I’ve got three little reviews for this month and all of them are about books I borrowed from the library.
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Genre: Fiction (classic/mystery)
Release Date: First published in 1908; this edition published July 24th, 2013
I picked this up from the library so that I could mark off a bingo square (I had to read a book with a day of the week in the title), and having never read Chesterton before, I was pretty excited.
The opening pages and chapters hooked me right away and I thought, “this is going to be an amazing reading experience”. It was so ridiculous and had me laughing out loud too much on the train, and I swear it has the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever read: “All the heaven seemed covered with quite a vivid and palpable plumage; you could only say that the sky was full of feathers, and of feathers that almost brushed the face”. There’s a whole paragraph of this sunset but, you get it – it’s beautiful. The humour was the dry English wit that I just love and wish I was in possession of; then it went dry without the wit, and descended into complete anarchy (which is basically what the book is about) and allegory.
Which is perfectly fine. Except that I’m not sure what’s it’s actually an allegory for. Religion? Politics? Capitalism? All of those? Something else? The end was weird and I didn’t really get it, but then maybe I did. I don’t know. What I do know is that I probably need to read the book again to fully understand and appreciate it.
Author: Henry James
Genre: Fiction (horror)
Release Date: First published in 1908; this edition published July 1st, 2008
There are two Henry James’ in this book. The one that writes the prologue is amazing and had me hooked – the writing was atmospheric, intriguing, and just beautiful to read. Then Henry James 2.0 appears in the first chapter, writing from the perspective of a governess. Henry James 2.0 is a real drag.
He’s sort of ok early on, but in his attempt to write how he thought a governess would, I feel like he overwrote and it made it a bit difficult to follow what was happening at times; the sentences were long and filled with commas, and could have been written much more simply. I loved the story itself – the kids were hella creepy. The perfection of them was actually quite terrifying, if a little overdone. I swear that on just about every page the governess gushes over how perfect and beautiful they are to look at, and how perfectly behaved they are – I get it, they’re perfect. Obviously such perfection can only be harbouring pure evil. The ending was a bit of a shock, but lost some of its impact for me due to wondering how it got to that point, and that’s all because of getting lost by the writing.
The ‘Other Stories’ that accompany The Turn of the Screw in this edition I found much easier to read. While The Turn of the Screw is let down a little by its length (too long), these ones are a bit shorter and punchier. Good old real Henry James was back (except maybe for the last story in which Henry James 2.0 reappeared, and decided to have his main character standing in front of a closed door for TWO WHOLE PAGES debating over whether he should open it or not – he didn’t in the end fml) for these and it’s definitely worth getting this edition of The Turn of the Screw just for these ghost stories. I especially liked The Romance of Certain Old Clothes, which made me cover my face with the book at the end because it was … well, I’ll let you read it.
Author: Lev Grossman
Genre: Fiction (fantasy)
Release Date: October 8th, 2009
Look. I get it. This idea of this book is really appealing to those of us who’d like to know what happened to Harry Potter and Co. after they finished at Hogwarts. But while The Magicians was completely engrossing and a total page turner, I couldn’t get over the fact that it was like reading a Potter/Narnia crossover, but with alcohol, sex, and “heavy breasts” (after reading The Magicians, I’m left with the distinct impression that Lev is a boobs man). And Quentin? That guy has a bigger chip on his shoulder than Atlas.
It has its moments though, and there were enough of them to encourage me to pick up the next book in the series. It’s a good book without being amazing; probably the best thing about it is that the characters are incredibly flawed and have no direction for their lives – much like in real life. In all honesty I prefer the TV adaptation, which is so loosely based on the source material that it shouldn’t even be called an adaptation. The characters are still flawed, but it moves further away from the established fictional worlds of Narnia and Hogwarts and into its own, and the TV Penny is a million times better than the book Penny. So if you like the TV show and are thinking of reading the book, you should go right ahead and do it; but if you don’t, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.