Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Passing by Nella Larsen

I read this for the following category in my Back to the Classics 2016 Reading Challenge:

5.  A classic by a non-white author. Can be African-American, Asian, Latino, Native American, etc.

The story follows two light-skinned African American women who knew each other as children but have lost touch with each other. Irene Redfield lives in Harlem, is married to a doctor, and has two sons. Clare Kendry, on the other hand, is married to a racist white man who is unaware of her racial heritage; in other words, she is passing as white. They meet again by chance and begin to see each other again. Clare has a desire to come back to the vibrant community she left behind, and Irene is frightened of the consequences of Clare's behavior. Both women are forced to confront their lies and secret fears.

I thought the book was very well written and I rate it 4 out of 5.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I read this book for the following category in my 2016 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge:

6.  An adventure classic - can be fiction or non-fiction. Children's classics like Treasure Island are acceptable in this category.

This is the story of Jim Hawkins, a cabin boy on a voyage to find buried treasure. As I was reading it, it seemed cliche with things such as a treasure map where X marked the spot, a one-legged pirate (named Long John Silver) with a parrot on his shoulder, tropical islands, etc., until I realized that this was the first book with all of these elements; its influence on the popular perceptions of pirates was enormous. But the pirate/adventure genre isn't one I really enjoy; I rate it 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

I read this for my Back to the Classics 2016 Reading Challenge for the following category:

8.  A classic detective novel. It must include a detective, amateur or professional. This list of books from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction is a great starting point if you're looking for ideas.

Nick Charles was a detective in New York until he married Nora, at which time he moved to California to manage the various businesses left to Nora by her father. They are back in New York on vacation when the secretary (Julia Wolf) of a former client of Nick's (Clyde Wynant) is murdered. Everyone assumes that Nick is working the case. He isn't too sure he wants the case, but Nora is fascinated with the idea. Nick and Nora spend most of their time drinking. I kind of liked the book, but not as much as the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers; I think the characters in Sayers's books are much more likable and engaging. I rate The Thin Man 3 out of 5.

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

I read this book for my 2016 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge for the following category:

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language.
I was disappointed in this book. It got rave reviews, so I was expecting something great, but I just didn't see it that way. I thought it was a somewhat interesting story, but just barely interesting enough to keep me reading all 530 pages. I didn't like the writing style, and since it was a translation, I couldn't tell whether it was the author's style or the translation that I didn't like. In literature, you are supposed to "show, not tell," but I thought this was a perfect example of telling rather than showing. The book was about four sisters. The two older sisters (Tsuruko and Sachiko) were married; the two younger sisters (Yukiko and Taeko) were not. The youngest (Taeko) couldn't get married until her sister (Yukiko) got married. Much of the book was about trying to find a husband for Yukiko. It was interesting learning about the culture of Japan before the second world war, which was very traditional and appearance was everything.

Overall, I rated it two out of five.