Category Archives: Classic

Review: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I gave up reading this when I first attempted it years ago and I can’t quite remember why anymore so I gave it another go. Within the first few chapters, I remembered that I just didn’t fancy Fanny as a heroine. My preferred heroine would be someone like Lizzie Bennett or Margaret Hale – healthy and a bit feisty 😉

When Fanny was having a near-fainting-spell, I nearly gave up! If I was reading a print edition, I would’ve chucked it across the table in disgust but I couldn’t do that to my PC. As it was the only Austen novel I’ve not read, I was determined to finish it and so persevered. And I’m actually (surprisingly) glad that I did.

Whilst Fanny hasn’t the constitution of Lizzie Bennett or Margaret Hale, she is not quite sickly. Whilst she is also ‘seen’ as a timid mouse or that quiet obedient pleasant nobody, she actually knows her own mind and will stick to it. Even though, I don’t quite agree to her sitting back whilst the love of her life is slowly being wooed away from her (she seemed quite placid on the outside and resigned to accept his choice in this matter rather than fighting for him in any way), I came to understand that with her position, it may just be inappropriate. In the end, though, with all that transpired, she became not only acceptable but is propriety herself.

I’m so very happy to have finished this novel. Fanny Price may not be my favourite character but I do admire her strength and courage in sticking up for what she knows to be right for her even when it was presented as her only option for a comfortable future.

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Review: Les Misérables

https://i0.wp.com/d.gr-assets.com/books/1327702573l/24280.jpgLes Misérables by Victor Hugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Own a copy – Get your own copy from The Book Depository

It feels as though it’s such an accomplishment to have read Les Misérables. It is a very big book which I have had for about 14 years but never read. I tried once but only got as far as 20 pages or so, embarrassingly, and I have to admit, even this time, the reading was not free of struggles. With the 5 volumes, I enjoyed the first and last volumes whilst the middle 3 not as much.

The first volume opens with the introduction of a most sincere godly man, Monsieur Myriel. His background was a bit scratchy but the fact is that he is a man of God who continuously strives to obey God’s will in every aspects of life even when it makes his life uncomfortable. Whilst he is made out to be such a saint, we do get to see some inner struggles though not as many as others would have.

Jean Valjean’s encounter with Monsieur Myriel is the key to Valjean’s salvation. Valjean was released on parole and was unwelcome to wherever he went. To him, was not given the treatment of equal. M. Myriel, however, welcomes him as he would anybody else. A further act of kindness from M. Myriel made him that bright shining light on an ever darkening life to Valjean. It became a standard which he clung onto for the rest of his life, striving to always be deserving of that burning brightness by responding in kind to those who in need.

Javert, on the other hand, whilst sharing as similar poor background with Valjean, had carved himself a career as a police inspector. He is very rigid in his views of the Law, everything is black or white and nothing else in between. He became obsessed with the capture of Valjean and like a dog that has caught a whiff of his prey, he will not give up. Hence, is Valjean’s arch nemesis and a perfect foil. By the end of the book and after we have witnessed Javert and Valjean’s final encounter, Javert’s thought and actions made me wonder if Javert has ever experienced kindness in his life?

Les Misérables is not about the love story between Marius and Cosette at all. In fact, I was slightly deflated to find that I did not like either characters and therefore, could not appreciate their ‘love’. If anything, they and their love painfully highlighted Valjean’s love and sacrifice. His salvation was ensured by his last act of sacrifice.

As I said above, this is a very big book (1,463 pages) but the above pretty much summarised the Big Main Point of the book for me. There are, of course, many other little points but the above is THE most important bit as it was shown through Valjean just how one merciful act, one kindness to those whom we do not think deserves it is the most worthiest recipient as they will spend their whole lives paying it forward even sacrificing themselves for other’s happiness.

Thank you all who have accompanied me through the Read Along -appreciate your support 😉

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Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 5: Jean Valjean

**SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**

Whoopee!!  Yipee!!  Horray!!  It is done!  It is finished!

