Friday, 30 May 2014

The Old Man and the Sea Read-Along

Hamlette from The Edge of the Precipice has decided to have a read-along of The Old Man and the Sea beginning July 21st.  Shall I join?  But, of course!

I have to admit, I just finished reading The Old Man and the Sea, but I'm going to revisit it during the read-along.  Why?  Because read-alongs give me a deeper understanding of the book that I'm reading, and it's fun to have the company of other readers.  And I may need some help appreciating Hemingway because, honestly, the first book of his that I attempted to read years ago was a big flop.  Let's hope the second read is a charm!

So please join us if you want to read a small book, with an unlucky man and a very big fish!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai by Heinrich Heine

Rolf Armstrong
source Wikiart

Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai

Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
Als alle Knospen sprangen
Da ist in meinem Herzen
Die Liebe aufgegangen

Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
Als alle Vögel sangen,
Da hab’ ich ihr gestanden
Mein Sehnen und Verlangen.


In The Wondrously Beautiful Month of May

In the wondrously beautiful month of May
When all the buds sprang open
Then in my heart
Love sprouted.

In the wondrously beautiful month of May
When all the birds were singing
Then I confessed to her
My longing and desire.

This poem has long been one of my favourites.  And what a better time to share it than the month of May and for my Language Freak Summer Challenge.  After reading the English translation, I was left somewhat disconsolate ……… works in translation really do not do justice to the original.

Heinrich Heine was a German poet, journalist, essayist and literary critic, born in Düsseldorf in 1797 and died in Paris in 1856.  His lyric poetry was set to music by composing greats such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert.  The government did not take kindly to his radical political views; many of his works were banned in Germany and he spent the last 25 years of his life in exile.  

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Corre, Perro, Corre - P.D. Eastman

Hay perros grandes, perros pequeños, perros amarillos, perros verdes, perros azules, perros rojos y una fiesta al fin del libro. Este libro es divertirse por los niños.

Phew!  That's about all for my rusty Spanish as I have about 10 reviews that I'm trying to work on.  I remember this book from my childhood.  It reads pretty simply now, even in Spanish, but I can see the value of repetition when children are learning to read or learning another language.  Prepositions and opposites are sprinkled throughout the story, adding another aspect of learning.  And after all, what child could resist rainbow-coloured dogs, dogs driving cars, a party and the repeated silly question, "¿Te gusta mi sombrero? (Do you like my hat?)" 

If anyone knows of some easy Spanish books, I'd really appreciate any recommendations.  For some reason I'm struggling with coming up with any.  It's very sad when you can think of more Latin books to read than Spanish ……

Friday, 23 May 2014

Preparing for Summer - Which Books?

Inspired by Ruth at A Great Book Study, I am going to place aside my fear of having a list or goals to follow, and put together a pile of books that I hope to read during the much anticipated summer months.

Books To Complete:

The Chronicles of Barsetshire: I should be at Framley Parsonage for my Chronicles of Barsetshire Read-Along.  I'm in the middle of Barchester Towers at the moment and I hope to get through Doctor Thorne before summer.  I'm enjoying this series immensely.  Trollope captures the characters beautifully …… all their human faults and foibles as well as their kindnesses.  There is no better introduction to a small English village.

The Saying of the Desert Fathers:  another stalled book that I need to finish.  Not to mention that it's in my TBR Pile Challenge.  I must admit, I'm not doing very well with this challenge.

Defence Speeches:  and another stalled one.  And another on my TBR Pile Challenge.  I don't know why I stopped reading this.  I LOVE Cicero's defence arguments; so logical and crafty!

The Decameron:  a long scheduled read.  Because of its style (a collection of stories), it has been easy to read and keep up with.

The Morte d'Arthur:  I am trying to slog through this.  I don't know what is the matter with me.  This is a book I should be eating up but I just don't care for it.  Perhaps it was my bad experience with Once and Future King, which I read prior to starting Le Morte.  Or maybe I haven't had the attention span to devote to it.  Or perhaps I'll never become enamoured with it.  In any case, I'm determined to finish it so I will do my best to get through a good portion of it in the summer.

The History of Napoleon Buonaparte:  yet another stalled book.  I really liked reading it; the history was fascinating and the author paints a very real picture of Buonaparte.  Other books just took over.

