Sometime ago, about
two five weeks I’d guess, I stumbled upon a book blog and discovered the Guardian Challenge. The Guardian is a british paper that has published a list of 1000 novels which they think are the best of the best. The idea of the challenge is to read 10 novels from the list (1%), with at least one book from each of the seven sections (comedy, family, love, state of the nation, sci-fi/fantasy, and crime). A day spent on the library’s website and a short jaunt out to pick up my my holds and I was in business. My choices were pretty random, and I only checked out five to begin with, but I thought I’d review some of them for you just for fun (Photos courtesy of Amazon).
A Room With A View by E.M. Forster
Set partly in Italy and Partly in the English countryside, this book really made me want to travel. It was enjoyable to read, with lots of description and digressions-which-were-not. That is, a lot of the book wasn’t actual dialogue but a summary of dialogue written in a general way as if it were unimportant to the plot. Plot is an interesting word to use in accordance with this book because one didn’t get the feeling that the book was about the plot. The first half seemed a commentary on the rules of propriety; though the author never says a word against the rules, the reader cannot help thinking some of them just make things worse. The second half was definitely more story-oriented, but it too makes the characters seem like a backdrop for something else. Some idea or philosophy that you can’t quite put your finger on. I think this is why I didn’t like this book. I mean, I liked reading it, but I didn’t like it. I prefer a story, I suppose, and I couldn’t shake the vague feeling that this book wasn’t about the story. The characters were slightly alien to me too. Sometimes they did things that seemed completely out there. Their reactions to certain events made no sense to me. (Cecil thanking Lucy was particularly odd). I’d recommend this book, because it was enjoyable to read (I’ll probably read it again. Eventually), but I wouldn’t buy it.
Silas Marner by George Eliot
After reading the backcover of this book I realized I had seen a movie remake of it, with Steve Martin no less. I’d advise all people interested to read the book first and then watch the movie – The book needs all the suspense you can give it. Like Forster’s book, this one’s plot was pretty simple. When I say that I do not mean to say it was bad or to otherwise disparage its worth, I’m merely trying to explain what it feels like reading it. Most of the “adult” books I’ve read have been from the sci-fi/fantasy genre and involve an intricate weaving of plot, setting, and characters. This book weaves those things together too, but the whole feel is simplicity. The historical setting, for instance, was understated and would have totally gone over my head if I had not been reading an edition which mentioned it over and over agin in the forward.
The book is only 176 pages long, but even so it has very few actual events and quite a lot of character-oriented introspection. There is a whole chapter of country dialogue, complete with accent and unique grammar structure, which has no effect on the plot. Even the men who are talking are little more than names, so that it is more an insight into village thought than into the minds of specific people in a specific village. Because there is not much dialogue, and even less action, I found it hard to care for most of the characters. For all that, the book was okay. Rather like oatmeal, neither overwhelmingly bad nor astoundingly good, but neutral with overtones grayness. But every now and then there would be a sentence that made me smile. I especially loved this one:
“In that moment the mother’s love pleaded for painful consciousness rather than oblivion – pleaded to be left in aching weariness, rather than to have the encircling arms benumbed so that they could not feel the dear burden.”