Dombey and Son ★★★★★


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Title: Dombey and Son
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 876
Words: 357.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story concerns Paul Dombey, the wealthy owner of the shipping company of the book’s title, whose dream is to have a son to continue his business. The book begins when his son is born and Dombey’s wife dies shortly after giving birth. Following the advice of Mrs. Louisa Chick, his sister, Dombey employs a wet nurse named Mrs. Richards (Toodle). Dombey already has a six-year-old daughter Florence, but, bitter at her not having been the desired boy, he neglects her continually. One day, Mrs. Richards, Florence, and her maid, Susan Nipper, secretly pay a visit to Mrs. Richard’s house in Staggs’s Gardens so that Mrs. Richards can see her children. During this trip, Florence becomes separated from them and is kidnapped for a short time by Good Mrs. Brown, before being returned to the streets. She makes her way to Dombey and Son’s offices in the City and there is found and brought home by Walter Gay, an employee of Mr. Dombey, who first introduces her to his uncle, the navigation instrument maker Solomon Gills, at his shop The Wooden Midshipman.

The child, named Paul after his father, is a weak and sickly child, who does not socialise normally with others; adults call him “old fashioned”. He is intensely fond of his sister Florence, who is deliberately neglected by her father as a supposedly irrelevant distraction. Paul is sent to the seaside at Brighton for his health, where he and Florence lodge with the ancient and acidic Mrs. Pipchin. Finding his health beginning to improve there, Mr. Dombey keeps him at Brighton and has him educated there at Dr. and Mrs. Blimber’s school, where he and the other boys undergo both an intense and arduous education under the tutelage of Mr. Feeder, B.A. and Cornelia Blimber. It is here that Paul is befriended by a fellow pupil, the amiable but weak-minded Mr. Toots.

Here, Paul’s health declines even further in this ‘great hothouse’ and he finally dies, still only six years old. Dombey pushes his daughter away from him after the death of his son, while she futilely tries to earn his love. In the meantime, young Walter sent off to fill a junior position in the firm’s counting house in Barbados through the manipulations of Mr Dombey’s confidential manager, Mr James Carker, ‘with his white teeth’, who sees him as a potential rival through his association with Florence. His boat is reported lost and he is presumed drowned. Walter’s uncle leaves to go in search of Walter, leaving his great friend Captain Edward Cuttle in charge of The Midshipman. Meanwhile, Florence is now left alone with few friends to keep her company.

Dombey goes to Leamington Spa with a new friend, Major Joseph B. Bagstock. The Major deliberately sets out to befriend Dombey to spite his neighbour in Princess’s Place, Miss Tox, who has turned cold towards him owing to her hopes – through her close friendship with Mrs Chick – of marrying Mr. Dombey. At the spa, Dombey is introduced via the Major to Mrs. Skewton and her widowed daughter, Mrs. Edith Granger. Mr. Dombey, on the lookout for a new wife since his son’s death, considers Edith a suitable match due to her accomplishments and family connections; he is encouraged by both the Major and her avaricious mother, but obviously feels no affection for her. After they return to London, Dombey remarries, effectively ‘buying’ the beautiful but haughty Edith as she and her mother are in a poor financial state. The marriage is loveless; his wife despises Dombey for his overbearing pride and herself for being shallow and worthless. Her love for Florence initially prevents her from leaving, but finally she conspires with Mr. Carker to ruin Dombey’s public image by running away together to Dijon. They do so after her final argument with Dombey in which he once again attempts to subdue her to his will. When he discovers that she has left him, he blames Florence for siding with her stepmother, striking her on the breast in his anger. Florence is forced to run away from home. Highly distraught, she finally makes her way to The Midshipman where she lodges with Captain Cuttle as he attempts to restore her to health. They are visited frequently by Mr. Toots and his prizefighter companion, the Chicken, since Mr. Toots has been desperately in love with Florence since their time together in Brighton.

Dombey sets out to find his wife. He is helped by Mrs. Brown and her daughter, Alice, who, as it turns out, was a former lover of Mr. Carker. After being transported as a convict for criminal activities, which Mr. Carker had involved her in, she is seeking her revenge against him now that she has returned to England. Going to Mrs. Brown’s house, Dombey overhears the conversation between Rob the Grinder – who is in the employment of Mr. Carker – and the old woman as to the couple’s whereabouts and sets off in pursuit. In the meantime, in Dijon, Mrs. Dombey informs Carker that she sees him in no better a light than she sees Dombey, that she will not stay with him, and she flees their apartment. Distraught, with both his financial and personal hopes lost, Carker flees from his former employer’s pursuit. He seeks refuge back in England, but being greatly overwrought, accidentally falls under a train and is killed.

After Carker’s death, it is discovered that he had been running the firm far beyond its means. This information is gleaned by Carker’s brother and sister, John and Harriet, from Mr. Morfin, the assistant manager at Dombey and Son, who sets out to help John Carker. He often overheard the conversations between the two brothers in which James, the younger, often abused John, the older, who was just a lowly clerk and who is sacked by Dombey because of his filial relationship to the former manager. As his nearest relations, John and Harriet inherit all Carker’s ill-gotten gains, to which they feel they have no right. Consequently, they surreptitiously give the proceeds to Mr. Dombey, through Mr. Morphin, who is instructed to let Dombey believe that they are merely something forgotten from the general wreck of his fortunes. Meanwhile, back at The Midshipman, Walter reappears, having been saved by a passing ship after floating adrift with two other sailors on some wreckage. After some time, he and Florence are finally reunited – not as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ but as lovers, and they marry prior to sailing for China on Walter’s new ship. This is also the time when Sol Gills returns to The Midshipman. As he relates to his friends, he received news whilst in Barbados that a homeward-bound China trader had picked up Walter and so had returned to England immediately. He said he had sent letters whilst in the Caribbean to his friend Ned Cuttle c/o Mrs MacStinger at Cuttle’s former lodgings, and the bemused Captain recounts how he fled the place, thus never receiving them.

Florence and Walter depart and Sol Gills is entrusted with a letter, written by Walter to her father, pleading for him to be reconciled towards them both. A year passes and Alice Brown has slowly been dying despite the tender care of Harriet Carker. One night Alice’s mother reveals that Alice herself is the illegitimate cousin of Edith Dombey (which accounts for their similarity in appearance when they both meet). In a chapter entitled ‘Retribution’, Dombey and Son goes bankrupt. Dombey retires to two rooms in his house and all its contents are put up for sale. Mrs. Pipchin, for some time the housekeeper, dismisses all the servants and she herself returns to Brighton, to be replaced by Mrs. Richards. Dombey spends his days sunk in gloom, seeing no-one and thinking only of his daughter:

He thought of her as she had been that night when he and his bride came home. He thought of her as she had been in all the home events of the abandoned house. He thought, now, that of all around him, she alone had never changed. His boy had faded into dust, his proud wife had sunk into a polluted creature, his flatterer and friend had been transformed into the worst of villains, his riches had melted away, the very walls that sheltered him looked on him as a stranger; she alone had turned the same, mild gentle look upon him always. Yes, to the latest and the last. She had never changed to him – nor had he ever changed to her – and she was lost.

However, one day Florence returns to the house with her baby son, Paul, and is lovingly reunited with her father.

Dombey accompanies his daughter to her and Walter’s house where he slowly starts to decline, cared for by Florence and also Susan Nipper, now Mrs. Toots. They receive a visit from Edith’s Cousin Feenix who takes Florence to Edith for one final time – Feenix sought Edith out in France and she returned to England under his protection. Edith gives Florence a letter, asking Dombey to forgive her her crime before her departure to the South of Italy with her elderly relative. As she says to Florence, ‘I will try, then to forgive him his share of the blame. Let him try to forgive me mine!’

The final chapter (LXII) sees Dombey now a white-haired old man ‘whose face bears heavy marks of care and suffering; but they are traces of a storm that has passed on for ever, and left a clear evening in its track’. Sol Gills and Ned Cuttle are now partners at The Midshipman, a source of great pride to the latter, and Mr and Mrs Toots announce the birth of their third daughter. Walter is doing well in business, having been appointed to a position of great confidence and trust, and Dombey is the proud grandfather of both a grandson and granddaughter whom he dotes on. The book ends with the highly moving lines:

‘Dear grandpapa, why do you cry when you kiss me?
He only answers, ‘Little Florence! Little Florence!’ and smooths away the curls that shade her earnest eyes.

My Thoughts:

This was a book about Luciferian Pride and just how destructive and ruinous such pride is.

While I enjoyed this tremendously while reading, it took me over 2 weeks to get through simply because the subject matter was so tough. Dickens does an admirable job of showing how Florence just wants her father to love her and how he does everything but that.

Even with the semi-happy ending, this was a book simply drenched in meloncholia. While Florence had a greater capacity than I to persevere, she was no bright eyed Pollyana with a song on her lips. She was greatly affected by her father’s treatment.

I also found that I wanted to throttle Captain Cuttle, another of the characters that I mentioned in my currently reading post earlier this month. He was so kind and gentle and at the same time he simply made everything worse. Everything. Even near the end when he finds out that Walter is back in England, he spends the whole day reminding Florence that Walter is drowned and dead:
 ‘Poor Wal’r, aye, aye. Drownded, ain’t he?’ 
I just wanted to throttle him even while laughing at his antics.

This is the book I’ll think of when someone mentions Dickens and run-on sentences and bloviated writing. It was quite noticeable and this is coming from me, who’s been re-reading Dickens for almost the last 3 years, so you know it was “bad”. I suspect that is another reason I took so long reading this. You couldn’t read this quickly or you’d lose yourself in his maze of words and have no clue what he was talking about by the end of a paragraph. This was definitely a book calling for comprehensive reading.

Overall, another great entry but not one I’d recommend to anyone new to Dickens. Save this for once you’ve had some experience. In other words, don’t try to run before you can walk!

★★★★★

Wuthering Heights ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Wuthering Heights
Series: ———-
Author: Emily Bronte
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 339
Words: 119.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In 1801, Lockwood, the new tenant at Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire, pays a visit to his landlord, Heathcliff, at his remote moorland farmhouse, Wuthering Heights. There he meets a reserved young woman (later identified as Cathy Linton); Joseph, a cantankerous servant; and Hareton, an uneducated young man who speaks like a servant. Everyone is sullen and inhospitable. Snowed in for the night, he reads some diary entries of a former inhabitant of his room, Catherine Earnshaw, and has a nightmare in which a ghostly Catherine begs to enter through the window. Woken by Lockwood, Heathcliff is troubled.

Lockwood’s housekeeper Ellen (Nelly) Dean tells him the story of the strange family.

Thirty years earlier, the Earnshaws live at Wuthering Heights with their children, Hindley and Catherine, and a servant — Nelly herself. Returning from a trip to Liverpool, Earnshaw brings a young orphan whom he names Heathcliff and treats as his favourite. His own children he neglects, especially after his wife dies. Hindley beats Heathcliff, who gradually becomes close friends with Catherine.

Hindley departs for university, returning as the new master of Wuthering Heights on the death of his father three years later. He and his new wife Frances allow Heathcliff to stay, but only as a servant.

Heathcliff and Catherine spy on Edgar Linton and his sister Isabella, children who live nearby at Thrushcross Grange. Catherine is attacked by their dog, and the Lintons take her in, sending Heathcliff home. When the Lintons visit, Hindley and Edgar make fun of Heathcliff and a fight ensues. Heathcliff is locked in the attic and vows revenge.

Frances dies after giving birth to a son, Hareton. Two years later, Catherine becomes engaged to Edgar. She confesses to Nelly that she still loves Heathcliff, and will try to help but cannot marry him because of his low social status. Nelly warns her against the plan. Heathcliff overhears part of the conversation and, misunderstanding Catherine’s heart, flees the household. Catherine falls ill, distraught.

Edgar and Catherine marry, and three years later Heathcliff unexpectedly returns — now a wealthy gentleman. He encourages Isabella’s infatuation with him as a means of revenge on Catherine. Enraged by Heathcliff’s constant presence, Edgar cuts off contact. Catherine responds by locking herself in her room and refusing food; pregnant with Edgar’s child, she never fully recovers. At Wuthering Heights Heathcliff gambles with Hindley who mortgages the property to him to pay his debts. Heathcliff elopes with Isabella, but the relationship fails and they soon return.

When Heathcliff discovers that Catherine is dying, he visits her in secret. She dies shortly after giving birth to a daughter, Cathy, and Heathcliff rages, calling on her ghost to haunt him for as long as he lives. Isabella flees south where she gives birth to Heathcliff’s son, Linton. Hindley dies six months later, leaving Heathcliff as master of Wuthering Heights.

Twelve years later, Isabella is dying and the still-sickly Linton is brought back to live with his uncle Edgar at the Grange, but Heathcliff insists that his son must instead live with him. Cathy and Linton (respectively at the Grange and Wuthering Heights) gradually develop a relationship. Heathcliff schemes to ensure that they marry, and on Edgar’s death demands that the couple move in with him. He becomes increasingly wild, and reveals that on the night Catherine died he dug up her grave, and ever since has been plagued by her ghost. When Linton dies, Cathy has no option but to remain at Wuthering Heights.

Having reached the present day, Nelly’s tale concludes.

Lockwood grows tired of the moors and moves away. Eight months later he sees Nelly again and she reports that Cathy has been teaching the still-uneducated Hareton to read. Heathcliff was seeing visions of the dead Catherine; he avoided the young people, saying that he could not bear to see Catherine’s eyes, which they both shared, looking at him. He had stopped eating, and some days later was found dead in Catherine’s old room.

In the present, Lockwood learns that Cathy and Hareton plan to marry and move to the Grange. Joseph is left to take care of the declining Wuthering Heights. Nelly says that the locals have seen the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff wandering abroad together, and hopes they are at peace.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed almost every page of this book even while I hated and despised almost every character in it. I think it takes some serious skill on Miss Bronte’s part to have done such a thing.

I did find the plethora of characters to be a tad bit confusing, especially when different people had the same name and might, or might not be, related. It also didn’t help that outside of Heathcliff and one or two others, everyone was cowardly, spiteful, selfish, venal and despicable. Remove cowardly and add brutal for Heathcliff.

I think a lot of why none of that got me down was that it was portrayed for what it was, ie, bad. Heathcliff and Catherine are not portrayed as lovers torn apart by fate yet destined for each other. Only someone who is insane, or a teenager filled with enough hormones to fill the sun, but I think the two are pretty close, could ever make that mistake. Everyone’s bad decisions has consequences, not just for themselves but for everybody else around them.

Heathcliff uses his brutish strength and behavior to get what he wants while people like Edgar Linton allow him his way through their cowardice. Edgar has guns, he has weapons, but he’s simply afraid to use them. Thus Heathcliff triumphs in terms of getting what he wants. Yet even he pays the price. His body gives out from such willful use. Yet through it all, I never even once was given the sense that the author thought this was the way it “should” be. Yes, it was the way it was, but it wasn’t the way it should have been. Too many authors portray vile acts and character defects as things to be praised, as good instead of the filthy evil that they are. I also enjoyed how Bronte shows that people can change and that out of even horrible circumstances love and growth can occur.

I guess that is all I have to say. This was not a long book, nor a complicated one. If you wanted to dip your toes into the Bronte sisters’ writings, I’d definitely recommend this one.

★★★★★

Little Dorrit ★★★★★

littledorrit (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Little Dorrit
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 839
Words: 340K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins in Marseilles “thirty years ago” (c. 1826), with the notorious murderer Rigaud telling his cellmate John Baptist Cavalletto how he killed his wife. Arthur Clennam is detained in Marseilles with a group of travellers in quarantine. He meets new friends in the quarantine. He is returning to London to see his mother after 20 years in China with his father, handling that part of the family business. His father died there. On his deathbed, his father had given him a mysterious message, murmuring “Your mother,” which message and a watch Arthur mails to Mrs Clennam.

Inside the watch casing is an old silk paper with the initials DNF (do not forget) worked in beads. It is a message, but the implacable Mrs Clennam, who now uses a wheelchair, refuses to tell him what it means. The two become estranged.

In London, William Dorrit, imprisoned as a debtor, has been a resident of Marshalsea debtors’ prison for over twenty years. He has three children: Edward, Fanny and Amy. The youngest daughter, Amy, was born in the prison and is affectionately known as Little Dorrit. Their mother died when Amy was eight years old. Fanny lives outside the prison with William’s older brother, Frederick. The adult children are free to pass in and out of the prison as they please. Little Dorrit, devoted to her father, supports them both through her sewing. To the honour of her father, who is embarrassed to acknowledge his financial position, Little Dorrit avoids mentioning her work outside the prison or his inability to leave. Mr Dorrit assumes the role of Father of the Marshalsea, and is held in great respect by its inhabitants, as if he had chosen to live there.

