Book Review: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

I’ve been hoarding my beautiful Vintage Classic edition of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY for some time, so I was excited to make the time to revisit an old favourite during my month of selfish reading.

I was giving the gentlest of nudges to hurry up and get reading by the brilliant author of THE GIRL ON THE PAGE, John Purcell, who reminded me of the universality of Jane Austen’s novels in his bestselling debut. We have since bonded on Twitter over our mutual agreement that there is no problem in the world that can’t be made better by curling up my favourite classic author.

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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen

“I do not attempt to deny,” said she, “that I think very highly of him – that I greatly esteem, that I like him.”

Paperback, 444 pages

Published: June 26th 2014 by Vintage Classics (first published October 30th 1811)

Original Title: Sense and Sensibility

ISBN: 0099589346 (ISBN13: 9780099589341)

Goodreads

“Elinor is as prudent as her sister Marianne is impetuous. Each must learn from the other after they are they are forced by their father’s death to leave their home and enter into the contests of polite society. The charms of unsuitable men and the schemes of rival ladies mean that their paths to success are thwart with disappointment but together they attempt to find a way to happiness.”

 

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It’s been years since I read SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, or any of Jane Austen’s novels, and it felt just like catching up with a good friend. Austen’s debut novel tells the story of two sisters, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, who are about as  different as two sisters can be.

Marianne is the youngest and has the very strong opinions commonly found in teenagers. She is convinced that her future husband will love all the same things as she does, will sweep her off her feet in a whirlwind romance, and that it is only possible to truly love one person.

Elinor is far more sensible and spends a great deal of her time making excuses for Marianne’s rudeness to potential beaux and well-meaning neighbours alike.

The novel begins when Mr Dashwood’s death means that the girls and their mother are forced to leave their home to allow their elder half brother and his greedy wife to move in. This reflects Austen’s own life, as she was also forced to move due to unfavourable inheritances.

Marianne finds romance with the charming Willoughby, while scorning the elder and far more steady Colonel Brandon. Elinor is left wondering if her romance with her sister in law’s brother, Edward Ferrars, was all she thought it was when she encounters a rival she never knew existed.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed reading SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Even though this was Austen’s very first novel, it is a delightful read. I couldn’t help but think on this reading that a lot of the problems he characters went through were very British and could have been solved with a little bit of straight talking, but their polite inability to say what they really think is one of the reasons the rest of the world loves the British so much.

5 stars!

 

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ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

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ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

 

David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

I read ON THE ROAD as part of the David Bowie reading challenge #DBowieBooks. David Bowie was an avid reader and I am attempting to read my way through his 100 favourite books. Follow the links below to check out my reviews of the books I’ve read so far.

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

6. The Art of War

7. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

8. On the Road

 

Goodreads Synopsis

 

When Jack Kerouac’s On the Road first appeared in 1957, readers instantly felt the beat of a new literary rhythm. A fictionalised account of his own journeys across America with his friend Neal Cassady, Kerouac’s beatnik odyssey captured the soul of a generation and changed the landscape of American fiction for ever.

Influenced by Jack London and Thomas Wolfe, Kerouac always wanted to be a writer, but his true voice only emerged when he wrote about his own experiences in On the Road. Leaving a broken marriage behind him, Sal Paradise (Kerouac) joins Dean Moriarty (Cassady), a tearaway and former reform school boy, on a series of journeys that takes them from New York to San Francisco, then south to Mexico. Hitching rides and boarding buses, they enter a world of hobos and drifters, fruit-pickers and migrant families, small towns and wide horizons. Adrift from conventional society, they experience America in the raw: a place where living is hard, but ‘life is holy and every moment is precious’.

With its smoky, jazz-filled atmosphere and its restless, yearning spirit of adventure, On the Road left its mark on the culture of the late 20th century, influencing countless books, films and songs. Kerouac’s prose is remarkable both for its colloquial swing and for the pure lyricism inspired by the American landscape – ‘the backroads, the black-tar roads that curve among the mournful rivers like Susquehanna, Monongahela, old Potomac and Monocacy’. This Folio Society edition is illustrated with evocative photographs of Kerouac and the landscapes of 1950s America. Now acknowledged as a modern classic, On the Road remains a thrilling and poignant story of the road less travelled.

