book review, classics, reading recommendations

Review: Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

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There is something to be said about the fact that I have the first line of this novel memorized. And that something is, I am OBSESSED as any teenage fangirl would be with this book.

AUTHOR: Jane Austen, duh.

GENRE: romance

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: thrift shop

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Mrs. Bennet is sent into a frenzy when a rich, eligible bachelor moves into a house in her neighborhood. She is convinced that Bingley, the bachelor, is destined to marry one of her daughters. This prediction proves to be not unfounded as Bingley and Jane, the eldest Bennet girl, are quite taken with each other. Bingley brings his friend along, Darcy, another rich, eligible bachelor that the main character, Elizabeth, finds pompous, arrogant, and exceedingly rude. Through some miscommunications, Bingley suddenly leaves town, taking Darcy with him and leaving Jane heartbroken. Elizabeth suspects foul play, and when Darcy surprisingly proposes to her, she confronts him about how he interfered with the happiness of her sister. From then on, events spiral out of control and Elizabeth’s world-view and character judgements are challenged, shattered, and rearranged. As she matures throughout the story, she finds that first impressions are not always what’s really true and that her pride, and someone else’s prejudice, very nearly destroyed the happiness of themselves and those that they hold dear to their hearts.

THOUGHTS: Pride and Prejudice, for me, was the kind of book that I picked up and rarely ever put down until I was completely finished with it. It was that captivating, and that good. Elizabeth Bennet is my perfect narrator: relatable, sassy, intelligent, loving, and flawed. Her journey throughout the story arc is one of my absolute favorites, and though the romance is the main focal point for most people, Elizabeth’s development is the meat of the story for me.

If you have ever watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube (here is a link if you have no idea what I’m talking about), there are a few aspects of the book that stand out as flaws. There is no redemption of Lidia Bennet or her relationship with Elizabeth in the book, there is not a whole lot of characterization from Wickham besides word-of-mouth (and of course the book clearly says that this is not a good way to know a character), and the submissiveness of Jane Bennet in forgiving other characters. Of course, some of these errors are only perceived as such because this is not a modern novel, and some come from the fact that the novel is only told from Elizabeth’s point of view while the video series tries to incorporate other points of view. But some, of course, are Austen’s errors.

Besides this, there are many praises that I can ascribe to this novel, and there have been many praises that other people have ascribed to this novel, so I will try and keep it brief so you can spend less time reading this review and more time reading Pride and Prejudice. The characterization of Elizabeth and William beautifully mirror each other, and although it is Elizabeth’s story, William also blossoms and grows throughout the story.

The family aspect of this story is also very important; the Bennet family, although not the best family to marry into nor the most stable of families, is recognizable, even in modern times. The mother, who is characterized as rather crazy and obsessive by Elizabeth, does experience some redemption. Mr. Bennet is lovingly characterized as a simple, quiet, but fiercely loyal man. The Bennet sisters are all quite different, but also recognizable as the different kinds of girls you have known and befriended throughout your life. There is jealousy, there is contempt, but above all, there is love and support.

The romance, of course, is your classic they met and hated each other, but once they got to know each other, things changed. But this storyline was probably best exemplified by this novel, and it feels so fresh and real in this novel. Additionally, the way that the two end up falling for each other is unorthodox and is not romantic in the conventional sort of way.

I’ll stop here to prevent myself from rambling on, but if you’d like to talk to me about your crazy love for this novel and all things Austen, feel free to reach me through the Contact page! And if you love classical novels, a bit of romance, and plenty of drama, this novel is a MUST READ for you!

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book review, classics

Review: Anna Karenina

Reason could not discover love for the other, because it’s unreasonable.

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

GENRE: Classic

BOOK FORMAT: physical, paperback

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Anna Karenina is the subject of a high-society scandal when she leaves her husband, Alexei Alexandrovich for Count Vronsky. Her husband is a respected, high-ranking bureaucrat and her new affair is a dashing, young, womanizing army officer. Katerina also pines after Vronsky, thinking that after he showed some interest in her that they would live happily together. This comes as news to Levin, a wealthy farmer who has only ever had eyes for Katerina. As Anna succumbs more and more to Vronksy’s courting, she has a choice to make: follow her passion and fall from society’s graces and leave her son behind, or stay unhappily married but respected? The consequences of her choice manages to touch on the rest of the cast of characters in this novel.