After Arthur tells his mother that he will not continue in the family business, Mrs Clennam chooses her clerk Jeremiah Flintwinch as her partner. When Arthur learns that Mrs Clennam employs Little Dorrit as a seamstress, showing unusual kindness, he wonders whether the young girl might be connected with the mystery of the watch. Arthur follows the girl to the Marshalsea. He tries in vain to enquire about William Dorrit’s debt in the Circumlocution Office, assuming the role of benefactor towards Little Dorrit, her father, and her brother. While at the Circumlocution Office he meets the successful inventor Daniel Doyce. Doyce wants a partner and man of business at his factory and Clennam agrees to fill that role. Little Dorrit falls in love with Arthur, but Arthur fails to recognise Little Dorrit’s feelings.

Arthur is reacquainted with his former fiancée Flora Finching, the reason he was sent away to China, who is now an unattractive widow, and accompanied by the aunt of her late husband. Her father Mr Casby owns many rental properties, and his rent collector is Mr Pancks. The indefatigable Pancks discovers that William Dorrit is the lost heir to a large fortune, enabling him to pay his way out of prison, altering the status of the entire family.

The now wealthy Dorrits decide that they should tour Europe as a newly respectable rich family. They travel over the Alps and take up residence for a time in Venice, and finally in Rome, displaying pride over their new-found wealth and position, unwilling to tell their past to new friends. Little Dorrit finds it difficult to adjust to their wealth and new social position, and slowly comes to appreciate the new places and new sights. Fanny adjusts rapidly to the ways of society, and is sought by the same young man, Edmund Sparkler, who pursued her in her poverty in London, but with a new start that is acceptable to his mother. In Rome, at a party, Mr Dorrit falls ill, and dies at their lodgings. His distraught brother Frederick dies that same night. Little Dorrit, left alone, returns to London to stay with newly married Fanny and her husband, the dim-witted Edmund Sparkler.

The financial house of Merdle, Edmund Sparkler’s stepfather, ends with Merdle’s suicide; the collapse of his bank and investment businesses takes with it the savings of the Dorrits, the firm of Doyce and Clennam, Arthur Clennam, and Pancks. Clennam is now imprisoned in the Marshalsea, where he becomes ill. When Little Dorrit arrives in London, she slowly nurses him back to health.

Cavalletto finds the villain Rigaud hiding in London as Blandois, and brings him to Arthur Clennam. Held in the prison, he sends this undesirable man to his mother, who has advertised to find him. As Blandois he tries to blackmail Mrs Clennam with his full knowledge of her past. Mrs Clennam had insisted on bringing up little Arthur and denying his biological mother the right to see him. Mrs Clennam feels this is her right to punish others, because they hurt her. Arthur’s biological mother died about the same time as Arthur went off to China, but lived out of England with Flintwinch’s twin brother. Mr Clennam’s wealthy uncle, stung by remorse, had left a bequest to Arthur’s biological mother and to the youngest daughter of her patron, or if no daughter, the youngest child of his brother. The patron was Frederick Dorrit, the kind musician who had taught and befriended Arthur’s biological mother, and the beneficiary is his niece, Amy Dorrit. Blandois left a copy of the papers he obtained from Jeremiah’s brother at the Marshalsea for Little Dorrit.

Mrs Clennam knows of this inheritance and fails to tell Little Dorrit, or to tell Arthur about his biological mother. Unwilling to yield to blackmail and with some remorse, the rigid woman rises from her chair and totters out of her house to reveal the secret to Little Dorrit at the Marshalsea. Mrs Clennam begs her forgiveness, which the kind-hearted girl freely grants. Returning to home, Mrs Clennam falls in the street, never to recover the use of her speech or limbs, as the house of Clennam literally collapses before her eyes, killing Rigaud. Affery was outdoors seeking her mistress, and Jeremiah had escaped London before the collapse with as much money as he could find. Rather than hurt him, Little Dorrit chooses not to reveal any of this to Arthur; when he is well, she asks him to burn the papers.

Mr Meagles seeks the original papers, stopping to ask Miss Wade. She has them but denies it; Tattycoram slips back to London with the papers and presents them to Mr Meagles, who gives them to Little Dorrit. Mr Meagles then seeks out Arthur’s business partner Daniel Doyce from abroad. He returns a wealthy and successful man, who arranges to clear all debts for Arthur’s release. Arthur is released from the prison with his fortunes revived, his position secure with Doyce, and his health restored. Arthur and Little Dorrit marry.

Little Dorrit contains numerous sub-plots. One concerns Arthur Clennam’s friends, the kind-hearted Meagles family, who are upset when their daughter Pet marries the artist Henry Gowan, and when their servant and foster daughter Tattycoram is lured away from them to the sinister Miss Wade, an acquaintance of the criminal Rigaud. Miss Wade is ruled by her anger, and she was a jilted sweetheart of Gowan. Another subplot concerns the Italian man John Baptist Cavalletto who was the cellmate of Rigaud in Marseilles, though jailed for a minor crime. He makes his way to London, meets up by chance with Clennam, who stands security for him as he builds up his business in wood carving and gains acceptance among the residents of Bleeding Heart Yard. Cavalletto repays this aid by searching for Blandois/Rigaud when Arthur wants him found. This action brings about the revelation of the secrets kept by Mrs Clennam.

The other major subplot is the satire of British bureaucracy, named as the Circumlocution Office, where the expertise is how not to do it.

My Thoughts:

All I can say is thank goodness for wikipedia and the hardy souls who have already put up indepth synopses. I don’t know that I’d even try to do a synopsis on my own anymore for books by Dickens, as he has so many variegated plots and threads running at the same time. Daunting.

Back in ’08 when I had reviewed this for the first time, I called it the most enjoyable Dickens’ I had read to date. You know what? That statement still stands 12 years later. I’m also giving this the “Best Book of the Year” tag to remind me at years end.

There are some things that people need to know going into this. First and foremost, this is VERY florid. In fact, there is a character named Flora who Dickens writes as she speaks, ie, almost no punctuation and paragraph long sentences. It was HARD to read her stuff, as her mind went all over and Dickens gave full vent to that. I have to admit that I ended up skipping a lot of what she said. I don’t feel that I missed much by skimming. And Dickens is just wordy so it’s everywhere. Prepare yourself mentally to just drink in the words and you’ll be fine. If you go in expecting Dickens to get right to the point, you’ll be greatly disappointed.

Characters are Dickens strong point and Little Dorrit is filled to the brim with Character. This time around there aren’t any real villainous characters, it’s more about small minded things between characters. Clennam, the main character and what goes on between him and his estranged mother. Little Dorrit and how her family treats her before and after their succession to riches. Clennam and Little Dorrit, as Clennam slowly comes to realize that Little Dorrit loves him and that being 40 doesn’t mean he’s an old man ready to die. Plus lots and lots and lots and LOTS of other character interactions, all of it engrossing.

I read this while on vacation and that set the perfect pace for me. Read until I wanted to do something else, then toddle off and do that for 5-10 minutes, then come back for another hour or so. It was a low key read and and slotted perfectly into how our vacation was going. I suspect any Dickens I read during that time would have gotten the same treatment and the same praise. But still, this was a fantastic book.

★★★★★

The Well at the World’s End DNF@9% (Unrated)

thewellattheworldsend (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Well at the World’s End
Series: ———-
Author: William Morris
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Fantasy/Classic
Pages: 449/ DNF@9%
Words: 228.5K/21K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Using language with elements of the medieval tales which were his models, Morris tells the story of Peter, King of Upmeads, and his four sons, Blaise, Hugh, Gregory, and Ralph. These four sons decide one day that they would like to explore the world, so their father gives them permission, except for Ralph, who is to remain at home to ensure at least one living heir. From that point on, the plot centers on the youngest son, Ralph, who secretly departs contrary to his father’s orders.

Ralph’s explorations begin at Bourton Abbas, after which he goes through the Wood Perilous. He has various adventures there, including the slaying of two men who had entrapped a woman. That woman later turns out to be the Lady of Abundance, who later becomes his lover for a short time.

In one episode Ralph is staying at a castle and inquires about the Lady of the castle (the so-called Lady of Abundance), whom he has not yet seen. Descriptions of her youth and beauty suggest to him that she has drunk from the well at the world’s end. “And now in his heart waxed the desire of that Lady, once seen, as he deemed, in such strange wise; but he wondered within himself if the devil had not sown that longing within him …” A short time later, while still at the castle, Ralph contemplates images of the Lady and “was filled with the sweetness of desire when he looked on them.” Then he reads a book containing information about her, and his desire to meet the Lady of Abundance flames higher. When he goes to bed, he sleeps “for the very weariness of his longing.” He fears leaving the castle because she might come while he is gone. Eventually he leaves the castle and meets the Lady of Abundance, who turns out to be the same lady he had rescued some weeks earlier from two men.

