I´ve been awfully busy last week and I didn´t get much reading done. However, I managed to put a huge dent into the Sherlock Holmes audiobook.
I finished the first two Holmes novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four. Both have been rereads for me and I will stick with my initial rating of 3,5 stars for both stories. The infodumping in both of them concerning the perpetrators still bugs me, I just can´t help it.
I really like the narration by Stephen Fry, since he manages to make the stories come alive. And I´m enjoying the forewords by him. He gives for each novel / short story collection an introduction in which he puts the stories into a historical perspective. It´s really interesting and I cannot help but notice just how much of a Holmes-fanboy Stephen Fry is.
Reading Zola´s The Ladies´ Paradise brought me back to this piece of non-fiction by Zola. I have wanted to read this years ago, after having read An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris and I have never gotten round to it until now.
J´Accuse is the famous open letter to the french president regarding the Dreyfus affair and the wrongdoings of the government during this affair. Impressive, poignant and a fascinating piece of contemporary history. A highly recommended read, especially when you have some prior knowledge of the Dreyfus affair.
After 5 hours of Dickens David Copperfield I had to throw in the towel. The audiobook, narrated by Richard Armitage, is excellent, but I wasn´t interested in Davids life at all. I guess Coming-of-age stories are not my cup of tea.
However, while browsing the Audible website, I found this collection of all the Sherlock Holmes novels, narrated by Stephen Fry. Each story has an introduction by Stephen Fry himself and what can I say, Stephen Fry is great and it is a pleasure to be listening to him. It´s a tome of an audiobook (approx. 72 hours), but I´m looking forward to every second of it.
Chocky tells the story of 12 year old boy, who all of a sudden has an imagenary friend. His parents have to deal with these changed circumstances and they have to ask themselves, if their son is turning mad or if he is possessed by some foreign entity.
My second Wyndham and as much as I loved The Day of the Triffids, I didn´t like Chocky. I couldn´t stand these horrible do-gooder parents (the mother is a stereotypical 1960s housewife and the father a condescending jerk) and I was totally unimpressed by the ending. 150 pages of boredom and a plot like molasses. A huge disappointment.
I just watched Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and oh my, this movie was so bad. The whole Martha business was utterly ridiculous (I haven´t done so much eyerolling in a very long time), the special effect guys must have borrowed that "thing" from another movie set or from a second hand store for crappy CGI monsters and don´t get me started on Lois Lane. Because, woman, I have to tell you, Superman has other things to do than to save your ass all the time.
I liked Ben Affleck as Batman and Wonder Woman was pretty awesome. But other than that this movie is shite.
A Mississippi plantation on a sultry evening and a dysfunctional family with all its secrets and untold truths. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is one of these plays that I would much rather have watched on the stage than have read it, because I imagine it must be even more powerful while being performed on a stage.
The big strenght of this play doesn´t lie in discovering the family secrets, although it deals with a controversial topic (the play is set in the 1950s).(show spoiler)
It´s much more about the way the characters deal with these problems and how they behave towards each other during this crises. My favorite part of the play is the dialogue between Brick and his father Big Daddy, which is absolutely mesmerizing, spellbinding and which will change your perception of the characters.
I loved reading this play and since I won´t be able to watch it in a theater, I have to watch the movie adaption.
Since I´m reading Geoffrey Chauchers The Canterbury Tales and I´m really enjoying it, I thought I would share some medieval fun. Have a nice sunday, everyone :).
I may be the odd one out, but I really liked Far From the Madding Crowd. I liked the sheep, I liked the character of Gabriel Oak and above all, I loved Thomas Hardys descriptions of the landscapes and the weather. Since I know that a lot of people don´t like his writing style, I´m very pleased by the fact that Hardy seems like an author that I enjoy reading.
I have to admit, though, I´m not the biggest fan of the heroine, Bathsheba. She is selfish, condescending, at times cruel, vain and, which is my biggest complaint, utterly stupid. I didn´t feel sorry for her once and during the whole Valentine cards fiasco I just wanted to punch her in the face. How she can have three suitors in the first place is beyond me and the falling in love of Gabriel in the beginning was extremely poorly developed. Why is he falling in love with her? Right, it must have been her looks, because they didn´t talk that much to each other.
And I still have the same problem with the book as I had with the Carey Mulligan movie way back then:
My plan is to read all of Richard Yates´ work in chronological order, so next up after Revolutionary Road has been his first short story collection. And as always with short story collections, it has been a mixed bag for me.
The main theme of this collection is loneliness in 1950s America in all its forms and how the characters deal with it. There is the child, who gets bullied in school, the patient in a TB ward, the unhappy spouse in a marriage, the unsatisfied worker of a newspaper and the dreamer, who wants to create but doesn´t have the means to do this himself.
Richard Yates just has that uncanny ability to give his characters a personality and a soul, whether he writes about them on 300 pages or on merely twenty. The stories are quite sad and depressing and especially the first story, "Dr. Jack-O-Lantern", has been a total gut-punch (at least for me). Some stories worked better for me than others, but there hasn´t been a story that I disliked and overall it´s a strong collection of short stories.
"I think if I find that I have any third cousins living at Cold Comfort Farm (young ones, you know, children of Cousin Judith) who are named Seth, or Reuben, I shall decide not to go."
"Oh, because highly sexed young men living on farms are always called Seth or Reuben, and it would be such a nuisance. And my cousin´s name, remember, is Judith. That in itself is most omnious. Her husband is almost certain to be called Amos; and if he is, it will be a typical farm, and you know what they are like"
I have a slight premonition about the first names of the Starkadders ;D.
Northanger Abbey is my second Jane Austen novel I have read so far (Pride and Prejudice being the first one) and I enjoyed it, eventhough I had some issues with it.
What I liked: It´s a fun and lighthearted story and Catherines endeavours to open up a simple trunk or drawer are hilarious (she sees a gothic mystery in everything). I really adored the part of book that takes place at the actual abbey.
What I didn´t like: The first half of the book (the Bath-episode) is too long and nothing of interest happens. I didn´t like the Thorpe´s and Catherine´s inability to see past their demeanour grated on my nerves (I know, I have to cut her some slack. Catherine is only 17 and pretty naive).
I struggled with Jane Austen breaking the fourth wall, adressing Catherine as her heroine and talking directly to the reader. I thought this was utterly distracting from the narrative.
And The ending is just too rushed. All the drama is shoved into the last 20 pages of the story and nothing is developed properly and the the story is all of a sudden over.
I still enjoyed Northanger Abbey, despite its flaws, but this won´t be my favorite Austen novel.
I have to admit, War and Piece intimidated me. The sheer size of it, the huge cast of characters and the fact that is a russian classic (I have that weird prejudice that Russian literature is difficult to read) really made me hesitate to read this book. But since I wanted to watch the BBC miniseries, I had to go on with it.
And I´m so glad I did, because I love this book eventhough it has its flaws. At times the war chapters felt like a history lesson, Tolstoys musings about the war strategies were most of the time too drawn out and there´s a huge list of characters and sometimes it was hard to keep track of them (keeping a list of the characters might be helpful). And I´m the first to admit that I had problems with grasping the motivations of the characters most of the time. Especially Pierre was making one odd decision after another and I kept scratching my head (I guess the Russian soul is a special one). But because of these flaws in the characters and because of the time I have spent with them, I became emotionally attached to the characters. Whether it being their feeling of happiness and love or their struggles with war, death and hardship, I kept turning the pages to see what is going to happen next and it´s been such a great experience to be in the same emotional turmoil alongside the characters.
There is one thing, though, that I didn´t like about War and Peace and this is the epilogue. It consists of two parts. The first part is about the characters and how they live their lives seven years later. I wish I hadn´t read this part, because all of a sudden I didn´t like the characters anymore. And I don´t think that the epilogue adds anything to the overall narrative. The second part of the epilogue consists of Tolstoys philosophical musings about war, history and why people act the way they do. And I didn´t find this to be particularly interesting. And yes, the epilogue is the reason why War and Piece didn´t get a five star rating from me.
But still, I love it and now I can proudly claim that I have read War and Peace in it´s entirety. It´s a great feeling.
... and they are so pretty.
It´s my first time reading 1984 and it´s quite a disturbing and gloomy read (as gloomy as the winter weather here in Schleswig-Holstein). But so far I really like it.
On another note: I have sewn a book pillow for myself today (the last time I used a sewing machine must have been in 1995). So I´m very pleased that I managed to do it and that it looks like this: