Nicholas Nickleby ★★★★★

nicholasnickleby (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: Nicholas Nickleby
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1029
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Nicholas Nickleby dies of a broken heart after speculating all his families money and losing it. He dies and leaves behind a wife and his young son Nicholas and a younger daugher Kate. He leaves them to the tender mercies of his brother Ralph, a rich money lender.

Ralph sends Nicholas to a school master as an aide with the promise that Ralph will take care of Mrs Nickleby and Kate as long as Nicholas stays the course. Said schoolmaster, one Wackford Squeers, is in cahoots with Ralph on various usurous objectives that Ralph has in mind. Squeers uses and abuses his charges and also gets free labor from a simple minded orphan named Smikes. When Squeers begin to beat Smikes almost to death, Nicholas intervenes even though he knows it means his Uncle Ralph will kick his Mother and sister out onto the streets.

Nicholas and Smikes join an actors troupe to earn a living. Nicholas receives a letter from an employee of his Uncle begging him to come back to London.

During this time, Ralph had used his niece Kate as bate to entice a young lord to get money from him. Kate begs her Uncle to spare her the shame of such a thing but Ralph will not relent. Money is his god.

Nicholas returns to London, defies his Uncle, starts a new job with the Cheeryble brothers. He comes across a beautiful young woman and has to contend with his Uncle and Wackford Squeers trying to kidnap Smikes. Many schemes of Ralph all come together around Nicholas and with the help of various friends, Nicholas overcomes all and sees Ralph ruined.

Nicholas marries the beautiful young lady, Kate marries Frank Cheeryble, the nephew of the Cheeryble brothers and everything works out well for the good guys and the bad guys all get their just desserts, whether prison, murder or exile.

 

My Thoughts:

First, let’s deal with something here. Wackford Squeers. I have been saying that name in dulcet tones for the last 2 weeks. I mean, how PERFECT is that name for a villain? Wackford Squeers, Wackford Squeers, Wackford Squeers. This could probably have been a 5star book just on the strength of that name alone. Thankfully, the rest of the book carries its weight as well.

The characters, all of them, are fantastic. From youthful, hotheaded and sometimes silly Nicholas to grasping, hate filled Uncle Ralph to poor, pathetic, heart breaking and sympathy inducing Smikes to cruel, petty and cowardly Wackford Squeers. Dickens doesn’t just write ABOUT these characters, he brings them to life, in all their glorious ups and downs. I know that Dickens is shamelessly manipulating me with how he describes poor Smikes but I don’t care because he does it so well. My heart broke for the poor wretch even while I KNEW that Dickens was doing this cold heartedly to bring about just such a reaction from me. And Wackford Squeers, my goodness, such a vile pot of avarice, cowardice and bulliness that I loved to hate him. Plus, singing his name to the tune of ♪Davey,♪ Davey Crockett,♪King of the Wild Frontier♪ fit perfectly and almost had me dancing with glee.

The trials and tribulations of Nicholas, Kate, various other side characters, all tie into a wondrous tapestry that simply enchanted me. Now, this being Dickens, and originally serialized, and Dickens being paid by the word, there were times that I was tempted to skim or let my mind wonder during some of the more descriptive pages or while Mrs Nickleby would wax eloquent about something that nobody cared about, but I overcame and read every word and I must say, I am richer for it. While Dickens isn’t by any means a sparse writer, neither is he a wasteful writer. His descriptions bring the people walking the street alive. His words make the characters as real as real can be. When I was tempted to simply skip anything involving Mrs Nickleby and her pointless reminisces and get annoyed by her, it was what Dickens was aiming for. He wanted a character just like that and he created her from thin air.

While I gave this 5stars back in ’07 and 5 stars again, I don’t know if I’d recommend anyone starting their exploration of Dickens with this or not. First off, it is over 1000pages for the entire novel. Even the broken up edition I read back in ’07 was almost 600 pages for each volume. However, thanks to the likes of Sanderson, Martin and Co, the Mega-Novel (trademark pending) is becoming main stream and the mere size of Dickens might not be quite the impediment it would have been even 20 years ago. The other thing would be this showcases the Victorian ideals to a T(ea) (haha!!!!) and that might be off putting those of modern culture. Nicholas not pursuing Madeline Bray because it wouldn’t be proper as he wasn’t of the same class anymore (she was monied while the Nickleby’s weren’t anymore) and Nicholas persuading his sister Kate to not accept Frank Cheeryble’s proposal (at first) because it wouldn’t look right since Nicholas worked for the Cheeryble Uncles. It is very much outside the egalitarian ideas we carry around today that I can see it turning people away. Now, that being said, anyone who IS turned off from Dickens because of something like that doesn’t deserve to read the Master anyway. So no great loss.

After arguing with myself in the above paragraph, I have realized this book not only gets my unadulterated acclamation, but my highest recommendation AND the first of the year Best Book of the Year tag. I wish I could praise this book more, I really do but this will have to do.

Sincerely,

Bookstooge

 

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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No Thoroughfare ★★★★☆

nothoroughfare (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: No Thoroughfare
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 256
Format: Digital Edition

 

The synopsis will have some real spoilers, so if you think you might ever read this book and don’t want it spoiled, just read the “My Thoughts” portion.

Synopsis: Spoilers

A baby boy is given to an Foundling and in his teen years is adopted by an older lady. She educates him and reveals that she is his birth mother. She sets him on the path of success in the Wine Business and promptly passes away.

Said young man, Walter Wilding, is in poor health and so takes on a partner to help with the business, one George Vendale. Walter also hires a new housekeeper and in the process it is revealed that she was a former nurse at the Foundling. It is also revealed that there were several “Walter Wilding”s and the lady got the wrong one. This distresses young Wilding to no end and he begins to seek out the rightful heir. It also places an incredible stress upon his already weak constitution and he soon passes away. He leaves it to his partner George to find the heir and if he can’t, to take Wilding’s share of the company.

At the same time, George is woo’ing Margeurite Obenreizer, a young swiss woman who is under the guardianship of her half-uncle. During this whole thing, it is revealed by an inquiry of George’s that someone in a high position of trust, has been stealing money from the company that Obenreizer works for.

George ends up taking a hike over the Alps to give his evidence and of course it is Obenreizer, who goes along to try to either steal the evidence or kill George. Margeurite senses something is wrong, follows with the help of faithful retainer of George’s and saves George only to apparently have him die in her arms.

Several months elapse and Obenreizer, now let go from his previous job, is working for a lawyer with the aim of stealing his secrets and using them for personal gain. He learns something about Vendale, who he thinks is dead. Then Margeurite and George spring forth, alive and whole and reveal the treachery of Obenreizer in full. Obenreizer, thinking he is getting revenge, reveals that George Vendale is actually adopted by the Vendales and that he was a foundling. Of course, it turns out that George Vendale was the heir that Walter Wilding was looking for the entire time.

The book ends with Obenreizer dying in an avalanche and George and Margeurite getting married.

 

My Thoughts:

I remembered a few things from my initial read in ’03, but in so many ways it was like reading it for the first time. I enjoyed this a lot.

This was drama of the finest vintage. Orphans and searches for lost heirs and love and evil villains and love triumphant and just desserts. This has it all in spades. And it is short, so anyone who might be intimidated by Dicken’s rather lengthy style won’t be put off. I don’t have anything else to say. I’m tired and worded out.

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Martin Chuzzlewit ★★★★★

martinchuzzlewit (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: Martin Chuzzlewit
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 954
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Martin Chuzzlewit, the Elder, has a falling out with his grandson, Martin Chuzzlewit, the younger. It all centers around the Elder’s ward, Mary Graham. Both men being cut from the same cloth, ie, stubborn, they go their separate ways. The Younger to seek his fortune so as to be able to provide for Mary and the Elder amongst his other relatives to see if any of them are worthy of being his heir.

We meet a veritable cornucopia of people along the way.

Mr Pecksniff, a relative of the Chuzzlewit’s. A more self-righteous, moralizing, hypocritical and thoroughly sleezy character you couldn’t ask for. The Elder goes to live with Pecksniff and his 2 daughters. The Elder allows Pecksniff complete control over him so as to see if there is even one drop of selflessness in him. Also living with Mr. Pecksniff is Tom Pinch, a humble character who believes the best of everyone and while talented, always believes that it is the genius in others that makes his doings so good.

We have another branch of the Chuzzlewit family introduced and the father there dies soon after and the son, Jonas, takes over. Jonas is a mean, grasping, simple, villianous fellow. He marries one of his cousins, Pecksniff’s younger daughter, for her dowry and then gets involved in a huge money scam. It is revealed that Jonas murdered his father so he could inherit and he, Jonas, then murders another fellow who knew of this and was the leader of the money scam. Jonas ends up penniless and commits suicide by poison on the way to jail to avoid the gallows.

The Younger meets up with Mark Tapley, a jolly fellow who believes it is his duty to serve under poor conditions so as to “bear up and be jolly”. Martin and Mark head to American, get boonswaggled into buying a swamp, almost die and then come back to Englad. Martin changes and realizes how selfish he has been and begins working on becoming a better man. Mark realizes that he’s going to be jolly no matter what circumstances he’s under, so he marries the widower of a local inn and decides to be a jolly taproom owner.

Tom Pinch, the assistant to Mr. Pecksniff, has always believed that Pecksniff walked on air. However, when he interrupts Pecksniff’s plans to marry Mary Graham so as to get an even greater grasp on the Elder and to hurt the Younger, Tom has his eyes opened. He is secretly in love with Mary himself but knows she loves the Younger and honors that love. He does what he can to protect Mary and is fired by Pecksniff. He makes his way to London to his sister’s and a friends and begins working as a clerk under mysterious circumstances. The friend, John Westlock, a rich young gentleman, falls in love with Ruth Pinch and by the end of the book they are married and Tom is living with them, bringing kindness and gentleness to all he comes into contact with.

Pecksniff is taken in by the money scam that Jonas is involved in and when the masterminds abscond to America with all the money, Pecksniff’s estates became collateral for all the other people involved. The Elder reveals that he knows of his villianous ways concerning Mary and cuts Pecksniff out of his life for good. Pecksniff ends up a drunken hobo.

The Elder and the Younger are reconciled when both realize what asses they have been. The Younger marries Mary with the Elder’s blessing and they live happily ever after.

 

My Thoughts:

It has been 10 years to the month since I last read Martin Chuzzlewit. So this re-read was definitely due. It was also a complete smashing success. Dickens give full reign to his verbosity but this time around, I was able to appreciate the wordsmithing that took place instead of being annoyed by the windy wordiness. Part of it was that Dickens is making his characters fully fleshed out with the long passages, the little, or not so little, passages of dialogue. He is building these characters from the ground up and much like a real person, they have quirks. Dickens gives us his characters, fully quirked!

While this is entitled Martin Chuzzlewit, I found that Tom Pinch was the real hero of this book. Dickens explores Selfishness through his characters, deliberate or otherwise and Tom Pinch is the antidote to that all. While others are sunk in schemes and plots, Mr Pinch is nothing but kindess and love. He seeks out ways to help anyone who comes across his path and takes upon his own back the rod meant for another. There were times where I wanted to just shout “You GO Tom Pinch!”

The rest of the side characters also made this book what it was. From Bailey the little rascal boy to Mrs. Gamp, to the survivors of Eden (the swamp Martin and Mark go to in America), to the politicians in America. Oh man, Martin’s time in America was great. Dickens doesn’t spare his cousins across the Pond one bit. Caricatured and lampooned, Dickens shows us a land that has not yet gone through the fire of its Civil War and it is not a pretty picture. Money, slander and violence were the watchwords then. Which goes to show that not much has really changed here in 175 years.

Now on to the two Martin’s. None of this story would have happened if either of them weren’t such pigheaded boneheads. Thankfully, Dickens doesn’t make them the main focus of the story even while using them as the skeleton upon which the whole book hangs. The various side characters give us flesh, blood, emotion, etc, making for a pleasant read. If it was just a book about the side characters it would have gone “sploosh!” in a bloody, fluidy mess and if it was just a book about the Martins, it would have been Skeleton War, and honestly, who wants THAT in a Charles Dickens book?

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yeah, yeah, I know. Putting in a gratuitous skeleton war picture in a Charles Dickens review. Shameless!

 

I found that I had to almost literally hold myself back from racing through this. Dickens was a wordsmith and I am finding that the goals in reading something from a wordsmith are different from the goals I have when reading something like Forgotten Realms. When I was in the right mind frame, I enjoyed the long, convoluted passages immensely. It was when I got impatient and tried to hurry things along that I ended up wishing that Dickens hadn’t been quite so verbose. I feel that my time reading this was well spent though and that my time was rewarded with some great storytelling and some really good writing. Reading good writing is one of the best ways to learn how to spot bad writing. I also gave this my coveted “Favorite” tag. Now you know I mean serious business!

To end, this first step along my Dickens re-read path was completely successful. I appreciate his skill even more and I find his stories even more universal in touching upon humanity in all its glories and in all its shame. Bravo Mr Dickens!

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

 

My Antonia ★★★★☆

myantonia (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: My Antonia
Series: ———-
Author: Willa Cather
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Young Jim is orphaned and sent to live with his Grandparents in Nebraska, or one of those big flat states. He meets the Shimerda family, the eldest daughter’s name being Antonia.

Jim grows up with Antonia being just a part of his life and the book ends with him returning 20 years later to meet her family and kids and grandkids.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a great book of growing up but without all the drama that we expect from young people nowadays. Not that there wasn’t drama, but it wasn’t the focus.

This was small vignettes of Jim growing up. Jim meeting his grandparents and Antonia. Jim’s first big snowstorm. Going into town. Playing on the praire. Going to school. Summer vacation. Mr Shimerda committing suicide.Moving from a farm to town. Growing up but as seen through Jim’s eyes as Antonia grows up. Then things begin to speed up as Jim grows older. His college years consist of only 2-3 stories, then bam, 20 years later and going back to his little town and meeting Antonia and her little clan.

Part of what I liked was that there was no romantic drama between Jim and Antonia. He gets jealous a couple of times and she warns off some of her older friends from pursuing Jim, but in both cases it is for the good of the other person, not because they wanted the other. It was a calming influence even when tempestuous occurences happened.

I’m sure this would make a great book to discuss in a book club, as there is a lot of material to make hay with. Even back in highschool, I probably would have enjoyed this quiet book and been glad to write a book report about it. Now though, I simply enjoyed it. Jim at the end of the book is just a little bit older than me now and I was realizing it has been 21 years since I first attended Bibleschool. Jim’s life didn’t turn out how he planned and neither did mine. Jim was never more than friends with Antonia and I was never more than a friend to a little redheaded girl. And yet we’re both solidly content. I like that, I like that a lot in fact.

I would recommend this book if you’re looking to see what the American West was like after the cowboys from Louis L’Amour passed on through. I thoroughly enjoyed my read of this.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

Don Quixote (Classic) ★★★☆ ½

cfbd49198a00d27f5129a2d637e38a85

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: Don Quixote
Series: ——
Author: Miguel de Cervantes
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1120
Format: Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Don Quixote has a lot of books on knight errantry. He has read them all and in the process gone quite mad, bonkers, round the bound, off the rails, etc, etc. He is crazy.

He is convinced that he is a Knight, that one of his tenants, Sancho Panza is his squire and that the love of his love is Dulcinea Toboso, a village woman who he has never seen, only heard her name. Quixote thus accoutres himself in knightly style and sets out on adventures.

He has many adventures, misadventures, friends and family try to bring him to his senses and in the end he gives up his knightly ways, admits he was crazy and dies in bed.

For more a more indepth look at what actually happens, ie Chapter by Chapter, please check out my various Don Quixote Update Posts.

 

My Thoughts:

There is so much I want to say about this book. So please forgive any erratic jumping around as I potentially go from random thought to random thought.

I can see why this is a Classic. Cervantes writes amusingly, wittily and tells some good stories. The interactions between Quixote and Sancho ring so true as do their interactions with the various people they meet. And therein lies my first, and biggest issue.

The side stories. This book is divided into Part I and Part II. Part I is chock full of characters that Quixote meets telling their own, long, convoluted and pointless stories. In one or two cases, those side stories end up splitting off into yet a third story. A story within a story within a story. It became frustrating to read. Someone who I can’t remember, told me that those side stories represented various forms of writing back in the 1600’s and that Cervantes included them to show that indeed, he was a master writer. It makes sense. However, as much sense as it may make, it does not make for an enjoyable read. When I am reading a book entitled Don Quixote I expect to read about the titular character. Thankfully, in Part II there are very few sidestories and the adventures of Quixote and Sancho proceed apace.

My other main issue was the continued madness and stupidity of both Quixote and Sancho. In part it is amusing, funny and chuckle worthy. But when it crashes over me the reader chapter after chapter after chapter, it becomes tragic, not comedic.

In short, while I am not a fan of abridged classics, I WOULD recommend that Don Quixote first be read that way to get the meat of the story. Then the reader can read an unabridged version to wallow in all the unnecessaryness of it all.

I was reading the Oxford World Classics edition that used the Jarvis translation and was edited and annotated by a E.C. Riley. Riley’s notes were absolutely useless to me as a casual reader. There were many instances where I would have appreciated some context about the culture that would have explained something but nope, nothing. Then there will be Greek Name Alpha and Riley will spend 3 paragraphs going off about the history of said Greek and how Cervantes saw it ONCE in Village X and that is why Greek Name Alpha was included in the story. It felt like the focus of the notes were supposed to be scholarly but came across as pretentious and pointless. It was a frustrating experience and by Part II I just ignored the annotations.

The thing is, this WAS funny. How can you not laugh when Sancho puts some curds into Quixote’s helmet [which is actually a barber’s basin] and Quixote claps the helmet on his head and thinks his brains are leaking out because of the curds? Most of the humor is of that sly kind, poking fun at Quixote, at Sancho, at the people they meet.

I would recommend this book just to see how people thought and acted 400 years ago. But get a different edition than this one, one that will explain some of the cultural things that mean nothing to us now.

I started this book in November 2016 and finished it in July 2017. That is 8 months. I could have read it a lot faster but my note taking necessitated taking it slow. I don’t in any way feel that my time was wasted or that my updates were negated. It was nice to just slowly punt down the river of this book and enjoy the scenery. Of course by page 700 I was over the scenery and ready to exit the boat.

To wrap up. I enjoyed this even while being frustrated at parts but I don’t know that I’ll ever read it again. 2000 and now 2017 just about seems enough.

★★★☆ ½

 

bookstooge

 

  1. Don Quixote (2000 Review)

A Tale of Two Cities (Classic) (Buddy Read)

21ffa0a1ffa042f2b9698973d74749c1 This review is written with a GPL 3.0 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 Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot.wordpress.leafmarks.tumblr.com by express permission of this reviewer.

Title: A Tale of Two Cities

Series: —–

Author: Charles Dickens

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Genre: Classic Literature

Pages: 443

 

 

Synopsis:

A Tale set during the times of the French Revolution which follows a French family living in England.

A story of Hope and Redemption even during the worst of times.

 

My Thoughts:

Fan-phracking-tastic! Having read this in the late 90’s, then again back in ’07, my decision to re-read Dickens every decade or so seems to be paying off.

This was just as good, if not better than previous reads and it was in no way diminished by being a re-read.

I thought Dickens did a masterful job of portraying the characters. Not one single person was a Superman with no flaws, but all had their strengths and weaknessess and Dickens used that to make them interact in such a way that it was more than believable.

Darnay was a polished but emotionally naive Frenchman. Carton was a diamond in the rough that only shined in the last minutes of his life. Lucie was a pillar of strength to her husband while putting her only daughter into harms way. Dr. Mannette survived the Bastille, rescued his son-in-law, only to see him re-taken by the Republic and Mannette himself reverting psychologically to his prison days. Defarge wants Justice but not untold bloodshed. Madame Defarge is hard and implacable and yet it is love that destroys her in  the end.

I loved this.

And I really enjoyed doing a buddy read with Book Cupidity as well. It was fun to see the other’s updates and comments. Good times.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Classic) (Short Story)

azure_327abf66d73a0b1cd0266c0068934ee3 This review is written with a GPL 3.0 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 Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot.wordpress.leafmarks.tumblr.com by express permission of this reviewer

Title: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Series: —–

Author: Washington Irving

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Genre: Classic

Pages: 36

 

Synopsis:

Ichabod Crane, local school teacher and collector of local supernatural lore, is in love with a rich farmer’s daughter.So is a brawny tough.

One night Ichabod meets the local Haunt of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman and is never seen in the area again.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a lot shorter than I was expecting. I thought it would be novella size instead of a short story.

It also wasn’t scary, but funny. It simply had a lot of paranormal going on in it. And in the end, you find out that it wasn’t even that.

However, I still really enjoyed this. Ichabod was SO your geeky booksmart guy who simply couldn’t compete. And the lass involved was your typical backwoods small towner who Ichabod would have been smarter to ignore. But as we all know, sometimes the head doesn’t lead down the same path as the heart.

I just chuckled away several times. Definitely going to be a story I read each year for from now one. It was just delightful!