Tag Archives: classic

Classic poetry: Live Oak, With Moss

This classic poetry collection is an intensely private reflection on Walt Whitman’s attraction to and affection for other men. 

Live Oak, with Moss
The classic poetry collection is an intensely private reflection on Walt Whitman’s attraction to and affection for other men.

One of the most beautiful books that I have ever owned, Live Oak, With Moss, is simply filled to the brim with the poet’s haunting love for the beloved. Whitman’s longing just soaks the page and flows to your heart. The way the poet has combined nature with these poems is stunning. It made these so much more potent, real and raw. Apart from this burgeoning sense of longing, these subtly erotic poems are filled with the hope for a distant time and place when there will be a wholesome space for all these men to gather and simply be themselves.

I am reading Song of Myself from Leaves of Grass, for a class this semester. So, reading Live Oak, With Moss was illuminating in a way I never thought possible. I was overwhelmed by the words and the emotions they swelled up in me.

Live Oak, With Moss, is without a doubt, one of the best collections I have ever read and felt.  

Links to Goodreads, and Amazon

Check out my review for Lord of the Butterflies

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, 1970

Title: The Bluest Eye

Author: Toni Morrison

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

Toni Morrison’s debut novel immerses us in the tragic, torn lives of a poor black family – Pauline, Cholly, Sam and Pecola – in post-Depression 1940s Ohio. Unlovely and unloved, Pecola prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged white schoolfellows. At once intimate and expansive, unsparing in its truth-telling, The Bluest Eye shows how the past savagely defines the present.

My review:

I read The Bluest Eye for the #tonimorrisonreadathon organized by Vidya @letsdiscussourbooks. Thanks a lot for arranging this readathon!

The Bluest Eye was her first novel, published in 1970, and it is a controversial novel still, for showing themes of incest, child molestation, racism etc. By the time I had finished reading the last page, I was blown away by the lyrical quality of Morrison’s writing. The repetitions sometimes sound like a mantra that beats at your mind as you read of the terrible beauty that is this book.

The shifting narratives offer glimpses into the lives of the various characters – letting us understand how certain past events shaped them into what they were in the present. What is important, is the psychological implications the book also portrays throughout these shifting perspectives. It is a wonder, that Morrison wrote things that still affect the human race today – in that she is a writer on the human tragedies that are eternal and everlasting.

The mental space is a big motif in this book. Later on, when we see a life of Soaphead Church, we can infer from the writing that his disgust against the dog directly reflects his internal feelings toward himself. Much like Cholly, he uses Pecola for his own pleasure, although not in a similar manner.

The Bluest Eye was a beautifully terrible book – for its simplicity, and yet, the stark truth reflected within the pages. No matter what the era, one will always seem to relate on a micro level with the characters, their struggles and hopes and wishes. Replete with the truest essence of humanness, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is one of the best books ever. I rate it 5/5 stars.

(Stay tuned for the full version of the review coming later this week at The North-Eastern Chronicle!)

About the reviewer: Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Mid Year Book Freak-Out Tag!

It is July and I know you have heard it everywhere, read it everywhere and felt it yourself too – but my god, the year has passed by in a flash! I mean it was just a few days back, it feel like, when I was preparing for the university fest in February and now, it’s the end of my 4th semester! From August onwards, I will be starting with my 5th semester and that would mean that I will have only a year left for the completion of my Bachelors degree! Whoa! I am feeling as if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed – I was in senior year just a few days ago and it does not feel like 2 years have gone by at all!

So since it is July, I thought why not jump the bandwagon and do the Mid year book freak-out tag myself! Everyone is doing well, and I think it is a great way also to come across new books that might interest you as well! As of June 30th, I have read 119 books in total.  

