Thursday, September 25, 2008

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #79

Title: A Room with a View
Author: E. M. Forster
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: I think you know how I feel about mustaches... I'm titling this portraiting "Pensive 'Stache".

Thoughts: A Room with a View is the story of Lucy Honeychurch, a young girl who takes a fateful trip to Florence under the supervision of her spinster cousin, Charlotte. While in Florence, Lucy meets the Emersons, a father and son who revel in bucking societal conventions and preach the gospel of nonconformity to her. Predictably, an "unexpected" romance blossoms, and, although Lucy cannot bring herself to admit it, she finds herself head over heels in love and rethinking her entire worldview.

This frothy story was an incredibly quick read-- I blasted through the majority of it on a round trip bus ride to Baltimore and back. Don't get me wrong-- there are some complex metaphors at work here, and some interesting ideas are presented, but it was still a pretty light read. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would-- it could only be described as "witty" and was occasionally even laugh-out-loud funny. However, the romance was thoroughly unbelievable and the prose was somewhat tainted, in my opinion, by the sexism of Forster's perspective-- he frequently referred to women as "illogical" and even inferred that they are incapable of complex thinking. Icky!! But, it was likable enough, especially given the length (or lack thereof).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #80

Title: Brideshead Revisited
Author: Evelyn Waugh
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: Love this cover! It's hilarious.

Thoughts: Brideshead Revisited is the story of Charles Ryder, a young English student, and his acquaintance and eventual friendship with an eccentric, aristocratic family. Charles befriends the hard-drinking and flamboyant younger brother, Sebastian, at Oxford, and is quickly sucked into the dizzying world of the enigmatic Flytes. However, Charles ultimately remains an outsider because he cannot comprehend the force that simultaneously binds together and drives apart the family-- their Catholic faith.

I thought this was a really unique book. The characters are intriguing and the story, despite a lull towards the middle, is engaging. I especially likes the way that the Flytes were portrayed, warts and all-- they seemed incredibly real, despite their eccentricities. I also loved that the commonality held by all the disparate members of the family was their Catholicism. The ending is absolutely moving-- the kindling of the spark of faith in the patriarch's bosom (yeah, I just used "bosom" in a sentence) reignites the wholw family and even the virulently agnostic Charles can't help but be affected.

I'd been looking forward to reading this book for over a year now-- I originally purchased it to read with K-Dub, but alas, I abandoned her in pursuit of the Quest and she read it all by her lonesome. While I wish I had read it with her (I could've greatly benefited from her savory wit and sharp analysis), it was well worth the wait. Highly recommended.