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Based on a recommendation on here just read 'The Haunted Bookshop' by morley. Its a good read with elements of mystery/literature/homespun philosophy with a vein of humour as well.

 

I got curious too and checked out Christopher Morley's stories on Gutenberg. I started with Roger Mifflin's first adventure Parnassus on Wheels - which is told from (Roger's future wife) Helen's point of view. I finished it this morning and have now moved on to The Haunted Bookshop.

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Well, it took me a little while to really get into it, but the characters were quirky and I enjoyed the book and author references throughout. I suppose that the main theme is the importance of reading literature for a better life but I think that another theme may be that change and adventure can occur at any age.

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This book chronicles the numerous adventures that befall Svejk when he joins the Austrian army at the start of WW1. Svejk is no idiot - one of his catch phrases is 'The best thing you can do.... is pretend to be an idiot'. He infuriates various authorities with his behaviour. There is a lot of humour, but there is always an undertow of satire. Most, if not all of the instituitions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire come in for barbed comment.

 

I have this abiding image of a short man, with a beaming smile and twinkling eyes standing quietly , thinking how do I get out of this mess. Whoever is having a go at him is usually shown to be idiotic and Svejk usually manges to wiggle out of the situation.

 

I found the book began to drag in places as if Hasek was spinning the plot out, which the notes provided by the translator bear out. The translation worked well, given the various difficulties presented by lack of complete manuscript, the unconvential Czech it was written in and Haseks disregard for following grammatical syntax. This edition includes the coarse language and bawdiness of Hasek's original, though in reality its not a prominent feature.

 

I enjoyed the read.

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This work is well written. The style is very evocative and I found myself drawn in. the plot is relatively straightforward, but there are several underlying themes that I found interesting. The edition I read had useful endnotes which indicated several references to other authors: T Carlyle, Maupassant, Shakespeare, H G Wells, Schopenhauer amongst others.

 

One of the frequent criticisms of this work is its apparant racism. Yes the language used in regard to the Africans is generally racist, I take the view that such language was the acccepted view at the time the book was written. Also the issue isnt clear cut as there are moments in the text where the author is scathing about fellow Europeans and very humane towards the Africans.

 

Overall it is a good read and is now on my re-read list.

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Wow how do you get through these Classics so quickly? Still loving this thread though :D

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Wow how do you get through these Classics so quickly? Still loving this thread though :smile2:

Well most of them are short (200-300 pages), so as I'm a fast but attentive reader I have been able to read them in fairly quick succession. Also nearly all of them have had a n easy style which does help. The rate of reading is likely to drop slightly as I have some doorsteps looming :D

 

Glad you like the thread, I try and provide a reasonable review :):)

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Having read 'First Love' previously and enjoying his style, the next step was to read 'Fathers and Sons'. This written in the same lyrical style, but is more polished. The novel is set against the backdrop of the 1861 reforms in Russia - The peasant reform and the land reforms. In it explores the social impact of these reforms from several angles. He was aware of the divide that existed between the liberals of the 1830's and the 'new men' of the 1860's. The former ,represented by the fathers, saw the reforms as a threat to the traditional social order, whilst the latter, represented by the sons, saw the reforms as a way to clear away the old social order and start anew.

 

The characters are sharply drawn and do develop as the novel unfolds. Turgenev adopts an impartial view, acting more as an observer of the complexities involved. This impartiality annoyed critics at the time of publication on both sides of the debate.

 

Of the characters portrayed, the following deserve some brief observations:

 

Arkady - young and impressionable. Obstensibly a nihilist, but more out of admiration for Bazarov than out of conviction. By the end of the novel he has become more realistic, but is still progressive.

 

Bazarov - he is the archetype nihilist - art to him is pointless, science is the only pursuit worth following. He stays steadfast to this belief right up to his death, even though emotions do cause him doubts.

