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Showing posts from January, 2011

The Shadow-Line

The Shadow-Line, A Confession
by Joseph Conrad
Edition:  Oxford World's Classics, paperback
My overall rating:  5 out of 5 stars.  Recommended.

A young merchant officer finds his career taking an unforeseen turn, when he is suddenly promoted to becoming captain of his first ship.  What he doesn't know is that its last captain died a deranged man; and the ship's second-in-command, Mr Burns, is still haunted by the memory. And when the voyage starts to go very wrong, the new captain realises he must fight something different than physical hardships, if he is to lead the ship safely to port.

This is the third story by Conrad I've read, and maybe even the best.  It is only about 130 pages long and very readable, but Conrad's signature style--full of eerie atmosphere, eccentric characters, and intense narration--was strong from start to finish.  At the same time, The Shadow-Line has a very youthful narrator with an entirely different "voice" than Marlowe (the narr…

The Master of Ballantrae

The Master of Ballantrae
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edition:  Dover, paperback
My overall rating:  3.8 out of 5 stars

Charming, conniving, cruel, yet loved by almost all who know him, James Durisdeer is the oldest son of a Scottish nobleman, and destined--as he believes--for a life of fame, success, and power.  Against others' wishes, he leaves his estate and sets out to become a soldier, only to find that his immoral and wasteful lifestyle leads him to ruin.  He takes out his anger on his younger brother, through whom James means to drain the Durisdeer estate of its wealth.

But apart from James, this book is as much about Henry Durie, who is the younger brother and the more responsible of the two.  Like Guy Morville, Gregor Samsa, and Frodo Baggins, Henry is an upright young man with a strong sense of duty, a person whose consistent goodness is just as consistently persecuted by evil.  Unlike saintly Sir Guy and stoic Frodo, however, Henry is more of an average guy, who heart is torn b…