Review: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

WJAN5232[1]Fairly recently I read my second novel by the classic author Henry James. I’d already read The Turn of the Screw whilst in University, so was very happy when I discovered that I also enjoyed Washington Square, one of his other short novels. Feeling spurred on I decided to bite the bullet and delve into the final Henry James book that I currently owned, and the book that is arguably viewed as his most impressive work; The Portrait of a Lady.

Coming in at a pretty hefty 600 pages, this chunky novel focuses upon the young character of Isabel Archer. Beautiful and spirited, Isabel travels to England to begin her tour of the world with her Aunt and her ailing cousin, Ralph, but when she comes into a wealthy fortune the rules have suddenly changed for her. Now she can afford the freedom that money brings, something an unmarried woman would not normally have, but when suitors begin to stake their claim upon Isabel’s feelings, will she be able to see their true motives?

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Review: Silas Marner by George Eliot

YFBE6659[1]Fairly recently I delved back into the world of classics, giving the much loved author Edith Wharton another go with her novel Ethan Frome. I’d previously read The House of Mirth by her and hadn’t been very impressed, but I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Ethan Frome in comparison. Feeling inspired by this, I decided to revisit another classic author; George Eliot. Middlemarch, arguably her most famous work, was a novel I studied in University, and whilst I appreciated the talent within it, I also found it lengthy and pretty boring. However, I knew that many people loved this author, so I decided to give her another go with the much shorter and therefore much quicker read of Silas Marner.

Silas Marner tells the story of the eponymous titular character. Wrongly accused of theft by those he most trusted, Silas is forced to leave the place he calls home, making his way to the smaller rural village of Raveloe. Here he establishes his usefulness in the community as a weaver, yet despite his skills Silas refuses to integrate himself into Raveloe’s society. He lives on the fringes of the rural village, a man whose strange ways cause the local folk to easily condemn him, whilst the children run in fear. All that Silas cares for is his precious stash of coins, saved meticulously over the many years. Yet when his gold is stolen, Silas is forced to once more face society, a task that becomes all the more urgent when an orphaned child, Eppie, finds her way into Silas home and heart. Through Eppie, can Silas transform his life for ever?

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Review: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

OBIF2651[1]So far this year I’ve read an awful lot of books which are fairly newer releases in the grand scheme of things. Whilst this is great and I love keeping up with the newer reading trends, I’ve been finding myself craving one of my true loves; a good old fashioned classic piece of literature. I love reading the classics, and whilst I can freely admit that they might not be for everyone, I personally love them. There’s something about the words and the stories you can find within them that make me feel incredibly cosy and comforted. I read a lot of classic fiction when I was very young so I think a lot of this is mixed up with feelings of nostalgia. Either way, I knew it was time I gave in to the cravings.

I’ve previously read one other book by Edith Wharton, and that was arguably her most famous work The House of Mirth. As you can see from my review here and the fact that I gave it a 2*/5* rating, I wasn’t overly impressed with her work. Seeing that I had another of her books, Ethan Frome, sitting on my bookshelves in the gorgeous Penguin English Library Edition, I decided to give the author another go, with the story sounding more up my street. The novel follows the eponymous character Ethan Frome, and is described as a story of ‘ill-stared lovers and tragic destinies’. Ethan works the best that he can in a hostile farm, trying to appease his difficult and hypochondriac wife Zeena. When Zeena’s cousin, Mattie, comes to help around the house, Ethan begins to realise that there is more to life than the rut he has become stuck in. Time passes and his love deepens, but how could Ethan ever forsake the wife he is promised to?

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Review: Heroes (Mythos: Volume II) by Stephen Fry

IMG_0438[1]The other week I put up a blog post with my thoughts about Stephen Fry’s Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold. You can see the full review here, but to summarise I really enjoyed it and I thought Fry’s attempt to make the Classics accessible to all walks of life was commendable. When I realised that he had another book coming out, a sequel of sorts, I was truly excited. Then, when I opened my Christmas presents from my fiancé and discovered that he had bought me said book in the beautiful hardcover edition I was even more thrilled! Needless to say, it didn’t stay on my unread shelf for very long!

Heroes: Volume II of Mythos is essentially a continuation of the mythical world Fry has established in the first book. We already have the foundations from Mythos, having learnt who the central Gods are and the quite frankly confusing as hell relationships between them. We’ve been told how they came about and how their hierarchies work, increasing our base knowledge of the Greek myths. Now, in this second volume, Fry is able to embellish this background we have already formed, with the further itroduction of the human race allowing him to delve deeper into the world of the heroes. This division between the two books felt very natural and as though Fry was still trying to keep everything as chronological as possible for us (a welcome addition considering how much the myths often interlink and confuse one another!)

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Review: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

IMG_9646[1]As soon as the weather gets colder I begin to crave everything that is comfy and cosy. Thick woolly jumpers, warm stodgy food, and of course, a truly cosy read. For me personally a cosy read is usually something dark and Gothic (a bit strange I know), or a classic novel that I can get completely lost in. As it’s not quite cold enough yet I wasn’t completely in the mood for a darker read, but I was most definitely eager to tick another classic off my TBR. With the recent TV adaptation of Vanity Fair my choice seemed fairly easy!

Vanity Fair is of course written by the famous William Makepeace Thackeray, and in all honesty it is an absolute beast of a book! I read the Penguin English Library edition which came in at just under 900 pages, so this is definitely not one for the faint hearted!

Set against the backdrop of nineteenth century Europe and the Napoleonic War, Vanity Fair focuses primarily on the character of two school friends as they make their way into society. Firstly we have Amelia Sedley, a friendly if somewhat naive young woman with all of the advantages which her father’s wealth can bring. The novel then contrasts with the figure of Becky Sharp, a cunning and ambitious woman with no wealthy relatives to aid her progression in society. Across the novel we follow both of these women and the friends they make as they work their way through society, with everything from love, betrayal scandal and social climbing to contest with.

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Review: Villette by Charlotte Brontë

IMG_9597[1]When you think of classic Literature there are a few books which might quickly come to mind; Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations and Dracula to name just a few of my favourites. Yet there is another book which is always on these kinds of lists and is pretty synonymous with great classic literature. I’m talking, of course, about Jane Eyre. Undoubtedly Charlotte Brontë’s most iconic novel, it’s one of those books that is loved by many and continually recommended (with good reason!) I’m a massive fan of the book myself, and indeed of all of the Brontë sisters as a whole.

I’ve had Villette, another of Charlotte’s novels, sat on my shelf for a good few years now, and looking at it is always a guilt inducing experience. When I recently found myself massively in the mood to pick up another classic, I decided to bite the bullet and at long last get stuck in. Her third and last novel, Villette follows the protagonist of Lucy Snowe. After an unspecified family disaster which leaves Lucy fending for herself, she leaves her native England to travel to France, looking for a fresh start. It is in the city of Villette that she finds work at a French girl’s school, eventually becoming employed as a teacher there. Across the novel we follows Lucy as she encounters new faces, becoming drawn into potential romances and different circumstances which will test her.

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