  1. Best book you have read so far in 2019 – Okay so I am going to cheat on this one and state the best books I read from various genres. I fell in love with LORD OF THE BUTTERFLIES by Andrea Gibson (Poetry), THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon (Fantasy), CITY OF GIRLS by Elizabeth Gilbert (Historical Fiction), DARK TALES by Shirley Jackson (Horror), BRAVE, NOT PERFECT by Reshma Saujani (Non-Fiction), FINDING ESME by Suzanne Crowley (Middle-Grade), THE LUPANARIUM by Adele Leigh (Dystopian), and THE STILLWATER GIRLS by Minka Kent (Thriller/Mystery).
  2. Best sequel you have read so far in 2019 – for this I shall go with THE KINGDOM OF COPPER by S. A. Chakraborty. It is the sequel to THE CITY OF BRASS, from THE DAEVABAD TRILOGY, and I rated it 5/5 stars. I am very excited for the last book in this series to come out!
  3. New release you haven’t read but want to – Ah I am hoping to pick up AURORA RISING by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff this week! I have heard nothing but great reviews about this book and I am excited!
  4. Most anticipated release for the second half of 2019 – oh my god! I have a really long list for this one but I’ll include a few ones which I think not very many people are talking about:
    1. WAYWARD SON by Rainbow Rowell, September 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44017627-wayward-son?ac=1&from_search=true
    2. THE WATER DANCER by Ta-Nehisi Coates, September 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43982054-the-water-dancer?from_search=true
    3. NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo, October 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43263680-ninth-house?from_search=true
    4. BLOOD HEIR by Amelia Wen Zhao, November 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38205707-blood-heir?from_search=true
    5. THE DEEP by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, November 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42201962-the-deep?from_search=true
  5. Biggest disappointment – well, I cannot really say that there was any such big disappointment. Sure, there were some not great enough reads, but thankfully, I did not come across any book i hated.
  6. Biggest surprise – I will go with POETS, ARTISTS AND LOVERS by Mira Tudor for this. I rated it 5/5 stars and had not at all expected to be bombarded by its excellence. It was an amazing and welcome surprise.
  7. Favourite new author – I am really loving Kerri Maniscalco and Maureen Johnson and I’m slowly going through all their books.
  8. Newest fictional crush – might I say Thomas Cresswell? If you do not know who he is, well, please please please do pick up the STALKING JACK THE RIPPER quartet by Kerri Maniscalco. Its a mix of historical fiction , murder mystery and romance. Amazing series.
  9. Newest favourite character – I think this has to be Vivian Morris from CITY OF GIRLS by Elizabeth Gilbert, Angelique from THE DUCHESS by Danielle Steel and Alexandra from THE RIGHT TIME, also by Danielle Steel. I have been loving these amazing women!
  10. Book that made you cry – this has to be YOU WILL BE SAFE HERE  by Damian Barr. It is a wonderfully tragic book and I rated it 5/5 stars. It was an emotional rollercoaster and I was full-on sobbing at some points in the story. If not for the story (which is impossible), you need to read it for the social and historical perspectives. It is so very important.
  11. Book that made you happy – for this, I am going to mention CIRCUS FOLK AND VILLAGE FREAKS by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal, a collection of absurd and weird poetry. So much so, that it is really funny and made me laugh a lot, and very happy at the end.
  12. Favourite book to movie adaptation you saw this year – I’m adding my own twist here. I don’t really watch that many movies and prefer series. So, I watched A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES,  based on the ALL SOULS TRILOGY by Deborah Harkness. Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer are amazing. Somehow, Diana Bishop’s character gives me Bella (from Twilight) vibes. But it was a great season 1 and I’m excited for the next season to come out in late 2019 or early 2020.
  13. Favourite review you have written this year – well, I have three reviews to share. I loved the books and I loved writing about them. And they are CITY OF GIRLS by Elizabeth Gilbert, CIRCUS FOLK AND VILLAGE FREAKS by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal and AN ATLAS OF IMPOSSIBLE LONGING by Anuradha Roy. (PS. I loved AN ATLAS OF IMPOSSIBLE LONGING so much that I even gave a class presntation on with. With reference to Indian Writings in English)
  14. Most beautiful book you bought so far this year – for this, I will go with the FingerPrint Classics edition of ANNE FRANK: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL. It is a beautiful hardcover edition with silver embossed cov er on blue, and silver edges! I simply love it.
  15. What books do you need to read by the end of 2019 – some books I hope to pick up by the end of 2019 are: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC trilogy by V. E. Schwab ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22055262-a-darker-shade-of-magic?from_search=true because I loved her writing in THE NEAR WITCH), THE THORNBIRDS by Colleen McCullough ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/830793.The_Thorn_Birds ), THE WAVES by Virginia Woolf ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/863768.The_Waves ), ESCAPING FROM HOUDINI by Kerri Maniscalco ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37539001-capturing-the-devil?ac=1&from_search=true ), and REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM: THE WOMAN ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17532.Rebecca_Of_Sunnybrook_Farm?from_search=true ) by Eric Wiggin.

I encourage you all to try out this tag!

PS. I am not the creator of the tag; I do not know who that is.

Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter , by Debeshi Gooptu, 2019

Title: Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter

Author: Debeshi Gooptu

Publisher: Juggernaut Books

Published on: May, 2019

Genre: Contemporary fiction/romance/classic retelling

Format: E-book

Language: English

No. of pages: 229

Recommended for: for fans of Jane Austen

Synopsis:

A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Persuasion. Eight years ago, family pride and an obstinate father had forced Anamika Eashwar to let go of the love of her life. Now he’s back again, a decorated captain of the Indian Navy. Will life offer her a second chance?

My review:                                 

I really enjoyed reading Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter. It is the perfect modern day Jane Austen retelling with a heroine who is just as dear and relatable. Often ignored and overlooked this is a love story spanning years and oh my god, I love it.

Being an Indian retelling, the element of the family is just as important. When it comes to Anamika’s character, I couldn’t help but feel that she is somewhat of a pushover. However, in regards to this protagonist, this is also a bildungsroman novel, where at the end, Anamika asserts her own self and her own identity and sheds all inhibitions, and also finds love in the process.

Verdict:

I rate this book a solid 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Dark Tales, by Shirley Jackson

Title: Dark Tales

Author: Shirley Jackson

Publisher: Penguin Classics, a part of Penguin Random House

Genre: Horror 

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 195

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

Step into the unsettling world of Shirley Jackson this autumn with a collection of her finest, darkest short stories, revealing the queen of American gothic at her mesmerising best.

There’s something nasty in suburbia. In these deliciously dark tales, the daily commute turns into a nightmarish game of hide and seek, the loving wife hides homicidal thoughts and the concerned citizen might just be an infamous serial killer. In the haunting world of Shirley Jackson, nothing is as it seems and nowhere is safe, from the city streets to the country manor, and from the small-town apartment to the dark, dark woods…

Includes the following stories: ‘The Possibility of Evil’; ‘Louisa, Please Come Home’; ‘Paranoia’; ‘The Honeymoon of Mrs Smith’; ‘The Story We Used to Tell’; ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’; ‘Jack the Ripper’; ‘The Beautiful Stranger’; ‘All She Said Was Yes’; ‘What a Thought’; ‘The Bus’; ‘Family Treasures’; ‘A Visit’; ‘The Good Wife’; ‘The Man in the Woods’; ‘Home’; ‘The Summer People’.

My review:

Never having read Shirley Jackson’s works before, I was pleasantly surprised to go through this collection. Dark Tales is an anthology of short stories – full of elements of horror, and the supernatural, or darkness.

I also read this book as a part of the #readyoshelf reading challenge hosted by my dear friend Gayatri (@per_fictionist).

Having experienced this myself, I would really recommend that new readers of this genres may start with this one. This is a collection of short stories and as such, quite easy to read and short as well, so that new readers may not feel any commitment issues. What is creepy is that these events may happen to just about anyone and that fact itself is enough to give one goosebumps.

I truly enjoyed all of these stories; however, the ones that stuck were – ‘Louisa, Please Come Home’; ‘All She Said Was Yes’; ‘A Visit’; ‘The Man in the Woods’; ‘Home’; and ‘The Summer People’.

