Little Women (1869)

Little Women is a late Victorian Novel by author Louisa May Alcott. The book was published in 1869 and received a good response over all from the readers as well as book critics. The novel is based majorly on the lives of four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The narrative is set during the great American Civil War. The father of these four girls is away serving as a minister to the troops. The family, headed by their beloved Marmee, with the help of their kind and wealthy neighbour, Mr Laurence, and his high determined grandson Laurie. The Josephine March and her three sisters Margaret, Amy, and Beth grow up under their mother’s guidance while their father fights in the American Civil War. The full of life quartet are very close and happy despite limited means. Laurie Laurence, the well off boy next door, takes a liking to Jo, and his tutor John Brooke eyes older sister Margaret during a party. Margaret marries Mr Brooke but Jo rejects Laurie’s proposal and moves to New York for new adventures. When Beth starts to lose her battle with Scarlet Fever Jo returns to her deathbed. Sister Amy returns married to Jo’s one true love, Laurie, and we wonder if she will ever find someone to replace him.

The novel has become a classic and still sells more than the contemporary fiction which offers nothing but a pass time entertainment and a little excitement as well. While the classics always offer something which is permanent and a take-home after you read experience. Little Women is also a kind of novel which offers you an experience which you can cherish even after the read is finished for the time being. Enjoy reading this fiction by Louisa May Alcott.

The book review is written by a school girl named Aditi.

The Portable Chekhov

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

This is exactly what Anton Pavlovich Chekhov did to his stories. He didn’t believe in shining of the moon; he, instead, tried to search its effect on his characters. I was totally unaware of this talent although I had heard of him so much. Recently I just happened to read his short story collection. I was lucky enough to be gifted by someone the book otherwise I would never have laid my hands on such a masterpiece. But I m glad I did or I would have missed such a wonderful piece of literature.

Anton was a writer who as per his contemporaries was assumed to be forgotten after a few decades of his death. But exactly opposite of it happened. His literature kept him alive and he is read till date by students of literature or those who believe in producing class literature. His short stories with modernist outlook are far above excellence. This particular book The Portable Chekhov is a compilation of two plays one major and the other minor and 28 stories along with some of his letters. His stories cover major areas of life and are realistic at the core.

Anton still continues to remain to be one of the best story writers of Russia and also the world. The quotes from his writings are famous and are still in use by modern literary genius. Some of my favourite quotes are:

“Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.”

“If you are afraid of loneliness, don’t marry.”

“Idea for a short story. The shore of a lake, a young girl who’s spent her whole life beside it, a girl like you. She loves the lake the way a seagull does, and she’s happy and free as a seagull. Then a man comes along, sees her and ruins her life because he had nothing better to do. Destroys her like this seagull here.”

Wonderful !!! How well he sums up the reality of life in a light way. Moreover, the way Anton Chekhov describes the things, even the sordid details go on to become happy-handy and going…

His stories are captivating and arresting. His literary stature has made him the greatest influence on modern short story writing. His writings gave voice to the oppressed peasants and their conflict that existed with the landed gentry. Some of his stories like “The Kiss”, “The Darling”, and “In the Ravine” represent his portrayal of the human comedy. The letters convey his aspirations and convictions of life and art. His plays “The Boor” which is his earlier dramatic work and “The Cherry Orchard” which is his last and finest play is also included in this THE PORTABLE LIBRARY.

Yes, I would like to term it as a library for it has all the variety to make it one. Anton Chekhov is alive through his genius still igniting the literary fire in young aspirers. His each and every story is far above in the levels of excellence if even the complete novels of the present day are put up in front. And a work of brilliance needs no ratings or stars so I will just like to stop with a quote on life by the man himself full of hope and positivity.

“Let us learn to appreciate there will be times when the trees will be bare and look forward to the time when we may pick the fruit.”

by – Nidhi Sharma

Sons and Lovers

It’d not be an exaggeration if I say that the author D. H. Lawrence was a psychologist too. Well, that might be a limited sphere scenario as our beloved Lawrence took most of his time to explore the sexual side of human psyche. That’s why we see what we see in his novels – distinguished characters, (un)usual themes, misguided explorations, unwilling journeys and a chaotic confusion at times. His novel Sons and Lovers is a strong display of ‘Oedipus Complex’. In simple terms, Oedipus complex is a phrase which means excessive affection of a child for the parent of the opposite sex to him or herself. Coined by the late 19th and early 20th-century psychologist, Sigmund Freud, Lawrence used this concept in Sons and Lovers very successfully only to attract severe criticism for him and his work at that time.