When he meets her this time, the lady is being fought over by two knights, one of whom slays the other. That knight nearly kills Ralph, but the lady intervenes and promises to become the knight’s lover if he would spare Ralph. Eventually, she leads Ralph away during the night to save Ralph’s life from this knight, since Ralph had once saved hers. She tells Ralph of her trip to the Well at the World’s End, her drinking of the water, the tales of her long life, and a maiden named Ursula whom she thinks is especially suited to Ralph. Eventually, the knight catches up to them and kills her with his sword while Ralph is out hunting. Upon Ralph’s return, the knight charges Ralph, and Ralph puts an arrow through his head. After Ralph buries both of them, he begins a journey that will take him to the Well at the World’s End.

As he comes near the village of Whitwall, Ralph meets a group of men, which includes his brother Blaise and Blaise’s attendant, Richard. Ralph joins them, and Richard tells Ralph about having grown up in Swevenham, from which two men and one woman had once set out for the Well at the World’s End. Richard had never learned what happened to those three. Richard promises to visit Swevenham and learn what he can about the Well at the World’s End.

Ralph falls in with some merchants, led by a man named Clement, who travel to the East. Ralph is in search of the Well at the World’s End, and they are in search of trade. This journey takes him far to the east in the direction of the well, through the villages of Cheaping Knowe, Goldburg, and many other hamlets. Ralph learns that a maiden, whom the Lady of Abundance had mentioned to him, has been captured and sold as a slave. He inquires about her, calling her his ‘sister’, and he hears that she may have been sold to Gandolf, the cruel, powerful, and ruthless Lord of Utterbol. The queen of Goldburg writes Ralph a letter of recommendation to Gandolf, and Morfinn the Minstrel, whom Ralph met at Goldburg, promises to guide him to Utterbol.

Morfinn turns out to be a traitor who delivers Ralph into the hands of Gandolf. After some time with the Lord of Utterbol and his men, Ralph escapes. Meanwhile, Ursula, Ralph’s “sister”, who has been enslaved at Utterbol, escapes and by chance meets Ralph in the woods beneath the mountain, both of them desiring to reach the Well at the World’s End. Eventually their travels take them to the Sage of Swevenham, who gives them instructions for finding the Well at the World’s End.

On their journey to the well, they fall in love, especially after Ralph saves her life from a bear’s attack. Eventually they make their way to the sea, on the edge of which is the Well at the World’s End. They each drink a cup of the well’s water and are enlivened by it. They then backtrack along the path they had earlier followed, meeting the Sage of Swevenham and the new Lord of Utterbol, who has slain the previous evil lord and remade the city into a good city, and the pair returns the rest of the way to Upmeads.

While they experience challenges and battles along the way, the pair succeeds in all their endeavors. Their last challenge is a battle against men from the Burg of the Four Friths. These men come against Upmeads to attack it. As Ralph approaches Upmeads, he gathers supporters around him, including the Champions of the Dry Tree. After Ralph and his company stop at Wulstead, where Ralph is reunited with his parents as well as Clement Chapman, he leads a force in excess of a thousand men against the enemy and defeats them. He then brings his parents back to High House in Upmeads to restore them to their throne. As Ralph and Ursula come to the High House, Ralph’s parents install Ralph and Ursula as King and Queen of Upmeads.

My Thoughts:

I am not rating this because while I DNF’d this, it was because it was all on me. I don’t blame Morris for what is obviously my issue alone. I’ll add a quote and then discuss further.

So when he had eaten and drunk, and the damsel was still there, he looked on her and saw that she was sad and drooping of aspect; and whereas she was a fair maiden, Ralph, now that he was full, fell to pitying her, and asked her what was amiss. “For,” said he, “thou art fair and ailest nought; that is clear to see; neither dwellest thou in penury, but by seeming hast enough and to spare. Or art thou a servant in this house, and hath any one misused thee?”

She wept at his words, for indeed he spoke softly to her; then she said: “Young lord, thou art kind, and it is thy kindness that draweth the tears from me; else it were not well to weep before a young man: therefore I pray thee pardon me. As for me, I am no servant, nor has any one misused me: the folk round about are good and neighbourly; and this house and the croft, and a vineyard hard by, all that is mine own and my brother’s; that is the lad who hath gone to tend thine horse. Yea, and we live in peace here for the most part; for this thorp, which is called Bourton Abbas, is a land of the Abbey of Higham; though it be the outermost of its lands and the Abbot is a good lord and a defence against tyrants. All is well with me if one thing were not.”
~Page 51

This was published in 1896, so the choice of using a medieval era voice is deliberate on Morris’ part. I hated every second of it and I do mean every single word. I was ready to DNF this at 1% but wanted to make sure I wasn’t just being extra crabby so I persevered for another eternal 8%. While I “might” have been extra crabby, that didn’t change that I simply hated the archaic writing as a style.

While Wikipedia claims that this influenced both Tolkien and Lewis, even that isn’t enough for me to keep on slogging. Sorry Cleo, but I couldn’t deal with this.

David Copperfield ★★★★★

davidcopperfield (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: David Copperfield
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 853
Words: 357.5K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story follows the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity. David was born in Blunderstone, Suffolk, England, six months after the death of his father. David spends his early years in relative happiness with his loving, childish mother and their kindly housekeeper, Clara Peggotty. They call him Davy. When he is seven years old his mother marries Edward Murdstone. To get him out of the way, David is sent to lodge with Peggotty’s family in Yarmouth. Her brother, fisherman Mr Peggotty, lives in a beached barge, with his adopted relatives Emily and Ham, and an elderly widow, Mrs Gummidge. “Little Em’ly” is somewhat spoiled by her fond foster father, and David is in love with her. They call him Master Copperfield.

On his return, David is given good reason to dislike his stepfather, who believes exclusively in firmness, and has similar feelings for Murdstone’s sister Jane, who moves into the house soon afterwards. Between them they tyrannize his poor mother, making her and David’s lives miserable, and when, in consequence, David falls behind in his studies, Murdstone attempts to thrash him – partly to further pain his mother. David bites him and soon afterwards is sent away to Salem House, a boarding school, under a ruthless headmaster named Mr Creakle. There he befriends an older boy, James Steerforth, and Tommy Traddles. He develops an impassioned admiration for Steerforth, perceiving him as someone noble, who could do great things if he would, and one who pays attention to him.

David goes home for the holidays to learn that his mother has given birth to a baby boy. Shortly after David returns to Salem House, his mother and her baby die, and David returns home immediately. Peggotty marries the local carrier, Mr Barkis. Murdstone sends David to work for a wine merchant in London – a business of which Murdstone is a joint owner. David’s landlord, Wilkins Micawber, is arrested for debt and sent to the King’s Bench Prison, where he remains for several months, before being released and moving to Plymouth. No one remains to care for David in London, so he decides to run away, with Micawber advising him to head to Dover, to find his only known remaining relative, his eccentric and kind-hearted great-aunt Betsey Trotwood. She had come to Blunderstone at his birth, only to depart in ire upon learning that he was not a girl. However, she takes pity on him and agrees to raise him, despite Murdstone’s attempt to regain custody of David, on condition that he always try to ‘be as like his sister, Betsey Trotwood’ as he can be, meaning that he is to endeavour to emulate the prospective namesake she was disappointed not to have. David’s great-aunt renames him “Trotwood Copperfield” and addresses him as “Trot”, one of several names David is called by in the novel.

David’s aunt sends him to a better school than the last he attended. It is run by Dr Strong, whose methods inculcate honour and self-reliance in his pupils. During term, David lodges with the lawyer Mr Wickfield, and his daughter Agnes, who becomes David’s friend and confidante. Wickfield’s clerk, Uriah Heep, also lives at the house.

By devious means, Uriah Heep gradually gains a complete ascendancy over the aging and alcoholic Wickfield, to Agnes’s great sorrow. Heep hopes, and maliciously confides to David, that he aspires to marry Agnes. Ultimately with the aid of Micawber, who has been employed by Heep as a secretary, his fraudulent behaviour is revealed. At the end of the book, David encounters him in prison, convicted of attempting to defraud the Bank of England.

