Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Four Mini-Reviews of Really Great Books

Brideshead Revisited

by Evelyn Waugh
published 1945
completed May 2011

Brideshead Revisited starts with Charles Ryder coming upon Brideshead, a huge estate, at a time when the British military has taken it over. Memories rush in of a time when he was young and was swept into the life of the upper-class family who owned Brideshead. It's is a tale of heartache for almost all involved. I ended up not knowing quite what to think of Charles Ryder--his motives are ambiguous. The theme of religion, specifically Catholicism, is thought-provoking throughout the book, as much is discussed of the pressure that religion places on families. Waugh's writing is brilliant, and the characters are memorable, particularly Sebastian and his mother. Highly recommended.

**I did watch the 2008 movie adaptation, and was surprised that they changed some major plot points. The movie by itself was great, but not a fair representation some of the pivotal relationships in the book.

Girl with a Pearl Earring

by Tracy Chevalier
published 1999
completed October 2011

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a fictionalized account of the story behind the famous painting by Vermeer as featured on the book's cover. Griet is sent to become at maid at Vermeer's home to help with her family's financial difficulties. Being Protestant, Griet finds it an adjustment to work in the home of Catholics. When cleaning Vermeer's studio, she displays to him her unique eye for art, which begins to unravel a dramatic set of events. The story was compelling. Griet was young and naive. Watching her mature as she was forced into the adult world, learning to navigate these new situations she found herself in, not always successfully, was fascinating and heart-breaking. I highly recommend this one.

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield
published 2006
completed April 2011

Although there are several side stories in The Thirteenth Tale, the book centers around the mysterious author Vida Winter. During each interview, when asked about her personal history, Ms. Winter always tells a different story. None are believed to be true. When she takes ill, she seeks out Margaret Lea, for a unique reason, to which to write her biography. Once the stories of the family began, I was captivated. So eerie, unique, and disturbing. There are several shocking moments throughout the book that come out of nowhere, in a good way. As a ghost story, The Thirteenth Tale delivers. The writing, the characters, and the story are all top-notch. Go read it. Now!

Something Wicked This Way Comes

by Ray Bradbury
completed November 2011
published 1962

A traveling carnival comes to town. Two young friends, Will and Jim, sneak out in the middle of the night to visit it, only to discover that it is not quite what it seems. A unique cast of terrifyingly evil characters are operating the carnival, and the young friends get sucked into a chilling battle of good and evil. It took me a little while to get in sync with the writing on this one, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. The writing is beautiful, and at times poetic. I read this around Halloween, and it was perfect. Very creepy story, exceptional characters, and an amazingly fast paced ending. Most definitely recommended.

**Trying to wrap-up a few challenges so there might be more than one post a day. Sorry! Thanks for understanding.


  1. I've read all 4 of these and they are all good in their own way. The Thirteenth Tale was so much fun! I love the creepiness of it all. If you haven't read Chevalier's Fallen Angels, I'd highly recommend it.

  2. I really enjoyed all of these too, except Brideshead Revisited which I own but haven't read yet. Must get to it.

  3. Melissa--I'll have to get Fallen Angels. If it's anything like Girl with a Pearl Earring, I'll love it.

    Nymeth--Ooh...I hope you like Brideshead Revisited. I read it too quickly last time because it had to go back to the library, but I have a copy now and I'm definitely going to read it again soon.