Monthly Archives: May 2012

Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Pride and Prejudice is arguably one of the most satisfying love stories ever written (see what I did there?). It’s the story of the irrepressible Elizabeth Bennet, and her struggles with affection, virtue, and most importantly, pride and prejudice.

Elizabeth Bennet is a well-bred young woman from a slightly dysfunctional family in 19th Century England. She is one of five daughters, a plight that her father, a respectable country gentleman, bears as best he can, with common sense and a general disinterest in the silliness of his daughters. It it apparent that Elizabeth (or Lizzy) is his favorite because of her level-headed approach to life, when his own wife’s greatest concern is getting her daughters married off to well-established (and very wealthy) gentlemen. Only Jane, Elizabeth’s older sister, is nearly as sensible and practical as Elizabeth, but Jane is also the beauty of the family, and therefore, Mrs. Bennet’s highest hope for a good match.

When Mr. Bingley, a young gentleman of London, takes a country estate near to the Bennet’s home, Mrs. Bennet begins her match-making schemes without any trace of subtlety or dignity. Despite Mrs. Bennet’s embarrassing interference, Mr. Bingley and Jane become fond of one another on their own accord. Mr. Darcy, who has accompanied Bingley to the country, begins his acquaintance with Elizabeth, her family, and their neighbors with smug condescension and proud distaste for all of the “country” people. Elizabeth, learning of his dislike, makes it a point to match his disgust with her own venom. She also hears from a soldier (with Darcy family ties) that Darcy has misused the man. Without [really] thinking through the story, Elizabeth immediately seizes upon it as another, more concrete way to hate Mr. Darcy. She contradicts and argues with Darcy each time they meet, but somewhere along the way he begins to have kind feelings towards Elizabeth.

Through a series of unfortunate and captivating events, things turn out for the better as pride and prejudice is overcome, and the truth is revealed.

Jane Austen is a fantastic writer, and I believe Pride and Prejudice deserves most of the hype it has been given. Elizabeth Bennet is not unlike the author’s own character, which lets the reader relateFor me, personally, I felt as if there was something lacking… perhaps I was craving a little more depth and thoughtfulness, and not as much tea-time in the parlor <insert sarcasm> But, this is a romance novel, reaching out to the female audience (typically), so I will give it a clean break and call it a book well-worth the read. Just make sure you’re in the mood.

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The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling

First of all, I just want to say that the Harry Potter series will never quite measure up to Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia (for me, anyway). I mean, really, you can’t get a whole lot better than Gandalf. He is the the Alpha & Omega of the wizarding world.

Also, Harry Potter isn’t real. Nor should Dark Magic be taken lightly. Kids, do not try this at home.

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which means that I have now read every Harry Potter book (in a week! I’m so proud of myself). Thus, it is time for me to share my thoughts on the subject. And so begins my humble little review…

I love the Harry Potter series. From the first chapter to the very last sentence, I was completely enraptured and at the end, I was practically begging for more. Really, when the last page came, I kept leafing through the blank pages, hoping there would be one last tidbit of the experience for me to enjoy. I truly felt like a little kid.

I believe J.K. Rowling is nothing short of a genius when it comes to twenty-first century, modern-day children’s writing. Move over, Suzanne Collins (no offense to Hunger Games fans). She weaves her tale like an expert, without fusses or frills. I absolutely love her straight-forward writing style… it seems nothing can be missed, yet there is so much enter-twined. It’s deceptive, really.

It’s as though the books are a potion that she, Rowling herself, concocts. It starts solidly with Harry, a remarkably unassuming kid who’s got “hero of mythical proportions” written all over him. Though he’s not the most stunning or all-powerful hero you’ll ever encounter, he’s more of a down-to-earth kid, temper flaws written all over him, with a personality that I think most kids can relate to. But he’s also got the good traits that every hero needs; he’s courageous, clever, and resourceful. Plus, he’s got a special talent in the form of magical powers, and a noble and mysterious birth. He’s wounded – a big one in similar myths – not just physically (as evidenced by the scar on his forehead), but emotionally as well, due to the death of his parents, not to mention a tortured upbringing by uncaring relations that rivals Cinderella’s, humorously. But most important of all, as was hinted right from the start by Dumbledore himself, he’s got one heck of a destiny. All this comes together to introduce a character the reader immediately bonds with (as I did).

Next into the potion goes a heavy dose of realism – the kind of everyday stuff recognized by almost every kid in the world, but WAIT! You, gentle reader, are never allowed to get comfortable in the world of the often stupid, ever-boring Muggles (non-wizards), because you’re not one of them, are you? Of course not. You know better, because Rowling blends in the essence of magical fantasy with such skill, that Harry’s world literally shimmers with it. Because you’re not a Muggle, you can see it all around you as you read.

