#76. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (Catharina)

This book actually has a similar style to James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The first chapter is very disjointed and hard to follow, as it is the thoughts of a family member who appears to be mentally retarded. Memories do thereby not appear in a chronological order. In total the book has four chapters each following a different person in the family, and the story gets clearer as you go along. In the second chapter, there is thereby still quite a few question marks and in reality it is not until the last chapter that everything makes proper sense.

I randomly kind of like this quirky style, it forces you to pay attention even though it is hard to follow. Something might have been said in the first chapter that will not make sense until chapter three or four, so you still have to bear that in mind. Sleuth reading, like reading without actually paying attention to the words (I’ve done it, I do it again now and then!) does not working in this book. Even though it is difficult to follow at the start it is important to get the full enjoyment of the book to persist with it.

I suppose that in a sense it is a bit liberating as well, to give over that control over having to know everything at once.

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Filed under 71-80, Catharina, Fiction, Modernist

#71: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (Katarina)

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (1950) is the most famous book in The Chronicles of Narnia. Out of the seven books, this was also the first one to be published. If to be read chronologically based on how things happen in Narnia, this is the second book in the series after The Magician’s Nephew.

In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve destined to break the spell in Narnia finds the wardrobe that takes them to this mysterious land. And with that, C. S. Lewis had a lot of kids rummage around wardrobes in hopes of finding it too.

In Narnia, the kids meet talking beavers, the evil witch and of course, the lion Aslan. One of the boys is corrupted by the witch and turns on his own family. However, one can claim that he only did it because she used magic fudge. The wise old Aslan still ends up forgiving him and therefore, so does his brother and sisters.

The book is filled with religious undertones and connections to the Bible (Aslan – Jesus). Still, it is definitely one of the most charming children’s books of all time. Personally, I remember and old BBC production of it that was shown on television when I was a kid. The world of Narnia had me mesmerized. If I could go to one “imaginary” land, it would be Narnia. I would love to find it in the depths of my wardrobe, but so far I have had no luck. But I keep on hoping.

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Filed under 71-80, Children's Literature, Katarina

#70: The BFG by Roald Dahl (Katarina)

As a big fan of Roald Dahl, I felt that it was necessary for him to be a part of my 100 classics. Some of Dahl’s most famous books include Matilda (1988), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and James and the Giant Peach (1961). In The BFG (1982), we meet The Big Friendly Giant, who makes friends with an English girl. She sees him one night, and he feels forced to take her with him back to the land of the giants. Lucky for her, he is a kind giant. The other giants, on the other hand,  live off humans. One night, the girl finds out that the other giants plan an attack on English boarding schools and she demands that The BFG helps her put a stop to it. So, they turn to the Queen for help.

The book is very sweet and yet another sign of Dahl’s vivid imagination. He is one of those writers who seemed able to really relate to children. If you missed out on his books as a kid, it is never too late to read them now. If you feel embarrassed by reading a children’s book, borrow someone’s child and read it to them. It will be worth the while for both of you (however, don’t steal a kid like the BFG did!).

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Filed under 61-70, Children's Literature, Katarina

#69: Animal Farm by George Orwell (Katarina)

I think Catharina already said it very well in her review (#75), but I guess I can also say a few things about George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). In his dystopian satire, Orwell uses animals to showcase how a revolution can take form and what the result can be. A revolution is often born out of good intentions, but along the way, people with less good intentions can use the situation to their own advantage. That is what one of the pigs do. He slowly takes advantage of the less “smart” animals and turns into a dictator that makes the animal’s owner look like a saint in comparison.

For me, who isn’t that read up on the Russian revolution, the usage of animals becomes an easy way to understand what it is Orwell wants to convey. Most of us knows how a farm works and the relationship between humans and animals. Therefore, we can easily see why the revolution happens and why it is the only way out for the animals. However, with the right kind of propaganda, someone worse can take the opportunity to gain control.

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Filed under 61-70, dystopian, Katarina

#68: All Quiet on the Western Front by E. M. Remarque (Katarina)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) is World War I veteran E. M. Remarque’s chilling depiction of life as a German soldier. Men, or more so, boys, still in their teens were thrown into a war that would change them forever. It is one of the most realistic works of fiction concerning the World Wars. It is brutal, truthful and painful to read, but at the same time, shows you reality of war. And in a world where people travel to certain countries to fight with terrorists, you wish they would be forced to read this book. This one and Johnny Got His Gun. If they still want to go to war afterwards, well, what can I say?

During World War II, Remarque’s novel was one of the books forbidden and burned. That if anything shows that this book is dealing with something very close to the truth. The soldiers do not only battle their human enemies, but also giant rats, hunger and themselves. And what for?

Remarque did us all a favor by writing this book. He shows us the war from its worst. I just wish more people could learn from it and try harder to avoid war.

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Filed under 61-70, Historical Novel, Katarina

#75. Animal Farm by George Orwell (Catharina)

This book portrays animals causing a revolution and taking over a farm from their drunk and not very nice owner. Initially the farms old boar summons all of the animals of the farm, teaches them that humans are parasites and teaches them a revolutionary song. When he dies the other animal stage a revolution, takes over the farm and is then led by two of the other pigs. They also get seven commandments written down.

In the start everything is fine and there is plenty of food for everyone. In the end though, one of the leader pigs get rid of the other one. Slowly he starts to change things, the pig he ran off the farm is used a scapegoat. A pig committee is established to make all decisions for the farm, no need for the other animals to get involved. The pigs start to get rations of better food as the other animals get less. Animals are executed for being said to be on the side of the pig that escaped.

The book is said to depict the Russian revolution up until the Stalin era. Orwell was not a Stalin fan. He had major issues with getting this book published and considering its political content I can understand why, it was a forbidden book in the Easter block until 1989. In essence it is using animals to showcase that despite the initial good intentions of a revolution, the people that end up in power can by careful nurturing turn the situation even worse for the general public. If it is done slowly enough and by spreading out enough propaganda, they will not even notice. In a sense they might even think that they are still better off, when they in reality have slowly been sunk into a life that is even worse. The thing is that once they realise it will be too late, they will be too deep in the grasp of a corrupt government.

I think the book highlights the power of propaganda and the power of a corrupt government if they know how to utilise these tools properly. Quite scary. Where anyone that attempts to oppose or question anything that they deem to be incorrect will immediately be punished, often severely and with death. Ensuring that any remaining people will not dare to say anything or dare to oppose anything, minimising an uprising from the people against unfair conditions.


Filed under 71-80, Catharina, dystopian

#74. Cold Comfort farm by Stella Gibbons (Catharina)

The whole plot of the book centres on the main characters going to live with her relatives in the country. As they are living in country they will clearly need help from the main character to become “proper”. The book the pokes fun of other authors of the same time, or authors from further back. D. H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy certainly gets it, so does the Brontë sisters.

I do not think I have ever read a book where a character meddles so much, and where everything actually goes her way in a sense. Although I think the way of getting there is probably more interesting than the end result itself.

This a witty book, funny to the extreme at times. I think it is one of those that needs to be re-read at least once to catch all of the references. It contains gems such as “Surely she had endured enough for one evening without having to listen to intelligent conversation?”.

There’s also a longer section where one of the male characters are attempting to write a book, the basis of the book is that it is not the brother Branwell that is a drunkard but actually the three Brontë sisters. It was Branwell that was the talent (as clearly a woman could not write so well), and the sisters had come up with clever ways of making it seem like he was an alcoholic. Nasty tricks to in reality get him to bring them more alcohol. The whole section is genius.

It also probably ruined my ability to seriously read a book by any of the Brontë sisters, without imagining an alcoholic writing it. Maybe this is in some ways the glory of Cold Comfort Farm? Challenging the way we view things that are firmly established in our mind, not by baseness and nastiness but by wit and humor making us open our mind just that little but further.

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Filed under 71-80, Catharina, Romance Novel, Satire