“Far from the Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd(Author: Thomas Hardy) + (Year: 1874) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I borrowed this book from a friend who is a great admirer of Victorian literature. As we shared a liking for similar books from the period, I assumed that I will also like Far From the Madding Crowd.

Unlike the books from the Victorian era that I do like, however, Far From the Madding Crowd sorely lacked in the field of characters. Generally, for me, at least, in this particular time period, books rely most of all on their characters. The stories are rather similar, with poor and rich falling in and out of love with each other and fighting against their judgmental society for their love, gullible girls getting tricked by wicked men, stubborn, beautiful women refusing to obey to the rules that their family and society enforce on them, young, brave heroes fighting for the love of fair maidens, etc. etc. So, in short, it’s all about love and romance and the tragedy of forbidden or unrequited love.

Right! Therefore, what would differentiate a good book from a bad one? Why, the characters, of course. Everyone has rooted for Lizzie and Mr. Darcy or felt conflicted about Cathy and Heathcliff. And then there were Bathsheba, Gabriel, Mr. Boldwood and Sgt. Troy. Count those again if you want.

To say that I disliked Bathsheba would be a great understatement. I felt that she was quite probably the most overrated female character in Victorian literature ever. She was described as unbelievably beautiful, but also very smart, stubborn, brave and strong. Out of those last four adjectives, only stubborn would apply to her, and I would use it in a negative, rather than positive way (as it is in the book). Bathsheba has next to no reason to do almost anything she does. Every single time she does something and the author offers us a glimpse into her thought-process, she just sits around wondering how to make people like her more, deciding not to be a bitch and then being one anyway. And I would also remark that her mood swings, which Hardy thinks are a way to show us her personality, are really not that. She is extremely inconsistent, selfish and at times, for the lack of a more gentle way to put it, plain dumb. There are about 20 moments that I can think of on the top of my mind in which she makes the most stupid decisions and Hardy somehow makes it seem to the reader and all of the other characters like her decision is actually reasonable. For example: Bathsheba rejects every man who proposes to her and is a normal guy, because… uh, one of them is poor, and the other one is rich, and something something… And then comes along a handsome jerk that everyone tells her to stay away from and boom, she’s ready. In all honesty, it is a thing which happens in real life, however usually the bad guy is really not that open about his promiscuity or his wickedness. Then she decides to break up with him, makes a rash decision to go in the middle of the night to another city altogether, as she is in a hurry to break things off, and comes back married to him. It might seem like there would be a reason for that marriage which would later be revealed, right? Well, there is – because she is a silly little girl and he tells her he already likes other women, so she decides that that is not a reason to dump him, but rather, one to marry him.

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Many make it seem like Bathsheba is a victim in everything that follows in the book, but I would strongly disagree. Her choices put her in a horrible situation and there’s literally no one else to blame, because in this particular case the actions of everyone around her which cause her pain could have been prevented by her.

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Both Sgt. Troy and Mr. Boldwood were terrible people, as well. Troy was vile and greedy and Boldwood was quite possibly a rapist-to-be. In one particular scene at the end of the book I personally felt suffocated by the forcefulness of his desire for Bathsheba.

Gabriel Oak was the one character that I did felt sympathy for, as he was the only person in the entire book who actually possessed common sense. His loyalty, however, was greatly misplaced in the hands of Bathsheba and for that I felt a tad annoyed as well.

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“After You” by Jojo Moyes

After You (Me Before You, #2)(Author: Jojo Moyes) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

So… here’s the thing: at the time I read Me Before You, I did not like it. Mostly because of the choices the characters made. Because I thought Will was selfish, because I thought this can’t be it for his life and their relationship, etc. etc.

However, I think my view of the world has changed since then. Maybe I have become somewhat bitter about relationships? Or less trusting of the complete dedication of people to each other? Well, anyway, now I think I would have liked Me Before You more in my current mindset.

So eventually, I decided to read the sequel and see what will happen.

The thing is… Louisa can’t carry the weight of the book for me. She is not really a full character. She lacks her own incentive, her own opinions and her own purpose. What she has the most of are emotions. Outside of that, she really needs other people to push her story forward.

That’s what After You was all about, as well. Without spoiling it, I would say that the young girl Louisa takes care of is basically the thing that makes the story of this book. This story though… It was a bit out there. To me, it felt very strange and off-putting to read about Lily’s past and her as a person and all of that.

And then there was the fact that although Will died, this story was all about him, too. At some point, I started thinking about how briefly Louisa knew him and how deeply he impacted her life. Of course, I think that it’s possible someone you knew for a short time to change your life, but the thing is, whomever she knew, it was not even Will as he was for the biggest part of his life. It was some version of him that existed only for a short period of time and only because it had to, and not because Will actually wanted to change. Time and again Louisa thinks and talks about how much she could talk to Will about, how much she could share with him and so on, but that’s a rather exaggerated version of what actually went on in Me Before You.

Basically, this entire book felt off. It felt wrong and awkward and forced. I don’t think I will be reading the next installment unless a couple of years pass and I start re-thinking my life choices again.

