Book Review: Othello by William Shakespeare

OthelloGoodreads Synopsis

In Othello, Shakespeare creates a powerful drama of a marriage that begins with fascination (between the exotic Moor Othello and the Venetian lady Desdemona), with elopement, and with intense mutual devotion and that ends precipitately with jealous rage and violent deaths. He sets this story in the romantic world of the Mediterranean, moving the action from Venice to the island of Cyprus and giving it an even more exotic coloring with stories of Othello’s African past.

Shakespeare builds so many differences into his hero and heroine—differences of race, of age, of cultural background—that one should not, perhaps, be surprised that the marriage ends disastrously. But most people who see or read the play feel that the love that the play presents between Othello and Desdemona is so strong that it would have overcome all these differences were it not for the words and actions of Othello’s standard-bearer, Iago, who hates Othello and sets out to destroy him by destroying his love for Desdemona.

As Othello succumbs to Iago’s insinuations that Desdemona is unfaithful, fascination—which dominates the early acts of the play—turns to horror, especially for the audience. We are confronted by spectacles of a generous and trusting Othello in the grip of Iago’s schemes; of an innocent Desdemona, who has given herself up entirely to her love for Othello only to be subjected to his horrifying verbal and physical assaults, the outcome of Othello’s mistaken convictions about her faithlessness.

The amount of times I had to write an essay for Othello last year is ridiculous but it did help with a deeper understanding of the play. Jealousy of course is a huge part of this tragedy but there are so many other things that are right there out in the open but not necessarily highlighted. Things such as: manipulation of weaknesses, egotism and misplaced trust are mainly featured. It’s no secret that classics and plays in general are not my favourite but I’m really starting to like the overall genre.

The play starts out with Iago getting jealous that he was passed up for a promotion and it went to Michael Cassio instead. Then of course there is the issue of Desdemona who fell in love and married Othello, who regardless of his status as a General, remains a very much older black guy. Apparently that was a big no no in society back then (unfortunately some things don’t change).   

Obviously it’s the jealousy that really adds the fuel to the fire in this play and that’s what drives everyone’s reactions. There was a great deal of misunderstanding that went on that I think stemmed from the fact that communication between the characters was nonexistent. This was evident especially in those scenes where instead of just coming out and saying something for what it was, the characters would tend to beat around the bush. One would think that you’d get annoyed by this but I found it ironic because the constant beating around the bush is what actually lead to their ends.

I’ve read Macbeth and while I enjoyed that play quite a bit, I definitely liked Othello more. More so because I delved deeper into what this play was actually trying to convey and there are so many avenues it can go down; of what it actually means. Trust that I had my summaries on hand because Modern English and I are not friends but it came in handy and it helped me really get into these classic plays.

I don’t think I’ve seen a villain quite like Iago. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed but he’s manipulative and he uses this to his advantage. He knows that Desdemona won’t go to Othello and be honest about the handkerchief, and he’s well aware of the fact that Othello is likely to blow things out of proportion. In Iago’s mind, things only work one way: assume the wildest things, convince yourself it’s the absolute truth and go about ruining peoples’ lives. Instead of going after the source directly (his wife), he goes after everybody and anybody else. Not because he believes his wife is not to blame, but because he sees her as property so that’s what actually starts this whole thing. There is no description I have for Iago except that he’s a completely vile and despicable man.

Many other things were featured in this play as well. Othello, not only being much older than Desdemona, but also being of a different race played a big part in their relationship. I felt that Desdemona was very carefree in her feelings in the sense that she didn’t care who saw her love because she was certain of it and as long as Othello loved her back (which he did), she was right as rain. Even with Othello’s insecurities, what with all their differences, he was willing to overlook them because Desdemona was all that mattered, except that it was these very insecurities that caused him to be so easily swayed by Iago’s machinations.

Overall, there were strings that were being pulled. Everyone was a puppet in this play, and that includes Iago. He’s not exempt from this fact. They all fell victim to the jealousy and the manipulation, as well as the lies and the deceit.

I’ve heard that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s best play so I’m refusing to read that until I’ve read a few more of his works. I think I’m going with King Lear next.

Read: 9 October 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Publication Date: May 1992 (First published 1603)
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions
Link to Author’s Goodreads Page: William Shakespeare

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Book Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great GatsbyGoodreads Synopsis

He was in love with the golden girl of a gilded era. He was Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire who gave wild and lavish parties attended by strangers.

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

She was Daisy Buchanan, a young rich beauty with bright eyes and a passionate mouth.

“High in a white palace, the King’s daughter, the Golden Girl.” Even her voice was “full of money.”

great novel of a glittering era, of amazing richness and scope, this is the most dazzling fiction we possess of the Jazz Age’s reckless revels.

fable of the Roaring Twenties that will survive as a legend.

