Till We Have Faces ★★★☆☆

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Title: Till We Have Faces
Series: ———-
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Allegory
Pages: 309
Words: 84K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story tells the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the perspective of Orual, Psyche’s older sister.

It begins as the complaint of Orual as an old woman, who is bitter at the injustice of the gods. She has always been ugly, but after her mother dies and her father the King of Glome remarries, she gains a beautiful half-sister Istra, whom she loves as her own daughter, and who is known throughout the novel by the Greek version of her name, Psyche. Psyche is so beautiful that the people of Glome begin to offer sacrifices to her as to a goddess. The Priest of the goddess Ungit, a powerful figure in the kingdom, then informs the king that various plagues befalling the kingdom are a result of Ungit’s jealousy, so Psyche is sent as a human sacrifice to the unseen “God of the Mountain” at the command of Ungit, the mountain-god’s mother. Orual plans to rescue Psyche but falls ill and is unable to prevent anything.

When she is well again, Orual arranges to go to where Psyche was stranded on the mountain, either to rescue her or to bury what remains of her. She is stunned to find Psyche is alive, free from the shackles in which she had been bound, and furthermore says she does not need to be rescued in any way. Rather, Psyche relates that she lives in a beautiful castle that Orual cannot see, as the God of the Mountain has made her a bride rather than a victim. At one point in the narrative, Orual believes she has a brief vision of this castle, but then it vanishes like a mist. Hearing that Psyche has been commanded by her new god-husband not to look on his face (all their meetings are in the nighttime), Orual is immediately suspicious. She argues that the god must be a monster, or that Psyche has actually started to hallucinate after her abandonment and near-death on the mountain, that there is no such castle at all, and that her husband is actually an outlaw who was hiding on the mountain and takes advantage of her delusions in order to have his way with her. Orual says that because either possibility is one that she cannot abide by, she must disabuse her sister of this illusion.

She returns a second time, bringing Psyche a lamp for her to use while her “husband” sleeps, and when Psyche insists that she will not betray her husband by disobeying his command, Orual threatens both Psyche and herself, stabbing herself in the arm to show she is capable of following through on her threat. Ultimately, reluctantly, Psyche agrees because of the coercion and her love for her sister.

When Psyche disobeys her husband, she is immediately banished from her beautiful castle and forced to wander as an exile. The God of the Mountain appears to Orual, stating that Psyche must now endure hardship at the hand of a force he himself could not fight (likely his mother the goddess Ungit), and that “You too shall be Psyche,” which Orual attempts to interpret for the rest of her life, usually taking it to mean that as Psyche suffers, she must suffer also. She decries the injustice of the gods, saying that if they had shown her a picture of Psyche’s happiness that was easier to believe, she would not have ruined it. From this day forward she vows that she will keep her face veiled at all times.

Eventually, Orual becomes a Queen, and a warrior, diplomat, architect, reformer, politician, legislator, and judge, though all the while remaining alone. She drives herself, through work, to forget her grief and the love she has lost. Psyche is gone, her other family she never cared for, and her beloved tutor, “the Fox,” has died. Her main love interest throughout the novel, Bardia the captain of the royal guard, is married and forever faithful to his wife until his death. To her, the gods remain, as ever, silent, unseen, and merciless.

While Bardia is on his deathbed, Orual decides she can no longer stand the sight of her own kingdom and decides to leave it for the first time to visit neighboring kingdoms. While resting on her journey, she leaves her group at their camp and follows sounds from within a wood, which turn out to be coming from a temple to the goddess Istra (Psyche). There Orual hears a version of Psyche’s myth, which shows her as deliberately ruining her sister’s life out of envy. In response, she writes out her own story, as set forth in the book, to set the record straight. Her hope is that it will be brought to Greece, where she has heard that men are willing to question even the gods.

Part Two

Orual begins the second part of the book stating that her previous accusation that the gods are unjust is wrong. She does not have time to rewrite the whole book because she is very old and of ill health and will likely die before it can be redone, so instead she is adding on to the end.