After completing school, David apprentices to be a proctor. During this time, due to Heep’s fraudulent activities, his aunt’s fortune has diminished. David toils to make a living. He works mornings and evenings for his former teacher Doctor Strong as a secretary, and also starts to learn shorthand, with the help of his old school-friend Traddles, upon completion reporting parliamentary debate for a newspaper. With considerable moral support from Agnes and his own great diligence and hard work, David ultimately finds fame and fortune as an author, writing fiction.

David’s romantic but self-serving school friend, Steerforth, also re-acquaints himself with David, but then goes on to seduce and dishonour Emily, offering to marry her off to his manservant Littimer before deserting her in Europe. Her uncle Mr Peggotty manages to find her with the help of Martha, who had grown up in their part of England, and then settled in London. Ham, who had been engaged to marry Emily before the tragedy, dies in a fierce storm off the coast in attempting to succour a ship. Steerforth was aboard the ship and also died. Mr Peggotty takes Emily to a new life in Australia, accompanied by Mrs Gummidge and the Micawbers, where all eventually find security and happiness.

David, meanwhile, has fallen completely in love with Dora Spenlow, and then marries her. Their marriage proves troublesome for David in the sense of everyday practical affairs, but he never stops loving her. Dora dies early in their marriage after a miscarriage. After Dora’s death, Agnes encourages David to return to normal life and his profession of writing. While living in Switzerland to dispel his grief over so many losses, David realises that he loves Agnes. Upon returning to England, after a failed attempt to conceal his feelings, David finds that Agnes loves him too. They quickly marry and in this marriage, he finds true happiness. David and Agnes then have at least five children, including a daughter named after his great-aunt, Betsey Trotwood.

 

My Thoughts:

I don’t know how to write this review without resorting to manly beating of my chest and loud hollering of execrations against my enemies in jubilation of their downfall.

Dickens’ strength is in his characters. This book showcases some of his best characters in my opinion. From the titular character of David Copperfield to the child wife Dora to the competent Agnes to the never quite his fault Mr Micawber to the sniveling Uria Heep to the selfishly evil Steersforth. Dickens makes every single one of them a real person that you can think is real.

I also appreciated that Copperfield wasn’t a golden boy. He had a hard life and had some pretty bad things happen to him. But it made the happy ending all the sweeter. I NEED the majority of my books to have happy endings of one sort or another. Or at least the chance for a happy ending. I think that is what I like so much about Dickens’ writing. He knows that people need a happy ending in their stories and he’s not afraid to give it to them.

Dickens also isn’t afraid to face the very nature of human nature. He realizes some people are just downright evil and he writes his characters that way. He doesn’t make excuses for people like Uriah Heep or Steersforth, he simply portrays them as they are. While evil can be abstract in ideas and philosophies, it can also be personified in a character.

And that turns out to be all I have to say. I’ve been staring at the screen for almost 30 minutes and nothing else comes to mind. While I enjoyed Dickens earlier in life, I have never enjoyed him more than now. This only excites me about reading him again in another 10-15 years!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Sketches by Boz ★★★☆½

sketchesbyboz (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Sketches by Boz
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 874
Words: 252K

 

Synopsis:

A series of “sketches” about places, people and situations culled from Dickens’ tenure as a newspaper columnist.

 

My Thoughts:

The full title this book is Sketches by Boz: Illustrative of Everyday Life and Everyday People. So you have a 800+ pages of little short sketches that Dickens used to fill in blank spaces when he was writing at various newspapers.

Dickens gets very preachy about his pet issues in several of the sketches. I’m a teetotaler and even I was reacting against his emotional manipulation about gin shops. I was like “Ok, time to start drinking hard time, that will show him!”

When I read these back in 2007 I read them as part I and II (as that is how they were broken up in the hardcovers I own) and that worked much better. Honestly, these should be treated as a short story collection and perused at leisure. This time around I was better able to appreciate the technical side of Dickens’ writing which is why I’m bumping it up to 3 ½ stars.

That being said, I highly doubt I’ll ever read this again. No stories, no plot, doesn’t really work for me.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Master Humphry’s Clock ★★★☆☆

masterhumphriesclock (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Master Humphry’s Clock
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 158
Words: 46K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Master Humphrey’s Clock was a weekly periodical edited and written entirely by Charles Dickens and published from 4 April 1840 to 4 December 1841. It began with a frame story in which Master Humphrey tells about himself and his small circle of friends (which includes Mr. Pickwick), and their penchant for telling stories. Several short stories were included, followed by the novels The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge. It is generally thought that Dickens originally intended The Old Curiosity Shop as a short story like the others that had appeared in Master Humphrey’s Clock, but after a few chapters decided to extend it into a novel. Master Humphrey appears as the first-person narrator in the first three chapters of The Old Curiosity Shop but then disappears, stating, “And now that I have carried this history so far in my own character and introduced these personages to the reader, I shall for the convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course, and leave those who have prominent and necessary parts in it to speak and act for themselves.”

Master Humphrey is a lonely man who lives in London. He keeps old manuscripts in an antique longcase clock by the chimney-corner. One day, he decides that he would start a little club, called Master Humphrey’s Clock, where the members would read out their manuscripts to the others. The members include Master Humphrey; a deaf gentleman, Jack Redburn; retired merchant Owen Miles; and Mr. Pickwick from The Pickwick Papers. A mirror club in the kitchen, Mr. Weller’s Watch, run by Mr. Weller, has members including Humphrey’s maid, the barber and Sam Weller.

Master Humphrey’s Clock appeared after The Old Curiosity Shop, to introduce Barnaby Rudge. After Barnaby Rudge, Master Humphrey is left by himself by the chimney corner in a train of thoughts. Here, the deaf gentleman continues the narration. Later, the deaf gentleman and his friends return to Humphrey’s house to find him dead. Humphrey has left money for the barber and the maid (no doubt by traces of love that they would be married). Redburn and the deaf gentleman look after the house and the club closes for good.

In the portion of Master Humphrey’s Clock which succeeds The Old Curiosity Shop, Master Humphrey reveals to his friends that he is the character referred to as the ‘single gentleman’ in that story.

 

My Thoughts:

Although it pains me, and in a sane world this wouldn’t be a negative, I could only give this short book 3 stars. Isn’t that just terrible?!?

It wasn’t really bad, mind you, just that the short stories mostly centered around the ghostly and/or supernatural that Dickens liked and that I don’t care for in my classic historical novels. The other downside was that everything with Pickwick felt extremely forced. Like Dickens was trying to emotionally manipulate his readers by introducing a beloved character from another book so they would love this current book. Then the whole “I’m from this other book” thing also felt forced.

I know that Dickens was a manipulator (he would have been at the forefront of the SJW movement today, for sure and lying through his teeth about any and all) but most of the time I like it in his stories. I like having my emotions pushed around. This time though, it felt very cheesy. More like he was clapping 2 coconuts together and telling me he was riding a horse while he obviously wasn’t.

Recommended for those who really like Dickens and are completionists. Not really recommended for the casual Dickens fan. (does such a mythical being even exist? I have my doubts!)

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings #3) ★★★★★ & ★★☆☆½

returnoftheking (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Return of the King
Series: Lord of the Rings #3
Author: John Tolkien
Rating: 2.5 & 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 770
Words: 209K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

Book V: The War of the Ring

Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith in the kingdom of Gondor, and there Pippin gets to view for the first time the mighty city built on seven levels and with the Tower of Ecthelion high above the Pelennor Fields. They meet Denethor, the Lord and Steward of Gondor, and deliver the news to him of Boromir’s death (which Denethor already knows of, because he holds Boromir’s cloven horn in his lap), as well as the fact that a devastating attack on his city by Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor, is imminent. Stung by the scorn of Denethor, Pippin enters the service of the Steward as repayment of a debt he owes to Boromir, Denethor’s dead son and preferred heir. Pippin then meets Beregond, a guard of the Citadel, who tutors him in his duties, and his young son Bergil, who guides him around Minas Tirith. In the middle of the night, Gandalf returns to their room, frustrated that Faramir has not yet returned.

Meanwhile, in Rohan, King Théoden and his Rohirrim are recovering from the Battle of the Hornburg, in which they defended Rohan against the forces of Saruman at great cost. On their way back from Isengard, Aragorn, the king, and his company are met by the Company of Rangers from Arnor in the north (the “Grey Company”), led by Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond, and Halbarad, a leader of Rangers from the North. They had answered the summons of Galadriel to join Aragorn in his cause. When they return to Hornburg, Aragorn informs the king that he shall not ride with the Rohirrim, having confronted Sauron through the palantír (seeing-stone) of Isengard. Instead, able to see a new threat to Gondor, he decides to travel the Paths of the Dead and find the lost army of the undead oathbreakers who dwell under the Dwimorberg, the Haunted Mountain. These spirits were cursed because they did not help Isildur during the War of the Last Alliance. Helped by his companions Legolas and Gimli as well as the Grey Company,  they ride to Dunharrow.  When they arrive, Éowyn, tries to dissuade Aragorn from going and then—desperate to stay with him—tries to go as well. Aragorn cannot release Éowyn from her duties and cannot return the love she has for him and reluctantly sets out the next morning to recruit the Army of the Dead to his cause. The company then passes under the Haunted Mountain where they come across the bones of a missing prince of Rohan, who had foolishly ventured on the Paths of the Dead. The company then comes out on the other side of the mountain into the valley of the Morthond River in Gondor and then proceed to the Stone of Erech. There, the Oathbreakers gather around the Grey Company in the middle of the night and resolve to fulfill their oath. They all then ride east to the great port of Pelargir and vanish into the storm of Mordor.

After Aragorn departs on his seemingly impossible task, King Théoden, Éomer, and Merry arrive in Dunharrow to muster the Rohirrim (mounted warriors) and come to the aid of Gondor. They enter the upper hold of Dunharrow via a narrow switchback path where they see old “Pukel-Men” sculptures guarding the turns. Merry is so moved by the kindness of Théoden that he enters his service and is made a Knight of the Mark. Seeing Éowyn grieved by Aragorn’s departure, Merry then asks about the Paths of Dead and is told the story by Théoden of how King Brego and his son Baldor discovered the entrance to the chambers under the Haunted Mountain and how Baldor rashly spoke an oath to travel the Paths of the Dead. The next morning was dominated by the darkness of Mordor and two riders from Gondor showing Théoden the Red Arrow, which was Gondor’s official call for aid from Rohan. The King and Éomer then gather the riders and set out from Dunharrow and then Edoras. Eager to go to war with his allies, Merry is refused by Théoden several times. Finally Dernhelm, one of the Rohirrim, secretly takes Merry up on his horse so that he can accompany the rest of the Rohirrim.

Back in Minas Tirith, Pippin is now clad in the uniform of the tower guard and watches the fortunes of war unfold. Faramir, Boromir’s younger brother, returns from his campaign with the shattered remnants of his company from Ithilien where he reveals that he has met Frodo and Sam and allowed them to continue on their mission. When Gandalf hears that they are heading for Cirith Ungol, he becomes afraid, and Denethor becomes angry at Faramir for what he thinks was a foolish decision. The next day, Denethor orders Faramir to ride out and continue the hopeless defence of Osgiliath against a horde of orcs. Osgiliath is soon overrun and a gravely wounded Faramir is carried back to Denethor. Denethor then descends into madness as the hosts of Mordor press ever closer to Gondor’s capital city of Minas Tirith, burning the Pelennor Fields and then the first circle of the city. His people seemingly lost and his only remaining son all but dead, Denethor orders a funeral pyre built that is to claim both him and his dying son. A fearful Pippin witnesses all this and runs down to the first circle to find Gandalf. There, the hosts of Mordor, led by the dreaded Witch-king of Angmar, have succeeded in breaking through the gates of Minas Tirith—using a terrifying battering ram named Grond, and only Gandalf is left sitting on his horse Shadowfax to oppose him. Just as the Witch-king raises his sword to strike the wizard, the horns of Rohan can be heard coming to the aid of Gondor.

Aided by a tribe of Wild Men of the Woods who resemble the Púkel-men of Dunharrow, Théoden’s forces travel through the long-forgotten path to avoid an Orc ambush on the main road and reach Minas Tirith by stealth. At first it seems that they are too late, but then the winds change and begin to dispel the darkness. Revived, the Rohirrim charge into the enemy on the Pelennor. Théoden is mortally wounded when the Nazgûl cause his horse to go mad and fall on him and placing him at the mercy of the Witch-king. In the following Battle of the Pelennor Fields the Witch-king is slain by Dernhelm, revealed to be Éowyn the niece of King Théoden, with help from Merry. The battle is also joined by a “black fleet with black sails”. The forces of Mordor initially rejoice at its arrival; and then are horrified to see the banner of the King upon the ships. Aragorn has succeeded in using the Oathbreakers to defeat the Corsairs of Umbar; the men of Gondor who were once slaves on the ships are brought back to fight the host of Mordor. Thus the siege is broken, but at heavy cost: many warriors of Gondor and Rohan fall, among them King Théoden.

While the battle is raging, Denethor attempts to immolate himself and Faramir on his funeral pyre, but Gandalf and Pippin succeed in saving Faramir, aided by Beregond, who has deserted his post and killed several of Denethor’s servants in order to save Faramir. When Gandalf advises Denethor to put aside his madness and go out into battle, Denethor reveals that he has used the palantír of Minas Tirith and declares the situation hopeless. Denethor also reveals that he knows of Aragorn and his claim to the kingship but will not accept him. He then burns himself with the palantír on the pyre. Gandalf realizes that Denethor—in his desperation—had looked into the seeing-stone several times. Unlike Saruman, Denethor was too noble of purpose and too great of will to submit to the will of Sauron, but the Dark Lord duped the Steward into despairing of the situation. The resulting madness kept Gandalf from joining the battle and perhaps saving Théoden and keeping Éowyn and Merry from harm. Faramir, though, is brought to the Houses of Healing where Gandalf awaits the wounded and Pippin and Beregond guard Faramir, the new Steward of Gondor.

Aragorn comes in secret to the Houses of Healing, removing his regalia of the kingship (to which he has not yet made his claim), and wearing only his elven-cloak and elven-brooch. Aragorn heals Faramir, using athelas or kingsfoil (the same weed he used to ease Frodo’s pain at Weathertop and outside of Moria). Aragorn also heals Merry and Éowyn, who were hurt by the Witch-king before he fell, and he then turns his attention to the numerous wounded, fulfilling the prophecy in an old Gondorian wives’ tale saying that “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer.” This earns him the love and admiration of the people of Minas Tirith, who name him “Elfstone” for his elven-brooch, which also fulfils the prophesied name of the legitimate king. Legolas and Gimli are reunited with Merry and Pippin and tell of their great journey on the Paths of the Dead and how Aragorn could even command the spirits of the Dead. They then tell the story of the capture of the Black Fleet and the rescue of Minas Tirith.

The kings and warriors then hold a final council with Gandalf, who has been chosen as the leader of the forces opposed to Sauron. Knowing that it is only a matter of time before Sauron rebuilds his forces for another attack, Gandalf and Aragorn decide to draw out the hosts of Mordor with an assault on the Black Gate, providing a distraction so that Frodo and Sam may have a chance of reaching Mount Doom and destroy the One Ring, unseen by the Eye of Sauron. They realize that it may be a suicide mission, but they also know it is the only hope for the Ringbearer.

Gandalf, Aragorn and the other Captains of the West lead an army to the Black Gate of Mordor and lay siege to Sauron’s army. In a parley before the battle, the Mouth of Sauron, a messenger from the Black Gate, displays Frodo’s mithril shirt, his elven-cloak and Sam’s barrow-blade and then demands the surrender of the Captains and their obeisance to Sauron as conditions for Frodo’s release. Despite the shock of seeing the objects and the complete loss of hope, Gandalf perceives that the emissary is lying, seizes the items, and rejects the terms. The battle begins and Pippin kills a Troll, which then falls onto him, and he loses consciousness just as the Great Eagles arrive.

Book VI: The End of the Third Age

Bearing the One Ring in Frodo’s place, Sam resolves to rescue his master from torture and death by Orcs in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. He enters the tower through the front gate and overcomes the silent sentinels using the Phial of Galadriel. He discovers that the orcs have mostly killed each other over Frodo’s mithril coat and then confronts the orc-captain Shagrat, who has just finished off his rival Gorbag. Shagrat escapes with the mithril coat, the elven cloak, and the Barrow-sword. Sam goes up to the top chamber of the tower, kills a small orc hurting Frodo, and then discovers his master lying naked on the floor. Sam reveals that he has saved the Ring, and Frodo becomes nearly insane demanding it back from him. They are forced to disguise themselves in Orcish armour and manage to escape the tower and the Watchers just as the Nazgûl flies in to take over command of the tower. Frodo and Sam navigate the barren wasteland of Mordor. Unable to cross directly to Mount Doom, they travel north, are nearly discovered by two orcs tracking them, and realize that Gollum is still on their trail. Just as they are about to reach the pass into the Morannon, they are overtaken by a company of Orcs. They escape, but the burden of the Ring and the torrid conditions begin to break Frodo’s will.

Gandalf’s plan to distract Sauron from the Ring is successful: Mordor is almost empty as all the remaining Orcs have been summoned to defend the land against the assault of the army led by Gandalf and Aragorn. After a weary and dangerous journey on the road to the Dark Tower itself, Frodo and Sam finally reach their final destination of Mount Doom. As they climb up the Mountain, Gollum attacks them once more; but Frodo is easily able to throw off the starving and emaciated creature. Sam spares Gollum’s life in one last show of pity and kicks him down the Mountain. As Frodo is preparing to throw the Ring into the Crack of Doom, he succumbs to the Ring’s power and claims it as his own. Just then, Gollum attacks Frodo and bites off his finger and the Ring. Gollum gloats over getting his precious back, but he ends up losing his balance and falls to his death and takes the Ring with him. The Ring is finally destroyed, freeing Middle-earth from Sauron’s power. Mount Doom erupts violently, trapping Frodo and Sam among the lava flows until the Great Eagles eventually rescue them. Upon Sauron’s defeat, his armies at the Gate flee. Sauron finally appears as a gigantic shadow trying to reach out for the armies of men, but is now powerless and is blown away by a wind. The men under Sauron’s command that surrender are forgiven and allowed to return to their lands in peace. Frodo and Sam are saved from the lava, meet again with the other surviving members of the Fellowship, and are then honoured on the Field of Cormallen in Ithilien.

In Minas Tirith, Faramir and Éowyn meet in the Houses of Healing and fall in love with each other, with Éowyn choosing to eschew any further hopes of glory with Aragorn. Aragorn comes to Minas Tirith and is crowned King of Gondor outside the walls of the city in a celebration during which Frodo brings Aragorn the ancient crown of Gondor, and Gandalf places the crown on Aragorn. A healed Faramir is appointed Prince of Ithilien, and Beregond—who saved Faramir’s life from the madness of Denethor—is named captain of Faramir’s guard. Gandalf and Aragorn go off high above the city and find a seedling of the White Tree, which Aragorn then plants in Minas Tirith in place of the dead tree. Soon after, Arwen, daughter of Elrond of Rivendell, as well as Celeborn and Galadriel come to Minas Tirith, and Aragorn marries Arwen.

A series of goodbyes then takes place, with many riding to Rohan for the burial of Théoden and the wedding of Faramir and Éowyn. They then return to Isengard and find that Treebeard has removed the stone circle, planted trees, and created a lake out of which Orthanc still stands. He informs Gandalf that he let Saruman and Gríma go out of pity, but Gandalf says that Saruman might still be capable of doing some harm. Aragorn says farewell at Isengard. They then overtake Saruman and find that he has completely devolved into meanness and Wormtongue is barely able to act human.

Elrond, Gandalf, and the hobbits return to Rivendell and find that Bilbo has aged tremendously now that the Ring has been destroyed. Elrond advises Frodo that he should be ready to meet them on one last journey soon. They then leave Rivendell and arrive at Bree and find that the little town is in a great state of fear. The innkeeper Butterbur informs the travellers that evil men had come up the Greenway and started trouble, even killing some of the inhabitants, while others like Bill Ferny had joined in with the vagabonds. Butterbur is put at ease and finally understands when they tell him that things will soon improve because Strider is the new king and will come north to stabilize the region. They leave Bree and come to the borders of the Shire where Gandalf leaves them to go and visit Bombadil.

The Hobbits finally return home to the Shire, only to find that the Shire was in ruins, its inhabitants oppressed by Lotho Sackville-Baggins (usually called “The Chief” or “The Boss”) who is in reality controlled by a shadowy figure called “Sharkey”. Sharkey has taken complete control of the Shire using corrupt Men and half-orcs, and had begun felling trees in a gratuitous programme of industrialization (which actually produces nothing except destruction and misery for the locals). The worst area was around the villages of Bywater and Hobbiton, leading the hobbits to realize that Mordor had come home to them.

Merry, Pippin, Frodo and Sam make plans to set things right once more. With the help of the Cotton family, they lead an uprising of Hobbits and are victorious at the Battle of Bywater which effectively frees the Shire. At the very doorstep of Bag End, they meet Sharkey, who is revealed to be the fallen wizard Saruman, and his much-abused servant Gríma. After Saruman reveals that Gríma has murdered (and probably cannibalized) Lotho, Gríma then jumps on his back and slits his throat. Gríma is himself slain by hobbit archers as he attempts to escape. Saruman’s soul is blown away into the east, and his body decays instantly into a skeleton.

Over time, the Shire is healed. The many trees that Saruman’s men cut down are replanted with Galadriel’s gift of dust used to facilitate growth and a small nut that is planted to replace the party tree; buildings are rebuilt and peace is restored. Sam marries Rosie Cotton, with whom he had been entranced for some time. Merry and Pippin become the Master of Buckland and the Thain of Tuckborough respectively and become renowned as heroes throughout the Shire along with Sam, who will eventually become the Mayor. However, Frodo recedes from the picture and also cannot escape the pain of his wounds, having been stabbed by the Witch-king and poisoned by Shelob in addition to losing a finger. Furthermore, his long burden of carrying the Ring has left him with post-traumatic stress.

Frodo departs for the Undying Lands in the West with Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, and many Elves, including Elrond, and Galadriel. Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel all carry with them the Three Elven Rings out of Middle-earth. With their departure, the Third Age ended. Sam, Merry, and Pippin watch Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, and the Elves depart and return home. Now heir to all of Frodo’s possessions, Sam returns to Bag End, saddened by Frodo’s departure. When Sam returns home at the end of the book, though, he is greeted by Rosie and his daughter, Elanor.

Then the next half of the book is the Appendices and you should skip it and just read somebody elses’ synopsis because otherwise your brain will shrivel up and die.

 

My Thoughts:

I really should have looked at my review from 2012 before attempting this. I loved the first half of the book, which is the story part. It was 5 stars all the way and I simply loved it. Next time I read this, I’m reading the story in one volume and NOT reading the appendices.

The appendices simply killed this book for me. I got to the 75%’ish mark and that was when Tolkien started writing about how to pronouce names or letter combinations. I simply gave up. I’m not going to read another almost 150 pages of boring stuff like that that has zero meaning for me. If you enjoy it, have at it. But as for me and my household, we will not serve the Appendices.

So I’m giving this 2 ratings. One for the book part and one for the overall.

I realize this portion of the “review” is wicked short, but recently I’ve just been worded out. Depending on how the month goes I might end up taking a break from all non-review stuff just to re-charge myself. Since I’m writing this before April actually starts (I’m usually a couple of weeks ahead in scheduling stuff) I might change my mind, but I doubt it.

★★★★★ & ★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Great Expectations ★★★★★

greatexpectations (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Great Expectations
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 679
Words: 184K

 

Synopsis:

Wikipedia and Me

On Christmas Eve, around 1812,Pip, an orphan about seven years old, unexpectedly meets an escaped prisoner in the village churchyard, while visiting the graves of his parents and siblings. The convict scares Pip into stealing food and tools from Pip’s hot-tempered elder sister and her amiable husband, Joe Gargery, a blacksmith, who have taken the orphan in. On early Christmas morning, Pip returns with a file, a pie, and brandy, though he fears being punished. During Christmas Dinner that evening, at the moment Pip’s theft is about to be discovered, soldiers arrive and ask Joe to mend some shackles. Joe and Pip accompany them as they recapture the convict, who is fighting with another escaped convict. The first convict confesses to stealing food from the smithy, clearing Pip of suspicion

A few years pass. Miss Havisham, a wealthy, reclusive spinster who was jilted at the altar and still wears her old wedding dress lives in the dilapidated Satis House. She asks Mr Pumblechook, a relation of the Gargerys, to find a boy to visit her. Pip visits Miss Havisham and falls in love with Estella, her adopted daughter. Estella remains aloof and hostile to Pip, which Miss Havisham encourages. Pip visits Miss Havisham regularly, until he is old enough to learn a trade.

Joe accompanies Pip for the last visit when she gives the money for Pip to be bound as an apprentice blacksmith. Joe’s surly assistant, Dolge Orlick, is envious of Pip and dislikes Mrs Joe. When Pip and Joe are away from the house, Mrs Joe is brutally attacked, leaving her unable to speak or do her work. Orlick is suspected of the attack. Mrs Joe becomes kind-hearted, but brain-damaged, after the attack. Pip’s former schoolmate Biddy joins the household to help with her care.

Four years into Pip’s apprenticeship, Mr Jaggers, a lawyer, informs him that he has been provided with money from an anonymous patron, allowing him to become a gentleman. Pip is to leave for London, but presuming that Miss Havisham is his benefactress, he first visits her.

Pip sets up house in London at Barnard’s Inn with Herbert Pocket, the son of his tutor, Matthew Pocket, who is a cousin of Miss Havisham. Herbert and Pip have previously met at Satis Hall, where Herbert was rejected as a playmate for Estella. He tells Pip how Miss Havisham was defrauded and deserted by her fiancé. Pip meets fellow pupils, Bentley Drummle, a brute of a man from a wealthy noble family, and Startop, who is agreeable. Jaggers disburses the money Pip needs.

When Joe visits Pip at Barnard’s Inn, Pip is ashamed of him. Joe relays a message from Miss Havisham that Estella will be at Satis House for a visit. Pip returns there to meet Estella and is encouraged by Miss Havisham, but he avoids visiting Joe. He is disquieted to see Orlick now in service to Miss Havisham. He mentions his misgivings to Jaggers, who promises Orlick’s dismissal. Back in London, Pip and Herbert exchange their romantic secrets: Pip adores Estella and Herbert is engaged to Clara. Pip meets Estella when she is sent to Richmond to be introduced into society.

Pip and Herbert build up debts. Mrs Joe dies and Pip returns to his village for the funeral. Pip’s income is fixed at £500 per annum when he comes of age at twenty-one. With the help of Jaggers’ clerk, Wemmick, Pip plans to help advance Herbert’s future prospects by anonymously securing him a position with the shipbroker, Clarriker’s. Pip takes Estella to Satis House. She and Miss Havisham quarrel over Estella’s coldness. In London, Bentley Drummle outrages Pip, by proposing a toast to Estella. Later, at an Assembly Ball in Richmond, Pip witnesses Estella meeting Bentley Drummle and warns her about him; she replies that she has no qualms about entrapping him.

A week after he turns 23 years old, Pip learns that his benefactor is the convict he encountered in the churchyard, Abel Magwitch, who had been transported to New South Wales after being captured. He has become wealthy after gaining his freedom there but cannot return to England on pain of death. However, he returns to see Pip, who was the motivation for all his success. Pip is shocked, and stops taking money from him. Subsequently, Pip and Herbert Pocket devise a plan for Magwitch to escape from England.

Magwitch shares his past history with Pip, and reveals that the escaped convict whom he fought in the churchyard was Compeyson, the fraudster who had deserted Miss Havisham.

Pip returns to Satis Hall to visit Estella and meets Bentley Drummle, who has also come to see her and now has Orlick as his servant. Pip accuses Miss Havisham of misleading him about his benefactor. She admits to doing so, but says that her plan was to annoy her relatives. Pip declares his love to Estella, who, coldly, tells him that she plans on marrying Drummle. Heartbroken, Pip walks back to London, where Wemmick warns him that Compeyson is seeking him. Pip and Herbert continue preparations for Magwitch’s escape.

At Jaggers’s house for dinner, Wemmick tells Pip how Jaggers acquired his maidservant, Molly, rescuing her from the gallows when she was accused of murder.

Then, full of remorse, Miss Havisham tells Pip how the infant Estella was brought to her by Jaggers and raised by her to be unfeeling and heartless. She knows nothing about Estella’s parentage. She also tells Pip that Estella is now married. She gives Pip money to pay for Herbert Pocket’s position at Clarriker’s, and asks for his forgiveness. As Pip is about to leave, Miss Havisham accidentally sets her dress on fire. Pip saves her, injuring himself in the process. She eventually dies from her injuries, lamenting her manipulation of Estella and Pip. Pip now realises that Estella is the daughter of Molly and Magwitch. When confronted about this, Jaggers discourages Pip from acting on his suspicions.

A few days before Magwitch’s planned escape, Pip is tricked by an anonymous letter into going to a sluice house near his old home, where he is seized by Orlick, who intends to murder him. Orlick freely admits to injuring Pip’s sister. As Pip is about to be struck by a hammer, Herbert Pocket and Startop arrive and save Pip’s life. The three of them pick up Magwitch to row him to the steamboat for Hamburg, but they are met by a police boat carrying Compeyson, who has offered to identify Magwitch. Magwitch seizes Compeyson, and they fight in the river. Seriously injured, Magwitch is taken by the police. Compeyson’s body is found later.

Pip is aware that Magwitch’s fortune will go to the crown after his trial. But Herbert, who is preparing to move to Cairo, Egypt, to manage Clarriker’s office there, offers Pip a position there. Pip always visits Magwitch in the prison hospital as he awaits trial, and on Magwitch’s deathbed tells him that his daughter Estella is alive. After Herbert’s departure for Cairo, Pip falls ill in his rooms, and faces arrest for debt. However, Joe nurses Pip back to health and pays off his debt. When Pip begins to recover, Joe slips away. Pip then returns to propose to Biddy, only to find that she has married Joe. Pip asks Joe’s forgiveness, promises to repay him and leaves for Cairo. There he shares lodgings with Herbert and Clara, and eventually advances to become third in the company. Only then does Herbert learn that Pip paid for his position in the firm.

After working eleven years in Egypt, Pip returns to England and visits Joe, Biddy and their son, Pip Jr. Then in the ruins of Satis House he meets the widowed Estella, who asks Pip to forgive her, assuring him that misfortune has opened her heart. As Pip takes Estella’s hand and they leave the moonlit ruins, he sees “no shadow of another parting from her.

In the original ending, Pip meets Estella, who has married a doctor who took care of her deceased husband. He is a kind man and is helping Estella heal her broken heart. Pip confirms his bachelor days.

 

My Thoughts:

My goodness, what an absolutely excellent book. When I read and reviewed this back in ’08 Pip’s selfishness really bothered me. This time around, I was a lot more charitable towards his weaknesses. I guess I’ve gotten a little more sympathetic in the intervening years.

I tore through this. I think I started it on a friday night and was done by monday evening?

I have come to the realization that Dickens simply isn’t for everyone but that I really, really, really click with his writing. I find it engaging, interesting and intriguing. His characters are all truly characters with names truly worthy of their character. I mean, what kind of stuffed shirt do you imagine when you hear the name “Pumblechook”? The drama and plots, as coincidental and drama’y as they are, never have me rolling my eyes. I like how character driven everything is.

I like Dickens original ending better, as it just fits with the characters better. Yes, it isn’t as happy, but the publisher forced ending has Estella changing too much too quickly for my taste. It just doesn’t fit.

For a book that I enjoyed so much and gave the “best book of the year” tag, I am having a very hard time coming up with stuff to actually write. You’d think it would be easier to praise this with specifics. I guess my highest praise would be that I read this in less than 4 days and loved every minute of it.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) ★★★★☆

threemeninaboat (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog)
Author: Jerome Jerome
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 231
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

J, and his two friends George and Harris, along with J’s dog Montmorency, all decide that they’ve been working too hard and they need a break. So they decide to go on a boating trip up the Thames.

What follows are the antics of 3 urban idiots, a dog who likes to fight and a travelogue. A very peculiar mix.

 

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed parts of this. The parts I did not care for, or that bored me really, was where Jerome went into travelogue mode. Travel and I don’t get along real well. Scenery bores me to tears and while I hate cities, I still want to pave the planet and get rid of all that nasty “nature” stuff. So books that are travelogues ♪in disguise♪ don’t do it for me. At all. It is the reason I don’t ever plan on re-reading Dickens’ Pictures from Italy or his American Notes.

Thankfully, those bits were interspersed with the humorous bits. I read a short wiki article on Jerome K. Jerome and it would appear that he was the inspiration for such authors as P.G. Wodehouse. While not quite up to the Bertie Wooster level of helpless obliviousness, J and his companions are doing their best to achieve it. Part of it is that they are not independently wealthy and while they are pretty pathetic at their jobs (one of the friends works at a bank and pretty much sleeps all day there), at least they have jobs. They are the idle middle class as opposed to the idle rich. If you’ve ever read Wodehouse and like or dislike his brand of humor, then I can safely say you’ll feel the same way about Jerome.

Probably not a book that I’ll ever re-read but I am glad to have read it for the first time and to expand my knowledge base. I suspect I’ll be flashing back to this book whenever I read something by Wodehouse in the future.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)