Classics archive at Stray Talk
an archive of my forays into fact and fiction

Archive: Classics


7th July, 2008
Speed reviews: part I
— Love @ 08:43 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Book Blowout, C, Classics, D, English, GLBT interest, Historical, History, Lifestyle, Mystery, Religion, Romance, Science Fiction, Sex, sexuality & gender, Speed reviews, Swedish, To Be Read, Young Adult

Since I’m sick* and way behind on reviews, I’ve realised the only way to catch up is to make them speed reviews and post a whole batch at once.

The Age of Napoleon; Alistair Horne, eng, 235 British
Interesting, but a little choppily written, and also the author assumes you know certain things and never explains them, while others he explains over and over again.
C

Cold Comfort Farm; Stella Gibbons, eng, 253 British
Funny, though I accidentally didn’t read the preface, so I wasn’t 100 % how much of it was intentional (all of it, as it turns out, and as I suspected). Flora Poste is kind of annoying, but all right all the same.
For the TBR reading challenge and as part of the BBC Big Read.
B

Rebecca; Daphne du Maurier, eng, 410 British
A re-read, not as good as I remembered it, but still lovely. Maxim is both wonderful and creepy.
C

Med uppenbar känsla för stil; Stephan Mendel-Enk, swe, 128 Swedish
Interestingly written about men and what’s considered masculine. References Morrissey at some points, mostly in connection with a man who went berserk and killed people. Lovely… not!
C

Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East; Brian Whitaker, swe, 230 British
Interesting, scary and occasionally a little bit hopeful.
C

Ingen behöver veta; Christina Wahldén, swe, 139 Swedish
About male rape and how it does exist, but people find it hard to believe. Kind of a non-ending, but then I suppose that’s sadly the case in most instances of actual male rape also.
C

Ingen grekisk gud, precis; Katarian Kieri, swe, 217 Swedish
Kind of brilliant tale of a young girl who falls for a teacher. Kind of brilliant mostly because the main character is into Morrissey, but for other reasons also. I was a bit worried where it was going to end, but it’s kind of perfect, really.
B

Sandman: The Kindly Ones; Neil Gaiman et al., eng, 335 British
I wouldn’t say Sandman is Gaiman at his best, but I do like the stories and so also in this volume. Not my favourite, though.
For the TBR reading challenge.
C

Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Black Island; Mike Tucker, eng, 255 British
Scary monsters and kiddies with nightmares. I liked it, but not as much as other DW books.
C

Doctor Who: The Art of Destruction; Stephen Cole, eng, 256 British
Farming in Africa, golden statues and creepy aliens. Good, but not great. Doctor’s always nice, though.
C

Doctor Who: The Price of Paradise; Colin Brake, eng, 255 British
References Franz Ferdinand and other pop culture a time or two. Not the best of the DW books I’ve read—I don’t much care for Colin Brake’s style of writing it, though I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.
C

Tro, hopp och burnout; Johan Unenge, swe, 228 Swedish
YA story about a guy who’s really into cars and death metal, who ends up going on a confirmation camp. It’s a decent story, and I was happy to see it didn’t end up quite where I expected it would, but the writing style is very, very choppy and not at all my cup of tea.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
C

Vadå feminist; Lisa Gålmark, swe, 188 Swedish
Basic guide to feminism. I wasn’t too keen on the writing and didn’t like the book all that much. Mostly it made me a little annoyed with the author, though it did contain sections worth thinking about. It bothers me that there is no question mark in the title.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
D

Homofamiljer; Sara Stenholm & Cecilia Strömberg, swe, 312 Swedish
About rainbow families and different ways to get one. Interesting, especially the personal stories, but not fab.
C

*Just a cold, but a bad one. I hate colds. And I’ve run out of Kleenex, which means my nose is very, very sore from regular paper towels. Woe.


6th June, 2008
A Christmas Carol; Charles Dickens
— Love @ 12:58 Comments (1)
Filed under: C, Classics, Decades '08, English

A Christmas Carol; Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
British

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1843) and part of the BBC Big Read.

English
77 pages
Dover Publications
ISBN: 978-0-486-26865-1

First line: Marley was dead: to begin with.

Back cover blurb:
In October 1843, Charles Dickens—heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher—began work on a book to help supplement his family’s meager income. That volume, A Christmas Carol, has long since become one of the most beloved stories in the English language. As much a part of the holiday season as holly, mistletoe and evergreen wreaths, this perennial favorite continues to delight new readers and rekindle thoughts of charity and goodwill.

