I don’t review classics on this blog. Mostly because I don’t think anyone cares what I have to say about a book that has been a staple in literature for centuries. The verdict is in, you know what to expect. Who cares what I think?
But I love reading classics. And I enjoy actually having content for this blog. So I’m going to take this post to give my brief overview thoughts on some of the classics I’ve read this year.
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, or Auguste Maquet depending on your views on that whole situation, is an epic, beloved novel from one of my favorite writers (or writing teams? I don’t even know anymore). People view this as the best Dumas novel and one of the best novels period. I’ve loved Dumas ever since I read The Three Musketeers in college, so this has been high on my “to be read” list ever since.
And I loved it. This novel quickly became one of my favorite books. It’s over a thousand pages that fly by. Is the pace a little slow at times? Sure. But the characters are so well-done I loved spending more time with them. The themes of revenge and justice and forgiveness have never been more explosively explored. The writing is fantastic if a little overdone, as is true of most novels first published in journals or periodicals.
Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this novel. Definitely give it a read if you haven’t yet.
Things Fall Apart
Things Fall Apart by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe is one of the first African novels to achieve global success and, in a lot of ways, is the prototype African novel. It centers around a village in Nigeria and a powerful warrior from that village, Okonkwo, as he first struggles to build a name in that village and then struggles to deal with the intrusion of Christian missionaries into his village.
Honestly, it is hard for me to give any kind of opinion on this novel for a few different reasons. Mostly, I have barely read anything from this genre so I cannot say where this fits. I don’t know if it’s better than everything else or worse, because I haven’t read anything else like it. Also, a large part of this book is the setting. As a view into the lives and tribes of pre-colonial Africa, the book is incredibly important and wonderful. I really loved experiencing another culture, which is something so powerful that literature allows us to do. For that, I am grateful I read this book and I think it is immensely valuable.
All of that being said, I didn’t really enjoy it. As a story, it was slow and drawn out. The characters were a little one-note. The plot very mediocre. Even the writing style wasn’t my favorite. It leaned toward the Hemingway simplistic style of prose that I typically don’t enjoy, but makes a ton of sense for the themes and settings it explored.
But, again, super glad I read it and I think it is incredibly important to the world of literature. I’m glad it’s being talked about and discussed. The themes alone are worth the discussion.
Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions is a very strange novel by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s honestly not easy to tell what this book is about and I’m not at all envious of the person who had to write the blurb on the back. It is all over the place. For a portion of it in the middle, Vonnegut spent several pages explaining the penis size of all the characters in the book. To say I didn’t need to know that is an understatement. But then again, Vonnegut is incredible at satire, so it could be a subtle remark at our incessant need to judge ourselves by others based on completely mundane and meaningless standards. Or Vonnegut could have found it funny. Who knows?
I should not have enjoyed this book as much as I did. I didn’t love it and it wasn’t the best Vonnegut book I’ve ever read, but I still did enjoy it. Vonnegut is one of the master’s of voice, in my opinion, and this book allowed that to shine. Despite not having much of a plot or character development, it was witty, sarcastic, and fun. It isn’t often that a book is carried by voice. Sometimes a book is carried by characters and a weak plot/setting can be overlooked because of the character work. Or vice versa. Very rarely is the voice so strong that it can carry an otherwise scattered and messy book. I think only Vonnegut can achieve that.
Breakfast of Champions should not be your first Vonnegut book. If you’re unfamiliar with him, I would say steer clear of this one for a while. You don’t need that in your life. But if you know Vonnegut and appreciate him, I’d say give it a whirl.
This one was a tough one for me. All in all, I didn’t enjoy this as much as I wanted to. Sure, some of it struck home in a great way, but mostly I didn’t love it.
The best part of Wuthering Heights is Wuthering Heights. I love the setting. It is creepy but still somewhat homey. It is secluded, but not desolate. The setting feels like something that is alive and almost acts as another character. Honestly, I enjoyed the backstory of the setting far more than I enjoyed anything at all about the characters.
That was my major complaint with this novel: I hated every character. Right when one of them started to turn my opinion around, they’d do something mean and stupid so they’d lose me again. I didn’t root for a single character. I didn’t want any of them to win. Which made it hard for me to truly invest myself in this story. If I don’t care what happens to the characters, I’m going to be less inclined to dive into the plot. Sure, it can be seen as a great expose on humanity and human characteristics, but I didn’t really care about that. Some of the characters were unbelievable with how bad they were, but others felt like real people. Just not people I’d ever want to be friends with or support.