Invisible Man: page 109 out of 581
I’ve wanted to read The Casual Vacancy since it came out a while ago, but I also wanted to wait until I could borrow it from the library and not be hold #37. Mission accomplished. I walked into my local library, and there it was, just sitting on the shelf among all the rest.
The description of the book interested me, but, yes, I will admit that I probably wouldn’t have read it if it hadn’t been written by J. K. Rowling. I did not, however, go into it thinking that it would be comparable to the Harry Potter books in any way. The only thing I expected was that it would have some characteristics of Rowling’s writing style. For the rest, I was curious to see what else she could do.
The first chapter quickly robbed me of any impression that the book might be light hearted or have a touch of humor. That was good because it helped me to adjust very quickly. This was a serious book. Alright.
Halfway through, my mom was curious to know what I thought of it. I may have mentioned that she works at the library, and she had heard that it wasn’t very good. Well, I had expected that the book might be getting some negative publicity simply because it was not what people were expecting. It wasn’t Harry Potter. It wasn’t close to Harry Potter. And, when I reached the end, I would probably decide that it wasn’t as good as Harry Potter for the simple reason that the bar had been set so incredibly high. It’s a book charged with the crime of not meeting people’s expectations.
At the time, I gave my mom a noncommital response, something like, “I don’t know, it’s ok.” As I said, I was halfway through, unwilling to commit to an opinion until I reached the end. All that could really be said was that I was still reading it, and fairly quickly. I was going to finish it.
I might have mentioned that, structurally, it reminded me of a modern day Middlemarch, but my mom has no idea what Middlemarch is. At that point, the only other thing I’d noticed was that Rowling skillfully handles a very large cast of characters in this book (from an omniscient viewpoint, no less), and this is something that has always impressed me about her writing. Just think about it, in Harry Potter, we had the main three, their classmates, all the teachers, and ghosts and paintings and magical creatures… The list goes on and on, and so many of the characters just popped right off the page. As a writer, I can tell you that it is very difficult to keep track of so many characters at once and make them all interesting and believable and unique.
So at halfway through, I knew I didn’t want to give up on it, and I finished in three days. Not bad for 500 pages. At that time, I had the day off of work and nothing else I had to do. It was just after 2:30 when I closed the book and went back inside. And then, for a few minutes, I just stood in the living room doorway, completely still. The ending had made an impact on me. And then, I found myself considering the book as a whole. Although I did move on to doing other things, the book was on my mind off and on for the rest of the day.
What did I think about it? I was asking myself that very question. All that time thinking about it, but no hard and fast opinions presented themselves. Instead, I was filled with questions, pondering the answers. Because these questions weren’t caused by confusion over what had happened in the book, they were questions about real life that the book had sparked me to ask. Questions like “is this what the book meant to say, and, if so, is that true?” and “what can be done to avoid this problem in the real world?” So many questions. Questions about what should have happened, questions about the characters, questions about human nature, questions about government and society…
So many questions, and I don’t have the answers yet. Not yet because I have a feeling that these questions are going to come to me again, one by one, and I’m going to keep thinking about them. It feels as though they’re working away somewhere at the back of my mind, like when you skip over a difficult problem on a math test and come back to find that it makes more sense because a little piece of your brain didn’t stop thinking about it.
What did I think of it? Before I fell asleep that night, I considered what I would say about it if I were to write a review of it here on my blog. What would I give it as a rating? And, to my surprise, I realized that I wanted to R. O. L. O. R. F. it. I felt that I had gotten something from this book that added value surpassing any discussion of ratings. How much I had enjoyed it seemed to be an irrelevant question in light of some personal relevations that all of these questions had sparked. And that is truly interesting.
“Now, come on, is it a good book or not?” you’re asking. (If anyone is in fact reading this, which I’m starting to doubt.) Well, you can go decide for yourself. Having been written by such a famous author, I’m sure there are tons of reviews out there written by people with a lot more professional credit than I have. I’ve even added links to a bunch of reviews by my fellow bloggers down at the end of this post. Or you could just read it. I got something out of it.
- Casual Vacancy (jmpbookclub.wordpress.com)
- J. K. Rowling : The Casual Vacancy (bohemiantulip.wordpress.com)
- Guest Post: Review of The Casual Vacancy (missriki.com)
- Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (mycupofstars.wordpress.com)
- Potter’s Cool But Rowling Is Better! (venusfrommars.wordpress.com)
- We’re not at Hogwarts anymore. (passionfordeadleaves.wordpress.com)
My general impression of The Hobbit? It’s a nice little fantasy adventure. Not very deep or complex in terms of the plot or the characters, but I don’t think that it set out to be.
