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Classics Club Challenge Reading Challenges Reviews

A Heterogenous Superfluity of Trisyllabic Utterances: The Portrait of a Lady (1881), by Henry James

Ladies and gentlemen, pray mind the spoilers!

Oh my poor, poor Classics Club list. I made it in 2014 and infused it with all the optimism of my more youthful days. I was convinced I would read 100 classics (including such hefty tomes as War and Peace and Ulysses – ah the vanity of youth) in four years. Five years on and I’ve made it about 10% of the way through that list. So I’m guessing I’ll be done with it sometime around my sixtieth birthday. Hooray for me!

This book was #61 on that list, and since I somehow associated the month of March with E.M. Forster books about Italy (I read Where Angels Fear to Tread and A Room With a View in some long-ago March and since then the association has been fixed in my brain), I thought I’d read another classic that features Italy heavily. Well, last March I managed to make it about five chapters into The Portrait of a Lady before giving up. This year I was determined to make it all the way through.

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A Lit Major At The Movies

War, Peace, and a Scandal or Two: War and Peace (2016)

War and Peace 2016Haven’t seen this adaptation yet? Beware of the spoilers!

Another year, another massive costume drama from the BBC.

I spent the latter part of last year nursing a deep but abiding impatience for the premiere of War and Peace, Andrew Davies’ latest adaptation of a classic novel. I was thrilled; not only had I actually already read the source material (which, when the source material happens to be a 1,300 page book, is definitely something to celebrate) but I was, for the first time in my life, actually in the UK at the same time as it premiered, and could therefore avoid the two-year delay which I would have faced were I still back in Australia. Naturally, I was excited. Add to that the fact that Davies was writing the script. Seeing as I’d loved his adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Wives and Daughters, I was pretty sure I’d be pleased with just about anything he decided to do with Tolstoy.

There was, understandably, a lot of hype around this particular adaptation. Big names were involved, budgets were large, and the source material was felt to be particularly timely: the fallout from war, the ruthlessness and carelessness of too-powerful men, and the sense of a society and a world on the brink of major upheaval.

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Classics Club Challenge Reading Challenges Reviews

A Very Short Review of a Very Long Novel: War and Peace (1869), by Leo Tolstoy

War and PeaceThis book is #16 on my Classics Club list.

War and Peace is well-known for being an absolute behemoth of a book. Full of deep characterisation and intricate plotting, it would probably take several reviews to begin to cover all the material in this 1,300-page novel.

So instead of trying to pick apart the immense complexity of this book, I’m going to go in the other direction, and simplify it as much as possible. Because I don’t want to bore you, or end up re-reading the entire book again (seriously, if I have to re-read this thing straight away I will cry). Also there’s a new season of Call the Midwife on at the moment – I mean… I have much work to do for… uni. Yeah. Um. Uni work. That’s right. So in the interests of brevity, I present you with:

Ten Things I Learnt From Reading War and Peace

1. Historians suck. They majorly suck. Why? Because they’re not nearly as clever as Tolstoy, that’s why. So instead they write about ‘destiny’ and ‘great men’ and ‘the will of the people’, and bore readers with extremely long expeditionary essays that seem to – OH WAIT. That’s exactly what Tolstoy does. Only in reverse. Gasp!