Sunday, 31 August 2008

Wuthering Heights

Title: Wuthering Heights

Author: Emily Bronte

Number of pages: 279

Started: 23 August 2008

Finished: 31 August 2008

Opening words:

1801. - I have just returned from a visit to my landlord - the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society. A perfect misanthropist's heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us. A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name.

Plot summary:

In a house haunted by memories, the past is everywhere! As darkness falls, a man caught in a snowstorm is forced to shelter at the strange, grim house Wuthering Heights. It is a place he will never forget. There he will come to learn the story of Cathy: how she was forced to choose between her well-meaning husband and the dangerous man she had loved since she was young. How her choice led to betrayal and terrible revenge - and continues to torment those in the present. How love can transgress authority, convention, even death. And how desire can kill.

Summary taken from Amazon.

What I thought:

I hate to say it but this really is not my kind of book and it reminded me of all those tings that I hated about being forced to read books at school. I did plough through it to the end, but I found the language a bit flowery, not very accessible and that I didn’t really see what about the plot people think is so marvellous. Perhaps a re-read sometime or going back through it with a guide written by someone who wants to pass on the book’s appeal would make a difference. But for me, this was not an enjoyable read.

Friday, 22 August 2008

The Birds and other stories

Title: The Birds and Other Stories

Author: Daphne du Maurier

Number of pages: 242

Started: 14 August 2008

Finished: 22 August 2008

Opening words:

On December the third the wind changed overnight and it was winter. Until then the autumn had been mellow, soft. The leaves had lingered on the trees, golden red, and the hedgerows were still green. The earth was rich where the plough had turned it.

Plot summary:

The idea for this famous story came to du Maurier one day when she was walking across to Menabilly Barton farm from the house. She saw a farmer busily ploughing a field whilst above him the seagulls were diving and wheeling. She developed an idea about the birds becoming hostile and attacking him. In her story, the birds become hostile after a harsh winter with little food -- first the seagulls, then birds of prey, and finally even small birds -- all turn against mankind. The nightmarish vision appealed to Hitchcock who turned it into the celebrated film.

Summary taken from Amazon.

'How long he fought with them in the darkness he could not tell, but at last the beating of the wings about him lessened and then withdrew . . . '

A classic of alienation and horror, 'The Birds' was immortalised by Hitchcock in his celebrated film. The five other chilling stories in this collection echo a sense of dislocation and mock man's sense of dominance over the natural world. The mountain paradise of 'Monte Verità' promises immortality, but at a terrible price; a neglected wife haunts her husband in the form of an apple tree; a professional photographer steps out from behind the camera and into his subject's life; a date with a cinema usherette leads to a walk in the cemetery; and a jealous father finds a remedy when three's a crowd . . .

Summary taken from Fantastic Fiction.

What I thought:

I liked this book, but not as much as the other Daphne du Maurier books that I have read. It was a series of short stories, all in some way showing the darker side of life. In some ways there were no clear endings to some of the stories, but perhaps that was part of the point and helped to set the tone.

A reasonable read, not as good as her others, but if you like short stories then these are good ones to try.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

84 Charing Cross Road

Title: 84 Charing Cross Road

Author: Helene Hanff

Number of pages: 230

Started: 10 August 2008

Finished: 13 August 2008

Opening words:

October 5, 1959


Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialise in out-of-print books. The phrase 'antiquarian book-sellers' scares me somewhat, as I equate 'antique' with expensive. I am a poor write with an anteriquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes & Noble's grimy, marked-up schoolboy copies.

I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean secondhand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00 each, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?

Very truly yours,
Helene Hanff

Plot summary:
84 Charing Cross Road is a 1970 book by Helene Hanff, later made into a stage play and film, about the twenty-year correspondence between her and Frank Doel of Marks & Co, antiquarian booksellers located at the eponymous address in London, England.

Summary taken from Wikipedia

What I thought:

This was a very speedy read. It actually only took me couple of hours to read the book – there were actually two books in this volume, the other being The Duchess of Bloomsbury, which took a bit longer to read.

84 Charing Cross Road is a charming correspondence that took place over many years between a British bookseller and an American customer. It is just a gentle read of what they wrote to each other (and a few letters that others chipped in when they could). A pleasant read.

The Duchess of Bloomsbury was the follow on story of when Helen Hanff came to London for the first time - which was after her correspondent had died and the bookshop itself had closed. It was a readable and charming insight into London and one woman’s finally achieving her ambition of seeing the England that she had previously only dreamed of and seen through books.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Strangers on a Train

Title: Strangers on a Train

Author: Patricia Highsmith

Number of pages: 256

Started: 29 July 2008

Finished: 9 August 2008

Opening words:

The train tore along with an angry, irregular rhythm. It was having to stop at smaller and more frequent stations, where it would wait impatiently for a moment, then attack the prairie again. But progress was imperceptible. The prairie only undulated, like a vast, pink-tan blanket being casually shaken. The faster the train went, the more buoyant and taunting the undulations

Plot summary:

The Psychologists would call it folie a deux...'Bruno slammed his palms together.' Hey! Cheeses, what an idea! I kill your wife and you kill my father! We meet on a train, see, and nobody knows we know each other! Perfect alibis! Catch? From this moment, almost against his conscious will, Guy Haines is trapped in a nightmare of shared guilt and an insidious merging of personalities.

Summary taken from Amazon.

What I thought:

I’m not sure what I thought of this book. When I concentrated on it I enjoyed reading it, but when I was reading it on the way to and from work I found it more difficult to get into it. It had an interesting and thought provoking plot and had some really good insights into what makes people tick and th consequences of the decisions we make. There is nothing to criticise about it, at time I just drifted a bit though. It was worth reading though and had some really satisfying parts to it.