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review 2017-07-11 19:37
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

I'd somehow, up to this point, never read A Tale of Two Cities. I know, I can't believe it either. 

Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution and the years leading up to it, this is, at its very core, a romance novel. I was a little shocked by that, but I certainly didn't mind. Dickens's writing is simply breathtaking, and he never allows the characters' actions to become contrived. These people aren't saccharine cutouts, as is typical of romance novels (even from this era). Instead, it's a roomy, elegant story told with magnificent prose and populated with memorable characters. 

Most Dickens novels drag a bit (at least, the few I've read do), but this one doesn't. Not at all. From its iconic opening passage to the final chapter, the plot is pretty quick and doesn't get bogged down in an excessive amount of characters and subplots (looking at you, Our Mutual Friend). Instead, Dickens focuses on only a handful of characters and develops them fully. By the novel's third part I was truly invested in their lives, and wanted to know how everything would turn out. I truly cared! When reading most novels from the Victorian Age, I find myself a little put off by their chilliness, their dust and age. Not here. A Tale of Two Citiesfeels rather progressive and is very emotionally involving. 

If I were to critique this novel, I would say perhaps Dickens sacrificed a full exploration of the time period he was writing about to, instead, focus on his characters. I would've loved to have seen more build-up to the Revolution, though what the reader does get is fine. I could've done with more guillotine scenes myself. 

So far, this is my favorite Dickens novel — though I have many to read yet. This one certainly deserves its classic status, and I can't wait to give it a reread in a few years.

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review 2013-02-18 00:00
Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie,F.D. Bedford All children, except one, grow up.

Thus begins the most classic piece of children's literature of all-time. Written with such delicate embellishments the language is a wonder in itself, and you will find yourself sighing with delight at the stunning metaphors and fanciful explanations.
The story is naturally as immortal as Peter Pan himself, and every child should have the pleasure of taking off to Neverland along with him. Neverland is the perfect idealization of every child's imaginative dreamland - complete with mermaids, fairies, pirates, indians and infinite adventures. As a child I wished desperately for Peter Pan to show up at my window and whisk me away.

"The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it."

And yet the story is so melancholic and so heartbreakingly sad. There's a subtle tone of tragedy to the character of Peter Pan, which I never detected as a child. His longing for a mother and his lack of belonging and attachment is actually turning him into the most lonely boy in the world. In some ways he resembles Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Little Prince in his isolation.
This is so much more than a mere lullaby for children, it is a complex story with many layers - written for adults as well as children.

"Stars are beautiful, but they may not take part in anything, they must just look on forever."
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review 2012-05-14 00:00
The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James,Gabriel Brownstein,Mary Cregan My dear, dear Isabel, I wish you well,
But into a dang'rous trap you fell!
What choice in husbands you have made,
But you were played! Then prayed, and stayed.
My dear, I pity your misfortune, really,
But I think a divorce would be, ideally,
How you'd deal with such a grave mistake,
With all your heart and purse at stake.
But, Author James, king of discretion,
Made you a martyr for convention.
To two proposals you said "no, sir"
But with Osmond you felt closer,
And said (alas, miss) "yes, sir!"
But found he's love's transgressor.
"No" to Goodwood, American beau,
And Again, Warburton: said "no."
Two young men who off'red rings,
Without grabbing at purse strings.

Madame Merle who played the devil
And deceived you head, so level.
And for her Pansy, bastard daughter,
She gave you up for spirit slaughter.
And your independence you gave up
For a man's affection purely made-up,
How took advantage of senses-better
To strap you, Isabel, with fetters.
Corruption is the price of money,
That vile gild is bitter honey,
Which Ralph gave to spirits-lift
But 'twas a burdening gift.
Or perhaps it is the Eur'pean air
Which rusted your innocence, so fair.
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review 2010-08-30 00:00
Scarlet Pimpernel, The (Barnes & Noble classics)
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Sarah Juliette Sasson,Emmuska Orczy,Rachel Perkins This book is about a fashionable lady who thinks she's better than her husband, but don't worry, it has a happy ending: she learns that her husband is actually a superhero and she was wrong to have opinions (outside of preferred colors for ball gowns). She learns this through hiding in the corner and crying throughout the entire book. It's like The Count of Monte Cristo, in that there is a little bit of action and a whole lot of French people and many ridiculous disguises. But if, like, instead of a snarky narrator, it was told entirely from Valentine's point-of-view.
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