Top Ten Tuesday: Fall 2016 TBR

foodie-facts-about-me-13

Happy Tuesday!! My favorite season has finally arrived: autumn. I love everything about this transitional season, from the crisp chill in the air to the golden hues of the foliage. In the spirit of the pumpkin-spiced season, the theme of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is the Top Ten Books on My Fall 2016 TBR List. Since the semester is currently underway, I don’t have much time for reading other than what I’m assigned to read for my classes. Still, I’m hoping to get some reading in on breaks and if I have a moment or two to spare here and there. Here are some of the books that I’m hoping to read this fall:

top-ten-tuesday_-46

top-ten-tuesday_-47

top-ten-tuesday_-48

top-ten-tuesday_-49

top-ten-tuesday_-50

top-ten-tuesday_-51

top-ten-tuesday_-52

top-ten-tuesday_-53

top-ten-tuesday_-54

top-ten-tuesday_-55

I know I won’t be able to read all of these books in the next few months, but I would be ecstatic if I could get around to reading two or three of them.

What books are you looking forward to reading this fall? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

 

Hey Hemingway, What’s With the Bulls? | THE SUN ALSO RISES

SO LONG, SUMMER!-2

While rereading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises for a literature class last semester, I kept coming back to a puzzling question: What is so important about bulls? Bullfighting seems to be the focal point of the characters’ time in Pamplona, Spain, which makes sense considering the culture and setting of the time. The unusual part is the great importance and emphasis they all place on this dangerous sport, as though it is so much more than entertainment or a way to make a living. For these characters, bullfighting seems to be a lifestyle, a persona, an image.

The significance of bulls and bullfighting came up in our class discussion of The Sun Also Rises, and fortunately some light was shed on this fascinating topic. Contrary to my prior belief, these bulls aren’t solely representative of male dominance; rather, the characters compare themselves to bulls in order to assess their own masculinity and sexual identities. 

That’s a lot of meaning behind a simple bull!

For the sake of keeping this discussion focused, I’m going to concentrate on Jake Barnes, the main protagonist. While fighting in World War I, Jake was wounded in an unfortunate way: to be frank, he was castrated. We know this from closely reading the scene when Jake looks at himself in the mirror of a hotel room. He alludes to his injury almost nonchalantly, slipping in some telling remarks amidst thoughts of French furniture. Jake says:

“Undressing, I looked at myself in the mirror of the big armoire beside the bed. That was a typically French way to furnish a room. Practical, too, I suppose. Of all of the ways to be wounded. I suppose it was funny.” (p. 38)

The fact that Jake is looking at his naked body in the mirror certainly hints at the nature of his injury. The mixture of comments about both furniture and his wound suggests that he is attempting to fill the apparent absence of a phallus with something else– in this case, descriptions of furniture. (A bit strange, but I won’t judge.) Jake is insecure about his masculinity because he no longer possesses a physical representation of it.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest HemingwaySo where do the bulls come into play? Why, I’m glad you asked.

The bulls used for bullfighting are physically aggressive, harming others by penetrating them with their horns Yes, you read that implication correctly: the horns of a bull are representative of a phallus. Likewise, a bull’s less masculine counterpart is a steer (literally a bull who has been castrated). Steers are not associated with the intense passion, excitement, and danger of bullfighting, thus suggesting that castrated men cannot participate in masculine or sexual acts.

This is the part that clearly bothers Jake, the question he struggles to answer: Has the war made him a bull or a steer? 

Physically, Jake is a steer– but what about his personal identity? Such an internal conflict is one of the driving forces of the narrative as Jake endeavors to understand his own masculinity.

It’s the link between bulls and Jake’s specific injury that I did not recognize until discussing it in class. Connections, interpretations, and revelations like this one are one of the many reasons why I love studying literature. Even though I didn’t enjoy The Sun Also Rises as much as I had initially hoped to, I can’t deny that this novel makes for some fascinating close reading.

