Tag Archives: classic

Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy. Review

I find it really difficult to review classics, never quite feeling that I do them justice if I like them, and if I don’t like them, fearing that it is just because I’m missing the ‘point’. But hey, I’ll have a go, just to clarify Tess of the D’Urbervilles falls firmly into the category of a classic I liked.

Tess is the eldest daughter of the family Durbeyfield, when her father discovers they are descendants of the great family D’Urbeville who were knights in the time of the conqueror, Mrs Durbeyfield sends Tess off to plead Kinship with what she believes to be distant, rich relatives. But Tess’ ‘cousin’ Alec becomes her downfall and she returns home a few months later in shame.

After leaving her village due to her shame, Tess starts a new life as a dairymaid and meets the kind, considerate Angel Clare. Angel wants to marry Tess but her past haunts her and at first she tries to refuse, before eventually agrees. Prior to the wedding, she tried on many occasions to tell Angel about her past but he doesn’t want to hear it. On their wedding night she finally makes the decision to tell him and everything goes downhill from there.

This book deals with many issues, from Tess’ rape at the hands of Alec D’Urberville to her shame at returning home, to her attempts to make a new life for herself when she becomes an outcast in her village. I found a lot of the issues really interesting particularly when taken in context of the time in which this novel was written. For instance, I thought it was very well done, that on the wedding night, Angel confessed that when in London he had spent two days having sex with a woman (possibly a prostitute) but when Tess confesses she was raped he is disgusted and pulls away from her. Essentially, leaving her to the fate of which she is destined.

Tess is by no means a helpless woman. No, she doesn’t have the fire and drive of Hardy’s other heroine Bathsheba Everdene but she does have a drive to protect herself and her family which I admired and she always has her pride. But what she also does is make a series of bad decisions which made me want to scream at her while still appreciating that at the time the novel is set, she couldn’t have done much else.

Overall, I found the novel engrossing in a way I have never really found With classics, desiring to pick it up and continue reading at every opportunity. It is likely to now join the ranks of my favourite classics in leather bound hardback.

Advertisements

How to Read Classics 

The classics, we think of Dickens, Brontë, Austen, Wilkie Collins, Miguel De Cervantes and Alexander Dumas and most of the time we think of great big, dusty tomes with tiny writing across hundreds of pages in a language long forgotten and difficult to read or sometimes awkward notations to explain humour in a work translated from another language. Mostly we think boredom. 


But despite that, many of us whether avid readers or not, are determined that we need to read the classics, to broaden our minds, to enjoy books which are supposed to be like works of art. So how to do we do it without becoming incredibly bored? Here are some helpful tips on how I read classics. 


According to my Goodreads shelves, I’ve read 188 classic books and I still have a fair few on my tbr as well. Some, like Wuthering Heights and Sense and Sensibility I’ve loved, while others like Hard Times I have despised. So my first piece of advice would be that if you are finding it incredibly boring, don’t understand it or are really not getting any enjoyment out of it. Put it down and don’t bother. There’s absolutely no point in reading something which feels like a chore or which you are not deriving pleasure from. Life is far too short after all. 


My second piece of advice would be to look to films and tv adaptations. Firstly because watching them gives you a greater and simpler understanding of them and secondly because usually if they’ve been adapted it means they’ve been enjoyed. Look at books by Charles Dickens for example. Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Great Expectations have all be adapted several times with great success and are very enjoyable reads. Meanwhile Hard Times and Bleak House have not seen the same the same level of success and are much less enjoyable books. Bleak House in particular is as miserable as it sounds. 


Start with some short ones. If you’re brand new to reading the classics there’s absolutely no point in starting with a novel which is 1000+ pages long and putting yourself off for life. Try something lighter first and in the same sense, try something a bit more ‘modern’. I can really recommend any of Oscar Wilde’s novels and plays which are funny and short, any of the Sherlock Holmes stories and The Turning of the Screw by Henry James.


Finally, my best piece of advice when tackling a large Classic is to read something else alongside it. For example at the moment I’m reading Miguel De Cervantes classic comedy novel Don Quixote it’s just shy of 1,000 pages long and although funny, it is tiresome when read for long periods of time, so I’m limiting myself to 100 pages a day. I read 50 pages in a morning and 50 pages at night and in between I read something lighter and more modern. That way I don’t get bored of the long descriptive passages and the old fashioned language. 


