I’m but slowly (very slowly) climbing out of my reading slump, so don’t expect big piles of books in a monthly wrap up any time soon. On the other hand, I do not read nothing, which is quite a big change compared to the months of May and October of last year. In the last month of 2016 I read 4 books. Here they are!
A quick recap: last month’s wrap up included The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt (3/5 stars), Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (2/5 stars) and 1984 by George Orwell (5/5 stars). Not a great month with an average of 3 stars, so fortunately December was a lot better. Click on the title to go to the full book review and on the rating to go to the goodreads page.
The Chronicles of Barsetshire are set in the fictitious county of Barsetshire and its cathedral town of Barchester. It tells the story of the clergy and gentry of the county and of the political, religious and social developments between them. While Trollope has passed down an extensive bibliography, The Chronicles of Barsetshire, and Barchester Towers in particular, is his best known work. Whereas the first instalment in the series, The Warden, focussed too much on politics and neglected the development of the characters, Barchester Towers is more balanced. We revisit Barchester for a second time, a few years after the death of John Bold (leaving his wife, Eleanor Bold and their son), when the old bishop is dying.
I enjoyed Barchester Towers very, very much. Although it was a bit dry here and there, it was so much better than The Warden. I loved how well we get to know the characters, both the new and the old ones. Trollope himself is the omniscient narrator, but frequently gives us a look into the main character’s hearts and heads. So, for everyone who enjoys a well-written Victorian novel with interesting and detailed characters I would say: read this.
An oldie but a goodie! Four adventurous siblings – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie – step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change … and a great sacrifice.
Rereading this for the first time in a few years, I did look upon the story somewhat differently than before. I still enjoyed it very much (5 stars, duh!), but I could not but feel annoyed and angry by the way Lewis describes the girls in the story. I have to say that I cannot remember having noticed this when I read the books for the first time around the age of 15. Maybe I forgot it or maybe it didn’t really bother me that much then, but it does bother me now. That being said, I still love the magical world that Lewis has created and I admire his skilful depiction of that world. He sketches a whole new land in just a few lines and you’ve got to admire him for that …
I almost never rate a book just 1 star. Although the 5 star rating system on goodreads is far from ideal (not having 0.5 stars and all), 2 stars is probably the lowest I’ve ever rated a novel. Probably because I research my books pretty well before buying them and because I know what suits me. Certain fantasy books, magical realism, 19th century and modern classics and more recently: Shakespeare. However … The Taming of the Shrew has shown me that even books (or plays for that matter) in my favorite genre, from my favorite authors, can be a disappointment sometimes.
Because women’s rights and position within a household is the subject of this play, it is all the more distasteful in its historically correct depiction of it. It is very painful to read. There is absolutely NOTHING funny about paying a man to literally TORMENT a women into subordination and obedience. It is cruel, cold-blooded and in every aspect the opposite of what a modern relationship should be like. From a cultural historian’s point of view the history of the play (and the performance of the play) can give us a lot of interesting information on the changing perspectives on women’s rights, but as a reader I absolutely detested it.
After the disappointment that was The Taming of the Shrew, I went back to the bard’s tragedies. Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy and was first performed in 1606. It ‘dramatises the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who seek power for its own sake’ (source). What I loved about Macbeth is the way in which both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are portrayed and how their characters develop over time. At the beginning of the play and even after the prophecy of the three witches, Macbeth is reluctant to take power and ‘force’ the prophecy into truth. He believes that if the prophecy is true, ‘chance’ will crown him ‘without my stir’. His wife, however, is ambitious and urges Macbeth to take up the sword and murder King Duncan in his sleep, so that he himself may be crowned as King.
Macbeth is a play that will stay with me for a long time. Lady Macbeth’s ambition and ultimate downfall and Macbeth’s development from honest subject to arrogant King remain, even after four ages, fascinating and impressive. I think I’ll have to say that I enjoy Shakespeare’s tragedies more than the comedies
That it for December 2016’s wrap up! Cheers to a very happy 2017!