I read this book years ago back when I was still in High School and not really a fan of Classics. I didn’t care much for the story then but I decided to give it a second chance. I think it’s safe to say that it was a good thing I did because this second read was fantastic.

The Great Gatsby is told from Nick Carraway’s point of view, a man who recently moved to East Egg and soon acts as a narrator to the complicated and somewhat messed up lives of these peculiar people. Of course The Great Gatsby is said to be this love story but I’m going with the opinion that it’s more about looking in from the outside. Nick doesn’t fit in and that’s made clear from the beginning of the book already. He’s an outsider and who better to give a solid idea of what’s really happening with these privileged people.

My first read, I didn’t notice much about Gatsby and didn’t really take note of his feelings because I found a major part of the book boring. Now, I see that Gatsby’s a bit…creepy. Jay Gatsby seems very immature and is like a petulant child who sets out to disturb others’ lives because he’s not getting his way (no matter if said peoples’ lives are already disturbed). ‘“I know your wife.” Gatsby continued, almost aggressively.’ I’m not a fan of him if I’m being honest and I think he’s a crook.

Let’s look into what else I do not like about Gatsby’s character. Again, ignoring the fact that Tom is already tearing his family apart with his ’side-chick’, Jay is coming around as if he’s entitled to Daisy’s heart. Sure Tom is not the greatest of guys and he’s- for lack of a better word- a dick. Two wrongs don’t make a right and I think that Gatsby has absolutely no self respect if he can make moves on a woman who’s married, albeit unhappily, but still married. Another thing, you can’t turn back the clock and pretend like 5 years didn’t pass by. You might think you can, but things change and people change. Rant about him is over. I think I’ve made it extremely clear that I do not like Jay Gatsby…at all.

I have issues with other characters in this book as well and I think this is my most detailed and rant-filled review ever but oh well. The read was enjoyed more this time around.

I have a bone to pick with Tom Buchanan and Daisy as well. The two of them deserve each other in the sense that he loves telling people what to do and she can’t seem to think or act for herself. She needs to be directed, which got annoying fairly quickly. I almost feel sorry for Gatsby near the end because what did the poor schmuck ever do to deserve falling into cahoots with her? And I don’t know if it’s sad or just plain pathetic but right till the end, Gatsby is still holding out hope that she’ll choose him. Tom is a hypocrite and a vile human and there’s certainly no love lost there. Nick takes the words out of my mouth by saying: ‘They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…’

The last time I read this book, I stopped being bored after things picked up a bit (hint hint: the ‘accident’). This time it was more of a meh situation for me. I didn’t think it was a big deal because I was more focused on Nick’s reactions to the whole thing,

“Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead”

As the reader, I’m driven where Nick takes me and if he decides something is a certain way, I’m hardly going to put up an argument unless it’s something that actually needs to be discussed. It’s at this point, near the end, that Nick is starting to get sick of these people. He’s a bit late on the uptake but better late than never.

By the last two chapters I felt sorry for Gatsby. I still didn’t like him, but I began to feel sort of pitiful towards him about everything. He started seeming like nothing but a misunderstood character. Misunderstood in both that he was peculiar and that he himself misunderstood many aspects of life and love itself.

I’m glad I gave this book another chance, I don’t regret the choice mad at all. Now I’m definitely looking forward to reading The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Read: 22 August 2017 (reread)
Rating: ★★★

Publication Date: First published 1926
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Link to Author’s Goodreads Page: F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver (The Giver Quartet, #1)Goodreads Synopsis

“I have great honor,” The Giver said. “So will you. But you will find that is not the same as power.”

Life in the community where Jonas lives is idyllic. Designated birthmothers produce newchildren, who are assigned to appropriate family units: one male, one female, to each. Citizens are assigned their partners and their jobs. No one thinks to ask questions. Everyone obeys. The community is a world without conflict, inequality, divorce, unemployment injustice…or choice.

Everyone is the same.

Except Jonas.

At the Ceremony of Twelve, the community’s twelve-year-olds eagerly accept their predetermined Life Assignments. But Jonas is chosen for something special. He begins instruction in his life’s work with a mysterious old man known only as The Giver. Gradually Jonas learns that power lies in feelings. But when his own power is put to the test—when he must try to save someone he loves—he may not be ready. Is it too soon? Or too late?

In The Giver, things such as inequality, conflict…choice in general are foreign concepts. Everything and everyone are assigned to what and who they’d be best suited with. No one argues with this because that would ruin the image of perfection.

After I finished this book I had to take a few days to gather my thoughts because I honestly had no idea how I felt about the story as a whole. Lois Lowry wrote what is in my opinion a great book. The idea of the plot is just so…out there. Like, imagine a perfect world. Imagine if people could achieve this perfect world, where being ‘different’ isn’t a thing. Everyone looks the same, acts the same, and there’s no room for judgement, rudeness or conflict.