 

Nikolai - Arkady's father. He is a well meaning landowner who is prepared to try the new system, but still hankers for the days of serfdom. As the novel unfolds he becomes more attuned to the new way of thinking.

 

Pavel - Arkady's brother. He is portrayed as a bourgoise, with delusions of grandeur. He does have other sides which are brought out in the novel. He is the antitheist of Bazarov. Their arguments are used to show the divide in opinion between the old and the new.

 

Anna - She is an egnimatic character. Both emotionally cool and emotionally moved.

 

Katya - Annas sister. She is calmy intelligent, and for much of the novel lives under the shadow of her sister. Eventually she blossoms and becomes more independent.

 

the themes of the social reforms and nihilism were also taken up by Tolstoy and Dostoyesky. Tolstoy adresses the land reforms in Anna Karenina in the character of Levin. His treatment of the subject is similar to Turgenev's. Dostoyesky for his part shows his contempt for nihilism in The Idiot.

 

This review has only really scratched the surface of the novel, one I intend to reread and explore.

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This book chronicles the numerous adventures that befall Svejk when he joins the Austrian army at the start of WW1. Svejk is no idiot - one of his catch phrases is 'The best thing you can do.... is pretend to be an idiot'. He infuriates various authorities with his behaviour. There is a lot of humour, but there is always an undertow of satire. Most, if not all of the instituitions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire come in for barbed comment.

.

 

 

For the best collection of information about Švejk visit...........

 

 

I found the book began to drag in places as if Hasek was spinning the plot out, which the notes provided by the translator bear out.

 

I am curious. Which particular notes do that?

 

The translation worked well, given the various difficulties presented by lack of complete manuscript, the unconvential Czech it was written in and Haseks disregard for following grammatical syntax.

 

How well the translation worked depends on the measure one uses. The "complete manuscript" is a mere academic question when it comes to "difficulties". It is not as if parts of the original text are missing. Unconventional Czech? That is probably the impression you've got from Parrott's discourse on the difference between the "literary" and "spoken" Czech. There's nothing unconventional about it. The book was written at the beginning of the 1920s and the style of writing was different, that is all. But, that is no difficulty for a Czech reader/translator.

 

This edition includes the coarse language and bawdiness of Hasek's original, though in reality its not a prominent feature.

Unfortunately, Parrott rendered too many various Czech invectives by the tired "bloody 'person of dubious parentage'". I think it's time you look at the new English translation.

Edited by Nollaig
Removed link - please do not try to get around regulations.

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This was one of Balzac's early novels written in January 1830. It eventually was incorporated into his monumental Comedie Humanie - which he started some years later.

 

The plot concerns the daughter and son of two families who have a vendetta between them. The daughter's father is a strong willed, obstinate and generally unreasonable man, who tries to rule his daughter's life. She for her part is independently minded. This leads to battle between her and her father over her wish to marry. She eventually achieves her goal. Her husband is the son of the family that her father has a vendetta with, so she is disowned.

Like Romeo and Juliet the outcome is tragic.

 

The novel is short (under 100 pages), well written, but there are touches of melodrama towards the end.

 

I enjoyed this and it has encouraged me to search out more Balzac to read

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It's several years since I've read any novels by Dickens, but sorting out some books the other day came across my copy of 'Bleak House'. As preface to my comments, a little background to the novel seems appropriate. Like many of Dicken's novels, it appeared in monthly instalments. The last instalment was published in 1853 simultaneous with the book form. It proved a great success with Dicken's readers, but sufferred at the hands of the critics - the 'Spectator' commented ' We must plead guiltyto having found it dull and wearisome'. Such critical opinions seemed to stem from a comparison with 'David Copperfield', which had garnered critical praise.

 

My reading of the novel hasn't led me to concur with the coeval critics, though I did find a small number of passages that seemed to stall the flow. The overall structure of the novel is intricate, with several strands connecting throughout. There is a strong sense of Dicken's compassion for the less fortunate in face of high handed self interest. His main target is the inquity of the Court of Chancery. He also targets the middle classes who make a lot of noise but achieve little.

