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100 Greatest Novels: The Maltese Falcon, Parade’s End, The Age of Innocence, & Zuleika Dobson

It has been way too long since my last post. I have been able to read four more of the 100 greatest novels since the last post (impressive, huh…) amongst all the other things going on in my life. The Thanksgiving break gave me time to catch up on some reading and I was able to finish the last two novels we’re talking about today.

MalteseFalcon1930The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The first book is a detective novel written in 1929. Considered the novel that created the dark and brooding private detective, The Maltese Falcon follows Sam Spade as he tries to solve a murder while being questioned as a suspect. The novel was a fun, simple read with all the things you expect from a crime novel. While I did enjoy the novel, it did have numerous sexist themes and scenes that I thought were unnecessary to the novel. All in all I would recommend this novel if you’re a fan of the crime genre but if not, you can go ahead and skip it.

Some_Do_Not_(Ford_Madox_Ford_novel)Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford

I was actually really excited about this novel because I enjoyed Ford’s first novel in this list, The Good Soldier. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch played the main character in BBC’s adaptation of this novel and I love him as an actor. With all that being said, I just could not get into this novel. The writing was dense. The story was slow. The characters were unlikeable and unbelievable. The progression of events were disjointed and hard to follow. If you’re wanting to read a British novel written around World War I, there are plenty of other choices to make. Originally written as four separate novels, the tetralogy was later combined under the one title, Parade’s End. Honestly, I was only able to get through the first novel which was published under the title Some Do Not... . I decided not to continue because I wasted so much time struggling through the first one, I didn’t think I would ever finish all four

220px-TheAgeOfInnocenceThe Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The first novel written by a woman to win the Pulitzer Price in Fiction, The Age of Innocence reads like the television show Gossip Girl set in the late 1800s. Following the upper class families of New York, the story is a critic of the morals and traditions of this society. The novels revolves around the introduction of a woman with questionable morals and possible disgraces in her past and how this will shake the society’s belief system of what a woman should be, what a marriage should be, and how people of a society should handle outsiders. Without being a complete condemnation of this society, the novel is a great look into what New York was like in the late 1800s (at least for the wealthy). The details of the society parties, balls, dinners, and vacations make this book’s characters incredibly relatable even 150 years after they are placed. I really enjoyed this book and think anybody who loves New York or a good doomed love story should read it. Also, I don’t usually use this space to try to sell books but amazon.com has the paperback on sale right now for $3.15 (and free shipping if you have Prime like I do). So if you’d like to buy the book, just click on the cover to the left. All the images I use of the book covers are links to purchase the book.

220px-Zuleika-dobsonZuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

This is the first novel I’ve read in a while that had me laughing out loud over and over. I’m not sure how much of the novel was supposed to be funny but it is a satirical look at university life at Oxford University in the early 1900s. The story follows Zuleika Dobson, a beautiful woman who is famous for being a mediocre magician, and her trip to the campus. All the undergraduates fall in love with her and hilarity ensues. My favorite part of the novel is when halfway through, the story starts to be written from a first-person narrator who begins speaking to the reader. He explains how he is able to know the thoughts and actions of all the characters (power given to him by Zeus as a favor for the Greek Muse Clio). He argues with the reader, bargains with the reader, and justifies his decision to the reader all while telling the story. And as the story goes, it becomes more and more ridiculous. But really, just the right amount of ridiculous. And I enjoyed every minute of reading it.

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Alright, sorry to have to drop so many on you right now. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a few more to you before the end of the year. Next is The Moviegoer by Walker Percy, number 60 in the list. I’m getting excited because I’m getting closer and closer to my favorite novel. You’ll find out soon enough.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in 100 Greatest Novels, Book Review, Literature

 

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100 Greatest Novels: The Studs Lonigan Trilogy & The Good Soldier

Don’t have much of an introduction. I’ve been enjoying Houston, reading, and watching through Breaking Bad. Getting closer and getting ready for my wedding in August. But this isn’t a post about me so let’s get to it.

tumblr_lkli3on36i1qaouh8o1_250The Studs Lonigan Trilogy by James T. Farrell

Consisting of Young Lonigan, The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan, and Judgement Day, this trilogy follows a young Irish-American in the South Side of Chicago before and during the Great Depression. Starting with Studs at age 14, the trilogy follows him all the way to his death right before his 30th birthday. Not much happens in the novels. He drinks a lot, goes to church, thinks about sleeping with girls, sleeps with a few prostitutes and a few “good, Catholic girls.” He works for his father until the Great Depression hits and he doesn’t have much work to do. And so on.

The purpose of the novel was to show the hardships of the Great Depression, the faults of the Catholic church and those who practice Catholicism, and the evils of capitalism that caused the depression. I’m not sure if it really accomplishes all this. The third novel, encompassing the events leading to Studs on his deathbed, does the best job of fulfilling this purpose. Other than that, the first two novels are pretty slow and boring and goes into a lot of repetitive details about Studs’ daily life, his desire for women, his unfounded self-importance, etc. Anyways, enjoyed Judgement Day, didn’t need the first two, wouldn’t necessarily recommend the trilogy overall.

200px-The_Good_Soldier_First_Edition,_Ford_Madox_FordThe Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

“This is the saddest story I have ever heard.”

That’s how this novel opens up. I’m not sure if this truly is the saddest story but it has to be pretty high up in the list. The story is narrated by an American man who is married to a sick woman that can’t leave Europe because of the boat trip and their “friendship” with another couple, the Ashburnhams. The Ashburnhams are a wealthy English couple, Edward being “the good soldier.” Edward is an unfaithful husband (and so is mostly everybody else in this story).

While an interesting plot, what made this book so enjoyable was the narration. Told in a very conversational, non-chronological way, I enjoyed coming back to certain scenes with more information than I had previously. Each repeated scene had a deeper meaning, more layers to it, every time we learned more about a character. Here’s how the narrator explains his story telling (3/4ths of the way in):

I have, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that it may be difficult for anyone to find their path through what may be a sort of maze. I cannot help it. I have stuck to my idea of being in a country cottage with a silent listener, hearing between the gusts of the wind and amidst the noises of the distant sea, the story as it comes. And, when one discusses an affair–a long, sad affair–one goes back, one goes forward. One remembers points that one has forgotten and one explains them all the more minutely since one recognizes that one has forgotten to mention them in their proper places and that one may have given, by omitting them, a false impression. I console myself with thinking that this is a real story and that, after all, real stories are probably told best in the way a person telling a story would tell them. They will then seem most real.

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Onwards we go. Next of the 100 greatest novels is Animal Farm by George Orwell, a favorite of mine.

 
 

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