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Showing posts from July, 2012

Fathers and Sons

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Arkady Kirsanov, recent graduate of the University of St Petersburg, comes home to visit his father Nikolai and uncle Pavel at the Kirsanov estate in the country.  Nikolai is anxious to give his son a warm welcome, even if it means putting up with Arkady's new friend, the arrogant Yevgeny Bazarov.  Bazarov has abandoned social conventions and traditions while expounding upon the virtues of nihilism, which causes growing hostility between him and the conservative Pavel.  Arkady goes on to visit Bazarov's parents and begins to discover that Bazarov is not exactly what he thought he was.

Ivan Turgenev's short novel is truly an underrated classic.  Fast-paced and witty, the plot's complexity is worthy of a longer book, while the setting gives us another perspective of Russian history--neither quite Pushkin nor Dostoyevsky.  Fathers and Sons came highly rated, but I didn't know it was going to be such a page-turner, hard to put down!

Set in 1859, this book is about the ge…

The Mystery of Cloomber

General Heatherstone is not an unfriendly person, really.  He's just very, very nervous.  So nervous, in fact, that he has converted his new home, Cloomber Hall, into a fortress and keeps his family as veritable prisoners behind its walls.  His neighbor John Fothergill West has taken an interest in the Heatherstones, and John soon finds motives besides curiosity for uncovering the general's secret enemies, who seem to have superhuman powers at their command.

I had high hopes for this novella by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I must give it an unfortunate 2 out of 5 stars.  I don't ascribe to the opinion that Doyle's non-Sherlock writings are inferior; in fact, I've enjoyed much of his other writing, which may account for my disappointment with this one.

There are some wonderful descriptions, a good dose of mysterious happenings, and a magnificent shipwreck scene.  I also felt that Doyle's portrayal of the Afridis was a sympathetic one.

However, the book's slow pa…

The Trial

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A good book, a bad book, a "love it or hate it" book.  It takes some willpower for me to review Franz Kafka's The Trial as objectively as possible, but I must give it a mixed-feelings rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars.

I believe I began reading this book last fall, before putting it aside for months and then finishing it recently.  It's the sort of book you can resume at any moment--because, apart from the beginning and the end, nothing happens.  I learned nothing and was intrigued.  It's evidently deep but reads like light summer reading.  It's a good book to read in public, because it will hold your interest despite distractions.

In a nutshell:The Trial is about a guy who, one fine morning, gets "arrested" for unknown reasons.  And by "arrest", it is not a "go directly to jail" arrest or even a house arrest--nothing so clear-cut and reassuring.  And "the Trial" is not about a trial in the typical sense, but about the trials

From Eyre to Onegin

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After reading Eugene Onegin, it struck me that it shares several essential similarities with a more famous romantic classic, Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë).



There's the Gothic side, for example.  Jane Eyre is considered to be "Gothic", and Eugene Onegin holds elements of it as well.  The letter-writing scene has a sense of gloom about it, but more eerie is the dream sequence, with its fantastical creatures and irony.  And Byronic heroes?  Enter Edward Rochester and Eugene Onegin.  Both are former socialites, now living out empty lives in empty ancestral houses.  Both despise the high society where they once distinguished themselves.  Both believe they've seen all there is to life and human nature.  

(Spoilers alert)



Tatyana Larin and Jane Eyre are hardly less similar.  Tatyana is quiet and plain, keeping her feelings very much to herself.  So does Jane.  Jane expresses her feelings spontaneously, and so does Tatyana (though more elaborately).  They're both of them r…