Book Review – Villette by Charlotte Brontë

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(My Rating: 4/5)

This 657 page book is, I believe, the longest book I have ever read, and dear reader, I am afraid my review is going to be a rather long one as well. I found it a difficult book to review and thus you may find the following post a bit all over the place.

Getting into it, I was a bit apprehensive, since I hadn’t read a classic in a while. I thought I might end up labouring through it, but surprisingly it moved along at a nice pace. Perhaps the fact that Brontë’s writing is just so lovely had something to do with it. (I also found myself wanting to begin every bit of communication – including every blog post, email and text message – with “Dear Reader”.) Mercifully the phase has passed now that I have finished the book.

Villette is about Lucy Snowe, a young lady who finds herself in unfortunate circumstances and decides to do something to improve her life. She leaves England and heads for imaginary Villette (which according to what I have read up was meant to mean Brussels).

There she finds a job as an English teacher at a school and the rest of the novel revolves around her life in Villette over the next couple of years. Continue reading “Book Review – Villette by Charlotte Brontë”

Reading Challenge 2016: Book 12 – The Call of the Wild by Jack London

(My Rating 5 / 5)

What a potent little book this is! With around twenty five percent of Charlotte Brontë’s Villette left to read, I needed a break from it and picked up The Call of the Wild from the windowsill in what used to be my bedroom at my parents’ home, where it has been sitting for many, many years!

Buck, a tame and rather large dog, of St. Bernard and shepherd dog lineage is dog-napped from his comfortable dwellings at a large home in the Santa Clara Valley and sold as a sled dog.

Thrust from a mundane and lazy life into a brutal world, the story revolves around how Buck fights to survive in a situation that is alien to him. He also finds himself irresistibly drawn to the wilderness – the life from which his ancestors descended.

Continue reading “Reading Challenge 2016: Book 12 – The Call of the Wild by Jack London”

Book Review – Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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(My Rating: 5/5)

 An unusual story in an unusual setting, Burial Rites is Hannah Kent’s impressive debut novel, based on real life events that took place in Iceland in 1829.

Agnes Magnúsdóttir has been sentenced to death for the murder of her lover and it has been decided that she, along with the other two people who were party to the crime, be executed in the district where they committed the act. Since the district has no suitable place, such as a public house or factory, in which the prisoner can be housed till the execution date, the district commissioner decides that they should be put up at local farms – houses of ordinary citizens. And this is how Agnes, who in real life was the last woman to be executed in Iceland, comes to stay at the home of District Officer of Vatnsdalur, Jón Jónsson, his wife Margrét and their two daughters. Imagine a convicted murderer coming to live (and work) in your home!

This book is a page-turner done well. Hannah Kent, looks at the whole incident from Agnes’s point of view and this is what makes it an unusual book – who was she? What sort of an upbringing did she have? What were the incidents that led up to the murder? What of her loves and joys and sorrows? Was she just an ‘evil’ woman or was there more to her? Continue reading “Book Review – Burial Rites by Hannah Kent”

Book Review – Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee

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(My Rating: 4/5)

Winner of the 1999 Booker Prize, Disgrace revolves around certain incidents that take place in the life of middle-aged David Lurie, a South African professor of English.

After Lurie’s sexual relationship with a student comes to light, he is brought before an enquiry committee at the university he teaches at and as a result he is ultimately forced to resign from his position, since he refuses to apologise or show any real remorse for what he has done.

After resigning he moves to the country to stay with his lesbian daughter on a farm she runs. While there, both become victims of a violent attack and Lurie is unable to do anything to protect his daughter. The incident alters both their lives not only individually, but also strains their relationship as each comes to terms with and deals with what has happened in their own manner.

The story does not end here, but I am not going to write a synopsis of what happens next – I don’t really like to write a full summary when I write a review. I feel it spoils it for those who haven’t yet read the book. So I’ll now move on to what I thought and felt about the book. Continue reading “Book Review – Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee”

Reading Challenge 2016: Book 10 – The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

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(My Rating: 4/5)

The fifth book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series is filled with delightful little observations on and insights into the differences between men and women and the nature of their relationships.

While most of these observations are humourous and described with wit, there are also subtle, meaningful messages regarding how people in a relationship should treat each other – for example, that in difficult situations it is best to be honest rather than skirt uncomfortable discussions.

There are also observations on human beings in general and the state of our society today. For example, Mma Ramotswe reflects: Continue reading “Reading Challenge 2016: Book 10 – The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith”

Book Review – The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

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(My Rating: 2/5)

For me this book was OK. I think it might have more to do with the fact that the genre (I think this book falls somewhere between fabulism and dark fantasy, I’m not absolutely sure though!) isn’t really my cup of tea.

The story is of a man who has just returned, after many years, to the place he spent his childhood in and he begins to recall events that took place there when he was 7.

I didn’t enjoy the story or the writing very much, but what I did like was the way the main character relates his childhood memories. I think Gaiman has captured very well the nature of childhood memories and the impact they have on us. I think each one of us has certain childhood memories that stay with us forever and while each person’s important or defining memories are unique, there is something universal about the way these memories affect us and make us feel when we think about them years later, as adults. Somehow Gaiman has expressed this feeling well, and I think that’s a pretty tough thing to have accomplished. Continue reading “Book Review – The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman”

Reading Challenge 2016: Book 9 – The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

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(My Rating: 3/5)

The Lost Symbol, which I picked up from my mother’s bookshelf as part of my 2016 Reading Challenge, is the third Dan Brown book featuring Robert Langdon (Yes, of course you know which the other two books are!) and it did feel quite like the method and plot were the same as with the other two – just different characters, a different city and some other details of the ‘mystery that must be solved in an unbelievably short period of time’. The Freemasons still feature of course and this time the plot revolves around an ancient pyramid shaped item that has been passed down through generations and holds the answer to something very, very important.

Dan Brown books are no works of great literature, but he does know how to entertain and keep you reading. This was thus perfect for the five-day holiday I was on at a remote coffee estate last month when I read the book. 500 pages. 5 days. Just perfect. Continue reading “Reading Challenge 2016: Book 9 – The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown”

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