With its characters exhibiting many qualities—as well as failures—often ascribed to Dickens himself, the imaginative and entertaining tale relates Ebenezer Scrooge’s eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate and insensitive miser to a generous, warmhearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England’s greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.

Thoughts: I’ve been meaning to read this for years and years and years, but I never did get around to it until now.

I knew the basics of the story already, of course, having seen an animated adaption or two in my day, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good I found it. Somehow, I don’t know why, I was expecting to almost struggle through it and want to give up because of boredom, or what have you. There really was no reason for me to be expecting that, as I’ve liked all the Dickens I have read so far, plus there has to be a reason for its popularity.

At any rate, I get to mark another book on the BBC Big Read as successfully read, and to dole out a C rating.


25th May, 2008
Heart of Darkness; Joseph Conrad
— Love @ 19:51 Comments (2)
Filed under: C, Classics, Decades '08, English, Historical

No cover image available Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
British

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1902).

English
111 pages
a Project Gutenberg e-book

First line: The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest.

Back cover blurb:
In this tale of colonial exploitation, the narrator, Marlowe, journeys deep into the heart of Africa. But there he encounters Kurtz, an idealist apparently crazed and depraved by his power over the natives, and the meeting prompts Marlowe to reflect on the darkness at the heart of all men.
This text refers to an edition other than the one I read.

Thoughts: I’ve heard this book mentioned again and again, and I’ve always sort of meant to read it, but I’ve never really known anything about it except the title.

This afternoon I took the time to read it and it was an interesting story. Very dark, but I should maybe have clued into that from the title, had I not been a complete idiot. I did find the narrative a little hard to follow at times, but I’m not sure how much that had to do with the format I read it in (e-book), and how much it was due to the actual writing.

Heart of Darkness receives a C rating. It was an okay read, but I had some issues with the flow of narrative, and at times I was made exceedingly uncomfortable by the blatant racism. It’s true that it was written over a hundred years ago, when racism was more accepted, but I’m reading it now, with 21st century sensitivities, and of course that’s going to colour my reading experience.


20th May, 2008
Daddy-Long-Legs; Jean Webster
— Love @ 11:33 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Classics, Decades '08, English, Young Adult

No cover image available Daddy-Long-Legs
by Jean Webster
American

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1912).

English
160 pages
J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd/E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc.
ISBN: n/a

First line: The first Wednesday in every month was a Perfectly Awful Day—a day to be awaited with dread, endured with courage and forgotten with haste.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Thoughts: I’ve read Daddy-Long-Legs before, but always in Swedish, so this was a bit like reading it for the first time. I’ve always liked it in Swedish, and I like it even more in the original.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s the story of Judy, a girl who’s grown up in an orphanage. Her real name is Jerusha, because the head of the orphanage had a habit of picking first names from head stones (and last names from the phone directory, which is why Judy is an Abbott). When Judy’s eighteen, one of the trustees of the orphanage decides to sponsor her education at college. His only demand on her is that she write him one letter a month, to tell him how she’s doing at school.

In essence, then, it’s a novel in letters. A format that is not always easy to pull off, but that Webster truly excelled at (she wrote other novels in the same style—the sequel to this one, called Dear Enemy, being one of them).

I’m giving this a B grade, in part because the writing is such that I got pulled in, and in part because there is an underlying romance that is lovely, but not too in-your-face and definitely not the only thing in the story. I like that sort of thing.

If you haven’t already read it, do it now! (Or at least soon. If you’re not averse to reading things on the screen, you can find this, and its sequel, at Project Gutenberg.)


20th January, 2008
A Tale of a Tub; Jonathan Swift
— Love @ 18:45 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, Classics, Decades '08, English

A Tale of a Tub; Jonathan Swift A Tale of a Tub
by Jonathan Swift
Irish

For the Decades ’08 (first published 1704) and A-Z reading challenges.

English
132 pages
a Project Gutenberg e-book

First line: My LORD, Though the author has written a large Dedication, yet that being addressed to a Prince whom I am never likely to have the honour of being known to; a person, besides, as far as I can observe, not at all regarded or thought on by any of our present writers; and I being wholly free from that slavery which booksellers usually lie under to the caprices of authors, I think it a wise piece of presumption to inscribe these papers to your Lordship, and to implore your Lordship’s protection of them.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Thoughts: I really quite enjoyed this book, though I am well aware that I am missing out on a lot of references and things that would have made it even more enjoyable, had I lived in the day and age that it was published (that is to say, just over three hundred years ago). It’s amazing, though, how some things work even centuries after their first conception.

