Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.
‘How guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime.’
I very rarely pick up a book if I’ve already seen the movie. Sure, there are likely to be differences but the experience is still spoiled for me. I had to make an exception with Atonement because I adored the movie but I could see how much more the story would shine and benefit from text. And shine did it ever.
Usually I complain about over-descriptiveness in stories, and this was definitely descriptive, yet the author possesses a skill in writing that is completely captivating. He sets the scene with ease and transports you into the very midst of it. His words envelop you and leave you mesmerized. I could go on and on regarding the beauty of this story and the multitude of emotions it managed to evoke in me but put simply, this book was a breath of fresh air.
I’ve been told this is the best to expect from Ian McEwan but I will still eagerly dive into more of his works.
When it was published in 1955, Lolita immediately became a cause célèbre because of the freedom and sophistication with which it handled the unusual erotic predilections of its protagonist. But Vladimir Nabokov's wise, ironic, elegant masterpiece owes its stature as one of the twentieth century's novels of record not to the controversy its material aroused but to its author's use of that material to tell a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness.
Awe and exhilaration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in this account of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America, but most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation."
‘It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.’
Lolita is likely one of the most controversial stories in 20th century literature to date. Lolita has been coined as a ‘love story’ and even ‘erotic’. In all honesty, this was simply Humbert attempting to convince himself (and others) that his actions were normal and completely justified. By the end pages, I could honestly say that Humbert believed wholeheartedly he truly loved Lolita, that he always had the best of intentions for her and that he was a good father to her. His version of love was of course far from normal and was quite sick and twisted indeed but because we’re only seeing this story from his point of view it’s obviously a biased and glamorized interpretation.
‘We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.’
But to me that was the most amazing part of this story. When you really think about this story as a whole, you know what he did was wrong, you know that he changed that 12 year-old girl irrevocably and you can almost despise him for the fact that he blamed her for seducing him initially. However, despite all that, I know I’m not the only reader that struggled to not feel at least a slight bit of sympathy for him. And that’s the true brilliance of it.
‘And the rest is rust and stardust.’
Lolita is a truly remarkably written story that was undoubtedly shocking after its initial publication in 1955. I can’t help but find it severely unlikely though that it would have ever been published during this day and age.
Truly deserving of the accolade a modern classic, Donna Tartt’s novel is a remarkable achievement—both compelling and elegant, dramatic and playful.
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.
‘I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.’
I was pretty blown away at how much I enjoyed this. It took me almost an entire month to read (which is practically unheard of for me) but this is one that you definitely can’t zoom right through in my opinion. Incredibly detailed and enthralling, I’m really glad that I paced myself and took my time because this is one to be savored.
Truly compelling, you already know from the very first line what’s to come:
‘The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.’
All of the characters were vibrant and completely unforgettable. Despite knowing exactly what’s to come, the beauty of this story is the slow unraveling process that the author takes you through, detailing each and every step the friends took to get to that final moment. I can definitely see why this one is considered a modern classic.
Both book and movie discussed in detail so be aware of spoilers!
’I’m not frightened. I’m not frightened of anything. The more I suffer, the more I love. Danger will only increase my love. It will sharpen it, forgive its vice. I will be the only angel you need. You will leave life even more beautiful than you entered it. Heaven will take you back and look at you and say: Only one thing can make a soul complete and that thing is love.’
It’s rare that I ever decide to read the book after having already watched the movie. After watching ‘The Reader’ and loving it I did feel that the book would do a much better job at conveying the emotions (as is normal with books vs. movies) and I so wanted to experience that.
Compared to the book, I felt the movie really lacked in sufficiently presenting the true emotion behind Michael’s actions. What was disconcerting to me at first was when Michael was first introduced he seemed to me like a silly boy with a crush (even though yes, he was only 15) and their relationship was not easily understandable in the least. Kate Winslet won an Academy Award for her role in this movie, and for good reason. She did an absolutely amazing job at playing the part of Hanna Schmitz, a shadowy and secretive woman. She was dynamic and incredible but also strange; you never truly understand her actions until all is revealed. And once revealed, well, my heart broke for her.
