Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
By Anne Bronte
(Oxford University Press, USA, Paperback, 9780199207558, May 2008, 441pp.)

The Short of It:

A scandalous novel for its time.

The Rest of It:

Published in 1848, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall tells the story of Helen Graham, a woman whose unfortunate marriage forces her to make some difficult decisions for herself and her son.

This book has a little bit of everything to make a reader happy. There’s the scandalous story of Helen and her husband Author Huntingdon. Probably one of the most self-indulgent men you could ever meet. His love of drink and fine things leads them to financial ruin and Helen has no choice but to  leave him, which of course is frowned upon greatly by society at large. She ends up at Wildfell Hall and introduces herself as a widow.  She quickly becomes the infatuation of Gilbert, who lives across the way. A new, interesting woman that he can talk to. So unlike the frivolous girls he comes across daily. But when another man enters the picture, Gilbert questions her and in return, is handed her diary which tells her sordid tale.

Most of the story is told through diary entries. At first, I didn’t mind this but it went on for quite a long time and I began to lose interest in the story itself, but the real discussion is the history of the book itself. My book club picked this book for June and there was plenty to say about it. For one, Anne Bronte based many of the characters on people she knew, she wrote it under a pen name and it was originally published in three volumes, and when she passed away, her sister Charlotte refused its republication.  It wasn’t until Charlotte’s death that it was published in one volume. Charlotte felt the book was “course” and not fit for publication.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an important book for many reasons. It deals with some very heavy themes for the time, gender relations, motherhood, alcoholism and  abuse in marriage. Even though it was written in 1848, it has a very contemporary feel to it, probably because many of the issues Bronte includes are issues that we still deal with today.

The one criticism we all shared, was that the ending seemed rushed. Perhaps Bronte’s illness forced her to finish the book quickly or perhaps the book in its republication was cut down when made into one volume? What fascinated me the most was the Bronte family. Such talent and yet, so much tragedy. The three sisters all died from consumption and the brother became an alcoholic.

Overall, I am beginning to believe that I am more of a Bronte gal, than an Austen gal. Last year, I began Jane Eyre and have been reading it slowly (and loving it) and I must say The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was a refreshing surprise.

Source: Borrowed
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Review: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
(Scribner, Paperback, 9780743273565, September 2004, 192pp.)

The Short of It:

The Great Gatsby is superbly crafted and a treat for the senses.

The Rest of It:

Jay Gatsby is this rich, mysterious man who throws infamous parties on Long Island during the 1920’s. He appears to have everything he wants but what he really wants, is Daisy Buchanan. Daisy slipped through his fingers once before, and now she lives just across from his mansion with her husband, Tom. When Nick Caraway rents a home nearby, Gatsby accepts him into his circle with the hopes of luring Daisy back to him. For you see, Daisy is Nick’s cousin.

Oh, to be rich and young in the 1920’s! At its core, this is a love story and has been called one of the greatest American novels of our time and I can certainly see why. It’s gorgeously done and Gatsby is a character that stays with you, long after finishing the novel. He’s complex and just mysterious enough for you to understand everyone’s infatuation with him. Everyone except Daisy who continually reminds him of what he used to be.

Gatsby in 3D

In 3D? Really?

The Great Gatsby is a beautifully rendered masterpiece and should be read and enjoyed by many. If you’ve been thinking about reading it, maybe this trailer to the upcoming movie might entice you to read it sooner, rather than later. Not sure about it being in 3D but it’s definitely the trend these days.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Anthem

Anthem

Anthem
By Ayn Rand
(Plume Books, Paperback, 9780452281257, 1999, 256pp.)
Original Publication: 1937

The Short of It:

There is no “I” in TEAM. Got that?

The Rest of It:

Anthem should be required reading for anyone who enjoys dipping into dystopian fiction. First published in 1937, this novella is so ahead of its time…even now! Individuality has been eliminated and technological advances are few and far between. Everything is done for the whole of the community…not for individual gain and much of what is done can be argued either way. The word “I” has been eliminated and citizens must refer to themselves as “We.”

Equality 7-2521 is a six-foot male, 21 years-old and the main character of the story. He is extremely bright and dreams of being sent to the School of the Scholars, but instead, the Council of Vocations sends him to The Home of the Street Sweepers, where he bides his time, happy to be cleaning the streets as it is a good and noble thing to do. While working, he comes across a hidden tunnel which gives him an idea of how it used to be, and then he meets The Golden One. She is like no other woman he has ever seen and she is clearly not one of them. When an invention of his is not well received, he and The Golden One decide to run away.

This novella was entertaining in so many ways. For instance, anyone who hits the age of 40 is sent to the Home for the Useless, where they do nothing but rest and relax all day. Can you imagine? I’m so there. The other thing that struck me, is how similar my workplace environment is to the world depicted in Anthem. I work in technology,  yet moving forward is not as easy at it should be and takes all sorts of blessings from the “top” to get through the approval process. There are days when I feel just like Equality 7-2521. Yes, I can certainly relate.

