I think the worst thing a book blogger can do is sit on a review for too long. The effect of a book read gets stale and memories and thoughts of the story and style merge with books that have followed. As a result a “review” so late to follow can only be brief in capturing the essence of what was read.
Hence, I’ve decided to club together the reviews of the most recent five books I’ve read but one. If these reviews are going to be short I had might as well finish them all at one go. I sincerely hope, though, to recall as much as I can from each for I have enjoyed them all!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this book back in September as part of a read-along hosted at this very blog. We divided the reading into three parts of which you can find my thoughts here, here and here. As a summation of these three posts I want to say what a cozy read this was. When I organised this little read-along I had no idea I had never read the original. I knew the story like the back of my hand, but apparently, as a child, I was well-versed in an abridged version. Therefore it was a surprise (and not really an unpleasant one) to find that I was reading the unabridged version for the very first time. It was delightful reading about ordinary lives. And while I have read some complaints of how Alcott tends to be moralising, I personally did not find this a problem. This is a book that was written for children and I always think it a good thing if books catering to little ones have some good morals thrown in. It was really easy to relate to the four girls in various ways, and on the whole it was a book that left me feeling all warm and glowing inside.
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ah! I gave this a five on five and my mind is so hazy about it now. This was the last book I read before I was admitted into the hospital to have my second baby boy. I recall that I found this book quite humourous. I was pleasantly surprised at Hardy’s witty commentary, and I loved the character of Gabriel Oak. Our hero is so true to his name — steady and reliable yet not a push-over, a man who is always around at the right time and with the presence of mind to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. His love for Bathsheba is the kind that I truly admire. I liked how he was ready to move on and not pine for her, taking everything in his stride, and yet never feeling less for her than he did before.
Now that I think about it, I find one can really define Gabriel Oak’s love against that of Boldwood’s obsession and Troy’s lust — both of the latter being mistaken for love by one character or another. Bathsheba herself goes through much emotional turmoil before she is finally able to recognise love.
I loved these characters. They were so much alive! Hardy deals with real human emotions and I was so amazed at how aptly he portrayed those emotions — the intricacies of infatuation, doubt, guilt, perverseness, fear, defeat, confidence, inner-strength…they were all so clearly drawn. I was also quite taken in at how well Hardy writes of a woman. There is much respect for her strength and all things that make a woman a woman. Yes. It all comes back to me as I type.
To those of you who have never read Far from the Madding Crowd, I would urge you to read it. It’s about this young woman called Bathsheba who comes to a little village where she has inherited her uncle’s farm. She is strong and independent, being as good as any good farmer in managing her crop and cattle. But due to some mischief she plays and a handsome young man who comes her way, she finds herself in a pretty tangle. And all the while, standing firm and strong is Gabriel Oak, a man who truly loves her.
Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a swashbuckling tale of a young man who plays quite an important role in the events that lead to the French Revolution. (This is all fiction, of course.) I first watched the movie based on this book years ago. It’s an old old movie starring Stewart Granger and Mel Ferrer. I loved the movie and had no idea, until fairly recently, that it had been based on a book by Rafael Sabatini.
At the outset let me tell you, if you have watched the movie forget it. While the main characters share the same name and a few personality traits, a great deal of the story is different. André-Louis is the adopted son of a wealthy French aristocrat. Many believe that he might be a by-blow of the Lord of Gavrillac, but any discerning person can tell that this is not so. The book starts out with what has to be my favourite beginning of a novel to date:
He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.
We see a rather cynical André-Louis, who does not believe in the masses striving to be equal with the nobility. This is not because he believes the nobility to be superior but because he perceives that having striven for equality, a new class would form that would take the place of the nobility thereby coming full circle with an uneven balance of the rich and the poor. However, André-Louis is forced to fight that battle of the lower classes when his best friend is killed because of his revolutionary ideas. From then on he has a personal score to settle that makes him a very integral part to the liberty the common Frenchman speaks of. We watch as Andre-Louis seeks to run away from a responsibility he does not want while finding himself constantly in the thick of things just so that he can exact his revenge.
It’s a fantastic tale, constantly moving forward…or so, I think. I came across a couple of reviews where readers felt that the book could have been shorter. However, I truly enjoyed Sabatini’s commentary as much as I did the story. And personally, I thought he did a great job of blending it all together. It was definitely racy enough for me!
Venetia by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have read Venetia more than half a dozen times and I’m sure I will read it many more times. It is one of my comfort reads, and simply delightful. Venetia has to be one of my favourite characters/heroines from any book I’ve read. She is witty, charming and good-natured…and I promise you, not in an annoying way. She is a woman who is used to a certain way of life and never complains. But one day there comes a rake into her life, and things change. She is happier than she has ever been but marriage to Lord Damerel will never do since his reputation is tarnished beyond repair. And yet, he is the only true friend she has ever known…the only one in a tiny circle of acquaintances who understands her wit and shares a sense of the ridiculous; who is never shocked at the strange things she utters and does not consider her a blue-stocking for he is well-read too.
Having read through the previous paragraph, I strongly suspect this sounds like any other kind of regency romance that fills the shelves of book stores and libraries. How does one explain the charm of this book? How Heyer has this era and the people of this era down pat? How the language of that era comes through so naturally and effortlessly? How this book develops a romance so subtle and warm and sweet without leaving a bad taste in your mouth? If you have read a Heyer before then you might have an inkling as to what I am talking about. I would so recommend Venetia to any lover of sweet, subtle romances.
Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Of the first five Annes I’ve read, the fourth book has to be the one I like the least. This books is mostly a lot of letters from Anne to Gilbert. In between there are a couple of letters received by Anne and then there is a spattering of narration here and there. The letters seemed a bit unnatural…I mean, who writes entire sections of conversation in a letter, and seems quite to remember what every single person said? I never felt like I was reading a letter; just a novel written in the first person.
But, besides this Anne herself was gratingly annoying. It would seem that she went into a town where everyone but her landladies hated her, and at the end of three years she leaves the place, being everybody’s favourite person. I think it would be lovely to know that at least one person hated Anne or disapproved of her or something. But it would seem that the crotchety old folk and the one person who seemed to truly hate her are the ones who end up loving her the most. Anne keeps saying that she wants everyone to love her and that is exactly how things end up. While I am aware that the case is so in all the other books as well, I don’t think it has been so blatantly obvious as in this one, and so tiresomely done at that! While I have enjoyed reading the others so far, I found myself plodding through this one half way through.
I’m surprised I gave this one three stars. Had Goodreads had the halves I would have rated this a 2.5.
So, have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think of them? If not, would you read any of them?