Innocence of Father Brown (Father Brown #1) ★★★✬☆

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Title: Innocence of Father Brown
Series: Father Brown #1
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 269
Words: 78K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

“The Blue Cross”, The Story-Teller, September 1910; first published as “Valentin Follows a Curious Trail”, The Saturday Evening Post, 23 July 1910

“The Secret Garden”, The Story-Teller, October 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Sep 3, 1910

“The Queer Feet”, The Story-Teller, November 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Oct 1, 1910)

“The Flying Stars”, The Saturday Evening Post, 20 May 1911.

“The Invisible Man”, The Saturday Evening Post, 28 January 1911. (Cassell’s Magazine, Feb 1911)

The Honour of Israel Gow (as “The Strange Justice”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 March 1911.

“The Wrong Shape”, The Saturday Evening Post, 10 December 1910.

“The Sins of Prince Saradine”, The Saturday Evening Post, 22 April 1911.

The Hammer of God (as “The Bolt from the Blue”, The Saturday Evening Post, 5 November 1910.

“The Eye of Apollo”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 February 1911.

“The Sign of the Broken Sword”, The Saturday Evening Post, 7 January 1911.

“The Three Tools of Death”, The Saturday Evening Post, 24 June 1911.

My Thoughts:

While this series is categorized as a mystery, it’s not Sherlock or Wimsey or even Wolfe. Father Brown doesn’t go around looking at a thread caught on a bush and extrapolate the life story of the perp and then reveal him to the authorities. No, Father Brown studies the nature of fallen humanity, discovers the culprit and tries to get them to do the right thing, whether repentance or turning themselves in.

Chesterton was a converted Catholic and as such, Father Brown is pretty strong on his catholic doctrine. At the same time, it really didn’t come across as Chesterton trying to preach or convert his readers. He was trying to tell a great story first and for me, it worked.

The main thing that worked best for me though was the short story aspect. Chesterton wrote each story for a magazine back in the day and then had them collected later. I didn’t have to power through a whole novel and I could stop between stories without losing anything. I appreciate that simplicity and lack of tangled complexity that a lot of modern books seem to deliberately aim for.

One interesting aspect that stood out to me was that in several of the stories the villain of the piece took poison rather than face public justice. That happened in one of the Lord Peter Wimsey books too and I wonder if it was a “sensibility of the times” thing? I don’t think of the bad guys of today taking poison but either fighting or flight’ing or of readers caring one way or the other. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if it happens in any more stories.

A good addition to my reading rotation. Since I am also reading several other mystery series, I am going to be switch hitting the Complete Works of Chesterton with the Complete Works of the Sisters’ Bronte. That way I don’t Mystery myself out 🙂

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood ★★★★☆

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Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 249
Words: 94.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins as John Jasper leaves a London opium den.[4] The next evening, Edwin Drood visits Jasper, who is the choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral and also his uncle. Edwin confides that he has misgivings about his betrothal to Rosa Bud, which had been previously arranged by their respective fathers. The next day, Edwin visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House, the boarding school where she lives. They quarrel good-naturedly, which they apparently do frequently during his visits. Meanwhile, Jasper, having an interest in the cathedral crypt, seeks the company of Durdles, a man who knows more about the crypt than anyone else.

Neville Landless and his twin sister Helena are sent to Cloisterham for their education. Neville will study with the minor canon Rev. Crisparkle; Helena will live at the Nuns’ House with Rosa. Neville confides to Rev. Crisparkle that he had hated his cruel stepfather, while Rosa confides to Helena that she loathes and fears her music-master, Jasper. Neville is immediately smitten with Rosa and is indignant that Edwin prizes his betrothal lightly. Edwin provokes him and he reacts violently, giving Jasper the opportunity to spread rumours about Neville’s having a violent temper. Rev. Crisparkle tries to reconcile Edwin and Neville, who agrees to apologise to Edwin if the former will forgive him. It is arranged that they will dine together for this purpose on Christmas Eve at Jasper’s home.

Rosa’s guardian, Mr. Grewgious, tells her that she has a substantial inheritance from her father. When she asks whether there would be any forfeiture if she did not marry Edwin, he replies that there would be none on either side. Back at his office in London, Mr. Grewgious gives Edwin a ring which Rosa’s father had given to her mother, with the proviso that Edwin must either give the ring to Rosa as a sign of his irrevocable commitment to her or return it to Mr. Grewgious. Mr. Bazzard, Mr. Grewgious’s clerk, witnesses this transaction.

Next day, Rosa and Edwin amicably agree to end their betrothal. They decide to ask Mr. Grewgious to break the news to Jasper, and Edwin intends to return the ring to Mr. Grewgious. Meanwhile, Durdles takes Jasper into the cathedral crypt. On the way there Durdles points out a mound of quicklime. Jasper provides a bottle of wine to Durdles. The wine is mysteriously potent and Durdles soon loses consciousness; while unconscious he dreams that Jasper goes off by himself in the crypt. As they return from the crypt, they encounter a boy called Deputy, and Jasper, thinking he was spying on them, takes him by the throat – but, seeing that this will strangle him, lets him go.

On Christmas Eve, Neville buys himself a heavy walking stick; he plans to spend his Christmas break hiking around the countryside. Meanwhile, Edwin visits a jeweler to repair his pocket watch; it is mentioned that the only pieces of jewelery that he wears are the watch and chain and a shirt pin. By chance he meets a woman who is an opium user from London. She asks Drood’s Christian name and he replies that it is ‘Edwin’; she says he is fortunate it is not ‘Ned,’ for ‘Ned’ is in great danger. He thinks nothing of this, for the only person who calls him ‘Ned’ is Jasper. Meanwhile, Jasper buys himself a black scarf of strong silk, which is not seen again during the course of the novel. The reconciliation dinner is successful and at midnight, Drood and Neville Landless leave together to go down to the river and look at a wind storm that rages that night.

The next morning Edwin is missing and Jasper spreads suspicion that Neville has killed him. Neville leaves early in the morning for his hike; the townspeople overtake him and forcibly bring him back to the city. Rev. Crisparkle keeps Neville out of jail by taking responsibility for him, stating that he will produce Neville anytime his presence is required. That night, Jasper is grief-stricken when Mr. Grewgious informs him that Edwin and Rosa had ended their betrothal; he reacts more strongly to this news than to the prospect that Edwin may be dead. The next morning, Rev. Crisparkle goes to the river weir and finds Edwin’s watch and chain and shirt pin.

A half-year later, Neville is living in London near Mr. Grewgious’s office. Lieutenant Tartar introduces himself and offers to share his garden with Landless; Lt. Tartar’s chambers are adjacent to Neville’s above a common courtyard. A white-haired and -whiskered stranger calling himself Dick Datchery arrives in Cloisterham. He rents a room below Jasper and observes the comings and goings in the area. On his way to the lodging the first time, Mr. Datchery asks directions from Deputy. Deputy will not go near there for fear that Jasper will choke him again.

Jasper visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House and professes his love for her. She rejects him but he persists, telling her that if she gives him no hope he will destroy Neville, the brother of her dear friend Helena. In fear of Jasper, Rosa goes to Mr. Grewgious in London.

The next day Rev. Crisparkle follows Rosa to London. When he is with Mr. Grewgious and Rosa, Lt. Tartar calls and asks if he remembers him. Rev. Crisparkle does remember him as the one who years before saved him from drowning. They do not dare let Rosa contact Neville and Helena directly, for fear that Jasper may be watching Neville, but Mr. Tartar allows Rosa to visit his chambers to contact Helena above the courtyard. Mr. Grewgious arranges for Rosa to rent a place from Mrs. Billickin and for Miss Twinkleton to live with her there so that she can live there respectably.

