G. Bianco, 2019
I’ve officially finished writing my thesis and I’m so relieved and proud of myself if I’m being honest! It’s not submitted for grading yet, but nearly 26 pages written, months of work/research, and few stress out sessions later and it’s finally done! So to celebrate this momentous occasion that literally no one but me cares about, I figured I’d post a multi-review of all of the books I used for my research! Below will be a small summary of each book and then my thoughts!
NOTE: Most of these ratings are based solely on the plot and entertainment value of the novel compared to other books I've read in the past. I appreciate all of hem for their complexities, purposes, and the impact they have on society and the literary world. If I take that into account, all of the ratings would be slightly higher.
Candide by Voltaire
Summary: Candide is the story of a gentle man who, though pummeled and slapped in every direction by fate, clings desperately to the belief that he lives in "the best of all possible worlds." On the surface a witty, bantering tale, this eighteenth-century classic is actually a savage, satiric thrust at the philosophical optimism that proclaims that all disaster and human suffering is part of a benevolent cosmic plan. Fast, funny, often outrageous, the French philosopher's immortal narrative takes Candide around the world to discover that -- contrary to the teachings of his distinguished tutor Dr. Pangloss -- all is not always for the best. Alive with wit, brilliance, and graceful storytelling, Candide has become Voltaire's most celebrated work.
My Thoughts: A funny satire that seems super bizarre and absurd (but that’s the point)! While i found myself confused and sometimes rolling my eyes at the antics that Candide and Co. get up to, it's still a pretty funny book. This is a quick read that will have you questioning the stupidity of society back then and maybe even how you view life right now.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This Is the Life by Alex Shearer
Summary: This is the story of Louis, who never quite fit in, and of his younger brother, who always tried to tag along. As they got older, they grew apart. And as they got older still, one of them got cancer, and the other became his caretaker. Then they became close again, two brothers on one final journey together, wading through the stuff that’s thicker than water. Told in anecdotes as his brother remembers them, we discover who this cranky, cancerous Louis once was. That before his brain surgery he had a mind that was said to be bigger than the rest of the family’s put together, and that his heart was—and still is—just as big. That it’s hard getting a haircut with a brain tumor, and that it does no good to help your brother memorize a PIN number when he might not be able to remember where the bank is. We learn along with these two brothers how the little stuff is as big as the big stuff, how tragedy and comedy go together, and how necessary it is that they do. Inspired by Shearer's experiences when his own brother was dying and written with a warm touch that is at once tender and achingly funny, This Is the Life is a moving testimony to both the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of the simpler things in life, like not taking a dying man’s tea kettle away.
My Thoughts: While it took me a little while to get into the groove of the way this book is written, it offers interesting insight into what it’s like to watch a loved one die. The best way for me to describe this novel is as a pseudo-memoir since it’s all about Louis, but the whole thing is narrated by his brother. The chapters are not in chronological order so it's a bit difficult to follow sometimes, but it's still a touching read about a man trying to make sense of his relationship with his dying brother. Overall, it’s a unique look at storytelling that shows what it means to be family.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Summary: A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate...An estate haunted by a beckoning evil. Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls... But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil. For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.
My Thoughts: Reading this gothic horror story is not fun by any means, but it definitely makes you think about what’s real and who to trust in this book. The spooky elements when into the story will make you question whether the narrator is just crazy or if she's really witnessing a possession. But you could probably watch the film “The Innocents” instead and still get the gist of the novel, if I'm being honest.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ (just because it’s so dense and hard to get through)
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Summary: Heart of Darkness, a novel by Joseph Conrad, was originally a three-part series in Blackwood's Magazine in 1899. It is a story within a story, following a character named Charlie Marlow, who recounts his adventure to a group of men onboard an anchored ship. The story told is of his early life as a ferry boat captain. Although his job was to transport ivory downriver, Charlie develops an interest in investing an ivory procurement agent, Kurtz, who is employed by the government. Preceded by his reputation as a brilliant emissary of progress, Kurtz has now established himself as a god among the natives in “one of the darkest places on earth.” Marlow suspects something else of Kurtz: he has gone mad. A reflection on corruptive European colonialism and a journey into the nightmare psyche of one of the corrupted, Heart of Darkness is considered one of the most influential works ever written.
My Thoughts: I’m sorry this book is just terrible! It’s so hard to read and I found it dense and boring. I also hated Marlow and found him to be selfish and a terrible narrator. Thank God it was only 70-ish pages otherwise I don't think I could've lasted reading this whole story. If I didn't need to read the whole thing for my thesis, then I probably would've DNF this one.
Conrad in the Nineteenth Century by Ian Watt
Summary: New scholarship concerning the life of the British novelist augments a critical study of Conrad's early literary development that examines his work in light of nineteenth-century social ethics and such movements as Romanticism and Symbolism.
My Thoughts: I’ll admit that I didn’t read this entire book since I was using it as research for my thesis, but the insight was very helpful towards my research and helped me defend my arguments. I specifically enjoyed the comparison between Henry James and Marlow! A well written and extensive look at Conrad and his works!
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
That's it! Five books later and I only liked about half of them! If all fairness, the only modern book in this list is This Is the Life, so it might be expected for an older book to be harder to comprehend. But has anyone else read any of these? If so, let's discuss in the comments below! I'd love to see if anyone has the same views as me on these books!
Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!