an attorney!), ship’s logs and the diary of Professor Abraham van Helsing. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a monster, he’s a far cry from Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat but still is more than the mindless monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The way he preys on Lucy speaks to a certain sort of cunning. 


Without Dracula our fictional landscape, literary, television, and movies would be extraordinarily different. I find it hard to overstate the cultural importance of Dracula. The vampire as the monster has eventually morphed into the vampire as the outlier (Ricean/True Blood vampires). Ultimately creating an allegory for the monster within us all. Or maybe it’s just fun to get scared. Either way, what a book! 

I’m not generally a fan of Victorian era fiction — but this is easy – and fun. Check it out. Especially since you can get it for free at Project Gutenberg.

(SO much better than Twilight – yeah I know, hater’s gonna hate.)

Signature

#802 – 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010) 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

0 Comments/ : , , , ,

Divider