“A Thousand of our Closest Friends”: Our Mutual Friend Review

“A Thousand of our Closest Friends”: Our Mutual Friend Review

Hey, book lovers! Hope you all are doing well. Today’s review is another class read, but one that, though time-consuming, I enjoyed more than any novel I’ve read in a while. Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend is a staggering 822 pages. Within them lies Dickens’s telltale complexity of plot: he weaves together characters’ stories and makes everything tie coherently together at the end, if with a bit too much optimism for some tastes.

Our Mutual Friend follows the story of figures around London interested in the fate of John Harmon. While returning to inherit his father’s fortune, John is murdered. Slowly, characters concerned in the affair are introduced: John’s will-prescribed future bride, now bereft of her husband; the next-in-line to the Harmon estate; and the well-to-do and the dirt poor who are all linked together in one of Dickens’s delightful story webs.

The narrator is one of the novel’s strongest appeals. Holding a reader’s attention through 822 pages of plot requires an arresting voice. Though his tone shifts throughout the story, the subtlety of it—the sarcasm, satire, and sometimes blatant statements—make for amusing interaction between narrator and reader. Additionally, Dickens’s imagery, specifically in his renown crafting of setting, is expressive and beautifully-worded.

Developing his characters so fully allows Dickens to throw them into scenes together and let the reader witness sparks fly. This was probably my favorite aspect of the novel: watching unique characters verbally spar with one another, and observing the amusing (or bewildering) effects. Thanks to this attention to detail, character deaths are also more effective.

The impressive thing about Our Mutual Friend’s complexities is that it was originally published serially, as all of Dickens’s works were at some time. The impossibility of immediate revision doubtlessly made crafting the novel difficult. In short, I realize why we’re studying this for History of the Novel class; but I also enjoyed it recreationally quite a lot.

Despite its length, the book’s comprehension isn’t too taxing. It’s one that’s best taken in several doses; however, once you get into the rhythm, you may find some of the pages slip by faster than anticipated, as I did. Multiple reads are beneficial, too—in scanning it over a second time for paper research, details and scene layout come to my attention more than they did the first time.

That’s the beauty of well-crafted literary works: they continue to speak into people’s lives long after their first encounters with them. As a Christian, I can only hope and pray that my hard work accomplishes the same results for Christ’s glory.

“A True Disciple”: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy Review (Audiobook)

“A True Disciple”: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy Review (Audiobook)

This review excites me to share with you. Eric Metaxas’ book is neither light nor short; but it’s absolutely rewarding and worth the read. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who spoke into and lived during the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich, represents a group of people little recognized by history: Germans who opposed the Nazis and stood firmly by the resounding truth of the Biblical Gospel.

This biography of Bonhoeffer is thoroughly researched—the in-depth account of his life, from a small child through his final days in his thirties—provides a detailed portrait of Dietrich. Metaxas includes extensive excerpts from Bonhoeffer’s writings and words, presenting his beliefs in their complexity. Additionally, Bonhoeffer’s life is surrounded by a rich and impressive context. The author effectively describes Germany politically, ecclesiastically, nationally, and in other spheres of life. Metaxas takes us step by step through the pre-war, World War II, and a small bit of the post-war happenings: it’s well-paced and takes time developing persons and arguments.

The narration is humorous and somber at appropriate times. The word choice is exquisite: he selects descriptive language and even subtly mocks certain figures through diction, which I found quite enjoyable.

As for the audiobook component, this is only my third audiobook; but it’s perhaps my favorite in terms of delivery. Bonhoeffer is a 22-hour-long experience read by Malcolm Hillgartner. His voice is soothing and expressive. The reading is excellent, especially given the abundance of German terms. This is the principally challenging part: as audio, the text, which is chock-full of German language, can be overwhelming. One virtually cannot remember every name and place. However, since prominent names are repeated often, the important ones stick in the listener’s mind. Overall, I wouldn’t say this affects the story too much.

And now, for Bonhoeffer himself. This man is remembered and presented in a way that’s both admirable and sympathetic, relatable and inspiring. The readings of his sermons made me admire his theological acuity. He wasn’t afraid to be bold, or tell the truth despite discomfort. Bonhoeffer didn’t waste time: he was extremely productive and passionate about being involved—about caring for people. He preached taking up one’s cross, and actually displayed it. Bonhoeffer’s adamancy about being faithful to God’s Word, and His will, is completely applicable to today.