She relates that since finishing part one of the book, she has experienced a number of dreams and visions, which at first she doubts the truth of except that they also start happening during daytime when she is fully awake. She sees herself being required to perform a number of impossible tasks, like sorting a giant mound of different seeds into separate piles, with no allowance for error, or collecting the golden wool from a flock of murderous rams, or fetching a bowl of water from a spring on a mountain which cannot be climbed and furthermore is covered with poisonous beasts. It is in the midst of this last vision that she is led to a huge chamber in the land of the dead and given the opportunity to read out her complaint in the gods’ hearing. She discovers, however, that instead of reading the book she has written, she reads off a paper that appears in her hand and contains her true feelings, which are indeed less noble than Part One of the book would suggest. Still, rather than being jealous of Psyche, as the story she heard in the temple suggested, she reveals that she was jealous of the gods because they were allowed to enjoy Psyche’s love while she herself was not.

The gods make no reply, but Orual is content, as she sees that the gods’ “answer” was really to make her understand the truth of her own feelings. Then she is led by the ghost of the Fox into a sunlit arena in which she learns the story of what Psyche has been up to: she has herself been assigned the impossible tasks from Orual’s dreams, but was able to complete them with supernatural help. Orual then leaves the arena to enter another verdant field with a clear pool of water and a brilliant sky. There she meets Psyche, who has just returned from her last errand: retrieving a box of beauty from the underworld, which she then gives to Orual, though Orual is hardly conscious of this because at that moment she begins to sense that something else is happening. The God of the Mountain is coming to be with Psyche and judge Orual, but the only thing he says is “You also are Psyche” before the vision ends. The reader is led to understand that this phrase has actually been one of mercy the entire time.

Orual, awoken from the vision, dies shortly thereafter but has just enough time to record her visions and to write that she no longer hates the gods but sees that their very presence is the answer she always needed.

My Thoughts:

When I read this for the first time 20 years ago I have to admit, I didn’t understand what Lewis was driving at or even trying to accomplish beyond retelling one of his favorite myths. And that is another reason Why I Re-Read Books. Therefore I stand before you today to announce that I completely understand this book now and every detailed nuance is as a flashing neon sign to my vast and experienced intellect.

Hahahahahahahaahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!

Oh man, yeah, right. * wipes tears of laughter away *

While I enjoyed this and thought Lewis did a masterful job of writing, I don’t understand what he was trying to get across any better than I did all those years ago.

Let me be clear though. That is completely on me. I have about one teaspoon’s worth of artistry in my 165lb frame (which is about a fingernail clipping’s worth) and I have used it up choosing black suspenders and a black bow tie to wear to church. When an author chooses to do something literary, it either passes right over my head (like this) or it comes across as pretentious and I rip the guy a new one. I need the obvious, the hammer over the head, the straight up statement. Allegory is not my thing and I feel like I’m color blind.

I still did enjoy this but I don’t think I’ll ever re-read it again. I will stick to Lewis’ other works where he simply spells out what he’s trying to say.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Drood ★★★★☆

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: Drood
Author: Dan Simmons
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Horror
Pages: 725
Words: 281K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

The book is a fictionalized account of the last five years of Charles Dickens’ life told from the viewpoint of Dickens’ friend and fellow author, Wilkie Collins. The title comes from Dickens’ unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The novel’s complex plot mixes fiction with biographical facts from the lives of Dickens, Collins, and other literary and historical figures of the Victorian era, complicated even further by the narrator’s constant use of opium and opium derivatives such as laudanum, rendering him an unreliable narrator.

Collins narrates the story of how Dickens met a strange fellow named Drood at a railroad accident. Dickens is convinced that Drood is some sort of evil incarnate while Collins is pretty sure Dickens is just being Dickens.

As time passes however, Collins is no longer so sure that Dickens was wrong. Dragged along by Dickens in his quest to find Drood and uncover the mystery of who he is and what his goals are, Collins becomes a pawn of the mysterious Drood. Drood is King of the Underworld and a practitioner of dark arts lost since the times of the Pharoahs. At the same time Collins is also wooed by one Inspector Fields, a former head of Scotland Yard who is convinced that Drood has killed over 300 people and plans on some sort of supernatural takeover of London.

Caught up in his own literary world, Collins must contend with Drood, Fields, the success of Dickens and his own increasing use of drugs such as laudanum, opium and morphine to combat the pain and hallucinations brought about by syphilis and the scarab beetle put into his brain by Drood to control him. With the death of Dickens, Collins is sure that Drood will leave him alone, even though Dickens revealed to him that everything that had gone on before was a combination of mesmerism, hypnotic suggestion and drugs, all as an experiment on Dickens part and making use of Collins.

Collins knows better though and even though he outlives Dickens by many years, the shade of Drood haunts him to the end.

My Thoughts:

I went into this completely blind. I was hoping for a completion of Dickens’ unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood. This was not that book. This was the syphilitic hallucinatory ramblings of an opium and morphine addict.

There were times that the narrator would talk for a whole chapter and then at the beginning of the next chapter you realized that the entire thing had happened in his head, or in his opium dreams or was just a wish fulfillment on his part. It was disturbing to say the least and by the end of the book I was having bad dreams. I didn’t realize it, but this WAS horror and it affected me as such. Not your gruesome 80’s slasher kind of horror, but the invisible dread that hovers over your soul kind of horror. While I’ve read some of Simmons SF, I’d never sampled his horror offerings. After this, I won’t be trying out anything else by him.

With all of that, this was fantastically written, kept me glued to the pages and even though an unreliable narrator tends to send me into the screaming heeby jeeby rants I never once thought of stopping. Simmons kept me reading page after page like he had inserted a magic beetle of his own into MY brain. And that was disturbing to me too.

I think that some familiarity with Wilkie Collins’ works, at least his Moonstone, would help a lot. Since this is a fictionalized account, I’m not sure that too much knowledge would actually help as the confusion between fiction and reality would make this even more of a psychedelic read. Unless you LIKE having your mind messed with, then by all means, dive into this head first and see what happens.

As a completion to The Mystery of Edwin Drood this was a complete failure. As a standalone horror story, it was a complete success. I shall try my hand again at finding another “ending” to the Mystery. I have my eye on one by David Madden but considering it was never released as an ebook, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get a hold of it. If you’ve heard of any other books or authors who tried to complete the Mystery, let me know please.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Noir Fatale ★★★★☆


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: Noir Fatale
Editors: Larry Correia & Kacey Ezell
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 296
Words: 120.5K



Synopsis:

A collection of short stories that are all femme fatale themed in some or other. Here is the table of contents, ie, the list of stories with their authors:

AIN’T NO SUNSHINE: Christopher L. Smith and Michael J. Ferguson

RECRUITING EXERCISE: David Weber

SPOILS OF WAR: Kacey Ezell

THE PRIVILEGES OF VIOLENCE: Steve Diamond

A GODDESS IN RED: Griffin Barber

KURO: Hinkley Correia

SWEET SEDUCTION: Laurell K. Hamilton

A STRING OF PEARLS: Alistair Kimble

HONEY FALL: Sarah A. Hoyt

THREE KATES: Mike Massa

WORTH THE SCARS OF DYING: Patrick M. Tracy

THE FROST QUEEN: Robert Buettner

BOMBSHELL: Larry Correia

My Thoughts:

At 4stars, I obviously enjoyed this. Unfortunately, much like in Correia’s Monster Hunter Files, there was ONE story that just annoyed the viss and pinegar out of me. So let me get that out of the way then I’ll go into all the good stuff.

Exactly like MHF, there was one urban fantasy story from a long running series. Unlike Jane Yellowrock, Anita Blake managed to annoy me in a new way. Where Jane was an asshole with an attitude, Blake was a completely competent, beautiful and “everything else” woman, with such huge inadequacy issues that THEY were as big as Yellowrock’s attitude. You want to write that in your novels, to your target audience of women, go for it. But packing in a whole novels worth of feelings of inadequacy into a short story? While I was never going to read anything by Hamilton anyway, that story cemented that determination. It was well written, I actually liked the premise, but my goodness, the “feelinz” just about made me gag.