The rest of the ingredients are just as high in quality, from the magical, mysterious yet somehow familiar Hogwarts School (which, in some ways, reminds me of Cambridge), to the friends that help Harry get through it all, to the exciting conclusion. Now, of course, I think everyone (including myself) has to fight their ‘Muggle’ tendencies and indulge in a little suspension of disbelief to get the full enjoyment of the story. One might have trouble getting past the fact that such occurrences as motorcycles flying over London or entire groups of people who vanish into thin air at train stations, go virtually unnoticed. The exact purpose of the wizards trained at Hogwarts in relation to the rest of the world is never really explained (well, except in some vague reference to the further study and possible control of the other preternatural-type creatures creatures, such as dragons, zombies, and vampires who also go unnoticed by the Muggle world). But hey, it’s a book. And Rowling serves it all up with that deceptive writing style that I mentioned that sparks a response deep in the subconscious mind, drawing the reader in and holding on tight. The fact is, this story isn’t just read, it’s experienced. That’s where the magic really reveals itself.

I wish I could say more about the many sidekicks and supporting characters in this book, but I’ll leave it unsaid and let you read the books on your own…

Now I’ll change the subject just slightly.

I suppose I’m sitting on the fence right now, since, as you can tell, I’m partly in love with Harry Potter; but at the same time, I have some reserves. Many hold that Harry Potter is evil because it makes witchcraft seem ‘fun’ or ‘good’, and still others hold that Harry Potter is actually trying to teach kids to be witches and/or Satanists. These opinions, I think, make a great deal of sense; but I don’t agree with them. Harry Potter is a fantasy book for children. Magic has long been a way to gain kids’ attention and appeal to their imagination, we all know it! From Tolkien and Lewis to Walt Disney, magic has been a part of every child’s life for quite a while now. If one is to reject Harry Potter, then Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Cinderella, and Mickey Mouse should also be rejected. However, the main reason that opinion is wrong is because Harry Potter is fake. Any kid will figure this out the minute he picks up a stick and tries to get it to unlock doors or cast spells. In the real world, a twig is just a twig. The witchcraft the Bible warns us about is not flying on brooms and trying to cast spells, because that’s fake. I’m pretty sure the Bible warns us about us trying to communicate with demons and having a familiar spirit, and that is nowhere to be found in Harry Potter. Now, on the other hand, some think that Harry Potter is full of ‘Christian’ images, and that the books have always meant to follow a Christian path, blah blah blah. I think they’re also wrong. I’m pretty sure Rowling wasn’t trying to send kids a gospel message. Rowling does teach that evil must be opposed and doing nothing in the fact of evil is wrong. She makes a great deal about self-sacrifice, and has a steady theme about free-will and choice, which I personally think are all important in a kid’s upbringing/life. But no, I don’t think the Harry Potter series is explicitly (there’s no reference to God at all!), nor implicitly Christian. Not that that’s a bad thing, I’m just throwing that out there for the people that think there’s more to it than Rowling meant.

One more little tiny complaint; I think Rowling leaves several things dangling and unfinished that should’ve been resolved! I know, I know; people think the books are long enough as they are. But, for example (and this really disappointed me), she introduced the idea of freedom for house elves (S.P.E.W.! Gotta love 12-year-old Hermione), as far back as year two. It’s a thread that quietly weaves its’ way through the books… there’s not a huge emphasis, but it’s most definitely there. She clearly returns to it in book seven. Yet, all we see is that Ron has changed his mind on where he stands. In the epilogue, when they’re all grown up, we see no reference to the elves or their plight. The same is said for the goblin and wizard relationship, which is brought out in book seven. They are exposed and then dropped, and I was really looking forward to how that little episode was going to end! Now, did this epic battle between good and evil expose faults in the society in which the wizards live? Yes, it did. Did this epic battle cause the society to change for the better? Well, sadly, the reader has no idea. The conclusion also leaves us to wonder – what exactly does Harry Potter do now that he’s all grown up? Did he ever go back and finish school? Did he become the Auror that he’d always dreamed of being? Just a sampling of the many questions that are just left hanging. <sigh>

IMO, this series isn’t for younger kids because of the massive amount of death, and the lack of clarity about evil and how it is fought. I think the kid should be old enough to be able to discern this stuff on their own. I’m kinda glad I read them at this age (15), that way I could actually put it into perspective.

Well, that’s what I think. And really, past all of the drama that has developed over the years and small complaints on my own behalf, I enjoyed it. A lot. In fact, I might even read the series again at some point. In the end, this series is Star Wars set on a magical (and very British) earth, rather than far, far, far away. Yeah, I think it deserves the hype that it got.

Well, that crosses seven books off of my list! On to Pride & Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird. And lots of homework.

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