The best volume in the whole novel, I believe.  Or at least, one that entertained me most.  The suspense of the barricade, Valjean’s roller coaster mood, and of course, it is when all converged into one glorious ending.

There were a couple of tangential thoughts but not as many as the previous volumes nor as ponderous.  The history of Parisian sewerage, whilst not to my taste, was interesting to note.

Marius, unable to secure his grandfather’s assistance for marriage, could not find Cosette.  She has gone away and life means nothing to him now.  He looks to his death at the barricade.  However, Fate conspires to prevent his death.  Firstly through Eponine (what a heroine!) then Valjean (with Titanian strength and courage).  Marius is definitely a product of the period so whilst I understood the reasoning behind his thoughts, that did not help me in liking him one little bit.  This was mostly due to his cold attitude towards Valjean after his confession.  I kept thinking of the good bishop (M.Myriel) and why Marius can’t be a little like him after all Valjean has done (even in secret) – is he blind as well as dense?!?! (okay, I admit being a little insensible with anger)

I found that I utterly dislike Cosette.  So she’s young (19).  So she’s led a very very sheltered life.  So both Marius and Valjean and everybody thinks she’s an angel.  From the little I’ve read (there really wasn’t much of her), she’s a silly little wench -superficial, easily distracted, timid, unthinking, etc (I think I had better stop now).

Valjean was heart broken to find out that Cosette’s heart no longer belongs to him only.  She loves another with the passion of a woman.  Despite his heartbreak, he wants only one thing: for Cosette to be happy.  With all the strength he has left, he made it all happen: rescued Marius from the barricade, arranged for the couple to marry (without any possible blemish to be found on the security of this institution), and ensuring the future financially.  His sacrifice was complete – he gave his all for the light of his life to continue to shine.

Javert  excites my pity, Thénardier makes me huffed with exasperation and I can only shake my head at the antics of M. Gillenormand.  Despite my disliking Marius and Cosette, Valjean’s light shone ever so brightly.  A beginning full of suspense and action, a middle thick with disappointment and angst, completed with an ending to beautifully crafted -everything packaged neatly into an un-labelled box.

Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 4: Saint-Denis

**SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**

Confession time: I’ve not finish this volume yet!  I’m 20 pages shy but am too tired to read (or to even write this post) but I should’ve done this so much earlier.  What can I say… quite a bit actually!  I have to apologise first though as this post may turn out to be a rant!

I was really disappointed with Cosette!  She SWOONED!  *AUGH!*

As it also happened I started reading Mansfield Park too the other week and erm, know I remember why I didn’t finish it – Fanny Price swooned!! *gagging noises*

So Cosette & Fanny swooned for different reasons and I have fainted before (sickness and too much sun) so I’m not dissing the fact that you can faint due to some real illness etc but Gah! I can’t stand my heroines to be weak & swoony!  I ilke them strong and totally kick-ass!  Like…

Eponine!  What a gutsy chick!  I had to take a point off of her for falling for Marius though. She followed him, she manouvered some moves to make him hers and as she died…

with that tragic joy of jealous heart that drag the being they love into death with them, saying, “Nobody shall have him.”

All right, if you’re only reading this then she doesn’t sound so impressive but what she did that caused her death is one of the most touching bit of this book!  Gutsy, indeed!

I was ranting to a friend yesterday who agreed with dislike at Cosette and Marius yet she loves this book for the values being put forth throughout this book, primarily through Valjean but also some via Javert and some others.  I wonder if Cosette and Marius are omitted from the whole novel, whether it’ll make much of a difference?  Well, it will probably not make such a popular musical / movie etc however, we’ll have to consider this further at the end of the novel (in 2 weeks’t time).

Oh, shall I mentioned also that my friend and I actually like Marius’ grandfather?  I’m not at all sure if we’re supposed to like him,  He definitely doesn’t sound like someone I’d like in real life but he’s sooo broken!