I could say that I am definitely a fan of her writing and hope to pick up ‘We have always lived in the Castle’ and ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ soon.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the author:

Shirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

An Atlas of Impossible Longing, by Anuradha Roy, 2008

Title: An Atlas of Impossible Longing

Author: Anuradha Roy

Publisher: Picador USA

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 336

Recommended for:  

Synopsis:

On the outskirts of a small town in Bengal, a family lives in solitude in their vast new house. Here, lives intertwine and unravel. A widower struggles with his love for an unmarried cousin. Bakul, a motherless daughter, runs wild with Mukunda, an orphan of unknown caste adopted by the family. Confined in a room at the top of the house, a matriarch goes slowly mad; her husband searches for its cause as he shapes and reshapes his garden.

As Mukunda and Bakul grow, their intense closeness matures into something else, and Mukunda is banished to Calcutta. He prospers in the turbulent years after Partition, but his thoughts stay with his home, with Bakul, with all that he has lost—and he knows that he must return.

My review:

Thanks to my professor for lending me this book.

“A veritable atlas. What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition. Want, want, hope, hope, this is what your palm say, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.” 

An Atlas of Impossible Longings is a story of loss, love, hope, longings and desires. This tapestry of human natures is so vivid and full of imagery that it takes one to the places and the people as the author describes them. The story is undoubtedly sad at times, but I personally applaud the author’s ability to write it without making the reader really depressed. There is a thread of old-world, pre-independence era nostalgia threading throughout the entire narrative.

It was only when the novel ended that I understood why the author started it as she had. She does not fail to give us a backstory to the major characters, across the various generations – Amulya, Kananbala, Manjula, Nirmal, Mukunda, Bakul, Suleiman Chacha, Bikash Babu etc.

One could say, that there are three stories – that of Amulya who had created his new home away from the hustle and bustle of Calcutta, in Songarh, with his wife who is very much resentful of this; then we see Suleiman Chacha’s house in Calcutta, in the midst of the chaotic Partition years, where Mukunda also stays; and lastly, we see the house of Bikash Babu, built on the banks of a river gone wild, which is very much related to Bakul, the female protagonist, also named after a tree that had been growing on a side of the mansion. Tying all three of these, is the undeniable bond of Mukunda and Bakul, as well as both of them independently.

Mukunda as a character is the only one who we see is undergoing social mobility. He is a casteless orphan firstly, in a time when caste consciousness reigned supreme. Then he is taken up by Nirmal and encouraged to study and move forward in life – in this we again see him as the gentleman’s son. But then, in Calcutta, he is like every other individual trying to make something for himself. He never fails to remember, however, his Bakul whom he has left behind in Songarh. Even after being married, we see that unbreakable thread of thought and emotion binding him to her.  It is this aspect that really makes me relate him to Heathcliff, from Emily Bronte’s classic – Wuthering Heights. I really do think of this story as a somewhat loosely written Indian version of Wuthering Heights. Mukunda and Bakul’s story is just as tumultuous and wrought with various troubles.

He wanted to tell her that his dreams took him far beyond Songarh, beyond Calcutta, across oceans, towards icebergs. What would she say? “Take me with you! I want to come too!” 

Hand in hand, they stood in the middle of the empty fields under the star-filled sky, their troubles, fear, and the long way they still had to go before reaching home, all forgotten.

The name of this novel is quite relatable to the characters to this book – “impossible longing” implying that the longings that these people might have, are not to be accepted by society, and obviously so – we see Nirmal in love with Meera, a widow, who is, because of her marital state, a figure on the lower rungs of societal hierarchy; Mukunda with his own share and Meera with her desire to be identified as a woman by her own rights and not by her marital state. These people are so real to the reader – we see them giving up on this desires as they let themselves be carried forward by estiny, but still, holding onto a tiny flicker of hope.

“A veritable atlas. What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition. Want, want, hope, hope, this is what your palm say, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.” 

Displacement plays an important underlying theme in this novel- whether it is Amulya as he brings in his family to Songarh, Nirmal in the city, and most importantly with Suleiman Chacha.

Women and their position in society is also another interesting point. Considering the fact that the novel spans roughly 1920s to the 1950s, the expectations and rules set upon them were also very different. We see Kananbala, and as she grows older, the lack of knowledge that people have about speech impediments, leads her to being locked up in her room until her death. Manjula as a wife and daughter-in-law “fails” to do her duty, because she is unable to bear progeny. Then comes the Mrs. Barnum whose half-blood origins make her foreign to both the British as well as the locals. Then again, one rumor (in case of Bakul) is enough to stop a marriage from occuring. The pitiable condition of widows is seen through Meera and one line really touched me.

“Some day, she fantasised, I’ll again wear sunset orange, green the colour of a young mango, and rich semul red. Maybe just in secret, for myself, when nobody’s looking, but I will.
Unknown to her, Nirmal was watching from outside. It had brought him to a standstill, to see her doing something so ordinary, looking at a sari, the kind of sari that a widow could never wear.”

The author has not failed to cover many important aspects of India of those times – caste system, the pitiable condition of widows, the Hindu-Muslins rivalry and riots near the Partition years, social system etc. in her brutally elegant writing style, Roy has woven together a veritable mass of an entity that is relatable to the heart of India, and all things Indian. With brilliant characterization and world building, this is one of the best books I read in 2018!

Verdict:

I rate it a 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, 1847

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Publishers: Maple Press
Genre: Gothic fiction/Classic
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr. Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.
 
