# 82. Iliad by Homer (Catharina)

An epic poem in dactylic hexameter? I would say it is The Epic Poem. I would lie if I said that I didn’t struggle with this one. There was a lot of people mentioned, who were then killed straight away making difficult for me to follow it. I guess because it is not actually a story, but a relation of events and these people were deemed important, they were big names at the time and it was important that their deeds were noted down in a permanent record.


This is a mixture of battles, plagues, people being taken captive, half-gods and actual gods getting involved and getting slighted. It is a fairly quick and I feel hard to follow story. It is one of those that you probably have to read quite a few times to be able to follow properly. I am happy I read it though, and I am not certain I will get around to read it again. Maybe I’ll get a period where I get really into Greek Mythology and will feel like it needs reading again?

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Filed under 81-90, Catharina, Historical Novel

# 80. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (Catharina)

German soldier during world war one, but instead of romanticising war and covering epic battles it follows what I imagine life was really like for a soldier on the front line. From days on end in muddy trenches with not enough food, to battles where small amounts of land are gained, only to be lost again a few days later. The emotional response to having to kill an enemy soldier and watching them die in agony over several hours. The book also covers one of the major issues which a lot of soldiers suffered from coming back from the front: trying to fit back into normal life.

This is a harrowing and emotional read, but well worth the effort. Most of us have had relatives that have served in this or the second world war (some of them in both), they might not be with us anymore but it does not mean that at least getting a small grasp of how their service shaped them for the rest of their life isn’t worth anything. In fact, I believe it is worth a lot.

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Filed under 71-80, Catharina, Historical Novel

#79. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Catharina)

I like these kind of futuristic stories where the author explores what they think could be an alternative future in comparison to what people generally want or perceive that we are heading towards. Saying that I believe that this book is not as well worked through as some of the other futuristic stories I’ve read (1984 for example). It could have done with a bit more work put into it; it was in reality a fairly short book to read.

The general premise of the book is that everyone is bioengineered in test tubes, is drug addicts and follows all of the rules and specific society norms. Such as sleeping with everyone without any emotion involved and not thinking a thought out of line. I guess the made up drug addiction that everyone suffers from is to ensure that nobody thinks on their own or follow any natural instincts. I guess the interesting thing to contemplate is how realistic a future this is? We are already able to create life in a test tube but we can’t bring it to life in that said test tube, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. I am not very comfortable with the thought of this happening though, of bioengineering the people you need for specific roles. A lot of them seemed to be deprived of their own will. To be honest I think it would be the end of mankind; one of the reasons I believe why we have been so successful is that we are not the same. Ingenuity and the ability to think out different and new solutions are driven by our ability to be different and not conform. A stagnant society is one that will inevitable start going backwards.

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Filed under 71-80, Adventure Fiction, Catharina, dystopian

#78. The Decameron by Giovanni Boccacio (Catharina)

The Decameron is a collection of short stories. It is framed in a way of seven young ladies and three men telling a story each for 10 nights over a period of two weeks, in a secluded garden where they are trying to escape the black death. Eight of the days have topics assigned: power of fortune; power of human will; love tales that end badly; love tales that end well; cleverness saving the speaker; tricks of women on men; tricks that people play on each other and examples of virtue.

This is a big book! It takes a while to get through and the fact that it is not just one story but several have both its virtues and its issues.  The main issue is that there is not a main story that you get sucked into and want to know how it ends, the main virtue is that it does not matter if you put the book down for a while after one of the short stories, in fact it might even work better.

The majority of the stories appear to favor and encourage great wit and philosophical skills and look down on stupidity and dullness. I have to admit that the sheer number of stories involving nuns, monks or priests doing the naughty shocked me a bit. It stuck in my mind the most; I guess they showed great wit though managing to escape the prying eyes of society or their fellow nuns and monks in their endeavors. With that said, if you decide to read it to your child I would vet the stories first.

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Filed under 71-80, Catharina, Fiction

#77. The old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (Catharina)

I am not certain I get the same thing out of this book as the critics do. I wonder what Hemingway’s real reasons behind it was? A lot of critics appear to relate it to references to Christianity, I didn’t really get that but maybe I’m really bad at spotting it.

For me the book was more of a symbol for one mans struggle with life. How things are going badly after whole life of ups and downs, and now the worst time appears to have arrived. There is a struggle and the people around him appear to almost shun him rather than helping and supporting. Even the boy that wants to stay with him gets forced to stay away from him to not contract the bad luck, symbolizing group pressure maybe? Where even the ones that want to help in the end get ostracized by society making the struggle even worse for those already in need. In the end he appears to have a large amount of luck, but it is bad luck in disguise. He manages to get a huge marlin on the line. The problem is that this “gift” is so big that there is a big struggle to manage it. Isn’t this a symbol for life as well? We might get a big promotion or get given something that we think is what we always wanted? But it turns out difficult to manage, we might finally bring it under control but trying to bring it back to shore it gets ripped to pieces and we will land it with no meat left to the body.

That’s what the book appeared to symbolize to me. It might have symbols in Christianity in it as well but I am not so certain that they were the main point. At least to me they were not the most important aspect.

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Filed under 71-80, Adventure Fiction, Catharina

#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