Jasper visits the London opium den again for the first time since Edwin’s disappearance. When he leaves at dawn, the woman who runs the opium den follows him. She vows to herself that she will not lose his trail again as she did after his last visit. This time, she follows him all the way to his home in Cloisterham; outside she meets Datchery, who tells her Jasper’s name and that he will sing the next morning in the cathedral service. On inquiry, Datchery learns she is called “Princess Puffer.” The next morning she attends the service and shakes her fists at Jasper from behind a pillar.

Dickens’s death leaves the rest of the story unknown.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, the whole time I was reading this all I could think of was how it was unfinished and no matter how much I thought, it would never BE finished. Not a very good mindset to get as much enjoyment from the story, that’s for sure.

This was so on track for being awesome. The characters were everything I wanted in a Dickens novel. The good guys were good, the bad guy was REALLY bad and the girls were brave and fearless. The latecomers were manly and proud and I was really looking forward to seeing them developed.

This had all of the ingredients I could have asked for. Dickens just left them on the counter in the mixing bowl without cooking them. And unfortunately, it wasn’t cookie dough so I couldn’t take a chance and eat it raw.

I will say that this has gotten me interested in other authors who have tried to finish the story. If any of you have a good suggestion, please let me know.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Tale of Two Cities ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A Tale of Two Cities
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 368
Words: 136.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In 1775, a man flags down the nightly mail-coach on its route from London to Dover. The man is Jerry Cruncher, an employee of Tellson’s Bank in London; he carries a message for Jarvis Lorry, a passenger and one of the bank’s managers. Lorry sends Jerry back to deliver a cryptic response to the bank: “Recalled to Life.” The message refers to Alexandre Manette, a French physician who has been released from the Bastille after an 18-year imprisonment. Once Lorry arrives in Dover, he meets Dr. Manette’s daughter Lucie and her governess, Miss Pross. Lucie has believed her father to be dead, and faints at the news that he is alive; Lorry takes her to France to reunite with her father.

In the Paris neighbourhood of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Dr. Manette has been given lodgings by his former servant Ernest Defarge and his wife Therese, owners of a wine shop. Lorry and Lucie find him in a small garret, where he spends much of his time making shoes – a skill he learned in prison – which he uses to distract himself from his thoughts and which has become an obsession for him. He does not recognise Lucie at first but does eventually see the resemblance to her mother through her blue eyes and long golden hair, a strand of which he found on his sleeve when he was imprisoned. Lorry and Lucie take him back to England.

Book the Second: The Golden Thread

In 1780, French émigré Charles Darnay is on trial for treason against the British Crown. The key witnesses against him are two British spies, John Barsad and Roger Cly, who claim that Darnay gave information about British troops in North America to the French. Under cross-examination by Mr. Stryver, the barrister defending Darnay, Barsad claims that he would recognise Darnay anywhere. Stryver points out his colleague, Sydney Carton, who bears a strong resemblance to Darnay, and Barsad admits that the two men look nearly identical. With Barsad’s eyewitness testimony now discredited, Darnay is acquitted.

In Paris, the hated and abusive Marquis St. Evrémonde orders his carriage driven recklessly fast through the crowded streets, hitting and killing the child of Gaspard in Saint Antoine. The Marquis throws a coin to Gaspard to compensate him for his loss. Defarge, having observed the incident, comes forth to comfort the distraught father, saying the child would be worse off alive. This piece of wisdom pleases the Marquis, who throws a coin to Defarge also. As the Marquis departs, a coin is flung back into his carriage.

Arriving at his country château, the Marquis meets his nephew and heir, Darnay. Out of disgust with his aristocratic family, the nephew has shed his real surname (St. Evrémonde) and anglicised his mother’s maiden name, D’Aulnais, to Darnay.[6] The following passage records the Marquis’ principles of aristocratic superiority:

“Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend,” observed the Marquis, “will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof,” looking up to it, “shuts out the sky.”[7]

That night, Gaspard, who followed the Marquis to his château by riding on the underside of the carriage, stabs and kills him in his sleep. Gaspard leaves a note on the knife saying, “Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES.”[8] After nearly a year on the run, he is caught and hanged above the village well.

In London, Darnay asks for Dr. Manette’s permission to wed Lucie, but Carton confesses his love to Lucie as well. Knowing she will not love him in return, Carton promises to “embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you”.[9] Stryver considers proposing marriage to Lucie, but Lorry talks him out of the idea.

On the morning of the marriage, Darnay reveals his real name and family lineage to Dr. Manette, a detail he had been asked to withhold until that day. In consequence, Dr. Manette reverts to his obsessive shoemaking after the couple leave for their honeymoon. He returns to sanity before their return, and the whole incident is kept secret from Lucie. Lorry and Miss Pross destroy the shoemaking bench and tools, which Dr. Manette had brought with him from Paris.

As time passes in England, Lucie and Charles begin to raise a family, a son (who dies in childhood) and a daughter, little Lucie. Lorry finds a second home and a sort of family with the Darnays. Stryver marries a rich widow with three children and becomes even more insufferable as his ambitions begin to be realised. Carton, even though he seldom visits, is accepted as a close friend of the family and becomes a special favourite of little Lucie.

In July 1789, the Defarges help to lead the storming of the Bastille, a symbol of royal tyranny. Defarge enters Dr. Manette’s former cell, “One Hundred and Five, North Tower,”[10] and searches it thoroughly. Throughout the countryside, local officials and other representatives of the aristocracy are dragged from their homes to be killed, and the St. Evrémonde château is burned to the ground.

In 1792, Lorry decides to travel to Paris to collect important documents from the Tellson’s branch in that city and place them in safekeeping against the chaos of the French Revolution. Darnay intercepts a letter written by Gabelle, one of his uncle’s servants who has been imprisoned by the revolutionaries, pleading for the Marquis to help secure his release. Without telling his family or revealing his position as the new Marquis, Darnay sets out for Paris.

Book the Third: The Track of a Storm

Shortly after Darnay arrives in Paris, he is denounced for being an emigrated aristocrat from France and jailed in La Force Prison.[11] Dr. Manette, Lucie, little Lucie, Jerry, and Miss Pross travel to Paris and meet Lorry to try to free Darnay. A year and three months pass, and Darnay is finally tried.

Dr Manette, viewed as a hero for his imprisonment in the Bastille, testifies on Darnay’s behalf at his trial. Darnay is released, only to be arrested again later that day. A new trial begins the following day, under new charges brought by the Defarges and a third individual who is soon revealed as Dr Manette. He had written an account of his imprisonment at the hands of Darnay’s father and hidden it in his cell; Defarge found it while searching the cell during the storming of the Bastille.

While running errands with Jerry, Miss Pross is amazed to see her long-lost brother Solomon, but he does not want to be recognised in public. Carton suddenly steps forward from the shadows and identifies Solomon as Barsad, one of the spies who tried to frame Darnay for treason at his trial in 1780. Jerry remembers that he has seen Solomon with Cly, the other key witness at the trial, and that Cly had faked his death to escape England. By threatening to denounce Solomon to the revolutionary tribunal as a Briton, Carton blackmails him into helping with a plan.

