Archive for April, 2012

Emma – Jane Austen

Title: Emma

Author: Jane Austen

Date Finished: 29/04/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

I feel like it to me a very long time to read Emma – I can barely remember starting it.  I think this is because a) it did take me quite a long time to read  b) so much has been going on in my life recently, there hasn’t been much room for anything else  c) I read it whilst on holiday in Vienna and that seems like a very long time ago.

Anyway, this book was definitely a pleasant introduction to Jane Austen for me.  It wasn’t as hard to read as I feared it may have been, but was certainly not something that I could just speed through.  Although there was not a Dickensian amount of description, it certainly didn’t have the fast moving plot-line that induces you to steam through the pages.

I was really really impressed by the plot of Emma.  I honestly thought that it would be a bunch of snobs waltzing around talking about marriage and money and not a lot else.   While this is certainly true to an extent, the depth of feeling and unpredictability of  the storyline were a pleasant surprise.  Although I did suspect that Emma would end up with Mr. Knightly from about chapter 4, it was intriguing to see how long it actually took her to realise that.  The various twists and turns were always surprising to me and I feel compelled to read other Jane Austen novels in the future.

In terms of characters, I was also impressed.  There were quite a few similar characters and at the start of the book I did feel slightly confused and overwhelmed as to who was who, who was married to whom and what everyone was like.  However, as the story progressed I had no trouble remembering who every was and there were some characters who vividly stood out.  Jane Fairfax was intriguing, Mr. Woodhouse slightly irritating, Mrs Elton insufferable (as Emma might say) and many others who I don’t think I’ll forget in a hurry.

The prose, as would be expected of an accepted classic, was superb and (for me) surprisingly readable for a text written two hundred years ago.  It is always a pleasure, I find, to read a book by someone who, like Austen, Dickens, the Brontës etc, writes impeccable prose – you never frown at a badly worded or badly structured sentence, and I just love the old and proper English that they all use.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Emma and although I took it at a leisurely pace (nice way of saying ‘slowly’) it did have me interested.  I couldn’t really award 5/5, as I wasn’t exactly gripped and occasionally just had no desire to read it – too much like hard work to read the language sometimes.

But yes, it has made me please I chose so many Jane Austens for my Classics Club list – I will be on the look out for some nice copies of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, ideally to read around Christmas of this year – it seems like an Austeny season to me!

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Hello everyone…another week without a post on my blog, and that makes me sad 😦
Basically, I have got about two weeks until my exams start and there is so much work and other things to organise before then, that I haven’t had time for any serious reading, hence no posts.

I am enjoying Emma, but I am not so gripped that it has taken precedence over revision! 😛 Anyway, I hope to read a bit more this weekend, and hopefully finish it sometime this week.

Have a good week 🙂

What is going on in my bibliosphere at the moment?

Well, I am currently reading Emma by Jane Austen and enjoying it, but savouring it rather than rushing through it.  This is because school has exploded!  I have never had so much work to do – I come home and do work all evening pretty much every day!  It is rather depressing and means I get so little time to do any reading or blogging or anything.  All subjects are panicking about the exams starting very soon and setting more and more work for us to do at home.  Hopefully, this will clear up soon and I can actually start focussing on revision.

I am about two-thirds of the way through Emma, so I probably won’t get round to finishing this week, but if I do, I’ll be moving on to The Shadow of the Wind, which I have on good recommendation.

I hope you’re all well and not as stressed and overworked as I am, have a good week!

Again, hello from Vienna! 🙂

I am currently relaxing in my hotel room, getting ready for the concert we are going to tonight. It is at the Musikverien and consists of Mozart, Debussy and Schönberg. I can’t wait!

After a lovely day at Schönbrunn Palace on Tuesday, we had a more relaxed day on Wednesday: went on the sightseeing buses to get our bearings and see lots of the city. We also went on Vienna’s famous ferris wheel, which was great.

Yesterday we went to see Klimt’s world-renowned Beethovenfries at the Secession building. Definitely worth a look if you’re in Vienna. Later we dined at an out of town vineyard’s restaurant, which again was delicious.

All in all, I’ve had a wonderful break, and I heartily recommend Vienna to everyone! I do feel a bit guilty as I haven’t done any revision and not much reading, but everyone needs a break! And furthermore, now that I have been completely out of reading and working, I’m sure I’ll leap back into it all with vigour! 🙂

By the way, even though I haven’t read very much, I am actually really enjoying Emma. I also picked up a copy of Suite Française today, after wandering round some fantastic Vienna bookshops.

Hello everyone, just posting a little update on what I’m up to in Vienna!

It is seriously lovely here – you can almost taste the wealth; there are huge 7 or 8 story opulent buildings on practically every street I’ve seen.

On Monday we just got our bearings and had a wander round the Innere Stadt followed by a delicious Wiener Schnitzel!
On Tuesday we had an amazing day visiting Schloß Schönbrunn (Schönbrunn Palace) which was mind blowing.  The gardens were spectacular and the views of the palace and Vienna in the background, from the Gloriette (monument at the top of the hill) were fantastic.

Here are a few pictures:




The first is the entrance to the palace, the second is the view from the Gloriette and the third is the Gloriette itself.

In terms of reading, I have not actually read that much for these reasons: don’t have time to, too tired and addicted to draw something!
Despite this, I am enjoying Emma and, although I am only one hundred pages in, I hope to read a bit more in the next few days.

Enjoy the rest of your week. 🙂

Yes, I do realise that it’s Sunday and not Friday today, but I am doing my weekly wrap-up today as I am off on holiday tomorrow and it seemed more fitting to give you all an update just before I go.

WOO!  A holiday!  We are going to Vienna for 6 days tomorrow and (as you maybe can tell) I cannot wait.  It is going to be so nice to get away for a while – I have been doing lots of revision for my exams and need a break.  Granted, I am going to take some with me, but I need to get away from my desk!

I am not totally sure what we have planned for our time in Vienna – seeing all the sight, no doubt – but I can reveal that we are going to the Wiener Musikverein (where they hold the Vienna New Years Day Concert) for an evening of Mozart, Debussy and a little Schoenberg.  It should be a really nice evening.

I am also quite excited about just being in Austria, because my sister and I both learn German at school and my Mum is a German teacher!  My Dad did A-level German too, so we are trying to speak as little English as possible while we’re in Vienna.

In terms of reading, I am not sure how much I will get done, as I usually read quite voraciously during holidays, but I will probably spend most of my free time working…so we will see.  I am taking Emma (which I am enjoying so far) and The Shadow of the Wind, but I am not sure whether I will finish Emma or not.  I am hoping to come back with a German book or too as well!

I am not taking my computer so I definitely won’t be posting lots, but if there is a bit of internet around I will be tweeting and possibly doing a small post here and there to let you all know what I’m up to and how Emma is going.

Have a good week everyone!

Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Author: Mark Haddon

Date Finished: 06/04/12

Re-Read? : Yes – Second time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

I first read this book when I was about 12 and I remember really enjoying it.  However, I couldn’t remember much about what happened – just the main event and not really how that came about, so I decided (about 6 months ago!) that it was going on the re-read list.

The “unique selling point”, as it were, of this book is the fact that it is narrated by a boy with a form of autism (the specific condition is never detailed and even though ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ appears on the cover of one edition, Haddon claims it is not specifically about Asperger’s, as he is not an expert in the subject).

Regardless, Haddon actually conveys the logical and illogical thoughts of an autistic child extremely well and I felt as though I understood autism much more after reading this book.  I don’t know how accurately the disorder is portrayed, but it was certainly an eye-opener for me, both time that I read it.

Before I go on to talk about the plot and characters etc, I have to say that this book is a children’s book, or at least, it is commonly read as a children’s book (I was only about 12 the first time I read it).  Despite this, I believe it is one of those (very rare) books that bridges the reading gap between all ages.  I remember really enjoying the story when I was 12, yet I wasn’t bored when I was re-reading; contrastingly, I got more out of it the second time.  I think I will be reading this again in 5 or 10 years and definitely recommending to all ages.

The plot is really really good! Especially for a ‘children’s’ book!  There is the main mystery, the titled ‘Curious Incident‘, which is quite interesting, but Christopher, the protagonist, actually discovers quite a few mysteries along the way.  I was definitely reading very quickly, which shows it was a good story, and polishing this book off in 2 days alone speaks for itself!

I really liked the way there is more to the book than just the story – there are little puzzles, narrations of past events, lessons and contemplations too; and these just help with understanding how the mind of someone on the autistic spectrum works.

Character-wise, this book is good.  You remember the characters because there aren’t many and they are mainly family or neighbours of Christopher.  One who stood out for me was Siobhan, a teacher at Christopher’s school who really seems to understand and sympathise with him.  She teaches him strategies for situations that he can’t deal with, like when there is too much going on, to count up to 50 slowly (although Christopher cubes the numbers in his head too!) for example.  This was quite touching.

It was interesting to see how the different characters dealt with Christopher: which ones were tolerant, scared, annoyed, confused, exasperated, and more by him; I liked the way you could almost see yourself and people you know in some characters, and it really made me think about how different people cope with socially-difficult people.

The prose was quite basic in the novel, as it is meant to be a book written by Christopher himself.  However, there are certainly many pros to this: it is really easy to understand, you can read it quickly, the book is accessible for all readers, and it helps you understand the autism more clearly.

Furthermore, the straightforward and logical format to the prose (most paragraphs consist of a sentence, then several sentences beginning with ‘so’ as Christopher describes what he did) does reflect Christopher’s way of thinking too – he doesn’t understand big fancy descriptions or sophisticated imagery.  Indeed, he comment on the silliness of metaphors, as he can’t understand why you would say something is something different to what is actually is, and that made quite hilarious reading.

All in all, I really felt as though I had learned something from this novel, as well as just enjoying it.  I hope that it continues to be as popular as it has been over the last 10 or so years and that it encourages more people to a) be more tolerant to people on the autistic spectrum and b) read more, as it is so accessible.

Title: Wuthering Heights

Author: Emily Brontë

Date Finished: 04/04/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – Victorian Challenge 2012 & The Classics Club

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

This book has certainly taken me on a journey.  To start with, reading this was a bit of a chore if I’m honest.  I didn’t really know who anyone was – I was confused as to why there was this Catherine who was Heathcliff’s daughter-in-law and not his love, so I assumed I must have misunderstood something.  I was also a bit put of when I realised that it was not narrated by neither Cathy nor Heathcliff, as I assumed it would be, as Jane Eyre is narrated by Jane (falling into the trap of presuming the Brontë sisters’ novels will be similar again).

Funnily enough, everything I felt at the start of this book seemed to be completely turned around by the time I had finished!  For example, at the start of the book I felt sorry for Heathcliff – he was treated cruelly and at a time where status and class were everything, no wonder he felt alienated and resentful.  However, by the end of the story, especially when he locks Ellen and Catherine in the Heights to prevent them from seeing Edgar before he dies, I loathed his unnecessary cruelty.

Anyway, I remember Jillian writing that she was surprised that this novel was so emotive for her, and now I know what she meant.  The way I resented some characters for their sheer spite and found my heart beating rapidly when others were in danger really moved me.  It is a true credit to Emily Brontë that she evokes such strong emotions in people well over a hundred years later than when she wrote her only book.

The plot is really original – without being unrealistic, it was shocking and clever and took turns I never would have predicted.  Throughout the novel, I was constantly wondering “what the hell can happen now?!”  The slight downside, for me, is that sometimes we were told of events before they were narrated.  For example, Nelly states that Heathcliff has died before she tells the tale of how, which slightly diminished my desire to read on quickly.

