Tag: classic

Book Review: The Turn of the Screw (Henry James).

The Turn of the Screw

-Henry James.


The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a novella. The story is about a young lady who gets an opportunity to work as a governess at a beautiful but mysterious estate. This book has gothic, horror, and mystery elements to the story. It is slightly difficult to explain the story because of the way it is structured but I’ll try to cover major points.

The story begins at a party held on Christmas Eve where one of the attendees Douglas says he has access to a governess’s account of a ghost story when she worked for a wealthy family. He starts reading the written account of the governess and at that point the narration of the story shifts to the governess’s point of view. The Governess who is also the narrator remains unnamed throughout the story. She is responsible for the well mannered young girl Flora and a 10-year old boy Miles at their uncle’s estate the Bly. The uncle is their guardian. Miles has been suspended from his school due to his troublesome behavior just days prior to the governess arrival.

One day while taking a walk, the governess notices a man looking at her from one of the towers. She spots him staring at her again through the window the next time and that is when she enquires about him. Mrs. Grose works at the Bly and becomes kind of like a confidant for the governess. The governess tells Mrs. Grose about the strange man looking at her twice. Mrs. Grose tells her about the previous governess Miss Jessel and her relationship with Peter Quint a valet both of whom are now deceased. She also finds out that Miles and Quint shared a good bond but Miles tried to lie about his relationship with Peter to Mrs. Grose. Miles’s behavior is slightly creepy at times which made you think he is up to something.

The governess sees a stranger, a woman by the lake when she is there with Flora. She believes that Miss Jessel and Peter Quint are a threat to the kids. Once Flora goes out of the house alone and she is seen talking to Miss Jessel near the lake by the governess but Flora claims to have not seen Miss Jessel at all; Flora falls ill after that is taken to London to her uncle’s place. The governess is suspicious that Miles distracted her by playing the piano so that Flora could leave. Quint is seen outside the window by the governess and she tries to protect Miles from it but then his heart stops.

The horror element is the main theme of the story. The possibility of the supernatural is left up to the readers I felt. No one sees the ghosts except the governess or at least doesn’t admit to it, so it depends on the reader to choose whether to believe her or not. The atmosphere of the story has an air of mystery and eeriness which reminded me of the gothic tradition. The governess finds the Bly and children extremely beautiful to look at but as the story progresses you can tell that the exterior doesn’t match what is going on inside. There is a lot of secretive behavior by the characters. The lying and concealing of relationships is something that happens regularly in the book. The need to repress information for whatever reasons leads to a lack of open communication which causes more problems than it solves.

The way the story ends is surprising and sad. I did not predict that the story will end abruptly in such a way. It came out of nowhere. The plot itself is interesting, starts as a haunted house type of a story but changes along the way. The story feels a little dragged in some places but when it picks up pace, it goes up a notch. Overall, I liked reading this book. It has a lot of elements to it that keep you invested in the story.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens).

A Tale of Two Cities

-Charles Dickens.


I finally finished reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. There are a lot of things happening in the story with various themes and metaphors; it is a heavy read. I will try my best to explain the story and the literary aspects of it properly as much as I can. The story is set in the two cities of London and Paris during the times of the French Revolution.

The story starts with the release of Dr. Manette from prison after 18 years and is reunited with his daughter Lucie. Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton are two men who are mesmerized by Lucie. Charles and Lucie end up getting married and eventually also have a daughter. Lucie is an innocent and devoted person. She maintains the good in her throughout the story even if the historical and political scenario of the times were ruthless. Dr. Manette has descended into madness during his prison sentence and he finds himself again with his daughter’s devotion towards him. There is an intriguing history to his character but towards the end, he is shown to have lost himself again. His character has faced tragic times, he gets better but then you can never completely escape your past.


Charles Darnay is Charles Evremonde has abandoned his position in the nobility of the French and fled to London. He doesn’t agree morally with the way his family operates and treats people. He does have a strong sense of responsibility and is liberal in his outlook especially considering the time period. Sydney Carton has wasted in youth and is a drunk lawyer who no one has much faith in except Lucie. In the end, he does sacrifice himself to save Lucie and Charles which completes his transformation as a character.


The French Revolution is the main setting of the novel. After years of repression and ill-treatment by French aristocracy, the common people have rebelled. There is never a complete separation of chaos and tyranny from the revolution and that theme plays an important role throughout the story. Through characters like Madame Defarge, Dickens shows that even revolutionists use oppression and violence to meet their goals and that ends up creating a tyrannical situation that they wanted to escape in the first place. The principles of the French Revolution were liberty, equality, and fraternity which were forgotten by the people as the revolution progressed.


The element of sacrifice is also woven throughout the plot. The sacrifice in some cases is personal and in some cases is for the good of the nation. Dr. Manette sacrifices his freedom, Charles sacrifices his wealth and titles but I feel that the ultimate sacrifice comes from Sydney Carton. He sacrifices his life for his love for Lucie which helps Lucie and her family escape from Paris. A Tale of Two Cities doesn’t shy away from the violent and horror elements of this revolution. Dickens has written the novel beautifully and his descriptions vary from beauty to violence effortlessly.


After reading this novel, I realized I had somewhat of a rosy picture of the French Revolution. I was unaware of the extent and gravity of the situation until I read this story. This novel has so many themes and symbols that I haven’t covered here; it is heavy in terms of depth, themes, and even language. The first line of the novel itself is apt about the story “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Even the themes of resurrection and redemption are prevalent throughout the story and different characters represent different elements that add up together in the end.


I liked reading this novel. The historical setting was one of the things that intrigued me about this book and I got a completely new perspective about that particular time in history. It kept me interested but the language at times was a bit heavy because of its diction so it took me a while to finish it. This is a book that had been on my reading list for years and it is a must-read.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Book Review: An Honest Thief (Short- Story) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

An Honest Thief (Short Story)

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky.


I have a book of selected short stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky which includes this story An Honest Thief. I have never read anything written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky before so I thought starting with short stories might be a good idea.

An Honest Thief starts with the narrator taking on a lodger named Astafy Ivanovich, an old soldier. Both of them get along well enough. One day, a thief steals the narrator’s coat and Astafy unsuccessfully tries to stop the thief from getting away. It is after this incidence that Astafy tells the narrator a story about a man named Emelyan Ilyitch; an honest thief. The writing is simple and apt; it has depth and layers but it doesn’t become too much to go on.


Astafy and Emelyan know each other from before but one night in a pub Emelyan wants a drink but doesn’t have any money for it. Astafy feels bad about Emelyan’s situation and buys him a drink. Since then Emelyan follows Asrafy around and even moves in with him. Emelyan has problems that are hinted at right from the introduction but then the gravity of his issues starts to set in for Astafy and the readers as the plot progresses. Astafy is working as a tailor and short on money so he decides to sell a pair of riding breeches made for a wealthy customer which he never collected. The breeches are missing and Astafy suspects Emelyan but he denies.


An honest thief uses the narrative technique of a story within a story. It starts in the present time of Astafy’s life and then he recalls his life events to the narrator. The way it has been described and written, it works well for the story though in the beginning it was slightly confusing but that doesn’t last long. Astafy genuinely wants Emelyan to make a change in his life, for him to quit drinking so much and find a job. Emelyan is a sad and troubled soul, he knows his addiction to alcohol is a problem but he doesn’t seem to want to anything about it. He depends a lot on Astafy and his friendship means a lot to him.


This story has more psychological depth than I expected. Emelyan is a drunk and clearly he has given up on his life, there are hints of some tragedy but it is never made explicit. He is troubled and seems to use alcohol as a crutch. He steals the breech which leads to a fallout between him and Astafy. He leaves the apartment and Astafy can’t find him. When Emelyan returns, he is very cold and starved and sick, Astafy knows his time is limited. Emelyan confesses about the theft to Astafy before he dies; the guilt has tormented Emelyan.


An honest thief is a short story that focuses more on the characters I feel. The title itself is an oxymoron but it kind of makes sense by the end of the story. The characters show how the good and evil that exists in all humans and it is morally in the grey zone. You can’t explicitly say this character is evil and this one is not. It is an interesting read.

*Get a copy of Selected Stories by clicking on the image above.

Book Review: A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams).

A Streetcar Named Desire.

–   Tennessee Williams.

A Streetcar Named Desire has been on my reading wishlist since I studied American Literature for my Masters. Finally, I started reading it and it was worth it. This play was written by Tennessee Williams after World War II.

The story begins when Blanche DuBois decides to stay with her sister Stella and her husband Stanley in New Orleans. From the beginning, as a reader, you can tell that Blanche is hiding something that she is not okay. The signs that she has anxiety are seen from the get-go especially reading now when there is awareness about mental health issues. Stella is careful around Blanche and she knows her sister sensitive. Stanley Kowalski is Stella’s husband. The first impression of his character for me was that he is practical but that changed later.

Blanche and Stella come from an aristocratic Southern family and lived in a big house called the Belle Reve. Stella leaves the house after she falls in love with Stanley and this leaves Blanche responsible for the estate. Blanche is upset when Stella asks about Belle Reve and admits that the house is lost to creditors and now she has nothing. It does seem like she blames Stella a little bit for leaving everything behind for Stanley. When she finds out that Stella is pregnant, she is overjoyed for her sister.

Blanche and Stanley tolerate each other because of Stella but are constantly at odds with each other. Blanche is rude in the beginning about Stanley’s origins being different than theirs and later simply starts thinking of him as a brute. Stanley goes out of his way to poke at her and make her lose her fragile mental balance, he provokes her. Blanche is constantly on edge and slowly is starts unraveling the things that she has been through. She thinks highly of herself that’s evident but she is also vulnerable and scared most of the time. Mitch is Stanley’s friend who Blanche looks at as a potential suitor because she has always sought the protection of men. Mitch leaves her when he finds out things about her past and even tries to force her.

The characters of Blanche, Stella, Stanley, and Mitch all have their unique characterizations that add to the story. Blanche has a tragic past with her husband Trevor who killed himself after she found out about his homosexuality. It definitely indicates that Blanche feels responsible for his death because it follows the confrontation she has with Trevor. She is considered promiscuous by people in the town of Laurel because she seeks men’s company and that’s the reason she comes to New Orleans. Stanley defines the typical masculinity of the age with his behavior. He gets violent when he drinks and even hits Stella but at times she is the only one he is tender to and it is disturbing to read and understand.

The story of the play, the characters, and the setting come together really well. Even the musical cues while reading play a part in the plot though it might be more effective on stage. She is worried about her age and later she stops going out in daylight so people won’t realize her true age. Blanche is taken to a mental institution in the end but the decline of her mental health is evident as the story progresses; when Stanley rapes her it is in a way the last straw for her. Her understanding of reality and her fantasies blend together and she can’t tell the difference anymore. Stella is distraught when Blanche is taken away and regrets agreeing to it. The end is heartbreaking.

I loved reading this play and it is classic for a reason. The symbolism and the themes are subtly interwoven throughout the play which enhances the reading experience. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this play but I was pleasantly surprised. It is a must-read.

*Get you own copy from Amazon by clicking on the cover image above.

Book Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Gaŕcia Marquez).

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Gaŕcia Marquez.

I have read Of Love and Other Demons and short stories written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez before I finally picked up this book. One Hundred Years of Solitude was on my to-be-read list for a long time but I was a little hesitant to actually start reading it. I read some 50 odd pages of the book last year and kept it aside and didn’t touch it again till last month. I had to skim through the previously read pages as a refresher and I am glad I did that otherwise I might have been utterly lost going ahead.

The story of One Hundred Years of Solitude spans for more than a century with seven generations of the Buendia family. It is tricky to explain all the characters in this books as they are many of them and they have same names; I don’t think its possible to explain the plot of the story in brief but I will try to give an overview. It begins when Jose Arcadio and his wife Ursula leave their hometowns to look for a new place to settle. They are the original settlers and founders of Maconda; Jose Arcadio dreams about this place and they build the town. Jose Arcadio is curious by nature and he is obsessed with scientific pursuits and immerses himself completely in his work. Jose Arcadio and Ursula are cousins and Ursula has been warned that incest will eventually lead to a baby being born with a pig’s tail.

The novel is wonderfully written. The magical realism of the writing and the story is what kept me intrigued as I read. The descriptions of the atmosphere and the landscape of Maconda paints a picture in your head as you are reading. You can imagine the town vividly which helped me stick to the story because I could see it play out properly in my head. The element of magical realism shines through the story and the way it progresses seems completely organic. The political and social upheaval in the story is mirrors the reality of our society. I have never read any books before which have the element of magical realism the way it is present in this novel.

The characters, the character traits and their names are repetitive in the story. At first, I had trouble keeping up with all the names and it didn’t exactly get easier as I progressed. Jose Arcadio, Amaranta, Aureliano specifically are names repeatedly used by new generations. It seemed confusing but then I realized that it is on purpose. The Buendia family is stuck in the same old circle of mistakes and decisions through generations. For example – the incestuous tendencies in the family are also present in generations and they end up in incest relationships no matter how hard they resist they can’t break the cycle. The personality traits are also similar in different generations like Aureliano’s are shy and self-reflective, they like being in their own company.

All the secrets that are kept by the family about parentage due to incestuous history end up being the reason that sixth generation Aureliano and his aunt Amaranta Ursula end up marrying when they are unaware of their familial ties and their son in born with a pig’s tail. Its very difficult to explain the themes and story of the book because it is vast and complicated. The family which keeps going in circles and interpretations of time and space in the story are some aspects are understood as I was reading. I might need more time to completely understand the story and all that it encompasses.

There were time where I really had trouble reading this book and I wondered if I should finish it or not. I am glad I stuck it out in those patches because in the end the story comes to full circle and it is intriguing. There are so many elements of the story that I feel went slightly over my head and I’ll have to read about it later. I enjoyed reading the book in parts as sometimes it was slow and I lost patience. I liked the book and the story and the writing but I don’t think it’s a book I’ll pick up again at least not anytime soon. Reading this book is a completely different experience but in a good way.

Book Review: Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte).

Jane Eyre

– Charlotte Bronte.

I bought this book years back and now I have finally read it. I started reading this book last month and was hoping that I can finish it by the month-end; that did not happen. Jane Eyre is set in the England countryside in the 19th century. It is a story of an orphan girl Jane Eyre and it chronicles her life from childhood to an adult. It is a gothic romance.

The plot of Jane Eyre begins at Gateshead Hall with the Reeds, the family of her maternal uncle. Mr.Reed has always shown kindness to Jane but he is unwell and makes his wife Mrs. Reed promise him that will take care of Jane after he passes away. The other Reeds are not fond of her and treat her badly. John Reed bullies Jane constantly, he throws books at her and hits her all the while her aunt remains indifferent towards Jane and her son’s behavior. The treatment of Jane in this part is particularly is difficult to read. She is 10 years old and feels so isolated, unhappy because the only family she knows doesn’t care about her.


Jane is constantly called ill-mannered and bad-tempered because she asks questions and stands up for herself. When her aunt decides to send her to a boarding school Lowood, Jane is happy to leave the Reeds. In a way, it gets better for her when she’s at Lowood, she finds herself but the system of the school is horrible. The punishments, living conditions, rationing of food and the disregard for the girls there by the trustees is disturbing. Helen and Jane become good friends at Lowood and Jane looks to her for support and companionship. When Helen dies you really feel its impact as a reader and for Jane’s character as well.