What are your thoughts on this discussion or about The Sun Also Rises in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

The Alphabet Book Tag

Book Courtship-6

I hope you’re all having a lovely day! I was tagged ages ago to do this Alphabet Book Tag, but it seems like too much fun not to do. Thanks so much to Ola @ Ola Reads Books for tagging me!

Suspense-12

Pick a book that is on your shelf or one that you have read in the past and fill out each letter of the Alphabet. The idea is to use books that you have either read or that are on your TBR list.

Suspense-13

All of the books that I have chosen are ones that I have read (except for Y!). When possible, I’ve linked my reviews of them as well.

Untitled design-3

A – Animal Farm by George Orwell

B – Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

C – City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

D – Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

E – Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Untitled design-4

F – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

G – Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

H – Hamlet by William Shakespeare

I – Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

J – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Untitled design-5

K – King Lear by William Shakespeare

L – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

M – My Ántonia by Willa Cather

N – Noggin by John Corey Whaley

O – Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Untitled design-6

P – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Q – (The) Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti

R – Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

S – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

T – Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Untitled design-7

U – Ugly People Beautiful Hearts by Marlen Komar

V – Vicious by V.E. Schwab

W – When We Collided by Emery Lord

Untitled design-8

X – Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

Y – (The) Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller {I haven’t read this yet but I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot remember I single book I have ever read that starts with the letter “Y.”}

Z – Zero by Morgan Dark

Suspense-14

And YOU, of course!!

What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? More importantly, have you ever read a book that begins with the letter “Y”? {I’m really curious about this now!} Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST by Oscar Wilde | Review

1162506After reading Oscar Wilde’s dark classic novel The Picture of Dorian GrayI certainly wasn’t expecting this little play to be so charming and lighthearted. The Importance of Being Earnest is a true treat to read, for more reason than one.

Wilde surprised me with his witty, hilarious sense of humor. I laughed out loud several times while reading this play, particularly at the banter between Algernon and Jack. The comedy is smart, complete with sharp, biting comebacks and outlandish drama. Of course, one of the most notable jokes is the play on words involving “earnest” and “Ernest.” Wilde’s brilliant cleverness shines through this duality because both words are integral to the story. It is important for Jack and Algernon to be named “Ernest” in order for the women to agree to marry them; however, being “earnest” is imperative as well as to avoid becoming tangled in a sticky web of lies. These two distinct meanings overlap and intertwine as the drama unfolds until finally culminating in one hilarious end scene. There are several other running jokes, but this duality was by far my favorite.

Much of this drama’s humor also stem’s from Wilde’s critical view of the Victorian upper class. For instance, the fact that Algernon and Jack are worried about their fabricated second identities shows how privileged their lives actually are. The women are more concerned about the name of their future husbands than anything else, while the men seem to be singularly focused on the beauty of their future wives. Lower classes don’t know where there next meal is coming from, but the only thing that matters to these uppity people is the status of their cucumber sandwiches. These trivial, frivolous troubles emphasize the absurdity that often accompanies immense wealth and privilege. In this way, Wilde successfully delivers a message about class and Victorian society through humor, wit, and a clever use of language.

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”

Moreover, The Importance of Being Earnest is such a short, quick read that I finished it in a single sitting. Though this play is short, it certainly packs a powerful, entertaining punch. The story is simple, the dialogue is direct, and every scene serves an obviously important purpose. It takes a masterful writer to write both concisely and comprehensively, two skills which Wilde clearly possesses. Reading such a short but effectively written work is refreshing, especially after slogging through so many longer novels recently. There’s something to be said for a quick, powerful read!

Overall, I was completely taken aback by this play’s charming humor, lighthearted tone, clever wit, and sharp critique of Victorian society. The Importance of Being Earnest is one of the best plays I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I will definitely be exploring more of Oscar Wilde’s work in the future!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely! I feel as though this is a play that anyone and everyone can enjoy, even if you’re not usually interested in drama.