In terms of characterisation, Emily has depicted some of the most unforgettable characters throughout English literature; personally, I believe Heathcliffe and Cathy are on a par with some of Dickens’ creations.  This, of course, is definitely not to say that I like the characters in Wuthering Heights.  On the contrary, I abhor the majority!  At some time or another, almost all of them are mean to one another and seemingly the only person who isn’t, Ellen, is pretty unrealistic, in my eyes.  All those years of serving the family and still going strong at the end?  Oh, and being perfectly content to discuss the entire history of a family she has been so intimate with?  Not likely.

Another instance of the way my view completely changed over the course of the book was with the character of Edgar.  When we were first introduced to him when they were all so young, I found him irritating and meddlesome.  How dare he stand in the way of two people so obviously destined for one another?  I think I saw him as the personification of the requirement to conform to stereotype, in this case marrying to your appropriate social level, and that annoyed me.  However, as I progressed with the story, Edgar’s kindness and devotion to both his wife and daughter won me over and he became one of my favourite characters by the end.

The prose is undoubtedly superb, with no sentence sounding odd or disjointed.  All writing by the Brontës I have encountered so far has been flawless and a pleasure to read; I can’t help comparing with Dickens again, whose lengthy descriptions sometimes have my mind wandering – this is not an issue with Emily Brontë’s descriptions of the moors.  What an amazing setting!  I have family in Yorkshire and next time I visit them, I am definitely going exploring.

To conclude, I now understand what is meant by the view that Wuthering Heights is not so much a novel, but an exploration and education on passion, dominance, revenge and many other strong emotions.  For me, I think it educates on how cruelty can spring from all places, despite background or situation.

A very vivid and thought provoking read.
Although I did not award 5/5 (I couldn’t completely disregard the apathy I felt towards the characters and plot at the start) it is definitely going straight on my re-read list, as I think I have so much more to learn from this book the second time round.

March Wrap-Up and April Plans

March has been quite a good month in terms of reading for me, as I got quite a lot of reading done despite having lots of schoolwork and other commitments.  Also, as I started this blog on March 1st, I have completed my first month of book blogging!  I have to say I am really enjoying the structure and discussion blogging has brought to my reading and most of all how brilliant is has been to get to know other bloggers from all over the world.  I have felt really welcomed by you all so thank you very much!

Here’s what I read in March 2012:

David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

The Understudy – David Nicholls

And This Is True – Emily Mackie

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month (and I really really enjoyed David Copperfield and The Hunger Games).  Much better than February where I technically didn’t finish anything as I was reading David Copperfield all month!  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in March by David Copperfield.

Challenge Progress in March 2012:

The Classics Club :  1/60 books read  (David Copperfield – Charles Dickens)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  1/6 books read  (David Copperfield – Charles Dickens)

This is also quite a good show as one book counted for both the challenges that I’m involved in and it is one of the longest in both.  I am on target for both as I only need to read a Victorian every 2 months and a classic every month to complete these challenges on time.

Currently In Progress:

Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë:  Despite a somewhat shaky start, this book has definitely picked up for me; whilst it is still rather miserable, I feel like I am beginning to understand the book more.  Also, I am intrigued as to what will happen next (I am just over halfway through).

Also, I still have Harry Potter À L’École Des Sorciers – J.K. Rowling by my bed, but I am just dipping into that one now and again for half a page or so, as I am going to Vienna next week so now would not be the best time for practising French!  I usually read this at school anyway, so with it being the holidays, I don’t foresee much progress with this book.

April Plans:

Books:  the next three books on my TBR shelf are The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time – Mark Haddon, Emma – Jane Austen and The Shadow Of The Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  I hope I will be able to at least start all three of these in April, but that does depend on how quickly I finish Wuthering Heights and how well I can balance reading with revision for my summer exams.

Challenges:  in regards to challenges, I don’t have any books planned for April that will count for The Victorian Challenge 2012, but Emma will count for The Classics Club, which is exciting.  I am so impressed by Jillian’s hard work with The Classics Club and how she has even set up a paper for it too!  We are all very grateful for all her efforts!