Tag: Books: Classics

Review: The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun

Posted 17 February, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 6 Comments

The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
By: J.R.R. Tolkien
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase

The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun is a poem of 508 lines, written by J. R. R. Tolkien in 1930 and published in Welsh Review in December, 1945 (vol. IV, No, 4).

Aotrou and Itroun are Breton words for “lord” and “lady”. The poem is modelled on the genre of the “Breton lay” popular in Middle English literature of the 12th century, and it explores the conflict of heroic or chivalric values and Christianity, and their relation to the institution of marriage.

A major source for the poem has been identified as the Breton song ‘Le Seigneur Nann et la Fee’, which Tolkien probably knew through Wimberly’s Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads (1928).

Honestly, I had no idea that this book was coming out until it was mentioned in passing somewhere either on Twitter or on Goodreads (and omg did I add that book so fast onto my wishlist). Having found this poem he wrote amongst his notes, does it warrant a whole book about it? Ehh, like previous books before it (Beowulf (review) and The Fall of Arthur (review) spring to mind), probably not, but whatever, it’s something by Tolkien 😛 Not to mention it staved over my wait for Beren and Luthien coming out in 2017 🙂

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Review: East of Eden

Posted 16 February, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

East of Eden
By: John Steinbeck
Format/Source: Paperback; won from a contest held by Penguin Classics on Twitter

Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

Omg, I fianlly read this book! John Steinbeck is one of those classic authors you often hear about but yeah, I just never got around to reading any of his books though I did add them to my wishlist. So I was pretty psyched when I won a copy of this book from Penguin Classics on Twitter but it did sit on my TBR pile for a while. I guess I was feeling a bit intimidated as to what to expect from such a prolific author as Steinbeck. But I finally started reading it to and from work and during break at work towards the end of last year.

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Commentary: Measure for Measure

Posted 1 February, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Measure for Measure
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my copy
My first review of the play

Although performed before King James I in 1604, the text of Measure, For Measure was not published until 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. This First Folio text, printed from a transcript by King’s Mens scrivener Ralph Crane of Shakespeare’s own foul papers, preserves Shakespeare’s authorial process, including his changes in plot, character, theme and structure. As such it offers a unique view of the author’s writing and rewriting of his own play. Once dismissed as an ‘assembled’ text or as a ‘darkened’ text, adapted or botched by later revisers, the Folio text instead presents a superbly written play about intensely complex issues, including the uses of morality and sexuality. The original and genuine text of Measure, For Measure offers Shakespeare at his most brilliant and intricate.

So I read this book sometime in the first half of 2015 and thought it interesting if not also problematic and a bit of a head scratcher. Strangely enough though it sort of stuck in my mind long after I read the text so I decided to re-read it in the latter half of 2015 in hopes of gaining some more insight about the play and the characters and the themes of the story (rather OT but poor book review kept getting pushed back later and later, as you can see by the date; oops). Contains spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the play/are not familiar with it!

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Review: Prometheus Bound and Other Plays

Posted 15 November, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Prometheus Bound and Other Plays
By: Aeschylus
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

The first of the great Greek Tragedians, Aeschylus wrote a large number of plays, of which seven survive. Of the four included in this volume, The Persians is unique in Greek tragedy in having as its subject matter a recent historical event, the defeat of the Persians at the famous battle of Salamis. The other three, Prometheus, The Suppliants and Seven Against Thebes, were all written as parts of trilogies and take their themes from Greek legend, but in each Aeschylus’ interpretation reflects the new morality of classical Athens. Thus, in Seven Against Thebes the fate of the two main figures, Eteocles and Polyneices, is not entirely controlled by the gods, for Eteocles is free to choose whether or not he should fight his brother. And in Prometheus and The Suppliants Aeschylus shows that although the struggle of reason against violence can never be an easy one, it is reason that is the proper principle of civilized life.

I had read Aeschylus’ The Oresteia (review) earlier this year and greatly enjoyed it. I ended up picking up this book as I was planning on re-reading Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound and was curious on reading a classic playwright’s take on the original story. A bit of searching on the internet led to me Aeschylus’ remaining plays which unfortunately comes down to us only in fragments.

Of the four included in this collection, my favourite hands down was “Prometheus Bound.” It’s a fascinating take on a familiar Greek classic, and the themes between obedience and foresight, of challenging the status quo, of justice and punishment, are very strong here. Plus, of the four plays I found it to be the most entertaining as Prometheus straddles between trying to be dignified over his situation and spreading his misery with everyone who comes across him (Io, the Chorus, Oceanus). Like most of his works, it’s a pity that it’s not complete as from the four collected here this was the story I would’ve read the most. The other plays were all right–man, the Oedipus story just has all of these twists and turns, the tragedy never ends does it? as “Seven Against Thebes” follows the Oedipus family–but they weren’t as interesting as “Prometheus Bound”, not to mention a lot of the dialogue went on and on and sometimes it felt like nothing was happening. But like any of Aeschylus’ other stories, he does focus a lot on large thematic questions about law and order, violence and fate, etc.

Despite of their incompleteness, I thought it was great to read up on these other plays, read more antiquity classics–definitely a change of pace from Renaissance/Jacobean dramas! I’d definitely recommend reading The Oresteia first but if you’re interested in reading more of his works then this is something worth picking up.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

Review: Sanshiro

Posted 22 October, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

By: Natsume Soseki
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase

‘Even bigger than Japan is the inside of your head. Don’t ever surrender yourself – not to Japan, not to anything’

A shy, unworldly young student has his eyes opened to Tokyo’s bustling metropolis, in this delicate, bitter-sweet work of innocence and experience from Japan’s foremost modern novelist.

I had heard of this book in passing but never sought to pick it up–pick it up sooner, at least–until I saw that Pocket Penguins had included it in their line-up. And I can’t seem to say no when it comes to this new line of Penguin classics, it seems 😛

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