What are your thoughts on this play? Would you recommend any of Oscar Wilde’s other works? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Audio Books I’ve Listened To

Foodie Facts About Me-11

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme highlights a form of reading that is often unappreciated and under-utilized: audio books. While the majority of my reading is done using physical copies of books, recently I’ve been listening to more and more audio books. They’re a great way to get some extra reading done if you have a really busy schedule because they make multitasking so easy. I love listening to audio books while working out, doing dishes, folding laundry, etc. Not only does it make me feel super productive, but it also allows me to read so much more than I otherwise would have.

To celebrate this ingenious way of reading, here are ten of the Best Audio Books I’ve Listened To, in no particular order.STILETTO-11STILETTO-12

STILETTO-14

STILETTO-15

STILETTO-16

STILETTO-17

STILETTO-18

STILETTO-19

STILETTO-20

STILETTO-21

By far my favorite audio books are those narrated by Neil Gaiman. I love his voice so much!

What are some of your favorite audio books? What do you think of the ones on my list? Do you prefer to listen to books or physically read them? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

The Liebster Award | Love Actually, Advice & Pie

Book Courtship-8Though I was nominated for this Liebster Award quite a while ago, I thought I would go ahead and write a post about it anyways. It’s always fun to answer some interesting questions, ask a few of my own, and then highlight a bunch of lovely bloggers. Thanks so much to Grace @ kimmie.gg for nominating me! Be sure to check out her blog if you haven’t already.

Suspense-26

1) You must acknowledge the person who nominated you and display the award.
2) Answer 11 questions that the blogger gives you.
3) Ask your own 11 questions.
4) Nominate 11 blogs that you think are deserving of the award.

Suspense-271. Why did you begin blogging?

I originally began blogging back in high school simply to keep a written record of my thoughts on the books I read. I had no idea that such a vast, enthusiastic, and active book blogging community even existed!

2. What’s your favorite movie and why?

This is such a difficult question, but I think my answer is going to have to be Love Actually. I watched it for the very first time this past December and absolutely fell in love with it (and watched it two more times before Christmas!). British accents, adorable love stories, and Hugh Grant– what more could you want?

Love Actually

3. Where is your next travel destination?

Back home from college? I have no current travel plans in the future, although I would love to study abroad next year!

4. What is an item on your bucket list?

Travel abroad! I have never traveled outside of the United States, but it’s definitely something I hope to accomplish (ideally in the next few years). England, Spain, and Germany are all countries I hope to visit someday!

5. Where do you buy most of you books from?

Lately I’ve been buying books in two extremes: either online or at my local independent bookshop. I much prefer to browse the bookshelves in person and support small book businesses, but sometimes that’s difficult to do while away at college. I had a lot of fun on a recent trip to this bookshop when this happened:

6. If you could give advice to your 10 year old self, what would it be?

This has been said so often by so many people, but it’s true: BE YOURSELF. Don’t worry about the bullies or the senseless drama. It will all work out in the end.

7. Who is your role model? (Can include fictional characters as well)

My parents. They are supportive, they are kind, they are intelligent, and they are successful in more than just their careers. They inspire me in every way, and they will always be my role models.

8. What career path is your ideal choice?

I would love to someday be an English professor at a college or university! Discussing literature, meeting with students, working on my own research… it sounds like the ideal job for me.

2016-07-26 16.32.14
Blueberry pie❤

9. If life handed you lemons, what would you do with them?

Find out a way to make lemon meringue pie. Pie is too good to not bake when handed lemons.

10. What is your earliest memory?

I don’t have a distinct first memory, but one of the earliest things I can remember is celebrating a holiday (Thanksgiving? Christmas?) with all of my family members over my house.