Father Mabeuf also touched my heart this week… especially that one time when he was looking for a book to carry under his arm only to realise that he has none left -he’s sold them all! I think if that ever happened to me, it certainly is time to leave this world, as Father Mabeuf did in style!

I’ve definitely enjoyed this volume most to date.  That’s mostly because all these characters are coming together for me and there are a lot of stuff happening in this volume.  I can’t wait for the end though!

Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 3: Marius

**SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**

Arrgh, the most boring volume yet!  Is anyone feeling the same?  Thing is I feel nothing for this volume -well, almost nothing.  There was a lot of stuff I didn’t particularly care for and I supposed, at this stage, I do NOT care for Marius *gasp!*

At first, I was really excited seeing that we get to learn about Marius’ background (note that I didn’t particularly know very much about Marius ‘cept on his later connection with Cosette).  An angry bitter child / young man due to his perception of his father’s rejection of him – a sad childhood in the home of an old man (his grandfather) and a spinster (his aunt who did not care for him).  His father’s death did not touch him until such time that he met, by coincidence, a man who told him of his father’s love for him.

When Marius discovered the reason of the rift in his family, he went out to explore the political differences and chose side on his own.  At first, I was a bit sceptical about this as it just sounded like something drastic you’d do after a traumatic event.  However, as Marius struck out on his own (even though it was kind of enforced on him) and despite poverty and lack of food, he had the strength to return his grandfather’s money to stand by his principles – this I totally admire and then, understood that it really meant something to him.

But then, the next moment, I got truly frustrated with him – in his encounters with Cosette and Valjean. It seems Valjean has yet donned another personae, M. LeBlanc, which totally suited his appearance.  It was just so frustrating witnessing Marius’ ineptness and utter stupidity in these encounters. I really had to laugh at this part though…

For days and days after this piece of good fortune [Marius picked up a white handkerchief of which he thought belonging to Cosette], he always appeared at the Luxembourg kissing this handkerchief and placing it on his heart.  The beautiful child did not understand this at all, and told him so through imperceptible signs.

Seriously, I would’ve thought Marius to be some sort of pervert!  Which they probably did and therefore, changed their habit and moved house with no forwarding address.  What a fool!

The last part of this volume was the Best part as it was just so suspenful; it was utterly exciting to read!  But then, I was once again frustrated with Marius -a fainting spell, seriously, “Be a Man and Do the Right Thing!”  With the relief that Marius felt in not having to choose whom to save whilst things appear to resolve best they can by themselves, I am left disappointed that Marius didn’t have a chance to prove his manhood here.

Am I being a little too critical of Marius?  Whilst intellectual, he is seriously weak in many other ways and this is just too frustrating for me.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this volume… do link up your post and it doesn’t work for you, leave a link on the comments 🙂

Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 2: Cosette

**SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**

I was truthfully quite bored at the beginning of this volume.  50+ pages dedicated to describe the Battle of Waterloo from which Hugo is making a point but it bores me because most of the names & places mean nothing to me.  It might actually makes a difference if I know some of these characters & places. I get it that it was a glorious war – great & cunning generals were involved, weather affecting outcomes, and even Lady Luck played a role.  But in the end, Napoleon was crushed and grave robbers took the spoils – despite it all, nothing truly changes for the better…

The only thing I really liked about this part was how Hugo brought it back to the storyline with the appearance of Thénardier. I had to laugh as to just how ridiculous he is and the whole situation with Pontmercy.

Did you enjoy this tale of Battle of Waterloo?

Valjean could be James Bond seeing the way he was escaping prison.  He planned.  He waited for a good opportunity.  He wasted not a moment and whilst people are distracted he escaped and faked his death at the same time.  Unfortunately, I don’t think he’d made a very good spy [see below].  I loved the way he made his entrance into Cosette’s life (by carrying a too-heavy bucket for her out of the darkest of night).  And when, he picked up Cosette and she laid her head down on his shoulders… *awww* I am touched & entranced – this is trust… the beginning of love… 🙂  On another note, it’s surprising that Cosette retained some sincerity & faith in others noting her past 5 years with the Thénardiers.  Is the point that she is intrinsically a good person?