I didn’t read the synopsis, which is not unusual for me so I went in not knowing anything really. The idea did occur to me that yes, a world where there’s no hate, no war…no hunger, would be perfect and amazing. I found myself wishing for just that but then I stopped to think: at what cost would all of this be possible? And that right there is the punchline to the joke that in actual fact is not a joke at all.

This book is categorised as ‘Middle Grade’ and I personally believe that that’s only because of how old the main character, Jonas, is. He’s eleven when all this starts so he’s starting to see the world in a new light. Asking more questions that in this community, one is not supposed to ask. There’s nothing middle grade about this book though. I found this to be horrific but not in a scary close-your-eyes way, more like…when the image is put in your mind, and you think of what goes on behind the scenes, it’s frightening. I think this is where the term ‘ignorance is bliss’ comes in. These people don’t know what they’re missing, so it’s not a problem for them.

I did like that this was told from a child’s point of view. Jonas has this innocence about him. He starts out as a curious kid and in the end, he’s fighting for his life. All because of him knowing the truth. Not many people like change, but I think this was taking it to a new level.

Heaven alone knows why I took so long to get to this book because I thought it was amazing. Once I had a free moment, I finished it and I couldn’t decide where I stood with everything. I’m still in a state of- I want to say confusion.

Lois Lowry did an excellent job with this book. I greatly enjoyed her writing style and look forward to continuing The Giver Quartet.

Read: 13 May 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Publication Date: 1 July 2014
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Link to Author’s Goodreads Page: Lois Lowry

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Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre

Goodreads Synopsis

Alternate cover editions of this ISBN can be found here & here.

Jane Eyre is a wildly emotional romance with a lonely heroine and a tormented Byronic hero, pathetic orphans, dark secrets, and a madwoman in the attic. When it was
published in 1847, it was a great popular success. The power of the writing, the masterly
handling of the narrative, and the boldly realistic style were much admired. But many found it difficult to believe that Currer Bell, the pseudonymous author, was Charlotte Brontë , a young woman from a bleak Yorkshire parsonage.

This novel tells the tale of Jane Eyre, sent to live with her Aunt Reed when she was orphaned. Her life wasn’t a good one as she was constantly treated as if she were the scum of the earth. From her Aunt’s household, to the Lowood School, misfortune greeted her on every turn.

This was one of the books that I saw as a challenge since I didn’t know whether I was going to like it or not. I had first started listening to the audiobook but that was taking too long so I moved over to the physical copy.

The way this story unfolds is slightly strange as in I was confused a bit at the time jumps but after I caught my bearings, I was back with the program. We start out with Aunt Reed who I thought could dial it down a bit. She was a horrible woman who refused to accept anyone that she didn’t think was up to her standards. Right up to the end she was the same; there was absolutely no remorse on her part for how she treated Jane. I was glad when she sent Jane away even though she was technically kicking her out.

The people Jane met after leaving the Lowood School was a bit of a mix of everything. I like to think that her simple-ness is what drew people towards her. Sure she was plain and simple but that made her an anomaly to people, especially those who thrived on being noticed. Mrs. Fairfax for example was a lovely woman. The housekeeper at Thornfield Manor, she was inclined to know all the going ons at the house and not once did she treat Jane in an undignified manner. I felt that she was a nice change to see especially wtih the bad luck that seemed to befall Jane in her younger years.

I found Mr. Rochester to be a every strange man. He seemed very presumptuous over how he thought Jane should speak and act but I had to laugh when she set him straight. I think that was one of the things that made him love her. She was different yes, she had fire and wasn’t afraid to speak out when she thought something wasn’t right. Another thing that made her un-liked amongst others. ‘Woman (and children) should be seen and not heard.’

“He made me love him without looking at me.”

The romance aspect of this book was a lovely thing to see and I honestly appreciated it even as I’m not a big fan of romance novels. The only reason I picked up this book while knowing about the romance was for the deeper meaning behind it all. I got to see Jane grow up from being a seemingly rebellious adolescent to a strong and courageous woman with will power and a sharp mind. A woman with the determination to lead her own life and who wouldn’t be talked into anything when she’d already made up her mind that something wasn’t for her.

My only regret about this book is that I took so long to finish it because this is now my favourite book. I could read this book over and over again and would probably still be amazed. It’s been a while since I felt such joy and elation because of a book and I would gladly want to relive the experience.

Read: 29 November 2016
Rating: ★★★★

Publication Date: 5 May 1999 (first published 16 October 1847)
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions
Link to Author’s Goodreads Page: Charlotte Brontë

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Book Review: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess

Goodreads Synopsis

Whatever comes,’ she said, ‘cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside.’

