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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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Remains of the Day is a profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and of his fading, insular world postwar England. At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive, during which he looks back over his career to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving “a great gentleman.” But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington’s “greatness” and graver doubts about his own faith in the man he served.

Review 

Such a beautifully written novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve never got to watch the movie version of this title and I’m glad I haven’t. I read this book with no pre-conceived expectations and I believe that has made a big difference in the way I experienced this novel.

This is a story about Stevens, a British butler who after years of service at Darlington Hall is offered his first vacation. He sets out to explore the English countryside and meet Miss Kenton, who had worked with him in the heyday of the Darlington Hall.

“A ‘great’ butler can only be, surely, one who can point to his years of service and say that he has applied his talents to serving a great gentleman — and through the latter, to serving humanity.”

Duty and dedication are at the heart of this novel and although in today’s day and age it’s hard to conceive the role of such a dedicated butler. This is a very bittersweet recollection of a life full of sacrifices and missed opportunities. I have to say I ended this novel feeling pretty sad. My heart ached for this man who spent his entire life in pursuit of service to this house and this employer and in doing that he lost his opportunity for true love.

“I do not think I responded Immediately, for it took me a moment or two to fully digest these words of Miss Kenton…their implications were such as to provoke a certain degree of sorrow within me. Indeed — why should I not admit it? — at that moment, my heart was breaking.”

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


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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: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone, a priceless Indian diamond which had been brought to England as spoils of war, is given to Rachel Verrinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night, the stone is stolen. Suspicion then falls on a hunchbacked housemaid, on Rachel’s cousin Franklin Blake, on a troupe of mysterious Indian jugglers, and on Rachel herself. The phlegmatic Sergeant Cuff is called in, and with the help of Betteredge, the Robinson Crusoe-reading loquacious steward, the mystery of the missing stone is ingeniously solved.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is considered to be the first detective novel in the English Language. And being a huge fan of detective stories I had long wanted to read it, but had never gotten around doing it. So a couple of months ago I joined The Classics Club Challenge and added this book to my list.

What I absolutely loved about this novel, and perhaps the reason it’s considered a classic, is how well Collins developed the plot. The twists, the suspects, the idea of the super detective who comes in to save the day–all of this pretty much from scratch, no template or recipe to follow. The language, naturally, gives it away. This novel was first published in 1868, and the fact that he wrote it as an epistolary novel (written as a series of documents, such as letters or diary entries) made it much easier to read. It changed the pace of the book and kept it interesting.

This novel should be required reading for fans of detective novels. It is almost impossible to think of books by Agatha Christie, P.D. James, or even Arthur Conan Doyle without referring to The Moonstone. Great read!

5 star

Book Details:

Title: The Moonstone/Author: Wilkie Collins/Genre: Fiction/Crime / ISBN:9781593083229/Publisher:Barnes & Noble Classics/Rating: 5-Stars/Read: May, 2015.

The Classics Club Challenge

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So I have just agreed to the Classics Club Challenge, and what it means is that I agreed to read 50 classic titles in 5 years (4/2015-4/2020). I think it is a great initiative to read amazing literary classics.

My list was composed of books I had heard of and never read; books you know you should have read and never got around reading it, as well as inspiration from Goodreads lists and the Big Book List.

I’m not planning on reading these books in the same sequence as I have listed. Some books will have a review available, and some will not, and there is no set number of books I plan to read in a year. I will be crossing them out as I’m reading them. I have already started the year on a Dante theme, so those books I took credit for and they will be crossed out.

So here is my list:

Twain, Mark ~ The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Dumas, Alexandre ~ The Three Musketeers
Hugo, Victor ~ Les Miserable
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor ~ The Brothers Karamazov
Whitman, Walt ~ Leaves of Grass
Atwood, Margarete ~ Alias Grace
Blake, William ~ Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Swift, Jonathan ~ Gulliver’s Travels
Voltaire ~ Candide
Goldsmith, Oliver ~ The Vicar of Wakefield
Hawthorne, Nathaniel ~ The House of the Seven Gables
Haywood, Eliza ~ Love in Excess
Fielding, Henry ~ Joseph Andrews
Shelley, Mary ~ The Last Man
Eliot, George ~ The Mill on the Floss
Eliot, George ~ Middlemarch
Verne, Jules ~ From the Earth to the Moon and ‘Round the Moon
Verne, Jules ~ Around the World in Eighty Days
Cervantes, Miguel ~ Don Quixote
Bronte, Charlotte ~ The Professor
Bronte, Anne ~ The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Wharton, Edith ~ The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
Wharton, Edith ~ The Age of Innocence
Stegner, Wallace ~ Angle of Repose
Woolf, Virginia ~ A Room of One’s Own
Woolf, Virginia ~ To the Lighthouse
Angelou, Maya ~ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Ishiguro, Kasuo ~ The Remains of the Day
Cather, Willa ~ Death Comes for the Archbishop
Doyle, Arthur Conan ~ The Hound of the Baskervilles
Christie, Agatha ~ Murder on the Orient Express
Wilde, Oscar ~ The Canterville Ghost
Washington, Irving ~ The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang ~ Faust
Alighieri, Dante ~ Inferno
Alighieri, Dante ~ Purgatorio
Salinger, J. D. ~ The Catcher in the Rye
Heller, Joseph ~ Catch-22
Chandler, Raymond ~ The Big Sleep
James, Henry ~ The Portrait of a Lady
Smith, Betty ~ A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
O’Connor, Flannery ~ Wise Blood
Collins, Wilkie ~ The Woman in White
Collins, Wilkie ~ The Moonstone
Dickens, Charles ~ Oliver Twist
Dickens, Charles ~ Great Expectations
Austen, Jane ~ Mansfield Park
Tolstoy, Leo ~ Anna Karenina
Lowry, Lois ~ The Giver
Melville, Herman ~ Moby-Dick

What do you guys think about this challenge? Please feel free to leave a comment, and let me know if you’ve read any of these books and your thoughts about it. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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