At the tribunal, Defarge identifies Darnay as the nephew of the dead Marquis St. Evrémonde and reads Dr Manette’s letter. Defarge had learned Darnay’s lineage from Solomon during the latter’s visit to the wine shop several years earlier. The letter describes Dr Manette’s imprisonment at the hands of Darnay’s father and uncle for trying to report their crimes against a peasant family. Darnay’s uncle had become infatuated with a girl, whom he had kidnapped and raped; despite Dr. Manette’s attempt to save her, she died. The uncle killed her husband by working him to death, and her father died from a heart attack upon being informed of what had happened. Before he died defending the family honour, the brother of the raped peasant had hidden the last member of the family, his younger sister. The Evrémonde brothers imprisoned Dr. Manette after he refused their offer of a bribe to keep quiet. He concludes his letter by condemning the Evrémondes, “them and their descendants, to the last of their race.”[12] Dr. Manette is horrified, but he is not allowed to retract his statement. Darnay is sent to the Conciergerie and sentenced to be guillotined the next day.

Carton wanders into the Defarges’ wine shop, where he overhears Madame Defarge talking about her plans to have both Lucie and little Lucie condemned. Carton discovers that Madame Defarge was the surviving sister of the peasant family savaged by the Evrémondes.[13] At night, when Dr. Manette returns, shattered after spending the day in many failed attempts to save Darnay’s life, he falls into an obsessive search for his shoemaking implements. Carton urges Lorry to flee Paris with Lucie, her father, and Little Lucie, asking them to leave as soon as he joins.

Shortly before the executions are to begin, Solomon sneaks Carton into the prison for a visit with Darnay. The two men trade clothes, and Carton drugs Darnay and has Solomon carry him out. Carton has decided to be executed in his place, taking advantage of their similar appearances, and has given his own identification papers to Lorry to present on Darnay’s behalf. Following Carton’s earlier instructions, the family and Lorry flee to England with Darnay, who gradually regains consciousness during the journey.

Meanwhile, Madame Defarge, armed with a dagger and pistol, goes to the Manette residence, hoping to apprehend Lucie and little Lucie and bring them in for execution. However, the family is already gone and Miss Pross stays behind to confront and delay Madame Defarge. As the two women struggle, Madame Defarge’s pistol discharges, killing her and causing Miss Pross to go permanently deaf from noise and shock.

As Carton waits to board the tumbril that will take him to his execution, he is approached by another prisoner, a seamstress who had been incarcerated with Darnay. She mistakes Carton for him, but realises the truth upon seeing him at close range. Awed by his unselfish courage and sacrifice, she asks to stay close to him and he agrees. Upon their arrival at the guillotine, Carton comforts her, telling her that their ends will be quick and that the worries of their lives will not follow them into “the better land where … [they] will be mercifully sheltered.” He is guillotined immediately after the seamstress, a final prophetic thought running through his mind.

My Thoughts:

When I read this back in 2014, I was looking more at Sydney Carton and his story of redemption of a wasted life. I was impressed beyond words. This time around, I wanted to focus more on Charles Darnay, the french noble who renounced his family name and their degenerative lifestyle.

What a difference that made and sadly, not for the better. I’m still giving this 5 stars because it is a great story, but Darnay is no hero and really, if his part could have been even smaller it would have been better. He starts out with potential, defying his cruel uncle and giving up all of his inheritance and even his name to move to England to make an honest living working. Considering that the working man was below even a slave in the French Aristocracy’s view, Darnay was making a huge sacrifice.

Unfortunately, but true to form, Darnay still acts like an Aristocrat. When he receives the letter from the bailiff of his former estates, he takes it as his responsibility to free the man, even though Darnay had renounced his estates and had nothing to do with what was going on. He acted like an aristocrat when he chose to not talk about this to his wife or his father-in-law and skipped off to France. He acted like an aristocrat while in prison and just letting things happen. By the end, I was pretty disgusted with Ol’ Charley and if it weren’t for sympathy for his wife, I’d have told Sydney to let him die and scarper off to safer climes.

Lucie, Darnay’s wife IS a sympathetic character as is her father, the former Bastille prisoner. Dickens did an admirable job of painting them in a light that was gentle and soft but without making them weak and ineffectual.

Finally, we come to Madame Defarge. What a monstrously evil woman. Her bloodlust to kill Darnay and any that surround him was made all the more reprehensible by her backstory. While revenge against Darnay’s uncle is more than understandable, Madame Defarge perverts even that bit of possible sympathy by the audience by trying to kill Lucie and her daughter and Lucie’s father, all because they are associated with Darnay. Dickens shows in no uncertain terms that hatred cannot be reasoned with. You cannot talk someone out of hate, you cannot educate someone out of hate. Hate like that can only be changed supernaturally, by the power of God. It’s just not within us humans to be able to fix something so fundamentally broke within us.

This is exactly why I like Dickens so much. Every time I read his books I get something different. And I still enjoy the book too 🙂

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dombey and Son ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Dombey and Son
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 876
Words: 357.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story concerns Paul Dombey, the wealthy owner of the shipping company of the book’s title, whose dream is to have a son to continue his business. The book begins when his son is born and Dombey’s wife dies shortly after giving birth. Following the advice of Mrs. Louisa Chick, his sister, Dombey employs a wet nurse named Mrs. Richards (Toodle). Dombey already has a six-year-old daughter Florence, but, bitter at her not having been the desired boy, he neglects her continually. One day, Mrs. Richards, Florence, and her maid, Susan Nipper, secretly pay a visit to Mrs. Richard’s house in Staggs’s Gardens so that Mrs. Richards can see her children. During this trip, Florence becomes separated from them and is kidnapped for a short time by Good Mrs. Brown, before being returned to the streets. She makes her way to Dombey and Son’s offices in the City and there is found and brought home by Walter Gay, an employee of Mr. Dombey, who first introduces her to his uncle, the navigation instrument maker Solomon Gills, at his shop The Wooden Midshipman.

The child, named Paul after his father, is a weak and sickly child, who does not socialise normally with others; adults call him “old fashioned”. He is intensely fond of his sister Florence, who is deliberately neglected by her father as a supposedly irrelevant distraction. Paul is sent to the seaside at Brighton for his health, where he and Florence lodge with the ancient and acidic Mrs. Pipchin. Finding his health beginning to improve there, Mr. Dombey keeps him at Brighton and has him educated there at Dr. and Mrs. Blimber’s school, where he and the other boys undergo both an intense and arduous education under the tutelage of Mr. Feeder, B.A. and Cornelia Blimber. It is here that Paul is befriended by a fellow pupil, the amiable but weak-minded Mr. Toots.

Here, Paul’s health declines even further in this ‘great hothouse’ and he finally dies, still only six years old. Dombey pushes his daughter away from him after the death of his son, while she futilely tries to earn his love. In the meantime, young Walter sent off to fill a junior position in the firm’s counting house in Barbados through the manipulations of Mr Dombey’s confidential manager, Mr James Carker, ‘with his white teeth’, who sees him as a potential rival through his association with Florence. His boat is reported lost and he is presumed drowned. Walter’s uncle leaves to go in search of Walter, leaving his great friend Captain Edward Cuttle in charge of The Midshipman. Meanwhile, Florence is now left alone with few friends to keep her company.

