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100 Greatest Novels: A Farewell to Arms, Scoop, & The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Sorry, I’ve had these novels read for a while but have been crazy busy with other things to write this post. I’m currently working on getting my teaching certificate transferred to Pennsylvania and it isn’t an easy task. Anyways, I enjoyed all of the following novels from the 100 greatest novels list and I’m excited to tell you about them. Let’s get started.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

220px-Hemingway_farewellMy (current) favorite topic to study in history is World War I. The lack of bad guy vs. good guy, the crazy political alliances and nationalism that led to the war, and the disillusionment and despair that most soldiers ended up with make this war incredibly fascinating. And this is the backdrop for Hemingway’s first best-seller, A Farewell to Arms. Following an American ambulance driver who is a Lieutenant in the Italian army and his relationship with an English nurse, the novel gives us a great depiction of the Italian front of WWI without getting bogged down with historical information. The story is interesting and the writing is easy to read. You actually care for the protagonist. With a major loss against the Austrians, the war around Henry and Catharine start to unravel. And the story unravels with it with a gut-wrenching drive to the end of the story.

This is a near perfect war novel, a great love story, and an intense study of human nature. I’d recommend this to anybody.

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

170px-ScoopwaughThis hilarious satirical novel takes a jab at journalism, specifically foreign correspondents and their reporting on foreign wars. A fictional war in a fictional East African nation is about to start. A British newspaper, The Beast, wants to send a popular novelist named Boot. Because of a mixup or employee laziness, the wrong Boot is sent. The man that’s sent to Africa is a lowly, naive nature journalist that hates to even visit London. And every step of his process of getting to Africa and every action he commits in Africa kept me laughing out loud during my reading. Of course, he is accidentally successful in Africa but when he finally makes it home, more confusions lead to more hilarity.

Scoop really was a quick, fun, and enjoyable read. Actually, everything I’ve read by Evelyn Waugh has been this way. I previously read Waugh’s A Handful of Dust for this list and while being completely different, the novel was just as fun.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

JeanbrodieNow this was a fairly odd novel. I was excited to read it because it’s about a teacher, Miss Brodie, and her unusual philosophies on teaching. She believes in being very open with her students and focusing her education on classical studies, art history, and stories of her travels and love life. The story follows the growth of a few of her students, the Brodie set, while the move up in the school and ultimately into being adults. The story isn’t told in sequential order but in short little events, using flashbacks and flash forwards to give us the whole picture. The headmistress of the school does not like Miss Brodie and tries to split the Brodie set up and gather information from them to use against Miss Brodie. I wouldn’t say the headmistress is very successful but one of the girls does “betray” Miss Brodie and parts of the novel are when Miss Brodie is much older and trying to figure out which student betrayed her. We learn of the betrayal fairly early on in the novel but don’t find out who it is till near the end. Overall, I’d say this novel is satisfying yet odd.

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So next up, #77, is Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. While I’m a huge fan of Joyce, I’m very afraid of this novel. “It is significant for its experimental style and reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language.” I have started reading (or struggling) through it but it will probably be a while before I finish. And on top of all this we’re in the process of moving to Philadelphia and I’m trying to find a teaching position up there. So, wish me luck with new cities, new jobs, and an insanely difficult novel.

 

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100 Greatest Novels: The Sun Also Rises, The Secret Agent, & Nostromo

Another fairly large span of time between the last post and now. Sorry about that. I’ve been studying for my state exam working towards my teaching certificate. Anyways, let’s get to the novels. As we get closer to the halfway mark, here’s three more of the 100 greatest novels.

Hemingwaysun1The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Following a group of American and British citizens in Spain, this novel deals with numerous themes. Love and love lost plays heavy on the story. I really enjoyed the dry and direct writing which was very similar to the attitude and personality of the protagonist, Jake Barnes. Really, the whole novel is full of characters with strong and distinct flaws. From the promiscuity of Lady Brett Ashley, to the impotency of Jake, and the drunkenness of Mike Campbell, they’re all damaged by either the times or by their experiences in World War I. This novel also serves as a stark and interesting depiction of Spain in the early 1900s. Some Spanish citizens are friendly to foreigners and others aren’t but all of their reactions to the characters lend hilarious and sometimes dark scenes to the story.


SecretAgentThe Secret Agent 
by Joseph Conrad

The first of two books by Conrad next to each other in the list, The Secret Agent was an interesting departure from most of the novels on this list. This novel follows the protagonist’s dealings as a spy and how his job effects those around him. The novel is written in a way where not only do you get the point of view of each and every character, but the point of view moves from character to character each chapter and sometimes in the middle of the chapter. These switches makes for slow revealing of the plot but gives you a chance to see events and characters from numerous viewpoints. From chapter to chapter, a character can seem strong and resolute and then suddenly vapid and unimportant. The plot itself is actually very interesting but it almost becomes second place to the inner workings of each character. It really makes for an interesting read.

200px-Nostromo1stNostromo by Joseph Conrad

This novel took a while to get going for me but by the end, I really enjoyed it. I think the reason for the slow start was because during most of the first half, Nostromo is barely a named minor character. So much time is spent learning the histories of other characters and I was just thinking the book wasn’t named for them, let’s get to Nostromo. But beyond all that, the story was an interesting take on a fictional government in South America trying to find it’s way between colonialism and their own democracy. You learn of numerous coups and then the story goes into yet another one. Nostromo plays a major part in this revolution and the story follows him until the conclusion and beyond.

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Great! Let’s keep going. Currently, I’m on The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence. Thanks for keeping up with all this.

 

 

 

 

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