November Reads

It seems to be a mission impossible for me to remember to post on the last day. I will try and correct this, just give me time…

I have been trying to fit reading for pleasure among all the reading for school, and the endeavour has been somewhat successful after I issued the “nine to twelve in the evening is reading time”. This reading time has sadly been invaded by World Film History lectures on Mondays and a couple of Christmas parties towards the end of the month.

But I have had time to read after all. So here are the books and the usual ramblings.

I’d seen Dan Abnett’s Triumff – Her Majesty’s Hero at my usual bookstore one time, and contemplated buying it, but never did. When I wanted it, they didn’t have it anymore. But when I saw it at Forbidden Planet in London I had to get it.

Rupert Triumff is an adventurer recently back from Australia. The year is 2010, and Queen Elizabeth XXX reigns the old fashioned Anglo-Hispanic country of Britain. There is a devious plan to kill her, and Sir Rupert is needed to prevent this disaster – with help from friends, of course.

The back cover promises swashbuckling, but I felt the book fell a little short in that respect. This shortcoming was forgiven, however, because nothing beats a nice conspiracy. Abnett’s style reminded me of Terry Pratchett at times, especially when it came to humour – and this is not a bad thing, since I’ve been a Pratchett fan for years. This book is a nice, easy read that keeps you entertained.

I just wish there had been more swashbuckling.

Published: Angry Robot 2009

Pages: 363

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote part 1 was one of the three required books for Comparative Literature I read this month. It is a story of a man, Don Quixote, who reads too many stories about knights, goes crazy and fancies himself a knight and leaves his home to make a name for himself. With him goes his naïve servant Sancho Panza, and together they run into all sorts of misfortunes. On their travels they hear stories, and slowly these stories are woven together into one storyline.

Had it not been a required read I might have enjoyed it more. Cervantes has clearly done his homework when it comes to the genre of chivalry romance and mocks the clichés throughout the story.

Gustave Doré’s pictures are always charming. The ones in Don Quixote might be my favourites so far.

First published: 1605

Pages: 603

Translation: J. A. Hollo 1927

Next on my list of required reading was Voltaire’s Candide. I expected something very philosophical and, seeing as it is not a very long book, something difficult. Turned out it was a pretty straightforward read. Candide is a young man who falls in love with Cunégonde. After her father finds out Candide is thrown out of the castle and is left to wander the world. He sees many places, meets many people, is reunited with his love and so forth.

I read the book very quickly, perhaps too quickly, because I’m having a hard time summarising it. It did not strike me as anything wonderful, even though I usually enjoy satire. My favourite character was Candide’s teacher Pangloss, who is of the opinion that all is well in the world, even when nothing is well.

This book will benefit from it if you take your tiem reading it and thinking about it. It is not bad, and I dare say it would be much nicer in French. I was distracted by the translation, since the translator was the same as in Don Quixote. The style did not change between books.

First published: 1759

Pages: 135

Translation: J. A. Hollo 1953

The last required book was Johann Wolfgang van Goethe’s the Sorrows of Young Werther, a sentimental epistolary novel from the beginning of the Romantic period. It’s the story of Werther, who falls in love with a married woman and then suffers all kinds of agonies over her. The letters are mostly directed to his friend Wilhelm, to whom he pours out his heart and tells of his sufferings.

This is an amusing book, if you take it the right way. Werther is whiny and dramatic, but the story holds the interest, particularly when we start to glimpse how stressful the situation is to his loved one, the happily married Lotte.

But what I really find charming about this book is not its contents but the reaction it caused when it was published. It became a phenomenon. Showing your feelings, crying of both happiness and sorrow became fashionable, and young men wore the same yellow west and breeches and a blue coat.

Werther is a good read if one is interested in the Romantic tradition. It’s based on feelings and describes beautiful nature and the innocence of childhood – and even if you don’t buy into the setting, you get a few laughs out of it.

First published: 1774

Pages: 208

Translation: Markku Mannila 1992

The last book of this month was Patrick Rothfuss’s the Wise Man’s Fear, the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. In the first book, the Name of the Wind, we met the main character Kvothe and heard about his youth. Now we continue from where the story left off – and it’s getting better and better.

I liked this book much more than the first one. I love the Arcanum and Ademre. I like Kvothe’s friends. Simple as that. Rothfuss makes it so easy to fall deep into the world he has created and get completely immersed in the stories he tells. The cultural details in different parts of the Four Corners are fascinating (particularly for someone like me who enjoys the genres of novel of manners and fantasy of manners) and I find myself wanting to send rings to people when I want to see them.

To emphasis how much I liked this book I will say that I don’t know how I can wait for the last part. It cannot be out too soon.

Published: Gollancz 2011

Pages: 994

So that was all for November! I’ve also read Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Richard III for class and some stuff – mostly extracts, short stories and poems – for AmLit, but they do not feature on my list.

The only book I bought this month was Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, which I read a year ago and slowly fell in love with.

Currently I’m reading the latest book in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series – A Dance with Dragons. I’m making slow but sure progress.

I hope you all have a fun December and a great Christmas!

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