If On A Winter's Night A Traveler:  ah, Calvino!  Will I gain an appreciation for your unique style and structure, or will I want to strangle you when I finish?  I guess time will tell ……

Summer Day
Volodymyr Orlovsky
source Wikiart

New Books To Read:

Ovid's Metamorphoses:  one of my books that I attempted to read last year but didn't get very far.  I anticipate that I'll have time in the summer to concentrate on it property.

Russian Thinkers:  This book intrigues me.  By Isaiah Berlin, a Russian-born Jew, a social and political theorist and philosopher, these essays explore Russian thought and the idea of freedom, while exploring the minds of great Russian personages such as Herzen, Tolstoy and Turgenev and the political and social changes that stemmed from their influence.  And I can count it for my Russian Challenge!

Arthurian Romances:  This will count for my Arthurian challenge.  I need to get a move on with this challenge because so far I have only finished Once and Future King.  How shameful!

The Book of Margery Kempe:  for my Well-Educated Mind Biographies Challenge.

Surprised by Joy & A Grief Observed: for my C.S. Lewis Project

Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche & Kafka:  "…. one of the most straightforward and easily understandable introductions to the whole modern experience of existentialism."  Let's hope so.  My poor brain can only handle an easy introduction.

The Universe Next Door:  a classic book for understanding the philosophy of different worldviews.  It looks very interesting.

Le Bretonnerie in the Department of Indre
Gustave Courbet (1856)
source Wikiart

For Fun!:  (Ooops! That doesn't sound good.  Perhaps I should say, "for more fun.")

The Terror:  I received this book from Andrea from Tasseled Book Blog during her wonderful give-away contest and can't wait to get to it.  A relaxing day on the beach will be a perfect time to read it!  Thanks, Andrea!

The Little World of Don Camillo:  an Italian classic based on the real life priest Don Camillo Valota.  It is supposed to give an excellent portrayal of the rural Italian countryside after WWII.

Porterhouse Blue:  I bought this book for no particular reason ….. on a whim, really, which is not like me, so I thought I'd see how my rash action turns out.  I am also humming-and-hawing over whether to try to start reading some books on the Guardian's 1000 best book list.  Porterhouse Blue is on it.

Le Petit Nicolas:  for my Language Freak Summer Challenge

Ausgewählte Märchen:  German fairy tales for my Language Freak Summer Challenge.

Stories of the East From Herodotus:  really, I should just read Herodotus' Histories but this old children's book is on my TBR Pile Challenge list and the last thing I need is another tome to read.

Death By Living:  my brother-in-law gave me this book and said I would enjoy it.  I usually trust his judgement but, then again, this book is not a book I'd usually choose to read.  I'm stepping out of my comfort zone!

Summer Landscape with Fishermen
Efim Volkov
source Wikiart

No, I am not delusional.  I don't expect to finish ALL of these books.  I also can see that if I don't finish some of my "in progress" books soon, I won't have time to read any new books, which is good incentive to focus on some unfinished reads before summer begins.  It will be interesting to see my progress at the end of the summer.  I do have one glorious month off, where, if I wanted to, I could read all day long, but I usually end up doing lots of hikes as well.  Last year I read 13 books during the months of July & August so hopefully I can either meet or beat that number.  I can only try!

What are your reading plans for the summer?

An Enthralling Novel (1885)
Julius LeBlanc Stewart
source Wikiart

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Song on May Morning - John Milton

John Milton (1629)
National Portrait Gallery, London
source Wikipedia

I always have such good intentions to start reading poetry on a regular basis, but somehow those good intentions get backlogged.  So I thought that the least I could do is to post a poem every now and then on my blog.  Who knows, I may even start a full-fledged poetry project one day …….. but not yet …….

Song on May Morning

Now the bright morning Star, Dayes harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The Flowry May, who from her green lap throws

The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose.
   Hail bounteous May that dost inspire [ 5 ]

   Mirth and youth, and warm desire,

   Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing,

   Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing.