Rand, who was also a philosopher, believed that reason was the only form of acquiring knowledge and rejected anything to do with religion. She firmly believed in capitalism and to this day, her rather large following continues to share her views with the public.

I read The Fountainhead while in college. I read it on my own, for fun, and remember it having a significant impact on me. I’m happy to say that Anthem, although much smaller in scale, had the same effect on me. It makes me want to bust out in song, leap off of tall buildings and tell certain people to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

That says it all, doesn’t it?

Source: Borrowed from the library.

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Review: Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome Book Cover

Ethan Frome
By Edith Wharton
Penguin
1911 (Original) 2009 (This version)
128pp

The Short of It:

Tragic, depressing and grim.

The Rest of It:

Oh my goodness! My book group chose this book for December, thinking that because it was short, it would be a good choice for a busy month. I agreed at the time. However, do not let its length deceive you. It’s certainly not a complex novel in that you need a lot of time to pick it apart, but it’s heavy and fraught with high drama as all of the main characters are miserable and there doesn’t seem to be any hope for happiness.

The story takes place in a nineteenth-century New England village. Ethan Frome is married to Zeena. Zeena has a great many problems. One of which is her ailing self. It’s not clear if she is truly ill, of if her meanness just makes her so, but she is bedridden to the point of needing a helping hand. Mattie, her cousin, comes to help them out.

As the three of them spend time together, it’s clear that Ethan has fallen hard for Mattie. He secretly catches glimpses of her at the supper table, and finds excuses to be alone with her. Although he hopes that she feels the same way, it’s hard to tell as first what Mattie is thinking. However, it’s not hard to tell what Zeena is thinking and it’s no surprise that she makes it difficult for them in the end.

My frustration with this book is that there is really no honor to be had when it comes to Ethan. He loves Mattie, but he doesn’t really act upon it in a realistic way. He sort of fumbles along and experiences moments of gushing that you’d expect from a young girl, not a grown man. I mentioned the honor part because it’s not really out of a sense of honor that he is with his wife. It’s as if he doesn’t have the energy to live any differently. He puts up with her but I’m not sure why. Certainly not for money, as they are poor farmers and with her medical costs, there is nothing extra to be had.

I wanted to feel something for Ethan, but I felt nothing. It was like downing a glass of wine and having it go right to your head. I was numb to his plight and I felt no pity for him. The end of the book, as seen through a third-party visitor to the house, has got to be one of the most depressing endings ever.

Although I didn’t love it, there is plenty to discuss.

On a funny note, when I saw the cover above, I was thinking torrid love affair, a “roll in the hay” so to speak, but when you read the book you realize the cover has nothing to do with what my dirty, smutty mind was thinking. Too bad.

Source: Purchased

Wuthering Heights Wednesday: June 9, 2010 – Week 10 (Final)

Welcome to Wuthering Heights Wednesday! Softdrink is hosting a read-along of this classic novel, and we’re reading (and posting about) 3 chapters a week.

Volume II, Chapters 13-20 (final)

My Synopsis:

I doubled-up on this week’s reading so that I could be done with it and move on to other books. If you haven’t yet finished, come back later to read my thoughts as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Here we go…

Cathy escapes Wuthering Heights and ends up back at Thrushcross Grange. Good thing too because Edgar kicks the bucket.

She isn’t there for long, though. Heathcliff shows up at the Grange and orders Cathy to return to WH so that she can take care of her new husband, Linton. Mrs. Dean tries to negotiate a position within WH but Heathcliff wants none of it. Cathy is to live out her miserable existence without Mrs. Dean’s help.

A whole lot of nothing happens. Seriously. Heathcliff decides to dig up Cathy I’s grave, to see her lovely face again and apparently nothing has changed because she looks the same. He is taken aback by this so he sets the coffin lid off-center so that the elements can have their way with her. He instructs Joseph to see that his coffin is placed next to hers when his time comes and to make sure his coffin lid is also set off-center so that he and Cathy can be one in the same.

In the mean time, Linton dies. So what do you think is the next natural step for Cathy? Well, to fall in love with Hareton of course! This is almost enough to do Heathcliff in but not quite.

Out of the blue, Heathcliff begins to wander about the property. We know this because Mrs. Dean has been hired by HC since Zillah up and left. With each night that passes HC seems to be getting happier. Well, apparently he has begun to see the ghost of Cathy I, and this has brought him great joy. So much so that he opens all of his windows and catches his death from cold. Literally.

So Hareton and Cathy are happy. HC is dead and happy to be with dead Cathy. Mrs. Dean is none the worse for wear and Lockwood? Having missed his chance at winning Cathy’s hand, just sort of vanishes. I don’t think Bronte even mentioned what happened to him or if she did, it wasn’t important enough to remember.

My Thoughts:

I really don’t know what Bronte was thinking when she wrote Wuthering Heights. The first half was very dramatic and entertaining but the second half was really hard to get through. Did people live like this? Was this the norm? Why were these people so fragile? The breeze from an open window is enough to do them in, yet the staff live on forever!

