January Reading Recap

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I am blatantly stealing this idea from The Perks of Being a Bookworm, but I’ve been negligent of my poor blog this week (in which nobody is surprised ever, I’m basically the less funny American version of Nat from communitychannel, who gets comments like, “Nat, you’re like an alcoholic father, as soon as we get used to you being around you leave us again”), and I want to regularly update y’all on the books I read this year. Also, one of my resolutions is to review books, which I haven’t properly done yet.

The Vicar of Wakefield

 The Vicar of Wakefield is a book about a vicar (obviously) and his family, and their various misfortunes. The Vicar is very self-assured in his own righteousness and that of his family, and ironically this confidence in virtue that they don’t actually have leads them into many pitfalls—some hilarious and some cringeworthy. The Vicar is sometimes compared with Job from the Bible, a concept at which I laughed probably too much. The Vicar is in no way like Job, patiently enduring the evils in his life for love of God. I’m sure the Vicar thinks of himself as a kind of Job, but most of the evils in his life are his own fault. That being said, he is well-meaning; once he actually attains humility and, after falling so far, finally has a firm grasp on the virtues he’s always thought himself to have, his life picks up. It’s also admirable how he wants the best for his family and loves them unconditionally, even if he is too foolish to do what’s best for them at times.

In all honesty, I did not enjoy this book. I had to read it for school and it reminded me excessively of Emma in so many respects, but almost worse in that its plot was dull for a good 70% of the book and every character was unbearable and unlikeable and impossible to empathize with. I just wanted to be done. At the same time, I can see the merits of the book, and the discussion that followed it was interesting. I rated it two stars, allowing myself to dislike it.

The Beautiful and Damned

Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, stars Anthony Patch and Gloria Gilbert, a couple who scorn nearly every other human being alive and yet are miserable themselves. Their romance is built completely upside-down and this book recounts the story of their explosive and disastrous marriage. Fitzgerald writes masterfully, somehow making two completely horrible and unlikeable people relatable and forcing you to care about them. I was stunned and how much I empathized with Gloria, even though I agreed with her on nothing and was often disgusted by her and how cruel she could be. Anthony doesn’t even have redeeming qualities of meaning well, but you somehow care an awful amount about him too (even though you also spend the whole book wanting to kill him). Unlike Gatsby, where the inevitable train wreck of a conclusion comes out of nowhere and takes you by surprise (even though you vaguely expected it), you can feel this train wreck building for the entirety of The Beautiful and Damned, but the unbelievably powerful conclusion still manages to completely slam you in the chest and knock you senseless.

Man. Fitzgerald. Flawless.

I loved this book, unsurprisingly. I love Fitzgerald, I would love him for his writing alone, as I’ve said before, but this story was so moving and such an absolute tragedy that I was blown away. Four stars.

Heaven to Betsy & Betsy in Spite of Herself

This definitely isn’t my usual speed of book—in fact, I was basically in the process of picking up The Brothers Karamazov when my friend Sophie ordered me to drop everything and read this series. Of course, I’ve only read the first two so far, but I am planning on finishing it this year. This book is actually two books in one, following Betsy Ray’s freshman and sophomore year in high school and her ensuing adventures. In Heaven to Betsy, Betsy starts high school and deals with the average teenage dramas (making and breaking friendships, balancing school and fun, and boys) without being trite or preachy or overdone. Betsy in Spite of Herself is a classic example of being true to oneself. It seems self-evident, but so many young girls still struggle with pressures to conform and are invariably unhappy with their inability to be comfortable in their own skin.

Although this book is set in the early 1900s, Betsy’s problems, dreams, and experiences are all incredibly relatable. She doesn’t feel stuffy and old-fashioned; she feels like your literary best friend, going through the same things you are and offering you companionship along the way. Sophie told me these books are an essential part of growing up, and I think they are—it makes me wish I had read them at the age of Betsy and Tacy, because reading them now just means I relate to Betsy’s older sister more than anyone else. (“I’m off to see the great world!”) I loved these books, I definitely recommend them to any girl in high school, even if you’re a senior, they’re honestly good for the soul.

I’m currently reading a couple books right now (check my Goodreads widget in the sidebar), and I hope to have them all finished by the end of February. I have two flights in the next week, so that should give me plenty of reading time.

Thanks for reading, and best wishes!
Hero

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