England

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.

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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.

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.”

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.