Thénardier still posed just as ridiculous and his corruptness made just the perfect foil for Valjean.  Didn’t you feel contempt at when he was trying to squeeze Valjean for all he can?  Or didn’t you smirk in triumph when Valjean put him back in his place by showing him Fantine’s note?  or snort when he even considered to tackle Valjean ’til he realised the size differences?  Despite all this ridicule or maybe because he is so ridiculous, I think I actually like this character!  LOL

How do you think Cosette remained to be such sweet child after all these years?

Valjean really needed to disappear and I supposed Paris was a good choice – lots of people there, right?  Will be easy to escape notice, right?  Well, it appears he cannot keep from being noticed due to his strange behaviour, “the stranger who gives alms”.  And then, when he was trying to escape from Javert, he doesn’t know where he’s going! It’s pretty obvious that he hasn’t charted a Plan B (Escape Route when Discovered). Definitely, not a spy material!  Still, his desperation in combination with his superhuman strength is the combo necessary to ensure his & Cosette’s safety.  And he climbed over an impossible wall for the haven on the other side.

Javert is truly a man Obsessed.  He will pursue Valjean not caring of the little girl implicated in his chase.  She is, to him, expendable.  He is ambitious and yet, cautious, in trying to ensure his success to be such that a promotion will be the undeniable result.  This is a man I can envision to be losing sleep as he hunted for his prey, unbending in his faith in the law and their systems.  How terrifying!

One wonders whether Javert has considered all and chose to place his absolute faith in The Law or whether he was in such desperate circumstances that he saw The Law as his only “escape route” and therefore, blinded to all other avenues by his self-imposed blinkers…

*sigh* and we had another tangentials to dwell in the Convent and the Church.  Not a very positive view this time around (in comparison to M. Myriel) yet it highlights the point where a system may be corrupt and yet, there are those with pure faith and in practice too.  Nevertheless, a convent is a perfect ‘retirement’ for Valjean – its seclusion from the world outside gave Valjean the sense of security and peace he has not previously (another chance at life).

I think there is a place in the world for convents – but unfortunately, the one we are particularly seeing in this book, is a very self-serving one.  One where you live in utter seclusion from the world, not being able to see your own relatives much less touch them affectionately.  This is utter tosh to me.  I believe that being children of God calls us to serve others and how can you serve anybody when you are living “outside” of the world?

What do you think life in a convent will be like for Cosette?  Especiall in a harsh one like the convent of Petit-Picpus?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this volume… do link up your post and it doesn’t work for you, leave a link on the comments 🙂

Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: My local Library – Get yourself a copy from The Book Depository

No matter how hard the times were, I feel like I’m missing something not growing up at the turn of the century. Mind you, one of my greatest wish is to time travel so that’s really not a big surprise, is it? There is just something about life – the difference in pace, in community but I think it’s mostly the nostalgic notes throughout this book which really drew me to life back then.

Of course, having your main character loving to read is a Great move. Which reader out there does not like a Reader MC? I love how Francie looks forward to coming home and having things set out just right at her favourite spot to read – does that remind you of yourselves? It sure does me!

The book begins when Francie was 11 and just starting to realise a lot of differences between dreams and reality. This is a true coming-of-age book as we see Francie very determinedly fighting for more in life than just a life of drudgery and ends where we see Francie carving her own path to the future.

One thing which really annoyed me about this book was the mother’s preference of one child over another. I’m trying not to be too judgemental as I’m sure that does happen but to actually tell the child of it and shrugging it off as something you couldn’t help… that kills me! Still, I was quite happy to see that the mother was willing to give all for the safety of her child, preferences aside.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading about Francie and her family. Whilst I was kind of annoyed at the mother [see above], I actually admire her cuz she’s a real woman, tough and determined, a good woman. Funny how I actually ended up admiring her instead of Francie, who whilst being the main character, was just likeable to me. Here is a favourite part of mine…

She bought the coveted dance set-panties and brassiere made of scraps of black lace held together by narrow black satin ribbon.