At the same time, he was a charming, sweet figure: he loved to have fun, make music, play games, and avidly read and wrote. Dietrich thought deeply. I don’t want to reveal his words or events of his life here, because the book does such a good job of that. But it’s clear that Bonhoeffer remained brave, discerning, and resolute until his execution in 1945. The accounts of his last days in the book are heart-rending.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an example to generations of Christians that come after him. He inspires us to think, to reason, to find the niche(s) in which God wants to use us, to learn, and to become, ultimately, more wholly devoted to Christ.

This book is an engrossing read: I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to pick up his or her next historical or theological piece.

“Gothic Comedy”: Northanger Abbey Review

“Gothic Comedy”: Northanger Abbey Review

Jane Austen has had mixed reception since her lifetime, and still does. Of her novels, Northanger Abbey is the first written and the last published. Why the inverted order? Her publisher sat on the purchased draft for 13 years. Finally, Austen tried to buy it back from him, to no avail. Her brother ended up publishing the work after her death– thus, it was her final novel to be revealed. 

Northanger Abbey is seen by some as the most lighthearted of her works. Maybe this is because of her youth at the time, or simply the essence of the novel. Catherine Morland, a high-school-age young woman who’s lived with her family in the country her whole life, is introduced to urban, formal society during a summer in Bath. She meets several friends, including the Tilneys, who invite her to stay at their homestead, an old abbey with the kind of gothic elements Catherine’s been reading about in novels. Her imagination is keen, and Northanger seems a perfect, yet mysterious, place to entertain it.

Contrasting with heroines Austen later writes, Catherine is a commoner. Neither her financial upbringing, nor her manners, thought, and personality are refined. Though she’s been naturally improving as she grows, there’s a level of naivety that’s authentic, refreshing, and a bit charming (in a condescending way). The storyline is light, if predictable for those familiar with Austen, and quick. Descriptions are intriguing; and the narrative schemes make the narrator feel like an engrossing aspect of the story.

Here are a few funny/sweet quotes: 

“Although our productions [novels] have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried… ‘And what are you reading, Miss–?’ ‘Oh! it is only a novel!’ replies the young lady; while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame…or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.” (36-37).

“No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.” (143). 

“Oh! no, not flirts. A woman in love with one man cannot flirt with another.” (143).

If you’ve read Jane Austen, which of her novels is your favorite? Or if you’ve seen the movies, which one of those do you like? 

Leave me a comment, and have a good day. 🙂 

Original Fiction?

Original Fiction?

Hello, all! Thanks for stopping by my humble writing blog. Usually, reviews are the norm here, as are works of fan fiction every blue moon (hence the shameless Portal moon joke). Today, however, I have a small piece of news which deviates from these topics.

I’m participating (and wincing a little as I type this because of university) in NaNoWriMo this November. Contrary to my usual choice to do the summer sessions, NaNo inspiration has gripped me. Maybe it was re-watching my Camp NaNo vlog from July; maybe it was thinking about networking with other writers. Maybe it was the notion of simply updating my word count and watching those encouraging little graph bars rise…

Whatever the case, this session for me will be different in a significant way: this is the first session I am not writing fan fiction for any franchise! A lot of my ideas compiled on my laptop are original; but as to completing these manuscripts, I haven’t yet done that. The manuscripts I’ve finished up to now have been novels for the Invader Zim and Portal franchises specifically. This November, I’m going to attempt to finish a first draft of something different.

Now, with school and volunteering and socializing and family and sleep and life, I make no promises as to my word count goal or expectations. What I will say is that I’m planning on riding the NaNo inspiration train as far as it’ll take me. And this is a perfect little plug for this cutie pie:

planner_badge

Yay for planning! (And a little pantsing too, because come on, who doesn’t like spontaneity? “Pantsing” is a writing term, by the way. Look it up. XD)

So, who out there is looking ahead excitedly to November? Are you a planner or a pantser (or something in between)? What’s your story going to be about? Here’s the link to mine!

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/h_olson14/novels/wharton-s-account

Leave me a comment and have a great day!

Hannah ❤