June’s Novel Picks

Hello! For June I have two books that I have had my eye on for a while. These books are completely different in every aspect, however, show the brutality of discrimination in social class and gender. (Perfect for a novel comparison essay!). They are…

Ignore the scruffy nail polish!

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

– summary by Goodreads

“My satire is against those who see figures and averages, and nothing else,” proclaimed Charles Dickens in explaining the theme of this classic novel. Published in 1854, the story concerns one Thomas Gradgrind, a “fanatic of the demonstrable fact,” who raises his children, Tom and Louisa, in a stifling and arid atmosphere of grim practicality.

Without a moral compass to guide them, the children sink into lives of desperation and despair, played out against the grim background of Coketown, a wretched community shadowed by an industrial behemoth. Louisa falls into a loveless marriage with Josiah Bouderby, a vulgar banker, while the unscrupulous Tom, totally lacking in principle, becomes a thief who frames an innocent man for his crime. Witnessing the degradation and downfall of his children, Gradgrind realizes that his own misguided principles have ruined their lives.

Considered Dickens’ harshest indictment of mid-19th-century industrial practices and their dehumanizing effects, this novel offers a fascinating tapestry of Victorian life, filled with the richness of detail, brilliant characterization, and passionate social concern that typify the novelist’s finest creations.

Of Dickens’ work, the eminent Victorian critic John Ruskin had this to say: “He is entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book he has written; and all of them, but especially Hard Times, should be studied with close and earnest care by persons interested in social questions.”

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

– Summary by Goodreads

A powerful contemporary novel set in London from a master of literary fiction.

London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Over seven days we follow the lives of seven major characters: a hedge fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube train driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop.

With daring skill, the novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. Greed, the dehumanising effects of the electronic age and the fragmentation of society are some of the themes dealt with in this savagely humorous book. The writing on the wall appears in letters ten feet high, but the characters refuse to see it — and party on as though tomorrow is a dream.

Sebastian Faulks probes not only the self-deceptions of this intensely realised group of people, but their hopes and loves as well. As the novel moves to its gripping climax, they are forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit

Book Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Title: Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott

Publisher: Roberts Brothers

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

Background

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.


Review:

This is the perfect winter/rainy day book! I loved curling up on my chair, under a massive blanket and a hot drink next to me, reading this cosy book. I was immediately in love with the selfless characters and their admiration for each hobby they possessed (as a writer, my favourite character was obviously Jo). It wasn’t thrilling or climatic but the slow, realistic story, made it gratifying and inspiring. I don’t normally like books that don’t have an exciting incident, which made me reluctant to read this but it didn’t disappoint!

Of course, this is a classic! And, most people have read this novel or watched the numerous movies based on it, so, I won’t bore you on another review but it’s a great evening, wind-down book (if you’re like me and a bit late on reading the classic novels or maybe this is encouraging you to dig it out again!). I will definitely be picking it up later to reread it.

(Probably shouldn’t say this on a book review but the new movie was motivational and I loved every second! It made me work and start writing again the next day! I recommend that too, shhh)


If you’re interested in buying the book ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott, you can purchase it here!