Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Hayley

      Something Wicked This Way Comes...   10/09/2019

      The Autumn Supporter Giveaway!       Welcome to the very first of the seasonal BCF supporter giveaways! This month also marks one year since I took on the forum, so I want to say an extra huge thank you to all of you for keeping this place going. I have a little bit more to say about that later but, for now, let's get to the giveaway!     The Autumn Giveaway winner will be getting two Penguin Little Black Classics, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and To Be Read At Dusk by Charles Dickens. Both of these little books contain three atmospheric short stories, perfect for autumnal evenings. The winner will also get Mary Shelley tea (a lavender and vanilla black tea) from Rosie Lea Tea's Literary Tea Collection (https://www.rosieleatea.co.uk/collections/literary-tea-collection) and a chocolate skull, to really get that spooky atmosphere .   and...   A special treat for a special month. The winner will choose one of the following recent paperback releases from the independent bookshop Big Green Bookshop:       The Wych Elm by Tana French A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan Melmoth by Sarah Perry The Familiars by Stacey Halls  The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White   The winner will be chosen via the usual random selection process in one week. Patreon supporters are entered automatically. If you aren't a patreon supporter but you'd like to join in with this giveaway, you can support here: https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum.   I really hope you're all going to like this introduction to the seasonal giveaways. It's been a lot of fun to put together. Other chocolate skulls may have been harmed during the selection process…     

Recommended Posts

Thanks. I now started War & Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, it's excellent so far. It only depicted a social gathering without any major event, but the characters seem a little complex and I already caught some great quotes. And it is a great way to present the social and political context to the reader.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hope you enjoy it! It's on my TBR, but I've not read it yet, because I find it so intimidating (classics are difficult for me to read anyway, with the older language)! I hope to read it eventually, though :).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've finished Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances, by Masami Tsuda. It's a manga series about Soichiro Arima and Yukino Miyazawa, two top students in a japanese senior high school. Yukino is a jovial and kind young woman with excellent grades, plenty of personal qualities and a well managed presentation; however, in private she's very competitive. She works all the time off-school to both maintain top grades and an athletical form, while continually learning new elements to add to her person so that she can impress the others. Soichiro is a soft-spoken and broody young man, also with top grades and an excellent kendo fighter; but even his interactions with his family are a façade, for he has deep thoughts and dark plans, fruit of a troubled childhood. They start as rivals, but eventually find out that they are capable of nurturing for one another and develop an intimate and needy relationship. The books follow their tribulations and experiences as they learn how to ally truthfulness to their character and interaction both personal and social. I've found this book a bit irrealistic in that the characters figure out their lives right after high school (not in a frugal, but an experienced and informed way). I know my case and many others that or chose a path just because they were pressured to it or because they didn't know what to do, or are yet to choose one. I know cases of people in their thirties, forties and fifties that, with or without a family, are shattered by having no certain direction, their personalities are frail and everything seems unfair and irreversible. I think these books have almost everyone acting the right way, or in a way that leads them to a good place (except the villain), and these teenagers are never forced or blackmailed by their parents to do certain things. The story approaches far more sensible and hurtful themes, but the people who suffer either solve the question or learn how to live with it. I guess I'm criticising this story because I expected a slice of life and instead got a, albeit mature, teenager guide of life. It's a good story, everything considered, and I'm glad they found their place in society whilst remaining true to themselves. At least I've become entangled in it, for I read all the volumes in a matter of days. Thanks to Athena for the suggestion.

Edited by Sousa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad you enjoyed this series, though it's a shame it was perhaps not as nice as you'd hoped. Good review :).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad you enjoyed this series, though it's a shame it was perhaps not as nice as you'd hoped. Good review :).

 

I'm feeling that occasional emptiness derived from finishing a book or series, missing the characters I empathized with. It's very good for its genre, and I'm yet to find a manga as good as this one (although I haven't read many manga yet).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm feeling that occasional emptiness derived from finishing a book or series, missing the characters I empathized with. It's very good for its genre, and I'm yet to find a manga as good as this one (although I haven't read many manga yet).

I'm glad you enjoyed it :). I hope you'll read more nice manga in the future!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, muggle not. I've been reading the issue 26 of a magazine, Aviation Classics, about a german aircraft fighter named Focke-Wulf Fw190. It's almost all about history and a few about technical aspects, when I halfheartedly expected it to be more explanatory than historical. However, it's still interesting to read. There are also little stories inbetween, some of them worth a mention. This one I read on the train a few minutes before; the context is the eastern front of the Second World War, a conflict between Nazi Germany and the URSS.

