Tag Archives: Classics

Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (By Robert Louis Stevenson)

15848107

Source: Goodreads

Length: 137 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When London lawyer, John Gabriel Utterson, first sees Mr. Hyde, he’s struck by a sense of foreboding. He finds the infamous man as deplorable as the rumors state. And he hopes that he never has to lay eyes on him again. But fate has other plans. Dr. Jekyll, a respected man and Utterson’s good friend, refuses to share in Utterson’s disgust of Mr. Hyde. In fact, he seems to almost care about the strange, unlikeable creature. Strange events begin to unfold in the city and Utterson is inescapably pulled into them. At the heart of them all, he finds Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll’s unrelenting support of the man being hunted by the entire city. As he is compelled to investigate further, he finds himself in the midst of a nightmare he’d believed unimaginable, and a reality that would challenge everything he’d ever believed in.

My take:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is known for being one of the earlier works on the topic of split personalities. But the book is actually way more than that.

The book has a very archaic writing style and, with it, the charm of that style. It’s actually quite easy to read as long as you read it slowly and not in any rush. The prose will not leave you feeling overwhelmed or like you’re missing out on anything; in fact, it’s written in an incredibly enjoyable manner.

As a story, it isn’t exactly what I had expected. I was probably misled by the many adaptations of the book (which I’ve not watched/read but only heard about). So I kind of expected a book that begins with a murder and proceeds to the split personality angle. The book is nothing like that and that’s a good thing.

It’s a little difficult, to be honest, to explain how amazing this book is (because that would inevitably lead to spoilers). So, I’m going to focus instead on why this book is so good. The main reason is that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is emotion in prose. The book has an eerie sense to it that stays with you as you read it. But, it also has this beautiful, profound sadness.

It touches upon topics like the duality of personality (which is very different from a split personality) really well and forces you to remain in thought long after it’s done. It talks about the contradiction that all of us are, within ourselves, and our ability to choose to be one over the other at varied times. And in a world where all of us are juggling so many different things that require us to be so many different things, the book and its emotion hit pretty hard.

Then there is the emotion you feel for the characters themselves. In a book as short as 137 pages (or even lesser, depending on the format and publisher), Stevenson manages to make readers truly associate with the people within his story. Whether they appear for one scene or carry the entire story, or whether they’re good or evil, you feel for each character. You share in their angst, their fight (often internal), and their decisions. As a result, you are left enjoying every single aspect of the book that really pulls you in from the get-go.

As a story itself, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is written in a mixture of retellings and present events. A lot of it is also written in the form of correspondence. It’s definitely not a linear murder mystery if, like me, that’s what you’re expecting. And I wouldn’t call it a horror either. But, it is definitely disturbing in certain ways, and even more so because those angles are a little too real. All in all, it is quite exceptional in its ability to evoke emotion of varied kinds, and in the way in which it makes you look within yourself.

I’d definitely recommend The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to:

  • all kinds of readers
  • people who haven’t really read classics (It’s a great classic that is easy to read even if you’re not a fan of classics)
  • fans of psychological thrillers, mysteries, and horrors (It’s a multi-genre book and would appeal to most genre fans)

Also, it seems that Dr. Jekyll is pronounced Jee-kal or Jee-kill and not Jek-ill (That was definitely a bit annoying to get used to).

What did you think of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Let us know in the comments below!

– Rishika

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Review: 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (By Jules Verne)

8618596

Source: Goodreads

Length: 340 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

A mysterious sea creature, believed to be supernatural in size and ability, haunts the oceans of the world. When Scientist Pierre Aronnax gets the opportunity to embark on a voyage to capture this narwhal, he simply cannot refuse. But a strange turn of events lead to him being captured, along with his manservant, Conseil, and Canadian harpooner Ned Land, and taken aboard the Nautilus. Prisoners of the mysterious yet charismatic Captain Nemo, who calls the Nautilus submarine home and claims to have renounced all land, the three men find themselves on a journey of the world – taken through its oceans. They experience the incredible world that they didn’t even know existed under the surface of the sea, with each day bringing greater marvels than the previous. And yet, none of them can fathom what future has been decided for them by Captain Nemo – their captor whose enigmatic exterior hides a torrential fury and hatred that grows with every passing day.

My take:

I spent almost two months (maybe more) on this book. That is a very long time for a book that’s just 340 pages. To be honest, I didn’t care for it much at first, and almost gave it up after about 75 pages. But that’s when I realized that 20000 Leagues Under the Sea isn’t a book you read as you would a present day thriller. You need to read it slowly, word by careful word, and absorb each sentence as you go.

This isn’t an easy task considering the book isn’t written in a simple manner. Most of the sentences are exceedingly long, often convoluted in presentation, and kind of make you forget where you started by the time you finish them. Maybe that’s because it’s a translated piece of work. Whatever the reason may have been, the result was that it was cumbersome reading.

But since the book had come very highly recommended, I gave it another shot. This time, I read it slowly; and this is what I discovered.

The book can become monotonous when it goes into pages and pages of fish and sea animal descriptions. There is a lot of race stereotyping based on the circumstances of the time during which it was written. I say race stereotyping and not racism because it was more matter-of-fact, and was based on actual global conditions, rather than hatred born out of the personal inability to accept diversity. There is a lot of hunting involved which, I suppose, was the norm then, but can come across as a bit barbaric today.

