Title: Crome Yellow
Author: Aldous Huxley
Publication Date: 1921
Review Score: 6/10
Published in 1921, Crome Yellow was the debut novel by Aldous Huxley in which he satires the fads and fashions of the time. The story combines many of the themes of literature of this period, such as the grandiose house party, the history of a rich gentry household and the painful and the misplaced love of a young man doting on the fair lady.
In a way this is the traditional country house novel in which an array of interesting characters eat, drink, debate and sponge of the willing host. However, where this work differs from the norm is in Huxley’s subtle pokes at the ridiculousness of this way of life.
Although Huxley is obviously a great writer and Crome Yellow understandably is seen as a classic novel, I found it incredibly hard going and very unsatisfying. The story is basic and uneventful, the characters are rather bland on the whole and there is very little to hold the readers interest throughout.
A couple of interesting themes do poke their head out through the book, including a reference to ideas found in Huxley’s later and more successful work Brave New World, but they are soon swept under the rug and forgotten.
If like me you have read Brave New World and want to try some of Huxley’s other works I would recommend that you avoid Crome Yellow, as it will not live up to your expectations.
Title: The Quiet American
Author: Graham Greene
Publication Date: 1955
Review Score: 7/10
Into the intrigue and violence of Indo-China arrives Pyle, a young idealistic American sent to promote democracy through a mysterious ‘Third Force’. As his naive optimism starts to cause bloodshed, his new friend Fowler, a cynical and ageing foreign correspondent, finds it hard to stand aside and watch. But even as he intervenes he wonders why: for the sake of politics, or for love?
Those of you who follow this blog will know that so far I have avoided both war and romance based novels, going more towards the adventure and sci-fi genres, and so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with The Quiet American.
At first I thought the story would be quite bland and predictable, especially considering the end of the story is revealed in the first chapter! But by switching from past to present throughout the novel and giving away just small nuggets of information 1 at a time, it is continuously intriguing from start to end.
What’s more, the story is shaped by the beautifully tragic surroundings Greene places the characters in and describes so well. The constant flipping from fine dining to horrific war perfectly parallels the feelings of love and hate Pyle and Fowler have for each other, feeling at times like brothers whilst both fighting for the affection of the same woman.
It is not the most original or exciting novel ever but it is a love story beautifully told and well worth a read!
Title: Castle Rackrent
Author: Maria Edgeworth
Publication Date: 1800
Review Score: 7/10
Although not a well known novel, Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent is often regarded as the first regional novel in English, the first historical novel, the first Anglo-Irish novel and even the first saga novel.
First published in 1800, Castle Rackrent tells the story of 4 generations of the Rackrent family and their Irish estate, from the wild living Sir Patrick to the debt-ridden Sir Murtagh to the duelling, gambling Sir Kit and finally to Sir Condy, who continues his ancestral foolhardy approach to money and who finally runs the estate into the ground.
The whole story is told by the family’s long serving and incredibly loyal servant, Old Thady, who speaks with a rather unusual vernacular, which once the reader is used to adds a certain charm to the novel.
The tale of the 4 Rackrents and their demise is entertaining but what I found most enjoyable about this novel was the insight into the way of life in Ireland in the late 1700s. Edgeworth had firsthand experience of Anglo-Irish relations and uses this knowledge beautifully to give a great level of depth of detail regarding life in Ireland at this time.
I have read many historic novels based in England, Russia and even India but this was the first historic Irish novel I have read and it was very interesting.
Overall the story wasn’t one that had me on the edge of my seat but given its place in the historic landscape of Irish and world literature I think Castle Rackrent is definitely deserving of its place on the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list.
Title: Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Author: Jules Verne
Publication Date: 1864
Review Score: 8/10
The year is 1863 and a learned German professor by the name of Von Hardwigg has just gotten his hands on an ancient Icelandic manuscript by the famous Snorri Sturluson, but for the life of him he cannot decipher it.
After days of intellectual torment struggling with the mysterious writings, the professor’s nephew and protégé cracks the code and discovers the secret of the great Snorri Sturluson. At first he cannot bring himself to tell his uncle of the meaning of the note but eventually he has to relinquish and the professor discovers that Snorri Sturluson has written of his journey to the centre of the earth through volcanic tubes.
And now, knowing of this great voyage completed by Sturluson the professor is determined to follow his footsteps and reach the centre of the earth. Although against the journey, believing it to be impossible, the professors nephew is soon dragged along on this crazy adventure in which the 2 men, plus a trusty Icelandic guide by the name of Hans, delve deep into the earth’s crust through a maze of volcanic tunnels and encounter an underground forest, gigantic sea monsters and teeter on the brink of starvation.
After thoroughly enjoying Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days I was extremely eager to read Journey to the Centre of the Earth and I am glad to say it lived up to my expectations! Verne’s writing style is effortless to read, his characters are thoroughly intriguing and his ideas are beyond comprehension. Although written nearly 150 years ago Journey to the centre of the Earth is still highly energised, exciting and relevant for a modern audience.
I wouldn’t say that Journey to the Centre of the Earth is as good as Around the World in 80 Days, but it is still a great book and well deserved of its place on the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list.