Classic

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Classic, Literary Fiction, Drama, Coming Of Age, Young Adult

Louisa May Alcott is an American writer. She has written poems and short stories that appeared regularly in journals around 1850s. Though she is famous for writing Little Women, she has also authored other books like Flower Fables and Hospital Sketches.

Little Women is the story of four young March girls under the care of their mother Mrs. March for years as their father is away at the war. Margaret March a.k.a. Meg, the eldest at 16, Josephine March a.k.a Jo, second at 15, Elizabeth March a.k.a. Beth, third at 13, and Amy March the last at 12. The family is poor and is only able to look after themselves as much as they can. While Meg and Amy wish they had more money, Jo and Beth are happy with what they have. Mrs. March knows how each of her daughters are, and is close to each of them. The daughters too are close to each other. Due to their good nature, their neighbour Mr. Laurance and his grandson, Laurie, become close to the family. They interact with their grandaunt often at whose place Jo works. Laurie’s tutor, John Brooke, likes the girly Meg. Laurie falls for tomboy Jo. Beth falls sick, which is pretty serious in those ages when medical science had not developed much. Amy becomes an artist. What happens in each girl’s life is what you get to know by reading Little Women.

I first heard of the book on the famous sitcom Friends where Rachel and Joey discuss books. I later got to know it is a classic. When I started reading it, in the beginning I got bored. Maybe it was because I could not relate much to the times of 1840s and 1850s. The initial pages tell you about Marches’ lifestyle. As and when the story moves forward, I started to enjoy it. So much about the sisters bickering with each other and love back all the same. What got me glued to the book and did not let me put it down was the relationship between Jo and Laurie. Louisa May Alcott has described it in detail, with every expression and emotion, that I simply read on. I found myself rooting for them. Amy comes out as a surprise towards the end. Watch out for her!

I can say, the only two classics that I have thoroughly enjoyed are Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Little Women is for everyone, irrespective of age, gender and geographical location.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Children’s Book, Fantasy

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson used the penname Lewis Carroll to write. He was an English writer, mathematician and photographer. After writing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he next wrote Through the Looking Glass with Alice as protagonist again.

A young girl called Alice follows a talking rabbit down a hole that leads to a magical land that Alice calls Wonderland. Here she meets weird characters. Mostly they are talking animals and crazy looking and behaving humans. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland comprises of all the events Alice endeavors there.

Lewis Carroll must have been high when he wrote this book. The narration is good for storytelling for kids or picturization; not for reading to self. Alice is always either growing tall or short, talking nonsense. Was there a necessity to write this book? Reading this book is a great agony. ‘As soon as she had made out the proper way of nursing it (which was to twist it up into a sort of knot, and then keep tight hold of its right ear and left foot, so as to prevent its undoing itself), she carried it out into the open air.’ This is how handling a baby of unknown species described in the story. What kind of sick mind would do this? It is only when the Mad Hatter appears, that the story starts to make some sense. By the end of the story, you will sure of one thing: one of the 3 people – Lewis Carroll, Alice and her sister – were high. Or all were high indeed. When you finish the book, if you are my kind of a reader who doesn’t quit a book just because it is boring, you will let out a sigh of relief.

Don’t bother reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Zombie romance, Classic retelling
Imprint: Quirk Classics
ISBN: 1594743347

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith is a classic retelling, in a lesser unknow subgenre zombie romance, of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The author has written several books in other lesser known genres. Another of his famous work is Abraham Lincoln: The Vampire Slayer. You can read our reviews of Pride and Prejudice’s graphic novel and illustrated book by clicking on the options.

Seth Grahame-Smith is a smart boy. He didn’t have to write much. All he had to do was include ninja lifestyle descriptions, zombies and a few fights here and there without changing the Goddess Jane Austen’s original. Sorry, Seth actually kills Charlotte Lucas in his version. How and when? It is for you to find out by reading this book.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been personally gratifying at so many levels to a Pride and Prejudice fan like me. I have three instances where I kind of appreciated Seth for his version. First, there is an instance when Mr. Bennet actually asks Mrs. Bennet to shut up, which I had been wondering why it didn’t happen since the time I first read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Anyway, if Mrs. Bennet shuts up, how will the show go on? So, she gets to be herself. Second, Elizabeth kicks Darcy’s ass for separating Jane and Bingley, and for insulting her family while he professes his love for her during her stay at Mr. Collins and Charlotte’s house. The usually slight rudeness in the original had not gone down well with me. Thirs, Darcy kicking some zombie-asses on the beautiful grounds of Pemberley to help Elizabeth when she single-handedly tries to fight a herd of zombies without any ninja weapon. What an entry to the scene! Absolutely heroic and saving-damsel-in distress kind. Well, it is satiating enough.