Francie showed her dance set and mama let loose her “Oh, my!” of astonishment.
“Do you think that’s what fast women wear?” asked Francie hopefully.
“If the do, I’m sure they all come down with pneumonia. Now let’s see: What’ll we have for supper?”
“Aren’t you going to object?” Francie was disappointed because mama wasn’t making a fuss.
“No. All women go through a black-lace-drawers time. You came to it earlier than most and you’ll get over it sooner. I think we’ll heat up the soup and have that and soup meat and potatoes. …”

The attended mass together Christmas morning….
Francie was wearing her lace pants and freezing. Whenever an icy wind blew her coat apart and went through her thin dress, it was as it she had no underwear on at all. “I wish-oh, how I wish I had my flanner bloomers on,” she mourned. “Mama was right. A person could get pneumonia. But I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of letting her know. I guess I’ll have to put these lace things away until summer.”

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Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 1: Fantine

**SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**     **SPOILERS ALERT**

I am surprisingly enjoying my read the past week.  Surprising because the first couple of times I’ve picked this up, I’ve never got beyond the Bishop.  I think maybe the glass of wine / honeymead I consumed each reading session helped?  I don’t normally drink and I can safely say, that I’ve probably drank more the past week than I have last year… LOL.  As I was saying to hubby, ‘It’s set in France… France – Wine, am I reaching a bit far, do you think?’

In my ‘Introduction’, Lee Fahnestock commented that ‘Hugo conceived of the book as the story of a saint, a man, a woman, and a little girl.’

What do you think of Bishop Myriel?  He’s definitely described as being truly saintly; I’m wondering if there’s any pessimistic reader out there?

He would talk like that, gravely and paternally, inventing parables when he lacked examples, going straight to the point with a few phrases and a lot of images, with the very eloquence of Christ, convincing and persuasive.

For me, I really do admire him and wish that I could be like him! One thing is for sure, I would probably be happier with life if I’m not so attached to many material things.  However, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t struggling with some things though – although, ‘struggle’ is probably too strong a word. We still see him ‘learning’ things at times – like finally letting go of the silvers (the last luxury items he had held onto for so long) etc.

For those of you who are reading this for the first time, was there any assumptions you have made previously from whatever source which was just incorrect?  Was there anything which surprises you from the past week’s readings?

I somehow assumed that Fantine’s lover was a sailor or something like that – who knows why… that was a wacky assumption on my part!  And he turned out to be some snooty bratty rich dude!  Who, by the by, was not impressive at all – balding with bad teeth!  Okay, so his appearance obviously wasn’t what he has going for him…

According to Wikipedia, there are some differences in the musical:

  • Rather than being fired for being an unwed mother, a fellow female worker steals her letter from the Thénardiers claiming another need for money; the worker presumes that she is a prostitute to cover her debts with the low wages. Valjean sees this, but leaves this to his foreman; the foreman, his advances having been rejected by Fantine, fires her.
  • Fantine also does not appear to be illiterate as when the foreman hands her the letter from the Thénardiers she is able to read it just as well as anyone else.
  • Fantine dies peacefully in hospital with Valjean at her side after entrusting him with Cosette; Javert never reveals Valjean’s true identity to her, as he arrives after her death.

And Javert!!  I always thought of him as truly mean!  But reading his background made me understand just how circumstances made him into such a hard man.  He is pitiable not only because of his background but that he’s not been able to preserve his humanity – the compassion for others.

What do you think of the contrast between Javert & Valjean?

Valjean did not have an easy childhood himself nor did he have an easy time as an adult being incarcerated to begin with and then ostracized for being a parolee and yet… a kindness granted him a new lease of life!  A kindness which drives him to compassions towards others.

