Literary Mumblings

A few words about the books I’ve read…

Archive for the ‘Classic’ Category

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Posted by Amanda on April 13, 2009


My grandmother has this one used book store that she have been going to for the last couple decades. She goes there regularly and she has brought me there a few times. Each time, I find myself in the classics section because there are so many books there that I can never find in a normal bookstore. I found The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe there and nearly started jumping up and down. I also found some of Solzhenitsyn’s work, which I have been interested in ever since one of my early college classes. At that point, I gave in and selected One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch.

One Day is exactly that: one day in the life of a man in the Soviet Gulag, from the early hours of the morning, through the day at the job, till the final lights out. The reader sees Ivan Denisovitch’s life and how the men there struggled with their circumstances and their fellow men to survive.

I have to say, this book was amazing in it’s simplicity. It was rather short but you saw so much. Solzhenitsyn presents this day as a normal day for Ivan Denisovitch but that normalcy is rather devastating to think about. I suppose the proper word is stark, however overused that term may be.

This was one of the books I really just consumed. I read it very quickly and though I don’t think it is quite right to say that I enjoyed a book about a man’s life in the gulag, I think you will understand me if that is the term I use. I also enjoyed this book for it’s historical messages and for the idea of what could happen when the circumstances found in Soviet Russia are set in motion. Simply, a powerful book and one that I think people should read.



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The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

Posted by Amanda on April 3, 2009

thelovedoneWaugh is one of those classic authors I have heard quite a bit about, even before the recent remake of his most famous book, Brideshead Revisited. I have heard many people say he was a great author, though I can’t seem to remember who any of them were. Anyway, many of his books are also on the Guardian list and so when I saw The Loved One in the used book store my grandmother loves so much, I figured ‘why not?’

The Loved One… Well, I find it difficult to say what this book is about. I suppose the plot mainly revolves around Dennis Barlow, a young Brit who aspires to be a poet but has not been able to write since he arrived in Hollywood. Now, he has taken a job at the Happy Hunting Grounds, a place where you can have your dearly departed pet buried in proper fashion, with a coffin and a minister and all the trappings. When Dennis’s friend commits suicide after losing his job at a production studio, Dennis finds himself at Whispering Glades, a funeral parlour catering to the wealthy, and meets Aimee, a cosmetician he becomes interested in.

I am not really sure how to approach this book. It was well-written and darkly humerous but rather odd. Whispering Glades is practically a monument to death and several of the people who work there seem to be fascinated with the place, far beyond the normal feelings toward a job. I couldn’t really identify with a couple of the characters. Further, there were abrupt jolts in time – for several chapters, we are closely following Dennis as he prepares for the funeral of his friend and suddenly, we are six weeks past the funeral. I suppose part of my hesitation regarding this book is the manner in which it ends. It is rather like going on a journey and when you get to the end, you look back at where you’ve been and wonder how you got there and what the point was. Not exactly like that but I just have the sense of “wait – what just happened here?”

I hope you don’t take this to mean that I disliked the book. I am just unsure of what to think about it, which I suppose is okay. Then again, this has been happening a lot lately and so I wonder if I am looking too deeply into books for something that is not there to find in the first place. Either way, this was a decent classic – not the best I have ever read, but then have my partialities – and I will probably read more of Waugh before making any serious judgment regarding his work.


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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Posted by Amanda on March 27, 2009

Please, sir, I want some more.

Please, sir, I want some more.

My latest goal has been to read a number of the books from the Guardian’s “1000 novels everyone must read”. The list has many great books on it but when I saw that Charles Dickens was there (as he seems to be on every list of great literature) I found that childish distaste rising from memories of beating Great Expectations into a sad little pulp in high school, after which I have never been able to bring myself to read another book by him. Squashing down those feelings, I figured it might be time for me to give the poor man another chance and try reading Oliver Twist; after all, high school was a long time ago and I have (theoretically) matured a bit since then.

As most everyone knows, even if you have never so much a seen a copy of the book, Oliver Twist is about a poor orphan in England, immortalized by the phrase “Please, sir, I want some more.” After this terribly wanton request at the workhouse, Oliver is given as a apprentice to an undertaker who shows him kindnes but he soon finds his way to London, where he is drawn into a den of thieves, led by “the Jew,” also called Fagin.

I am terribly glad I gave Dickens another chance because this was a great book. Even while exposing some of the most horrendous hypocrisy and cruelty, Dickens shows a great, dark sense of humor. He mocks those that he found revolting. Of course, I love that even while showing the dark side of life in London in this time period, Dickens still works in a happy ending for all the good guys. The characters were great and Dickens makes you care, he draws you in to the story. I found myself avoiding the book at times, only because I didn’t want to see another terrible thing happen to the poor orphan Oliver.

All in all, this was a great book and I think I will be much more willing to open another of Dickens’ novels in the nearby future.


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