And yet, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea deserves a 4.5-star rating. Because the book is the embodiment of the idea that a book can take you around the world, to beautiful and fantastic places, while you’re sitting in a chair.

Something about the book is so engaging that you experience every single emotion felt by all the characters. Each character is very much his own, making it easy to associate with them even though they come from a different era. And, you are pulled into the depths of the events that transpire, giving you the feeling of almost being there, witnessing it with your own eyes.

Then there’s the fact that the book beautifully depicts the complexity of the human mind and emotions. Life isn’t in black and white, hatred is born through sorrow, and curiosity can trump the greatest of fears – these are just some of the aspects of life (that by its very nature is complicated) that are wonderfully shown rather than told.

On the science fiction side, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea was definitely ahead of its time. The descriptions of the engineering that created the Nautilus are pretty amazing and while you may not even understand most of it, you’ll still find yourself being impressed by its detail and magnitude. The book truly depicts, in a variety of ways, how an elaborate imagination can conjure up brilliance and how parallels can be drawn between fiction and fact. Add to that the myriad of emotions that the story goes through – humor, sorrow, wonder, anger – and you have a novel that is thoroughly immersive. In fact, I went through the latter half of it in about four days!

Normally, I’d end my post with a mention on who would enjoy the book being reviewed. But here, I have to say that everyone who’s a reader should read 20000 Leagues Under the Sea at some point in their lives. The only tip I can offer is how to make the experience less cumbersome (because a part of it will be so) and more enjoyable. So… when you pick this book up, make sure that:

  • you go slow and try and really absorb each sentence
  • you read when you have time to spare, because this isn’t a book you can read fast
  • you make the most of the paragraphs-long descriptions of sea creatures, because there are some pretty beautiful sights in there

Let us know what you thought of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea and/or this review. Drop us a comment below! And thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews

Review: My Cousin Rachel (By Daphne Du Maurier)

 

162543

Source: Goodreads

 

Length: 335 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When Philip Ashley is orphaned at a young age, he is brought up by his older, kind, and generous cousin, Ambrose. Never having been keen on marriage, Ambrose loves Philip like a son and considers him his only heir. The only family Philip has ever known is Ambrose, who is father, mother, brother, and guide to him. Philip never finds the need for anyone else. Their world is cozy, complete, and perfect. Until Ambrose travels to Florence, and falls in love.

He marries Rachel, a woman Philip has never seen and knows little of. The jealousy of having to share the love of the only family he’s ever had causes hatred for Rachel within Philip’s heart. And when he learns of Ambrose’s sudden death, his hatred, anger, and dislike turn to suspicion. But when Rachel turns up in England, Philip finds himself drawn to her mystery and beauty. The hatred he’d resolved to hold onto begins to melt away and as he gets to know her, new, strange emotions take its place. Yet, rearing its ugly head occasionally, lies one question at the back of his mind always – does he really know his cousin Rachel, or does her beauty hide the murderous intent that had claimed Ambrose’s life?

My take:

Daphne Du Maurier has a beautiful writing style that pulls you incredibly deep into the story, the lives of the people within, and the very setting in which it takes place. She weaves a tale of mystery and psychological suspense that moves along briskly and keeps you turning the pages as you’re perched on the edge of your seat.

What I really loved about My Cousin Rachel was the myriad of emotions and their depth. The dialog is powerful and intense, with the simplest of sentences delivered with an impact that you can physically feel. The beautifully woven conversations go much further in meaning than the words spoken, and you can actually sense all that meaning around you.

Association with characters is stronger in this book than in most others that I have read. You feel for and with the people – their pain, their joys, and their turmoil. But the thing is that it isn’t just a feeling like one you would have for a friend or loved on, it’s a feeling that completely surrounds you. You sort of feel like you’re standing there, next to the characters, experiencing (almost tangible) wave after wave of their emotions. And it’s touching, elating, and overwhelming, all at once.Du Maurier explores the darkest and purest of emotions, and the chaos they can reign when combined. And she does so beautifully.

But the rollercoaster of feelings and emotions that you’re on throughout the book is only a part of its charm. There’s also the suspense that is always a part of every page, every event. You’re always wondering just what will happen next. And you’re always wondering just what had really happened to Ambrose.

The only reason the book gets a 4.5 instead of 5-star rating is that I wanted it to be just slightly shorter. While reducing it by 100 pages or so would definitely take away from its charm, it could surely have been 25 pages less. Because when every page is an addition to the suspense, those few extra paragraphs can be maddening.

All in all, the book is an exceptional read, regardless of whether you like classics or not. It’s a period novel, reminiscent of the time in which it’s set; it is charming, and full of suspense. The best part about it is that it really transports you right to its setting, making for quite a reading experience.

Highly recommended to:

  • fans of Classics or Modern Classics
  • people who shy away from Classics (it’s a Modern Classic and does not drag)
  • fans of suspense
  • anyone who liked Rebecca

Let us know how you liked My Cousin Rachel, or tell us whether you’d rather wait for the movie that’s coming up soon or read the novel. Drop a comment below!

– Rishika

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews