Saturday, June 29, 2013


Title : The Moonstone
Author : Wilkie Collins

Last book for the class. Didn't expect it to be that cliche-yet-I-still-fall-for-it book. Dang, Collins!

This book (a sensation novel) focuses on the mystery of a lost Moonstone, which hails from the deep jungles of India. A British aristocrat family is entangled in it when the diamond was given as a birthday present. Who took it? With the multitude of characters that were present, I lost track of my suspicions sometimes. Yet subtle hints were dropped from time to time, to aid the investigation. Needless to say, readers will be put in the role of detective alongside some notable characters.

The book is radically constructed by which it is a collection of accounts from different people of the period of the Moonstone disappearance (remember we're in the 19th century). While discussed in class, we also discovered radical themes (such as sex! and allegory to virginity! and marrying below class!) which isn't that prevalent in the reality at that period mentioned. So, it was a good read.

And the culprit, yes, it was half the obvious, half the unexpected. 

Needless to say the Moonstone was discovered and sent back to where it belongs. The Battle of Seringapatam (1790-ish) was put to good use. Sorry I doubted you at the beginning.

Rating : 9/10

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Title : Cranford
Author : Elizabeth Gaskell

Again, this is a book for my 19th century british fiction course. It took only 3 classes to disembowel, due to being a short novel and on top of that, a realist novel. I remembered the horror of the romantics in class while we started to discuss it! How dreary, plain, and trivial it seemed! Yet with the guidance of our professor, we managed to pick the finer points of Gaskell's, passages that brings weight to the discussion much like how Jane Eyre did.

And in today's class, we ended our discussion of Cranford while sipping Gunpowder green tea. Ironic, eh? For those who've read this book, you'll understand.

Cranford is a snapshot of a provincial village in England in the mid 19th century. This particular town prides itself with its old ways and superiority of women. Gentlemen were scarce, and often sent on errands to the bigger towns of London and Manchester (in this book described as Drumble). A realist novel like Cranford focuses on the details, rather than big events, so we see a lot of attention given to the attire and small incidents that won't merit much a page in Gothic novels like Jane Eyre. (pardon me my references). Although a small town, the society clings still to the hierarchical form of classes, forming an organic society where the 'genteel' prefers the lower classes to exist only for their duties. Yet, much sympathy, comradeship and love comes up in this story.

Championed by two spinsters (Deborah and Matty Jenkyns) and narrated in vignettes by an outsider (Mary Smith), Cranford gives you the comfort of what England should be.

To those who wants to try to venture into the classics but not into reading, I reckon you guys to go on youtube and find the BBC series of Cranford. It's not the exact rendition of the book, but it's a good portrayal of what I think it should be. My professor said the series is a combination of all Gaskell's work, so you might see additional characters and twists of plot, which meshes nicely enough so you'll get the whole picture.

Rating : 9/10 (sorry, realist novel lovers)

Monday, June 10, 2013


Title : Jane Eyre
Author : Charlotte Bronte

Wondered where I've been, what tasks that I labor on this summer? Well I'm taking classes, up till July. And best part, I braved the intricate emotions of mine and enrolled in a literature course (19th century british fiction)! Oh, what joy! Yet how intense and tiring it is, going over plain (19th century) English in search of a hidden meaning. Believe me, closed reading can be mentally exhausting, but rewarding and in a sense, relieving. Those emotions you have stirring under your chest are vented out in group discussions with like minds. Minds who, unlike my usual crowd, dwell on the pages of literature, engrossed in the writer's world rather than reality.

Enough. On to the review.

Jane Eyre, readers (ha! note my associations to the book!) is set in the 19th century, when Britain is seen as the world's  biggest imperialist. The tale unwinds around a girl's life, where poverty and poor relations cast her into the lower rungs of society. She grows up to learn to repress and express alternately at suitable times her emotions and feelings, and this fact has helped her advance in life. From a nobody, to a student, to a teacher, to a governess, and up to a dependent, Jane learns to navigate life and its sufferings with tact. Jane finds love, only to have it flung away in most trying circumstances. 3 marriage proposals, which one had enough clarity and honesty to appeal to Jane? 

Some choice quotes that I don't use for my class discussions, but reverberates in my soul ;

"...For with him I was at perfect ease, because I knew I suited him"

"Thought fitted thought; opinion met opinion: we coincided,in short,perfectly."

"And you,sir,you are the most phantomlike of all."

"And your will shall decide your destiny,' he said' 'I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions.' 'You play a farce, which I merely laugh at.''I ask you to pass through life at my side - to be my second self, and best earthly companion.'

"Reader, I married him."

Rating : 10/10 (gothic classic romance, who would say less?)