I hope my few tips on reading classics will help you, please share in the comments any methods you may have! 

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Review. 

As most of you know, I’m not a huge fan of the classics but hallelujah I seem to have found an classic author I can actually get on with. 

Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From the Madding Crowd is not a great tome of a book and neither is it a difficult read in terms of language or content. But the messages it gives are big ones. 

Bathsheba Everdeen is a headstrong young woman with no less than three suitors. First there is Gabriel Oak who proposes to her first when he is attempting life as a gentleman farmer, then there is an actual gentleman farmer Mr Boldwood who also proposes marriage and is asked to wait. Finally there is the seductive soldier Frank Troy who is completely unsuitable but hey, everyone likes a bad boy right? 


Literally though, Bathsheba is the worst! She’s so annoying! So conceited, so arrogant, she clearly thinks herself to be stunning and strong and usually I’d love the idea of such an apparent feminist but in this case she doesn’t even come across as a feminist. What she comes across as is selfish and at times just a little bit bloody stupid! 


I did enjoy the novel because the prose is excellent and the storyline well put together. It is not a criticism of the author’s work to say that Bathsheba is what she is, it is more that I think Hardy probably wrote her that way. She could never discover the error of her ways after all if she didn’t make errors in the first place! 

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. Review 

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier is, like Rebecca a novel of thrilling mystery and distrust and unexpected twists and turns. 

Philip Ashley has lived with his elder cousin Ambrose since he was small, they have always had each other, their collection of male servants and the love of the people who live around their estate. There has never been the need for a woman in their lives. That is until Ambrose goes to Florence and meets their mysterious cousin Rachel, and marries her. 

When Ambrose dies under suspicious circumstances, Philip is determined to reep revenge on the woman he blames for his death. But when she turns up on his doorstep he finds that his feelings for her are quite different. 

The novel makes you want to scream with frustration at the naïveté of some of the characters, while wanting to bash the heads in of others at the same time. It is equally, if not more darkly gripping than Rebecca. Although it’s left for you to decide if Rachel is guilty or not, I think it was great to see people getting their just desserts in the end for once. Really enjoyed this suspense filled novel of love and betrayal.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Review 

The first thing I have to say about this book is that is is hilarious! Like really the funniest book I’ve read in ages. For example; “Whats so bad about being drunk?” “Go ask a glass of water” is probably the best thing I’ve ever read. I laughed for much longer than was really necessary and repeated it to everyone I saw or spoke to that day. 


Arthur’s life is turned upside down when aliens called Vogons turn up on Earth to destroy it in order to make way for a new galactic bypass. The irony is, that just that morning Arthur was protesting to the local council who wanted to demolish his house to make way for a new bypass in his town. 

Thanks to his friend Ford Prefect who is really an alien conducting research for the intergalactic travel guide The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur finds himself on board the Vogen’s space ship as a hitchhiker himself and there’s lots of adventures in store. 


Arthur is mostly on a quest for tea and there are many amazingly amusing characters and escapades in store. I think one of my favourites has to be Marvin the depressed robot. 


I’ll definitely be picking up the next instalment of this series from my local library soon, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, I can’t recommend it enough. 

Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens. Review 

I read several Dickens books when I was quite young and intend to revisit them at some point as an adult. Dombey and Son was not one of them and I’m giving preference at the moment to books on my ‘to-read’ list. 
I tried Bleak House first and thankfully didn’t allow that to put me off reading another of Dickens’ books. Dombey and Son reminded me far more of Barnaby Rudge in many ways. 

The storyline was enjoyable and easy to follow (unlike Bleak House) but it’s still a slog of a read due to Dickens’ intense way of writing, it can become quite wearisome at times. Bearing in mind it takes me roughly a day to read one 450-500 page book this took me 5 days of almost solid reading to get through. For that reason it loses a star. 