The other stories on the other hand, I pretty much enjoyed across the board. My favorite though, was the one by Correia. It is a Grimnoir story set in the 1950’s and my guess is it is being used like Detroit Christmas was, ie, to introduce the main character of the new Grimnoir trilogy that Correia has promised is on its way. Grimnoir Chronicles is my favorite by Correia and once the new trilogy is completed, I’ll re-read the original and dive into the new. I am very excited about that prospect, even if it is years down the road. I’ve waited this long, I can wait some more.

Each story has a femme in some sort of pivotal role. Not always front and center, but without them, the story would simply fall apart. I’d never heard of Ezell before, but after this I’ll probably go check out what else she has written to see if it aligns with my tastes. She was the driving force behind this anthology and since I enjoyed it so much I’m hoping I like her full length novels.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood ★★★★☆

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 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.

Wonders of the Invisible World ★★★★☆


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: Wonders of the Invisible World
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 276
Words: 98.5K



Synopsis:
  • “Introduction” by Charles de Lint
  • “Wonders of the Invisible World” (from Full Spectrum 5, Aug. 1995) – a researcher goes back in time to record Cotton Mather’s religious visions, finding his ravings not what they expected.
  • “Out of the Woods” (from Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy, Jun. 2004) – a reflection on how magic is often missed by those searching for it.
  • “The Kelpie” (from The Fair Folk, Jan. 2005) – a story of courtship and obsession illustrating the overlap between life and art.
  • “Hunter’s Moon” (from The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, May 2002) – a seductive, chilling encounter with the dangers of Faerie.
  • “Oak Hill” (from The Essential Bordertown, Aug. 1998) – an ugly young woman on the way to Bordertown is trapped in a terrifying cityscape known as Oak Hill, and explores it in search of magic.
  • “The Fortune-Teller” (from The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, Jun. 2007) – a young woman thieves a pack of strange cards from an unconscious roadside fortune-teller.
  • “Jack O’Lantern” (from Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy, Apr. 2006) – a young girl struggling with the impending marriage of her sister seeks out magic during a picnic, fearing it will her last chance before she grows up.
  • “Knight of the Well” (from A Book of Wizards, May 2008) – a society built around the veneration of water finds that element inexplicably rejecting them.
  • “Naming Day” (from Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy, May 2007) – a teenage witch who cannot decide on her magical name is compelled to chase after an imp during the titular Naming Day Ceremony.
  • “Byndley” (from Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep. 2003) – a man who once escaped the world of faerie seeks to return that which he stole.
  • “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” (from A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales, Jul. 2000) – a macabre retelling of a traditional fairy tale.
  • “Undine” (from The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm, Jun. 2004) – a water spirit falls victim to her own prey.
  • “Xmas Cruise” (from Christmas Forever, Nov. 1993) – a surreal tale that follows two couples aboard an environmentalism cruise.
  • “A Gift to Be Simple” (from Not of Woman Born, Mar. 1999) – a fictional pseudo-Christian religious faction realize that their numbers are dwindling and decide to take drastic action.
  • “The Old Woman and the Storm” (from Imaginary Lands, Dec. 1985) – an allegory.
  • “The Doorkeeper of Khaat” (from Full Spectrum 2, Apr. 1989) – a science fiction tale regarding two alien species with very different cultures, and the poet who attempts to cross that divide in search of meaning and art.
  • “What Inspires Me: Guest of Honor Speech at WisCon 28, 2004”
My Thoughts:

I was sure that when I read Harrowing the Dragon last year that that was my last McKillip read until I started the cycle again. I’m not even sure how I stumbled across this book of her short stories but stumble I did and so I have one final McKillip to read and review.

McKillip is an odd duck when it comes to short stories. Some of them are so fantastic that you wonder why she doesn’t stick with the format. Then you read some others and are like “Oh, that is why”. Some of these just ended, like she’d taken a butcher’s knife to the story. It was very disconcerting. Others, you could see the same genius flitting about the story that she exhibits when writing her novels.

