Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

Hinds' Feet on High Places
I had never heard of this book before last week.  I was reading a list of books that all Christians should read, and Hinds Feet on High Places was on it.  It is a Christian allegory about salvation in the same genre of Pilgrim's Progress.

Rebecca-Alfred Hitchcock Movie

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I watch the 1940 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Laurence Oliver and Joan Fontaine. I was struck by how different the movie was from the book. Yes, Hitchcock did a wonderful job. Visually, it was artistic and pleasing. Hitchcock generated a lot of suspense, but it is very different from the book, which was a disappointment.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury REVIEW

Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Without a doubt, Bradbury had an incredible imagination. He gave his 1950s audience flat panel TVs, IPODs and ATM machines. He also turned the traditional role of the fireman upside down and used the symbolism of fire to both bring forth life and destroy it. It is one thing to be a good storyteller or a talented writer, which certainly, Bradbury is, but in my opinion, it elevates the craft to do that while making relevant social commentary. Bradbury had a lot to say, and he did it in the context of a compelling and entertaining story.

Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 during the McCarthy error; so government censorship was a serious and real concern. What is interesting to me is that Bradbury makes the point that the people and the state share the blame for censorship, with the people bearing most of the culpability. Every group that has a viewpoint wants the counter-viewpoint censored. Bradbury warns us of the perils of political correctness before political correctness even had a name.

Bradbury also warns that as society intoxicates itself with pleasures and titillation of mass media people will increasingly move away from, not only intellectual pursuits, but they will lose their ability to bond with one another. Bradbury didn’t even own a TV until the 1950s, but he had the foresight to understand the (now well documented) mental health issues that can come from heavy ICT use.

I was, generally, pleased with the storytelling. Bradbury was, at times, a little long winded but he painted vivid pictures. The foreshadowing was nicely done, and even though I knew the plot, I was surprised a few times. Really, you can’t ask for much more out of a book. It is a cool coincidence that I just happened to read this classic during banned book week.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier REVIEW

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes when you read a book, there is something so special about one conversation or one bit of writing that even if the book, in its entirety, isn’t good that piece makes it worth your effort. In this case, the entire book is fabulous, but there are a couple of parts that are extraordinary. To me, the first chapter is a gothic masterpiece. You know that you are in for a treat right from the beginning. As a whole, the book is superbly written, but there are several sections of pros that stand out. There is a bit about growing older in chapter 15 that is particularly poignant. I loved the confrontation at the window’s ledge in chapter 18.

There is something about this book that reminds me of Dostoyevsky. Du Maurier’s and Dostoyevsky’s styles are completely different. The similarity is probably in the way that the narrator, in Rebecca,has longwinded conversations with herself and that everyone is a little crazy and self-absorbed, but they are completely clueless to their narcissism.

The comparison with this book to Jane Eyre is obvious. In my opinion, du Maurier is a better writer than Bronte, but Jane Eyre is a superior book. I love Jane. Rebecca’s narrator is weak and pitiful most of the time. I was attracted to the superb writing, the plot and the mystery in Rebecca, but I didn’t care about the main character. She was appealing to me at first, in Monte Carlo, but after she became Mrs. De Winter, she was just mostly pathetic; so that limited my emotional connection to her. (view spoiler) All of her whining and obsessions with herself and Rebecca was uninteresting and unrealistic. This is easily a five star book, but I think it could have been even better with a stronger protagonist.

What I love about this book is that it painstakingly follows the gothic formula. There is a castle, a mystery to be solved and portents of doom. There is heroine overwrought with emotional destress. It seems like it would be “over the top” or even silly, but du Maurier pulls it off perfectly. I was fully engaged, telling off Mrs. Danvers and wanting to slap some sense into Mrs. De Winter.

I was really obsessed with this book. I couldn’t put it down, and I didn’t want it to end. Reading this kind of book is what the classics challenge is all about.

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