11. If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

Being able to communicate with everyone– people, animals, and even plants– by knowing how to speak all languages. Communication is vital, yet often times it is impossible due to language differences (or, in the case of plants and animals, species differences). Imagine being able to talk to everyone and anything!

Suspense-28

Since I enjoyed answering Grace’s questions so much, I’m just going to send them on to the next round of nominees!

1. Why did you begin blogging?

2. What’s your favorite movie and why?

3. Where is your next travel destination?

4. What is an item on your bucket list?

5. Where do you buy most of you books from?

6. If you could give advice to your 10 year old self, what would it be?

7. Who is your role model? (Can include fictional characters as well)

8. What career path is your ideal choice?

9. If life handed you lemons, what would you do with them?

10. What is your earliest memory?

11. If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

Suspense-29

  1. Briana & Krysta @ Pages Unbound
  2. Anne @ Inked Brownies
  3. Alice @ Arctic Books
  4. Karen @ Run Wright
  5. Ava @ Bookishness and Tea
  6. Proud & Prejudiced Book Thieves
  7. Sammie @ Bookshelves & Biros
  8. Lydia @ Ocean of Myths
  9. Amy @ Read.Dream.Live
  10. Estefani @ Fiction Jungle
  11. Maggie @ In A Reading World

Again, thank you Grace for nominating me! I hope you all have a lovely day!

What are your answers to any of these questions? What do you think of my answers? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne| Review

This review is a difficult one to write.

From the day I first learned about this eighth installment in the Harry Potter series I’ve had very conflicted feelings about reading it. Prior to its release day I had convinced myself that reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would be a mistake, that the risk of being disappointed was much too high. But my feelings began to change as more and more people read and discussed this rather polarizing script. It seemed as though nearly everyone had a strong opinion about the story, either praising it highly or pointing out its flaws. Part of me felt left out of the conversation, and I decided that the only way for me to jump in was to read the script and form an opinion of my own. 

Now here I am, on the other side as a contributor to this ongoing conversation. I’ve finally read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and, unfortunately, I did not love it. To be honest, I didn’t really even like it. After flipping the final page I was left with a sour taste in my mouth: disappointment.

FullSizeRender-1

One of my biggest critiques of this addition to the Harry Potter world is that it didn’t feel like one at all. It’s immediately obvious that J.K. Rowling played a small role in the actual writing of the script because the style, tone, and portrayal of characters are completely different from that of the original series. I understand that the fact that it’s a script instead of a novel contributes to these differences, but that’s also a factor that the writers should have taken into account. As a loyal fan of the Harry Potter series, I was expecting a similar written quality of work with this new installment; however, that is not what I feel has been delivered.

This difference in writing style is extremely noticeable in the way the characters are portrayed. Harry Potter fans know these beloved characters like the backs of our hands, so why would the writers reduce these complex personalities to mere shells of what they once were? Harry is frustratingly unlikable, Hermione has lost her sharp wit, and Ron’s sole purpose in the play seems to be as a source of comic relief. The only character that feels remotely close to his original personality is Dumbledore, though he plays but a small role in this new story. Once again, I understand that because this story takes place nineteen years after the original series ends it is therefore natural for their personalities to have changed over time. However, it often does not even feel as though Harry, Ron, and Hermione are lifelong friends. At times the members of this terrific trio treat each other almost as acquaintances. The odd changes made to these characters’ personalities is frustrating, disappointing, and simply nonsensical.

Another significant critique of this script is that it feels unnecessary. Nothing about the story made me feel as though it is an important, relevant, or essential addition to the original series. Where do we end by the conclusion of the play? Quite close to where we started, unfortunately, with the exception of some slight character development. No exciting secrets are revealed, no past questions are answered, and the plot does not even directly connect to that of the original series in any significant way. It is clear that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is an afterthought, an extension of a beloved magical world that was not initially planned for. After finishing this script, a saddening question lingered in my mind: What is the point of this play in the first place?

