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100 Greatest Novels: The Old Wives’ Tale, The Call of the Wild, Loving & Midnight’s Children

Today we have to talk about 4 more novels from the list of the 100 greatest. These four bring us ever so close to the end. We actually only have ten left! Can you believe it? I can’t. We started this in the summer of 2012, posting the first on August 20th. I know it’s been a long journey but it’s exciting to finally get close to the conclusion. Well, let’s get to the books.

The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett

The_Old_Wives_Tale_(Arnold_Bennett_novel)_cover_artThis first novel is a sweeping narrative of two sisters. It follows both their lives from childhood to death and covers most events, mundane to extreme, in great detail. The story is broken into four parts: the sisters’ childhood until their separation, each sisters’ individual life story through the many years of adulthood, and finally their old age together. The sisters are very different and while reading, you’ll relate to both in different ways at different parts of their stories. I really enjoyed Sophia’s adulthood chapter because she spends most of her years in Paris and it was fun to see how a English woman raised in a small town reacts and conforms to the life of a Parisian. This novel contains many frustrating situations and characters, just like real life. I hated Constance’s son. Hated him.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

220px-JackLondoncallwildI haven’t read a book this quick and easy in a long time. Finishing it in less than a day, this story is an intense survival story about a dog that’s stolen from his family and sold and shipped to Canada as a sled dog. And it’s told from the dog’s perspective, which is unique for this list of novels. As the dog, Buck, learns to survive in this harsh climate and harsh life, he slowly reverts back to a wild state. He hears the “call of the wild,” the call of his ancestors. The story deals with some difficult to read scenes with dogs and people not being able to handle the harsh climates of the Yukon and the difficult lives of a gold rush. But overall, the story has a satisfying conclusion. Plus, it’s free on Kindle so…

Loving by Henry Green

Loving_Henry_GreenThis novel is for all the Downton Abbey lovers out there. Set during World War II, the story is the lives of the servants and their employers at an Irish castle. It follows the conflicts, gossip and flirtations of the servants and how they intersect with the lives of their employers. At first, I had a difficult time getting into this novel. Multiple names are used for each character depending on who’s doing the talking. The storyline jumps around to different interactions around the castle. It read like a film that’s shot with one camera. We can only pick up one interaction after leaving another, even if we cut in halfway through a conversation and don’t really have an idea of what’s going on. It was somewhat confusing at first but over the course of the book, I learned the characters and really enjoyed the novel.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

MidnightsChildrenNow this was a fascinating read. I loved the adventure of these pages. This was a mystical story about Saleem Sinai, who is born at midnight. And not just any midnight but the moment that India gains it’s independence from England. The story starts with Saleem’s grandfather and works up to his birth. From his birth on, his life and the history of India are perfectly intertwined, mirrored upon each other. The story follows his life and the historical events at the beginning of India’s independence to the partitioning of India and Pakistan. As the story goes on, his life and India’s politics become more and more complex. We finally make it to the splitting of Pakistan into Bangladesh and Pakistan. We also get Pakistan and India’s battles over Kashmir in the story and in his life. We get the Emergency proclaimed by Indira Gandhi, a state of emergency called to suspend civil liberties and solidify her hold onto power. This event is the denouement of India’s early years of their independence and the denouement of Saleem’s story.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Saleem, and every other child born between midnight and 1:00am when India gained her independence, are born with special powers. Using his telepathic powers, Saleem brings all the Midnight Children together to try to use their powers for the betterment of India. This magical or mystical aspect of the novel really connects all the complex storylines and fascinating connections of history of country and of family into an incredible reading experience. I’d highly recommend this book to anybody.


This brings us to the final ten novels. Next is Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell. What a first name!

Until next time…

 

 

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100 Greatest Novels: The Wings of the Dove & The Ambassadors

It’s been incredibly too long since my last 100 greatest novels post. I sincerely apologize. But, Henry James! I struggled to get through these two books. The sentences were incredibly way too long. Each sentence had a minimum of a dozen commas, two semicolons, and at least one dash. Seriously. Anyways, let’s get through it.

The_Wings_of_the_Dove_(Henry_James_Novel)_1st_edition_coverThe Wings of the Dove by Henry James

This story, that starts in London, moves to America, than Europe, than London, than Italy, and back to London, was a somewhat interesting story, albeit slow, of a girl, a young woman, who befriends many people, from America to Italy, and decides she is dying of some unnamed disease; this dying leads to secrets, plans, backstabbing, and open, and hidden, proposals of all the men to all the women-well, most-the other women being the ones, two in particular, that are pushing the proposals, while keeping other proposals from happening in the open; which, invariably, brings us to the tension of who the dying girl loves; and, of course, who loves her back.

I can’t do it. If you don’t believe me, read the book. If you hated the above paragraph, stray far from Henry James.

180px-TheAmbassadorsThe Ambassadors by Henry James

I wish I had read this book first. It’s not nearly as bad as Wings of the Dove. The story is a little more interesting and the humor is darker and more sarcastic. The writing lets you experience where the stories are located. I enjoyed reading about Paris in the early 1900s. James’ writing was still difficult. But let me tell you about the story. It follows Lambert Strether to Europe to convince the son of his widowed fiancee to come back to America to take up the family business. Supposedly, the wayward son has become caught up with a “wicked” woman. Once in Paris, the facts don’t match what Strether was made to expect and his mission becomes somewhat complicated by people he meets and friends he makes. Overall, I enjoyed this novel but I was so sick of Henry James that I didn’t get as much as I would have liked out of it. I would recommend it for someone wanting to read about Paris at the turn of the century.

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Up next is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. I’m a fan of Fitzgerald’s writing but haven’t read this novel so I’m looking forward to it. Onward we go.

 

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