In a nutshell, what happens in the novel storywise is like the following. Mrs. Gertrude Morel was married to a coal miner and had an unhappy married life. She had two sons William and Paul, but she was more attached to the elder son. She used to shower all her affection on him and had high hopes for him. Her elder son was also deeply attached to her. Even when he gets a good job in London with a decent salary he used to send love letters to her. She was highly disappointed when he fell in love with a girl there and settled with her in London itself. After the death of William, she shifted her attention to Paul, her younger son. But Paul was involved in a love relation with Miriam, a highly possessive girl. Mrs. Morel is unable to accept Miriam. There are times when Paul has a tough time pacifying her mother that he loves her and not Miriam. Actually speaking more than sons its the mother who is possessive about her sons, be it William or Paul. She doesn’t allow them to settle down with anyone. She feels that with someone else in their life they will neglect their mother. There is a kind of unseen emotional prison which does not let Paul break free from the affection of his mother. He feels a sense of guilt after the sexual acts either with Miriam of Clara. And in the classic chaotic confusion, he is left alone by either of them and turns back to her dying mother. And when at the end Mrs. Morel dies, Paul is devastated and left all alone!

The plot of the novel is simple and the narrative, as a typical early 20th-century novel, is a little boring. The theme which was too complex for the readers that time is well settled with the modern readers and the novel Sons and Lovers becomes enjoyable in the terms of its theme. What a reader might not like is the over-writing. Some chapters are unnecessarily prolonged and it can be said for the entire novel too. Too much description when things might be told in a little becomes the pain for the readers of the day and this is where the contemporary reader falls back to modern authors for ‘quick and straight’ tales.

To conclude, yes you may go for Sons and Lovers. This is undoubtedly a classic without being extravagant. However, be ready to get bored at times and also psychologically ready to sacrifice some of the chapters which are entirely useless in the terms of plot development. At the end, you will be served with the uncertainty – what Paul would do! What you will enjoy is surely the reading progress and a sense of satisfaction of having read one of the D. H. Lawrence’s novels… happy reading!

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Fewer are the novels which actually take a hold of you and grip your readership till the end. One of those, I came across The Picture of Dorian Grey recently. This novel was written by Oscar Wilde and published in 1890. Too famous as well as notorious, The Picture of Dorian Gray remained the only novel by author Oscar Wilde! Thus, the novel’s fame kept on a constant surge. Even today, the Wilde’s creation is much appealing for the readers who want to read something unusual and ‘great’ (maybe otherwise).

Packed with all sorts of drama, this novel is sure to take you on a ride worth your time. Lord Henry’s impeccable wit forgives none. Almost everytime that he decides to open his mouth, the reader is in for the greatest of the epigrams. The truth that you somewhere knew but never had the grit to confront.

The dark novel, the worth of which you may well realize only after a few pages into it, explores the sins of a ‘beautiful’ and ‘handsome’ young man (importance of this attribute has not been omitted) Dorian. His conventional life takes a wild turn with the entry of the whimsical Lord Henry. He gets driven by Henry’s hedonistic views of life and tries his hand at almost all vices, the effect of which, is seen on his magnificent picture made by his friend Basil. He goes on living a typical Victorian life, caring for his reputation in the society. Nevertheless, he also keeps his exploration as a ‘vice-maker’ on.

The flamboyant Oscar Wilde mastered philosophy in the most ingenious way. He brought his wit and insight into play which made for one of those mind-boggling novels you want to read over and over again. The Picture of Dorian Gray, however severe criticisms it bore in its time, is the novel for ‘those readers’ today and would certainly be ‘it’ tomorrow!

If you are all for quick-wit and satire, this is the one book to go for. While it was regarded as an immoral novel by the critics of that era, in my opinion, it should be a must read. A great classic work like this one ought to be given a chance to. Read and see for yourself. Nevertheless, be ready for some extravaganza as well! Oscar Wilde has different plans for you once you start reading this great novel.

