Book Reviews · Reading Challenges · The Classics Club

Classics Club Challenge: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

151Summary:Anna Karenina” tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel’s seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness. While previous versions have softened the robust, and sometimes shocking, quality of Tolstoy’s writing, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This award-winning team’s authoritative edition also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this “Anna Karenina” will be the definitive text for generations to come.


I’m still processing my feelings about this book.  I started off absolutely loving it.  I loved the big mix of characters, multiple perspectives, and where the plot was going.  While Anna and Vronsky’s relationship escalates really quickly, I felt their connection, and the introduction of their passion seen from Kitty’s eyes was incredibly brilliant.  Anna is a very elusive character, and I find it interesting that the entire book is named for her when she is the character that I find to be the most mysterious.  However; all of the other characters are related through her, so it makes sense in that regard.  My thoughts about all of the characters changed over the course of the novel drastically.  I was so enamored with Anna at the beginning, but as the story went on, while I felt for the difficulty of her situation, her behavior was driving me nuts and I even found it hard to empathize with her and I felt bad for Vronsky as she crumbled.  My favorite characters ended up being Kitty and Levin, who I felt that we got to see and understand the most.  While I loved sweet Levin for most of the book, his whining towards the end started to annoy me.  I also enjoyed Anna’s sister in law, Dolly’s, character and the juxtaposition her relationship with her cheating husband posed with Anna’s infidelity.  The double standard with men and women is super apparent in this time period in society, and the use of the Oblonksy siblings as an example of this was brilliant.  About halfway through, the story started to lose me and became a bit of a chore to finish.  This book is so long.  It was easier to read than I had anticipated, and don’t get me wrong, I did like most of it, but I was left with a bit of a “blah” taste in my mouth.  I feel like you could probably cut half of it, preferably all of the parts about Russian farming and some of the Russian politics that were over my head, without losing any of the plot.  The ending was a little strange, and I would have liked to have felt a better sense of closure with all of the characters, but I guess that feeling is part of the tragedy of the story.  I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment for having finally finished this book that I have had on my list forEVER and overall really enjoyed the experience.

Book Reviews · The Classics Club

Classics Club Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

594139Summary: A classic novel of romantic suspense finds the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter entering the home of her mysterious and enigmatic new husband and learning the story of the house’s first mistress, to whom the sinister housekeeper is unnaturally devoted.


I cannot get over how much I loved this book.  The writing is absolutely stunning while still remaining incredibly relatable and easy to read.  The main character, Mrs. de Winter, whose first name we never learn (brilliant), often goes off on mental tangents that are so realistic and really create a beautiful picture of her character and mindset.   I couldn’t help but root for the second Mrs. de Winter and Maxim, especially the more we learn about the history of Manderly and its occupants.  The romantic gothic vibe of the book is delightfully sinister, without being too spooky for a scaredy-cat like me.  I think I expected it to be a little more supernatural than it was, which I was pleasantly surprised by.  The whole concept of Rebecca’s haunting presence being a character in itself, rather than her being an actual ghost, was so clever, real and insanely impactful.  I cannot wait to watch Hitchcock’s film adaptation and I definitely could see this as a book I will want to reread.  I highly recommend this one, especially for someone who is trying to get into more classics.

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Book Reviews · The Classics Club

Classics Club Challenge: Persuasion by Jane Austen

31298657Summary: Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.


I loved this book.  I am a converted Austen fan and I think Persuasion is one of my favorites.  Anne is such a great character.  She is sweet, smart, and reasonable, and she deals with her crazy family with grace.  Her family is hilariously vain and annoying and I couldn’t help but laugh with them.  Austen is unparalleled for me in her sarcastic observations about society, and this book showcases them greatly in its supporting characters.  Anne’s relationship with Captain Wentworth is slow-burning and I loved their interactions and the build-up of their romance.  The story was short and sweet but so fully fleshed out and I was deeply invested in the characters.  The more Austen I read, the more I can’t decide which is my favorite.  I think this one is up there.

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Book Reviews · The Classics Club

Classics Club: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë Review

432394Summary: Emily Brontë’s only novel, Wuthering Heights remains one of literature’s most disturbing explorations into the dark side of romantic passion. Heathcliff and Cathy believe they’re destined to love each other forever, but when cruelty and snobbery separate them, their untamed emotions literally consume them.

Set amid the wild and stormy Yorkshire moors, Wuthering Heights, an unpolished and devastating epic of childhood playmates who grow into soul mates, is widely regarded as the most original tale of thwarted desire and heartbreak in the English language.


My Thoughts: I really enjoyed Wuthering Heights.  It was a bit tough to get into at the start, but once Nelly started her narrative it really picked up.  The plot isn’t super action-packed, but it isn’t about that.  It’s about the amazing characters, who are all super flawed and are quite frankly, not great people.  I loved Catherine and her feisty, spoiled nature, and even though that wins over her heart, I loved her relationship with Heathcliff.  Heathcliff got dealt a really terrible life, and while he is an absolutely despicable human being, especially in the latter half of the book, you can’t help but feel for him which is crazy.  Their last scene together is unbelievable, and probably one of my favorite literary scenes of all time.  From that point on, I loved the book.  The story continuing with Young Catherine and Heathcliff’s revenge was so engaging and maddening to read- I couldn’t put it down.  I despised Linton and could not understand the appeal, other than finally having a companion, to Young Catherine.  I really enjoyed how everything wrapped up in the end though and felt it was resolved really well.  The only thing keeping this from being a 5 star read for me, is that I wish we would have seen more between Cathy and Heathcliff to build up their love and passion at the beginning.  It was implied, but I would have liked to have a few more scenes between them so I could feel their passion, rather than just being told it exists.