My review:
 I had Wuthering Heights assigned to me for my 3rd semester reading list, and I am so very glad that I could revisit this classic once again this year. The first time I read Wuthering Heights, was way back when I was in middle school, class 6 to be specific, since a favourite teacher was gushing about this, her favourite novel. Hungry for some romance, I picked it up, and I’ve been continuously picking this book up again and again.
The whole plot was confusing  to me the first time I read it, mind you- the English isn’t so very modern and hence it was quite difficult to a mere class 6 student, the entire background was gloomy and tragic and I felt the pervading sense of alienation in the windy moors of Yorkshire. Now, as an English major, I appreciate this literary work so much more and can understand the undertones better, of course. The themes of love, revenge, man versus nature, the Divine Providence, abound in this novel, and Emily Bronte, writing as Ellis Bell, masterfully carved a perfect plot, swathed with the events that eventually lead to the anticlimactic end.
The characters are well defined and I find the protagonists to be quite deserving of each other. While the romantic in me admires the ruggedly “tall, dark and handsome” Heathcliff, and his passionate love for his Cathy- so much so that he strives on and on for revenge, I cannot help but shirk away at his inhumanity at points. Cathy, misguided as she was in her hopes, which led to her disastrous actions, I found her a very impulsive and selfish as well as manipulative person, sweet enough not to make other realize her intents. Like was quoted, “It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn.”
The writing is exquisite nonetheless, and although in Wuthering Heights we find one of the most dysfunctional couples of all time, there are also some of the best romantic quoted lines of all time. A masterpiece in its own, Wuthering Heights is a novel which at all persons interested in literature should definitely pick up at least once in their lifetime.
Verdict:
I rate Wuthering Heights a 4/5 stars, specifically because although I love the book, there are some points which don’t work for me at all.

Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens, 1837-1839

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Publishers: Maple Press
Genre: Satire/Classic
Format: Paperback
Synopsis:
Named a “national institution” by George Orwell, Dickens offers his most popular tale, of the orphan who is reared in a workhouse and runs away to London-a novel of social protest, a morality tale, and a detective story
My review:
Oliver Twist is a book I read for my course this semester. I really liked it and will definitely be picking it up once more this year. The points that really hold me to it are as follows:

  1. Dickens has realistically portrayed the realities of London during a time when the gap between the rich and the poor was growing day by day.
  2. It also marked the ongoing Industrial Revolution and as such depicted the effects among the middle class.
  3. The themes of poverty, class, charity etc. were also explored in a descriptive manner. The plight of the orphans in the baby farms and subsequently in the workhouses was really sad but enlightening. Friendship and kindness are also two very important themes we see in the novel.
  4. The author has also created some very interesting characters involved in various occupations, and through them, shed light on the conditions of these different people as well. Overall, the cast is a full-on funny and humourous collection of various people who represent the follies of the age. Oliver Twist abounds in all varieties of humour, farcical situation, verbal twist and mannerism of speech and above all, the sympathetic laughter that acts as a buffer in highlighting these characters.
  5. The plot is well created and the twists and turns all arrive at interesting points and give a good reading experience to the reader.

Verdict:
I rate Oliver Twist a solid 4/5 stars. I also definitely recommend everyone to read this Victorian social novel as it’s quite funny, and moreover, described the nitty-gritty underbelly of London’s crimes.

She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith, 1771

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Publishers: Peacock Books
Genre: Laughing Comedy/Drama
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 This comic masterpiece mocked the simple morality of sentimental comedies. Subtitled The Mistakes of a Night, the play is a lighthearted farce that derives its charm from the misunderstandings which entangle the well-drawn characters. Mr. Hardcastle plans to marry his forthright daughter Kate to bashful Marlow, the son of his friend Sir Charles Marlow. Mrs. Hardcastle wants her recalcitrant son Tony Lumpkin to marry her ward Constance Neville, who is in love with Marlow’s friend Hastings. Humorous mishaps occur when Tony dupes Marlow and Hastings into believing that Mr. Hardcastle’s home is an inn. By posing as a servant, Kate wins the heart of Marlow, who is uncomfortable in the company of wellborn women but is flirtatious with barmaids. A comedy in five acts by Oliver Goldsmith, produced and published in 1773 and 1771, respectively.
 
My review:
 She Stoops to Conquer is a really funny drama and I truly love it so. The points that really hold me to it are as follows:

  1. It is a really short play and thus is perfect for a single-seating read, and readathons.
  2. It marked a change in the dramas of that time because sentimental comedies had been preferred back in the day. However, it was Oliver Goldsmith who came up with this laughing comedy and revived the audience.
  3. The play also follows the three classical Unities perfectly.
  4. The cast is a full-on funny and humourous collection of various people who represent the follies of the age. As such, She Stoops to Conquer is also a comedy of manners.
  5. The plot is well created and spans only the duration of a single night, wherein the events take place.
  6. The subplot is also a romantic and funny one and is bound to incite laughter in the audience.

 
Verdict:
I rate She Stoops to Conquer a solid 4/5 stars. I also definitely recommend everyone to read this drama as it’s a funny and short read, and moreover, marked a considerable revolution in the field of play at the time it first came out.

The Blue Umbrella, Ruskin Bond, 1974

(Previously published on indiabookstagram.com as ‘The Blue Umbrella, Ruskin Bond, 1974‘ )
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Blurb:
‘The umbrella was like a flower, a great blue flower that had sprung up on the dry brown hillside.’
In exchange for her lucky leopard’s claw pendant, Binya acquires a beautiful blue umbrella that makes her the envy of everyone in the village, especially Ram Bharosa, the shopkeeper. It is the prettiest umbrella in the whole village and she carries it everywhere she goes.
The Blue Umbrella is a short and humorous novella set in the hills of Garhwal. Written in simple yet witty language, it captures life in a village – where ordinary characters become heroic, and others find opportunities to redeem themselves.
My Review:
A delightful read, that can be finished in one seating, The Blue Umbrella is a must read in children’s literature. With great illustrations by Trevor Stubley, this book is entertaining while also educating as it tends to impart real-life lessons in a non-preachy way. The humane aspect was brought out vividly in this simple yet surprisingly beautiful and profound read.
The fact that this edition has beautiful illustrations, works wonders. And will especially be great since they will attract the children and in turn make them interested enough to read. The language used is really simple and easy to understand and I also really like the real life teachings of the importance of feelings and values and relationships that this book portrays. Moreover, since it is only of 83 pages and that too, including the illustrations, it was a really quick read and will definitely encourage children to pick it up.
Definitely for primary schools students as well as early middle-grade students as well. Can also be easily enjoyed by adults as well, wishing to reach back to the simplicity of childhood.
Verdict:
I rate it a 4.6/5 stars