Thus we salute thee with our early Song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long. [ 10 ]

This poem is by John Milton, best know for his work, Paradise Lost, which I read earlier this year and reviewed here.  As you read through the poem you can perhaps discover two main themes.  Have you found them yet?  The focus in this poem is on "dawn" and, of course, "May."  In fact, if you found the first theme, you will then know that this ten-line poem is an aubade. What is an aubade, you ask?  I didn't know either.  The definition of an "aubade" is "a poem or piece of music appropriate to the dawn or morning." Do you notice "song" in the title of the poem?  It appears that Milton covered the definition very thoroughly.  And, in honour of my Language Freak Summer Challenge, did you know that "aubade" translated into French, Spanish, German, Italian and German is "aubade"?  However in Japanese it is オーバード. 

Yellow Cowslips
Photo courtesy of Caroline
source Flickr

The poem mentioned both primroses and yellow cowslip.  I am familiar with primroses but had no idea what cowslip looked like, so I investigated.  As you will see from the photo above, I found a picture of beautiful yellow cowslip. Yet it only took me a moment to realize that strangely the cowslip looked very similar to …………. primroses (see photo below) ………… :-Z

Photo courtesy of Pirate_Renee
source Flickr

More investigation revealed that primroses, or Primula Vulgaris, are actually a family of flowering plants, of which cowslip is one.  I must say I was rather disappointed.  In this poem, not only would you think that "bounteous May" would be able to produce more than one type of flower, but also that Milton would have the creativity to include more natural variety.  Oh, well.  At least I learned something.

And so, as you read through this poem, do any particular words stand out for you?  What feelings does it evoke?  What images does it bring to your mind?

And welcome bounteous, flowry, May!

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Well-Educated Mind Biographies Project

Ruth of A Great Book Study has been making her way through the book, The Well-Educated Mind, a book that inspires and instructs readers on how to read and analyze novels, autobiographies, histories, plays and poetry.  At her invitation, I've decided to join her as she begins the biography section.

(the above image is used courtesy of Thomas Baker, Thomas Baker Oil Painting)

The biography section contains twenty-six autobiographies, listed in chronological order:

  1.  Augustine - The Confessions

  2.  Margery Kempe - The Book of Margery Kempe

  3.  Michel De Montaigne - Essays

  4.  Teresa of Àvila - The Life of Saint Teresa of Àvila by Herself 

  5.  René Descartes - Meditations

  6.  John Bunyan - Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

  7.  Mary Rowlandson - The Narrative of the Captivity and

  8.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Confessions

  9.  Benjamin Franklin - The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

10.  Henry David Thoreau - Walden

11.  Harriet Jacobs - Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written 
                                    By Herself

12.  Frederick Douglass - Life and times of Frederick Douglass

13.  Booker T. Washington - Up from Slavery

14.  Friedrich Nietzsche - Ecce Homo

15.  Adolf Hitler - Mein Kampf

16.  Mohandas Gandhi - An Autobiography: The Story of My 
                                Experiments with Truth

17. Gertrude Stein - The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

18.  Thomas Merton - The Seven Storey Mountain

19.  C.S. Lewis - Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

20.  Malcolm X - The Autobiography of Malcolm X

21.  May Sarton - Journal of a Solitude

22.  Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn - The Gulag Archipelago

23.  Charles W. Colson - Born Again

24.  Richard Rodriguez - Hunger of Memory: The Education of 
                                       Richard Rodriguez

25.  Jill Ker Conway - The Road from Coorain

26.  Elie Wiesel - All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs

From the list I've already read, The Seven Storey Mountain, thanks to my Classics Club Spin, Augustine's Confessions, and from my C.S. Lewis Project, I will have read Surprised by Joy, when we get to it.  As for what I'm looking forward to, probably Montaigne's Essays, the Gulag Archipelago and Mein Kampf top the list, yet I must admit autobiographies are not a genre with which I'm widely familiar, so I'm a little hesitant as well.  Gertrude Stein and Malcolm X are perhaps the biographies I feel the most "meh" about, but with this list and my lack of exposure, I fully expect I will be pleasantly surprised with at least two books that I am less than enthusiastic about reading.  We'll see when we complete the list.

Ruth has listed some questions on A Great Book Study that will help us as we read, and I am going to post them here for easy access:

During the first stage of reading (find out what happened):

What are the central events in the writer's life?

What historical events coincide-or merge-with these personal events?

Who is the most important person (or people) in the writer's life?

What events form the outline of the story?

In the second stage of reading:

What is the theme that ties the narrative together?

What is the life's turning point?  Is there a conversation?