Apart from the minor inclusions and modifications to the storyline, rest is same as the original version. Nobody would read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies until they have read the original. So, if the original is good or bad, then the same applies to this version as well. You won’t lose anything by giving this a read.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Illustrated by Alice Pattullo)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Illustrated by Alice Pattullo)

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Classic, Drama, Illustrated version
ISBN: 978163159076
Imprint: Rockport Publishers, USA.

To read about Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and its graphic novel version, click here. To get a review of the illustrated version by Alice Pattullo with Rockport Publishers, read on.

To misinterpret a classic is one thing and to ruin the enjoyment of a classic is another. And Rockport Publishers have succeeded in ruining the pleasure of reading this illustrated version of theirs by gaudy illustrations by Alice Pattullo and horrible editing and spelling mistakes. Did the publishers not have an in-house editor or could they not hire one? Here is a list, but non exhaustive, of mistakes that can easily be found in the book:

  • Keep keep instead of keep
  • Me instead of my
  • Combinationa
  • Coining instead of coming
  • Ouly instead of only

Don’t waste your money on this illustrated version of Pride and Prejudice. The illustrations will haunt you. Not worth feeling bad about a classic as great as this work by Jane Austen.

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem by Ayn Rand

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Anthem is another offering from Alice Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum a.k.a Ayn Rand, the same author who gave us The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Readers who like, or at least read 1984 by George Orwell, can instantly relate to Anthem.

Anthem is set in the world of far future, where men and women don’t have a name but are designated a pseudo-right with a number as their names, where people don’t have a separate house for themselves and live in huge dormitories, where in the name of equality and justice, humans have denied themselves the right to live the way they want to. Equality 7-2521 is a promising young man who deserves and is talented but is given the work of a street sweeper during the distribution of youth to different employment. He chances upon an undiscovered underground place from the Unmentionable Times i.e., our current time. During the great shift, people completely abandoned all the technology, including electricity, and are relearning and rediscovering everything from the scratch. Equality 7-2521 falls in love with Liberty 5-3000, a beautiful maiden assigned to work in the farms. In this world, it is forbidden to fall in love with anyone because it is against the rules to prefer one person more than others in the world of equality. Both Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 know they love each other but are unable to express their feelings as it is forbidden to use words ‘I’ and ‘love’, and talk about feelings. Quality 7-2521 finds about electricity from the undiscovered underground place and goes out to share the knowledge with the designated scholars. After listening to him, the designated scholars demand his arrest and death because a designated street sweeper thinks he is superior to the designated scholars. What does he do now? If he is arrested and killed, what happens to Liberty 5-3000? Hang in there! You can find out by reading Anthem by Ayn Rand.

While reading Anthem, initially it is difficult to understand whether Equality 7-2521 is only one person or a group of people. That is the trick of Ayn Rand’s narration. That narration of hers helps to make the reader understand the plight of humans in this dystopian world. It is difficult to find any bad point about Anthem even just to mention here.

If 1984 by George Orwell was not depressing enough for you and if it did not scare you enough to worry about the world you will leave for your future generations, do read Anthem by Ayn Rand. It will make you cry yourself sleep.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Horror, Fiction, Classic
ISBN: 978-0-553-21271-6
Imprint: Bantam Classic

Abraham Stoker, an Irish novelist known to the world as Bram Stoker, wrote short stories too. He is famous for his work Dracula, which was first named as The Undead.

The story is set in and written in 19th century. Jonathan Harker, a solicitor from England, goes to Transylvania to meet his client Count Dracula regarding new properties bought for the Count. Since the start of the journey until he reaches the castle, Harker is spooked by the strange things that transpire and the driver controlling the wolves. Once in the castle, the strange behaviour and looks of the old Count Dracula make him nervous. What scare him further are the ghosts that try to feed on him and his house arrest by the Count. While Harker is struggling to escape from Transylvania, his fiancée, Wilhelmina Murray also known as Mina, worries of not hearing properly from him in England. She spends her time with her friend Lucy Westenra in Whitby. Lucy starts behaving strangely at night after being found on lonely ground alone with tow marks on her neck. Lucy’s fiancé, Arthur Holmwood also known as Lord Godalming, and his two friends, Dr. John Seward and Quincey Morris who are also in love with Lucy, are worried about continuously failing health of Lucy. Dr. Seward also faces the issue of handling Renfield, a loon. Distraught by this, Dr. Seward invites his professor and friend, Abraham Van Helsing, from Amsterdam to come see Lucy. Van Helsing takes a look at Lucy and understands the reason to be a vampire. He tries to save her and succeeds to even do so, but fails when she throws caution into air. Dead Lucy turns into a vampire, but eventually gets killed. Things take a bad turn when the rescued and married Jonathan Harker sees a young Count Dracula in England. Mina and Jonathan form a team with the other four men to put an end to the haunting in England.

Dracula is written in the diary form. The day-to-day happenings are written in each person’s diary. Each and every minute detail is elaborately explained. Just like other novels written in this format, the story by Bram Stoker too bores the readers every now and then. Skip a few paragraphs and you will still be able to understand what’s going on. The reader will be desperate to finish the book. The only best part, from a movie buff point of view, is you get the origin of Dr. Van Helsing in this book. But we should applaud Bram Stoker for coming up with a vampire story back when people were still not into paranormal fantasy erotica.

Read this classic only if you have nothing better to do.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk

Robert Louis Stevenson is known for his works that are not with the usual stories. He is more famous for Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

A new man in the town is being notorious and is instantly disliked by the residents. He is Mr. Edward Hyde. He has no regard for others. But what baffles Mr. Utterson is the link between his friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and this abominable man, Mr. Edward Hyde. Though the whole town hates Hyde, Jekyll likes him and this makes Utterson worry about his friend. Jekyll even writes his will in favour of Hyde. Meanwhile, Hyde murders a prominent person of the town and goes into hiding when everyone starts looking for him. With this turn of events, Jekyll revokes his own will and modifies it. He also detaches himself from his friends and refuses to see anyone. In a span of few days, the household of Dr. Jekyll is scared to the core and come to seek Utterson’s help in solving a mystery that turns out to be the shock of their lives.

As one of the firsts of its kind, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a masterpiece in its own terms. Apart from a good story and the element of surprise, well, shock, the author has depicted diabolical nature of a human as well as his helplessness in the best way possible to cater to a reader’s mind. On the whole, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a good one-time read. Maybe you will read again and that will be only for the diary part of Dr. Jekyll which is towards the end of the story.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Historical fiction, Classic
Imprint: Puffin Classics
ISBN: 978-0-141-32554-5

Charles Dickens. The name itself brings tirade of literary works to the reader’s mind. Out of such works, Oliver Twist, Christmas Carols and David Copperfield are few.

A Tale of Two Cities is about a civil revolution, one that takes the good and the bad alike; for personal vengeance leaving rationality, and for benefit of the public without rationality. Though it is supposed to be about two cities, the story takes place in London, Paris and Saint Antoine. There are people moving between these places to bring out the story that is so magnificent and greater than life that one cannot help but sit back and revel in it.

Doctor Alexnadre Manette is brought to civilized life back by his good old friend Jarvis Lorry and daughter Lucie Manette, and brought to London from Saint Antoine. She also aids in saving life of Charles Darnay whom she marries later. Charles Darnay and Sidney Carton, a lawyer and a family friend, are lookalikes. Due to circumstances that were unanticipated, Charles is imprisoned in Paris during the French revolution. Mr. and Mrs. Defarge, the couple who once helped Manette family, now are hell-bent on prosecuting Charles Darnay due to his aristocratic connections in France. How the doctor, his friend and Sidney Carton help in getting Darnay out of prison and escaping from France is the story of this masterpiece.

The outstanding characters of this story are Sidney Carton and Madame Defarge also known as Therese Defarge. The reader will pity Carton for being a loyal person who is in love with Lucie Manette, but little can be guessed about the role he plays in her life. Madame Defarge is a sinister figure who will give you chills even on a summer noon. All other characters are important in their place. There are too many characters in the story, but they are all justified. None of them is unnecessarily stuffed to make the story grow.

A Tale of Two Cities is an astounding book that never lets the reader down and never lets the reader put it down. So captivating is this story that you will regret for not having read it sooner in your life. Love, vengeance and loyalty are personified in the form of characters created by Charles Dickens. It might even turn to be an overwhelming read.

