Book Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee Despite all the hype, I didn’t really want to read this book. I don’t tend to read books about the South, and considering this was rejected by the publishers at the time it was originally written, it just didn’t sound all that worthwhile.

However, I joined a book group earlier this year, and the organizer suggested we read To Kill a Mockingbird first and follow up with this. And given that I felt bad for suggesting the previous book choice (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, what was I thinking?!), I agreed.

I don’t want to get into any plot details, but I will say that the publishers were right when they advised Ms. Lee to try something else out. She ended up doing a lot better with her second attempt, and this one shouldn’t have been published, then or now.

The story just rambles around and is quite boring in parts, then switches into being too heavy-handed and irritating in other parts. The characters don’t feel very real or interesting, especially given how overdone some of the conversation is. And the spoilers from the media are true, though they do tie in with a larger message later on.

If you’re a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird and want to see the early beginnings of that book, go for it. If you’re an academic or like studying literature or learning how writers work out stories, read away. But don’t read it as a sequel to what is a much better book. Let it stand on its own, or take it for what it is: a poor first draft.

The Set Text by Tom Gauld

The Set Text by Tom Gauld

Article: Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds

Readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds

A new study which found that readers using a Kindle were “significantly” worse than paperback readers at recalling when events occurred in a mystery story is part of major new Europe-wide research looking at the impact of digitisation on the reading experience.

Book Review: Mariana by Monica Dickens

Mariana by Monica Dickens Yawn. Not really my kind of book.

Article: The Pleasure of Reading to Impress Yourself

The Pleasure of Reading to Impress Yourself

But there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being led into empathy with a consciousness very different from one’s own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation.

Book Review: The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope Much too long a book for so little to happen in it.

Article: Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With

Finding someone who reads is like dating a thousand souls. It’s gaining the experience they’ve gained from everything they’ve ever read and the wisdom that comes with those experiences. It’s like dating a professor, a romantic and an explorer.

Book Review: The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw

The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw

I saw The Young Lions mentioned on a list of great WWII books, and it definitely lives up to that label. It’s hard to summarize the book in a short review, especially since so much goes on in the book, but it is really quite good. The writing style makes everything quite vivid, and I had a hard time putting the book down, wanting to see what would happen to the several main characters as it went along. It intersperses three different men’s experiences during this time, showing the grim reality of war from the soldier’s point-of-view, and not just from one side or the other.

A movie version was made 10 years after the book came out, but it isn’t quite as grim as the book, and I’m not sure they got the casting right. I’ve only seen bits of it though, but the author didn’t like it, so that says a lot.

Book Review: New Grub Street by George Gissing

New Grub Street by George Gissing

I struggled with this book a little at first, especially when I had a hard time liking some of the main characters. Most of the men in the book were quite unpleasant or even despicable in some way, whereas the women seemed more interesting to me, as they struggled to be independent of and respected by the men in their lives.

The story focuses on a number of people with some connection to writing or publishing in some form. Some of them are struggling to do good work, while others just want to gain some notoriety. I found some of the “industry” issues interesting, as a few might as well be happening today (the idea of writing shorter, easier to read pieces for a less attentive audience, for example).

I did have a hard time seeing this as happening in the 1880s though, mainly because the writing style seemed a little more modern to me, at least compared to other works from this time. I kept thinking they were in the 1900s at the very least, or perhaps a little later. I also kept making comparisons between some of the characters and those in The Forsyte Chronicles (Alfred Yule and Soames Forsyte, Jasper Milvain and Michael Mont, etc.).

The writing style, although it felt a little more modern, was a bit of a slog at points. The dialogue between certain characters felt extremely formal and overdone, and not enough like natural language. And some of the philosophical tangents were a bit dull and heavy-handed.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting, albeit not very uplifting or happy, book, but I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I’d hoped to. But I think I’ll still look into some of Gissing’s other books, after this initial introduction.

Book Review: Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is the first Gaskell book that I’ve read, but I’m not sure why I kept reading as long as I did, as it wasn’t really a very enjoyable book. It was overly long for having so little happen, and every little thing felt drawn out and it sometimes got a bit repetitive, due to all the overly detailed descriptions and build-up. And yet, there was still more to come, except that the author had died before writing the rest!

Beyond the length being an issue, the biggest problem was that the characters felt more like paper dolls than real people. It seemed like the author danced around really defining them, getting too caught up in the overly wordy writing style to make them seem like actual humans. A lot more telling than showing.

It also didn’t help to have the regular reminders that the story took place some years before it was written, though the author contradicted herself or dated things incorrectly on multiple occasions (as the included endnotes pointed out). Not to mention the annoying overuse of “tête-à-tête!”

Perhaps some of her other works are better written, but this one certainly hasn’t made a great initial impression on me, especially after having recently read works by Dickens and Trollope.