 

My 5 Star Review

 

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“And this was really the way that my whole road trip experience began, and the things that were to come are too fantastic not to tell.” – ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

 

ON THE ROAD is widely considered a classic American novel and has inspired generations of young travellers. Jack Kerouac writes autobiographically about his travel across America from east to west and then down south to Mexico with his rag tag group of beatnik friends in the late 1940s.

Kerouac tells the story of the emerging beat generation and what it means to be beat. He captures the essence of one of the first American post-war counter-cultures through a richly descriptive stream of consciousness narrative style. The way the novel is written reminds me of the crazy kind of drunk conversations you would have at around 3 am at a house party with some guy you’ve never met before. It takes some time to get into this kind of writing style because it jumps around a lot, but I think it was the perfect choice to capture these characters in this specific time and place.

I found ON THE ROAD to be such fascinating modern classic because it so perfectly captures the spirit of the time it was written in and the culture that Kerouac and the characters who inspired the novel helped to create. Post-war America is such an interesting time to me from a sociological perspective. The idea of teenagers and leisure time were first invented during this period, and advertising was also fast becoming a huge part of our lives. The beatniks that Kerouac so passionately describes were also the foundations that inspired many counter-cultures.

About the Author

 

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Neal Cassady (inspiration for Dean Moriarty character) and Jack Kerouac

 

Jack Kerouac, original name Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, (born March 12, 1922, Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.—died October 21, 1969, St. Petersburg, Florida), American novelist, poet, and leader of the Beat movement whose most famous book, On the Road (1957), had broad cultural influence before it was recognized for its literary merits. On the Road captured the spirit of its time as no other work of the 20th century had since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925).

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THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark #bookreview #tuesdaybookblog

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THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark

Goodreads Blurb

‘Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life…’

Passionate, free-thinking and unconventional, Miss Brodie is a teacher who exerts a powerful influence over her group of ‘special girls’ at Marcia Blaine School. They are the Brodie set, the crème de la crème, each famous for something – Monica for mathematics, Eunice for swimming, Rose for sex – who are initiated into a world of adult games and extracurricular activities they will never forget. But the price they pay is their undivided loyalty …

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a brilliantly comic novel featuring one of the most unforgettable characters in all literature.

My Review 

Miss Jean Brodie is an eccentric Edinburgh teacher in the 1930s. She selects a set of six girls who are each famous in their own ways – Monica for mathematics, Eunice for swimming, Rose for sex – to take under her wing throughout their school years. Her ways of interacting with the girls begins quite unconventionally and progresses to extremely adult and inappropriate extracurricular activities. In return for Miss Brodie’s special treatment and the added style and popularity the girls receive as being part of the exclusive Brodie Set the girls remain completely loyal to their mentor until one of them betrays her in the worst possible way.

THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE is only a short novel, but I still found it a bit of the chore to read. Jean Brodie did have many comedic moments, but I just found her to be an incredibly irritating character. She was often cruel and childish and I could never figure out why she was so invested in her girls. I also wondered why none of the other teachers or the girls’ parents didn’t seem to notice there was something off about her.

This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

6. The Art of War

7. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Links

Goodreads

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Amazon AU

 

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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Synopsis

Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote’s comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human. The book that made Capote’s name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative.

My Thoughts

In Cold Blood is widely regarded as Truman Capote’s best and most influential novels. It tells the true story of the murder of the Clutter family in 1959. The Clutters were a well-respected family of four in the tiny farming town of Holcomb, Kansas – Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon. They were brutally murdered by two petty criminals who were on the hunt for a non-existent safe full of cash but actually made off with about $50 and a radio.

Capote was a journalist at the time and, with his childhood friend Harper Lee, traveled to Holcomb to cover the story of one of the most gruesome of senseless murders of the time. Capote spent five years in Holcomb, mixing a blend of fact gleaned from interviewing the protagonists and fiction to write In Cold Blood.

