Book Review: Dickens by Stefan Majchrowski

the book


dickens-majchrowski
Original Title: Dickens
Author: Stefan Majchrowski
Publisher: Obzor
First published: 1977
Pages: 299
Language: Slovak
Format: print. (library copy)
My rating: 4/5

 

the author

“Stefan Majchrowski (1908 – 1988) was a Polish writer who fought in the Invasion of Poland of 1939. He was later captured and incarcerated in the German POW camp. After his liberation by American forces, he served in the Polish Armed Forces in the West. In 2009, he was posthumously awarded by President Lech Kaczynski the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta “for outstanding contribution to the independence of the Polish Republic, for activities on behalf of democratic change in Poland as well as veterans and social activities for their performance in the work undertaken for the benefit of the country and social activities”. // wikipedia

the review

I will start off by saying that this was the first biography of Charles Dickens I have read, so I realize I have nothing to compare it to, therefore, my giving this 4 stars is solely based on my enjoyment of Majchorwskis book and not on comparison with other Dickens biographies.

Majchrowski provides a great insight into the life and work of one of the world’s most famous and beloved authors. Despite the fact that I’ve only ever read one, I would say this is a pretty good introduction to Dickens‘ biographies. It has a nice mix of Dickens‘ personal life and the political and historical situation in England as well as France, so you are able to put things into further context with regards to happenings and events of that time.

Along with describing and introducing Dickens as a man of the 19th century, he provides some brief analyses of his literary works in relation to his current situation and his motives and inspirations for his works.

The book is divided into 21 parts/chapters according to several periods of Dickens’ life, which make it fairly easy to read. It is written in chronological order starting with Dickens’ difficult childhood which is critical in understanding his later works. Same goes for Dickens’ writings – Majchrowski mentions them chronologically and spends some time introducing and analysing each of his works.

The reason I did not give this biography 5 stars is the lack of pictures and visual evidence. There were no pictures or photos in this book and even though it is still an interesting read, if the author would have provided some photos, it would have been a more enjoyable book.

Dickens’ fame & success

What makes Dickens different from many other world-famous authors is the fact that he was incredibly famous & beloved even in his own time. Many writers that are now considered the best in their field were not, infact, quite as popular when they lived. But Dickens was. He was very much appreciated and every one of his novels (then released in monthy installments) was anxiously expected by the whole England. That is why I find reading about Dickens and his success not only intellectually enriching but also quite motivating. He knew what he wanted and he worked hard for it.

“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.” – Charles Dickens, David Copperfield.

Overall, I consider this biography a great and insightful material to study the ever fascinating Charles Dickens and his interesting and eventful life.

my rating

4 stars black

 

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Me Before You

the book

Me-Before-You-book-cover-Jan-12-p122Original Title: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
First published: 2012
Pages: 369
Language: English
Format: e-book
My rating: 3/5


Synopsis:

“Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.”

the author

Jojo_Small_Portrait_Crop-212x300“Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typer of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30, she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992, she won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University.

Jojo worked as a journalist for ten years, including a year at South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, and nine at The Independent where she worked variously as News Reporter, Assistant News Editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.

Jojo has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. Since then she has written a further eleven novels, all of which have been widely critically acclaimed.”  // www.jojomoyes.com

the review

Everyone and their mother has read this book. Everyone and their mother has loved this book. I guess I’m an exception.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like this book, the 3 stars prove it. However, I expected to adore it, to love it as much as everyone else, I expected to cry for hours upon finishing it. That did not happen.
And while I understand why so many people loved Me Before You, I guess I expected more from it. The pure fact that it got such massive amounts of positive reviews made me believe it was something exceptional, something exquisitely written, something I’ve never read before. But it wasn’t. For me, it was just an average read full of average characters and with a non-satisfying ending.

But let’s start at the beginning. Me Before You seemed rather promising at the very beginning. With Lou having been let go from her job of many years and having to start anew, the story had so many options and possibilities. It felt like something new and exciting is awaiting Lou Clark just around the corner. You would think she would pursue her dream, maybe she would finally leave her hometown and do something she’s never done before.

Nope. That doesn’t happen. Because Lou has no dreams. She stays in her hometown and starts working as a caretaker for a quadriplegic man, even though she’s got zero skills in this area. Ugh.

oh god

The flat characters.
Oh, how I disliked Lou! The girl was such a bore! I do understand that she is very much a relatable character for many people, but at the same time, she didn’t have any depth to her. That I found unrealistic. A 26-year-old with absolutely no ambitions in a world full of options and pretty much no restrictions, felt completely unreal. A woman with no dreams, no vision and no hobbies that is willing to stay in an unhealthy and loveless relationship and you make her the main protagonist of your novel? It felt like I was reading a story set a few hundred years ago, and not in the 21st century. This is why I completely understood Will’s annoyance and his frustration with Lou’s lack of life in her. But it wasn’t just Lou, I found most of the characters rather flat, nothing complex or interesting about them – I just wasn’t invested in them at all.

