Monthly Archives: October 2013

100 Greatest Novels: The Heart of the Matter, Lord of the Flies, & Deliverance

Well, the next three novels just got darker and darker. I guess it’s fitting being right before Halloween and everything. Anyways, here’s three more of the 100 greatest novels.

175px-HeartOfTheMatterThe Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Set on the West Coast of Africa, this was a great look at England’s colonies in Africa during World War II. Major Scobie is one of the few honest English workers at the colony. Whether it’s the strain of his work, the climate of West Africa, Catholic guilt, or all the above, Scobie’s mistakes and actions ultimately lead to his destruction. Even when it seemed unnecessary.

I haven’t read any of Greene’s work before but I really enjoyed his writing style. Halfway through the 20th century, British authors seemed to drop the unneeded over-explanation you find at the turn of the century. The writing became simpler, the storytelling clearer. I’ve noticed this a lot in this greatest novels list, especially ones I was previously unfamiliar with: Greene, Evelyn Waugh, E. M. Forster, and of course George Orwell. The Heart of the Matter is a great example of this clear writing style and it made for an enjoyable read.

200px-LordOfTheFliesBookCoverLord of the Flies by William Golding

Here’s where things start to get a little darker. This novel is about children being stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash. There are no adults and they have to take care of themselves. Their ages range between 5 to probably 12 or so. Early on, the kids try to create a society resemblant of the adult one they left behind. They choose a leader, create rules, etc. Over the course of the novel, things slowly break down. First, the littlest ones cannot or will not follow any rules from the older kids. Then the chosen leader, Ralph, is repeatedly challenged by the headstrong Jack. Finally, the fear of the unknown starts breaking down all the children’s mental state until most of the children embrace a savagery not expected from civilized British children.

Lord of the Flies can be somewhat difficult to read because the rules and the order created at the beginning of the story would be so easy to follow. Simple mistakes made by the children lead to the break down of their “society.” By the time the kids’ savagery leads to deaths, you just want to scream at the children that, well, they’re just children. They seem to forget it and sometimes us readers do too.

Dickey-DeliveranceDeliverance by James Dickey

4 middle-aged men that live in a Georgia city decide to take a weekend trip canoeing down the river in northern Georgia. Simple enough, what could go wrong? After a couple deaths, a broken leg, rapids, rock-climbing, and even sodomy, I guess a few things can go wrong.

This intense novel was written and set in the 1970s. I know I said Lord of the Flies can be difficult to read but that has nothing on this story. Although there are some incredibly difficult passages, this novel actually has some beautifully written narration. Narrated by Ed, one of the four city men, we see his first experience in true wilderness perfectly. The writing is simple yet descriptive which makes for clear understanding, even when you don’t want to understand what’s going on very clearly. There is a movie that was produced a few years after the release of the novel that I’ve heard is as difficult to watch as the novel was to read. But in the end, it was worth it to experience this life-changing weekend with Ed.


Next up is a series of 12 novels by Anthony Powell titled A Dance to the Music of Time, which I think is kind of cheating. 12 novels getting one spot!? I bought a 4 volume set that contains all the novels. We’ll see if I make it through all 4 volumes before going ahead. It’ll take a week or so for the books to get in so until then, I started reading the 1897 horror novel Dracula by Bram Stoker to get ready for Halloween. Onwards we go.

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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Uncategorized


100 Greatest Novels: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Howards End, & Go Tell It on the Mountain

Well, we keep trucking along. Getting closer to the halfway mark.

200px-BridgeOfSanLuisReyThe Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

This book is really small. My copy was 117 pages. With that in mind, you wouldn’t think Wilder could put in so much emotion in to so few pages. In the 1700s, an old Incan rope bridge in Peru collapses. Five people were on the bridge when it collapses and the rest of the book gives us short histories of each person and how they came to be on the bridge. With the book being so short and fitting in the histories of five different people, I didn’t expect to get emotionally attached to anybody. Well, that was a wrong assumption. But ultimately, the books is about love. The last sentence:

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

Howards_EndHowards End by E. M. Forster

For fans of BBC’s Downton Abbey, this novel follows three families and their connections to an old family home named Howards End. Set at the turn of the century, this is another novel about English aristocracy and how they relate to each other, poorer people, and their possessions.

What sets this novel apart is the characters (two main characters are children of German immigrants instead of the normal British heritage) and Howards End, the home that takes on as important a rule as any character. More of the novel actually takes place in London instead of at the home but the home still affects the actions and reactions of multiple characters.

200px-GoTellItOnTheMountainGo Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Written in the 1950s, this semi-autobiographical novel is set in New York during the early 20th century. The novel follows John, a 14-year-old African American, and his life living with a strict father who’s a deacon at a charismatic church. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about the history of John’s family members. Starting back in the south, the novel follows each character as they deal with hardships, move to the north, and find God.

What makes this novel difficult to read is seeing the characters use their faith in God to punish themselves. Every little bad mishap is proof that they are living in sin and that God is punishing them. Children need sin beat out of them. Adults need to be shunned because of their life of sin. Only one character can see the truth. And all this creates an intense and sometimes difficult novel.


Getting into the 40s on the list of the 100 greatest novels, next is The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene.


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