I did enjoy the final chapter where she talks about her life and writing. Now, as many of you know, I am firmly of the camp of “Authors are not People” so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading her recollections. I do need to track this down in hardcover and get a copy for my collection.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Trailin’! ★★★☆☆


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: Trailin’!
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 247
Words: 71K



Synopsis:

A young man, Anthony Woodbury, longs for adventure but his father is determined to see him lead the idle life of a rich gentleman. When Woodbury Senior is shot in some sort of midnight duel, he reveals that his last name is actually Pard and that Anthony’s mother died giving birth to him. Anthony Pard sets out west to track down the man who killed his father, a man named Drew who Pard was once partners with.

Along the path of vengeance, Anthony tames an untameable horse, romances several women, faces down outlaws and in general shows manly western qualities. Drew is desperate to talk to Anthony but knows the young man won’t give him time to talk, so he sets out his best man to capture Anthony alive. This fails and leaves the hunter with the bitter taste of defeat in his mouth. Nash, the hunter, then gangs up with the outlaws Anthony faced down and attempts to kill Anthony and the woman Nash was interested in, who appears to have fallen in love with Anthony.

At a final standoff in an abandoned cabin, Anthony is preparing for a final charge against the desperadoes when Drew rides up and under a flag of truce, tells Anthony the true story of why Drew killed Woodbury/Pard. Anthony is Drew’s son, who Pard kidnapped because he couldn’t have the woman who Drew married.

Nash and the outlaws leave and Anthony is reconciled to Drew and ready to marry the girl.

My Thoughts:

This was enjoyable while being a bit on the flowery side for me. Anthony Pard is definitely a Gary Stu but the author makes no bones about presenting him that way. The whole point is that his natural abilities come from his biological father, ie, the blood will tell.

Once Anthony went from Woodbury to Pard, it didn’t take long to realize he’d also be going from Pard to Drew by the end of the book. It was more of a will Drew get the chance to tell his son the truth before Pard guns him down in cold vengeance than anything.

Most of the flowery stuff came when Pard was interacting with the girl. A girl who was a restauranteur and not pretty but beautiful to every man who saw her. I rolled my eyes so much I’m surprised they didn’t fall out. Thankfully, those sections weren’t real big so it was possible to wade through them without getting bogged down. Part of the Western Genre is the Mystique of the Feminine and while I have no problems with that per se, sometimes Brand lays it on a little thick. Sometimes he uses a delicate paint brush, but sometimes he uses a trowel. This book was more trowel than paintbrush.

Even with that and the average rating, nothing here made me want to stop reading Brand’s books. So I’ll keep on trucking.

Ps,

that stupid title! Do you know how difficult it is going to be in the future to track this book down based on title? I’m never going to remember to drop the “g”, add an apostrophe and the exclamation mark. Sometimes authors think they are clever and all they are doing is complicating their readers lives. I feel very put upon at the moment and life is barely worth living because of this. * sulks *

Rating: 3 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.

Riders of the Silences ★★★✬☆


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 & Bookhype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Riders of the Silences
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 224
Words: 64K



Synopsis:

Pierre Le Rouge, an orphan, was brought up by Jesuit priests. Not only was his mind trained but his body as well. His instructor meant for him to conquer the Northern Parts of Canada and it would take a tough man to do so. Pierre finds out he isn’t an orphan in a message from his father, saying he’s been shot by McGurk, the legendary gunfighter and the father wants to see Pierre before dying. Pierre is the bastard of this man but quits everything and rides off to see his father. He is given a cross by his Instructor, one that has brought him luck.

Pierre finds his father and ends up wounding McGurk in a card game. McGurk had never been touched before in a gun fight and no man had survived before Pierre. Pierre also killed some other men and went down the road of outlawry. He runs away from the law and in a blizzard finds a young girl trapped beneath a downed tree. A landslide occurs and Pierre thinks the girl is dead. He is rescued by a gang of blood thirsty outlaws and joins their gang.

One of the gang, young Jack, turns out to be Jacqueline, the leaders daughter. She falls in love with Pierre but he’s too dumb to realize it. Pierre becomes the best of the gang, best of fighting, best of planning, best of shooting. During this time McGurk has disappeared. Pierre, now known as Red Pierre, ends up going to a dance with Jacqueline and there meets the girl he thought had died years ago. Jacqueline is jealous and makes the girl think she is living with Pierre.