Jane is quiet but observant; this comes through numerous times once she starts working at Thornfield Hall as a tutor for Adele. This is where I felt like the story picked up its pace. The element of suspense and a sense of something coming is an underlying theme here that pays off later. Mr. Rochester and Jane have chemistry straight away I thought and it was cute. I liked the relationship that develops between them; it happens naturally and their relationship doesn’t seem forced. Jane can be herself with him; otherwise, she is very controlled about her actions and behavior. Jane likes working and living at Thornfield Hall with or without Mr. Rochester being around. She loves spending time with Adele and looks out for her.


Jane and Mr. Rochester accept their feelings for one another. Jane is hesitant to act on her feeling for Mr. Rochester even before and that stays with her a little bit even after Mr. Rochester asks her to marry him and she agrees. On her wedding day, she finds out what Mr. Rochester has been hiding from her and she is heartbroken. He asks her to stay with him despite of her now knowing the truth but she doesn’t agree to it; she knows its morally wrong and runs away. All the suspense and build-up of the thrill of mysterious events at Thornfield is revealed and it is an unexpected twist.


The narration of the novel is in the first person which gives a complete sense of Jane’s character, her emotions and how she reacts to her circumstances. As it is Jane’s story, her being the narrator is the right way. I could find relatable qualities in Jane’s character which made me like her more. It is hard not to feel the same emotions as Jane while reading. She is a unique character with her inquisitiveness, witty humor, morals and principles, opinions and she sees the world as it is and doesn’t harbor utopian concepts about her life. The setting and landscape of the story are rural England and it is a minor character of the novel.

The novel is gothic so the setting and atmosphere play an important role. I loved Jane and Mr. Rochester’s relationship; their love story is an integral part of the plot and is not unexpected but the way it happens is surprising. There is a slow and simmering build-up to their relationship and that’s interesting to read. The twist in their relationship is described in a way that lets us feel the emotions of Jane as well as Mr. Rochester.


It took me a while to finish reading this book because it is lengthy and my version has a fine print which made it impossible to read for hours. But I enjoyed reading this novel. I liked the development of Jane’s character through her decisions, experiences, and relationships. My favorite part of the book is Mr. Rochester and Jane’s love story. The story of this book seems simple but it has so many layers to the plot and characters. It is an intriguing and delightful read.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Book Review: Lord of the Flies (William Golding).

Lord of the Flies

– William Golding.

Lord of the Flies is a book about a group of boys who end up on an inhabited island after a plane crash. In the beginning, the boys are excited to enjoy their freedom without any adults around to supervise them but then things start going haywire.

The plot of the novel seems pretty straightforward but as I read on I started to understand the deeper meanings and themes of the story. This is an allegorical novel and it is intricately layered throughout. The main character of the book is Ralph who kind of becomes a leader of the group of boys with Piggy, an intellectual boy as his sidekick. Jack is a choirboy who at first befriends Ralph, becomes the leader of the hunting party and eventually turns to the dark side.At first, everyone seems to be getting along well enough but eventually, they start drifting apart and then turn against each other.

The story starts taking a dark and twisted turn as it progresses making the reader cringe a little. The theme of good versus evil is the first thing that popped out for me as I was reading. The need to have a civilized order in society is ingrained in all humans and without that order, there is complete chaos. Ralph and Piggy represent the order while Jack and his group embrace the chaos. Survival is another important aspect of the novel.


Every little detail in the book has a purpose; it is symbolic. For example – the conch used by the boys represents the need for a civil order of humans. I found the book a little difficult to read at times due to its pacing and heaviness. The start of the plot is slow and for a few chapters, I had to be patient and continue reading. Then everything starts happening all at once and that keeps you intrigued also giving you an understanding of the chaos on the island in the story. There is so much in the novel I could talk about; half of it I understood completely after I researched the book.


It is difficult for me to say if I like this book or not. Like I said before it is an allegorical novel about the conflicts between savagery and civilization, good and evil, etc. It is interesting to read; understanding slowly the meaning of the novel, the symbols and themes keep you interested. There is so much substance in the story that it becomes heavy to read at a stretch. Though, it is not a book you can read again and again even if you liked it.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway).