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, 1818

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Often regarded as the mother of modern science fiction, Frankenstein is a chilling tale of man’s quest for dangerous knowledge and the wish to gain the power of the laws of nature. This novel is a compilation of Romantic and Gothic elements combined into a singular work with an unforgettable story. It follows Victor Frankenstein, a student of natural philosophy, as he creates his greatest creation- the Frankenstein monster, made from the part of 7 other male dead bodies. Just the thought of raising the dead is gruesome enough. Shelley takes full advantage of this literary device to enhance the strange feelings that Frankenstein generates in its readers.
The themes of dangerous knowledge, sublime nature, monstrosity and creation. An aspect of Gothic literature, the search for illicit truth and magical mysteries is seen in the character of Victor Frankenstein as well as Robert Walton. Victor Frankenstein, of course, engages in a quest to push the realms of science to their limits and even go beyond by his creation of the monster. Nature, on the other hand, is used to depict the moods and situations of the characters in the novel- as a mirror of their innermost thoughts and feelings. Particularly in Frankenstein’s narration, the description of scenery often reflects his mental state at the time of the scene. Nature as a force is often personified in the text.
Gothic novels also have multiple levels of narration, which is done by using a framing device. We see this in Frankenstein, where the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation is framed by the story of Walton. We hear Frankenstein’s story told Walton, who is narrating the story to his sister Mrs Margaret Saville and through these letters, to the readers. At times, the narration is even further removed, such as, when the monster tells Victor Frankenstein his story. Foreshadowing is ubiquitous and throughout his narrative, Victor uses words such as “fate” and “omen” to hint at the tragedy that has befallen him.
Also known as The Modern Prometheus, Frankenstein is a reference to the Promethean hubris. The story is true to this moniker: in Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity; he was subsequently bound and punished eternally for his crimes. Similarly, Frankenstein discovered how to give life to things — a power thought divine — and is subsequently punished by the endless tragedy delivered unto him by his creation.
I will end this long review by stating that I truly loved this book and grant it a 5/5 stars! Marvellous work!

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. And with this, perhaps the most famous ironical sentence ever, begins Austen’s masterpiece. First published in 1813, it achieved instant success and its popularity has endured till this date. With a working title of First Impressions, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has remained an evergreen favorite among all in the literary world. Every English major has read it and moreover, there are so many others who aren’t majoring in English, but are still among this classic’s ardent lovers.
Pride and Prejudice follows the trials and tribulations of the five Bennet sisters- Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia, with all their various quirks and mannerisms. It is a truly funny and satiric novel in the sense that it subtly pokes fun at the various stereotypes in Regency Era England.
We see the irony in appearance and character- for instance, in the fine-bred Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her condescending manners, Mrs. Bennet with her silly and loud ways as well as Mr. Collins who surely loves to hear his own voice. There is also a comparison made between simplicity and intricacy in between Jane and Mr. Charles Bingley, and Elizabeth and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. The novel’s title may be a reference to Mr. Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice against him; however, it goes both ways.
Since Pride and Prejudice can be classified as a novel of manners, we can also see quite a few social themes that haunted every action and thought of people in 19th century England. Reputation is one major theme in this novel, but it comes into prominence with Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. At the base of the story, we can say that Pride and Prejudice is a story of two young people coming together, as love inexplicably binds them together. It is thus no wonder that love should be one of the major themes of this novel. Financial status or class is another recurring theme- it is what drives Mrs. Bennet with the threat of the entail hanging of her head, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh when she visits Elizabeth towards the end, and expresses how unfit any union of her and Mr. Darcy would be. In the same vein, social appearance, humility and prejudice are also among the few other themes.
Personal growth is quite a major theme throughout the novel- it takes place in the two major characters of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Taking this factor, Pride and Prejudice can also be classified as a bildungsroman. A lot of the storyline is also taken forward through the medium of letters- among Jane, Elizabeth, Caroline Bingley etc. thus we see an effective use of the epistolary form as well.
I remember that that first time I read this, was back in 2012 when I was perhaps in the eight standard. I had loved it then and I loved it as I possible read this for the hundredth time this semester. It truly is a wonderful experience every time I read it and one of the obvious choices when people ask me for classics recommendations. I rated it, as usual a 5/5 stars; I do not know anyone who would grant it any less!

Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift, 1726

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First published in 1726, Gulliver’s Travels was an immediate success and as a powerful satire as well as an adventure story, continues to ensnare readers of all ages. Categorized into four parts, Gulliver’s Travels follows Lemuel Gulliver, (Gulliver is a word play on the word “gullible”) as he travels accidentally to four amazingly strange and exotic places. The first is the country of Lilliput where people are 5-6 inches tall, and then he travels to Brobdingnag where the people, this time, are giants at 60-70 feet. On his third journey he ends upon the flying island of Laputa which is inhabited by the absurdly impractical scientists, and lastly, perhaps also the strangest, he goes to the land of the Houyhnhnms- the civilized horses and the filthy, uncivilized human-like Yahoos.
Although this is a satire, Gulliver’s disgust for humans is scant in the first two books but increases in the third and becomes extreme in the fourth. It is a commentary on mankind, and Swift uses this exotic imagery to mock the hypocrisy and underhandedness in the morals, social habits political events and ideas, of the people. He is portrayed as a man who loves to travel and meet new people and connect with them, but the apparent uncaring attitude he has for his wife Mary is very unsatisfying to read about.
However great this book may be, there were points when Gulliver was rambling on and on about futile things. But nonetheless, it is a book that I would greatly recommend to all lovers of travel. This book is so resplendent that I would even dare to suggest parents let their children read it, albeit an abridged version. This is the first time I read this book and I cannot say I hated it, but I did not love it either. So I rate it 4/5 stars and hope future readers will only grant it more for in this regard, I do not think I did it justice.

Allerleirauh, Chantal Gadoury, 2017

Publishers: Parliament House Press
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A heart-wrenching tale of love, loss and the haunting grip a cruel past can have on the present lives of people, Allerleirauh is a beautiful tale, more specifically a Grimms’ Fairytale retelling.
It took me just a few hours to complete this- I was enraptured since I started with the Prologue and I could not keep it down. The author has beautifully created the plotline and then made her characters real and touching. In the center, we have Princess Aurelia and her transfiguration starting from the beginning till the end was very gradual and poignant. Her character as a whole was, I feel, well sculpted and the author has been able to portray the rawness in her understanding and actions after the horrifying event which destroys her soul.
The other characters were also very greatly depicted. I have truly come to dislike the king of Tranen, Lord Haven, while completely falling in love with Lord Crestwood, Klaus, and Aurelia. Myriah and Adelais were supportive mother-figures and we could see the love behind their actions. It was a stark contrast between people who showed their love through gifts and words and those who showed it through their actions. The disillusionment in there itself, is profound, just like Aurelia discovers later on in the story. Chantal Gadoury has beautifully tried to send the message that no matter how bad some people might be, there are others who are infinitely good and that we should not judge others based on any ill experiences we might have had.
When it comes to the plot, I felt like it was a bit fast-paced in the first part, and comparatively slower in the second. Perhaps it was intended in that way, but nonetheless, I liked the overall flow of the story. The themes that have been portrayed are also very relatable in modern times- that of love, friendship and sexual harassment, the healing and so on. It gave me the chills- this soulful tale of disillusionment and love. Another light theme here, like in most fairytales, is that of the fashion element, which I really loved, being a fashionista myself. The three special gowns were superb! (If you want to know what I am talking about, I would definitely recommend getting your hands on this book ASAP!)
I rate this a 5/5 stars for touching my heart- its light, and warm and beautiful and yet at the same time, it’s so dark, and soul-wrenching!

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, 1890

 

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13th April
So I just started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray yesterday, and so far I’m loving it. The writer has introduced Basil Hallward- the guy who paints the infamous picture, later on, the man in question that is Mr Dorian Gray himself and their mutual friend Lord Henry Wotton (Harry).
I could realize that Lord Henry is an influencer kind of person because, in the beginning, itself, we see Basil hesitant to introduce him to Dorian because he was afraid that the young Lord would be a bad influence on his friend. And it is just as well, I think, because boy, does he have a way with words! I have been mesmerized by the way Lord Henry speaks; there is this paradoxical quality about him that I really like, and he is just a very good orator. Most of the lines that I have underlined in the book so far are from his speeches. I’ll put in a few examples here:

  1. Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are,—my fame, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray’s good looks,—we will all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.
  2. I make a great difference between people. I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their characters, and my enemies for their brains. A man can’t be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me. Is that very vain of me? I think it is rather vain.
  3. Days in summer, Basil, are apt to linger.
  4. I think you will tire first, all the same. Some day you will look at Gray, and he will seem to you to be a little out of drawing, or you won’t like his tone of color, or something. You will bitterly reproach him in your own heart, and seriously think that he has behaved very badly to you. The next time he calls, you will be perfectly cold and indifferent. It will be a great pity, for it will alter you. The worst of having a romance is that it leaves one so unromantic.
  5. There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral,—immoral from the scientific point of view.
  6. Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly,—that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s self.
  7. ‘I believe that if one man were to live his life out fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream,—I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal,— to something finer, richer, than the Hellenic ideal, it may be…. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame—
  8. You are a wonderful creature. You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.
  9. Because you have now the most marvellous youth, and youth is the one thing worth having…Some day, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it, you will feel it terribly.
  10. And Beauty is a form of Genius,—is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it…To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible… ‘Yes, Mr. Gray, the gods have been good to you. But what the gods give they quickly take away. You have only a few years in which really to live. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you, or have to content yourself with those mean triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats. Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful. Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed. You will suffer horribly. Realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar, which are the aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.
  11. Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.
  12. What a fuss people make about fidelity! … And, after all, it is purely a question for physiology. It has nothing to do with our own will. It is either an unfortunate accident, or an unpleasant result of temperament. Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.
  13. She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.
  14. Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity. It is their distinguishing characteristic.
  15. I can sympathize with everything, except suffering. I cannot sympathize with that. It is too ugly, too horrible, too distressing. There is something terribly morbid in the modern sympathy with pain. One should sympathize with the color, the beauty, the joy of life. The less said about life’s sores the better.
  16. Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the caveman had known how to laugh, history would have been different.
  17. To get back one’s youth, one has merely to repeat one’s follies.
  18. Nowadays, most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.
  19. Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
  20. My dear boy, no woman is a genius: women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. They represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as we men represent the triumph of mind over morals.
  21. But you should not say the greatest romance of your life. You should say the first romance of your life. You will always be loved, and you will always be in love with love. There are exquisite things in store for you. This is merely the beginning.
  22. ‘My dear boy, people who only love once in their lives are really shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or the lack of imagination. Faithlessness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the intellectual life,—simply a confession of failure.
  23. When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls romance.
  24. To have ruined oneself over poetry is an honour.
  25. There is always something infinitely mean about other people’s tragedies.
  26. People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves.
  27. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.
  28. Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
  29. ‘I never approve, or disapprove, of anything now. It is an absurd attitude to take towards life. We are not sent into the world to air our moral prejudices. I never take any notice of what common people say, and I never interfere with what charming people do. If a personality fascinates me, whatever the personality chooses to do is absolutely delightful to me… The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colorless. They lack individuality.
  30. The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror.
  31. Women are wonderfully practical, much more practical than we are. In situations of that kind we often forget to say anything about marriage, and they always remind us… I have a theory that it is always the women who propose to us, and not we who propose to the women, except, of course, in middle-class life. But then the middle classes are not modern.
  32. You will always like me, Dorian… I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit.
  33. I have known everything, but I am always ready for a new emotion. I am afraid that there is no such thing, for me at any rate.
  34. There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating,—people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing. Good heavens, my dear boy, don’t look so tragic! The secret of remaining young is never to have an emotion that is unbecoming. Come to the club with Basil and myself. We will smoke cigarettes and drink to the beauty of Sibyl Vane. She is beautiful. What more can you want?
  35. But she would have soon found out that you were absolutely indifferent to her. And when a woman finds that out about her husband, she either becomes dreadfully dowdy, or wears very smart bonnets that some other woman’s husband has to pay for. I say nothing about the social mistake, but I assure you that in any case the whole thing would have been an absolute failure.
  36. Good resolutions are simply a useless attempt to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil. They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious sterile emotions that have a certain charm for us. That is all that can be said for them.
  37. I fancy that the explanation is this. It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that. Sometimes, however, a tragedy that has artistic elements of beauty crosses our lives. If these elements of beauty are real, the whole thing simply appeals to our sense of dramatic effect. Suddenly we find that we are no longer the actors, but the spectators of the play. Or rather we are both. We watch ourselves, and the mere wonder of the spectacle enthralls us. In the present case, what is it that has really happened? Some one has killed herself for love of you. I wish I had ever had such an experience. It would have made me in love with love for the rest of my life. The people who have adored me—there have not been very many, but there have been some— have always insisted on living on, long after I had ceased to care for them, or they to care for me. They have become stout and tedious, and when I meet them they go in at once for reminiscences. That awful memory of woman! What a fearful thing it is! And what an utter intellectual stagnation it reveals! One should absorb the color of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.
  38. I believe that women appreciate cruelty more than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They love being dominated. I am sure you were splendid. I have never seen you angry, but I can fancy how delightful you looked. And, after all, you said something to me the day before yesterday that seemed to me at the time to be merely fanciful, but that I see now was absolutely true, and it explains everything.’
  39. We live in an age that reads too much to be wise, and that thinks too much to be beautiful.

Basil Hallward also has some amazing lines:

  1. When I like people immensely I never tell their names to any one. It seems like surrendering a part of them… It is the only thing that can make modern life wonderful or mysterious to us.
  2. You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing. Your cynicism is simply a pose.
  3. I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows.
  4. You might see nothing in him. I see everything in him.
  5. I will not bare my soul to their shallow, prying eyes. My heart shall never be put under their microscope. There is too much of myself in the thing, Harry,—too much of myself!
  6. We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography.
  7. I have given away my whole soul to some one who treats it as if it were a flower to put in his coat, a bit of decoration to charm his vanity, an ornament for a summer’s day.
  8. Don’t spoil him for me. Don’t try to influence him. Your influence would be bad. The world is wide, and has many marvellous people in it. Don’t take away from me the one person that makes life absolutely lovely to me, and that gives to my art whatever wonder or charm it possesses. Mind, Harry, I trust you.
  9. He won’t like you better for keeping your promises. He always breaks his own.

Was it just me or does Dorian Gray not feel like the central character of the novel at all? Am I prejudiced towards Lord Henry Wotton a.k.a Harry? Dorian too has a few lines, short and profound, but nothing compared to what I think Harry has:

  1. I know, now, that when one loses one’s good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything. Your picture has taught me that. Lord Henry is perfectly right. Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I will kill myself.
  2. I am in love with it, Basil. It is part of myself, I feel that.
  3. I felt that this gray, monstrous London of ours, with its myriads of people, its splendid sinners, and its sordid sins, as you once said, must have something in store for me. I fancied a thousand things… To the present day I can’t make out why I did so; and yet if I hadn’t!—my dear Harry, if I hadn’t, I would have missed the greatest romance of my life.
  4. But Juliet! Harry, imagine a girl, hardly seventeen years of age, with a little flower-like face, a small Greek head with plaited coils of dark-brown hair, eyes that were violet wells of passion, lips that were like the petals of a rose. She was the loveliest thing I had ever seen in my life. You said to me once that pathos left you unmoved, but that beauty, mere beauty, could fill your eyes with tears. I tell you, Harry, I could hardly see this girl for the mist of tears that came across me… Your voice and the voice of Sibyl Vane are two things that I shall never forget. When I close my eyes, I hear them, and each of them says something different. I don’t know which to follow. Why should I not love her? Harry, I do love her. She is everything to me in life. Night after night I go to see her play. One evening she is Rosalind, and the next evening she is Imogen. I have seen her die in the gloom of an Italian tomb, sucking the poison from her lover’s lips. I have watched her wandering through the forest of Arden, disguised as a pretty boy in hose and doublet and dainty cap. She has been mad, and has come into the presence of a guilty king, and given him rue to wear, and bitter herbs to taste of. She has been innocent, and the black hands of jealousy have crushed her reed-like throat. I have seen her in every age and in every costume. Ordinary women never appeal to one’s imagination… But an actress! How different an actress is! Why didn’t you tell me that the only thing worth loving is an actress?’ ‘Because I have loved so many of them, Dorian.’
  5. She is all the great heroines of the world in one. She is more than an individual. You laugh, but I tell you she has genius. I love her, and I must make her love me. You, who know all the secrets of life, tell me how to charm Sibyl Vane to love me! I want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter, and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion to stir their dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain. My God, Harry, how I worship her!’
  6. She has not merely art, consummate art instinct, in her, but she has personality also; and you have often told me that it is personalities, not principles, that move the age.
  7. As we were sitting together, suddenly there came a look into her eyes that I had never seen there before. My lips moved towards hers. We kissed each other. I can’t describe to you what I felt at that moment. It seemed to me that all my life had been narrowed to one perfect point of rose-colored joy… I have been right, Basil, haven’t I, to take my love out of poetry, and to find my wife in Shakespeare’s plays? Lips that Shakespeare taught to speak have whispered their secret in my ear. I have had the arms of Rosalind around me, and kissed Juliet on the mouth.
  8. You used to stir my imagination. Now you don’t even stir my curiosity. You simply produce no effect. I loved you because you were wonderful, because you had genius and intellect, because you realized the dreams of great poets and gave shape and substance to the shadows of art. You have thrown it all away. You are shallow and stupid. My God! how mad I was to love you! What a fool I have been! You are nothing to me now. I will never see you again. I will never think of you. I will never mention your name. You don’t know what you were to me, once. Why, once …. Oh, I can’t bear to think of it! I wish I had never laid eyes upon you! You have spoiled the romance of my life. How little you can know of love, if you say it mars your art! What are you without your art? Nothing. I would have made you famous, splendid, magnificent. The world would have worshipped you, and you would have belonged to me. What are you now? A third-rate actress with a pretty face.
  9. So I have murdered Sibyl Vane,’ said Dorian Gray, half to himself,— ‘murdered her as certainly as if I had cut her little throat with a knife. And the roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden. And to-night I am to dine with you, and then go on to the Opera, and sup somewhere, I suppose, afterwards. How extraordinarily dramatic life is! If I had read all this in a book, Harry, I think I would have wept over it. Somehow, now that it has happened actually, and to me, it seems far too wonderful for tears. Here is the first passionate love-letter I have ever written in my life. Strange, that my first passionate love letter should have been addressed to a dead girl.
  10. If one doesn’t talk about a thing, it has never happened. It is simply expression, as Harry says, that gives reality to things.

 
 
14th April
From whatever I’ve read so far, I can make out that the character of Lord Henry Wotton is quite shallow. He is a rake, very obviously. He seems to say a lot of things- wonderful things; he has a loud mouth. But it all seems like a façade to me. He must possibly be a lonely person trying to deny that, through all his antics. He is a person in denial of the fact that his life has no meaning so far. Nonetheless, I love his character. He has that whimsical quality about him that I like- he makes me think. He is a chauvinist when he gives his speech- “My dear boy, no woman is a genius: women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. They represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as we men represent the triumph of mind over morals.”
One line Sibyl Vane has said that has left me unsettled was- “To be in love is to surpass oneself… he has preached me as a dogma; tonight he will announce me as a revelation. I feel it. And it is all his, his only, Prince Charming, my wonderful over, my god of graces.”
Another poignant line of hers is “You came,—oh, my beautiful love!—and you freed my soul from prison. You taught me what reality really is. To-night, for the first time in my life, I saw through the hollowness, the sham, the silliness, of the empty pageant in which I had always played… You had brought me something higher, something of which all art is but a reflection. You have made me understand what love really is. My love! my love! I am sick of shadows. You are more to me than all art can ever be. What have I to do with the puppets of a play? When I came on to-night, I could not understand how it was that everything had gone from me. Suddenly it dawned on my soul what it all meant. The knowledge was exquisite to me. I heard them hissing, and I smiled. What should they know of love? Take me away, Dorian— take me away with you, where we can be quite alone. I hate the stage. I might mimic a passion that I do not feel, but I cannot mimic one that burns me like fire. Oh, Dorian, Dorian, you understand now what it all means? Even if I could do it, it would be profanation for me to play at being in love.”
 
I thought that I’d put in every line that I liked from beginning till end, but I’ve realized how highly impractical that is; since I’m reading from an actual copy of the book, rather than an eBook. (Fun fact: I hate eBooks, and avoid them like the plague unless it is absolutely necessary)
The chapter of Sibyl Vane’s death is very significant, I feel. We see Dorian finally morph into someone else- the change in his portrait is proof of that as his innate humanity has lessened, no doubt from Harry’s (Lord Henry Wotton) influence and his own choices as well. Then we see his realization regarding this change when he refuses to let Basil remove the screen he had placed in front of the portrait to prevent anyone else from seeing it. We see him growing suspicious of everyone around him- from his valet, the loyal Victor- to even the frame-maker Mr Hubbard.
I got the word I was searching for- for Harry. His words are charming and clever- but they are cynical. He sends over The Yellow Book to Dorian which is similar to the poisonous influence he has on the younger man. The book is almost like an experiment he performs on Dorian, which turns out exceedingly to his liking. It fascinates Dorian as he sees aspects of his own life in the protagonist in this “novel without a plot, and with only one character, being, indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian”.
15th April
I watched the 2009 version of Dorian Gray, starring Ben Barnes (Oh, how I love him!). The guy who plays Basil in the movie very eloquently said to Dorian, about Harry- “You’ll never meet a more eloquent philosopher of pure folly”. And I totally agree.
Things have really turned for the worst when Dorian stoops to murder and blackmail (to hide the fact that he has murdered a man). He has finally become an image of Harry, but much more dangerous and immoral in nature. He almost does not have a heart! He is so dedicated to his pursuit of pleasure that he no longer knows what happiness is. The irony of it all is that he knows what happiness and pleasure are, in terms of their lexical meanings, and that there is a huge difference between them.
Another lines of Harry I came across towards the end are:

  1. The only horrible thing in the world is ennui, Dorian. That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.
  2. As for omens, there is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise or too cruel for that.
  3. The basis of every scandal is an immoral certainty.
  4. Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty that charms me. A mist makes things wonderful.

 
Anyway, I finished this book today. It was most possibly one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is a wonderful novel, hence an obvious classic and I am so glad that I have read this masterpiece of the ages. Dorian as a character who repents too late towards the end, teaches us that the pursuit of pleasure is no doubt an aphrodisiac to the senses but this pursuit must be done only within the moral limits set by society and not be obsessed over. Likewise, the fact that youth and beauty are transient and will fade away one day is a fact that we all need to accept.
Lord Henry is a cynic of the purest waters. He is charming with his words, delightful in his speeches. He is a bad influence, but I love him more for it. Basil on the other hand, is a very good friend who ultimately dies due to the madness of the person he was trying to help.
The plot in itself was an awesome journey over the years in Victorian Era England and we see a bleak picture of London of the times, with its unbridgeable gap between the rich and the poor. It was this London of vices that unfortunately trapped the young and impressionable Dorian with Lord Henry’s help.
Oscar Wilde has created a sensational masterpiece in this philosophical novel and makes us explore the interrelationships between art, life and the consequences of our actions. It beautifully plays with elements of sin, desire and personal growth in a period when this was an outrage to the Victorian establishment.
I rate it a solid 5/5 stars.