Wednesday, March 31, 2010

School Book: Wuthering Heights

I wasn't very excited when I found out I had to read Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. The professor I TA for sold it to me as more prose poetry. And after the last two books I had to read for that class (Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway), I was dreading another similar book. But thankfully, my fears were laid to rest relatively early on: Wuthering Heights was quite dissimilar to the aforementioned books.

Wuthering Heights tells a bizarre story when all is said and done. Mr. Earnshaw brings a gypsy/orphan boy named Heathcliff home and raises him as his favourite. Heathcliff gains the affection of Mr. Earnshaw's daughter Catherine while gaining the animosity of his son, Hindley. After Mr. Earnshaw passes away, Hindley relegates Heathcliff to the status of a servant, but Catherine remains his friend. But even though she loves him, she decides to accept the marriage proposal of another for a secure future, prompting Heathcliff to seek his fortune and later revenge on those who wronged him (including Catherine's husband for stealing her away).

Unfortunately I felt that Wuthering Heights kind of lost it at the end. The book was good overall, but the ending was just okay. That being said, I still recommend it if you want an excellent tale of love and obsession.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

School Book: Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays

After reading Edward the Second last year, I wanted to read more of Christopher Marlowe's work. I picked up a copy of Christopher Marlowe: the Complete Plays on one of my trips to Toronto, so this is actually a List book as well as a school book!
After reading all seven plays, my favourite two were Tamburlaine the Great Part 1 and Edward the Second. Tamburlaine Part 1 is amazing! He is a shepherd who decides to conquer the world, which he does. Tamburlaine is a superman, both a crazy fighting machine and an amazing rhetorician. Tamburlaine Part 1 is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I didn't really care for Part 2. Part 2 is Tamburlaine's downfall. Part 1 is based off of the historical facts of Tamburlaine's life, but Part 2 is largely made up, and doesn't work as well.
Edward the Second is still an excellent play. I've already spoken about it here, so I'm not going to go into much detail. I'd love to see a performance of it though.
The other plays were alright as well. They just couldn't live up to the awesome of these two. Dido, Queen of Carthage seemed kind of silly, but it was pretty fun. The ending really added to the silliness (it shouldn't have been silly, but it's so over the top that it is!) The Jew of Malta was also pretty fun. Some of the things that happen in it are so unlikely it's hilarious. The Massacre of Paris was pretty over the top, too. A lot of people die (it IS a massacre) and it's a bit confusing, but I didn't mind it. I think the biggest disappointment was Doctor Faustus. Doctor Faustus was really built up, but I had a hard time getting into it.
So overall, I really liked Christopher Marlowe's plays. They all seemed to be over the top and fun, making them really enjoyable reads.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

School Book: Nights at the Circus

Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus is the last book I have to read for Identity in British Fiction! And for the last book of the course (well, there are two more but I've already read them) it was sufficiently strange.
Sophie Fevvers is an aerialiste who is half woman and half swan. She is the star of Colonel Kearney's circus. Jack Walser is a reporter who is on a quest to find out whether or not Fevvers is a fake or not. He joins the circus in an effort to find out.
The book was a little dry at first. Fevvers and her foster mother Liz tell the bizarre tale of Fevvers' childhood. It's a bit hard to get into at first, but it's really entertaining. Part 2 is made up of Walser's adventures as a clown in the circus. And Part 3 is where everything gets really weird: they are derailed, kidnapped, and Walser loses his memory. There is also a weird progression throughout the book with the narrative point of view where part 1 is third person, and parts 2 and 3 have more and more first person perspectives worked in.
I'm still not sure what exactly to make of Nights at the Circus. It was hilarious but strange, entertaining yet bewildering all at the same time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

School Book: The Passion

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson is a crazy book set during the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Henri is a peasant boy who believes in Napoleon and follows him all the way to Russia. He enlisted to be a soldier in the Grand Army, but ends up in the kitchen tent preparing and serving Napoleon chicken. Villanelle is the Venetian daughter of a boatman who sold her heart and was later sold to the French by her estranged husband. Both of their paths meet and their lives become forever entertwined.
When I first started reading The Passion, I wasn't sure what to make of it. But I was quickly caught up in first Henri's and later Villanelle's story. While it was strange at times, The Passion was a quick and enjoyable read. If you're looking for something a bit different then this one's for you!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

School Book: Moon Tiger

I finished reading Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger yesterday and loved every minute of it! Hands down, Moon Tiger is the best book I have read for school this year!
Moon Tiger reminded me of a Margaret Laurence book I read back in high school called Stone Angel. But Moon Tiger was what Stone Angel should have been: Moon Tiger has wonderfully deep characters whom you care about.
Moon Tiger is the story of Claudia, who is dying of cancer. She is planning on writing the history of the world, and is going over her life while she contemplates writing. Claudia shares with us all the major events and people that have coloured her unconventional life.
While Claudia might not be the best mother in the world, she is very interesting and very full of life. She reminded me a bit of Harriet Scrope from Chatterton, but I liked Claudia more. I also liked how her version of events was never priviledged over other people's; whenever Moon Tiger narrated how Claudia saw something, it would immediately give how the other people in her life saw that same event. Moon Tiger is a fantastic glimpse into the different worlds that are people.
Unfortunately, I find myself unable to really describe Moon Tiger in any other words at the moment. So I will just say that it is a fantastic book and I heartily recommend it to everyone! And as far as I am concerned, it definitely deserved to win the Booker Prize of 1987 (it beat out Chatterton!)