For what does the writer apologize?  In apologizing, how does the writer justify?

What is the model-the ideal-for this person's life?

What is the end of the life: the place where the writer has arrived, found closure, discovered rest?

Now revisit your first question: What is the theme of this writer's life?

In the final stage of reading:

Is the writer writing for himself, or for a group?

What are the three moments, or time frames, of the autobiography?

Where does the writer's judgment lie?

Do you reach a different conclusion from the writer about the pattern of his life?

Do you agree with what the writer has done?

What have you brought away from this story?

I was a little surprised at the last question in the second stage of reading: "What is the theme of the writer's life."  I've always been familiar with books having themes, but not lives.  Has anyone ever asked themselves, "What is the theme of my life?"  A fascinating question.  I wonder if we viewed our lives as having themes, would we choose to live them differently or live them "better"?  I wonder ……

In any case, I'm excited to start this project and I anticipate it will inspire me on to deeper and more thoughtful reading.  Please join us for the project, or even a book or two, if you feel so inclined.  We begin June 1st.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

La Curée by Émile Zola

"On the drive home, the barouche was reduced to a crawl by the long line of carriages returning by the side of the lake."

The title of Émile Zola's third novel (in Zola's recommended reading order) of the Rougon-Marquart series, La Curée, or The Kill, refers to the spoils of meat thrown to the dogs at the completion of a hunt, and so is a reflection of the wild and uncontrolled speculation in Paris of the 1850s and 1860s, where monetary greed runs rampant, spewing the biproducts of immorality, licentiousness, fraud and hypocrisy.

Aristide Rougon, has arrived in Paris from Plassans with his first wife, Angèle. Poor and provincial, Aristide dreams of wealth and a life of luxury and notoriety.  Ignited by his near fanatical desire for money, he manages through dishonest dealings to cheat and finagle his way into property speculation in this city, that is expanding at a near-combustible rate.

As usual, Zola grabs you and pulls you into the story with his lush and vibrant prose, and vivid descriptions:

"This was the time when the rush for spoils filled a corner of the forest with the yelping of hounds, the cracking of whips, the flaring of torches.  The appetites let loose were satisfied at last, shamelessly, amid the sound of crumbling neighbourhoods and fortunes made in six months.  The city had become an orgy of gold and women.  Vice, coming from on high, flowed through the gutters, spread out over the ornamental waters, shot up in the fountains of the public gardens, and fell on the roofs as fine rain.  At night, when people crossed the bridges, it seemed as if the Seine drew along with it, through the sleeping city, all the refuse of the streets, crumbs fallen from tables, bows of lace left on couches, false hair forgotten in cabs, banknotes that had slipped out of bodices, everything thrown out of the window by the brutality of desire and the immediate satisfaction of appetites.  Then, amid the troubled sleep of Paris, and even more clearly than during its feverish quest in broad daylight, one felt a growing sense of madness, the voluptuous nightmare of a city obsessed with gold and flesh.  The violins played until midnight; then the windows became dark and shadows descended over the city.  It was like a giant alcove in which the last candle had been blown out, the last remnant of shame extinguished.  There was nothing left in the darkness except a great rattle of furious and wearied lovemaking; while the Tuileries, by the riverside, stretched out its arms, as if for a huge embrace."

Aristide changes his name to Saccard and, as his wealth grows, after the death of his wife he marries the young Renée Béraud du Châtel and later brings his son, Maxime, to live with them in Paris.  Renée, perpetually bored, is delighted at the thought of someone to pet and coddle and use as a tool to gain attention, and so becomes highly involved in Maxime's moral development (or perhaps I should say, amoral development).  When we meet him in the novel as a twenty-year-old young man, he is happily aping his parents' generation, as money flows through his fingers like water and unlimited pleasure is sought as nourishment, with little regard for the consequences.

As Saccard's insatiable lust for money drives his every action, and he balances on the wire between wealth and ruin, Renée and Maxime fall into a comfortable and close relationship, which becomes the catalyst for a semi-incestuous affair driven by Renée's boredom and lust for a new inventive perversion.  Yet instead of being entertained and satisfied by their liaison, through different circumstances, Renée finds herself debased and abandoned.  There are no loyalties in the new Paris, except with the reward of monetary gain, and true human feeling has all but been extinguished by obsessive desires for money and decadence.  Renée is a casualty of little importance.

Le Forhu à la fin de la curée

Zola's novels have an air of tragedy about them that is not necessarily brought on only by the actions of the characters or the plot of the story.  In Zola's eyes, each character is trapped by their inherent nature in a cycle from which they cannot escape.  They are helpless and we get the sense of a drowning man who cannot be rescued, or a figure who cannot be pulled from in front of a speeding train.  This echoes the ideas of fate supported by the ancient Greeks, in that there is nothing you can do to change your destiny.  I'm not certain that I agree with his presentation.  We all have the ability to choose in each situation and, while each choice may entail a different degree of difficulty, our decisions do shape our fate to a greater or lesser degree.  Choice is what separates man from animal, and Zola's portrayal of man trapped in an hereditary cycle exemplifies the destructive consequences when man follows only his instincts without an ethical or moral base.

This was the only Zola I was able to finish for Fanda Classiclit's Zola Addiction, but I was happy to finish only one.  Zola is not an author I want to rush through; he makes you want to sink into his settings, try his prose out on your tongue and learn more about the historical content.  Money is the next Zola on my list and I'm looking forward to it!

Other Rougon-Macquart Series Reviews (Zola's recommended order):

Monday, 12 May 2014

Classics Club Spin #6 ……. The Winner Is ………..

The Classic Club Spin number is #1, which means I get Oedipus at Colonus. This choice is both easy, and not as easy as I expected.  Oedipus at Colonus is the second of Sophocles Three Theban plays.  Well, how can I read the second play without the first?  So I've decided that I'm going to read Oedipus Rex, the first play, then Oedipus at Colonus followed by Antigone, the final play.

I am looking forward to it.  I spent some time yesterday micro-scheduling my reading (not that I'll follow it, but at least I'll know whether I'm ahead or behind, and by how much), so I think this spin will be quite manageable. And, of course, I get to dip into my beloved Greek literature, so for what more could I ask?

Photo courtesy of Olga Filonenko
source Flickr

What is your spin choice?

Friday, 9 May 2014

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

"We were in Study Hall, when the Headmaster entered, followed by a new boy dressed in regular clothes and a school servant carrying a large desk."

Emma Roualt has been raised in a convent but during her formative years and religious education, she has somehow managed to get sentimental romance novels smuggled in to her.  When she leaves the convent, the sisters are relieved to see her go as there is some indication that Emma is not the pious, compliant young woman that they were hoping to produce.  Does Emma come by her stubborn and idealistic outlook naturally, or are the novels responsible for corrupting her character?

Soon after Emma returns to her father's house, she meets the doctor, Charles Bovary, and imagines the feelings of emotion she experiences under his regard, love.  When the first wife of Charles passes away, Emma is happy to become his wife, yet almost immediately begins to wonder why the passionate, overwhelming feelings of a romantic love seem to elude her.  Quite soon she seeks admiration and passion outside her marital relationship, first with Leon Dupuis, a law clerk, and then with the sophisticated Rodolphe Boulanger. Drawn into a web of deceit by her need for a story-like romance, Emma begins an affair, first with Rodolphe and later with a more worldly Leon, who has now spent years in the city and knows how to conduct himself like a truly indulged and hardened man-about-town.  Neither man truly cares for her.  Each is attracted by her beauty and her passionate regard for him, yet soon these shallow emotions begin to unravel and the men tire of their paramour.  Emma, now heavily in debt and still lacking the love and desire that she equates with a meaningful life, decides to take poison and her death culminates in the tragic death of Charles and the sentencing of her daughter to a life of poverty and toil.

The Death of Bovary
Charles Léandre (1931)
source Wikimedia Commons

And so, what can we say about Emma?  She is certainly not a sympathetic character and it seems rather apparent that Flaubert didn't mean to make her one.  How is responsible is she for her fate?  Does she perpetrate her own demise or is she an unwilling victim of circumstances?