One should never judge a book by its cover, and one should never judge a book by its title too. I thought this must be another story of how two cities tried to be better than one another, but I was proven wrong. This is much more.

If you have not already read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens as a part of your school curriculum, then this moment, right now is the best time to start reading it.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction
Imprint: Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-00-735102-2

Jonathan Swift has many published works and out of them, he is known most for Gulliver’s Travels. The real name of this book is Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. This book came to be known as Gulliver’s Travels because back then Jonathan Swift wrote in his pen name Lemuel Gulliver. His reason to use a pseudonym was that he was in politics. And his readers, they started calling his book Gulliver’s Travels, maybe because the actual name was too long.

Gulliver’s Travels is about Gulliver who is mad about travelling, sailing and seeing the world. This book tells his travel stories in first person. This book has four parts and each is about different nations. The first part has the author stranded on an island, Lilliput, which is inhabited by Lilliputians and all other things and living beings proportional to them. In the second part, the author is on Brobdingnag, an island inhabited by giants who are sixty feet tall. In the third part, the author is stranded on a floating and flying island Laputa which is inhabited by very intelligent people with varied interest. In the last and the fourth part, the author is stranded on an island which is inhabited and ruled by horses, Houyhnhnms, which are far intelligent and loyal than humans. Each part of the book is about what the author learns on each island and how he escapes from there.

There are no exceptional individual characters in this book apart from the author himself. Rest others are general characters.

Everything in this book is explained in detail. So much so that the author bores with his often mentioning about how he doesn’t want to bore his readers by giving more details. Gulliver’s Travels is supposed to be a satire but tires the reader before he or she gets to the satire part.

Gulliver’s Travels is recommended only if you are crazy about reading all the classics and for no other reason.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Humour, Drama, Play

William Shakespeare, known as the Bard, came up with original ideas for novels and plays to entertain people. Sometimes with historical real people and sometimes with fictitious characters. Nevertheless, the Bard teaches us a lesson or two while entertaining with the distinct characters that he created.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a humorous play by William Shakespeare. For a play, it has too many characters. You have a duke, Theseus, who is getting married to Hippolyta. Egeus, a noble citizen brings his daughter Hermia to the duke to get a justified judgement about her marriage. Hermia loves Lysander, who is not so well-to-do, but her father wants her to marry Demetrius, yet another nobleman. Hermia doesn’t like Demetrius. She and Lysander elope after telling their plans to her friend Helena, who loves Demetrius. Helena tells their plan to Demetrius, who hates Helena, and they go in search of the eloped lovers. In the jungle, Titania and Oberon, the royal fairy couple spend time with an Indian boy whom Titania has taken under her wing. Oberon asks his wife to give the boy to him and she refuses, and also says she will stay in the jungle of the mortals till the duke’s wedding gets over. Oberon wishes to play a prank on his wife and with the help of Puck, a fairy, casts spells on his wife making her fall in love with whatever she sees first when she wakes up. Meanwhile, he sees Demetrius and Helena quarrelling. When Puck returns, Oberon instructs him to cast the same love spell on the Athenian man Demetrius. But Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and casts the spell on the former. Lysander opens his eyes to see Helena checking whether Demetrius has killed him or not, and falls in love with her. He leaves the sleeping Hermia and follows Helena. When Oberon learns of Pucks mistake, he asks the fairy to rectify it. So, Demetrius too falls in love with Helena and she starts thinking that both the men, who never even complimented her, are mocking her by saying they love her. On the other side of the jungle, Puck gives Bottom, an actor rehearsing a play for the duke’s wedding, head of a donkey. Titania, upon awakening, sees the donkey-headed man and falls in love with him. There, Hermia finds the men, who were previously head over heels in love with her, following Helena like puppies. What happens with so many mismatched people haphazardly scattered with those they don’t belong?

William Shakespeare is not of our era and did not speak the English language the same way as we do. Or doth. Hast? The usage of English language in its former version makes reading a little difficult. We are all so used to the English we speak and write nowadays that Shakespearean English will slow our reading. Also, the order of the words in sentences make you feel like Yoda. It might also happen that you will not understand a few lines. But, as usual, Shakespeare’s innovative classy abuses are commendable. Altogether, this story of the play makes it funny if you remember who is who and did what.