However, that aside it is a masterpiece of a novel. It is a novel about pride before a fall and follows the Dombey family mainly. Mr Paul Dombey owns some kind of counting house from what I understood and cares only that his son also named Paul Dombey should inherit the business of Dombey and Son as Mr Dombey did from his father and so on and so forth. Meanwhile his daughter Florence is wholly rejected and unloved mostly because she is a girl. Running parallel as side stories are the tales of Walter Gay a young worker at Mr Dombey’s firm and his uncle Solomon Gill and their eccentric friend Captain Cuttle who is an extremely amusing character. There is also Miss Tox a friend of Mrs Chic (Dombey’s sister), the Toodles who are introduced when Mrs Toodle (renamed Mrs Richards) comes to work as nurse for young Paul and Old Misses Brown. There are several other characters who come in with their own stories later on but I’ll not say as I don’t want to include spoilers! 
I found the novel to be very engaging overall. Despite its length I didn’t feel encouraged to give up on it like I did with Bleak House. It’s much more simpler in its writing and understanding and there aren’t too many characters to try and get your head around. I had a pretty good idea of how the story would play out for most of the characters and I was right in the end but it didn’t make it any less satisfactory. 

4* rating overall 

The War of the Worlds by H.G Wells

A bit of a retro review this morning on H.G Wells The War of the Worlds. It’s a book which has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while but as with everything it’s just took a back shelf (pun intended) for the more recent books I get sent to review and my university studies not to mention work! On top of this I’ve just taken on a volunteer role with the RSPCA (more on that coming really soon!)

Anyway, back to the main event. So The War of the Worlds, definitely falls into the science fiction category a genre I’m pretty fussy with. It has to be a certain style for me to like it and one of the other reasons I’ve not really looked at this book before, aliens just generally aren’t my thing…

However, having read and enjoyed The Time Machine last year I decided to give the author a chance and give this book a read and I was pleasantly surprised. The War of the Worlds is written in Well’s typical autobiographical style. Like The Time Machine the protagonist’s name is never revealed and it is written in the style of a diary-like autobiographical account of events. The reader is addressed throughout with their opinions sought out by the author.

The War of the Worlds  begins with the protagonist (implied to be Wells himself) engaging with a friend by looking through a telescope at the planet Mars and noticing some strange bursts and flashes from the planet. The reader is then thrown into the action with the first shell arriving in Woking and revealling the Martians: ‘Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth–above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes–were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.’ (Wells, 1898, in John Walker, unknown date).

The story then follows the adventures of the protagonist and for some time the protagonists brother as London is attacked by the Martians and life as they knew it ceases to exist. I won’t go on and spoil the ending for those who haven’t but intend to read it as I’m a strictly no spoilers blog, however I will explore a little more about the story and the author.

As with the The Time Machine Wells writes with a sense of modernity which does not fit with the 1898 publication date of this novel. Well’s talk of invasions from Mars is in someways a little droll in its description of the slug like creatures and their creaking metal machines it seems almost unimaginative in this day age when we have the likes of Futurama, Star Wars and Star Trek demonstrating advanced and creative creatures far more human-like and intelligent creatures. But of course Wells was working within the limitations of his time and as such the creative process was still well and above other works of the period.

One of the most engaging and clarifying elements of the book for me was the knowledge Well’s already held of the self-made vulnerabilities of mankind. When meeting the artillery soldier after almost being buried alive, the soldier quips that ‘ It’s just men and ants. There’s the ants builds their cities, live their lives, have wars, revolutions, until the men want them out of the way, and then they go out of the way. That’s what we are now–just ants.‘ (Wells, 1898 in John Walker, unknown date). Further into the conversation with about The War of the Worlds which is the subject matter as well as the title, the soldier comments on the lack of importance behind the day to day life of man ‘ They just used to skedaddle off to work–I’ve seen hundreds of ’em, bit of breakfast in hand, running wild and shining to catch their little season-ticket train, for fear they’d get dismissed if they didn’t; working at businesses they were afraid to take the trouble to understand; skedaddling back for fear they wouldn’t be in time for dinner; keeping indoors after dinner for fear of the back streets, and sleeping with the wives they married, not because they wanted them, but because they had a bit of money that would make for safety in their one little miserable skedaddle through the world. Lives insured and a bit invested for fear of accidents. And on Sundays–fear of the hereafter.‘ (Wells, 1898 in John Walker, unknown date).

 

This sentiment is one continously repeated in present day. The idea that our lives are full of the drudgery of going to work, coming home, living lives we are unhappy with because they are safe and are what we know. I hope that like it did with me this has given you something to ponder on….