Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Knight of Maison-Rouge by Alexandre Dumas

๐Ÿ‘‘ Dumas did it again! Alexandre Dumas pรจre never failed to bring readers to the 18th century France with its heroic chevaliers, swordplay and romantic scenes, in fast-paced, high adventure historical fictions. This book is no different.

๐Ÿ‘‘ The Knight of Maison-Rouge is related to the Marie Antoinette Romances, though it's not part of the series itself. It is set in 1793, right after Louis XVI's death, in what was known as the Reign of Terror - a series of massacres and public executions to those who were not a fervent followers of the Republic, after the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette was in prison with her children and sister, and some Royalists had been plotting to rescue her, with a mysterious man called le chevalier de Maison Rouge as the mastermind.

๐Ÿ‘‘ Our protagonist is a brave Republican, Maurice Lindey. One night he rescued a beautiful mysterious lady who was found on the street alone after curfew, and caught by the National Guard. Unfortunately his infatuation with the woman unwittingly led him into the Royalists' plot.

๐Ÿ‘‘ Although it is not one of Dumas' best or most known works, this historical fiction offers more than just romance and swashbuckling adventure. It provides a glimpse to the humane side of both parties: the royals with their aristocratic followers, and the Republicans. I loved how Dumas portrayed them equally. There's no good side or bad side, it's how the people treated other human beings that made them who they were.

๐Ÿ‘‘ In this story, Marie Antoinette, for instance, is depicted as a woman - like all other women - with compassion. On the other hand, one of her ardent supporters turned out to be selfish and cruel. The same goes to the Republican side; there are brave patriots like Maurice, who fight for humanity cause, but there are also selfish cowards who pretended to be patriotic, but I think they're just poor people who are jealous of the rich aristocrats.

๐Ÿ‘‘ I liked this book, though not a favorite - a perfect book to bring you out of a reading slump, for sure! ๐Ÿ˜„

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Thursday, December 1, 2022

2023 Victorian Reading Challenge


 
Why oh why… whenever you want to restrain yourself from reading challenge, interesting ones always make a way to you! When I found this 2023 Victorian Reading Challenge created by Mrs. Sarah Coller of Belle’s Library, I knew I won’t be able to resist because Victorian books will always appear on my list…any year. So, here we are:


The Rules

*Books published during the Victorian age (1837-1901) are acceptable.
*Books written about the Victorian age are acceptable, no matter what year they were published.
*Stories are not limited to Victorian Britain. Read about what was going on in other parts of the world during this time!

My List:

  1. The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Ten Years Later by Alexandre Dumas
  2. Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper
  3. Doctor Pascal by ร‰mile Zola
  4. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
  5. Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

Will you join me?
๐Ÿ˜‰


Monday, November 28, 2022

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie

๐ŸŽ This one is, perhaps, by far, my least favorite of Christie's. The background is promising - a teenage Halloween party in English country village - packed with traditional games like bobbing apple, snapdragon, and many more. That part IS fun, also the appearance of Ariadne Oliver, but not, unfortunately, the murder part.

๐ŸŽ Ariadne Oliver, the famous crime writer who also makes her appearance on several others Poirot's mystery, is staying at a friend's in a country village. At a Halloween party prep, Joyce, a 13 y.o. girl blurted out that she'd witnessed a murder years earlier, though at that time she didn't understand what it was. Nobody believed her, though, as she's a liar and boastful girl.

๐ŸŽ But at the Halloween party, someone drowned her head in a pail full of water used for the apple-bobbing. A deliberate murder! Does it mean that Joyce did witness a murder after all, frightened the murderer, who then took a huge risk by killing her in the middle of a party? Or she's indeed a liar, and some mad scoundrel just happened to randomly kill her?

๐ŸŽ Ariadne Oliver called her friend, Hercule Poirot, to investigate the case. He immediately went through all murder cases that had happened some years earlier, which might have incidentally been witnessed by a little girl.

๐ŸŽ There'd be the second murder, of course, and then Poirot would come to a conclusion no one would have ever thought, as usual. So, it should have been one of my favorites, but it's not. I wonder why Hallowe'en Party had felt nothing like Christie's. Poirot seemed to be not his usual arrogant, confident self. He's more often on doubts and relies (too much) on other people's opinion. The whole plot/story also felt somewhat (too) unreal. I don't know, on the whole, it's not my favorite. And it's not the kind of book you'd hope to list as Halloween readings - well, unless what you seek is the British Halloween party vibes...

Rating: 3 / 5

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The 2023 TBR Pile Challenge


TBR Pile Challenge has been one of my favorite challenges, and next year it will turn 10! Congratulations, Adam!


My initial list for The 2023 TBR Pile Challenge:
(it will change along the way, of course, but one must start from something, right?)

  1. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
  2. Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
  3. Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (The Dancer) by Ahmad Tohari (Indonesian classic)
  4. Doctor Pascal by ร‰mile Zola
  5. The Professor’s House by Willa Cather
  6. The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
  8. Summer by Edith Wharton
  9. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  10. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  11. We Have Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  12. Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

Alternates:

  • The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

 To participate in this challenge, just hop to the sign up post.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

๐Ÿ’Ž Another brilliant piece of work from du Maurier! Although not as magnificent as Rebecca, it's still brilliant.

๐Ÿ’Ž The story is told by one of the most unreliable narrators in literature: Philip Ashley; an orphan who'd been brought up by his cousin: Ambrose Ashley, the owner of a large estate in Cornwall, England.

๐Ÿ’Ž Ambrose is Philip's world; he worshipped him as brother, father, and guardian. They have each other, this two brothers, and Philip will be Ambrose's heir after he turns 25. But their world is shattered the day Ambrose left to Italy, in need of warmer weather. He met a distant cousin, Rachel, a widow in Florence. He was soon infatuated by her, and eventually married her, and stayed in Florence.

๐Ÿ’Ž Ambrose soon fell ill with terrible headaches. His letters to Philip changed tone; he didn't trust Rachel, and even called her his tormentor. At this point Philip, whose hatred toward Rachel has rapidly growing, departed to Florence to save Ambrose. But it's too late, Ambrose's dead and buried in Florence.

๐Ÿ’Ž When Rachel came to Cornwall, Philip has been planning a revenge, since he's sure that Rachel has killed Ambrose. But this spoiled boy, who had nearly no experience in dealing with women before, was soon falling in love head over heels with his cousin Rachel.

๐Ÿ’Ž Now history repeats itself, Philip began to have similar illness to Ambrose, right after his 25th birthday, when he handed over the estate to Rachel and wanted her to be his wife. The question is, did Rachel really poisoned Ambrose (and now Philip) for their money/estate? Or she's merely an impulsive spendthrift woman who loves gardening, and thus keeping a packet of poisonous laburnum tree seeds in her drawer?

๐Ÿ’Ž One of my biggest pet peeves in literature is ambiguous ending. I'd prefer a rounded up story, of which I could either satisfyingly happy or mournfully broken-hearted, so that I can immediately close the book, and move on to next one. An uncertain ending, however, left me uncertained, and it's really annoying. My Cousin Rachel is one of the latter. Du Maurier leave us to guess ourselves whether Rachel is really an evil woman, or it's all just Philip's sentiment because of his jealousy. Remember, we know Rachel only from Philip's perspective, and he's emotional and unreliable, and perhaps on the border of madness (as was Ambrose).

๐Ÿ’Ž On my part, I prefer to conclude that Rachel is not innocent. She's a spendthrift - that's a fact - and her relationship with the lawyer/best friend Rainaldi could not have as innocence as she said it to be. They never talk openly, and always talk in Italian when Philip leaves the room. And the laburnum seed.. why keep it in her drawer? There could have been simple reason, but it's rather fishy, don't you think?

๐Ÿ’Ž All in all, it's rather an appropriate gothic reading, beautifully written. I admired Maurier's tension building and psychological thriller around a mysterious woman (just like in Rebecca), but.. like I said, I hated the inconclusive ending.

Rating: 4 / 5

Friday, November 18, 2022

A Literary Christmas 2022



It’s that time again! Tarissa of In The Bookcase is hosting another A Literary Christmas Challenge – though “Christmas” and “challenge” should not be in one sentence, right? Anyway, I’m joining again, and this year I’m planning (hoping) to read:


A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories
French and Christmas in one sentence – now, c'est superb! It’s a compilation of Christmas or holiday stories by French writers such as: Guy de Maupassant, Alphonse Daudet, Irรจne Nรฉmirovsky, and some other contemporary authors.

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
A holiday classic and a novella, yum!

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
It’s not a Christmas reading list without at least one murder mystery, right? And it’s on my list of Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading Challenge anyway, so why not reading it on Christmas?

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron
What if Jane Austen investigates a murder mystery that happened at a Regency-era Christmas party? Delicious prospect, eh?

The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Another novella which seems to be charming, inspired by Hamlette's review.


Have you also created your Christmas reading list? I’m even thinking of starting my 1st book this month, or as soon as I’ve finished my current readings (two books)! If you want to participate in this event, go directly to the sign up post.

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Mrs. Osmond by John Banville #InspiredByClassics

๐Ÿ–ค Mrs. Osmond is none other than Isabel Archer from Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady. Banville wrote this book to imagine Isabel's fate after her marriage with the deceitful Gilbert Osmond, who actually loved other woman (Madame Merle) and only married Isabel for money.

๐Ÿ–ค Mrs. Osmond starts where Portrait ends, thus making it a sort of its direct sequel. Banville's similarity in writing to James' style is also quite uncanny.

๐Ÿ–ค After Ralph's death in Portrait, Isabel was said to be leaving for Rome, returned to her bitter marriage with Gilbert Osmond. But Mrs. Osmond "revealed" to us that she's actually reluctant to return home, and made a detour, instead, to familiar places in England and France, in order to sort out her own predicament and what she would/could do when she must inevitably confront her husband. Would she continue to live unhappily in Rome, or could she secure her freedom, which Ralph has intended to when he left her the inheritance?

๐Ÿ–ค Reading this book reminded me again of how I was drowned to Isabel Archer's personalities while reading Portrait. Her intelligence, her crave for freedom, and her independent way of thinking. But also her pride and sense of duty to others who depended on her, which eventually led her to bitterness. In a way, I share those qualities, and that's why both Portrait and Mrs. Osmond would forever be two of the most memorable readings for me.

๐Ÿ–ค I would love to share Isabel's final decision here, but I think knowing the ending would lose the charm of reading this book. You need to follow Isabel's psychological struggle, moments of doubts, and her courage, to truly understand and appreciate the ending, whatever it might be.

๐Ÿ–ค A marvelous book, one that I'm sure Henry James himself would have approved!

Rating: 4,5 / 5