Sherlock Homes: The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

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When Sir Charles Baskerville is found suspiciously dead, his friend, Dr. James Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes to look into the death. While the cause of death is determined to be a heart attack, Mortimer suspects foul play and fears that Sir Charles’s nephew and sole heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, may be in danger next. At the center of the investigation is the curse of the Baskervilles, which dates back to the time of the English Civil War. Supposedly the family’s ancestor, Hugo Baskerville, sold his soul to the devil, and the family has been haunted by a large spectral hound ever since. Because Sir Charles was found with a look of horror on his face when he died, appeared to be running away from something, and large paw prints had been found near his body, there is reason to believe that the “Hound” may have returned. The details of the case spark the interest of Sherlock and he agrees to take up the case. “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” is the third of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and is widely regarded as one of his best. This edition is printed on premium acid-free paper.

Review

This is by far my favorite book by Sherlock Holmes and a true tour de force. I absolutely love the gothic and eerie feeling of this book. The narrative is based on Watson’s letters and diary, and through Watson’s eye we witness the implied threat of the moor, the foggy and gloomy weather, and the spectral hound.

Doyle creates this gothic and supernatural atmosphere that seems to give explanation for all the terrifying things that are happening on the moors. And it is this very atmosphere of doom that makes this such a suspenseful book.

It is hard to believe that Doyle got tired of writing this wonderful character. This book is a classic. Hard to imagine a world with Agatha Christie or her beloved detective, Hercules Poirot, without the contribution that Doyle and Sherlock Holmes made to this genre.

This book is on my list in The Classics Club Challenge.

 


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Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders. Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember.

Review

Alias Grace is a work of fiction based on a historical event. Grace Marks was a notorious figure in the 1800’s who was sent to prison for twenty-eight years for the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his mistress Nancy Montgomery. Atwood recreates Grace’s years of incarceration. The story is told in first -person, with Grace narrating her thoughts as well as the story she tells Dr. Simon Jordan, her psychologist in prison.

Grace is really the powerhouse in this story. Her telling of the events is what makes her human, sympathetic and believable. She is not really a warm and fuzzy character. She is very complex and unpredictable. This novel touches on many important themes. Atwood told this story from the point of view of a woman in the twenty-first century. Many of the themes explored in this novel are familiar to Atwood’s fans because the author has explored these themes in other novels. Feminism, abandonment, abortion, child abuse,  mental health, human worth, suffering, trauma, and sexuality.

“If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.”

The important point about this novel is that Atwood is not so interested in figuring out this mystery as she is in just telling the story and what it meant to be a woman in the mid-nineteenth century.

I’m yet to read a Margaret Atwood’s book that I don’t like. Alias Grace is a masterpiece and a must on any bookshelf.

“Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run mad, as if mad is a different direction, like west; as if mad is a different house you could step into, or a separate country entirely. But when you go mad you don’t go any other place, you stay where you are. And somebody else comes in.”

This novel is part of my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge


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Curtain by Agatha Christie

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The house guests at Styles seemed perfectly pleasant to Captain Hastings; there was his own daughter Judith, an inoffensive ornithologist called Norton, dashing Mr. Allerton, brittle Miss Cole, Doctor Franklin and his fragile wife Barbara, Nurse Craven, Colonel Luttrell and his charming wife, Daisy, and the charismatic Boyd-Carrington. Hastings was shocked to learn from Hercule Poirot’s declaration that one of them was a five-times murderer. True, the aging detective was crippled with arthritis, but had his deductive instincts finally deserted him?

Review

I don’t know why it took me so long to read this book. I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan and I just love Poirot. I’ve read most of his stories and I even watched the old BBC series with David Suchet. Somehow, Curtain was never a book I really gravitated towards. One day while perusing my favorite used bookstore, I came across the book and decided to give it a try.

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To say that this novel is bittersweet is an understatement. First, Poirot and Hastings find themselves back at Styles, the house from the novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles where we were first introduced to the eccentric detective and to his friend Arthur Hastings. The other sad part is that we now find Poirot much older and in a wheelchair.

“Nothing is so sad, in my opinion, as the devastation wrought by age.
My poor friend. I have described him many times. Now to convey to you the difference. Crippled with arthritis, he propelled himself about in a wheelchair. His once plump frame had fallen in. He was a thin little man now.”

Despite Poirot’s crippled appearance, his “little gray cells” are working just fine and soon enough Poirot declares to Hastings that one of the guests at Styles has committed five murders and is about to commit one more.

I personally liked the book. I don’t think I would ever truly love any book that narrates Poirot’s last case. The end was sad, almost brought me to tears, but didn’t completely surprise me. This was also Christie’s last published book before she died. For fans of the genre, this novel will not disappoint you a bit. For Agatha Christie’s fans, this book is a must.

