Tag Archive for British Literature

Book Review: Mariana by Monica Dickens

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

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.

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.

Book Review: Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope

Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope

The first Trollope novel I’ve read, this book kept making me think back to Dickens’ Bleak House, which I read at the end of last year. Both deal with a major legal case, though each very different in nature.

It may not be a fair comparison, but I definitely preferred Bleak House, for the style and overall feeling of the story. Orley Farm felt too drawn out for much less of an overall story — though it certainly had some of the same complexities — and it didn’t have the cozy feeling Bleak House had. I didn’t feel all that attached to most of the characters, who didn’t seem quite as well developed or defined, and my interest in the story waned as it dragged on.

Book Review: To Let by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy Maybe just a tiny bit less interesting than the previous book (which was a tiny bit interesting than the first), but still enough family drama to be intriguing and keep my reading.

Book Review: The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook The premise seemed interesting, but I didn’t feel as enthused once I got a few chapters in. I wasn’t always convinced of the time period, partly due to the language, and it felt like a lot of heavy-handed telling rather than showing right off the bat. After several tedious conversations, some clunky turns of phrase (“a tiara of sweat?” really?), and a liberal sprinkling of ten-dollar words throughout, I had to bail.

Book Review: In Chancery by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy A continuation of the Forsyte Chronicles, I think I liked this one a little bit less than The Man of Property, but it was still enjoyable. I missed some of the characters from the previous book, but there was still plenty of drama to keep things interesting. I do wish there were more of Irene’s perspective, rather than treating her as a thing of beauty and not a whole person (which I think was one of Virginia Woolf’s criticisms of these books).

This series continues to be a bit of a guilty pleasure, as it’s a rather richly done — and engrossing — soap opera. The historical tidbits interspersed throughout make it more interesting and help make the time period more vivid.

Book Review: The Man of Property by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, only having heard of it and the rest of the series very recently. It took me a little while to get a good sense of the various family members, given there were so many to keep track of. The family tree in the edition I had certainly helped, though it also included spoilers.

Eventually, I felt like I had to keep on reading, to see how things might unfold. What would happen with the engagement? What would happen to the house? What would happen to the marriage? Perhaps the family tree egged me on, knowing what might lie ahead in this or the later books.

My only complaint was the way new or previously glanced-at characters were sometimes presented. When it happened, it felt like the narrator was putting the story on pause, to then turn to you and give you lengthy summary of the new person, before turning back to start things up again. It felt a bit jarring, and sometimes went on for too long, making me want to skip ahead and get back to the story.

That said, I did enjoy the book, even if it seems like not a great deal happened. Things were left open at the end, so I do plan on reading the next book in the series, to see where things pick up from here.

Book Review: The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett

The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett I’m not sure why I kept reading through to the end (or very near it). It was slightly interesting at first, but then it just dragged on…and on… and on. I hoped it would pick up or do something to redeem itself later on, but it never really did. I only wish I’d stopped reading earlier on…