Classics Mini-Reviews

June 17, 2014 Classics, Fiction 15

18133Title: Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

With Lolita, as with many classics, I’m definitely glad I read this just for the experience of reading it. Nabokov has a very unique writing style and Lolita is certainly a unique book. It’s also a book I’m happy to be able to discuss from experience. It was well written and I’m not at all surprised at it’s continued popularity. That said, I don’t know that I enjoyed reading it. The main sensation I experienced while reading this book was a desire to go take a bath, it was just that disturbing. I think it’s worth giving it a try to see if you love Nabokov’s one-of-kind writing style, but it’s (obviously) not a book to pick up if you’re just looking for something fun.

643084Title: Emma
Author: Jane Austen
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Although Emma isn’t going to displace Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice as my favorite Austen, it was definitely a fun read. The introduction mentions that Emma was Austen’s favorite character she created and I can see why. She’s sometimes naive or snobby, but she’s also cheerful, happy, and concerned with the happiness of others. I thought her father and sister were pretty funny, unique characters as well. The way relationships develop between characters is generally slow, subtle, and believable. The end is a bit abrupt and everything wraps up a bit too neatly, but I was in the mood for a light read and actually liked that the resolution wasn’t drawn out too much. Overall, this was a very fun, light read.

1957Title: A Tale of Two Cities
Author: Charles Dickens
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that Charles Dickens knows how to write. I read this as part of a read-along and several participants commented on his effective use of repetition in his writing. I also thought he captured the atmosphere of each location clearly. However, the characters all felt very flat to me. I was certainly concerned for the fate of the characters at times, but I didn’t feel like I had a good grasp of their personalities or motivations. This made it hard to empathize with them and hard to get into the story. It didn’t help that the plot was predictable and relied on the characters making some bad decisions. I might be willing to read more by Dickens exclusively for his writing style, but the plot and characters nearly made me give up before finishing this particular book.

15 Responses to “Classics Mini-Reviews”

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve got to imagine that’s a common response! The author does an impressive job making you want to empathize with HH and I found that the creepiest part of all.

  1. Naomi

    I love Dickens’ writing, and I liked A Tale of Two Cities better than you did, I think. But I still enjoyed Bleak House much more. Maybe you would too? It’s longer, though. 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I enjoyed A Christmas Carol and I think I also liked Great Expectations (it’s been a while!). I also realized part way into this one that I’d read it before, so that might have influenced my feeling that the plot wasn’t very exciting. I’d definitely be willing to try another of his books in hopes I’d like it better 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. C.J. @ ebookclassics

    I know it’s a classic, but I’m so glad that Lolita is not on my classics reading list. I saw the movie version with Jeremy Irons and that was enough for me. Ha ha, it was fun to read Dickens with you. I think we felt the same way about the story. I still have Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol on my list, so there’s still a lot of Dickens in my future.
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    • DoingDewey

      I’ve got to imagine the movie of Lolita is even creepier than the book! I certainly find thrillers and horror stories more frightening as movies anyway. I enjoyed A Christmas Carol much better than A Tale of Two Cities, so hopefully you will too 🙂

  3. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy

    I listened to Lolita as an audiobook read by Jeremy Irons and hearing him read it helped me get through it. I agree, I don’t think I enjoyed it so much, but appreciated the depth in which the author built up this character. A Tale of Two Cities is a book I remember loving – only after getting through more than half of it I think. I read it when I was in high school though, so maybe it wasn’t as predictable to me then. I have yet to read Emma – but I am looking forward to it!
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    • DoingDewey

      Exactly! Even though I wouldn’t say I enjoyed Lolita, I can appreciate that it was done well. Actually, I feel the same way about A Tale of Two Cities as well. I think in that case I might have been more bored by the plot because (as I realized after a few chapters), I’d already read it before. I think I liked it better my first time around. Although I feel like I’m sounding a bit negative in my reviews lately, I did enjoy Emma quite a bit. I didn’t think the plot was quite as interesting as P&P or S&S, but it was a very fun, happy read.

  4. Krysta

    I had to read Lolita for class and the experience was terrible. The premise of the novel is so disturbing. A lot of people talk about the beauty of the writing and try to spot all the allusions and I couldn’t help but think they were trying to distract themselves from the content.

    As for Emma–I didn’t really appreciate the story until I saw the movie with Romola Garai, and then it just clicked. She plays Emma as more high-spirited than mean-spirited, which allowed me to connect with the character. Before I saw her as manipulative.

    And… A Tale of Two Cities! That is one of my favorite Dickens works and even though so many people don’t like the flat characters, I think that they make the book work in the beautiful way it does. I always envision Carton as this 3-D character sort of walking through Flatland–it really allows the emphasis to fall on his character development.

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, I think you’re probably right! I was definitely more focused on how creeped out I was than on the good writing.

      I have yet to watch Emma, but I am planning on taking advantage of all the classics I’ve been reading to help me get caught up on my book to movie challenge. I’ll have to look for the Garai version!

      You’re completely right about Carton. Even though I didn’t love the book, I thought he was a very interesting character. I think I would have appreciated him even more if I hadn’t felt like he was used as just a plot device to get the other characters out of danger. But he was my favorite part of the book too 🙂

  5. Andi (Estella's Revenge)

    Lolita was definitely an interesting reading experience with the beautiful language and the confronting subject matter. I’ve only read one other Nabokov novel, Pnin, and it was so so different but with equally great writing.

    I was really attached to Emma growing up. I loved the film adaptation with Gwyneth Paltrow, and I’ve enjoyed the actual novel since then.

    Finally, A Tale of Two Cities! I read it in high school and liked it a lot, but I’m interested to know how it holds up to a re-read.
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    • DoingDewey

      It surprises me that his other books would be very different. For some reason, since Lolita has such a distinctive style and feel, I imagined all Nabokov’s other books would share the same qualities. He generally seems to write about dark topics though and that might be enough similarity that I wouldn’t want to pick up another of his books.

      Watching a movie adaptation is definitely on my to-do list. I felt like the book could make for a very fun film 🙂

      I think I liked it better the first time around. Perhaps being more surprised by the plot originally distracted me from how flat the characters are.

    • DoingDewey

      I’d recommend it 🙂 Honestly, I’d even recommend my least favorite Austen (Mansfield Park probably). She’s just so awesome!