The gang, made up of seven, begin to disappear one by one and they realize McGurk has returned to exact his vengeance on them all. The girl chases Pierre into the mountains, Jacqueline chases Pierre into the mountains and Pierre is chasing McGurk. Jacqueline realizes Pierre will never love her and finds the one surviving member of the gang, who had always loved her. Pierre and the girl get together after Pierre faces off against McGurk and strips him of all manhood and dignity, by not killing him.

My Thoughts:

I was ready for a full western novel and I got one! Hurray!!

While this had elements that had me rolling my eyes (the “lucky” cross pendant being the most obvious), I still had a lot of fun reading this. Part of that fun though, was me imagining Red Pierre and McGurk as Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber (see my Currently Reading post to get the images if you missed it). Imagining Bob the Tomato as a Jesuit Priest in Training had me in stitches and Larry as the menacing McGurk just made me slap my hand to my forehead.

You can’t go into this expecting deep world building, complex characterization and intricate plot lines. What you are getting is an action/adventure story in a western setting with bigger than life people and situations. Of course, with what is being put out today, I question whether what is in this book can even be described as bigger than life anymore.

Another thing in this book’s favor is its brevity. At just over 200 pages, I was able to devour it quickly. Sometimes a book needs to be like a bag of chips. Open, eat, done. No 3hours of prep work, no 72 minutes of sticking in the oven at 324degrees, no setting the table and bringing out the cut crystal and good china. Nothing but instant gratification. As long as you don’t live on chips, or their literary equivalent, you’re all set.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Private Life of Elder Things ★★★★☆


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 & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Private Life of Elder Things
Series: ———-
Editor: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
Pages: 207
Words: 77.5K



Synopsis:

Publisher’s Blurb

From the wastes of the sea to the shadows of our own cities, we are not alone. But what happens where the human world touches the domain of races ancient and alien? Museum curators, surveyors, police officers, archaeologists, mathematicians; from derelict buildings to country houses to the London Underground, another world is just a breath away, around the corner, watching and waiting for you to step into its power. The Private Life of Elder Things is a collection of new Lovecraftian fiction about confronting, discovering and living alongside the creatures of the Mythos.

With stories from Adrian Tchaikovsky, Keris McDonald and Adam Gauntlett

My Thoughts:

This was a fantastic little read. I only have one quibble, which is why this got 4 stars instead of 5. One of the stories deals with a ghoul and ghouls reproduce by necrophilia. It wasn’t the main part of the story and isn’t revealed until the end, but it just made me go “Oh, that is disgusting!” and wonder if I’d made a mistake in picking the book up. Thankfully, nothing like that is repeated.

I’m a sucker for short story collections. Something about an author distilling a story down to just a couple of pages, or even up to 20’ish, works really well for me. Now, I can’t read just ONE short story. I won’t sit down and read one short story all by itself. So short stories that are online only (like the Powder Mage short stories were before McClellan put them altogether in one book) are a complete no-go for me. But give me a collection and bam, I’m eating that stuff with 2 spoons, 3 forks and a bottle of ketchup!

I also have a soft spot for cosmic horror. As long as it’s done well and doesn’t rely only on violence and profanity to shock the reader. The Rites of Azathoth was such a book and when I started this collection I was a little afraid that that was what I might be getting. Thankfully, I got some good writing and some excellently shivery stories. Just what I wanted and expected from a book with a title like this!

One thing to be aware of is some of the limey slang. One of the stories especially seemed to be deliberately written so as to be incomprehensible to anyone outside the shores of Albion. If I hadn’t read the movie review of The Sweeney a couple of months ago, I’d have been totally lost. Gor blimey govnah, the Sweeney is doing a real snazzertowsin. Ok, I made that up, but for that one story I felt like I had to get half the story from context instead of the actual words.

If Tchaikovsky were to put out another collection like this, I’d definitely be interested. But without his name I doubt I’d try something by the other two authors.

Rating: 4 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!

★★★★★