 

Unteroffizier Gerhard "Emmes" Schwarz, a pilot of 2./JG 51, wrote in his diary of an encounter with one particularly surprising russian pilot. He had set off at 9.30am on March 18 as wingman to Leutnant Joachim Brendel.
"In my aircraft I felt very superior to the LaGG-3 which I was chasing. He was already in a steep turn on his wing-tip. Although my turn was matching his, my control stick had only moved a little. Then I thought I'd have some fun by slowly out-banking the ivan to shake his nerves. If one could have traced our flight course, they would have seen we were flying an ellipse. I could see him in his cockpit staring at me. 'Boy, you've got long hair,' I thought. I couldn't see exactly but I thought the hair stuck out from under his helmet. Nevertheless, he flew quite smartly and banked cleanly. Finally, I got in the right position with the crosshairs of my gunsight a little in front, and I pressed the firing buttons. My tracer bullets hit the side of his engine, but my ammuniyion was now exhausted, 'Empty!' I thought. 'Damn.' But black smoke began to pour from his aircraft, so I stayed behind him. His engine must soon seize. We continued to bank with me very close behind him. Then the smoke cleared and I saw the russian airfield about 5km away. I should have broken off the action, but the devil was riding with me.

I pulled closer to the russian, but he must have realised that I was no longer a dager to him and he stopped banking. With the utmost shock I now realised that this ivan was a rather pretty girl. I saluted her and her rather pale face nodded in return. I pointed to the airfield, but she did not understand and shook her head, lifting her shoulders enquiringly. I lowered my undercarriage to show her that she could do the same and pointed again to the airfield. Now she understood, but she still looked at me doubtfully. I pointed to my guns and crossed my arms. This was the international sign that I had no more ammunition. We saluted each other and I pulled away as she began her landing approach."

Edited by Sousa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I finally finished another book, after practically five months. I was reading War and Peace at such a slow pace I often had to resort to the very considerate summary of characters, contexts and chapters; however, I reached the point I understood it’d be better to start over. To avoid becoming bored by it, I decided to first read several other books instead.

 

Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie, is the tenth book of a detective series about Hercule Poirot, a man of characteristic looks solving mysteries around the globe. It occurs some years after the first world war, initially in Aleppo’s train station. For those who don't know, Aleppo is a huge ancient city located in the north of Syria, currently a stage of war between several factions. Poirot was returning home after solving a case, but intended to spend some vacation days in Istanbul. Aboard the train the only other passengers were a young lady bound from Baghdad and a Colonel bound from India. The young woman stroke the detective as knowledgeable of the world and traveling by the way she ate her breakfast, addressed to the attendant and wore suitable clothes for the heated atmosphere of the train; the middle-aged tall man had presence, but seemed susceptible. The two soon made an acquaintance Poirot amusingly observed, including a suspicious conversation when stopped in a further station. They eventually started to ignore each other and during an unscheduled stop the woman lost her poise, alarmed to lose her connection. The detective found it rather strange, because it did not suit her personality before nor after. When arrived at the hotel in Istanbul, Poirot received a telegram urging him to return faster, thus boarding the Orient Express that evening by personal favour of his old acquaintance M. Bouc. The fact Poirot needed a personal favour to board the train in first class seemed odd, because the train was seldom full and in this particular case it had too diverse passengers to seem a coincidence.

 

The book's plain writing is effective to the purpose of a detective series which meant the author couldn’t be bothered to embellish the words, because it would delay the book’s launch and compromise the readers’ understanding of the story. It’s filled with expressions in several languages and a tendency to disguise being cosmopolitan via a huge array of foreign names and locations, but the stereotyped characters and the insistence on the britishness of this or that suggest otherwise. It’s an interesting story, with an intriguing mystery to solve. The characters often refer the crime is unsolvable, but I never felt that way because new evidence appeared in every chapter; furthermore, the peculiar circumstances of the event meant all the passengers, and inevitably the criminal, were stuck in a train with a hero detective of impressive plot resources. The characters, as written before, are diverse and mysterious, each one presented with a life story that possibly hides something underneath. I quite liked the investigation, with Poirot questioning each individual and further presenting a summary of their names, motives and how they could perpetrate the murder. The previously mentioned young woman and Colonel are joined by a diverse cast of men and women, each one asserting stereotypes regarding nationality and types of people. Unfortunately, the end is awfully forced and doesn’t feel credible at all, despite being completely justified.

