Sunday, 30 August 2015

Recently Read #5

The Catcher in the Rye, the Secret History, Little Women and The Five People You Meet in Heaven

I feel like I've been sort of lazy with reading over the last month, but I'm still on track with my Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge and I have, in fact, managed to read a few more books from my Summer to-read list! I've realised I might've been a tad over-ambitious when I put together that list, however, as there are still four books I haven't managed to read. With the start of university drawing closer and closer, I've decided I need to start on my reading list for my courses, so those four books will have to wait... Anyhow, here are the four last books I've read, as per usual with a blurb in italics followed by my own thoughts.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phones (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation. 

So, essentially, I don't agree with the above blurb. I love reading classics, and most of the time I get why they're classics even if I don't personally love them. But this one? I think it's very overrated. I just don't see what's so great about it. I do get it; I get that it's about the hypocritical society, about adolescence and growing up, and all that, but I just found it very dull and tedious. On top of that, the language is, in my opinion, incredibly repetitive and far from engaging, and Holden is a remarkably flat character, despite all his supposed 'originality.' Oh dear, I hope I haven't offended anyone now...

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last - inexorably - into evil.

I love this book. I struggle to pinpoint why exactly it's so great, but it just is. I read The Goldfinch about a year ago and thought it was okay, though a bit overrated, but I decided to give this one a chance anyway since I had heard it was Tartt's best one. And I'm so glad I did! Yes, it is a bit pretentious, but it works. It's not a classic mystery novel in that everything leads up to who did it, but rather it all centres around why it happened, and the consequences. The plot is incredibly engrossing, and Donna Tartt is a magician with words. The characters are oddly sympathetic and despicable at the same time, and altogether captivating. It's that sort of book that stays with you for a while after you've finished it.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail beth, spoiled Amy: these are hard lessons of poverty and of growing up in New England during the Civil War. Through their dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, women of all ages have become part of this remarkable family. Based on Louise May Alcott's childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth-century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.

Another classic! This follows four sisters from their teens until they reach adulthood, through their hardships and joys. It's essentially a very sweet story; one to read cuddled up in bed with a cup of tea. It's in the same vein as Ann of Green Gables, which was one of my favourite books when I was younger, so I think I would have adored Little Women if I read it when I was ten. I must confess I'm a bit indifferent to it, though. I found the moral lessons a bit tedious and sometimes it was just a bit too sweet, but I did enjoy it at times too. It's an easy, feel-good read, but I think I was expecting something more.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in a meaningless life of fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. His days are a dull routine of work, loneliness, and regret. Then, on his 83rd birthday, Eddie dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever.

This one has been on my to-read list for quite some time now. After I had finished Little Women, I wanted another light read before moving onto the reading list for my coming semester at university, and happened upon this book when browsing the shelves in Waterstones. It's a very quick read (I finished it in a day), but it's so profound and touching in all its simplicity. The book alternates between snippets of his life and his experiences in heaven, letting you get to know Eddie and sympathise with him. It's not ground-breaking or very ambitious, but it's a simple yet beautiful story about life, the impact of our every action, and how everything is linked.

What have you been reading recently? And have you read any of these books?

Love, Mimmi.