When I read books like this, ones that are considered the most beloved classics of all time, I have to wonder…why? Why is this book considered a classic? One definition of a classic, is something that is old, but still popular. It’s old and it’s still popular but why?

I’m glad that I read it, but it’s not nearly as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be. It hasn’t left a lasting impression upon me and I couldn’t really relate to any one character. Can anyone explain to me why this one is considered a classic?

So thank you Fizzy. It’s been a fun, fun time. Better than Moby Dick, for sure.

Reading along:

Wuthering Heights Wednesday: June 2, 2010 – Week 9

Welcome to Wuthering Heights Wednesday! Softdrink is hosting a read-along of this classic novel, and we’re reading (and posting about) 3 chapters a week.

Volume II, Chapters 11-13

My Synopsis:

In last week’s reading, Cathy was ordered never to visit Linton again. So what do you think happened in this week’s reading? Yep, she went to visit him AND Mrs. Dean is the one that took her.

They met Linton near his house. He was collapsed upon the ground, weak and pale (his normal state of health). After a very brief visit, Heathcliff shows up and orders them to accompany him back to Wuthering Heights. Cathy puts up a fuss. Her papa would worry, blah blah. Mrs. Dean interjects but is not successful and Heathcliff will not take no for an answer. It’s clear that Heathcliff’s intent is to see Cathy and Linton married.

At the Heights, Heathcliff locks Mrs. Dean and Cathy in a room. Cathy attempts to get the key back but instead, gets clobbered by Heathcliff. This is a  very strange scene because he puts Cathy on his lap and then proceeds to box her about the ears. I kept picturing Cathy as a kind of bobble-head.

The next morning, Heathcliff reaches in, snatches Cathy and leaves Mrs. Dean in the room. Five days and four nights pass and still no Cathy.

My Thoughts:

So Linton and Heathcliff are in on this together. They’ve basically kidnapped two people and I can only assume that a marriage between Cathy and Linton will be the end result. How sickening.

Heathcliff may be the mastermind behind the plot but Linton seems to be behind it as well. The boy hasn’t matured at all. I’m not even sure he’d know what to do with a wife. To him, a wife probably isn’t much more than a servant. And Mrs. Dean! What an idiot. She certainly knows better, yet she continues to visit that wretched place and now look where it’s gotten her; locked up in some room while Linton and Cathy tie the knot.

My hopes this week were to finish the book. I’m sort of ready to be done with Wuthering Heights but with the long holiday and all, I couldn’t manage it.

Reading along:

Wuthering Heights Wednesday: May 26, 2010 – Week 8

Welcome to Wuthering Heights Wednesday! Softdrink is hosting a read-along of this classic novel, and we’re reading (and posting about) 3 chapters a week.

Volume II, Chapters 8-10

My Synopsis:

The wretchedness continues!

This week’s reading is all about Cathy and Linton. As you may recall from last week, Cathy and Linton were caught writing letters to each other. LOVE letters which Mrs. Dean quickly put an end to.  In case you forgot, Cathy and Linton are cousins. However, when Cathy runs into Heathcliff (yet again), Heathcliff lays a guilt trip on her. He tells her that Linton’s health has taken a turn and that he has one foot in the grave. Why? All because Cathy stopped writing her letters. Apparently Linton is just “sick” over it.

Cathy, in her bubble-headed way, insists that she visit poor Linton and although Mrs. Dean does not agree, she wants to prove to Cathy that Linton is just fine and that this is all a bunch of nonsense, so off they go for a brief visit. Except, that when they visit, Linton IS in poor spirits and DOES appear to be sickly (afterall, he was born that way). At first, he seems to perk up a bit at the sight of Cathy but then they argue over whose dad is best… “my dad, no MY dad!” and then Linton falls out of the chair, upon the hearth and writhes like a child trying to get out of a high chair!

Cathy, bubble-head that she is (did I say that twice?) falls for it and promises to visit when she can. Mrs. Dean sweeps Cathy away, and then promptly falls ill for three weeks, which gives Cathy plenty of time to sneak off and visit the wretch. What’s interesting here is that Cathy wants to love Linton like a brother so he can live with her always. Linton wants to love her like a wife, but Cathy claims that sometimes husbands hate their wives. How profound, and coming out of Cathy’s mouth no less!

When dear Papa finds out about Cathy’s little adventure, he puts a stop to her visits which sends her into despair. What will Linton think? Will he fall ill? Will he throw himself upon the hearth and die from heartbreak?

My Thoughts:

In previous chapters I felt sorry for Linton but he’s a sniveling little twerp and deserves no pity. He whines and whines about his predicament, so much so that Joseph and Hareton (remember them?) completely ignore him.  Trust me, if he were in my house I’d ignore him too.

I love how Cathy is the epitome of youthful exuberance and how Linton is just a puny little wretch. Such opposites.  I wondered how Cathy could even find happiness in being around him but she says it best, she thinks of him as her “little pet.” Isn’t that enough to make you want to gag?

Reading along:

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