 

All in all, it’s a well-structured book of plain writing, peculiar protagonist and stereotyped characters that builds up well but ultimately doesn't satisfy.

Edited by Sousa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really liked this book. I'm glad you enjoyed it for the most part. It's a shame it was ultimately unsatisfying for you. Great review!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I read three quarters of Parade's End, by Ford Madox Ford. This book is divided in four parts, once sold as four individual novels but now crammed into one big volume. I made the mistake of not considering each one individually, for they all have different characteristics, despite depicting a continuous narrative. Because of it I'll mix everything in this review, something I'd prefer not to. I read the first pages of the fourth novel before giving up on it, I felt the book extended too far and the reading became insufferable. Then, I can only write about the first three books, which I read in full [Some Do Not..., No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up-]

 

The main characters are:

  • Mr. Tietjens, an overweight tory aristocrat with a great mind for numbers. He's seemingly obnoxious, but notwithstanding always makes his best to discreetly help others. He doesn't hide some of the potential actions that could denigrate him in the eyes of society, those that have nothing wrong but people tend to interpret in the wrong way. He also possesses a disposition to always better his peers' lives, even if at great personal cost. He ultimately follows a set of values so strict and old-fashioned few people believe him.
  • Mr. Macmaster, inseparable friend of Tietjens, a liberal lowborn short, bearded man from Scotland who has made it into high society through hard work, intelligence and social prowess. It's highly thought he cleans Tietjens misbehaviours and keeps him afloat from disaster in exchange for financial and social favours. In truth, he's very meticulous about how he acts, what he does and who he talks to.
  • Mrs. Tietjens, the beautiful, tall and elegant wife of Tietjens everyone adores and desires, but secretly a sadist whose purpose is to give the worst education possible to her son and make her husband miserable, because she can't stand how much she likes him. She maintains a well-praised place in high society and often manipulates people for caprice or pleasure.
  • Ms. Wannop, a suffragette girl of good birth forced to work below her social position due to her deceased father's debts. Raised as an athlete in order to have a desirable body, nonetheless she keeps her etiquette and unusual academic knowledge. She's forced to abandon all ideas of re-establishing her social status due to her unproper jobs, political activism and the recurring rumours she's Tietjens' mistress. Her purpose is to give her younger brother a good education and standing for what she believes, but she's very conflicted about what are her own desires.
 

There's a considerable roster of other characters who get their fair share of presence and an unnatural complexity, with a what I consider masterly construction of story that lets characters always stay interesting and relevant without extending their welcome. Usually authors resort to different devices in order to make characters disappear, but Ford keeps them active in the narrative without losing sense.  However, despite their complexity in characteristics and interactions, the characters never seem to evolve or develop in face of time, experience or circumstances. The story revolves around Mr. Tietjens and the people around him, in different stages of his life. In the beginning of the twentieth century, in an England too much self-centered, we get a huge share of social events that depict a society too rigid about itself, with some aching to burst this lack of progress and social mobility. Women are depicted as divided between wanting to increase their rights or making as much as possible to guarantee their place in the current social construct; most of all, both men and women are shown as parts of the same whole, capable of independent thoughts and actions without difference in inherent ability. Then, advancing some years into the middle of World War I, Tietjens is home on a pause from duty to recover from war injuries. There's a huge representation of a changing society by a considerable array of different elements, and how the different characters fare in it. The third part is about the war itself, focusing on the intricacies or warfare in two different french zones where Tietjens is located, the psychological impact of war on the soldiers and how they coexist in the difficult conditions of combat and combat expectancy. The fourth part's about the Tietjens' life in the post-war; I found it below the standard of the previous parts, so I eventually stopped reading.

 

The writing is well-versed and elaborate, humanising the conversations and thoughts of the characters according to their personalities, moods and circumstances. The book is incredibly detailed in everything, from characters looks and clothes to interior decorations, streets and fields. As a consequence, the book unnecessarily drags quite a bit, because there are plenty of irrelevant pauses and slowings that might test one's patience. I don't remember it happening in the beginning, where I believe the pace and writing to be at its best, ex aequo some of the third part. Unfortunately, important tidbits of story are somewhere in the middle of these pauses, so the reader needs to force through them in order not to miss anything. The story is often revealed in a guarded manner, therefore it requires a commited attention; there are also plenty of suggestive comments I feel I couldn't grasp in full, so it's a book I want to return to eventually.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I enjoyed the Parade's End television series when it was broadcast here a few years ago. It starred Benedict Cumberbatch, who I felt brought nuance to a rather stiff character. Perhaps one day I may try the books. 

