# 55. A Portrait of the Artist as a young Man by James Joyce (Catharina)

This book is a bit odd to read, a lot have been shaved off it and at times it makes it a bit hard to follow. In essence it is a depiction of the development of the soul of Stephen Dedalus from a young boy into adulthood. There are five different chapters and they deal with five different times in his young life. The chapters are in some way a bit different in how they are written. The first one for example is when he is still a young boy; it is maybe a bit difficult to follow as it moves between thoughts and events quite fast and often with no apparent transitions or breaks. In reality I think that this might be quite a true account of how important events and thoughts that are remembered occur to a young boy.

The rest of the chapters are potentially a bit better structured, depicting how the mind of a person would develop as they grow up. The lack of transition is still apparent at times; things are just alluded to fairly often. The chapters are also quite different in character and what they deal with in terms of the development of this person. For example chapter three deals with the realisation that he has sinned badly, and his fervent attempts at repentance. It is in some ways a very strong chapter where you intimately get to follow the inner workings of a person and their attempt at saving their soul after realising their sins. I think the part that struck me the most is when he decides to punish all of his senses, at one point lamenting over the difficulty of finding a scent that his sense of smell is severely punished by.

The last chapter is in some ways almost the opposite of the “repentance” chapter, not that he goes around committing sins, but in a way it is like he is angry. I am not sure what he is angry at or if he just feels disconnected? Is he disconnected from his world or does he feel that he is disconnected from his religion?

This book is almost a prequel to Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus is the main character in that book as well and it picks up just where this book leaves off. I am quite intrigued to see where Ulysses will take this character now so I would certainly recommend people to read this book before they attempt Ulysses.

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# 54. Jospeh Andrews by Henry Fielding (Catharina)

This was a pretty fun book to read. It is not very heavy in the plot actually; little mishaps happen along the way, they get sorted out one way or another. Bigger mishaps happen but those get sorted out as well. The last few chapters turn up a very interesting twist, you can see something coming from a few chapters earlier but I wasn’t expecting that (or maybe I’m slow!).

The girl is constantly managing to get attacked or men try to kidnap her and I assume rape her. It makes me wonder how she managed to survive without anything of this happening before the story of the book picks up? It do not think the parson, who seems very ready with his fists, used to be around constantly to save her before this story picks up. Neither could her betrothed be. In addition, it seems like all of these men attacking her just don’t listen or care to anything she says, or what anyone that knows her say. This includes a lot of other bystander that seem to instantly assume that anybody coming in shouting “wolf” is correct and refuse to listen to the other side of the story.

I am guessing Henry Fielding is displaying a satirical version of this parson, I sincerely hope parsons did not normally go around having to beat people up constantly around the time this book was written. It was maybe not an easy time to be a woman, especially if you were lower class and had no husband, but again I think that maybe it is stretched a bit far. Potentially to get the point across that it is a bit ludicrous that people of a higher-class can/could take such an advantage of people of the lower class without in reality suffer any consequences.

This is one of the first novels published in the English language though. I found it funny and entertaining, it is satirical but often satirical novels carry a lot of truth of what was going on in those times and I think that the main message from this book is regarding the vulnerability of women of those times. In addition it covers how people in general are dependent on people higher up in the hierarchy treat you. Regardless if you act appropriately and are a good person, individuals that are higher up on the ladder or perceive themselves to be, have a lot of power. In reality though, the strength of this power is up to you.

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# 53. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad (Catharina)

I am not really sure what I think of this book. At least in the start I found it quite difficult to follow and difficult to get attached to. It is almost written a bit disjointed at times, as if the transitions between events and a proper explanation of what is happening or where the plot is moving are missing. Maybe this is the point though? The main character has done something bad, and we, as readers are not meant to get attached to him but rather just be onlookers at his attempts of continuing in this world. This story is told from a narrated perspective rather than from the main character himself so maybe that is another reason why it is hard to get a firm attachment to the character? As everything about him in reality is second hand information, it is re-told from what they heard, saw and perceived about this person.

The main question I think it raised for me was regarding how this one big mistake, this one decision at one point in time, came to define the rest of this person’s life. He waivered, he went down a path and it turned out to be the wrong one. It came to define his life; it ruined it in a way because it ruined his belief in himself. It was not necessarily society that hunted him down and wanted to continuously punish him for it, but to him what he had done made him punish himself. I think it says a lot about the character Joseph Conrad tried to create, this man that could have hidden his shame and continued to live his life. He could have had a good life and probably those around him would never have found out, if he had been careful. To him that wasn’t good enough, it didn’t matter if other people knew as he knew and he wasn’t hiding from himself.