Michael and Hanna’s relationship on film and on print was fiery and despite their taboo relationship was still full of passion. The fact that their relationship was taboo was never really addressed in either the book or movie. Of course they kept their relationship secret but they never went to great lengths in order to keep it that way. When they went on vacation together Michael referenced the fact that he could say she was his mother but was still unable to stop himself form kissing her on the lips in the full light of day. It could be interpreted either as the thrill of doing something he knows is wrong/taboo but I think it was more the fact that he was so incredibly happy to be with her that he was willing to take any chance. One scene in particular I found to be quite ironic was where Michael was reading to her and it was a very detailed sex scene. She stops him and says, “This is disgusting. Where did you get this?” Michael responds, “Borrowed it from someone at school.” Hanna says, “Well, you should be ashamed.”
A few scenes in particular were missing from the movie that I felt were vital elements of the story as a whole. For one, the philosophical conversation between Michael and his father. It was clear he was dealing with some heavy decisions throughout the entirety of the trial but it went deeper than it was portrayed on film. In the book when he was struggling to decide whether or not to come forward about Hanna’s illiteracy his father said to him:
“…I see absolutely no justification for setting other peoples views of what is good for them above their own ideas of what is good for themselves.”
The conversation instead occurred between him and his teacher, but I don’t feel it had the needed effect that the conversation with his father caused in the book.
The single most vital scene that I felt was missing in the movie was the scene at the pool when he saw Hanna for the last time. That last encounter set in motion the guilt that would haunt him for the rest of his life. The fact that he failed to acknowledge her in front of his friends was the whole reason he thought she had left and that he had drove her away by his inaction. There were a few other various details that were changed in the movie (like the ending) but nonetheless, I felt it was a remarkable book to movie portrayal. I felt that both the book and movie were brilliantly done and is one of the few instances where both can be appreciated in their own regards.
Did you watch the movie or read the book? What did you think? Let me know!
Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth -- musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies -- the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.
Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.
The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story -- of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.
Holy crap I finished! If anyone has seen this book in its physical form I’m sure you can understand the need for celebration. (If you haven’t seen this, it’s a beast.)
I’m not even sure what to say about this book. So here are some random statements for you to enjoy.
This is insane. This has entirely way too many footnotes. And changing the font to differentiate between who’s talking? Doesn’t help. Seriously, what is the point in having the word ‘house’ be blue? If I ever move into a house that has some doorway mysteriously appear that leads to some deep, dark, cold hallway I’m not exploring. I’m fucking moving, end of. Who the fuck installs cameras all over their house? It’s like Real World, just in a freaky man-eating house. These guys, especially Lude, have A LOT of sex. But seriously, what’s the point in sharing this with us readers? I really couldn’t give a shit less. And if Johnny Truant is supposed to have stopped showering weeks ago and doesn’t really leave his house or eat real food anymore, and looks like some disgusting hobo how is he still able to hook up with all these hot babes? And how exactly does one go about having sex on a Nordic Track? Nevermind, don’t answer that. Of course! That makes complete sense. You just saw the house eat someone and you decide to go explore again. Sure, why the fuck not? Maybe you’ll get lucky and it’s just not hungry anymore. So, he’s burning that book… is that supposed to be the book we’re reading and if so how did it end up in that old guys house? And I still don’t understand the claw marks in the wood next to his body. Did anyone perform an autopsy? Oh! So we were also supposed to have picked up on clues in this jumbled mess? About your Mother? I can barely understand what the fuck is going on let alone find the CLUES. Is this some type of Freud thing that went over my head? I still don’t get what the growling was.
So, I have one final question: Was ANYONE supposed to understand this or was the author just being cute fully intending on leaving everyone completely clueless?
In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany's; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.
This volume also includes three of Capote's best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents—a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend—whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.
Having watched the movie, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ I never really had any desire to read the book. Finally deciding to do so, I was quite surprised that the movie created a superb rendition of the book and that the role of Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn, was an absolutely perfect portrayal.
Holly Golightly has to be one of the strangest fictional characters I have read to date. She’s eccentric and odd in a completely entrancing way and yet shows no attempts at actually trying to be this way; she just simply is.