Dombey goes to Leamington Spa with a new friend, Major Joseph B. Bagstock. The Major deliberately sets out to befriend Dombey to spite his neighbour in Princess’s Place, Miss Tox, who has turned cold towards him owing to her hopes – through her close friendship with Mrs Chick – of marrying Mr. Dombey. At the spa, Dombey is introduced via the Major to Mrs. Skewton and her widowed daughter, Mrs. Edith Granger. Mr. Dombey, on the lookout for a new wife since his son’s death, considers Edith a suitable match due to her accomplishments and family connections; he is encouraged by both the Major and her avaricious mother, but obviously feels no affection for her. After they return to London, Dombey remarries, effectively ‘buying’ the beautiful but haughty Edith as she and her mother are in a poor financial state. The marriage is loveless; his wife despises Dombey for his overbearing pride and herself for being shallow and worthless. Her love for Florence initially prevents her from leaving, but finally she conspires with Mr. Carker to ruin Dombey’s public image by running away together to Dijon. They do so after her final argument with Dombey in which he once again attempts to subdue her to his will. When he discovers that she has left him, he blames Florence for siding with her stepmother, striking her on the breast in his anger. Florence is forced to run away from home. Highly distraught, she finally makes her way to The Midshipman where she lodges with Captain Cuttle as he attempts to restore her to health. They are visited frequently by Mr. Toots and his prizefighter companion, the Chicken, since Mr. Toots has been desperately in love with Florence since their time together in Brighton.

Dombey sets out to find his wife. He is helped by Mrs. Brown and her daughter, Alice, who, as it turns out, was a former lover of Mr. Carker. After being transported as a convict for criminal activities, which Mr. Carker had involved her in, she is seeking her revenge against him now that she has returned to England. Going to Mrs. Brown’s house, Dombey overhears the conversation between Rob the Grinder – who is in the employment of Mr. Carker – and the old woman as to the couple’s whereabouts and sets off in pursuit. In the meantime, in Dijon, Mrs. Dombey informs Carker that she sees him in no better a light than she sees Dombey, that she will not stay with him, and she flees their apartment. Distraught, with both his financial and personal hopes lost, Carker flees from his former employer’s pursuit. He seeks refuge back in England, but being greatly overwrought, accidentally falls under a train and is killed.

After Carker’s death, it is discovered that he had been running the firm far beyond its means. This information is gleaned by Carker’s brother and sister, John and Harriet, from Mr. Morfin, the assistant manager at Dombey and Son, who sets out to help John Carker. He often overheard the conversations between the two brothers in which James, the younger, often abused John, the older, who was just a lowly clerk and who is sacked by Dombey because of his filial relationship to the former manager. As his nearest relations, John and Harriet inherit all Carker’s ill-gotten gains, to which they feel they have no right. Consequently, they surreptitiously give the proceeds to Mr. Dombey, through Mr. Morphin, who is instructed to let Dombey believe that they are merely something forgotten from the general wreck of his fortunes. Meanwhile, back at The Midshipman, Walter reappears, having been saved by a passing ship after floating adrift with two other sailors on some wreckage. After some time, he and Florence are finally reunited – not as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ but as lovers, and they marry prior to sailing for China on Walter’s new ship. This is also the time when Sol Gills returns to The Midshipman. As he relates to his friends, he received news whilst in Barbados that a homeward-bound China trader had picked up Walter and so had returned to England immediately. He said he had sent letters whilst in the Caribbean to his friend Ned Cuttle c/o Mrs MacStinger at Cuttle’s former lodgings, and the bemused Captain recounts how he fled the place, thus never receiving them.

Florence and Walter depart and Sol Gills is entrusted with a letter, written by Walter to her father, pleading for him to be reconciled towards them both. A year passes and Alice Brown has slowly been dying despite the tender care of Harriet Carker. One night Alice’s mother reveals that Alice herself is the illegitimate cousin of Edith Dombey (which accounts for their similarity in appearance when they both meet). In a chapter entitled ‘Retribution’, Dombey and Son goes bankrupt. Dombey retires to two rooms in his house and all its contents are put up for sale. Mrs. Pipchin, for some time the housekeeper, dismisses all the servants and she herself returns to Brighton, to be replaced by Mrs. Richards. Dombey spends his days sunk in gloom, seeing no-one and thinking only of his daughter:

He thought of her as she had been that night when he and his bride came home. He thought of her as she had been in all the home events of the abandoned house. He thought, now, that of all around him, she alone had never changed. His boy had faded into dust, his proud wife had sunk into a polluted creature, his flatterer and friend had been transformed into the worst of villains, his riches had melted away, the very walls that sheltered him looked on him as a stranger; she alone had turned the same, mild gentle look upon him always. Yes, to the latest and the last. She had never changed to him – nor had he ever changed to her – and she was lost.

However, one day Florence returns to the house with her baby son, Paul, and is lovingly reunited with her father.

Dombey accompanies his daughter to her and Walter’s house where he slowly starts to decline, cared for by Florence and also Susan Nipper, now Mrs. Toots. They receive a visit from Edith’s Cousin Feenix who takes Florence to Edith for one final time – Feenix sought Edith out in France and she returned to England under his protection. Edith gives Florence a letter, asking Dombey to forgive her her crime before her departure to the South of Italy with her elderly relative. As she says to Florence, ‘I will try, then to forgive him his share of the blame. Let him try to forgive me mine!’

The final chapter (LXII) sees Dombey now a white-haired old man ‘whose face bears heavy marks of care and suffering; but they are traces of a storm that has passed on for ever, and left a clear evening in its track’. Sol Gills and Ned Cuttle are now partners at The Midshipman, a source of great pride to the latter, and Mr and Mrs Toots announce the birth of their third daughter. Walter is doing well in business, having been appointed to a position of great confidence and trust, and Dombey is the proud grandfather of both a grandson and granddaughter whom he dotes on. The book ends with the highly moving lines:

‘Dear grandpapa, why do you cry when you kiss me?
He only answers, ‘Little Florence! Little Florence!’ and smooths away the curls that shade her earnest eyes.

My Thoughts:

This was a book about Luciferian Pride and just how destructive and ruinous such pride is.

While I enjoyed this tremendously while reading, it took me over 2 weeks to get through simply because the subject matter was so tough. Dickens does an admirable job of showing how Florence just wants her father to love her and how he does everything but that.

Even with the semi-happy ending, this was a book simply drenched in meloncholia. While Florence had a greater capacity than I to persevere, she was no bright eyed Pollyana with a song on her lips. She was greatly affected by her father’s treatment.

I also found that I wanted to throttle Captain Cuttle, another of the characters that I mentioned in my currently reading post earlier this month. He was so kind and gentle and at the same time he simply made everything worse. Everything. Even near the end when he finds out that Walter is back in England, he spends the whole day reminding Florence that Walter is drowned and dead:
 ‘Poor Wal’r, aye, aye. Drownded, ain’t he?’ 
I just wanted to throttle him even while laughing at his antics.

This is the book I’ll think of when someone mentions Dickens and run-on sentences and bloviated writing. It was quite noticeable and this is coming from me, who’s been re-reading Dickens for almost the last 3 years, so you know it was “bad”. I suspect that is another reason I took so long reading this. You couldn’t read this quickly or you’d lose yourself in his maze of words and have no clue what he was talking about by the end of a paragraph. This was definitely a book calling for comprehensive reading.

Overall, another great entry but not one I’d recommend to anyone new to Dickens. Save this for once you’ve had some experience. In other words, don’t try to run before you can walk!

★★★★★

Wuthering Heights ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Wuthering Heights
Series: ———-
Author: Emily Bronte
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 339
Words: 119.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In 1801, Lockwood, the new tenant at Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire, pays a visit to his landlord, Heathcliff, at his remote moorland farmhouse, Wuthering Heights. There he meets a reserved young woman (later identified as Cathy Linton); Joseph, a cantankerous servant; and Hareton, an uneducated young man who speaks like a servant. Everyone is sullen and inhospitable. Snowed in for the night, he reads some diary entries of a former inhabitant of his room, Catherine Earnshaw, and has a nightmare in which a ghostly Catherine begs to enter through the window. Woken by Lockwood, Heathcliff is troubled.

Lockwood’s housekeeper Ellen (Nelly) Dean tells him the story of the strange family.

Thirty years earlier, the Earnshaws live at Wuthering Heights with their children, Hindley and Catherine, and a servant — Nelly herself. Returning from a trip to Liverpool, Earnshaw brings a young orphan whom he names Heathcliff and treats as his favourite. His own children he neglects, especially after his wife dies. Hindley beats Heathcliff, who gradually becomes close friends with Catherine.

Hindley departs for university, returning as the new master of Wuthering Heights on the death of his father three years later. He and his new wife Frances allow Heathcliff to stay, but only as a servant.

Heathcliff and Catherine spy on Edgar Linton and his sister Isabella, children who live nearby at Thrushcross Grange. Catherine is attacked by their dog, and the Lintons take her in, sending Heathcliff home. When the Lintons visit, Hindley and Edgar make fun of Heathcliff and a fight ensues. Heathcliff is locked in the attic and vows revenge.

Frances dies after giving birth to a son, Hareton. Two years later, Catherine becomes engaged to Edgar. She confesses to Nelly that she still loves Heathcliff, and will try to help but cannot marry him because of his low social status. Nelly warns her against the plan. Heathcliff overhears part of the conversation and, misunderstanding Catherine’s heart, flees the household. Catherine falls ill, distraught.

Edgar and Catherine marry, and three years later Heathcliff unexpectedly returns — now a wealthy gentleman. He encourages Isabella’s infatuation with him as a means of revenge on Catherine. Enraged by Heathcliff’s constant presence, Edgar cuts off contact. Catherine responds by locking herself in her room and refusing food; pregnant with Edgar’s child, she never fully recovers. At Wuthering Heights Heathcliff gambles with Hindley who mortgages the property to him to pay his debts. Heathcliff elopes with Isabella, but the relationship fails and they soon return.

When Heathcliff discovers that Catherine is dying, he visits her in secret. She dies shortly after giving birth to a daughter, Cathy, and Heathcliff rages, calling on her ghost to haunt him for as long as he lives. Isabella flees south where she gives birth to Heathcliff’s son, Linton. Hindley dies six months later, leaving Heathcliff as master of Wuthering Heights.

Twelve years later, Isabella is dying and the still-sickly Linton is brought back to live with his uncle Edgar at the Grange, but Heathcliff insists that his son must instead live with him. Cathy and Linton (respectively at the Grange and Wuthering Heights) gradually develop a relationship. Heathcliff schemes to ensure that they marry, and on Edgar’s death demands that the couple move in with him. He becomes increasingly wild, and reveals that on the night Catherine died he dug up her grave, and ever since has been plagued by her ghost. When Linton dies, Cathy has no option but to remain at Wuthering Heights.

Having reached the present day, Nelly’s tale concludes.

Lockwood grows tired of the moors and moves away. Eight months later he sees Nelly again and she reports that Cathy has been teaching the still-uneducated Hareton to read. Heathcliff was seeing visions of the dead Catherine; he avoided the young people, saying that he could not bear to see Catherine’s eyes, which they both shared, looking at him. He had stopped eating, and some days later was found dead in Catherine’s old room.

In the present, Lockwood learns that Cathy and Hareton plan to marry and move to the Grange. Joseph is left to take care of the declining Wuthering Heights. Nelly says that the locals have seen the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff wandering abroad together, and hopes they are at peace.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed almost every page of this book even while I hated and despised almost every character in it. I think it takes some serious skill on Miss Bronte’s part to have done such a thing.

I did find the plethora of characters to be a tad bit confusing, especially when different people had the same name and might, or might not be, related. It also didn’t help that outside of Heathcliff and one or two others, everyone was cowardly, spiteful, selfish, venal and despicable. Remove cowardly and add brutal for Heathcliff.

I think a lot of why none of that got me down was that it was portrayed for what it was, ie, bad. Heathcliff and Catherine are not portrayed as lovers torn apart by fate yet destined for each other. Only someone who is insane, or a teenager filled with enough hormones to fill the sun, but I think the two are pretty close, could ever make that mistake. Everyone’s bad decisions has consequences, not just for themselves but for everybody else around them.

Heathcliff uses his brutish strength and behavior to get what he wants while people like Edgar Linton allow him his way through their cowardice. Edgar has guns, he has weapons, but he’s simply afraid to use them. Thus Heathcliff triumphs in terms of getting what he wants. Yet even he pays the price. His body gives out from such willful use. Yet through it all, I never even once was given the sense that the author thought this was the way it “should” be. Yes, it was the way it was, but it wasn’t the way it should have been. Too many authors portray vile acts and character defects as things to be praised, as good instead of the filthy evil that they are. I also enjoyed how Bronte shows that people can change and that out of even horrible circumstances love and growth can occur.

I guess that is all I have to say. This was not a long book, nor a complicated one. If you wanted to dip your toes into the Bronte sisters’ writings, I’d definitely recommend this one.

★★★★★

Little Dorrit ★★★★★

littledorrit (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Little Dorrit
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 839
Words: 340K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins in Marseilles “thirty years ago” (c. 1826), with the notorious murderer Rigaud telling his cellmate John Baptist Cavalletto how he killed his wife. Arthur Clennam is detained in Marseilles with a group of travellers in quarantine. He meets new friends in the quarantine. He is returning to London to see his mother after 20 years in China with his father, handling that part of the family business. His father died there. On his deathbed, his father had given him a mysterious message, murmuring “Your mother,” which message and a watch Arthur mails to Mrs Clennam.

Inside the watch casing is an old silk paper with the initials DNF (do not forget) worked in beads. It is a message, but the implacable Mrs Clennam, who now uses a wheelchair, refuses to tell him what it means. The two become estranged.

In London, William Dorrit, imprisoned as a debtor, has been a resident of Marshalsea debtors’ prison for over twenty years. He has three children: Edward, Fanny and Amy. The youngest daughter, Amy, was born in the prison and is affectionately known as Little Dorrit. Their mother died when Amy was eight years old. Fanny lives outside the prison with William’s older brother, Frederick. The adult children are free to pass in and out of the prison as they please. Little Dorrit, devoted to her father, supports them both through her sewing. To the honour of her father, who is embarrassed to acknowledge his financial position, Little Dorrit avoids mentioning her work outside the prison or his inability to leave. Mr Dorrit assumes the role of Father of the Marshalsea, and is held in great respect by its inhabitants, as if he had chosen to live there.

After Arthur tells his mother that he will not continue in the family business, Mrs Clennam chooses her clerk Jeremiah Flintwinch as her partner. When Arthur learns that Mrs Clennam employs Little Dorrit as a seamstress, showing unusual kindness, he wonders whether the young girl might be connected with the mystery of the watch. Arthur follows the girl to the Marshalsea. He tries in vain to enquire about William Dorrit’s debt in the Circumlocution Office, assuming the role of benefactor towards Little Dorrit, her father, and her brother. While at the Circumlocution Office he meets the successful inventor Daniel Doyce. Doyce wants a partner and man of business at his factory and Clennam agrees to fill that role. Little Dorrit falls in love with Arthur, but Arthur fails to recognise Little Dorrit’s feelings.

Arthur is reacquainted with his former fiancée Flora Finching, the reason he was sent away to China, who is now an unattractive widow, and accompanied by the aunt of her late husband. Her father Mr Casby owns many rental properties, and his rent collector is Mr Pancks. The indefatigable Pancks discovers that William Dorrit is the lost heir to a large fortune, enabling him to pay his way out of prison, altering the status of the entire family.

The now wealthy Dorrits decide that they should tour Europe as a newly respectable rich family. They travel over the Alps and take up residence for a time in Venice, and finally in Rome, displaying pride over their new-found wealth and position, unwilling to tell their past to new friends. Little Dorrit finds it difficult to adjust to their wealth and new social position, and slowly comes to appreciate the new places and new sights. Fanny adjusts rapidly to the ways of society, and is sought by the same young man, Edmund Sparkler, who pursued her in her poverty in London, but with a new start that is acceptable to his mother. In Rome, at a party, Mr Dorrit falls ill, and dies at their lodgings. His distraught brother Frederick dies that same night. Little Dorrit, left alone, returns to London to stay with newly married Fanny and her husband, the dim-witted Edmund Sparkler.

The financial house of Merdle, Edmund Sparkler’s stepfather, ends with Merdle’s suicide; the collapse of his bank and investment businesses takes with it the savings of the Dorrits, the firm of Doyce and Clennam, Arthur Clennam, and Pancks. Clennam is now imprisoned in the Marshalsea, where he becomes ill. When Little Dorrit arrives in London, she slowly nurses him back to health.

Cavalletto finds the villain Rigaud hiding in London as Blandois, and brings him to Arthur Clennam. Held in the prison, he sends this undesirable man to his mother, who has advertised to find him. As Blandois he tries to blackmail Mrs Clennam with his full knowledge of her past. Mrs Clennam had insisted on bringing up little Arthur and denying his biological mother the right to see him. Mrs Clennam feels this is her right to punish others, because they hurt her. Arthur’s biological mother died about the same time as Arthur went off to China, but lived out of England with Flintwinch’s twin brother. Mr Clennam’s wealthy uncle, stung by remorse, had left a bequest to Arthur’s biological mother and to the youngest daughter of her patron, or if no daughter, the youngest child of his brother. The patron was Frederick Dorrit, the kind musician who had taught and befriended Arthur’s biological mother, and the beneficiary is his niece, Amy Dorrit. Blandois left a copy of the papers he obtained from Jeremiah’s brother at the Marshalsea for Little Dorrit.

Mrs Clennam knows of this inheritance and fails to tell Little Dorrit, or to tell Arthur about his biological mother. Unwilling to yield to blackmail and with some remorse, the rigid woman rises from her chair and totters out of her house to reveal the secret to Little Dorrit at the Marshalsea. Mrs Clennam begs her forgiveness, which the kind-hearted girl freely grants. Returning to home, Mrs Clennam falls in the street, never to recover the use of her speech or limbs, as the house of Clennam literally collapses before her eyes, killing Rigaud. Affery was outdoors seeking her mistress, and Jeremiah had escaped London before the collapse with as much money as he could find. Rather than hurt him, Little Dorrit chooses not to reveal any of this to Arthur; when he is well, she asks him to burn the papers.

Mr Meagles seeks the original papers, stopping to ask Miss Wade. She has them but denies it; Tattycoram slips back to London with the papers and presents them to Mr Meagles, who gives them to Little Dorrit. Mr Meagles then seeks out Arthur’s business partner Daniel Doyce from abroad. He returns a wealthy and successful man, who arranges to clear all debts for Arthur’s release. Arthur is released from the prison with his fortunes revived, his position secure with Doyce, and his health restored. Arthur and Little Dorrit marry.

Little Dorrit contains numerous sub-plots. One concerns Arthur Clennam’s friends, the kind-hearted Meagles family, who are upset when their daughter Pet marries the artist Henry Gowan, and when their servant and foster daughter Tattycoram is lured away from them to the sinister Miss Wade, an acquaintance of the criminal Rigaud. Miss Wade is ruled by her anger, and she was a jilted sweetheart of Gowan. Another subplot concerns the Italian man John Baptist Cavalletto who was the cellmate of Rigaud in Marseilles, though jailed for a minor crime. He makes his way to London, meets up by chance with Clennam, who stands security for him as he builds up his business in wood carving and gains acceptance among the residents of Bleeding Heart Yard. Cavalletto repays this aid by searching for Blandois/Rigaud when Arthur wants him found. This action brings about the revelation of the secrets kept by Mrs Clennam.

The other major subplot is the satire of British bureaucracy, named as the Circumlocution Office, where the expertise is how not to do it.

My Thoughts:

All I can say is thank goodness for wikipedia and the hardy souls who have already put up indepth synopses. I don’t know that I’d even try to do a synopsis on my own anymore for books by Dickens, as he has so many variegated plots and threads running at the same time. Daunting.

Back in ’08 when I had reviewed this for the first time, I called it the most enjoyable Dickens’ I had read to date. You know what? That statement still stands 12 years later. I’m also giving this the “Best Book of the Year” tag to remind me at years end.

There are some things that people need to know going into this. First and foremost, this is VERY florid. In fact, there is a character named Flora who Dickens writes as she speaks, ie, almost no punctuation and paragraph long sentences. It was HARD to read her stuff, as her mind went all over and Dickens gave full vent to that. I have to admit that I ended up skipping a lot of what she said. I don’t feel that I missed much by skimming. And Dickens is just wordy so it’s everywhere. Prepare yourself mentally to just drink in the words and you’ll be fine. If you go in expecting Dickens to get right to the point, you’ll be greatly disappointed.

Characters are Dickens strong point and Little Dorrit is filled to the brim with Character. This time around there aren’t any real villainous characters, it’s more about small minded things between characters. Clennam, the main character and what goes on between him and his estranged mother. Little Dorrit and how her family treats her before and after their succession to riches. Clennam and Little Dorrit, as Clennam slowly comes to realize that Little Dorrit loves him and that being 40 doesn’t mean he’s an old man ready to die. Plus lots and lots and lots and LOTS of other character interactions, all of it engrossing.

I read this while on vacation and that set the perfect pace for me. Read until I wanted to do something else, then toddle off and do that for 5-10 minutes, then come back for another hour or so. It was a low key read and and slotted perfectly into how our vacation was going. I suspect any Dickens I read during that time would have gotten the same treatment and the same praise. But still, this was a fantastic book.

★★★★★

The Well at the World’s End DNF@9% (Unrated)

thewellattheworldsend (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Well at the World’s End
Series: ———-
Author: William Morris
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Fantasy/Classic
Pages: 449/ DNF@9%
Words: 228.5K/21K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Using language with elements of the medieval tales which were his models, Morris tells the story of Peter, King of Upmeads, and his four sons, Blaise, Hugh, Gregory, and Ralph. These four sons decide one day that they would like to explore the world, so their father gives them permission, except for Ralph, who is to remain at home to ensure at least one living heir. From that point on, the plot centers on the youngest son, Ralph, who secretly departs contrary to his father’s orders.

Ralph’s explorations begin at Bourton Abbas, after which he goes through the Wood Perilous. He has various adventures there, including the slaying of two men who had entrapped a woman. That woman later turns out to be the Lady of Abundance, who later becomes his lover for a short time.

In one episode Ralph is staying at a castle and inquires about the Lady of the castle (the so-called Lady of Abundance), whom he has not yet seen. Descriptions of her youth and beauty suggest to him that she has drunk from the well at the world’s end. “And now in his heart waxed the desire of that Lady, once seen, as he deemed, in such strange wise; but he wondered within himself if the devil had not sown that longing within him …” A short time later, while still at the castle, Ralph contemplates images of the Lady and “was filled with the sweetness of desire when he looked on them.” Then he reads a book containing information about her, and his desire to meet the Lady of Abundance flames higher. When he goes to bed, he sleeps “for the very weariness of his longing.” He fears leaving the castle because she might come while he is gone. Eventually he leaves the castle and meets the Lady of Abundance, who turns out to be the same lady he had rescued some weeks earlier from two men.

When he meets her this time, the lady is being fought over by two knights, one of whom slays the other. That knight nearly kills Ralph, but the lady intervenes and promises to become the knight’s lover if he would spare Ralph. Eventually, she leads Ralph away during the night to save Ralph’s life from this knight, since Ralph had once saved hers. She tells Ralph of her trip to the Well at the World’s End, her drinking of the water, the tales of her long life, and a maiden named Ursula whom she thinks is especially suited to Ralph. Eventually, the knight catches up to them and kills her with his sword while Ralph is out hunting. Upon Ralph’s return, the knight charges Ralph, and Ralph puts an arrow through his head. After Ralph buries both of them, he begins a journey that will take him to the Well at the World’s End.

As he comes near the village of Whitwall, Ralph meets a group of men, which includes his brother Blaise and Blaise’s attendant, Richard. Ralph joins them, and Richard tells Ralph about having grown up in Swevenham, from which two men and one woman had once set out for the Well at the World’s End. Richard had never learned what happened to those three. Richard promises to visit Swevenham and learn what he can about the Well at the World’s End.

Ralph falls in with some merchants, led by a man named Clement, who travel to the East. Ralph is in search of the Well at the World’s End, and they are in search of trade. This journey takes him far to the east in the direction of the well, through the villages of Cheaping Knowe, Goldburg, and many other hamlets. Ralph learns that a maiden, whom the Lady of Abundance had mentioned to him, has been captured and sold as a slave. He inquires about her, calling her his ‘sister’, and he hears that she may have been sold to Gandolf, the cruel, powerful, and ruthless Lord of Utterbol. The queen of Goldburg writes Ralph a letter of recommendation to Gandolf, and Morfinn the Minstrel, whom Ralph met at Goldburg, promises to guide him to Utterbol.

Morfinn turns out to be a traitor who delivers Ralph into the hands of Gandolf. After some time with the Lord of Utterbol and his men, Ralph escapes. Meanwhile, Ursula, Ralph’s “sister”, who has been enslaved at Utterbol, escapes and by chance meets Ralph in the woods beneath the mountain, both of them desiring to reach the Well at the World’s End. Eventually their travels take them to the Sage of Swevenham, who gives them instructions for finding the Well at the World’s End.

On their journey to the well, they fall in love, especially after Ralph saves her life from a bear’s attack. Eventually they make their way to the sea, on the edge of which is the Well at the World’s End. They each drink a cup of the well’s water and are enlivened by it. They then backtrack along the path they had earlier followed, meeting the Sage of Swevenham and the new Lord of Utterbol, who has slain the previous evil lord and remade the city into a good city, and the pair returns the rest of the way to Upmeads.

While they experience challenges and battles along the way, the pair succeeds in all their endeavors. Their last challenge is a battle against men from the Burg of the Four Friths. These men come against Upmeads to attack it. As Ralph approaches Upmeads, he gathers supporters around him, including the Champions of the Dry Tree. After Ralph and his company stop at Wulstead, where Ralph is reunited with his parents as well as Clement Chapman, he leads a force in excess of a thousand men against the enemy and defeats them. He then brings his parents back to High House in Upmeads to restore them to their throne. As Ralph and Ursula come to the High House, Ralph’s parents install Ralph and Ursula as King and Queen of Upmeads.

My Thoughts:

I am not rating this because while I DNF’d this, it was because it was all on me. I don’t blame Morris for what is obviously my issue alone. I’ll add a quote and then discuss further.

So when he had eaten and drunk, and the damsel was still there, he looked on her and saw that she was sad and drooping of aspect; and whereas she was a fair maiden, Ralph, now that he was full, fell to pitying her, and asked her what was amiss. “For,” said he, “thou art fair and ailest nought; that is clear to see; neither dwellest thou in penury, but by seeming hast enough and to spare. Or art thou a servant in this house, and hath any one misused thee?”

She wept at his words, for indeed he spoke softly to her; then she said: “Young lord, thou art kind, and it is thy kindness that draweth the tears from me; else it were not well to weep before a young man: therefore I pray thee pardon me. As for me, I am no servant, nor has any one misused me: the folk round about are good and neighbourly; and this house and the croft, and a vineyard hard by, all that is mine own and my brother’s; that is the lad who hath gone to tend thine horse. Yea, and we live in peace here for the most part; for this thorp, which is called Bourton Abbas, is a land of the Abbey of Higham; though it be the outermost of its lands and the Abbot is a good lord and a defence against tyrants. All is well with me if one thing were not.”
~Page 51

This was published in 1896, so the choice of using a medieval era voice is deliberate on Morris’ part. I hated every second of it and I do mean every single word. I was ready to DNF this at 1% but wanted to make sure I wasn’t just being extra crabby so I persevered for another eternal 8%. While I “might” have been extra crabby, that didn’t change that I simply hated the archaic writing as a style.

While Wikipedia claims that this influenced both Tolkien and Lewis, even that isn’t enough for me to keep on slogging. Sorry Cleo, but I couldn’t deal with this.

David Copperfield ★★★★★

davidcopperfield (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: David Copperfield
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 853
Words: 357.5K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story follows the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity. David was born in Blunderstone, Suffolk, England, six months after the death of his father. David spends his early years in relative happiness with his loving, childish mother and their kindly housekeeper, Clara Peggotty. They call him Davy. When he is seven years old his mother marries Edward Murdstone. To get him out of the way, David is sent to lodge with Peggotty’s family in Yarmouth. Her brother, fisherman Mr Peggotty, lives in a beached barge, with his adopted relatives Emily and Ham, and an elderly widow, Mrs Gummidge. “Little Em’ly” is somewhat spoiled by her fond foster father, and David is in love with her. They call him Master Copperfield.

On his return, David is given good reason to dislike his stepfather, who believes exclusively in firmness, and has similar feelings for Murdstone’s sister Jane, who moves into the house soon afterwards. Between them they tyrannize his poor mother, making her and David’s lives miserable, and when, in consequence, David falls behind in his studies, Murdstone attempts to thrash him – partly to further pain his mother. David bites him and soon afterwards is sent away to Salem House, a boarding school, under a ruthless headmaster named Mr Creakle. There he befriends an older boy, James Steerforth, and Tommy Traddles. He develops an impassioned admiration for Steerforth, perceiving him as someone noble, who could do great things if he would, and one who pays attention to him.

David goes home for the holidays to learn that his mother has given birth to a baby boy. Shortly after David returns to Salem House, his mother and her baby die, and David returns home immediately. Peggotty marries the local carrier, Mr Barkis. Murdstone sends David to work for a wine merchant in London – a business of which Murdstone is a joint owner. David’s landlord, Wilkins Micawber, is arrested for debt and sent to the King’s Bench Prison, where he remains for several months, before being released and moving to Plymouth. No one remains to care for David in London, so he decides to run away, with Micawber advising him to head to Dover, to find his only known remaining relative, his eccentric and kind-hearted great-aunt Betsey Trotwood. She had come to Blunderstone at his birth, only to depart in ire upon learning that he was not a girl. However, she takes pity on him and agrees to raise him, despite Murdstone’s attempt to regain custody of David, on condition that he always try to ‘be as like his sister, Betsey Trotwood’ as he can be, meaning that he is to endeavour to emulate the prospective namesake she was disappointed not to have. David’s great-aunt renames him “Trotwood Copperfield” and addresses him as “Trot”, one of several names David is called by in the novel.

David’s aunt sends him to a better school than the last he attended. It is run by Dr Strong, whose methods inculcate honour and self-reliance in his pupils. During term, David lodges with the lawyer Mr Wickfield, and his daughter Agnes, who becomes David’s friend and confidante. Wickfield’s clerk, Uriah Heep, also lives at the house.

By devious means, Uriah Heep gradually gains a complete ascendancy over the aging and alcoholic Wickfield, to Agnes’s great sorrow. Heep hopes, and maliciously confides to David, that he aspires to marry Agnes. Ultimately with the aid of Micawber, who has been employed by Heep as a secretary, his fraudulent behaviour is revealed. At the end of the book, David encounters him in prison, convicted of attempting to defraud the Bank of England.

After completing school, David apprentices to be a proctor. During this time, due to Heep’s fraudulent activities, his aunt’s fortune has diminished. David toils to make a living. He works mornings and evenings for his former teacher Doctor Strong as a secretary, and also starts to learn shorthand, with the help of his old school-friend Traddles, upon completion reporting parliamentary debate for a newspaper. With considerable moral support from Agnes and his own great diligence and hard work, David ultimately finds fame and fortune as an author, writing fiction.

David’s romantic but self-serving school friend, Steerforth, also re-acquaints himself with David, but then goes on to seduce and dishonour Emily, offering to marry her off to his manservant Littimer before deserting her in Europe. Her uncle Mr Peggotty manages to find her with the help of Martha, who had grown up in their part of England, and then settled in London. Ham, who had been engaged to marry Emily before the tragedy, dies in a fierce storm off the coast in attempting to succour a ship. Steerforth was aboard the ship and also died. Mr Peggotty takes Emily to a new life in Australia, accompanied by Mrs Gummidge and the Micawbers, where all eventually find security and happiness.

David, meanwhile, has fallen completely in love with Dora Spenlow, and then marries her. Their marriage proves troublesome for David in the sense of everyday practical affairs, but he never stops loving her. Dora dies early in their marriage after a miscarriage. After Dora’s death, Agnes encourages David to return to normal life and his profession of writing. While living in Switzerland to dispel his grief over so many losses, David realises that he loves Agnes. Upon returning to England, after a failed attempt to conceal his feelings, David finds that Agnes loves him too. They quickly marry and in this marriage, he finds true happiness. David and Agnes then have at least five children, including a daughter named after his great-aunt, Betsey Trotwood.

 

My Thoughts:

I don’t know how to write this review without resorting to manly beating of my chest and loud hollering of execrations against my enemies in jubilation of their downfall.

Dickens’ strength is in his characters. This book showcases some of his best characters in my opinion. From the titular character of David Copperfield to the child wife Dora to the competent Agnes to the never quite his fault Mr Micawber to the sniveling Uria Heep to the selfishly evil Steersforth. Dickens makes every single one of them a real person that you can think is real.

I also appreciated that Copperfield wasn’t a golden boy. He had a hard life and had some pretty bad things happen to him. But it made the happy ending all the sweeter. I NEED the majority of my books to have happy endings of one sort or another. Or at least the chance for a happy ending. I think that is what I like so much about Dickens’ writing. He knows that people need a happy ending in their stories and he’s not afraid to give it to them.

Dickens also isn’t afraid to face the very nature of human nature. He realizes some people are just downright evil and he writes his characters that way. He doesn’t make excuses for people like Uriah Heep or Steersforth, he simply portrays them as they are. While evil can be abstract in ideas and philosophies, it can also be personified in a character.

And that turns out to be all I have to say. I’ve been staring at the screen for almost 30 minutes and nothing else comes to mind. While I enjoyed Dickens earlier in life, I have never enjoyed him more than now. This only excites me about reading him again in another 10-15 years!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Sketches by Boz ★★★☆½

sketchesbyboz (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Sketches by Boz
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 874
Words: 252K

 

Synopsis:

A series of “sketches” about places, people and situations culled from Dickens’ tenure as a newspaper columnist.

 

My Thoughts:

The full title this book is Sketches by Boz: Illustrative of Everyday Life and Everyday People. So you have a 800+ pages of little short sketches that Dickens used to fill in blank spaces when he was writing at various newspapers.

Dickens gets very preachy about his pet issues in several of the sketches. I’m a teetotaler and even I was reacting against his emotional manipulation about gin shops. I was like “Ok, time to start drinking hard time, that will show him!”

When I read these back in 2007 I read them as part I and II (as that is how they were broken up in the hardcovers I own) and that worked much better. Honestly, these should be treated as a short story collection and perused at leisure. This time around I was better able to appreciate the technical side of Dickens’ writing which is why I’m bumping it up to 3 ½ stars.

That being said, I highly doubt I’ll ever read this again. No stories, no plot, doesn’t really work for me.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Master Humphry’s Clock ★★★☆☆

masterhumphriesclock (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Master Humphry’s Clock
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 158
Words: 46K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Master Humphrey’s Clock was a weekly periodical edited and written entirely by Charles Dickens and published from 4 April 1840 to 4 December 1841. It began with a frame story in which Master Humphrey tells about himself and his small circle of friends (which includes Mr. Pickwick), and their penchant for telling stories. Several short stories were included, followed by the novels The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge. It is generally thought that Dickens originally intended The Old Curiosity Shop as a short story like the others that had appeared in Master Humphrey’s Clock, but after a few chapters decided to extend it into a novel. Master Humphrey appears as the first-person narrator in the first three chapters of The Old Curiosity Shop but then disappears, stating, “And now that I have carried this history so far in my own character and introduced these personages to the reader, I shall for the convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course, and leave those who have prominent and necessary parts in it to speak and act for themselves.”

Master Humphrey is a lonely man who lives in London. He keeps old manuscripts in an antique longcase clock by the chimney-corner. One day, he decides that he would start a little club, called Master Humphrey’s Clock, where the members would read out their manuscripts to the others. The members include Master Humphrey; a deaf gentleman, Jack Redburn; retired merchant Owen Miles; and Mr. Pickwick from The Pickwick Papers. A mirror club in the kitchen, Mr. Weller’s Watch, run by Mr. Weller, has members including Humphrey’s maid, the barber and Sam Weller.

Master Humphrey’s Clock appeared after The Old Curiosity Shop, to introduce Barnaby Rudge. After Barnaby Rudge, Master Humphrey is left by himself by the chimney corner in a train of thoughts. Here, the deaf gentleman continues the narration. Later, the deaf gentleman and his friends return to Humphrey’s house to find him dead. Humphrey has left money for the barber and the maid (no doubt by traces of love that they would be married). Redburn and the deaf gentleman look after the house and the club closes for good.

In the portion of Master Humphrey’s Clock which succeeds The Old Curiosity Shop, Master Humphrey reveals to his friends that he is the character referred to as the ‘single gentleman’ in that story.

 

My Thoughts:

Although it pains me, and in a sane world this wouldn’t be a negative, I could only give this short book 3 stars. Isn’t that just terrible?!?

It wasn’t really bad, mind you, just that the short stories mostly centered around the ghostly and/or supernatural that Dickens liked and that I don’t care for in my classic historical novels. The other downside was that everything with Pickwick felt extremely forced. Like Dickens was trying to emotionally manipulate his readers by introducing a beloved character from another book so they would love this current book. Then the whole “I’m from this other book” thing also felt forced.

I know that Dickens was a manipulator (he would have been at the forefront of the SJW movement today, for sure and lying through his teeth about any and all) but most of the time I like it in his stories. I like having my emotions pushed around. This time though, it felt very cheesy. More like he was clapping 2 coconuts together and telling me he was riding a horse while he obviously wasn’t.

Recommended for those who really like Dickens and are completionists. Not really recommended for the casual Dickens fan. (does such a mythical being even exist? I have my doubts!)

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)