“The Firebird” by Susanna Kearsley

The Firebird (Slains, #2)(Author: Susanna Kearsley) + (Year: 2013) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Another book I’ve had for a really long time and just now decided to read. Well… I wouldn’t have missed out on much, had I not read it.

The Firebird was not terrible, but it just wasn’t anything special whatsoever. It was bland and long and not very eventful. While I expected the characters’ powers to be an important driving force of the book, they seemed more like background noise, while the main story was that of the character of Anna, who was just a little girl caught in an a somewhat exciting period of history.

I will not pretend that I was familiar with the historical background of the book, because in all honesty, it was something that Bulgarian history books must have considered somewhat irrelevant to us. Therefore, I managed to learn some interesting facts about the struggles in Scotland, Ireland and England, and also a great bit about the history of the Russian empire and St. Petersburg. From this point of view, the book was more or less entertaining.

But that’s where it all ended.

The actual story was not even that of a main character of the abovementioned events. Anna was just a nice girl who knew all the right people. The other characters in the book all seemed to be greatly attached to her, but I just couldn’t understand why. Her charm remained a mystery to me, and so did everyone’s infatuation with her.

I felt more or less the same about the other two main characters, Nicola and Rob. I think I would have liked to read a bit more about them so that I can actually be interested in at least one storyline in the book, but they were just as shallow of characters, as Anna seemed to me.

While The Firebird didn’t suffer from any spectacular flaws, unfortunately, it didn’t have any great virtues either. So much so that I’m afraid I will have forgotten all about it in a couple of months’ time.

 

“Kuyruklu Yıldız Altında Bir İzdivaç” by Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar

Kuyruklu Yıldız Altında Bir Evlenme(Author: Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar) + (Year: 1912) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Turkey)


Review:

The title of this book translates as “a marriage under a comet”, the comet in question being the Halley comet. The story follows the lives of several people, who are preparing for the coming of the Halley comet, some of them terrified of the end of the world, and some, taken by the fire of love.

I was rather curious about the book, as it is considered one of the classics of Turkish literature, with the author being one of the people who are still studied in school and university. I can imagine how this book was progressive and unexpected for its time, however, in our age, it seems very grotesquely simplistic in terms of interpersonal relations. The relationship between the main characters develops in a very absurd, intentionally or not so, way, with the main character falling in love with the girl by the end of her first letter to him.

For the life of me, I could not do anything but strongly dislike Irfan Galip, who was the epitome of a daft male who thinks himself intelligent and progressive, while at the same time acting like he is so much better than everyone else, women most of all. His dismissive attitude toward the woman’s desires to be treated as an equally intelligent individual frustrated me so much. Even today I have received that attitude from men and I couldn’t help but hate seeing it in this book, too: “I believe that women are just as smart as men, but please shut up when I speak and leave the men to fix this.” It’s the same thing that I’ve seen with people in highly religious countries who say “I’m atheist, but it would be highly immoral for my sister to be a waitress because it goes against the foundations of society.” IT DOES? Or does it, perhaps, go against the religious beliefs that are so deeply ingrained in you that you don’t even realize that you are abiding by them?

One thing I did approve of however, was the depiction of the woman who, despite everything, was trying to be emancipated and well-read. At the time this book was written, the place of the woman in the Ottoman empire was not in the university or the library, so I can only imagine how shocking it was that the author challenged that position of the woman in his world.

“Geekerella” by Ashley Poston

Geekerella(Author: Ashley Poston) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Geekerella is a pretty cute retelling of the classical fairytale. I was immediately drawn to it because I’m a sucker for this type of books. I can say that although I have enjoyed similar novels more, I still liked Geekerella.

Since we are all familiar with Cinderella, I will not get into the story behind Geekerella, except that it’s obviously a modern-day version of the story, pumpkin truck and all.

I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between this and A Cinderella Story, one of my favourite movies during my pre- and early teens. Both movies approach the story in a modern way, but they don’t have much more than that in common. So in this sense, Geekerella succeeded in adding originality to the famous narrative.

I also liked the way the author built the main characters. They were well-written and thought-through. My favourite character, however, was one that might have gone under the radar. The dog. He was amazing. No… he was… a good boy!

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The characters that I didn’t like were also the ones that were not very well written, in all honesty. Like Elle’s mother or Darien’s father. They were pretty important to the plot. Just as Chloe was. And yet, all “bad” people in the book seemed a bit shallow and there were no real reasons for their actions. This was probably the main drawback in Geekerella. Once the story was adapted to modern days, it needed a valid reason to be the way it is. In the fairtytale, a character like the evil step-mother makes sense, but that’s not exactly so if the setting is contemporary. It needs a lot more explaining in order to seem as plausible as the feelings of Elle which were the result of her step-mom’s actions.

As for the fandom story. Well… I do believe in the power of the fandom, and I have been and still am in some fandoms myself. Yet, it seems a bit hard for me to actually imagine passion as strong as Elle and Darien’s. To know everything about a show in such extent, as well as to be completely submerged in the world of the fandom, seems a bit excessive and while I’m not judging or mocking anyone, I do admit that I simply have a hard time understanding it.