I’m glad I gave myself the opportunity to read In Cold Blood properly. I have studied parts of this novel in several of my writing units at uni and I regret reading it in bits and pieces first. I wish I’d done it the other way round because I did find it difficult when I came to sections I had read previously. And it was impossible not to think of all the academic kind of stuff I had covered previously.

I am glad I studied this novel, though, because there are so many interesting things about it and the way it was written. In Cold Blood was a completely new style of writing at the time. Crime and mystery fiction have always been popular genres, but In Cold Blood isn’t fiction. And many parts aren’t quite factual either. Capote called this sensational new style of writing New Journalism and this development has been incredibly influential in the crime and mystery genres (and many would argue in journalism!) ever since.

Now I feel better by covering some of the academic reasons for why  In Cold Blood is a modern classic I will finish by recommending this novel to all the true crime fans out there. Capote’s blend of fact and fiction is a masterpiece and the only thing I regret is not reading it earlier.

And finally, here is a rather cute pic of my crazy Zeus checking out my copy!

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Details

Title: In Cold Blood

Author: Truman Capote

ISBN: 0141182571 (ISBN13: 9780141182575)

Published: February 3rd 2000 by Penguin (first published 1965)

Genre: Classics, Modern Classics, True Crime

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

6. The Art of War

7. In Cold Blood

The Art of War by Sun Tzu: #bookreview #DBowieBooks

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Goodreads Synopsis

Conflict is an inevitable part of life, according to this ancient Chinese classic of strategy, but everything necessary to deal with conflict wisely, honorably, victoriously, is already present within us. Compiled more than two thousand years ago by a mysterious warrior-philosopher, The Art of War is still perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it has been by military leaders since ancient times. As a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict, The Art of War applies to competition and conflict in general, on every level from the interpersonal to the international. Its aim is invincibility, victory without battle, and unassailable strength through understanding the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict.

(Original publication date was circa 500 BCE.)

Details

Title: The Art of War

Author: Sun Tzu

ISBN: 1590302257 (ISBN13: 9781590302255)

Published: Originally published circa 500 BCE

Genre: Classics, Eastern Philosophy, Non-Fiction

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 4/5 StarsThis book is part of the

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

6. The Art of War

My Thoughts

Although The Art of War was written over 2000 years as a war manual for Chinese soldiers, many of the lessons can be applied to almost any situation where there is conflict, particularly the business world. The 13 topics in each chapter include: laying plans, attack by strangers. tactical dispositions, energy, weak points and strong, maneuvering, variation in tactics, the army on the march, terrain, the nine situations, the attack by fire, and, the use of spies.

While it is relatively safe to skip some of the more detailed descriptions of Chinese terrain, there are some valuable and universal lessons to be learned. The biggest take aways for me is that to effectively ‘win’ when conflict arises it is important to learn as much about the situation as possible and deploy the right tactic for each situation. Only sometimes is an all-out attack is the best option:

“To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”.

The Art of War is the 6th book I read since undertaking the David Bowie Reading Challenge approximately one year ago and today is the anniversary of the day Ziggy Stardust went back home. I still wish he was here but the past 12 months have brought my own little Ziggy Stardust into my life and I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated every single book that I’ve read from David Bowie’s top 100 books of all time.

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My own Ziggy Stardust

 

I’m going to pair this novel with David Bowie’s recently released posthumously track, No Plan. After being ripped off in his early years Bowie strategically built his empire to be so strong that he is still in control of when and how his music is released!

Review: Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is famous for being banned for its racy sex scenes. There is a lot ofchatterley  discussion about sex and quite a lot of swear words are sprinkled throughout, but it really isn’t that controversial for this day and age.

The novel was published in 1928, so it definitely was very sexual for those times. What I think is much more interesting about this novel is the discussion surrounding class the way Lawrence viewed the ways that England had changed due to the Industrial Revolution. These views were extrememly controversial for the 1920s and this is what makes Lady Chatterley’s Lover such an important novel. It’s a snapshot of a time of great upheaval.

I also found the contrast between this novel and The Great Gatsby interesting. They were both written about the same time but from very different perspectives. Where The Great Gatsby is about the wealthy New Yorkers, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is about the titled familys of England.