Edited by Chrissy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is an iconic book that became a staple of the horror genre and set the standards for all vampire related books. It is an epistolary novel, which means it's written as a series of documents. In this case, the book is constructed of properly sequenced pages from diaries, letters, ship's logs, and newspapers. The story starts with Jonathan Harker, a solicitor, travelling to visit Count Dracula on behalf of his employer Mr. Hawkins. Starting from the town of Bistritz, Jonathan reveals in his diary the pledges from locals for his giving up the travel and the small, strange gifts he receives, as well as the vast amount of people blessing him worriedly. His journey takes him through the Carpathian mountains, where he's presented with wondrous landscapes and a feeling of isolation. Once on the agreed place, a carriage sent by the Count takes him somewhere farther. In this following journey he witnesses strange occurrences, such as strange lights in darkness always extinguished by the coachman and menacing wolves backing down by the coachman's gestures. In the meantime, Jonathan's fiancée Mina arrives in Whitby to visit her friend Lucy, who's also engaged to marry, and is wondered by the city's beauty. There she obtains a pleasant routine of leisure, with her hours spent reading, practicing her stenography in order to assist her husband in his work, having nice strolls through the town and engaging in conversations with locals on her favourite spot, from where she can observe the port and a good deal of other relevant places. However, a seemingly russian ship arouses suspicion for its errant and misguided behaviour, endangering itself as a huge storm looms near and worrying the people ashore.
 
The book is entertaining and suspenseful, as the plot thickened I grew more and more enthralled in the several ramifications; these eventually joined into a simple narrative akin to the basic action films, once the mysteries were unveiled. The build-up didn't feel rushed or at any other relevant fault, but much of the story was about the mystery surrounding the Count and it inevitably became much more plain. Even though the menace seemed inferior when the reader finally understands its essence and frailties, the suspense remained to the bitter end. The author provided the reader with a pleasurable writing, eloquent even for the late 19th century and yet easy enough for a smooth read. It shares with Murder on the Orient Express the element of being cosmopolitan, which leads me to think it was fashionable back then in the commonwealth. However, unlike in Christie's book, this element is never unwarranted and it even serves as an important focal point to the plot, given that it lies in the history of the vampires and is a factor behind the Count's ambitions. The characters were simple and pleasant, yet uninspired and I thought their individuality was sacrificed as the novel progressed in order to move the plot forward. The example that struck me most was Mina, for as in the beginning she had an enticing personality that seemed to hide complexity, she later transformed into a perfect young woman to whom the others were devotees; I think the author sensed it as well, but his attempt to avert it felt plastic. Another irksome matter about the caracters is how they lacked care and prevention, because there were horrible circumstances they should have avoided by simple gestures, but didn't perhaps for the sake of plot.
 

As I read, listened and watched about Count Dracula along the years, his myth grew as a growing amount of stories used him as an origin or a template. However, none of these spoiled me to the events in this book and I read it unaware of how it would unfold, despite some words and elements provided a very clear foreshadowing for small events ahead; one of these had the purpose of being major, but it just became a cheap act to add emergency to the character's plans. It's a good enough story with a nice build-up, unfortunately followed by a generic development and conclusion. However, I don't know how that could be avoided without changing the story as a whole, given that its simplicity and familiarity may have been the author's intention. Despite the flaws, the book is never compromised and I think it ultimately is a solid read with tidied content.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great review! I always meant to read Dracula, when I was a teenager I really wanted to, but the library's copy was stolen and they never got a new copy while I lived in that town. Since then though I have heard the original book is quite different from most more modern interpretations of vampires. I don't get on well with classics with old language, so I haven't yet dared to read it. I hope to do so one day though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't consider it a classic, just old and popular; nonetheless, it is vastly influential and perhaps that is a good enough reason. The more modern interpretations of vampires I know don't seem much different from the one in this book, but fail in the execution and/or adjust small bits.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great review! I always meant to read Dracula, when I was a teenager I really wanted to, but the library's copy was stolen and they never got a new copy while I lived in that town. Since then though I have heard the original book is quite different from most more modern interpretations of vampires. I don't get on well with classics with old language, so I haven't yet dared to read it. I hope to do so one day though.

 

If I remember correctly, Dracula is one of those old classics that are easy to read: there's nothing difficult about the language. I know I didn't struggle with it :smile2: I also really loved the book, so I'd heartily recommend it :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't consider it a classic, just old and popular..

Interesting: this, of course, has the potential to open up (again!) the whole debate on what makes a classic, but for me, the book's longevity and its influence definitely make it a classic.

 

Interesting, also, how many people say that they don't get on with classics. For me, classics have such a range, that to say that one doesn't like all classics, one might as well say that one doesn't like all books. Of course, there is the language issue, which understandably can put people off, but, again, the language used in such books varies enormously, and some classics have a very modern ring to them. Personally, for instance, I find that Jane Austen's writing is remarkably modern and easy to read (even though she is quite early as classic writers go), as is Bram Stoker, whilst, much as I love her books, George Eliot is a degree or so harder, and Henry James (and, to some extent, Walter Scott) can be almost incomprehensible at times! Of course, it's all personal as to what is an easy read and what isn't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting: this, of course, has the potential to open up (again!) the whole debate on what makes a classic, but for me, the book's longevity and its influence definitely make it a classic.

 

I kind of regretted writing what you quoted, because it might be a bit arrogant to consider myself enough to determine what's a classic. I agree with you, the label classics seems more of an easy way to gather a hall of fame in which books are concerned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I kind of regretted writing what you quoted, because it might be a bit arrogant to consider myself enough to determine what's a classic. I agree with you, the label classics seems more of an easy way to gather a hall of fame in which books are concerned.

I didn't think it arrogant at all: it's a fascinating debate, and one which surely is at least partically down to personal opinion. I've got a couple of books on my shelves which address this in one way or another, and they make really interesting reading. In particular is The Test of Time: What makes a classic a classic?, published by Waterstones and the Arts Council of England at the back end of the 1990s, with the millennium in mind. They asked a whole host of different writers and literary figures three batches of questions:

 

1 What is your definition of a classic? Do you think the term 'classic' is useful. What did you as a schoolchild feel about classics? Were you put of?

 

2. Please nominate ten essential books as classics for the next hundred years.

 

3. Please nominate ten books that you think should never have been called classics.

 

That last, in particular, certainly turned up a huge range, including Austen, the Brontes, Conrad, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy, James, Lawrence, Scott, Trollope, Woolf..... in other words most of the authors conventionally thought of as a classic writer! (Stoker wasn't on the list though!).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
 

1 What is your definition of a classic?

 

Which elements were more common across the different answers?

 

2. Please nominate ten essential books as classics for the next hundred years.

 

What did you think of the books they considered as essential?

Edited by woolf woolf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Which elements were more common across the different answers?

It's a while since I read this, so would have to reread to find out. My memory is that there were about as many elements as there were nominators!

 

 

What did you think of the books they considered as essential?

A really interesting mix, especially as so many writers who would have been predicted as future classics writers in the 19thC and early 20thC never actually made it apparently. Authors who came up in the list included:

Chinua Achebe, Martin Amis, Paul Auster, JG Ballard, John Banville, Pat Barker, Samuel Beckett, AS Byatt, Angela Carter, Don DeLillo, Penelope Fitzgerald, William Golding, Graham Greene, Josephy Heller, Ernest Hemingway, John Irving, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy, Shena McKay, Irish Murdoch - and that is just the first half of the alphabet, and those 20thC+ authors with 2 or more books named!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a while since I read this, so would have to reread to find out. My memory is that there were about as many elements as there were nominators!

 

 

A really interesting mix, especially as so many writers who would have been predicted as future classics writers in the 19thC and early 20thC never actually made it apparently. Authors who came up in the list included:

Chinua Achebe, Martin Amis, Paul Auster, JG Ballard, John Banville, Pat Barker, Samuel Beckett, AS Byatt, Angela Carter, Don DeLillo, Penelope Fitzgerald, William Golding, Graham Greene, Josephy Heller, Ernest Hemingway, John Irving, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy, Shena McKay, Irish Murdoch - and that is just the first half of the alphabet, and those 20thC+ authors with 2 or more books named!

 

The list is extremely english-centric, perhaps the interviewed were from english-speaking countries only.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The list is extremely english-centric, perhaps the interviewed were from english-speaking countries only.

I assume by English-centric, you mean English speaking, as only 8 of those 20 are English (still quite a high proportion, I agree, but not extremely so, surely?).

 

Yes, the book largely talked to English speaking individuals, indeed mostly British nationality. It was a book published by a British bookstore for the British market, so I suspect that was almost inevitable. With over a million different books currently in print in Britain alone, and 184000 published each year in England, I suspect there's enough to be going on with!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



×