On Wuthering Heights

I enjoy the little details nestled in the pages of books and that’s the reason why I re-read. Sometimes I re-visit books I may not have loved from the first page but found I had fallen in too deep along the way and I needed to know what happened to characters I invested feelings in, characters that invaded my thoughts, and characters that began to live with me as I made my way through a book. And this brings me to another reason I re-read — sometimes it’s not about the details. Sometimes it’s about the feelings.

Feelings of doom, darkness, depression, and desperation. That’s what I felt re-reading Wuthering Heights. I knew that going in and wasn’t surprised that those feelings surfaced but I also felt something else this time and it was an annoyance with these characters. The self-absorption became too much somewhere around the middle and I put the book down several times to read another story. I’m glad I did because I think if I pushed through I’d have given up.

I won’t go into details of the story itself but I did want to talk about two characters in particular because they are the driving force for the above-mentioned feelings. Heathcliff is simply horrid. Yes, I know you already know this and, no, this is nothing new. I want to feel for him, to understand his hurt, his need to feel loved, but I can’t forgive him or any of his actions. Catherine needs help, is crying out for help, but everyone around her is too tightly bound up in themselves to either accept she needs help or to offer it. All of the characters are crying out for help in their own myriad of ways; except for Lockwood who more or less needs a bedtime story because he’s sick.

Can we talk about Nelly for a moment? She’s one hell of a storyteller! Seriously. She tells everything to a stranger, spills all the family secrets, makes sorry and pointed observations about the people in her life without regret. It makes me wonder if her housekeeping abilities live up to the liveliness of her storytelling abilities. It also makes me question her motives too. These are people she supposedly cares/d about and she tells these stories to a stranger. Then again, she’s living up to my feelings about this book so maybe it’s not odd at all.

Would I re-read Wuthering Heights again? Probably, but it will be a long while before I pick this up again. It’s a book that will forever and always live on my shelf and books with that status are always subject to re-examination. I fully expect the details and feelings to be different next time. I consider that a good thing.

Review – Madame Bovary

Okay, to be clear, this book was not at all what I thought it would be. I was, no lie, expecting torrid sex scenes. Why? I have no idea. I just was. Funny thing is, I don’t read anything even approaching erotica so I’m not sure where this thought came from. Obviously, something was lost in translation for me.

Charles Bovary is a less than ambitious man but he’s a good man. A doctor by trade, he’s happy practicing in a quiet French hamlet. After he starts his medical practice, his mother finds him a wife; an older and rather unhappy woman who dies early on in their marriage leaving Charles the opportunity to find love. He believes he may have found it in a woman named Emma who he met while setting her father’s broken leg. Emma has dreams, the first of which is to get away from her father’s home, so when Charles asks, she agrees to marry him. Married life is agony for her. She has a pleasant home, a husband who cares for her immensely — almost to the point of smothering her — and she has few tangible complaints. What she wants is romance though. After attending a ball, it’s all she can think about and her boring life holds no interest for her. Charles decides that Emma needs a change of scenery and moves the family (a child will soon be born to the couple) to Yonville. Emma soon finds herself entranced by a law student, Léon Dupuis, who seems to return her affection. Appalled by her own thoughts, she refuses to act and Léon soon leaves to finish his degree.

However, when Emma meets Rodolphe Boulanger, all thoughts of propriety go out the window and she gives in to his advances and starts the affair. She wants to run away, but Rodolphe, who has had several mistresses, decides that she is too clingy and breaks off the affair on the morning they’re to leave town together. Shattered by the end of the affair, Emma falls into a deep depression and sickness. When she finally recovers, Charles again tries to re-interest her in life this time believing the theatre will be the answer. It’s here that she once more meets Léon and begins her second affair. Lie after lie build up as do her debts. Emma is incapable of handling the lies or the debts and begins begging others for help, which doesn’t arrive. In a final dramatic act, she deals the only way she can.

At first, I felt sorry for Charles. He was boring but loving. He wasn’t ambitious at all and was happy with his life. He had a beautiful wife and child and a medical practice that provided the necessities of life. But, again, he was boring. Then he tried to pin everything wrong with his wife on a nervous condition which annoyed me and any sympathy I may have had for the clueless husband vanished. Emma on the other hand, doesn’t exactly deserve any praise. She wants everything, expensive things, is constantly bored, obsessive, and refuses to see any good in her life. She’s always looking for the next best thing. And it must be said, she’s a horrid excuse for a mother. Emma is interesting though and the reason to keep reading because every other character in this book is flat. Toward the end though, when the proverbial dirty laundry is aired, everyone is at fault in some way or another and it’s hard to have any sympathy for any of the characters.

My book had two additional sections at the end about the book itself, trials, bannings, etc. I didn’t read them. I think I wanted to look back on the book from my own perspective and not the perspective of a scandalous 19th Century trial discussing the need for a stricter moral code. Also, I think it would have made me upset and I enjoyed this book and didn’t want it to be marred.

So, back to my first paragraph — the sex. It’s there but it’s off screen. There’s kissing, there’s heavy petting, but shall we say, not what I was expecting considering the ruckus this book caused. Then again, that was back in the day. I don’t want to get into a discussion of morals, really, I’m the last person, but it’s an interesting part of this story and while I never felt lectured to, obviously, Emma is a lesson. But her character is more than simply a woman having an affair, she’s a woman unhinged but somewhat deserving of some understanding, even if it’s just to understand her depression better.

Madame Bovary

By Gustave Flaubert

Penguin Putman

3.75 stars

 

Review – Anne of Green Gables

This is the first pick for the Book Hoarders Anonymous book club which is hosted by Alison at The Cheap Reader. You can read her review here. There’s a discussion page here if you want to take a look at what others thought of this one.

It’s funny how books that captured your imagination as a child are so very different for you as an adult. I’m not saying Anne of Green Gables was a bad read as an adult but it was so much different than I remember it being. For instance, I don’t remember Anne talking so much. Really, she never shuts up! It’s so endearing though and you come to quickly understand why Matthew and Marilla fell in love with this red-haired orphan. I also remembered the decision as to whether or not Anne would stay was much more drawn out but that could have been how I perceived it as a child. I keep saying as a child because I think the last time I read this book was probably when I was 10.

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, brother and sister who live on the Green Gables farm in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, decide to adopt a boy to help out with the farm work since Matthew is getting up in age. Arrangements are made and Matthew leaves to pick up the boy at the train station. He comes home with a red-haired girl who won’t stop talking. Marilla wants to send her back but Matthew has already become attached and sort of nudges Marilla to think about keeping her. Anne, even with her loquacious ways, manages to charm Marilla who decides she can stay. Anne is enchanted with her new home, a new friend, and even her new school. However, she’s not always the proper little girl she should be and gets into several incidents that somehow all manage to work themselves out for the best.

Anne of Green Gables is such a sweet book and pretty funny too. There’s not much that happens in Avonlea that doesn’t get back to Marilla, and Anne, who it must be said is not a bad child in the least, is always doing something that gets talked about. One day it’s flowers in her bonnet, telling ghost stories with her dear friend Diana, or cracking Gilbert Blythe over the head with her writing slate — Marilla hears about it. That’s small town living for you.

Reading this as an adult, I found it a lot funnier than I did as a child. At 10 years-old, Anne was a bit of hero. She was courageous and she stood up for herself. She was a person with guts and she was really smart. I loved all that about her as a child. As an adult, I can see how everything she did was vexing to every adult in her vicinity but it’s also so easy to see how everyone could love her. The kindness and caring stand out to me now but I don’t think I saw that as a child. Now, I’m also amused by the nosy neighbors, the teacher who’s in love with the student, and how parenting styles differ among the women in the story. I’m not saying that to be sexist, but it’s the women in this story that talk about it, not the men.

I’m glad I went back to this as an adult. My appreciation for it is different but all together much the same. Anne of Green Gables will always be a favorite of mine.

Anne of Green Gables

By Lucy Maude Montgomery

GirlieBooks

ISBN: 2940012069979

4 stars

Thoughts – Emma

I didn’t finished Emma this time around either. It seems it’s just not meant to be for me and this particular Austen tome. I’ve tried, more than once, and have never managed to get to the end. Although this time I did get several more chapters in to the book than during any of my other failed attempts at this one.

What keeps stopping me from enjoying this one? It’s Miss Emma Woodhouse herself. She’s the exact opposite of everything I expect a Jane Austen character to be — she’s rich, spoiled, full of self-esteem, is a know-it-all busybody that can’t keep her opinions to herself or stop herself from telling everyone else what to do. Really, I couldn’t take any more of her and gave up.

I know this is supposed to be a funny book about manners and matchmaking gone wrong but I can’t get over the behavior of Emma and the fact she needs to tell everyone else what to do. She’s annoying. She’s mean. She’s ill-mannered. I could go on but I won’t.

Oddly enough, she’s not even the only character I disliked immensely in this book. In fact, I didn’t like any of the characters in this book and found every single one annoying, boring, or some combination thereof. I don’t feel the need to go on because it’s not worth anyone’s time. And, let’s face, now I’m just complaining.

There are readers that love this book. My mom is one of those people — she thinks Emma is funny! Gah! I’ve given it my best and found it still wanting and I will not look back but instead will move on to the ever growing stack of books piling up.

If you want to know more, I find Wikipedia has a nice wrap up.  Yes, I read it to find out what happened in this book, and once I knew, I put it down. I didn’t need to be annoying by the intervening chapters.

Emma from The Complete Works of Jane Austen

By Jane Austen

Douglas Editions

BN ID: 2940000816981

Did Not Finish

Review – Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

There are books that make me feel very sad; Frankenstein is one of those books. It was a strangely profound sadness that for whatever reason, made me wish the book wouldn’t end because I wanted to find a morsel of light in this dark, lonely tale. It was not to happen.

Having been encouraged early on by loving, generous parents, Victor Frankenstein grows up in a happy household in Geneva surrounded by the comforts of home and family. While as a child he was mildly obsessed with old scientific theories, his father encourages him to broaden his thoughts. Right before he is to leave for school in Germany, the first of his life’s tragedies happen — his mother, a beloved figure to him, passes away after nursing his much loved adopted sister, Elizabeth, back to health. He leaves for Germany with a heavy heart. While there, he throws himself into the sciences, exceeds all his expectation with his interest in chemistry and like sciences. It’s this interest though that causes his second tragedy — the creation of a monster with parts culled from places unmentioned. When the monster escapes, his fears all become real and death follows wherever he goes. He falls into a deep depression knowing that whatever he has to do to stop the monster of his creation, he will never be happy and there will never be any solace.

This is not my first time reading this book but parts felt completely new to me. I love when this happens to me while re-reading. It’s like discovering something that you want to share with everyone. That said, Frankenstein is not an easy read. The words flow easily enough but it’s the emotional toll that got me this time. I really, truly, felt so sad while reading that at one point I burst out crying for no reason. To be affected like this by a book I’ve experienced before surprised me.

There is so much to this book but for the sake of those that don’t like spoilers, I won’t mention all that happens. There are moments when reading though that you wonder how much one person can take and if it’s fair for Frankenstein to heap all the blame on himself. While, yes, he created a monster that has crossed the line and taken life, and has held over him another life if he didn’t comply with his wishes, sometimes things in life are not meant to be. The monster is a physical manifestation for everything that has gone wrong for him. The loneliness that comes with the realization for Frankenstein made me want to put the book down. I couldn’t though because I was waiting for some kind of resolution. When it happens, it’s not satisfying at all. There is remorse, for Frankenstein, and in some way for the monster as well, but it didn’t make me feel any better. It only brings on more grief.

Now that I’ve sufficiently depressed you, let’s talk about something else. The monster has no name; he is simply the monster. Frankenstein is the scientist. Why did I need a reminder of that? Huh, the things we forget. I didn’t remember much from the first reading of this (it may well have been shortly after high school) and my memory faded. I was happy to renew it though. Of course, now each time I see a movie based on the book I’m going to be looking for mistakes.

I read this book for the Gender in SFF challenge. Glad I finally found an excuse to pick this one up again. If you like horror, fantasy, and science fiction, read this one. If you shy away from this one because you think I might be gruesome, it’s not. It’s worth a read.

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

By Mary Shelley

Signet Classic

ISBN: 0451527712

4.5 stars

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  The idea is to give everyone a look inside the book you’re reading.

Play along: Grab your current read; Open to a random page; Share two teaser sentences from that page; Share the title and author so other participants know what you’re reading.

I started a book yesterday not realizing it involved the Tudors. I’ve nothing against them; but I’m slightly worn out. So today’s teaser comes from a book I downloaded to my Nook late last night when I decided I wanted something different.

From The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons:

“This the good woman promised, and, wishing her a good sleep, returned to the kitchen. ‘God bless the poor lady,’ said she, ‘why she is as weak as a child; sure you must have come a great way from home.’” (page 3 of 187 on my Nook)

Review – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

By Jules Verne

Halcyon Classic Series

eISBN: 2940012152060

3 stars

A classic science fiction tale.  How could I not love this?  Maybe I should rephrase that.  How could I love this?  Because truthfully, I wanted to love it, but didn’t.  I didn’t hate it.  I never stopped reading but I more or less meandered through and even skimmed a few passages.

Ships are reporting strange sightings of a creature in oceans across the globe.  Theories abound about what this strange creature could be and it’s Professor Aronnox, a French marine naturalist, who comes up with the best theory.  He believes it’s a huge narwhale attacking ships.  He takes to sea on the Abraham Lincoln with a crew of skillful men to destroy it.  The crew finds the supposed whale and sets about trying to kill it.  Unfortunately, the ship is attacked and the Professor and his manservant, Conseil, are thrown overboard with the ship’s harpooner, Ned Land.  The three get picked up by the Natulis; the underwater ship that was the means of the crash and is the Professor’s supposed narwhale.  Upon meeting Captain Nemo, they’re told they will not be allowed to leave, and with few options left to them, reluctantly, settle in for the ride.  The Professor and Conseil take better to their confinement than Ned, finding the trip an amazing study in nature almost willingly enjoying the sightings and underwater expeditions.  Ned, however, wants his freedom and will stop at nothing to once more set foot on dry land.

There were times I felt bombarded.  There are lists and lists of fish with their classifications.  There are lists of grasses with their classifications.  There are long paragraphs about ocean depths and temperatures.  There are long paragraphs about pressurization.  There are long paragraphs where nothing much happens.  It was these times when I felt myself drifting off.  There are redeeming parts to this story — the underwater expeditions hunting sharks and exploration of an underwater volcano — where I found myself fascinated but those parts didn’t last long.  Also, Captain Nemo, while a mysterious figure, is in parts slightly too mysterious for me.  I know we only see him from one point of view and he’s supposed to be this mythical person but why, even if you’re a marine naturalist fascinated by the things you’re seeing, would you want to stay onboard the ship of a man obviously so depressed and manic?

Another problem I had was the extreme use of the exclamation point.  They! Were! Everywhere!  I was annoyed but then mostly it made me laugh.  I stopped heeding them somewhere around chapter seven but toward the last few pages, they popped back up making me happy to see the end in sight.

I thought I read this book but what I remember about this story actually came from an old movie I watched years ago. My memories of the story were movie based and I had certain expectations that weren’t fulfilled.  But that’s all right.  While the story wasn’t what I was expecting, it was a decent read and I’m glad I stuck it out to the very end.  Exclamation points be damned!

As a note, the cover isn’t the one from my book.  I couldn’t find that cover and this one is much more interesting.