Top 100 Novel Review: I, Claudius – Robert Graves (1934)

Duller Than A Text Book

Graves’ novel is worse than a milk-toast, disinterested-historian narrative.

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

This book was supposed to be made for me.

One Summer, I read 30 books with many of them being about Greek and Roman history. I never made it past Augustus, so how excited was I to learn that there was a novel about the Roman Emperors from the perspective of Claudius. Not only that, it was historical fiction and should have all those cool thing you can do within the genre: dialogue, themes, story arcs!

Graves pulls off an impossible: I’ve read dull, straight historical accounts that had more pop than this book.

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Top 100 Novel Review: The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene (1948)

Take Control Scobie!

But is our protagonist even capable of doing that? He always misreads the situation, using pity to guide actions. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I felt bad at the end of this book. Scobie is a man who mostly wants to be left alone, but others keep pulling him in multiple directions. He isn’t a bad person per say, but his laissez-faire attitude matched with his inability to read the direness of situations leads to a combustable situation; he slowly gets pulled down an unscrupulous path, over relying on pity to guide decisions.

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Top 100 Novel Review: Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger (1951)

We Really Are Phony.

I feel for Holden Caulfield: smart enough to identify the problem, but not able to reconcile it within himself. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

This book made me deeply sad.

I had read the book when I was 16 for a required essay on banned books, and I remember as a youth identifying the message of the novel as that you couldn’t survive as an outcast. At some point, you had to rally around something, no matter how phony.

On this reading, almost double my life later, I felt Holden was my old self while the phony Adults me now: I have learned to accept how much of our lives are rigid formalities and empty, sweet nothings.

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Top 100 Novel Review: An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser (1925)

Calling BS Early.

Dreiser deconstructs the American Dream. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

It’s amazing that his book was written so early.

While still a product of its time, Drieser’s novel is fantastically relevant today. At its core, it’s a commentary on class and the American Dream. The story follows a young Clyde Griffiths from a lowly, street-preaching family through several iterations of social status changes. What follows is an unsettling but cathartic reading; Clyde bears the sin of our own failures allowing us to live free of the American expectation.

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Top 100 Novel Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey (1962)

An Infinite Amount to Think About.

Not only is their a dynamite narrative, the themes and competing ideas could fill a lifetime of consideration. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’ve had a run of books that forgo traditional story elements, like having a plot, meaningful narration, or development of characters (here’s looking at you “The Sun Also Rises” and “Falconer”). While they get heralded as artistic masterpieces, I find both books lacking teeth since they are not only unenjoyable to read, but they can’t coalesce to say anything due to being stripped of narrative devices.

In comes my savior: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” 

Not only does this book have an immensely intriguing story, showing the power struggle between a Head Nurse and an Asylum patient who are both egomaniacs, it has as many themes as you can consider. Like an infinite ball of string, you are free to pull and unwind from any angle as long as your heart desires.

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Top 100 Novel Review: Falconer by John Cheever (1977)

The Point Eludes Me.

Too many competing thoughts drown out the powerful writing of John Cheever. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’m glad I read this book, though. Using his short-story prowess, Cheever puts lots of vignettes in this novella via the individual characters and there are a few powerful ones to be found here. They just don’t coalesce into a solid message or theme, and with many of the outcomes seemingly contradictory, I’m left not knowing what to feel about this novel.

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Top 100 Novel Review: Red Harvest, Danshiell Hammet (1929)

Hardboiled Pulp.

Popularizer of the genre, Hammett’s detective story is a  solid mystery with plenty of quick wit.

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff.

I love mysteries, and even more, I love detective mysteries that are set pre-1960s. I grew up on Earl Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason, another pulp fiction mystery series. Where Red Harvest is different is there is more grit to it — everything is or will be corrupted in this book, even the main character.

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