Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 25 November, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Here we go, another set of mini-reviews that couldn’t possibly fit in review posts of their own xD Once again this batch of mini-reviews features mainly classics (especially from the Little Black Classics series–after oggling over them for a good chunk of the year, I finally got my hands on some of them! 🙂 ). Included in this batch of reviews are:

So without further ado…

How We Weep and Laught at the Same Thing
By: Michel de Montaigne
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

‘No one characteristic clasps us purely and universally in its embrace.’

A selection of charming essays from a master of the genre exploring the contradictions inherent to human thought, words and actions.

I first encountered Michel de Montaigne in my first year of undergrad. We had to read a selection of essays for World Literature class and absolutely fell in love with his stuff; he wrote about things that I often thought about, and I could totally emphasise where he was coming from with certain topics. I wish I had picked up his complete works when I was in undergrad instead of the required selected text, but whatever, every now and then I’d pick up a slim volume from Penguin Classics featuring a few of his essays. This is one of them, in which he contemplates on the nature of human thought, how we define ourselves, life, death, etc. I don’t know what else I could really say about it except that it’s worth checking out; a lot of his observations are still applicable today and to the human condition.

Rating: ★★★★★

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The Old Nurse’s Story
By: Elizabeth Gaskell
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

‘Even in the stillness of that dead-cold weather, I had heard no sound of little battering hands upon the window-glass…’

A phantom child roams the Northumberland moors, while a host of fairytale characters gone to seed gather in the dark, dark woods in these two surprising tales of the uncanny from the great Victorian novelist.

I haven’t read much of Gaskell’s Gothic stories, so it was nice to get a taste of it through this volume. The first story definitely was a Gothic tale through and through, with family secrets and ghosts haunting the moors that only a little girl can see. It took a few pages to warm up to but after that it was a pretty chilling read. The second story was more fantastical, a bit Alice in Wonderland with the main character being transported to a faerie-like world. I didn’t find it as interesting as the first story, but it’s always interesting to see what fantastical tales were conjured up in the 19th century.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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The Reckoning
By: Edith Wharton
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

‘If marriage was the slow life-long acquittal of a debt contracted in ignorance, then marriage was a crime against human nature.’

Two moving stories of love, loss, desire and divorce, from one of the great chroniclers of nineteenth-century New York life.

The first short story, “Mrs. Manstey’s View”, was really sad, a fine example of how Edith Wharton is able to churn a very sad tale. Life is rough for the widowed living alone as the world around them changes at a rapid pace and she got caught in it all, not wanting for things to change. I’m not sure what to think about “The Reckoning” which is why the rating is as it is: I wasn’t sure what to make of the couple’s marriage arrangement, or why the fuss hit as profoundly as it was. Nonetheless it was interesting to check out this title.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Big Volodya and Little Volodya
By: Anton Chekhov
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

Sophia Lvovna loves Little Volodya, but she is married to Big Volodya. A classic Chekhov story of love, anguish, and revelation.

Anton Chekhov is widely regarded as the father of the modern short story, and “Big Volodya and Little Volodya” demonstrates his subtle and profound comic mastery. A selection from Forty Stories, spanning Chekhov’s entire career, in Robert Payne’s lively translation.

I haven’t read this short story and it was featured by Vintage Shorts so I decided to check it out. Perhaps not one of his best short stories, as the ending seemed rather abrupt and didn’t really resolve anything, but it does highight what Chekhov does an amazing job of: really getting into the headspace of his characters and showing readers precisely what bothers them, what torments them, the crossroads they find themselves in. I really felt for Sophia in her restlessness, despite the fact that she had made her decision. It was fascinating. If only the story was a wee bit longer, the ending was rather unsatisfying.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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Well, they are gone, and here must I remain
By: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

‘Ye Ice-Falls! Ye that from the mountain’s brow Adown enormous ravines slope amain -…’

A selection of Coleridge’s poems, including ‘This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison’ and ‘Frost at Midnight’

I decided to check out this Little Black Classic after I got Coleridge from an online quiz about the Romantic Poets. I never read his poems so this seemed like the perfect place to start 🙂 His poems reminded me a lot of Byron for its emotional intensity, the longing and immediacy, but also of Keats for the nature imagery and the power of nature. So his poetry is a nice mix of the two poets. I can’t say I have a particular favourite from this short collection but I’m glad to have read it 🙂

Rating: ★★★★☆

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And those are my mini reviews for now! Have you read any of these titles? Would you read any of them at some point in the future?

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2 Responses to “Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews”

    • Definitely a different pace from her usual fare! I love how the Little Black Classics series gives a little taste of everything from these major authors 😀

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