While this review has been rather scathing thus far, I will admit that there are a few positive aspects I should mention. For instance, I really enjoyed Scorpius’ funny personality as well as his optimistic attitude towards life in general. Moreover, despite my harsh criticism, it was fun to return to the world of Harry Potter once again. More than anything, though, this story filled me with a desire to reread the original series. This reading experience was nothing if not nostalgic.

So, where does that leave me, a lifelong fan of Harry Potter who is unhappy with this recent addition to the series? Disappointed, frustrated, and surprised are a few adjectives to describe how I’m currently feeling. However, I don’t regret my decision to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Now I’m able to form my own opinion of this story, albeit a rather negative one.

My Rating: :0) :0) 2 out of 5. It pains me to give such a low rating to a Harry Potter story, but it’s an honest reflection of my opinions.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Despite my negative review, I would still recommend this script to Harry Potter fans. I’ve heard numerous glowing reviews o it, so it’s possible that your reading experience could be much more positive than mine.

Have you read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? How do you feel about the script specifically or the release of an additional Harry Potter story in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books I’ve Read for Class

Foodie Facts About Me-10

Happy Tuesday!! Since this new semester is now well underway and this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is open-ended, I thought I would share with you all my Top Ten Favorite Books I’ve Read for Class (that’s a genre, right? Well, it is now!). Assigned reading often has a bit of an undeserved bad reputation. Sure, you’re not going to love everything that you’re assigned to read for school, but isn’t that the point? Being forced to explore different genres, authors, and texts can open your eyes to new perspectives and topics you never knew you would enjoy learning about. Some of my all time favorite books were originally assigned reading for classes!

In the spirit of the back-to-school season, here are my top picks in the order that I read them:

New York City-11

New York City-12

New York City-13

New York City-14

New York City-15

New York City-16

New York City-17

New York City-18

New York City-19

New York City-20

Honorable Mentions: Lord of the Flies by William Golding {high school freshman}, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer {high school freshman}, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins {college freshman}

What are some of the best books that you’ve had to read for school? What do you think of the books on my list? How do you feel about assigned reading in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

9 Literary Classics You Can Read Online for Free | GUEST POST by Caroline

WILBERRY

If you’ve been following along with my blog for a while, then you’re likely aware of my love for classic literature. Some people dread reading these works that are usually studied in a classroom setting, but I just can’t get enough of them. Today, Caroline @ Culture Coverage is here to talk about a topic that excites my little bookish heart: 9 Literary Classics You Can Read Online for Free.

June (3)

When copyright goes out, great literature comes to the masses. If you’re not too attached to paper, bindings and the book smell, you can get the same great texts online for free. From childhood characters to mansion-loving millionaires, these nine classics are sure to become favorites even if it’s your second time around.

Open-Book
Image from Viral Pirate (linked)

Most of these texts can be viewed in a web browser. If you prefer downloadable texts, that’s available too. If you’re overseas and trying to access sites blocked by location, just grab a Virtual Private Network like the ones Secure Thoughts has reviewed to unlock the content, and then you’re free to take your library wherever you wander.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll’s whacky fantasy full of March Hares, Red Queens and jabberwocks is available for a second run around the rabbit hole. If the last time you read it was in elementary school, it’s got some rather trippy insight even adults will appreciate. You’re going to want to spend your time catching up with Alice, the Mad Hatter, and definitely the White Rabbit—it’s what all the cool kids are doing. Don’t believe me? Disney’s recent release of Alice Through the Looking Glass means the material is still catching the imaginations of the world. Check it out here.

Dracula

Lovers of Twilight will be surprised to learn the gothic monster of lore in Stoker’s bloodsucking original doesn’t glitter or sparkle and is more than a century old. For those who are new to the vampire genre, you’re in for a treat. From the shores of England to the Transylvanian castle of legendary esteem, the Dracula the modern generation has come to know is far removed from its original, but that only deepens the fanged mystery for those who have never read it. Get ready to get the creeps because Dracula, in all of its bloodlust glory, is one of those fantasy novels that never stays in the past and always finds ways to reinvent itself for the future. Catch it here.  

The Great Gatsby

Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel of the social climbing millionaire in love with his childhood sweetheart is probably the most famous American novel of the last century. If you haven’t spent time with the eyes, the bachelor and that glorious estate, then you just haven’t lived. From the big parties to the heartbreaking love story, this literary journey through the Roaring ’20s and the delights of the American dream is one of literature’s finest examples that money cannot buy happiness, even if it can buy everything else. Read it here.

Cinderella

The classic tale of a beautiful girl losing her glass slipper at the stroke of midnight is a classic for a reason. It just doesn’t get old. Now while the literary version is slightly less inclined to break out into musical numbers involving friendly woodland creatures—the stepsisters in this version cut off body parts to get their feet to fit into the shoes—you’re welcome to glimmer over that part if you’re in it for the love story. Read Charles Perrault’s retelling here.

Ulysses

Long considered the hardest read in the English language outside of Shakespeare, James Joyce’s novel based on Homer’s The Odyssey is not for the faint of heart. The book describes a single day in the life of Leopold Bloom, an advertising man in Dublin. It makes exact correlations to the classical poem, except with new twists, and creates one of the most defining works of modernist literature ever written. A hefty volume with over 18 different parts and some 265,000 words to its name, this undertaking is no walk in the park. You’ll gain literary world bragging rights until the day you die if you make it all the way through. Take the ultimate test here.

1984

As far as dystopian novels go, this is one of the greats. In an alternate universe where Big Brother is always watching, Wilson, a government agent forced to distort and rewrite history, decides to keep a personal diary—a crime punishable by death—and it changes everything. The reader gets sucked into George Orwell’s mind-boggling reality that punishes truth, hates individualism and fears the personal story. For all you conspiracy theorists out there, this read is definitely one you don’t want to miss. Check the text out here.

Peter Pan

Is it a coincidence the boy who never grows up is a story that never ages? In J.M. Barrie’s childhood fantasy with ticking crocodiles, mermaids and pirates, the lives of the Darling children are never the same once they meet the boy and his shadow. From thimbles to kisses, pixie dust to Lost Boys, the adventures of Peter Pan and Captain Hook aren’t just for the kiddies. There are a lot of laughs for everyone. Tiger Lily, Smee and the whole gang are around to make reading child’s play, so you don’t need to wait to be asked to babysit to reacquaint yourself with this timeless tale. Read it here.

Slaughterhouse Five

Kurt Vonnegut’s tale of Billy Pilgrim leads readers deep into Billy’s memory to his time as an American soldier, the bombings of Dresden, his wedding night and the birth of his daughter. Though the book plays with the concept of time—the memories are anything but sequential—this book is by far Vonnegut’s most popular work with a sharp sense of humor and satirical leanings. The passing of time has only cemented its semiautobiographical genius into the heart of contemporary culture. Listen to the audio here.

A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet is the first in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s long-running detective series. Like any good mystery, there’s blood, mischief and mayhem, but, more importantly, the story features two of the most popular figures in modern pop culture: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Once you turn the last page, you can tune into the BBC’s latest adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to compare how well “A Study in Pink,” the first in the series currently streaming on Netflix, stands up to its literary counterpart. Read it here.

From the forests of Transylvania to planets far, far away, these classics are sure to pique the interest of any bookworm and literary nerd. So what are you waiting for? With the perk that these texts don’t need a trip to Barnes and Noble to get started, there’s no reason to wait. Have any favorites of your own currently up for grabs on the internet? Leave the authors and titles in the comments below. I’d love to add more to my reading list.

About the author: Caroline is a self-proclaimed bibliophile and lover of the written word and spends her time reading the greats and penning her own work. She hopes you love these classics just as much as she does!

June (3)

Thanks so much to Caroline for writing this guest post! I’ll definitely be checking some of these links out, especially for Peter Pan and Ulysses. 

What are your favorite classics? Do you enjoy reading them in general? How do you feel about reading books online? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell | Review

18405Before reading Gone with the Wind I had imagined that it would be a tragic tale of star-crossed romance set against the dramatic backdrop of the Civil War. In all honestly, I wondered how the such a story could possibly go one for over a staggering one thousand pages.

Boy, do I stand corrected.

In writing Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell has accomplished an astounding feat: creating a story that encompasses nearly the entire spectrum of emotions in the human experience, all while critiquing southern society, stereotypical gender roles, and other issues during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. This tome is so much more than a simple love story– frankly, anyone who says otherwise clearly hasn’t read it!

I was blown away by the comprehensiveness of this novel, the way that Mitchell is able to write with such meticulous attention to detail over fifty years after these historic events took place. This book was published in 1937, but I would have sworn that Mitchell lived through the time period herself. She must have been one amazing researcher!

I’d be amiss if I didn’t spend some time discussing when and where this story takes place. The setting is almost like a character in itself, particularly in the way it develops and changes over time. Gone with the Wind is set in the South (specifically Georgia) and spans from the outbreak of the Civil War to well into the Reconstruction Era. The reader can do nothing but anxiously watch as the peaceful, go-lucky Southern society Scarlett first inhabits transforms into a war-torn, violent, impoverished landscape. However, this setting goes far beyond simple geography; instead, it expands to include the political, economic, and social issues of the time period. What I love about Mitchell’s craftsmanship is her ability to inform and orientate any reader of this setting, regardless of their amount of prior knowledge. She uses the same methods to introduce the Reconstruction Era, making the distinction between these two dark times in American history. The setting has an enormous influence on the characters, not only on the decisions they make but on their personalities as well. Mitchell makes this abundantly clear, emphasizing the destructive role that warfare can play the lives of soldiers and civilians alike.

Though the historic setting is certainly a dynamic force throughout the novel, it cannot compete with the commanding presence of Scarlett O’Hara. Though at first glance she appears to be a rather shallow, impressionable, naive teen, Scarlett soon proves that she is a determined, intelligent, capable woman. She is a fiery, courageous, strong female character, and I admire the way she stands up against the stereotypical gender roles of society. Scarlett refuses to be the submissive wife who solely occupies the domestic sphere; instead, she boldly steps into the masculine world of business. This is not to say that Scarlett is always easy to like– she often frustrated me with her coldness, her ruthlessness, her selfishness– but ultimately I couldn’t help but wish her the best.

IMG_9420Interestingly enough, it seems as though Scarlett has a counterpart in this novel: Melanie. Wife of Ashley and the apparent embodiment of Scarlett’s mother Ellen, Melanie is the opposite of Scarlett in many ways. She is gentle, kind, caring, soft spoken, motherly, and an obedient wife. However, there is also a spark of fire in Melanie, a flame waiting to flourish. When it is ignited, Melanie is as strong and brave as Scarlett, willing to do whatever it takes to protect the people she loves. She is fiercely loyal, unfailingly selfless, and incredibly thoughtful. Scarlett’s hatred of Melanie really bothered me at times because I don’t think Melanie did anything to deserve such disdain. In my opinion, Melanie is one of the most fascinating characters in this story– she’s surprisingly complex, with numerous hidden layers that I never expected.

And then there’s Rhett Butler: the infamous wealthy gentleman who I’m convinced is a literary form of Jack Sparrow. He’s simultaneously loved and loathed, genuine and deceptive, kind and cruel. My opinion of Rhett changed countless times throughout the novel, and I honestly still don’t have a very clear understanding of this man. Here’s the maddening complexity of Rhett: he’s an ambiguous character, always straddling the line between good and evil. One page I would be hoping that he would declare his love for Scarlett, and the next I resolutely refuted my own prior wish. While I loved his sarcasm, wit, intelligence, and realistic view of the war and life and general, Rhett ultimately left a sour taste in my mouth. I was surprised and unsettled by his behavior towards the end, although I don’t want to spoil the conclusion for anyone who has yet to read this classic.

The ending itself filled me with so many mixed emotions it took me several days to form a solid opinion of it. The last fifty pages or so took a shocking turn down a dark, twisting spiral that I never saw coming. To be frank, Margaret Mitchell does not deliver the happy ending I was hoping to receive after reading over a thousand pages of this story. This remark isn’t meant to sound bitter (well, maybe a little); rather, it shows that Mitchell was trying to accomplish something else with this work besides mere entertainment. The ending of Gone with the Wind drives home the idea that life is not a carefully wrapped package tied with a bow. Life was– and still is– difficult, tragic, and filled with obstacles. But even still, life goes on. There will always be a tomorrow and a next day and a day after that. We might not be here to see it, but it will be there all the same. This is one of the many messages I took away from the narrative, and I believe there is no better way to convey it than through this novel’s conclusion.

In general, Gone with the Wind contains several important themes. The five that struck me the most are:

  • War: This is arguably the most obvious theme, considering the time and setting of the story. Very few people manage to avoid being swept up by the infectious war fervor plaguing the South. Two of these clear minds are Scarlett and Rhett, who are able to see the beloved “Cause” for what it really is: a method through which to essentially brainwash people into supporting the war effort. Mitchell views the war through several different lenses, including political, economic, and social perspectives.
  • Love: Nearly all of the characters struggle with some sort of problem related to love, whether it be involving courtship, marriage, or simply dealing with confusing emotions. Through Scarlett’s many marriages we see that marriage and love are two very distinct things and do not necessarily go hand in hand.
  • Loss: Loss is a pervasive, overwhelmingly prevalent theme in this novel, which I wasn’t really expecting when I first started reading it. I think it’s safe to say that every character faces loss and grief at some point throughout the story, largely due to the war and its tumultuous aftermath. Even Rhett, who seems to have easily accepted and adjusted to the harsh realities of the new South, eventually breaks down under a crushing wave of grief. Loss impacts everyone differently, which is apparent in the different responses of the characters.
  • Class: Even amidst the chaos of the Civil War and Reconstruction, there is a constant underlying consciousness of one’s class. Mitchell highlights the absurdity of such an obsession with social status and appearances during this time with an almost humorous, mocking tone. Rhett is a symbol of everything that Scarlett wishes to possess– money, glamour, luxury– but at what cost is she willing to attain it? By the end of the story, it’s clear that achieving a coveted spot in the upper class does not necessarily equate to a happy ending.
  • Gender: Southern society places significant importance on gender roles. There are different expectations of men and women from the time they begin courting to well into their married years– until their deaths, really. Even old widowed women must abide by certain customs, wearing black mourning clothes for years and exuding a somberness free from any hint of joviality. Scarlett refuses to conform to these societal norms, instead causing quite a ruckus with her masculine behavior. Mitchell’s obvious critiques of stereotypical gender roles leads me to call Gone with the Wind a feminist novel. (I will likely write an entire post about this at some point, so more on that later!)

So, what is the overall message of this long, winding review? While it certainly was not what I was expecting, Gone with the Wind is a brilliant novel written by a masterful writer. Margaret Mitchell managed to captivate me with her story, make me think with her critiques of society, and evoke a multitude of emotions with the powerful voices of her characters. It’s easy to see why this classic has remained popular and relevant over many decades, marking it as a truly timeless story. My only regret is that I did not read it sooner!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely! Especially to someone interested in this time period in American history.

What are your thoughts on Gone with the Wind? Is there a film, adaptation, or any further reading that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

P.S. Read my thoughts on each individual part of this novel here:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5