I did end up enjoying it more than I enjoyed Lord of the Rings things that annoyed me in that book didn’t seem so bad in this one. The songs and poems that I found incredibly boring in LOTR didn’t really bother me in The Hobbit. Maybe they were shorter? Or had more relevance to the plot? It’s a bit hard for me to remember exactly how they were in LOTR now that it’s been a while since I read it. There was another battle scene that I didn’t care for, but it was thankfully short.
Towards the beginning, I wished that it could be more descriptive, but then something occurred to me. Some sentence or other popped out at me in a way that made me wonder how it would sound if I was reading this out loud, perhaps to a child. And then it clicked. That would be the perfect form for this story. I really could picture myself reading this book to my kids someday and adding all the little bits of tone and emphasis in my voice that would make it come to life. And now I actually look forward to doing that. You know, if I ever have kids.
I also ended up rather liking the character of Bilbo. He comes to enjoy the adventure, but he never lets it go to his head. He doesn’t become full of himself or become driven by greediness for the gold. He’s stays loyal to his friends and hopes that everything will turn out for the best for everyone. And he always does what he can. That’s really something to admire.
So, yeah, it was a good book. Not great, but pretty good. Really just a nice little story, which, in my opinion, is just fine.
- The Hobbit: Movie vs. Book (dste9.wordpress.com)
- Quick Thoughts on ‘The Hobbit’ (ramblingsandgreentea.wordpress.com)
I’ve now passed the point in The Hobbit where the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey leaves off. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first in a series of three films based on the book, so it only covers about a third of the plot. As I read this portion of the book, I couldn’t help comparing it to the movie at every turn, and I found that there are actually significant differences.
I mentioned in my last post that I only gave the Lord of the Rings series two stars when I read it a couple years ago. That was because there were large portions of the book that just bored me. In my thread on LibraryThing, I cited some possible reasons for this: the many long songs and poems, the pages and pages of falling action, and the fact that the narration seemed so far removed from the characters. I got very caught up in Sam and Frodo’s journey to destroy the ring, but couldn’t care less about the battles and such that the other characters were going through, in the third book, particularly.
Now, as I read The Hobbit, I realized that many things I had seen in the movie were just not in the book, and most of these were plot points that ramped up the tension or increased the characters’ motivations, both things that really kept me from getting bored. Even little things like the way the movie played up the fact that the dwarves don’t think very highly of Bilbo initially or the fact that the dwarves aren’t very fond of the elves (resulting in the fact that they almost didn’t go to Rivendell at all) went a long way in my estimation. I actually prefer these sorts of conflicts to all the action and adventure and fight scenes, so that really helped. I also feel that the book emphasizes their journey as an attempt to reclaim stolen treasure, while the movie depicts it as an attempt to win back the dwarves’ rightful home, without which they are separated and scattered across the land. Treasure hunts are fine, but give me the second one any day.
I actually think that these elements from the movie have carried over into the way I think about the book, and I think it would be fair to say that they’ve increased my enjoyment of it. It also helps me to see the sorts of things that might have helped me to enjoy the Lord of the Rings trilogy more. For example, why is it important that they win those battles? Really show me. Give me background, personal stories, zero in on the personal motivation of one or two important characters, whatever will make me want to root them on instead of sitting back and waiting for it to be over.
Given all these things, I think we may actually have found a rare example of a movie that I like better than the book that it’s based on, an honor which has previously applied only to books and musicals (Wicked, anyone?). Amazing, since I overwhelmingly prefer the imaginative power of books and normally hate when Hollywood changes even the littlest detail from the source material. But I suppose that now we know anything is possible.
Where do you stand on books vs. movies? Do you prefer the books, like me? Do you watch movies based on books that you would never want to actually read? If anybody out there is actually reading this (and cares), feel free to jump in! Or bring up a different but slightly related topic. Ah, who am I kidding? I don’t care as long as you comment. Anything goes!
Summer is here, and it has really opened up my reading time. I’ve been flying through books this past week, ever since I finished Castle Rackrent. Just for fun, I’ve read Insurgent and How to Say Goodbye in Robot, and now I’ve started on The Hobbit.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any of the Irish novels from the 1001 list that I was interested in at any of the libraries in my local system. Thus, The Hobbit. Like Lord of the Rings, it’s on the 1001 list, and since I saw the movie a few months back, I thought it was only fair that I should read the book. I usually have a rule about reading the book first, but some friends at school talked me into it. I was actually surprised that I enjoyed it, given that I rated the Lord of the Rings trilogy at 2 stars and I didn’t like the portion I saw of the first Lord of the Rings movie (although, granted, that was years ago).
I do remember, though, that one of my friends said that The Hobbit is much, much better than Lord of the Rings. He went into quite a bit of detail about how Tolkien hadn’t intended to write a sequel and how basically the whole first book was written while the author was trying to figure out what the plot should be. Well, I wouldn’t know, and I’m honestly a bit too lazy at the moment to bother with verifying that. Come on, it’s summer vacation! But I will see for myself how the books compare. Hopefully, The Hobbit is good, but, even if it’s not, it’ll be one more check mark.
Given that I’ve been reading so quickly lately, I anticipate being done with it quite soon. I have a part time job, but when I’m not working or writing my novel (and my Wattpad book) I have seemingly endless free time ahead of me. I would offer to put some more work into this blog for the next couple months, but I am starting to wonder if anybody really cares.
While short, this book took me a while to read, really because it failed to draw me in. It has a simple plot. As I mentioned before, it goes through the stories of each of the Rackrent heirs– how they came to inherit the estate, how they managed it, and how they died, leaving it to the next heir. The narrator is a servant of the Rackrents who seems to really love the Rackrents, although why he does is completely inexplicable given that we see all of their worst traits through his narration.
Well, given that all of the Rackrents have glaring flaws, I didn’t really care for any of them. I especially disliked the one who locked his Jewish wife in her room for years on end because she refused to give him a very expensive cross she owned. I felt kind of bad for her because she was being mistreated, but it struck me as very odd that, upon learning of her husband’s death, she kisses it joyfully. I found myself wondering what the author was trying to say here in having a Jewish woman show such affection for a Christian symbol. Anyway, the point is that this little plot point was really the only highlight of the book for me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s very hard for me to enjoy a book where I don’t like or even care about any of the characters.
I’m glad this book was short because I got bored with it towards the end. It wasn’t really a bad read, but, apart from the historical importance it must have, I didn’t see much in it. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die said that “the ironic comedy of the old butler’s tale is easy to appreciate.” Well, I don’t know about that because I must have missed it.
It’s been a long semester, but I’m finally within a couple weeks from being done! And that means that after I get my final projects done, I’ll have tons of time for reading again! And where am I starting? With all that Irish literature that I wanted to dig into earlier this year, starting with Castle Rackrent.
This book was written in the 1800′s, and, according to Wikipedia, it’s often regarded as the first historical novel. It tells the story of the Rackrents and how each sucessive heir to the estate managed their affairs. Because it’s a large estate, there are many Irish laborers under their control, and, as you might imagine, they tend to get the short end of the stick. The narrator seems determined to speak well of the Rackrents, but the reader can see how things truly stand.
This is a short one, only 85 pages, but the book I checked out from the university library also includes The Absentee, which was written by the same author. Since it’s also on the 1001 list, I may read it afterwards if I have time. I also think that this book is really cool because it really has the look of an old classic. The copyright page says published in 1903, which means that it’s physically a very old book. I think it’s really cool to read a book that’s probably been in the university library for years and years and there are still people like me reading it.
Right now, I’m 20 pages in. We’ll see how I feel about it later on. For now, I feel as though I’ve just started to get into it.
I mentioned before that I found this story very depressing at about 100 pages in. I also mentioned that it was very well written and provided a very realistic picture of Dublin in the early 1900′s, especially in the poor areas. These things continued to be true throughout the course of the novel.
It may have gotten slightly less depressing, but that’s really hard for me to say objectively. That’s because of the thing that I talked about in my last post. I just didn’t feel anything at all towards the end, unless you count interest in the writing-related aspects, like appreciation for Doyle’s style and techniques. It was, as I said, very well written, and I developed a kind of appreciation for it in that respect. My favorite scene is related to that aspect of it, but since, it comes near the end, I’ll share that in a separate post under my Spoilers section.
Beyond that, I honestly can’t say that I enjoyed it that much. I didn’t really like any of the characters, although I did feel sorry for Melody (Henry’s mother) and for Henry in the beginning because they had such hard lives.
This is another book where it would help to know a bit of Irish history, particularly Easter 1916 and the Irish Civil War. If you’re interested in reading historical fiction dealing with Ireland during this time, you may enjoy it more than I did. It’s not a bad book at all, it just wasn’t for me personally.