A C rating this time, because it was in parts a little hard to get through (I have to admit to skipping a paragraph or two of the digressions).

This is the second book I’ve read for the Decades challenge, and since the first was published in 1980, I now have quite some work to do to tie the two up (that is to say, I need to read one book from each decade between the two) . I’m quite looking forward to that, though!


31st December, 2008
Flying Colours; CS Forester
— Love @ 18:48 Comments (2)
Filed under: Adventure, B, Classics, English, Historical, Personal challenges, Seafaring Challenge

The Admiral Hornblower Omnibus; CS Forester Flying Colours (part of the Admiral Hornblower Omnibus)
by CS Forester
British

For the End of Year Mini Challenge and the Seafaring Challenge.

English
155 pages
Penguin Books
ISBN: 0-14-011940-X (for the whole Omnibus)

First line: Captain Hornblower was walking up and down along the sector of the ramparts of Rosas, delimited by two sentries with loaded muskets, which the commandant had granted him for exercise.

Back cover blurb:
Hornblower becomes a national hero when he escapes a French firing squad. But the Terror of the Mediterranean becomes Europe’s most wanted man, forced to fight alone for England — and liberty.

Thoughts: I tend to get confused about which Hornblower books I’ve already read and which I have not, since I’ve not managed to find them all previously and the old translations I have don’t always include the original title. It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise when I discovered that Flying Colours was new to me. It’s true that I knew the basic storyline, since it’s alluded to in a later short story (later chronologically, anyway. I think it might have been published before Flying Colours), but I hadn’t actually read the entire thing before.

I liked it. I liked it a lot. But then again, I don’t think I’ll ever cease being intrigued by the vast difference of Hornblower as he sees himself and Hornblower as others see him. That, by far, is my favourite thing about these novels, even if Hornblower’s relationships with his men (especially Bush) and all the high seas adventures come close behind.

At any rate, I’m giving this a B and will let that conclude this year of reading. I don’t expect I shall finish anything else in 2007.


13th December, 2007
Le petit prince; Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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Filed under: B, Children's lit, Classics, French

Le petit prince; Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Le petit prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
French

French
101 pages
Collection Folio
ISBN: 2-07-040850-7

First line: Lorsque j’avais six ans j’ai vu, une fois, une magnifique image, dans un livre sur la forêt vierge qui s’appelait Histoires vécues.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Thoughts: I haven’t read anything in French since 2004, which means that my grasp on the language has almost completely gone, which is why I decided to re-read Le petit prince in hopes of reviving it at least a little bit (more re-reads of other books I’ve read in French are to follow).

It’s a lovely book, but then that is almost one of those truths universally acknowledged, given that it’s been translated into over 160 languages and is on the list of top 50 best-selling books. Personally, I especially like the chapter with the fox.

I give it a B rating.


4th November, 2007
Northanger Abbey; Jane Austen
— Love @ 18:15 Comments (2)
Filed under: B, Classics, English, Historical, Romance

Northanger Abbey; Jane Austen Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen
British

English
236 pages
Penguin Popular Classics
ISBN: 0-14-062075-3

First line: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

Back cover blurb:
Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s amusing and bitingly satirical pastiche of the ‘Gothic’ romances popular in her day.

Catherine Morland, an unremarkable tomboy as a child, is thrown amongst all the ‘difficulties and dangers’ of Bath at the ripe age of seventeen. Armed with an unworldly charm and a vivid imagination, she must overcome the caprices of elegant society, encountering along the way such characters as the vacuous Mrs Allen, coquettish Isabella and the brash bully John Thorpe. Catherine’s invitation to Northanger Abbey, in her eyes a haven of coffins, skeletons and other Gothic devices, does lead to an adventure, though one she didn’t expect, and her misjudgement of the ambitious, somewhat villainous General Tilney is not wholly unjustified. However, with the ‘unromantic’ hero Henry Tilney, Catherine gradually progresses towards maturity and self-knowledge.

Thoughts: I first read this almost ten years ago and I must say I had a whole new appreciation for it this time around. I don’t remember liking it exceptionally well before, but now I was quite enamoured — especially with Henry Tilney, who I believe I thought quite a bore previously. I still haven’t read any of the Gothic novels that Austen refers to on a number of occasions, but I do plan on getting some of them read within the next year. Perhaps I should have left my re-read of this until after, to appreciate it even more, but I don’t think it was absolutely necessary. And, after all, I could always read this again, should the fancy strike.

I give this book a B. It’s not the best book I ever read, but it was enjoyable.