I found Lady Chatterley’s Lover to be a bit of a slow read. I really didn’t feel very interested in any of the main characters and didn’t much care what happened to them in the end. I did find Lawrence’s views on class and the industrialisation of England enlightening and found myself pausing to highlight quite a bit.

Definitely a novel worth reading, but not simply for racy sex scenes. I do wonder if the 2020s will be as tumultuous as the 1920s? That seems about the right time for the digital revolution to be in full effect!

David Bowie Song:

Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie feels like a good choice to describe the pressure felt by the workers during this period

 


Description

LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER was banned on its publication in 1928, creating a storm of controversy. Lawrence tells the story of Constance Chatterley’s marriage to Sir Clifford, an aristocratic and an intellectual who is paralyzed from the waist down after the First World War. Desperate for an heir and embarrassed by his inability to satisfy his wife, Clifford suggests that she have an affair. Constance, troubled by her husband’s words, finds herself involved in a passionate relationship with their gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. Lawrence’s vitriolic denunciations of industrialism and class division come together in his vivid depiction of the profound emotional and physical connection between a couple otherwise divided by station and society

Details

Title: Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Author: D.H. Lawrence

Published: 1928

ISBN: 0007925557 (ISBN13: 9780007925551)

Genre: Classics, Literature, Romance, Historical Fiction

Pages: 402

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

Books Read: 4/100

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Review: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Horrorshow raskazz with lashings of ultraviolence! clockwork

A Clockwork Orange is a modern classic. Published in 1962, it depicts a frightening dystopian future where youths hopped up on drugs run riot in the streets and terrorise people in their own homes. Alex, our humble narrator, is one of those youths.  Even though it is obvious he knows better, he is determined to continue on his merry way wreaking havoc with his droogs (friends), until they set him up and he is sent to prison. Alex undertakes an unusual and horrifying form of ‘therapy’ which makes him physically unable to perform or even think about acts of violence and is unceremoniously discharged from prison and left to fend for himself.

This novel raises some important questions about the matters of free will and choice. Is it morally ethical to remove a person’s ability to choose their own behaviour? How about when it means they will cease to commit acts of violence against others? Clearly the message this novel conveys is that is unethical to remove a person’s free will. I almost began to feel sorry for Alex when he was first released from prison and was unable to defend himself, but I soon got over that when he went straight back to his old ways as soon as he was able to.

The Final Chapter

My edition does contain the final chapter which is missing from many versions, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s film. I found it to be a bit of let down. I liked the idea of Alex deciding to change his ways, but thought the way he reached his decision was a bit unbelievable. It didn’t gel with anything we’d heard from him previously to just up and decide to be good for no other reason besides he wants a wife and child one day. Of course, I believe anyone can change, but there usually needs to be some kind of motivating event. Like maybe an actual wife and child.

Besides from that, it’s a must read. The made up language, nadsat, can be difficult to get into. I found this nadsat dictionary very useful for the first few chapters, but it is quite easy to get into the hang of it.

EDIT 24/02/16

I forgot to include my David Bowie song to match A Clockwork Orange. Obviously it’s Girl Loves me!

 


Description

“What we were after was lashings of ultraviolence.”

In this nightmare vision of youth in revolt, fifteen-year-old Alex and his friends set out on a diabolical orgy of robbery, rape, torture and murder. Alex is jailed for his teenage delinquency and the State tries to reform him – but at what cost?

Social prophecy? Black comedy? A study of free will? A Clockwork Orange is all of these. It is also a dazzling experiment in language, as Burgess creates “nadsat”, the teenage slang of a not-too-distant future.

Details

Title: A Clockwork Orange

Author: Anthony Burgess

Published: 1962

ISBN: 0241951445 (ISBN13: 9780241951446)

Genre: Classics, Sci Fi, Dystopia, Literature

Pages: 141

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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Amazon UK

Book Depository (Free Shipping Worldwide)

Goodreads

This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

Books Read: 4/100

1984

The Great Gatsby

The Gnostic Gospels

A Clockwork Orange