Book Review: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Four Stars)

Book Review: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Four Stars)

“Now, I return to this young fellow. And the communication I have got to make is, that he has Great Expectations.”

Dickens at his best. His descriptions resonate with readers a hundred sixty years after he wrote. Told from the point of view of an older Pip, the narrative still manages to reveal only what needed at the time. The foreshadowing and the red herrings are both subtle and intentional.

“we can no more see to the bottom of the next few hours than we can see to the bottom of this river what I catches hold of. Nor yet we can’t no more hold their tide than I can hold this. And it’s run through my fingers and gone, you see!”

It should be no spoiler that Dickens wraps his cast into a mobius loop of relationships, known and unknown. His references to Shakespeare and the King James Bible may miss younger moderns. His rendering of dialectic English may impede some readers.

“Why don’t you cry again, you little wretch?” “Because I’ll never cry for you again,” said I. Which was, I suppose, as false a declaration as ever was made; for I was inwardly crying for her then, and I know what I know of the pain she cost me afterwards.

I read this book over sixty years ago and enjoyed it much more now than then. What changed was me. Then I thought Pip a fool; I still do but now understand that was Dicken’s point.

“If you can’t get to be oncommon through going straight, you’ll never get to do it through going crooked. So don’t tell no more on ’em, Pip, and live well and die happy.”

Book Review: Needle in a Timestack by Robert Silverberg (four stars)

Book Review: Needle in a Timestack: And Other Stories by Robert Silverberg (four stars)

Ordinary intelligence would not work. Odyssean cleverness was the only salvation.

A decent anthology—a rarity in science fiction. Silverberg serves generous offerings from across his career, with introductory comments for each tale. Most involve some form of time travel.

The poor old shattered moon, souvenir of an era long gone: it seemed a scratchy mirror for the tormented planet that owned it, for the fragmented race of races that was mankind.

Though first published in 1966, the current version collection includes little of the original and much that wasn’t, including the eponymous Needle story. Some materials are as recent as 2019.

Still, life is all there is, so you want as much of it as you can. Which means getting gold, and power, and fame.” “Which you had. And apparently have no longer. Friend Pizarro, where are we now?” “I wish I knew.” “So do I,” said Socrates soberly.

My personal favorite was “Enter a soldier. Later: Enter another.”

Even to an old soldier like me it is all very sad. He was a man like us, enemy though he was, and he died far from home.

Book Review: Andrew Murray on the Holy Spirit. (Four Stars)

Book Review: Andrew Murray on the Holy Spirit. (Four Stars)

“A life in the presence, the will, and the power of God has been opened up; men have been given the opportunity to enter into it and live in it; and you, too, can enter it.”

Andrew Murray was a prolific South African cleric who flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Extracts of several of Murray’s shorter works were compiled create this topical work on the Holy Spirit.

“This is the great objective of fellowship with God: that we may have more of God in our lives and that God may see Christ formed in us. Be silent before God, and let Him bless you.”

Foundational works for modern Christians who seek to empty themselves of themselves and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

“Your God has given you Christ, and He wants to put Christ into your heart in such a way that His presence will be with you every moment of your life.”

Chapters stand alone, encouraging the reader to reflect on the topics.

“Count upon the living Christ to do everything in your heart that needs to be done.”

Book Review: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon (four stars)

Book Review: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon (four stars)

The sense of custodianship that came with the inheritance meant that – to a large extent – the Castle owned the family, rather than the other way around.

The life and times of fifth Countess of Carnarvon written by the eighth. The setting is known to many as Downton Abbey.

‘Darling, it was only last month I gave you £25,000, what on earth have you done with it? I know it’s all in a good cause, but please do be careful.’

The first third of the twentieth century might as well be fantasy to most English and fantasy to the rest of us. Lady Almina was the illegitimate, but fabulously wealthy daughter of a Rothchild. Her elevation to Countess of Carnarvon makes great reading.

She realised that post-operative and trauma care were as much a part of the healing process as the best surgical techniques and the latest equipment.

Lady Carnarvon combines insider access and point of view with an auditor’s attention to detail. Her writing to clear and relatable. Don’t expect an expose. If anything this volume apologizes for Lady Almina extravagant lifestyle by highlighting her public contributions, especially in nursing countless Great War wounded.

The modern world, with its dismantling of privilege for some and extension of freedom for others, had overtaken everyone.

Book Review: Chop, Chop by L. N. Cronk (Four Stars)

Book Review: Chop, Chop (Chop, Chop #1) by L. N. Cronk (Four Stars)

I decided right then that Laci was too good of a liar to ever trust again.

A gripping drama about the choices and consequences of an American teen. What it lacks in over-the-top emotion, it makes up in realism. David’s inner conflicts and humor ring true.

I had no idea what I truly wanted to do beyond that. Mom kept telling me not to worry about it . . . that lots of people didn’t decide what they wanted to do until years after they’d graduated from college. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?” I asked her, and she laughed.

As the author acknowledges it seems to draw young adult readers. Also an admittedly Christian story, it nonetheless portrays reality, not a sanitized fantasy.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. Thank you for helping me to find peace. I pray that you’ll have peace, too.”

Book Review: The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Three Stars)

“… as amoral as a loaded gun.”

If Joe Abercrombie had written The Wind in the Willows. Typical swords and sorcery fantasy, but with all characters familiar animals, mostly mammals. A few playing against stereotype.

“He’s fast.” “How fast?” “Slower than a bolt of lightning. Somewhat quicker than a hummingbird’s wing.”

Well done, but readers put off by Abercrombie violence are forewarned.

“A soul utterly remorseless, without conscience or scruple. But that is nature’s fault, and not the stoat’s; the stoat is what it has been made to be, as are we all.”

Book Review: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (Five Stars)

Book Review: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (Five Stars)

“Northerners know nothing at all about slavery. They think it is perpetual bondage only. They have no conception of the depth of degradation involved in that word, slavery; if they had, they would never cease their efforts until so horrible a system was overthrown.”
—A Woman of North Carolina.

Primary source on living as a slave. Beats fictionalized and modernized alternatives. Slavery was and is a horrible institution, but it existed in most cultures at most times in history. Moderns do themselves a disservice if they relay on modern representations of the conditions and tolls of slavery. This is the true account of a true person.

No pen can give an adequate description of the all-pervading corruption produced by slavery. The slave girl is reared in an atmosphere of licentiousness and fear.

Approximately 4% of the Africans brought to the Americans as slaves came to the now United States. The circumstances and life probabilities of those others were even worse than the American slaves, but even though the slave-owners and the culture (South and North) that supported them thought the institution benign if not positive, in fact the social, emotional, and physical outcome was despicable.

There may be sophistry in all this [her explanation of being impregnated by a white man, not her owner]; but the condition of a slave confuses all principles of morality, and, in fact, renders the practice of them impossible.

Permeated with high ideals and scripture references which may be opaque to modern readers. Nonetheless the reader who sticks with it receives a deeper understanding of the institution beyond the white-wash and simplicity of modern accounts. Northerners come under Harriet’s condemnation as well as the South.

I knew my old master was rather skittish of Massachusetts. I relied on her love of freedom, and felt safe on her soil. I am now aware that I honored the old Commonwealth beyond her deserts.