The Old Man and the Sea.

-Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway is one of my favorite authors. I have read a couple of books written by him now including this one and really liked it. The Old Man and the Sea is more of a novella than a full-length novel but still just as good.

The novella is a story of an old struggling Cuban fisherman Santiago. As the story begins, Santiago hasn’t caught a fish in 84 days and he is seen as the worst form of unluckiness. A young boy is his apprentice Manolin, whom he encourages to work on successful fishing vessels instead of him. What follows is an epic tale of an old fisherman going head to head with a huge marlin fish. Santiago is so determined to catch this fish and he puts all of his strength to make sure the fish doesn’t slip away from him.

The story has classic elements when it comes to its themes and symbolism. The theme of perseverance, man versus nature, isolation, strength, and skill, past and pride all come into play in this story. Some are more explicit while the others are a bit more subtle but constantly undercurrent to the story. Santiago refuses to give up even when faced with unwinnable odds and is determined to restore his pride and reputation by catching the fish.

The narration of the story is from a third person point of view which I think enabled me to get a complete feel of the overall plot and the characters. Hemingway’s writing style is powerful and descriptive. There are no big words used, the language is fairly simple. It is one of the reasons I personally like his writing style. The descriptions in the novel really give the complete feel of the physical aspects present in the novel. For example- the smells, the rough sea descriptions actually help visualize the scenario.

An unusual tale about a man and a fish resurrected Hemingway’s career and won him awards, praises, and accolades. Hemingway through his powerful writing and timeless thematic aspects make this short story unforgettable.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

My Favorite Short-Stories

My Favorite Short-Stories


Its very difficult for me to finish full-length classic novels at a good place; then I turn to short-stories. I have read quite a few short-stories by now and I have loved almost all of them. As a literature student, we had short-stories as a part of our syllabus and that in a way started my fascination for short fiction. I have listed my absolute favorite short-stories from the ones I have read so far.


1) The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

This was the first story by Edgar Allen Poe that I read and ended up loving it. The narrator of the story who has actually murdered someone is trying to convey to the readers his sanity throughout the story. The murder of the old man by the narrator is planned and then executed by him and it is hinted that the narrator suffers from some form of mental illness. The story is simply amazing with its element of thriller, suspense mixed with the right amount of creepy.

2) Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The story which depicts the dark side of the American dream is my favorite short story by Fitzgerald. In some ways, I did find some aspects of the story similar to The Great Gatsby but that might be because read these two stories back to back. It is slightly longer than I had first anticipated but the plot has a good pace overall and it is an enjoyable read for sure. I liked the fact that we get the see Dexter, the protagonist since the age of 14 and to see the character development was a bonus aspect for me.

3) The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

The story of The Snows of Kilimanjaro is focused on the central character of Harry, a writer, who is in Africa for a safari with his wife but gets injured and is dying of gangrene. The story jumps from the present to the past a few times through its course as Harry thinks about his life. The stream of consciousness narration gives a deeper and complete understanding of Harry’s characters with his flaws and strengths. It is one my all-time favorite short stories.

4) The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

I read The Necklace twice, once in school and then once later. The first time honestly, I didn’t concentrate much, I read it because I had to. The second time I read it, I actually appreciated it. It is simple yet so meaningful. The theme of appearance versus the reality is pretty subtle throughout the plot but it’s a constant. The ending of the story is completely unexpected, I didn’t see it coming and it elevates the story. It is a must read.

5) The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde

A story of a lovestruck boy who must find a red rose for the girl he likes in order to win her heart. The start of the story is pretty simple but then the plot takes an unexpected turn; the nightingale decides to help the boy find a red rose for the girl after he hears the boy’s lamenting. This story shows the materialistic aspect of love. As a reader, one is left thinking if the nightingale’s sacrifice was worth it. It is one of my favorite short stories; sad yet realistic.

These five short stories are my favorites short-stories of the ones I have read as of now. I am sure there will be many additions to this list in the future and there are so many more short stories I haven’t even got around to reading yet.