Review by – Prakriti Gupta

The Mayor of Casterbridge

Certainly, you find very few like Thomas Hardy when it comes to the novels in the late twentieth century. His novels are quite moving ones. One of them is The Mayor of Casterbridge. This surely is a masterpiece of Victorian literature! Major themes in the novel are that of remorse and a kind of redemption, if you may say so. Before I read this novel I did not know that character plays such an important role in deciding our fate. But as shown through the protagonist of the novel, our actions largely come out of our character. Being human, very often we do things that we later regret. The Mayor of Casterbridge revolves around such a man called Michael Henchard. This Henchard perhaps does the most notorious thing that a character in a fiction could do – he sells his wife!

The novel is surely about this character – as it bears a subtitle ‘Life and Death of a Man of Character’. However, what did Hardy mean by this subtitle play (full of irony till the beginning) we only get to know once we read the novel completely.

This is an intriguing novel with so many characters who appear, disappear and reappear without any prior notice by Thomas Hardy, the novelist. This fifteen-day-moon nature of the characters is quite unique in writing and it affects the story very much. The readers are always alert to find out what may come next. The characters Susan, Lucetta and Newson are the characters with this distinctive feature bestowed upon them by the author.

The plot us straight yet with so many complications as it progresses. The father is not the father – the daughter is not the daughter and no love is constant in the Casterbridge that Hardy has created in this novel. The Mayor of Casterbridge, per say, seems no man of moral at all…

This is one of the novels which go on to become almost immortal! It attracts you with so many reasons to read yet you cannot write them on paper or tell them exactly to any one. This one, I will say, is far better than the novels which claim to be ‘classic’. Hardy had a habit of doing something unusual and he did it in so many of his writings. The story of Michael Henchard will give you so many feelings – to support him, to abuse him, to hate him, to be kind to him and so many…

At last, a successful novel which a reader must read to understand how objective the life is towards poor humanity!

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is not just a book – it’s passion; it’s rage; it’s desire; it’s revenge; it’s love; it’s hatred… it’s what not! Emily Bronte didn’t know perhaps when she had written this book that it’d go on to become immortal and making her an infamous author as well. There are the people who like it and there are also the people who don’t like it. Whatever be the case, Wuthering Heights is never out of reach of the circle which remains abuzz round the clock.

Emily Bronte has presented a mixed bag in the form of her only novel to the critics. ‘Wuthering Heights’ has different appeal to different readers. Feminists and Marxists, especially, have too much interest in the novel, or, to be frank, only in some of the characters of the novel. Heathcliff remains the interest of many, at last, because he cannot appeal to a certain section. Heathcliff is made of some different metal which does not let him rest at one instance. His restlessness, hitherto, could not be captured in any single frame of theories and scholars often end in a messy quarrel over his position. Likewise, the characters of Catherine and Isabella are also the centre of debates and multitude nature of assumptions.

Themes, as such in the novel, are many. Aspiration, passion and a reaction to being the one who is left oblivion can be, in my terms, said to be the major ones. Heathcliff’s revenge against Edgar can be said of being a romantically jealous nature, however. While the novel has been received warmly in the hands of modern readers, the early reviews of the novel were mixed in nature. Somehow, even now, the readers don’t fail to see the devastating form of humanity crawling in the novel. There are very fewer instances of ‘healthy’ imagery in the novel – maybe it’s the case because Emily Bronte would have decided to bring a totally different form of narrative – an imaginative one and if so was the case, she has almost succeeded.

Before I put a rest against my case, I would like to point out that the novel is often dodged upon the readers – more often by the readers who read the novel Wuthering Heights themselves under someone else’s influence. A modern reader, as I think, is less thought to find something in the novel except horrific imagery and a sense of restlessness! There is imagination, no doubt, but the novel lacks something which we call permanence. More than this, I would say that The Pilgrim’s Progress would appeal to a general reader in any age…

At last, without taking away something from Emily’s credit, I admit that I personally enjoyed reading the book. I will not say, though, that a reader must go through this book. This is the decision that the readers are to make themselves after reading the first chapter.