Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bleak House-Book 12

I read Bleak House several years ago and loved it. In honour of the list I watched the BBC mini-series of Bleak House so that it would be fresh in my mind. I highly recommend watching the mini-series and found that many of the characters were portrayed just the way I viewed them in my head. The following blog was posted on my former blog (which is no longer in existence):

If you can get through the first few pages of Bleak House by Charles Dickens (which is a page and a half long description of fog) then Bleak House is a fantastic read.

Reason 1

The story is true to life. There are unpleasant parts, there are joyous parts, there are happy endings and sad endings. There are a few stories that don't end at all. The book follows a panoply of characters, many of who enter the book upon a chance encounter with the main character. They all seem real to life and are a bit more filled out than most characters in other novels. I am awfully fond of books that chronicle the lives of the poor and this book does that in many ways. For a book written in a time when only the wealthy could read them, it is very exciting indeed. "It must be a strange state, not merely to be told that I am scarcely human....but to feel it of my own knowledge all my life! To see the horses, dogs, and cattle go by me and know that in ignorance I belong to them and not to the superior beings in my shape, whose delicacy I offend".

Reason 2

This book has a suprising element of mystery to it. If you make it through over half the book it doesn't take long to realize that all of the characters who the main character chances to meet are connected to each other in many unexpected ways. All the seemingly unconnected story lines merge and then seperate through out various points in the story. Although each chapter details a different person, or a different plot line by the time you get to the end of the book you realize why they are all there. There were certain parts of the story where i couldn't put it down.

Reason 3

There is a love story in this book, albeit a twisted and sometimes confusing one, but a love story nonetheless. There are actually several love stories now that I think of it but the few between the main character and some of her suitors are amazing. One of her suitors loves her with a love so deep that he is willing to sacrifce his love to see her happy. Another of her suitors could be her father. This one is the one that I call twisted. I was horrified that she would end up with this character and even went so far as to yell at the book. I was formally a sexual exploitation youth worker and this relationship was a classic example of exploitation in its truest form. Someone in a position of power using it against someone under them. Thankfully things turn out okay in the end. I am trying really hard not to give away too much here.

Reason 4

The main character is a simple minded girl which she admits several times through out the book but several of the things that she says are so simply logical that they blow my mind.

"For I saw very well that I could not have been meant intended to die, or I should never have lived....I knew I was as innocent of my birth as a queen of hers and that before my Heavenly Father I should not be punished for birth nor a queen rewarded for it"

And I will leave you with one last quote which I think is a good summary of the book:

"You will be glad to know from my lips before I say good night that in the future, which is clear and bright before me, I am most happy, most fortunate and have nothing to regret or desire....from my childhood I have been...the object of the untiring goodness of the best of human beings, to whom I am so bound by every tie of attachment, gratitude, and love that nothing I could do in the compass of a life could express the feelings of a single day"

Overall the book chronicles one girls life in such a way that the reader can see that all things truly have worked together for (her) good. Not everything was pleasant, not everything was joyful but everything brought her to the point in her life where she could look forward to the future with bright hopeful eyes and know that she would be okay. I truly hope that I can say the same for my life.

Emma-Book 11

I very quickly finished Jane Austen's Emma which was book 11 on the list. After reading so many 1000 pages novels, a novel sitting at just under 400 pages was a piece of cake! The book was also an easy read because their didn't appear to be any great meaning behind the words. At least none that I could discern. This was simply a novel about Emma, a 21 year old girl with wit, charm and money. I hated her character at the beginning because she had decided she was good at matchmaking and royally messed up one of her friends relationships with a guy who proposed to marry her. I was so annoyed with her! However, part way through the novel you find that you like Emma despite all of her many weaknesses. After I wrote the majority of this review I went back and read what Daniel S. Burt had to say about Emma. In his book he talked about how Emma is a novel showing how you can have everything in your favor, but still need to experience the world in order to mature and grow. So Emma is a book about her progress and development into a mature women. The main purpose of the novel is her development and not the seemingly trivial things that happen throughout it.

The novel is also filled with various other people who populate the small town of Highbury. Her father who is a hypochondriac, Miss Bates who has a penchant for rambling on and on, Mr. Knightley a dashing young man who is the only one to ever point out Emma's many faults and several other people. The one thing I found odd was that the novel doesn't really describe the character's looks. I wouldn't have had a clue what any of the characters wore, or looked like except for the lithographs that were scattered throughout the novel. The novel does talk about various characters complexions, and possibly how a person's hair was styled, but not much that other novels normally discuss (eye colour, hair colour, height etc).

I can't say I loved Emma, but I didn't really expect to. Jane Austen's novels are some of the most popular classic novels, but in my mind they are the equivalent of a modern day fluffy novel. Their only distinguishing feature is that they happened to be written a long time ago. That being said, I didn't hate the novel either.

The one redeeming part of the novel is that I really liked Mr. Knightley. He seemed like a really nice guy. He always had interesting and intelligent things to say, and he was calm and steady.

Here are a few quotes of interest:

"my being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry; I must find other people charming-one other at least" (I thought this amusing, because it was such a conceited thing to say)

"Oh to be sure' cried Emma, ' it is always incomprehsible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her"

Several of the last few novels have made this point about women and I don' think it is true. They have all made comments along the lines that women choose men who have first chosen them. At least in my case this has never been true. I am not swept off my feet by the people who have been interested me. I decide whether I am interested based on what I am looking for and their characteristics. I do know that it can be true in some cases that women date because they are flattered by the attention, but find it offensive that it appears to be a common sweeping generalization.

And lastly, "I meant self command. You have somehow or other, broken bounds yesterday and run away from your own management; but today you are got back again".

Emma said this comment when Frank blamed her for his irritability and anger the day before.