Archive | Classic RSS for this section

Murder on the Orient Express

MurderMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Pub: 1934

Detective Hercule Poirot works to solve a murder which has taken place in a snowbound train.

Opening lines:

It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express.

It was actually sheer coincidence that I post this the day after posting my review of The Boundless — another mystery on a train novel. I’m sure I’ve read this one or seen the movie or discussed its ending with someone at some point, though when it came right down to it, that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of it, because there was still the manner of why the man was murdered and how.

What I liked: Most of all, I love the plot twist here, the jigsaw puzzle that doesn’t quite line up and how the detective goes about extracting information from the suspects. His logic is impeccable, and it’s one of those mysteries where you look back and realize that the pieces were there all along, just waiting to be put together.

What I didn’t like: It isn’t a light read, and I seriously considered pulling out a piece of scratch paper to try to keep track of all the people and clues because there were so many and because the characters are all strangers to Poirot, we know very little about them and their personalities, so it was difficult to keep them straight.

Heads up: violence, including violence towards a child

Advertisements

Anne of Green Gables

Anne

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Pub: 1908

An orphan girl is adopted by a set of elderly siblings on Prince Edward Island.

“But if you call me Anne, please call me Anne with an ‘e’.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve read the Anne series, and I have to say, I think I enjoyed it more now than I did when I was younger. Some of the prose was still a bit difficult to get through, as the narrator had a way of waxing poetically about the scenery and seasons. It did make me recall, though–and appreciate–how closely in line the 1985 movie followed to the book. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but there was very little in the book that I didn’t recall seeing in the movie.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series; if I recall, the books after this tend to become less and less plot-driven, but I’m glad I took the time to re-read this one.

Sense and Sensibility

SenseSense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Pub: 1811

3 of 5 stars

Two sisters with differing sensibilities experience the ups and downs of love and loss during an era where wealth and connections played an important role in determining a good match.

Mrs. Jennings was a widow, with an ample jointure. She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now therefore nothing to do but to marry all the rest of the world

Sense and Sensibility is one of those books that I was certain I had read at some point, yet when reading it this past week, could not remember a thing about what had happened — possibly, at least in part, because at least some of the story lines bear remarkable similarity to plot lines of Austen’s other novels.  I always love Austen’s prose, her wit and irony, and the way that the characters’ perceptions of the situation are so often completely misconstrued and misunderstood.  Love it.

But try as I might, I couldn’t get fully invested in any of the characters.  Elinor was my favorite, but a bit standoffish, even to the reader.  Marianne was sweet, but rather melodramatic.  And the heroes… eh… I guess not everyone can be Mr. Darcy.

Overall, a good read, but I’d pick Pride and Prejudice over it any day.

The Love of the Last Tycoon

ClassicsRetold

FITZGERALD FRIDAY!
Love

The Love of the Last Tycoon by F.Scott Fitzgerald

Pub: 1940

3.5 of 5 stars

The story of Hollywood ‘tycoon’ Monroe Stahr as he embarks on a love affair that will threaten his career and his life.

I like writers—because if you ask a writer anything you usually get an answer—still it belittled him in my eyes.  Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. It’s like actors, who try so pathetically not to look in mirrors. Who lean backward trying—only to see their faces in the reflecting chandeliers.

It’s so hard to judge an unfinished work that I feel bad even trying to, but as far as Fitzgerald’s work goes, this would likely be my least favorite.  From the notes, it seems as if this almost was supposed to become a Gatsby redux, of a man who outwardly has everything, but whose desires for what (or, who) he can’t have leads him down a terrible path of destruction.  I also give Fitzgerald lots of props for really throwing the reader into the time period, as early Hollywood does seem to come alive in these pages.

Tender is the Night

ClassicsRetold

 

Fitzgerald Friday!

Tender

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pub: 1933

4 of 5 stars

When the young starlet Rosemary meets Dick and Nicole Diver, she idolizes the couple and sets off a series of events in their lives which slowly disintegrates their marriage.

Her ego began blooming like a great rich rose as she scrambled back along the labyrinths in which she had wandered for years.  She hated the beach, resented the places where she had played planet to Dick’s sun.

Of all Fitzgerald’s books which I’ve re-read, this is the one which I remembered the least, which is maybe why it drew me in so much.  I didn’t know what to expect, and the plot kept twisting and turning in ways I hadn’t expected.  Tender is a bit of a midpoint between the plot-driven Gatsby and the philosophical Paradise — exploring the depths of the human experience through the fascinating characters of Rosemary (a naive young girl that views the Divers through rose-colored glasses in Part I), Dick Diver (a somewhat egotistical man who sees himself as a martyr to his wife’s psychosis in Part II), and Nicole Diver (a woman watching her husband spiral out of control and turn into someone whom she can’t trust or love in Part III).  The competing points of view together paint a picture that reminds the reader not all is as it seems with others and there are two sides to every story.

Overall:  Striking a balance between plot and philosophy, this is a tender story of love found and lost.

The Beautiful and the Damned

ClassicsRetold

 

FITZGERALD FRIDAY!!

BeautifulAndTheDamned

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pub: 1922

4 of 5 stars

Young, educated Anthony Patch marries beautiful society girl Gloria Gilbert, and together they live from one party to the next as they await the inheritance they expect to receive from Anthony’s grandfather.

“Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know–because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot, and when I got it it turned to dust in my hand.”

The second of Fitzgerald’s novels, this story of Anthony and Gloria seems almost to pick up where This Side of Paradise leaves off, with Anthony acting as a somewhat more mature, somewhat classier Amory Blaine.  Though he finds the love of his life, Gloria is just as light and careless as the Daisy Buchanan that follows her in The Great Gatsby and the two of them together work to slowly ruin one another.

I’ve always been a fan of Fitzgerald’s prose, and here, he delves deeper into human nature and darker emotions than This Side of Paradise.  It’s hard to like Anthony and Gloria, yet watching their marriage deteriorate, you can’t help but keep hoping that something will happen to bring these two dynamic characters back to one another.  It’s been long enough since I last read it that I didn’t recall how it ended, which wasn’t at all how I expected.

Overall:  Taking pages from his own life and downfall, Fitzgerald’s chronicles of the doomed protagonist are still powerful almost a century later.

This Side of Paradise

F. SCOTT SEPTEMBER: FITZGERALD FRIDAY!

This Side of Paradise

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pub: 1920

3 of 5 stars

The first of Fitzgerald’s novels, this story revolves around the college life of Amory Blaine, a self-proclaimed intellectual trying to find his place in a changing world.

“I’m restless.  My whole generation is restless.  I’m sick of a system where the richest man gets the most beautiful girl if he wants her, where the artist without an income has to sell his talents to a button manufacturer.”

When first published, Fitzgerald’s novel received a lot of criticism, and in some ways, it’s easy to see why.  In today’s market, editors would certainly pick apart his tendency to tell instead of show.  Amory is hardly a likable protagonist, and the minor characters tend to be two-dimensional and dull.

What redeems this story, though, is how — as a whole — it paints such a vivid picture of the era, of the personal struggle of one man that represents the drifting feeling of his generation.  Also, regardless of what the plot might be, Fitzgerald has a way of phrasing things that draws me in.  Though, honestly, I probably could have done without so much poetry.

Overall: An insightful, semi-autobiographical look at the life of a college man in the 1910s.

The Great Gatsby

ClassicsRetold

Great Gatsby

GATSBY THURSDAY!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pub: 1925

5 of 5 stars

Cynical Midwesterner Nick Carraway moves next door to the mysterious Jay Gatsby’s East Egg mansion and finds himself in the middle of Gatsby obsessive quest for the love of socialite Daisy Buchannan.

Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever.  Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her.  It had seemed as close as a star to the moon.  Now it was again a green light on a dock.  His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.

The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time favorite books.  I love how each time I read it, I discover new elements and new meanings in its pages.  Yet I also love how changeless it is — how Fitzgerald so perfectly trapped an era in time, preserving it so that readers will forever know what the 1920s were like, from the rumors and suspicions of bootleggers; the perceptions of old money vs new money; the new-found mobility of people, who for the first time could easily move from the Midwest to the East and back within the course of a summer.

I’m a huge fan of Fitzgerald’s prose, his detailed descriptions and poetic symbolism.  He has a way of capturing a time and place that makes it play out so vividly in the reader’s mind.  Whereas his earlier stories used this gift in a meandering kind of way, Gatsby is easily the most plot-driven of all Fitzgerald’s novels, a fact which I appreciate.

Overall: A beautifully-written story with timeless themes in a fascinating historical setting.

Tender is the Night

ClassicsRetold

Tender

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pub: 1933

4 of 5 stars

When the young starlet Rosemary meets Dick and Nicole Diver, she idolizes the couple and sets off a series of events in their lives which slowly disintegrates their marriage.

Full review coming in September as part of our Classics Retold project!

Overall:  Striking a balance between plot and philosophy, this is a tender story of love found and lost.

The Beautiful and the Damned

ClassicsRetold

BeautifulAndTheDamned

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pub: 1922

4 of 5 stars

Young, educated Anthony Patch marries beautiful society girl Gloria Gilbert, and together they live from one party to the next as they await the inheritance they expect to receive from Anthony’s grandfather.

Full review coming in September for Classics Retold project!

Overall:  Taking pages from his own life and downfall, Fitzgerald’s chronicles of the doomed protagonist are still powerful almost a century later.

%d bloggers like this: