Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top Ten Kick-Butt Heroines

Thank you to The Broke and the Bookish for this Top Ten Tuesday meme (sans profanity)!

10. Margaret Hale from North and South. One of the things that got me about this book right away was its fantastic heroine. Margaret is tough and fights tooth and nail to protect and take care of her family. She's willing to defend a man she dislikes in front of an angry mob, even taking a hit for him. She never backs down, even in the face of death.

9. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I actually hesitated to put her name because it felt cliche, but just because Elizabeth is well-liked doesn't mean she doesn't deserve a place on my list. Lizzie does what she wants without following proper societal "rules," but she does what it takes to protect her family's reputation. She's determined to marry for love and won't let any other circumstance prevent her from doing that.

8. Juliet Ashton from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Juliet is the heroine of my all-time favorite non-classic novel. Juliet makes people laugh in the worst of times in England and then reminds them of what's important once the worst is over. She has her priorities straight--she's willing to run into a burning building to save books. She's protective of those she loves and tough with those who don't love her. I secretly want to be just like her.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
7. Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. In some ways I hate Scarlett, but in truth, I really, really love her. She doesn't care what anyone thinks of her, unless they're a man and she wants to get something out of them. She's clever and cunning and does what it takes to get what she wants. She takes care of her own and never looks back. She's tougher, stronger, and more determined than any other character in the story.

6. Aibileen from The Help. Heroine of another non-classic, Aibileen is one of those people you can't help but love. She works long and hard for her family, but she's tougher than she seems. She's talented and strong and everyone knows that God answers her prayers the most.

5. Viola from Twelfth Night. In the face of tragedy, Viola decides to run off and earn her own living dressed up as a man, but she knows when it's time to tell the truth. She's clever and witty and works hard to gain favor, but she can talk her way out of an uncomfortable situation. She doesn't let anyone tell her what to do.

Monday, October 29, 2012

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

You know that feeling you get right after you read a really good book? That sighing, that warm bubbling in your heart, that sudden wonder you have for everything around you? It had been so long since I had felt that, but I felt it again as I closed the cover of Elizabeth's Gaskell's North and South. 

As I was reading, I kept asking myself, Why haven't I heard more about this book? I think it's slightly appalling how little recognition this book gets. With all the rage surrounding Jane Austen these days, you'd think Elizabeth Gaskell would get a break. This book has all the romance, social charge, and gender issues of Austen novels, but fewer scenes of people just sitting around waiting for men to come and entertain them.

England, the setting of North and South
(No offense to Jane Austen. I really do love her. But if I'm being completely honest, her books just aren't as exciting as this one.)

The characters in this book are so absolutely beautiful and real. I also love that Gaskell can weigh in on the debate about the workhouse horrors without obviously taking a side. She sees both sides of the issue, unlike many of the other authors of her time, and she presents them fairly.

The characters of Margaret and Mr Thornton and their relationship captivated me. There are just so many themes and ways to read the characters.

Margaret: Haughty, proud, and distant to strangers, but unabashedly loyal to her loved ones. She gives up her own comfort throughout the entire book in order to save her family members from discomfort. She hides her own despair in order to please everyone around her. But is she in the right? As admirable as her self-sacrificing is, is it right to be completely unfair to oneself in order to please others? She nearly kills herself with the stress of taking care of everything and not allowing anyone to help or even comfort her. In trying to help everyone, she completely isolates herself from them. Is she truly doing right by them and herself?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

October Meme: Why Read Classics?

Over at The Classics Club they have a meme question for the month of October. I thought, what better way to start up my blog than to respond to...

Why are you reading the classics? 

There really isn't an easy answer to this question. One answer is that, being an English major, I am often surrounded by very literary people who have read seemingly every classic work of literature that exists in the Western canon. (And they talk like that, too. And despite all that, they're really very likable people...for the most part.) And frankly, I haven't. Yes, I am halfway through my college career of studying literature and yet, in the world of literary riches, I feel completely destitute. (Oh dear...I think I'm starting to talk like the rest of them...)
One of my favorites.

So yes. I have a reputation to uphold.

But it's more than that. Much, much more than that.

I love the classics. I would be lost without them. Without classics, I would just be a young, spoiled American girl who has never known hunger or loss or heartache. I'm not saying classics brought those things into my life--I mean, I am still that spoiled American girl, if I'm being downright honest--but they have made me more than that. They show me, through a peephole, a world beyond myself, where more than just myself exists.

Classics are a social miracle. They allow us to have relationships with people we would never have had otherwise. Right now I'm forging a relationship with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who lived two hundred years ago in a different country. I would never have known a single thing about this person--I would never have been aware of her existence--but now I am able to see into the deepest part of her mind, I can see all her mystery and her passion, through her classic novel Frankenstein. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Welcome and Classics Club List

Hey everyone! Welcome to my book blog!

This blog has been a long time in coming. As an English major, of course, I love to read books and write about books, and I've finally decided to use blogging as an outlet for doing that. But talking about books isn't the same unless other people speak up and respond--so I hope you'll feel free to openly agree or disagree with anything I say!

Since I love reading classics and I realize my severe deficiency in that area (aren't we all deficient in that area?), I've decided to join the Classics Club, which I've been wanting to join for quite some time now. The idea is to read at least 50 classics in five years.

The list is a living list--I'll change it according to my reading and how things are going. If I read a book by an author that I absolutely love and I want to read more by that author, I might add it. Or if I really hate a book and I can't bear to finish it, I might replace it with a different one. No matter what, though, I'm going to keep a list of at least 50 which I'll finish by November of 2017.

So here's my list! If you have any recommendations, feel free to give them!

1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
2. Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens
3. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
4. Agnes Grey - Anne Bronte
5. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
6. Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
7. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
8. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
9. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
10. Les Miserables (re-read) - Victor Hugo
11. Middlemarch - George Eliot
12. Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell
13. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
14. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
15. Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
16. Ulysses - James Joyce
17. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
18. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
19. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote
20. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
21. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
22. 1984 - George Orwell
23. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
24. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
25. Dracula - Bram Stoker
26. A Room With a View - E.M. Forster
27. Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
28. The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
29. The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank
30. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
31. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
32. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
33. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
34. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
35. The Crucible - Arthur Miller
36. Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison
37. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
38. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
39. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
40. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
41. The Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allen Poe (short story)
42. Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne
43. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
44. Their Eyes were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
45. The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
46. Joan of Arc - Mark Twain
47. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
48. The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
49. Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl
50. Arabian Nights
51. Mary Barton - Elizabeth Gaskell
52. The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
53. Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley