Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

I've never had such a pretty book!
     You probably know the story more or less, so I'll summarize it quickly.  Three British children, Wendy, John, and Michael, fly away one night with Peter Pan, a boy who never grows up, to have adventures on a magical island called Neverland.
     What fascinates me most about this book is what it conveys about the time period in which it was written.  It is in many ways a satire of middle-class British families in the early 20th century - the Darling family has a dog for a nurse, for example.
     However, the book also betrays the flaws of the era unconsciously.  Peter Pan is pretty prejudiced. For example, the native people of Neverland - whom the narrator calls "redskins," ugh - are portrayed as simple-minded and inferior, and Wendy, one of the only female characters, delights in being Peter Pan's housewife.  All of the female characters seem to be in love with Peter Pan, come to think of it.
     That aside, the writing style is very clever and entertaining.  Peter Pan is one of those rare children's books that non-children can also enjoy.  In fact, there are some thoroughly adult jokes tucked into this text, such as when the narrator mentions "some unsteady fairies...on their way home from an orgy" (76).  I read that line three lines before I could believe that it was real!  Barrie must have had an odd sense of humor.

     - Carly

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

   
The picture is blurry,
but you get the idea
     Wuthering Heights is a gothic novel about two English estates and the tortured people who inhabit them.  The families are related, but that doesn't stop the cousins of Wuthering Heights from falling in love with the cousins of Thrushcross Grange only to marry other, wealthier cousins, and vice versa.
     In case you couldn't tell, I didn't love this one.  I thought many of the characters were flat or unsympathetic, especially the housekeeper Ellen Dean, who was important to the story but seemed to care for nothing except the well-being of her employers. I was also annoyed by the abundance of exposition.  The story's narrator is a Wuthering Heights tenant named Lockwood; however, he spends most of the book listening to Ellen Dean explain the estates' history.  So much backstory!  So many quotations marks!  It irked me.
     Additionally, some characteristics of the time, such as cousins falling in love and mysterious illnesses, bothered me.  But that's less a problem with the novel and more a problem with me as a reader, haha.
     If you're partial to old British Lit, you might like Wuthering Heights.  I don't like it now, but I think I would have loved it a few years ago.

     - Carly