Classic

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.

1984 by George Orwell

1984 by George Orwell

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: 1984
Author: George Orwell
Imprint: Adarsh Books
ISBN Number: 8187138378
Genre: Classic, Dystopian Fiction

The author of 1984, George Orwell, has many works to his name but was best known for the satire Animal Farm and dystopian novel 1984. His works are inspired by real life and politics around him and the world.

1984 is about the dystopian England called Oceania that literally controls the lives of every citizen. Oceania is run by the Party headed by the Big Brother. The Party controls the thoughts, food, activities, education and even the history. Newspeak, a retard of English, is used by citizens, and it is implemented to curb the thoughts of the people and avoid them turning against the Party. Sexual urges are curbed, natural instincts are cut, thoughts of betraying the Party is severely punished. Children are taught to turn their parents to the Thought Police if they find any clue of betrayal. The history is erased and rewritten as per the Party’s convenience to appease their current situation. Adults and children are fed stats made by the Party. Nobody knows what the real past is, what is happening to them at present and what will happen in the future. Among them is Winston Smith, a person who is living as per the Party rules but is able to remember and differentiate between the real and reel. He finds co-traitor in Julia with whom he also has a love affair. Love affairs are banned by the Party. Traitors are said to be with Emmanuel Goldstein and his Brotherhood, and against the Party and the Big Brother. Winston dreams of bringing down the falsehood. One day, O’Brein, an Inner Party member, talks to Winston and Julia of how to join the Brotherhood to help them destroy the Party. What happens next is both plausible and impossible.

Winston Smith is an above average guy who isn’t gullible. Julia is the cunning girl who rebels inwardly but is an obedient citizen in front to the world. O’Brein is the mastermind. Goldstein is never seen. There are many other fleeting characters that are used to emphasize on the iron grip of the Party.

1984 is a well written book. It takes your heart on a ride. A must read for every book enthusiast.

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

Review by Shwetha H S

Change is the only constant. We keep changing, but we cannot always accept the changes. When changes happen for bad, we don’t know how to undo them. In the process of finding the undo option, we might screw up things even more than initially thought. Such is the story of families of Clarence Smith and Lloyd Wilson, settled in the farms of Illinois, who were once the best friends who were struck by the change. The story is also of the narrator who was, yes was, a friend of Clarence Smith’s son, Cletus Smith.

The story is dipped in gloom initially and then blended with sorrows of the two families. Divulging the nature of change will let your imagination run and you might not read the novel. The author has shown you the grief of each member of both families involved and what they go through. It is not only the families that are affected, but also people close to them. He tells, through the narrator, that each person grieves in his own way and it is okay if you don’t understand some of them. But grieving is essential. This novel has a few major characters and a few that keep coming in and going out of the story. William Maxwell has shown what happens in all their lives in depth without elaborating unnecessarily. By the time you finish reading So Long, See You Tomorrow, you will be alive with a heavy heart.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Review by Shwetha H S

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë has all the ingredients to keep you reading without putting the book down; action, drama, romance, sorrow and your every other commonplace emotion. But what it lacks is a protagonist. One might argue that Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff are the protagonists, but when read and re-read Wuthering Heights you will know it has none. What this novel has is an anti-hero in Heathcliff. There are many other characters surrounding him, but no matter what one argues, they are all the supporting characters to Heathcliff. Catherine Earnshaw is a hot-headed bitch, who doesn’t make sense most of the time and doesn’t know what to do with her life. Edgar Linton, her husband, appears to be a grumbling young man, but in the later part of the story stands strong to protect his family. Isabella Linton ruins everything for everyone. Hindley Earnshaw falls prey to the anti-hero’s plots. Heathcliff’s scheme of revenge destroys the families of Earnshaw and Linton. The second generation characters that appear in the story are far better than their parents. Catherine Linton, if you really want a heroine for this story, is far removed from her mother and behaves like a human. Linton, son of Heathcliff and Isabella, is a pest and you will feel like killing him because he is so pathetic and would die anyway. Hareton Earnshaw, son of Hindley, is a surprise and you will love him with all your heart irrespective of his personality. And then there are Ellen Dean, our very own Nelly, and Mr. Lockwood who keep the story going.

A few points that don’t go well with the reader are that during narration, Ellen Dean gives the precise account of dialogues that take place between the conversationalists. Those dialogues were exchanged years and years ago. Using Ellen Dean to narrate the story is okay, but her exact recollection of the dialogues doesn’t go down very well.

There are no unnecessary characters to desperately try and keep the story interesting; the story is more than enough. Watch out for Heathcliff’s anguish and treachery. You will have to fight your urge to protect others from the bastard.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Illustrations by Rajesh Nagulakonda)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Illustrations by Rajesh Nagulakonda)

Review by Shwetha H S

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a literary classic every reader will swear by. The pride of Fitzwilliam Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet take you on a ride full of emotions that are justified. Different editions of this classic has come out with equally beautiful cover designs from many publishing houses. This review is not just of Pride and Prejudice, but of its graphic novel with illustrations by Rajesh Nagulakunda from Campfire Graphic Novels. The scenes seem to be taken from the movie version of Pride and Prejudice directed by Joe Wright. It is good to take inspiration, but it is necessary to have one’s own inputs. The illustrator has done his best to in bringing good illustrations to cater to your imagination if it is not good enough. But the downside of this graphic novel is the illustrations of the characters are not consistent. They look very different from on panel to another. The single worst part of this version is when Mr.Bingley finally asks Jane Bennet to marry him she is actually saying “Oh, Lizzy! Mr.Bingley has proposed to me! He has made me the happiest person in the world!” but the illustrations show her with lusty expressions with anguish. With an exception to this, the graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice provides a good start to those who are not familiar with Jane Austen and her works.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Review by Shwetha H S

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dreams.” This is a great quote from the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and is the theme as well. This book, having inspired many people to enjoy their lives and go with the flow, has been interpreted in many ways. This was originally written in Portuguese and later translated into many languages from across the world.

A story of a boy from a well-to-do family becoming a shepherd to travel and see places instead of becoming a priest, and learning the truth about nature, The Alchemist is a soul-searching journey and a treasure hunt. The boy travels to the Pyramids from Spain in search of treasure based on his recurrent dreams. What happens next is what his journey constitutes of. Through the descriptions about reading the omens, the author encourages the readers to start trusting their gut instincts instead of others. The author talks about the principle of favourability, the Universe and beginner’s luck. The author also talks about how help arrives when required and not all the time. That is how he teaches “Ask and you shall receive.” As per the author, there is always a reward for going by your instincts and enjoying life as it comes. Apart from the reward, you get to be one with the nature.

The Alchemist is a story, which touches your heart, told in a simple way; way too simple that nobody misses understanding what Paulo Coelho wants to tell you. The descriptions are not excruciating and are just enough to give you an idea if you are good with imagination. Absolutely no nonsense. This book will be your go-to book sooner or later.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Review by Shwetha H S

Written during the times when modern world was taking its first steps towards destroying itself, George Orwell’s satire Animal Farm perfectly depicts what went wrong since the beginning. The famed author took the threadbare society and showed them through his work that they actually need to cover themselves before pointing out others’ nudity. Though said to have used characters based on real life people, George Orwell has brought out human traits in each animal individually.

Pompous and manipulative pigs, loyal dogs, slogging horses and other innocent farm animals fight and win their freedom as well as the farm from humans. The initial equality wares off when the two pigs, Snowball and Napolean, fall out with each other and Napolean uses his pet dogs to chase out Snowball from the farm. What follows next is the sheer mirror image of how the foundation for our present society was initiated. Though written the then England in mind, this satire clearly applies to every land on which humans walk. It is not only about how humans treat other living beings, it is also about how one human treats another. As you read one page after another of this book, you will cringe in your place because you will realise that you have seen one or the other situation from the book in your life. You will want to strangle the pigs, admonish the dogs, comfort the horses Clover and Boxer, and think what to do with other farm animals. At one point you will even wish for Snowball to return so that the story can have a happy ending, but no, Snowball is not the saviour. This message of this satire is that you are your own saviour and nobody is helping you because everybody’s got their own battles to win. But if the cause is same, why not stand united and rather be an usurper than a timid underdog tolerating cruelty?

A quote towards the end of the book that should drive things home hopefully: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

The Time Machine by H G Wells

The Time Machine by H G Wells

Review by Shwetha H S

To see the downfall of the entity for whose prosper you and the generations before yours have toiled is like losing faith in your purpose. No matter what you do, things will eventually turn out the way they are meant to be. Even if you go back and forth in time using a time machine, what is going to happen, will happen. The way H G Wells makes you understand this concept is worthier than the whole concept of time travel this story of The Time Machine is based on.

Through The Time Machine, H G Wells paints a grim picture of how mankind digs its own grave, one inch at a time. When the protagonist, the time traveller, travels far into future i.e. 802,701 A.D to find a sickeningly beautiful and frighteningly suffocating Earth inhabited by humans who are unlike us. Why? For one, humans have branched into two sub-species; one Eloi who are beautiful, delicate and petite midgets, and other Morlocks who are no lesser than beasts. Evolution has taken the good out of all the attempts of this age humans to make an organized society. Rich have evolved into Eloi who are good for nothing and poor have evolved into dreaded Morlocks. So, how does this dystopian world, which is far removed from the futuristic world that we hope and are working towards, function? What happens to this time traveller who chances upon this era?

The images that H G Wells has managed to paint through his words are quite moving, but not disturbing in these times of internet when we have almost new catastrophes to see day in and day out. But, back in the days when The Time Machine was written and published, to provide a glimpse into a possible future without a crystal ball must have been amazing. This was done without any loopholes in the narration. Lucky was H G Wells for having born in those times when new concepts were sprouting and desired. And lucky was that time which could witness the rising of sci-fi, most of which has come true by now. The Time Machine by H G Wells is a classic sci-fi that should not be missed.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Review by Shwetha H S

Robinson Crusoe is a story of a shipwrecked man, having the same name as the title of the book, stranded alone on a far away island. This review is of an unabridged version, so it is obvious that you need a lot of patience and time to read this. This almost 300 years old story can find similarities with Castaway and Wall-E. To start with, the last surviving son of a German-English couple, Robinson Crusoe runs away from his home in search of an adventurous life. Unlike now, when we get numerous options for adventure, the only adventurous life in those times was of a sailor’s. So, this young man goes away with his friend on a voyage where the friend’s father is the captain of the ship. This voyage meets an unfortunate end due to a sea storm. Rejecting everyone’s advice to go back to his parents, Robinson embarks on another voyage, but this turns out to be even more horrible than the previous one as the pirates of Sallee capture the ship he is on and he is taken as a slave of one of the pirates. He gets treated well there though he is a slave. He escapes from there on a boat with the help of a boy named Xury, and gets picked by a ship heading towards Africa and then to Brazil. Due to a friend he finds in the captain of the ship, good business and favourable conditions, Robinson becomes one of the best planters in Brazil and also buys an African slave for himself. His neighbouring planters ask him to get slaves for themselves too for their plantations. And thus, this man who thinks himself a hero, leaves his well settled life in Brazil to board a ship to Africa and bring back slaves. He thereafter loses himself to life and destiny on the island where he gets stranded.

Had he been successful in his voyages, maybe he would have appeared to be brave. He wasn’t successful, so he appears to be stupid in the beginning. But he survives and lives for twenty eight years on the island, a total of 35-36 years away from home. There is an ambiguity about this duration, so the least we can do is acknowledge his ability to think on his feet. More than feeling bad for him, I feel bad for the kid that follows him after he kills and takes away the mother goat. He runs his errands making the island his home and cries for not praying enough to God. He also cribs about having no company, but kills and drives away cat and kittens when they pester him.

It is understood that Robinson Crusoe was written to make people understand not to take things for granted. Back home, he had everything he didn’t even ask for, but stranded on the island he slogs for everything. He even grows his own food and makes fire. He reflects upon his situation and is initially thankful for not being dead, and later thankful for having a life instead of being dead like his shipmates. He calls upon god and thanks him enough every day for keeping him alive despite neglecting his father’s compassion. He longs for a known land and plans to go out of this island, but is scared to leave as he might again get caught by savages and beasts or get lost again. He eventually makes a canoe to try and sail. In a bid to have someone to talk to, he trains a parrot to talk and names it Poll. He later finds cannibals visiting his island rarely. From a shipwreck, he also finds a dog to replace all his previous pets and also finds wealth, liquor, clothes, shoes and gun powder. He toils away his time fruitfully until he returns to England. How does he return? What does he do after returning? What happens to the island in his absence? To find answers to these questions, read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

It is shown during the sale of faithful Xury how religion is forced upon people who actually don’t need it.

During Crusoe’s stranded duration on the island, he keeps praying god to help him get back to the mainland. Years pass during which he has his full-fledged plantations, tame goats and everything he needs that he made on his own from the scratch. Suddenly one day, he finds a footprint along with some bones and skulls on the other side of the island and is scared that there might be cannibals. But more than cannibals, he is petrified of other mainland people finding him and his livestock, and looting him. This is an epic irony. Crusoe’s era was of English plundering other nations. Here, an Englishman is worried of others plundering him.

On one occasion, Crusoe saves a cannibal from others and makes him his slave. Why not consider making him his friend? Anyway, he names the cannibal Friday because he saves him on a Friday. This reminds me of how I named my pet squirrel Sunday Morning because I found and rescued it on a Sunday morning.

Towards the last quarter of his stay on this island, Crusoe finds another shipwreck and soon after a boy’s dead body floats to the shore. Seeing it, he calls him naked saying “He had no clothes but a seaman’s waistcoat, a pair of open kneed-linen drawers and a blue linen shirt.” My question is, if this boy is considered naked, then what is the state of being clothed? I feel I am naked now as I write this review though I am decently clothed and seated at my table. Maybe Crusoe had gone mad by then.

The cannibal’s language is pleasant to pronounce and listen. Oroonoko is a river, Benamuckee is god and Oowokakee is an old priest.

There is good discussion between Friday and Crusoe about why god, who is the most powerful and the maker, doesn’t destroy the Devil. This is an incident supposed to be a preaching session by Crusoe to Friday, but turns into a discussion and leaves Crusoe perplexed and dumbfounded.

As mentioned earlier, this is a review of an unabridged version. This book is meant for leisure read and not for quick read. Pick unabridged version only if you are brave enough. Else, go for abridged version and have a good time.