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# 52. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Catharina)

Here we get to follow a character often referred to as “the Prince” or by his last name: Myshkin. Myshkin returns to Russia after being abroad for several years where he has been treated for severe epilepsy, which almost caused him to become an Idiot. He manages to land himself in the middle of the intrigues and scandals of Petersburg before he even arrives. He does manage to get off the train without any incidents but then manages to walk into even more scandal when he goes to introduce himself to a family he is related to. They hold the key to him being saved as well as unfortunately introducing him to what will maybe be the key to his destruction.

This book is a great mixture of love stories, Russian society, intrigues, scandals and most and foremost mental illness. It is a topic that Dostoevesky has visited before. In Crime and Punishment though you get a very psychologically heavy insight into the inner workings of a severely mentally ill person. It is at times quite disconcerting, but this book is laid out quite differently and follows a more normal novel format. The main character is portrayed as very intelligent and almost perfect, the issue being the severe epilepsy and at times strange workings of his brain. He is not the only mentally ill person, and it is an interesting to see this way of portraying the outside view of a person that is severely mentally ill that can still ensnare individuals around them. The biggest impact is probably how Myshkin despite his own issues manages to see straight through the façade of another mentally ill person and tries his best to save this person from destruction.

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# 51. A Midsummer Nights Dream by William Shakespeare (Catharina)

Probably Shakespeare’s most classic work. This comedy play centers around the marriage of the Duke of Athens and Hyppolita. You get to follow the mishaps in the quarrel between Oberon and Titania, the problems surrounding being in love involving four young Athenians as well as six actors that are trying to come up with a play for the wedding. There are also fairies, and Puck, and one of the unfortunate actors get turned into a donkey for a while and Titania falls in love with him after Oberon’s meddling.

I think that just as with reading any play, it gets a bit flat if you cannot imagine how it is meant to be acted out and it is important to keep this in mind when reading it. I was fortunate enough to see the play a couple of days after I read it and I would certainly recommend anyone that reads the play to also go and see it if they ever get the chance. The true comedy value of it I think properly comes out with a good acting group. It does not take very long to read, it has a lot of nice references and set you up nicely with several love stories as well as fairies.

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#50: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (Katarina)

Halfway through the challenge, I came across this little book called Tuesdays with Morrie (1997). And it amazed me! Out of all the books I have read in my life, and those are many, this is one of few that has really, truly touched my core. It might sound cheesy, but it’s the truth. The memoir is divided into lessons instead of chapters and we meet Mitch and his professor, Morrie, who is suffering from ALS. On Tuesdays, Mitch fly into town to see Morrie and they deal with topics like love, marriage, and of course, death.

Maybe it’s because I find old people incredible that I was so moved by this book. It’s not so much about the disease as it as about the wisdom this old man holds in his heart and is willing to share with his student. You see, at the end of the day, we can only get life experience by living life. And we won’t master it until the day we die really. And by then, we are dead. Still, I hope that i will be able to share some of my wisdom when I’m old and gray.

I have a feeling that this will be one of the books from this challenge that I will revisit many times in the future when I’m in need of advice or reassurance. And if you have a Morrie in your life, take the time to sit down and listen. Who knows what you will learn from those who have lived.

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#49: The Giver by Lois Lowry (Katarina)

A popular read in American schools, The Giver (1993) presents what is first believed to be a utopian society. There is peace and equality, pain and emotional depth has been taken away from the people and society is well-structured and highly functioning. But what comes across as a great place to live, slowly becomes questionable as we find out more about what it really is like through the eyes of the book’s protagonist Jonas.

Jonas, a boy in his twelfth year, is chosen as the new Receiver of Memory, and all of a sudden he is introduced to what life used to be. He gets to experience snow, joy, but also pain and hardship. Even so, as he worked hard to overcome the pain of some of the memories given to him by his predecessor, Jonas starts to doubt that a society without feelings is really one worth to live in.

Without giving anything away, the novel has an open ending that can be discussed back and forth. What really happened? After my first read, I was sure of what i thought happened. However, as I read it again a few months later, I wasn’t so sure anymore. It is definitely an ending that can be interpreted in various ways, and it makes the book even more interesting.

So if you weren’t lucky enough to be introduced to The Giver in school, give it a read now. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it is called fiction for young adults, because let’s face it, you were probably one of those who read Harry Potter way past your teens ;) And afterwards, think about how much good intentions can cost us. Sure, living a life without pain and suffering would be wonderful, but is it real?

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Filed under 41-50, Katarina, Young Adult