“So,” he said, “what do you think: is she or ain’t she?” “Ain’t she what?” “A phony.” “I wouldn’t have thought so.” “You’re wrong. She is a phony. But on the other hand you’re right. She isn’t a phony because she’s a real phony. She believes all this crap she believes. You can’t talk her out of it.”
I quite enjoyed Truman Capote’s writing and look forward to his next book on my list: In Cold Blood.
This beautiful and sad first novel, recently adapted for a major motion picture, tells of a band of teenage sleuths who piece together the story of a twenty-year old family tragedy begun by the youngest daughter’s spectacular demise by self-defenestration, which inaugurates “the year of the suicides.”
“With most people,” he said, “suicide is like Russian roulette. Only one chamber has a bullet. With the Lisbon girls, the gun was loaded. A bullet for family abuse. A bullet for genetic predisposition. A bullet for historical malaise. A bullet for inevitable momentum. The other two bullets are impossible to name, but that doesn’t mean the chambers were empty.”
This was a strange read for me, yet still managed to be… I wouldn’t say enjoyable. Maybe intriguing is more like it. This book filled me with major confusion as I had constant questions arise since you don’t get the full picture as this story is told from a third-party, an outside party, rather than being told from the POV of one of the sisters. On top of that, it’s actually told as almost a recollection of people who were affected by these girls and their actions.
I had of course heard of this story over the years but had never managed to pick it up. Never actually watched the film either so I wasn’t completely aware of what to expect. Even know, writing this review several weeks after finishing the book, I’m not sure how to describe how I felt about it. What I remember most is the author’s vivid writing; I will definitely be interested in reading more from him. This was an interesting and thought provoking book but at the same time is a horrible and shocking book that I’m not sure whether or not to recommend. Very sad, very heartbreaking, and one that I certainly won’t be forgetting.
Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her own prejudices and contempt if she is understand her captor, and so gain her freedom.
’I am one in a row of specimens. It’s when I try to flutter out of line that he hates me. I’m meant to be dead, pinned, always the same, always beautiful. He knows that part of my beauty is being alive, but it’s the dead me he wants. He wants me living-but-dead.’
The Collector is the story of Frederick Clegg, an extremely odd and lonely man who also collects butterflies. He’s obsessed with a middle-class art student named Miranda Grey and as he continues admiring her from a distance a plan slowly starts developing in his mind that he would like to have her; like one of his butterflies. He makes preparations by buying a house out in the country, purchasing assorted objects and things he knows she will need, convinced that if he can only capture her and keep her that she will slowly grow to love him.
The first part of the novel was told from Frederick’s point of view and it was rather alarming at his thought process. In his mind, there is nothing morally wrong with what he intends to do (and what he actually ends up doing). He recognizes that Miranda is a human being as he takes care of her and provides her everything a human would possibly need, but she’s inevitably nothing more than an object or a collectible item to him. He doesn’t mean to harm her at first; however, it’s evident that as time progresses, he enjoys having power over her and almost finds humor in her attempts to escape.
The second part of the novel was told from Miranda’s point of view through diary entries that she hides underneath her mattress. She writes about G.P. often, a man she met and who ended up having a huge impact on her thoughts and ideals. To Miranda, G.P. was everything she wanted to be and his opinions and thoughts became a set of ‘rules’ for her. At first I had a hard time determining the relevancy of these recollections, but it essentially just became another disturbing piece of the story to see how influential G.P. and his ‘rules’ really were to Miranda.
’He’s made me believe them; it’s the thought of him that makes me feel guilty when I break the rules.’
It was almost expected, however still just as shocking when it becomes glaringly obvious that Miranda slowly begins to take pity on her captor. She starts feeling bad for the harsh things she says to him and she also unconsciously prevents herself from doing him excessive harm during an escape attempt as she feels that if she does she’s descending to his level…It was as if she had simply accepted her situation, and that was the most heartbreaking part.
