A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities

Title:  A Tale of Two Cities
Author:  Charles Dickens
Length:  293 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature; Classic Gothic Literature


About This Book

A Tale of Two Cities is one of two historical novels that Charles Dickens wrote. The novel is set in the time of the French Revolution. France was in turmoil and there was danger all around. With this as a backdrop, Dickens crafts a story immersed in themes such as injustice, vengeance, love, sacrifice and redemption. The story centers around Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie, and Charles Darnay; and in classic Dickens style, there’s a host of other characters that are weaved in and out of the story. This classic gothic novel is full of drama, adventure, plots, and romance.


My Thoughts

As I read A Tale of Two Cities, I found myself asking the same question I asked when I read David Copperfield earlier this year: Do I like Dickens’ style of writing or not? Both novels are undoubtedly good. But I have inevitably found myself at different points of each novel getting bogged down in sections that I feel are a bit wordy. Dickens wrote this novel in serial form, which means it was published in small sections at a time. It was published in weekly installments; whereas David Copperfield was published in monthly installments. If Dickens was paid by the word, that would probably explain some of the wordiness.

Despite the wordiness, though, I’ve concluded that I do think I like Dickens’ style overall. One of the things I think Dickens does so well is craft a really good story. He can take a host of seemingly unconnected characters and weave them in and out of the novel until they finally all begin to connect in some way. In addition, as I mentioned in my post about David Copperfield, Dickens truly does a superb job of developing characters.

I am understanding that I have to come to Dickens’ novels knowing a couple of things from the start. One, there will probably be some points of wordiness that I’ll need to just wade through. Two, it’s probably going to take at least a good third of the novel to get my bearings with the story, which includes being able to know and place characters. Dickens tends to introduce a lot of characters in the beginning and it can sometimes be confusing to keep all those characters straight. But if I keep reading, eventually all those characters become recognized and the confusion begins to fade.


Quotes from the Book

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” (pg. 1)

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (pg. 293)

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The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial
Title:  The Trial
Author:  Franz Kafka
Length:  304 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature


About This Book

“Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” (The Trial by Franz Kafka)

The very first line of this novel sets the stage for the story that unfolds. It is the story of a man named Josef K. who has been arrested but he does not know why. He then sets out to defend himself and prove his innocence.


My Thoughts

I don’t really know quite what to write about this book. It’s kind of odd. Probably a little bit of background could be helpful.

“During his uneventful lifetime Kafka published a few short stories and novellas, most notably Metamorphosis. At his death he left behind three nearly finished novels, including Amerika, with strict instructions to his friend Max Brod to burn them. After much deliberation, Brod instead edited and published them.” 

~ From Invitation to the Classics Edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness, pg. 311

The Trial was one of these unfinished novels; therefore, I think one has to read it with that in mind. Having said that, I didn’t like or not like the book. To me, it was just so-so.

I feel like the novel is hard describe. Typical books progress from the beginning to the end. However, The Trial does not really do this. You have the definite beginning; and the first few pages did grab my attention. Unfortunately, the story really doesn’t progress to any resolution. There are things that just don’t make sense. In addition, there really isn’t much, if any, character development. The reader is left wandering through the pages, only to find that the main character doesn’t really evolve in any way.

So in the end, if I were to rate this book, I think I could only give it 3 stars.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein
Title Frankenstein
Author:  Mary Shelley
Length:  166 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature; Classic Gothic Literature


About the Book

When you hear the name “Frankenstein”, visions of a tall, green, ugly monster tend to come to mind. Maybe you picture the classic monster portrayed in the 1930’s movie starring Boris Karloft. However, the book is not just about a monster; and the monster’s name isn’t Frankenstein. The main character of this book is a young man called Victor Frankenstein who decides to pursue science and ends up becoming obsessed with creating life. He finds that he’s able to piece together this being and bring it to life, something that he’s spent hours upon hours trying to figure out. When he brings the creation to life, he is abhorred at it and runs from it…leaving the creation left on its own. What transpires is a story filled with chilling events, tough themes, and questions that aren’t easily answered. Themes such as secrecy, abandonment, and hopelessness pervade this novel.


My Thoughts

I can’t say that I *loved* this book because it’s not a feel-good read. It’s filled with hard questions, tough themes, and moments when terrible things happen and you have to read about it. However, it is a *good* book; a worthy one to be read. I am glad I read it and I definitely recommend it. While some aspects of the story seem fantastical (as in not realistic), I find that it doesn’t take away from making the reader think and ask questions.

As I thought about how people treated Victor Frankenstein’s creation in the beginning, I couldn’t help thinking about one of my favorite Disney movies Beauty and the Beast. In the movie, the Beast is seen as just that…a hideous, grotesque beast that is dangerous. When Gastan and the townspeople see him, they want to go after him. In the same way, when people saw the creation Frankenstein made, all they saw was this hideous, grotesque monster and were terrified. Some even harmed him. Where the stories differ and make for a good comparison, is this: In Beauty and the Beast, Belle actually got to know the beast and began to see him for who he was inside, not the hideous beast that he looked like on the outside. And things changed for the better because of Belle and her kindness and love. However, this did not happen for the creation Frankenstein made. He was abandoned, rejected, and mistreated. He longed for community, relationship with others, and for love. But he received none of that. And he ended up spiraling downward and did terrible things. When reading Frankenstein, the reader is left thinking about the potential effects of love and kindness vs. abandonment, rejection, and hopelessness.

If you’re looking for a good book club pick, definitely give this one consideration. This novel is so full of things to discuss that you are going to want to read it with others!

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

the-enchanted-april
Title
The Enchanted April
Author:  Elizabeth von Arnim
Length:  227 pages
Genre:  20th Century Literature
Content Notes:  Brief Language


Four women agree to share the expenses of renting an Italian villa for the month of April. They don’t know one another in the beginning; but by the end they’ve become good friends. This story takes a look at their lives and how this holiday helps them learn more about themselves, helps them grow personally, and helps them each find needed healing in their lives.  Some of the tough issues dealt with are struggles with love, with marital relationships, and with faith. This novel is about love and relationships; but most of all, it’s about restoration:  restoring themselves, their lives, and their relationships.


Quotes from the Book

“All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet. The sun poured in on her.”

“She had frightened love away, precious love, and that couldn’t be good. Was not Lotty right when she said the other day that nothing at all except love mattered? Nothing certainly seemed much use unless it was built up on love.”


 

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

the-one-in-a-million-boy
Title
The One-in-a-Million Boy
Author:  Monica Wood
Length:  336 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Content Notes:  Strong language


When Quinn’s son died, he agreed to finish his son’s boy scout project…helping a 104 year old woman with chores around her house; what he didn’t count on was becoming like family. The several storylines weaved throughout this book make it a deep and layered novel. It is a moving story about unlikely friendships, grief, forgiveness, reconciliation, second chances and the Guinness Book of World Records.


Quotes from the Book

“Because the story of your life never starts at the beginning.”

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

and-every-morning-the-way-home-gets-longer-and-longer
Title
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Length:  96 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction


From the publisher’s description:  “From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go. With all the same charm of his bestselling full-length novels, here Fredrik Backman once again reveals his unrivaled understanding of human nature and deep compassion for people in difficult circumstances. This is a tiny gem with a message you’ll treasure for a lifetime.”

This story gives a glimpse into what it must be like not just for the elderly man who is losing his memory, but also what it must be like for those that love him. It is heartwarming, sad, real. While it’s a short read, it’s packed with lots of heart.


Quotes from the Book

“Noah holds the old man’s hand, the man who taught him to fish and to never be afraid of big thoughts and to look at the night’s sky and understand that it’s made of numbers. Mathematics has blessed the boy in that sense, because he’s no longer afraid of the thing almost everyone else is terrified of:  infinity. Noah loves space because it never ends. It never dies. It’s the one thing in his life which won’t ever leave him.”

 


 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

the-language-of-flowers
Title
The Language of Flowers
Author:  Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Length:  334 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Content Notes:  Language (including brief strong language)


Victoria was raised in the foster system from the time she was a baby. When she turned 18 years old, she had a certain amount of time in a transitional home to find a job and get set up on her own. But instead of looking for jobs, all she wanted to do was grow flowers. For Victoria, flowers were a part of her world that was therapeutic for her. She also has a gift for matching the right flowers with the right person. This gripping novel takes you on a journey through Victoria’s life as she tries to deal with the past and find healing. You will not want to put this book down.


Quotes from the Book

…it seemed that Earl, and then Bethany, walked home with a bouquet of flowers expecting change, and the very belief in the possibility instigated a transformation.” (pg. 113)


 

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

the-storied-life-of-a-j-fikry
Title
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Author:  Gabrielle Zevin
Length:  258 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Content Notes:  Language (including some strong language)


A. J. Fikry and his wife opened a bookstore several years ago. After his wife passed away, A. J. continued to run the bookstore. One day, someone unexpectedly leaves a baby in his store. This novel is a heartwarming story of loss, finding love again, and the power of books to bring people together.


Quotes from the Book

Remember, Maya:  the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.” (pg.41)

You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?” (pg. 87)

Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time.” (pg. 92)


 

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

big-little-lies
Title
Big Litte Lies
Author:  Liane Moriarty
Length:  458 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Content Notes:  Strong Language


In the beginning chapters of the book, you find out that there’s an investigation taking place in a small beach-side community. The book switches back and forth from the present time and the investigation to the past and all that happened in the months before the incident occurred. The main focus is on the lives of three women who all have hard issues they are dealing with. From the bookflap:  “Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.” This was one book I couldn’t put down.

 


 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Title
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author:  Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Length:  274 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Content Notes:  Language


Juliet Ashton is a writer known for her light-hearted series about Izzy Bickerstaff; but she doesn’t want to write light-hearted pieces now. One day, she receives a letter from someone she doesn’t know who happened to find her name in a book he now owns. He lives on the island of Guernsey and wants to know if she will give him the name and address of a bookshop in London where he could find more books by Charles Lamb. They begin writing back and forth and what transpires is an unforgettable story that is delightful and charming, deep and moving. One minute you’ll be laughing , the next minute you’ll be in tears. It is funny, heartbreaking, sassy, genuine. Written in the epistolary style, these characters come to life as you read about war, love, loyalty and the power of books to unite and sustain.


Quotes from the Book

That’s what I love about reading:  one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book.” (pg. 11)