Sent to board at Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies, Sara is devastated when her adored father dies. Suddenly penniless, Sara is banished to an attic room where she is starved, abused, and forced to work as a servant. How this exceptionally intelligent girl uses the only resources available to her, imagination and friendship, to overcome her situation and change her fortunes is at the centre of this enduring classic.

First published in 1905, A Little Princess is a heart-warming tale of hope, hardship and love set against a backdrop of Victorian England, and is one of the best-loved stories in all of children’s literature.

A Little Princess tells the story of Sara Crewe who is treated like a princess and everything she desires is hers. There’s a major stereotype in this book that being the one that a person who is rich and gets everything they want must be nasty and act as if they’re God’s gift to that mind. This is not true for little Sara.

I had watched the movie years ago and I knew the story by heart but this book is so much more heartbreaking. To have lost everything in a sudden moment must’ve been so traumatising for a girl so young. I couldn’t see how she could still walk around with her head held high and put others before her.

Sara was in my opinion, a main character that any reader wouldn’t mind. She wasn’t annoying or bratty and her humbleness was such a beautiful factor, I admired that a lot.

The saying ‘Jealousy makes you nasty’ basically comes to life in this book. Seeing Sara being treated like the princess she was was bad enough for these people, but when they saw that she’s possible the nicest and kindest person in the world, that was where they drew the line. The hell they put her through just because they were jealous was absolutely ridiculous.

I enjoyed this story tremendously and once I got into it, it was quite the fast read. I feel like curling up with some popcorn and watching the movie right now. I can’t wait to get to The Secret Garden.

Read: 4 December 2016
Rating: ★★★★

Publication Date: 24 April 2014 (First published 1902)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Link to Author’s Goodreads Page: Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

893791Goodreads Synopsis

‘Alone with the dead! I dare not go out, for I can hear the low howl of the wolf through the broken window’

When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and his castle. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘Master’. In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count Dracula and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing deeply into questions of human identity and sanity, and illuminating dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

This took me a while but I pushed through and conquered! No really, I had a buddy read set up for this on the 17th of March and never completed it because classics and I have a love/hate relationship.

Dracula tells the story of a monster that we meet in Transylvania through Jonathan Harker’s perspective. The Count plans on buying a house in London and Jonathan travels to see the client at his home. The book has many different journal entries from different characters in the book that each tell their own story. It seems different in the beginning but as you go on, the pieces all start coming together.

The first half of this book was a bit boring for me, to be honest. I could barely get through it because I felt like I knew the story already and all these words were just unnecessary facts. It picked up quite a bit near the end though and I was glad that even though it took me nearly a year, I completed it.

I did not find Dracula scary or horrifying. I slept quite peacefully that night. I imagine it must’ve been terrifying in it’s earlier days. The writing style was great and I was able to keep up…most of the time. There were a few words that were before my time but I caught on easily enough.

I can see why this book became so popular and I agree that it is great. The scenes were described in the most realistic way and I managed to fall in love with all of the characters. No, not Dracula…him I’ll never like (although, if you think of the TV Show…I could get on board with that).

I really loved this book and I hope that it’s given more of a chance.

Read: 29 January 2016
Rating: ✮✮✮✮

Publication Date: 1993 (first published 1897)
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions
Link to Author’s Goodreads Page: Bram Stoker

Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Goodreads Synopsis

Jess and Leslie, together create an imaginary land called Terabithia, which they reach by swinging over a creek on a rope. In this wonderland they seek escape from the difficulties of the real world and also learn how to cope. Until one day, tragedy strikes. This is the story of a special friendship between two lonely children.

“We need a place, just for us. It would be so secret that we would never tell anyone in the whole world about it.”

Bridge to Terabithia tells the story of Jesse Aarons and Leslie Burke. These two children are from opposite sides of the world. Jesse’s parents being more old-schooled whereas the Burkes lean toward a more modern way of thinking.

I watched the movie adaptation of this book when I was younger but didn’t pay much attention to it. I’m glad I decided to read the book. There was so much more in this story that the movie couldn’t show.

Jesse and Leslie’s friendship starts out with him wanting nothing to do with her but they end up being so close it’s no secret that the two of them are inseparable. Everywhere the one goes, the other follows.

They end up going to this place near the creek one day and find a whole new world they name Terabithia.

“It might be a whole secret country, and you and I would be the rulers of it.”

Terabithia is a place they created so that they can have a world of their own and no one else can tell them how to rule it. There Leslie is Queen and Jesse is King, along with a little pup, Prince Terrien.

“They stood there, not moving, not wanting the swish of dry needles beneath their feet to break the spell.”

This book was filled with love and sadness and happiness. It shows that unexpected things await around every corner and you never know how one thing can have a bigger impact on your life.

Katherine Paterson did a great job putting important aspects of life and friendship into such a short book.

Read: 4 September 2015
Rating: ✮✮✮1/2

Publication Date: First published 1977
Link to Author’s Goodreads Page: Katherine Paterson