THOUGHTS: I thought, going into this novel, that I knew how it would go and who I would sympathize with. But the beautiful thing about Tolstoy is that he writes complex characters, so that you must reprimand, empathize, and relate to each of them. There are all the elements of any human life, vibrating off the page in this novel: politics, religion, philosophy, morals, family, sex, lust, parenting, childhood, and everything in between.

I adored Tolstoy’s writing style, though this was definitely a book I had to read at the same time as other books. I could only take chunks of it as a time because of its density, but I would definitely consider rereading all 800 pages of it again. Tolstoy’s writing style is so idiosyncratic and makes me feel like I am viewing the world through a slanted mirror. I know that the events are not quite reality, but they reflect a lot of the world around me pretty accurately, despite the fact that I do not live in nineteenth century Russia.

If you are like me and you prefer novels that are character-driven, then this book is for you. It is narrated from several perspectives of many characters, despite the title of the book. You get to watch the silly Kitty mature, the hopeless romantic Levin become more grounded, and other  more “flawless” characters absolutely deteriorate. One gets to experience all the highs and lows of Russian aristocratic society, which is so beautifully critiqued in this work. And the passages are beautifully written, and written in such a way that at several points you have to put down the book and ponder what it is asking you to believe about the human condition.

I gave this book a 4.5/5 stars just because I am not a mature enough reader to truly appreciate each and every passage- some of the passages about politics bored me (and I study politics!) but then again, they also bored the narrator so maybe that was the intention? But next summer, I feel confident enough in my admiration of this writing style to try and maybe tackle Tolstoy’s more famous work War and Peace.

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book review, classics, reading goals

Review: Sense and Sensibility

I have to admit, I am a huge Jane Austen fan. I loved Pride and Prejudice, and proceeded to watch both movies and “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” over and over shamelessly. I also adored Emma and that protagonist’s fruitful character arc. Sense and Sensibility did not disappoint.

AUTHOR: The one and only Jane Austen

GENRE: Romance, Coming of Age

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: from my local thrift shop

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

THOUGHTS:

As much as I love Elizabeth Bennet, I personally found the character of Elinor Dashwood to be more relatable and more of a role model. Elinor is sensible, smart, and will show propriety to the best of her ability. Her younger sister on the other hand, has less of a regard for propriety and more of a tendency to discuss her feelings, whether it be appropriate or not. While I am sorry that a heartbreak was the catalyst for her maturation, I must say that Marianne’s character arc was beautifully played out. Elinor, ever so the mature one, still grew too throughout the book and at times portrayed relatable character flaws such as jealousy and contempt, though these instances were few and far between.

In all honesty, I thought that the villain (I will not name them in case any of you have not read this novel yet) was redeemed some by his/her honest confession near the end of the book, which was refreshing. However, the protagonist Elinor strips a lot of this complexity away by concluding that the character was nothing but selfish. I almost feel as if the characterization would had been stronger if Austen did not so blatantly label the character as she saw fit at the end. Additionally, I found the last mentioned marriage of the book, between Marianne and her husband, hard to believe as it was rushed. I would not have minded reading more about Marianne’s further growth and journey to maturity, but of course, this is first and foremost Elinor’s story.

It would not be Jane Austen if there was not an element of satire to the book; the stereotypical characters of Lucy, Mrs. Jennings, Robert Ferrars and his mother, etc. are all present and probably indicate Austen’s perception of people that she had encountered or people she believed society was made up of. If you are a fan of Austen’s wit, there is plenty of that in this novel.

As for the conclusion, there were no gruesome endings, not even for the antagonists, as there were in Pride and Prejudice, but I didn’t mind this so much because that is how real life typically is. And of course, since it is Jane Austen, there were two happy marriages at the end of the book and most everyone decides to live in harmony, putting jealousies and ill will aside.

I also like how the prospect of fortune was not tied to a “happy ending” as it was in Pride and Prejudice for Elinor. Even though she had been somewhat cheated out of a bigger allowance by her sister-in-law, she was still perfectly content to live a comfortable life with the one she loved, and with her family always near.

If you are a Jane Austen fan and have yet to pick this book up, I highly recommend it.

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