’And yes, he had more dignity than I did then and I felt small, mean. Always sneering at him, jabbing him, hating him and showing it. It was funny, we sat in silence facing each other and I had a feeling I’ve had once or twice before, of the most peculiar closeness to him—not love or attraction or sympathy in any way. But linked destiny. Like being shipwrecked on an island—a raft—together. In every way not wanting to be together. But together.’
The third and fourth parts of the novel were the most disturbing parts of the entire book. Suffice it to say, it gave me goosebumps. It was not the ending I had anticipated, but I still felt that the author was successful in creating the everlasting effect I believe he intended. Obviously, you understand the severity of Ferdinand’s actions; however, not until the end do you fully understand just how abnormal he really is. This was certainly not a happy book, but one that I’m glad to have read and one that I will likely not forget.
The exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgeralds' third book, The Great Gatsby (1925), stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T. S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as the "first step" American fiction had taken since Henry James; H. L. Mencken praised "the charm and beauty of the writing," as well as Fitzgerald's sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald's "best work" thus far. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession," it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth. A novel of lyrical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romance, and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.
This is the definitive, textually accurate edition of The Great Gatsby, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli and authorized by the estate of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The first edition of The Great Gatsby contained many errors resulting from Fitzgerald's extensive revisions and a rushed production schedule, and subsequent editions introduced further departures from the author's intentions. This critical edition draws on the manuscript and surviving proofs of the novel, along with Fitzgerald's later revisions and corrections, to restore the text to its original form. It is The Great Gatsby as Fitzgerald intended it.
One of the great classics of the 20th century… well, a statement like that will definitely get anyone interested in reading it. Many of you read this in school, but naturally I missed out on this one as well. This one is not only on the BBC Book List but the 1001 books to read before you die.
’For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened – then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.’
I thoroughly enjoyed the writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald; it was by far the best part of the book. I had a major disconnect with the characters as I found them to be quite shallow and pretentious. The whole story seemed off for me, but I think that was just the overall oddness of the characters themselves. My impression going into this book was that it was to be a great love story… how Gatsby loved Daisy but the war came between them. Daisy, becoming tired of waiting for Gatsby to return, marries Tom who’s a loaf of a man that cheats on her quite openly.
Now I understand this is a book not set in the 20th century and women were supposed to all be stay out home mothers who took care of the house and the children and kept their mouths shut so I naturally didn’t expect her to get fed up with his cheating and hit him over the head with a dinner plate, but I really did expect more. By the end, it all felt a tad anticlimactic and there was a resounding ‘So… what was the point?’ floating through my head.
All in all, I’m glad to have read it so I can now say that I’ve read it, but that it’s definitely not going down as one of my faves.
In this classic 1960s novel, Ken Kesey's hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy. You've never met anyone like Randle Patrick McMurphy. He's a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the ward of a mental hospital and takes over. He's a lusty, profane, life-loving fighter who rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Big Nurse. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and at every turn, openly defies her rule.
The contest starts as sport, with McMurphy taking bets on the outcome, but soon it develops into a grim struggle for the minds and hearts of the men, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Big Nurse, backed by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Big Nurse uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story's shocking climax.
Another on my list of Banned/Challenged books. And another book that I apparently failed to be given as a reading requirement when I was younger.
I don’t have much to say about this series as I know the vast majority of you have already read this, but I will say that I was most definitely thrown by the story as I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. ‘Wow’ was the most used word while reading/listening to this book, for sure.
The setting of this story is in a mental institution and you’d never think that you’d find yourself laughing, but you do. Patrick McMurphy really makes this story what it is, he was such an influential character: funny and rebellious and being in a mental institution certainly doesn’t stop him from doing whatever he damn well pleases. The one part that cracked me up (as wrong as the situation was) was following one of his electro-shock therapy treatments:
’…he just laughed and told me Hell, all they was doin’ was chargin’ his battery for him, free for nothing. “When I get out of here the first woman that takes on ol’ Red McMurphy the ten-thousand-watt psychopath, she’s gonna light up like a pinball machine and pay off in silver dollars!”’
As the story progressed I got so caught up in loving these men that I practically forgot that they were all in a mental institution… and because my mind glazed over this fact, by the end, my heart broke for them. This is a really powerful tale that I’m glad I finally read.