One could certainly make excuses for Emma and say that she was trapped, not only in a simple, colourless and rigid society, but in a loveless marriage (on her part), and in a situation where she had little opportunity for following anything other than the status-quo.  However, Emma had been given an education of a type through the nuns, and though it might not have been wide in its scope, it certainly should have taught her the importance of honesty and virtue and goodness.  Emma chooses to sneak sentimental romances into the abbey to read, just as she chooses to believe what she reads should be the way of life, in spite of the evidence in front of her face against it, and she chooses to have adulterous affairs at the risk of the ruin of her reputation and that of her husband's.  She also chooses to borrow money, placing her family heavily in debt and, the means of borrowing the money are brought about with deceit on her part to keep her actions hidden.  So I don't really buy the "poor Emma Bovary, she is a victim of circumstance" excuse.  She keeps her illicit relationships secret, as well as the fact that she is borrowing money, and by the very fact that she does these things covertly, she MUST know that these actions are wrong.  Instead she chooses to do them anyway, for her own selfish emotional gratification and, as we see, she reaps consequences that were perhaps beyond her scope of imagining.

I didn't dislike this book, but when I read I like to find something that stirs an emotional or an intellectual response, which is part of the conversation with the author.  With Flaubert, while there were certainly moments that sparkled, overall I was left a little flat.  The whole plot was built around a shallow, vain, deluded young girl who was supposedly corrupted early in life by her choice of reading.  No one noticed and, judging by the manner in which Flaubert portrays the setting and characters, even if they did, they perhaps would have done nothing to enlighten her.  While I wanted to pity Emma and make excuses for her, there was something fundamentally wrong with her thinking and the mechanisms she used to process life and the world around her.  Was it due to her reading material, or was she already a damaged person and the books only served to increase the self-serving, emotional fantasy-life that was already expanding within her?  I don't think we can know.  For me it would have been infinitely more interesting if Flaubert chose to investigate this issue but instead we only see the effect of her delusions without being able to truly surmise the cause.  And that is a tragedy because Emma Bovary deserved a story that generated compassion for her and not distaste and impatience at her emotionally bankrupt behaviour and dramatic actions.  In spite of some spots of brilliance, I feel Flaubert missed a great opportunity and, once again, Emma seems to be the one that pays for it.

Translated by Lydia Davis

Monday, 5 May 2014

Classics Club Spin #6

Another Classics Club Spin is in the works.  I can go into this one holding my head a little higher; I finished not only my Spin #5, The Seven Storey Mountain, but I also finished Plethora's Spin, The Odyssey.  I've also begun my Spin #4, Bleak House, so I will be soon caught up, provided I can finish this new Spin book.

And the rules:
  1. Go to your blog.
  2. Pick twenty books that you've got left to read from your Classics Club list.
  3. Post that list, numbered 1 - 20, on your blog by next Monday.
  4. Monday morning, we'll announce a number from 1 - 20.  Go to the list of twenty books you posted and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
  5. The challenge is to read that book by July 7th.

I used the random list organizer here to choose the 20 books from my master list.  So my list ended up looking like this:

  1. Oedipus at Colonus (406 B.C.) - Sophocles
  2. Swann's Way (1913) - Marcel Proust
  3. Tartuffe (1669) - Molière
  4. The Canterbury Tales (1390s??) - Geoffrey Chaucer
  5. Le Rêve (1888) - Emile Zola
  6. The Well at the World's End (1896) - William Morris
  7. The Small House at Allington (1864) - Anthony Trollope
  8. O Pioneers! (1913) - Willa Cather
  9. Henry IV Part I (1597) - William Shakespeare
  10. The Man Who Was Thursday (1908) - G.K. Chesterton
  11. The Silver Chalice (1952) - Thomas Costain
  12. The Praise of Folly (1509) - Erasmus
  13. The Custom of the Country (1913) - Edith Wharton
  14. Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1607 - 1608) - William Shakespeare
  15. We (1921) - Yevgeny Zamyatin
  16. Persuasion (1818) - Jane Austen
  17. Lives (75) - Plutarch
  18. War and Peace (1869) - Leo Tolstoy
  19. Henry V (1599) - William Shakespeare
  20. The Pickwick Papers (1836 - 1837) - Charles Dickens

Five Books I'm Hesitant to Read

1.  Swann's Way - Marcel Proust
2.  Lives - Plutarch
3.  The Cantebury Tales - Chaucer
4.  ---------
5.  ---------

Five Books I Can't Wait to Read

1.  The Man Who Was Thursday - G.K. Chesterton
2.  Persuasion - Jane Austen
3.  Pericles, Prince of Tyre - Shakespeare
4.  The Custom of the Country - Edith Wharton
5.  War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (to finish it!)