 

Many of the characters are satirically depicted to great effect, to the extent that they could be lifted as they are, placed in Gogol's 'Dead Souls' to great effect in my opnion. However one character who I found really irritating was Skimpole. In my view the satire involved with Skimpole went too far.

 

My favourite characters were George, Mr and Mrs Bagnet, Jo, Allan Woodcourt and Lady Dedlock. The narrator, Esther, I found sympathetic if a little priggish at times.

 

This is a difficult novel to summarize as there are so many interconnections, but the various strands are resolved by the end of the novel , with a few twists here and there.

 

I enjoyed reading this and its on my reread list!

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Good review :D I haven't read a Dickens in a little while and I'm considering reading Bleak House next year.

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I realised the other day , that I had never read any novels by Thomas Hardy! Decided to rectify that situation by reading this.

 

I read the Oxford World Classics edition.

 

The overall plot is fairly straightforward, but I found the closer you read the complexities of the issues that Hardy persues increases. Hardy used it as vehicle to put forward his views on the church, marriage, class division, gender roles, philosophy and theology. Many of his views were in direct opposition to the accepted standards of his time and the novel came under vitriolic attack from many quarters. This was a factor in Hardy's decision to cease writing novels.

 

The combination of economy of expression, masterful use of language and a fluidity of style provides the impetus to carry the plot forward. Each episode is short enough to be interesting and long enough to cover the themes. The episodes flow into each other and the overall effect is one of coherency.

 

ETA

 

I've not attempted a summary of the plot as the various themes intermingle so much, it would be easier to read the book than summarize in my opinion. Double standards abound as well in the novel so be prepared.

 

The characterization is strong, the most complex being Sue. The interactions between all the major characters is keenly expressed.

 

There are some patches where it gets slightly melodramatic, however they didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel. I found it difficult to put down, so this definitely has become one of my favorite classics. On my reread list!!

Edited by sirinrob

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This novel is part of the Comedie Humaine, the ambitious project undertaken by Balzac. This work is a mature work and appeared in 1847. The Cousin Bette of the title is the second cousin to Baroness Hulot (Adeline). Since childhood Adeline had been favoured, leading to Bette's resentment. Whilst Adeline lives in luxury, Bette lives in a garret. Baron Hulot whilst he loves his wife, has a roving eye and mistress after mistress. In order to keep his mistresses the Baron borrows heavily and enters various shady financial deals. As the novel unfolds, these financial deals unravel and the novel chronicles the consequences. Bette at the start of the novel has a lover called Steinbock, but fate decrees that Hortense, the Baron's daughter lures Steinbock from Bette. This increases her resentment and she vows revenge on the Hulot family. She eventually ends up as housekeeper/confidant to Valerie Narneffe, who happens to be the Baron's latest mistress. Between them, Bette and Valerie plot the downfall of the Hulot. Bette partially succeeeds, but illness and circumstances rob her of her final 'victory'. Valerie is very wily and at one point has five men (including her husband) eating out of her hand. Eventually her husband dies, and she marries Crevel, a retired perfumer who is a sort of rival of the Baron. Another of her lovers, Montes, takes revenge on her and she ends up dying a gruesome death slong with Crevel.

 

The above is only a summary of the complicated plot. Balzac is taking a swipe at the bourgeoisie and their values, their love of money being the main target. The novel is full of vengeance, intrigue, wily machinations, double dealing and an incisive observation of human nature. The writing is melodramatic at times, but putting the novel into context, Balzac had to adhere to the roman feuillton that was the rage at the time in France and the melodrama would maintain his readers attention.

 

The novel is well paced, though there is a patch in the middle that drags slightly The characters are sharply drawn. Adeline is portrayed as a long suffering dutiful wife, The Baron as a rake, Hortense as a bit naive, Bette resentful and Valerie machiavellian.

 

I enjoyed this and will reread again:)

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