Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Fortune of the Rougons by Émile Zola

Finally I can get to where the Rougon-Macquart series starts: The Fortune of the Rougons.  The Rougon-Macquart is Émile Zola’s monumental study on heredity effect on human. He illustrated it in twenty novels about two families during French Second Empire. It all begins with Adelaide Fouque, an eccentric woman with mental illness who lives in Plassans (fictional town). She has one legitimate son from her marriage with a hardworking peasant: Rougon; and one illegitimate son and one daughter from the lazy and alcoholic poacher: Macquart.

Although growing up together with their mother after the fathers died, Pierre Rougon—being the legitimate child—feels superior to Antoine and Ursule, the Macquarts. Pierre’s fortune comes from the combination of clever and cunning maneuvers, while Antoine is too lazy to earn his living. Throughout the story, the two stepbrothers keep competing each other. On the other hand, Ursule marries a quite respectful man called Mouret. Her son, Silvère, lives with his grandma Adelaide. Apart from the eternal hostility between Pierre and Antoine, Silvère’s pure love for Miette. Pierre’s sons also contribute to the story, mainly through the trio Eugene the Napoleon’s intelligent, Aristide the left journalist, and Pascal the doctor and scientist. I believe Pascal represents Zola himself, the naturalist who was fascinated with how hereditary flaws could be descended to generations through families.

But what balances the disgusting acts of the Rougons and the Macquarts, is Silvere and Miette’s naïve love and heroism. The others’ greed to steal what they can from the coup d’etat, is counterbalanced by the young couple’s patriotic, though rather blindly, love for their republic.

The Fortune turned out to be quite entertaining story—much better than what I’ve expected. Its naturalism theme is distinguished here, as Pascal’s observation of the people is really Darwinist. And most interestingly, this book laid the foundation for the whole Rougon-Macquart series.

Four stars for Zola!


I read Oxford World’s Classic paperback

This book is counted for:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: August Naturalism Check-In

As if my present hectic activities have not been enough to rob my reading and blogging time, I have got bronchitis since last week that caused me to take two days sick leave! Well…maybe it’s my body giving me signal to slow a bit down. But the good news is, I had some relaxed moments during my rest to savour another Zola J for August Naturalism! There’ll always time for Zola!...

Anyway, #LitMoveRC is entering its eighth month. The linky for August Naturalism is already up, you can link up your posts until September 15th.

Now I am curious…

Which month or movement was your biggest fail?

For me, it’s last month’s Realism. I was excited to have another Henry James, The Golden Bowl, for this movement. However, before getting through the first 50 pages, I got so bored with it that I finally gave up and put it down after about page 90s. The dialogs were dense with hidden meanings in words and in gesture that puzzled me. So, I picked my second choice for Realism: Balzac’s Père Goriot, and I loved it so much! Pity, I didn’t have time to review it before the bronchitis overtook me.

Well, what about you? I hope you had it much better…

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: July Realism Check-In

We are now half way through the #LitMoveRC, yay! It’s been the toughest challenge I have been hosting so far, really! However, it’s really exciting to read from different era each month; it encourages me to enlarge my reading horizon. This month we are tackling Realism. One question for all of you:

Which one do you prefer, the complexity and epic turn in Romanticisms/Victorians, or the flat quiet plot in Realisms?

I like them both, but Victorian and Romanticism are always my favorites (Dickens, Dumas). They provide me the fullest satisfaction in reading. Realism, and later on Naturalism, often gives me a “pang” in the ending, but they teach me much about real life and real people. What about you?

Don’t forget… The linky for July Realism is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until August 15th.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Far from a Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

These two months have been hectic months for me, and I know I’m much behind my schedule in this (and other) challenge(s). Although I kept reading, I could not find time, focus, and energy to write any reviews. Today, as I find myself more relaxed, I force myself to write this. Hopefully I can catch up again for the rest of this semester. Now, Far from a Madding Crowd turned out to be my new favorite. I think I have picked the right book to begin with Hardy. I really enjoyed it, and now am ready to read his other books.

I loved Gabriel Oak (he is now one of my most favorite characters), and loved the rural country life presented by Hardy. Bathseba Everdeen is a combination of proud, vigor, and beauty. She is loved by three men—passionately by Sergeant Troy, possessively by Farmer Boldwood, and quietly by Shepherd Oak. When she inherited a farm from her uncle, Batsheba felt independent. She thought she could just rely on her passion, and the world would be as she wanted to be. Folly after folly, and only after reaping what she had sown, did she realize that there is no independence without responsibility.

While Batsheba represents female emancipation, Gabriel Oak represents hard work and perseverance; two perfect themes for a Victorian novel, combined with a slight touch of realism in Hardy’s writing. That makes Far from a Madding Crowd a wonderful reading!

Four and a half stars for Oak and Hardy!

I read Penguin English Library paperback

This book is counted for:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: June Victorian Check-In

It’s a bright June afternoon…. I can hear Roxette’s voice in my head this afternoon, when I am writing this post. June has always been a promising month for me, but not this year…. I am so hectic on a project I am preparing, and tt has been taking a lot of my time and energy, that my reading target must be reduced this year.  However, the Literary Movement Reading Challenge must go on! I will still read for each movement, but only one book each.

How about you? Hope you are still having fun with this challenge… Meanwhile, June Victorian for #LitMoveRC begins today! The linky for June Victorian is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until July 15th. ==UPDATE== For some reasons I could not create the linky today; I don’t know why/what happened, but I’ll try again tomorrow.

Now, our monthly question:

Who is your most favorite Victorian author?

Mine is, of course, Charles Dickens. But sadly, I won’t be able to read any of his books this year. I’ve been meaning to pick Bleak House for Lit Move Challenge, but… besides its thickness, I don’t think I have the mood to read it right now.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The only reason I read Little Women was because high praises have been attributed to it by most of my fellow book-bloggers. My first encounter with Alcott was in Eight Cousins, which left me no impression at all. With Little Women, I had a slight expectation that it might have something more meaningful than Eight Cousins. Plus, I picked it because Alcott had influence in Transcendentalism, which I am tackling this month for Literary Movement Challenge. But after finishing it, well, I still can’t see why people praise it so much. It was really an enjoyable reading, and I think Alcott is a good writer, but that’s all to me. It left my mind as soon as I opened another book, and I even have to google it right now to write this review (I finished reading about a few weeks ago).

Maybe my favorite part of Little Women is the family bonding of the Marches. It is always great to be accepted and loved as we are, and to have a home where we are belonged to. The characters are memorable, but sometimes seem unreal. But unrealistic—angelic in this case—characters, like those of Dickens, are indeed memorable.

From the four sisters, I think Amy is the most natural one, for her age. Beth is too good to be true; she is more like an angel than a little child! Megan and Jo are typical contradiction in books’ characters; they even reminded me of Anne and George in Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five. It seems that girls are mostly divided into two categories. The feminine ones love pretty dresses, play with dolls, like to cook, and always think about getting a husband. While the tomboy ones like to be called with boy’s names, dislike dresses, and do boyish games. Amazingly their names are always similar to boy’s names… Georgina to George, Josephine to Jo. Plus these tomboy girls are usually hot-headed and stubborn. These childish stereotyping is sometimes annoying!

Apart from that, Little Women taught us to place virtues over vanity, which was the theme of Enlightenment literature. In every event of their lives, Mrs. March always reminded her family to keep praying and practicing Christian values. It’s good, but sometimes I think it’s a bit patronizing. I prefer books that don’t tell us to do something straight to the point, but hide ii between the lines. The finding of the hidden moral is often the most valuable point of the reading.

Three and a half stars for Little Women.


I read Puffin Classics paperback

This book is counted for:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: May Transcendentalism Check-In

I have a slight regret to leave the Romanticism behind. It has been very entertaining, really! For a month we were brought to escape the harsh reality of life and enter the romantic, though fictitious, world. But, alas! Everything has an end, and now we must return to the reality. May Transcendentalism for #LitMoveRC begin today! The linky for May Transcendentalism is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until June 15th.

If last month we are discussing most excited movement(s) to come, our question of the month is the opposite:

After May Transcendentalism, which movement that you are least anticipated? Why?

Mine is the November Beat Generation/Bloomsbury, simply because I am not convenient with the freedom theme. I am wondering whether I’m going to like it, and whether I have chosen the most suitable book (to my taste). We’ll see then…

Meanwhile, I have finished Alcott’s Little Women for Transcendentalism, and will soon move on to Thoreau’s Walden. Hopefully I can still make it on time!

How are you progressing so far?