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Book Reviews · Reading Challenges · The Classics Club

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann Review

581811Summary: Dolls: red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight-for Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three women become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City and then climb to the top of the entertainment industry-only to find that there is no place left to go but down-into the Valley of the Dolls.


My Thoughts: Y’all. THIS. BOOK. I can’t get over it.  It was completely and utterly addicting.  As a musical theatre actress, I can’t get enough of Old Hollywood and this book was everything I wanted.  I loved this view into the entertainment industry of the 1940’s-1960’s, and what I loved most was that it didn’t shy away from the darker side of the industry.  This book caused a huge stir when it was published in 1966, and I can see why.  It was still pretty explicit today, so I can’t imagine the scandal it would have caused upon its release.  The thing that I found so revolutionary about it, was the way it explored the female psyche and sexuality.  Looking back on it from today’s perspective, it really highlights the misogyny and what women were brainwashed to accept as reality, especially in terms of relationships.  This gave us a very interesting perspective into the three distinct and vibrant main characters, who all handle these situations very differently.  I loved all of three of them for so many reasons.  Their journeys were thorough and developed, and I understood each of them completely.  The plot was as addicting as the pills the girls consumed, and I could not put the book down.  This has easily become one of my favorite reads of all time, and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

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Book Reviews · The Classics Club

Emma by Jane Austen Review

6492390Goodreads Summary: Charming, willful Emma Woodehouse amuses herself by planning other people’s lives. When her interfering backfires, she learns a bitter lesson: well-intentioned busybodies are as resented as those motivated by ill will, and everyone should learn to respect the individuality of others.

My Thoughts: I have a new favorite classic.  I fell in love with Emma. It is for sure my favorite Austen to date, and I had no idea that I would love it as much as I did.  I have always been curious about this book because I love the movie Clueless so much, and the movie is based on the book.  I was not disappointed.  The plot was fun and engaging, the characters were all colorful, dimensional and different, and it had the perfect amount of shade that I live for from Jane Austen.  Emma Woodhouse quickly worked her way into my heart and became one of my favorite heroines of all time.  She is so stubborn, self-confident, pushy and meddling and I just loved her.  Her relationships with everyone were so well developed and it was fun to see how they played out.  There was a twist with every event that kept me on my toes and waiting to see how Emma would react.  I was a reluctant Austen fan, but I think I am finally getting used to her style and I get the hype.  I can’t wait to read the rest of her works because I am 100% a fan now.  I almost want to go back and re-read Pride and Prejudice and give it another shot.  Until now, my favorite classic, by far, has been Jane Eyre.  I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think Emma has surpassed Jane Eyre in my heart.

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Book Reviews · The Classics Club

The Handmaid’s Tale Review

38447Goodreads Summary: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

My Thoughts: Wow. Just Wow.  I knew I would probably like this book with all the hype about the Hulu series, but it really blew me away.  It was different than I expected too.  I thought it would be a lot gorier.  While the whole concept is dark, the way Offred speaks with her matter of fact tone, and the way she relays the information in small, unorganized rambles, kept it feeling lighter but seemingly more sinister.  I absolutely loved the structure of the plot and timeline.  The small bits of information we got about the past, randomly interspersed with the current events, kept me turning the page.  I just had to know how the world got to be like it was.  I really appreciated the mundaneness of the story, as opposed to the epic fight we see in most dystopian novels.  It really made it feel real, and somehow more interesting.  I totally felt for Offred and the Handmaids, and while The Wives were so unlikable, as a woman, I felt for them too.  The whole society and way of life of The Republic of Gilead is disgusting, and yet makes for a very compelling story.  Reading about the situations these people were put in often made me sick to my stomach with my jaw on the floor.  It was appalling, and yet I could not stop reading.  I loved Moira and how her spirit helped Offred stay sane in her situation.  I was surprised that I actually liked the Commander.  I thought his behavior was a great juxtaposition to the villainy of men in Gilead, and made the reveal of who he most likely was and what he accomplished in his office, even more shocking.  The ending killed me.  I couldn’t believe that Atwood would leave us hanging like that, but it worked so well, and made me think back on everything I just read in a completely different light.  This book is absolutely brilliant, and I think it is a must read for everyone.

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Book Reviews · The Classics Club

Sense and Sensibility Review

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

14935Goodreads Summary: ‘The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!’

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

My Thoughts: I read Pride and Prejudice a few years ago, and I wasn’t the biggest fan.  Everyone loves Austen, so I have been wanting to give her another shot for a while now, and I am actually glad that I did.  I liked Sense and Sensibility a lot more than I expected to.  I was fully engaged in the plot, which surprised me.  Part of the reason I didn’t love Pride and Prejudice was because not enough happened.  They kept dancing around everything, and I needed more action.  This one had a bunch of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and I thought that the speed in which the events happened was well paced.  It still dealt with the manners and social graces of the time, but there was more to it.  There was also a ton of shade and passive aggressive drama that made me inwardly squeal.  I loved the characters too, especially Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.  I found my self getting frustrated with both of them for opposite reasons, which I enjoyed and kept me reading and wanting more for them.  I loved watching both of them deal with all of these ridiculous people, but my favorite was the battle between Lucy and Elinor for Edward’s heart.  It did take me a while to get used to Austen’s language, but once I got accustomed to it, it was easier to comprehend.  I did have to focus more than normal, so reading it backstage with a big load of distractions wasn’t easy, and it took longer to finish than it normally would.  That said, I really enjoyed it and now I can say that I get it, and I am an Austen fan.  I am excited to read more of her work.

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