I'm quite happy with the choices.  I have a few Shakespeare on the list, which is wonderful because I haven't even read one for my challenge.  The only problems I foresee are the Zola and Trollope choices, because I'm reading through both series in order, however if one of them is chosen, I'll simply substitute the next book and read on.  I am extremely terrified of choice #2 though.  Can I get through Proust in time?  And Plutarch's Lives is loooong, although I'd love to read it.  Next Monday will reveal the winner!  I can't wait!

Madame Bovary Read-Along Part III

Madame Bovary Read-Along Hosted by ebookclassics &         Cedar Station

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Part III

This is going to be a quick post to finish up my read-along comments before my review.  I've been left little time for reading lately, let alone posting, that I'm falling behind!

Honestly, the drama and copious introspection about how and why people commit adultery is getting rather wearying, especially given the limited aspects of Emma's character.

Her reconnection with Leon Dupuis is telling, as he is no longer the simple, infatuated provincial law clerk but now a sophisticated man-about-town, after his three-year stint in the city.  They begin a passionate affair, yet meanwhile her debts are piling up as she is regularly cheated and manipulated by M. Heureux.  Although Emma still attempts to delude herself into believing she is living a fulfilling life, her spiral downward increases.  For me, the most tragic part in the novel is where Emma, feeling the screws of debt tighten around her, asks for help from a number of people who either try to use her in her desperation, or cruelly turn her aside.  Rodolphe, her former love, rejects her in her need and this final abandonment appears to extinguish any hope.

The Death of Madame Bovary
Albert-August Fourie
source Wikigallery
Finally, rejected by each man she hopes will save her yet neglecting to go to the one who will (Charles), Emma takes arsenic and her death brings further consequences.  Charles is immersed in a grief which finally brings about his death and poor Berthe, their daughter, is condemned to live in poverty and toil.

I must admit I was somewhat glad to see this book come to a close.  I'll try to gather my scattered thoughts into a coherent review in the next few days.  Many thanks to C.J. at Ebookclassics and Juliana at Cedar Station for being wonderful hosts for this read-along!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

History Reading Challenge 2014 Update

Well, it's time for an update on my History Reading Challenge hosted by Fanda at Fanda Classiclit.  As much as I would rather plow along than muse over what I've read these past 4 months, I realize that a retrospective look at my reads is a valuable way to gauge if I'm on track or behind my goals.  As it stands, I haven't finished anything yet, but I am making progress.

I am about 40% through Susan Wise Bauer's The History of the Ancient World.  I had originally made it a buddy read AND created a schedule so I could finish it by the end of June.  As it stands I am behind in the schedule, so I would have to step it up to finish in time.  However, I am making notes with each chapter so that slows my progress.  I may drop this extra task for now so I can keep moving along.  Needless to say, my buddy, who will remain nameless, is even more behind than I am.

I'm interested in what methods other readers use to keep themselves on task with a book that, while it is not a chore, may not be as attractive as their other reads …..??  Scheduling, willpower, what ….?

I've also begun Red Land, Black Land by the author of the famed Amelia Peabody Egyptian mystery series.  I'm only 5% into this one, but so far it's quite interesting.  I'm building my knowledge on some on the information that I've gleaned from The History of the Ancient World so I'm not having to think as hard to place some of the historical characters.  I am finding the structure of Mertz's writing somewhat disorganized, or perhaps I should say not as well organized as I would have expected.  It doesn't take away from the joy of reading her history, but it does make it sometimes a little harder to follow her train of thought.

Cicero's Defense Speeches is so far my favourite of all my history reads.  Cicero's rhetoric is not only brilliant, but fascinating to read.  My favourite speech, as yet, is Pro Roscio Amerino (For Roscius of Ameria) which presents Cicero as a young 26 year old giving his first speech for the defense in a criminal court.  This speech definitely has a different flavour to the other speeches; he takes more risks and is even a little cheeky whereas the speeches from when he is a well-know orator are more carefully contrived.  I wish this book was required reading for all upper high schools students to expose them to some excellent rhetoric and logic.  It's certainly impressive.  I'm 33% through this book and can't wait to read more.

I don't have any other history books "up next"; I'll simply try to focus on these three so I will eventually be able to finally say that I've finished something!