Whether true or false, what is said about men often has as much influence on their lives, and particularly on their destinies, as what they do.

Does this provoke a serious review on your attitude towards others?  A little kindness on our part to others (like giving up a seat on the train even!) may make that much of a difference to others.

“The Infinite exists. It is there.  If the infinite had no me, the me would be its limit; it would not be the infinite; in other words, it would not be.  But it is.  Then it has a me.  This me of the infinite is God.”

Over to you!  What has been the high point for you this week?  Any quote/s which bowled you over this week?

By the way, I am actually away for the weekend (playing camp parents at a youth camp) and I think internet connection may be patchy at best, so I’ll get back to you after the weekend!  Have a fantastic one, everybody!

I have this song in my head whilst I’m typing this post, so… does anyone remember this?

Post being edited to include links to other posts:

The Dead Authors Club

Half-Filled Attic

Love Notes in Library Books

Recipes for a Better World

 

Review: The Little Prince

The Little Prince
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Own (purchased) – Get your own copy from The Book Depository

Such a little book but it packs such a wallop!

For its size, 109 pages (including drawings), it was easily read in one train trip to work (just under 60 mins) but… you don’t actually want to read it in such a little time. This is one of those works where you’d stop right in the middle of the page to let your mind wander, to ponder in wonder at what the author is saying in such simplicity of language. But is it really simple? It is astonishing just how complex the ideas were behind it.

It is a story which traverses the universe yet explores humanity being told from such childlike perspective to “simplify” the language but still contained multi-layered ideas. This is one of those books which will mean something different each time you read it. I think this will have to join A Christmas Carol for annual reads 😉

Utterly wonderful! Totally recommended to absolutely everybody!

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Join a Read Along: Les Misérables (15 Sept – 1 Dec)

I have enjoyed my first read along so much that I am inspired to host mine own!  Anna Karenina was a book I envisioned I will never pick up, much less finished, but a read along was just the Push & the support I needed.  It was just so good to rant & rave with others who are at reading at around the same part as you!

Les Misérables is one I have wanted to read for soooo long.  In fact, I purchased a second hand book nearly 15 years ago and it has just been collecting dust.  I did try to read it once but did not past the first few pages.  That was a really dismal effort which greatly dismayed a good friend of mine (who, by the way, devoured it in one weekend!).  Seeing that another adaptation is on the way, I think it’s a really good timing to get this one dusted & read!  My good friend (above) has agreed to read it again along with me but I thought I’d put the call out there too and see if anyone else would like to come along for the ride.

Here’s my proposed schedule (noting that the book is divided into 5 volumes):

15 Sept – 28 Sept: Fantine

29 Sept – 12 Oct: Cosette

13 Oct – 26 Oct: Marius

27 Oct – 9 Nov: Saint Denis

10 Nov – 23 Nov: Jean Valjean

1 Dec:  Final Review

I know it looks like a long time (2.5 months) but we are practically reading a book every 2 weeks!  Remember, this is supposed to be fun, no pressure with lots of support to read this Chunkster of a book 😀  I do hope that you will join in, whether you have a blog or not.  If you wish, please click on Mister Linky below and add your link.  I look forward to sharing with you all!!

Btw, you don’t have to have a blog to participate…  you’re welcome to link your GR profile & I’ll look you up (or you can always look me up) and we can ‘rant & rave’ on GR 🙂

Grab a button here:

<a href=”https://tiensblurb.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/join-a-read-along-les-miserables-15-sept-1-dec/” style=”margin-left:1em;margin-right:1em;”><img border=”0″ height=”90″ src=”https://tiensblurb.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/les-mis-read-along.jpg?w=272&amp;h=90” width=”272″ /></a>

Please do let me know if either linky / button doesn’t work, it’s my first time with both 🙂

Oh, and if you haven’t seen the trailer yet…