The End of The Affair by Graham Greene

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According to the narrator, Maurice Bendrix, this book tells a story about hate much more than about love. Bendrix is an author who decides to write a true story and he decides how much of it he will tell, at what point he will begin, and at what point he will end it. The tale begins with the night he encounters Henry Miles, the husband of Sarah, the woman with whom Bendrix had an affair. Henry, however, has no idea that Bendrix was once involved with his wife. Henry reveals to Bendrix that he believes his wife is seeing another man. Pretending to be a friend to Henry and jealous of the fact Sarah may be seeing someone rather than him, Bendrix offers to hire a private investigator to find out the truth.

Bendrix narrates in first-person for the majority of the story and by interpreting situations according to his personal feelings and bias renders Bendrix a very unreliable narrator. He allows his negative feelings to color his telling of the story. The remainder of the narrative is flashback allowing readers to gather more information to interpret the story.

Loved this book. I absolutely loved the writing, and what Greene did to the story and the characters.

“The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.”

“Love had turned into “love affair” with a beginning and an end.”

“She had always called me ‘you.’ ‘Is that you?’ on the telephone, ‘Can you? Will you? Do you?’ so that I imagined, like a fool, for a few minutes at a time, there was only one ‘you’ in the world and that was me.”

“So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days.”

I highly recommend this classic.

Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young widow who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behavior becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of her past.

Review

When a mysterious tenant, Helen Graham, moves into Wildfell Hall, it immediately sparks an interest in Gilbert Markham. Helen’s desire for seclusion and privacy ends up arousing suspicion and curiosity among her neighbors. Gilbert, in particular, is extremely interested in Helen and one day pays a visit to Wildfell Hall. As time goes on and their friendship deepens, Helen gives Gilbert a copy of her journal to read. The journal is an account of Helen’s life in the past six years.

The book starts with Gilbert writing a letter to his brother-in-law and the first chapters of the book are written in Gilbert’s voice. After Helen gives Gilbert her journal, Brontë starts to write in Helen’s voice. This is an interesting technique and one that worked really well in this book. The main theme of this novel is without a doubt the criticism to alcoholism and its destructive effects on the lives of people affected by it. What makes this book a classic is first and foremost Brontë’s courage to tackle the issue of alcoholism, divorce, domestic, and child abuse in an era where those topics were a huge taboo, if not altogether forbidden. Does this novel compare to the quality and ranking of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights? Probably not! The prose of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a little less embellished than the prose found in her sisters’ books.

When I tell you not to marry without love, I do not advise you to marry for love alone: there are many, many other things to be considered. Keep both heart and hand in your own possession, till you see good reason to part with them; and if such an occasion should never present itself, comfort your mind with this reflection, that though in single life your joys may not be very many, your sorrows, at least, will not be more than you can bear. Marriage may change your circumstances for the better, but, in my private opinion, it is far more likely to produce a contrary result.

Once considered the lesser of the Brontë’s sisters (Emily and Charlotte), Anne Brontë did a fantastic job in this way-ahead-of-its-time almost feminist novel.

This book is part of my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge.

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Review: Love for Lydia by H.E. Bates

Love for Lydia

Lydia – shy, sheltered, beautiful and just 19 – glides into Evensford one wintry day, stirring up feeling amongst the town’s young men. But it is the young Mr Richardson that she befriends. As winter turns to drowsy summer, his world becomes a wondrous place, full only of Lydia; but a change comes over the once retiring girl as she discovers the effect she has on other men. As his closest friends fall under her spell, the love Richardson feels for Lydia becomes tangled with jealousy and resentment, a rift that may never be repaired.

Love for Lydia was first published in 1952 and it is still an extremely poignant novel. This is by far one of the greatest love stories of the twentieth century. It is a beautifully written, classic love story. The prose is exquisite and the descriptions of the outdoors and countryside scenery are a delight. I’m very glad a gave this novel a chance. A timeless, steamy love story that I highly recommend.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Review: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April

Title: The Enchanted April

Author: Elizabeth von Arnim

Pages: 222

Genre: Fiction/Classics

ISBN: 9780143107736

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Rating: 4-Stars

Read: May, 2015

Four very different women take up an offer advertised in the Times for a “small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April.” As each blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring, quite unexpected changes occur.

This is a lovely book by Elizabeth von Arnim! Four women decide to leave their dreary lives in London and rent a villa in Italy. A delightful afternoon read, and a great homage to friendship and most importantly, the power of traveling and how transformative it can be in our lives. I love Arnim’s descriptions of the landscape, the scenery and the flowers. I love flowers and I could almost smell them on the pages of this book. My only complaint, and the reason I didn’t rate this book 5 stars was the husbands’ part in the story (without giving too much away). I would’ve let them out completely and glorified the power of female friendship. Overall, a fantastic read.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest review. The new edition of this book is scheduled to be published on June 2, 2015.

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