Emma meh

The different POVs.
Throughout the novel, you are mostly reading from Lou’s perspective. But towards the end there are a few chapters that are told from the perspective of a few other characters. I found that completely unnecessary. First, I wasn’t even able to differentiate between the points of view. There was absolutely nothing unique about the few different people’s perspectives – no difference in the writing style, no difference in their thoughts. I found myself checking several times within one chapter whose perspective I was reading. And second, these different POVs did not explain or add to the story whatsoever.

The Evil Sentence.
„I let out a breath I did not realize I was holding“ and its variations – that is the Evil Sentence.
I made a list of books that feature this infamous sentence. And yes, Me Before You is also on this list, among many others. However, what I found surprising and quite funny, was the fact that it wasn’t our main protagonist Lou who has been holding her breath without knowing it – no, it was the man who was taking care of Will, Nathan.

The story.
The beginning – starts OK, reads nicely, no major issues there.
From about halfway to the end – predictable (partly because of everyone’s reactions and the spoilery title itself), repetitive and a little annoying, with only a few good moments here and there.
I did not hate the book like it might sound. I thought it had great potential and had it been written just slightly differently, it might have been a 5-star read for me as well.
But in comparison to some other great romances, I would describe Me Before You as a pretty average and predictable (love?) story that is relying completely on the emotional rollercoaster it puts you on. If you’re not on board, whether it be due to the flat characters, the slow pace, the predictability, the writing, etc., you’re just gonna stand there with a bored expression on your face and wait for everyone else to stop hyperventilating and crying their eyes out.

my rating

3 stars black

Book Review: Vojnové 40. roky (The Warring Forties)

BOOK INFO

vojnove 40 roky book cover

Title: Vojnové 40. roky
Author: Juraj Šebo
Publisher: Marenčin PT, 2013
Pages: 270
Language: slovenský / Slovak
Version: print

 

MY RATING:

4 stars black

I decided to write a bilingual review, since this book is in Slovak, but I write my blog in English. 
So this review is gonna be in both, Slovak and English. (Hence the little flags in the corner.) 


slovakia1

MOJE HODNOTENIE: 

Po tejto sérii pokukujem už dlhšie a konečne som sa rozhodla s ňou začať po tom, ako som videla tieto knižky v našej renovovanej knižnici. Začínam „odspodu navrch“, teda od 40. rokov vyššie, aj keď myslím, že autor ich písal v opačnom poradí.

Ako prvý ma zaujal autorov sarkazmussuchý humor, ktorý ja osobne vždy viem oceniť. Počas čítania som sa viackrát zasmiala na autorovom výbere slov a na nezmyselnosti niektorých jeho výrokov.

„V našom okrese bolo osem daždivých dní. Z toho dva dni vôbec nepršalo.“
„WHW – Winter Hilfe Woľačo“

Knižka sa číta veľmi dobre, je rozdelená na krátke častikapitoly, a približuje bratislavský život počas vojny ľuďom, ktorí vojnu možno nikdy nezažili. Pán Šebo veľmi často spomína názvy konkrétnych ulíc a bývalých a súčasných podnikov v Bratislave, preto si myslím, že najviac to dokážu oceniť ľudia, ktorí poznajú Bratislavu ako svoje ponožky.

Mňa osobne najviac zaujala časť, kde autor opisuje históriu (v tej dobe) najobľúbenejšej bratislavskej kaviarničky Štefánky. Tu sa schádzali bohémovia a velikáni 40. rokov, medzi nimi mnohé známe mená, slovenskí básnici, prozaici, politici a iné dôležité a zaujímavé osobnosti.

cr02Autor poskytol obrovské množstvo fotografií, ktoré sprevádzajú jednotlivé kapitoly, a vďaka ktorým si človek môže vytvoriť ucelenú predstavu o spomínaných veciach a udalostiach. Či už sa jedná o prídelové lístky, rodinné fotografie, cenník automobilov, rôzne reklamy, listy, politické plagáty, atď.  Toto všetko podáva lepší a presnejší obraz o dobe, kedy samotný autor a mnohí naši predkovia vyrastali.

Boli tam aj isté veci, ktoré si autor mohol odpustiť, napríklad časté konštatovania typu „Dnes to už nie je čo to bolo kedysi; dnes sú veci nanič, v minulosti bolo všetko lepšie“, lebo to mi potom príde, akoby som čítala memoár nejakého frustrovaného, zatrpknutého starca.

Celkovo sa mi však knižka páčila, rozhodne by som ju odporučila všetkým, mladým aj starým, ktorých zaujíma história „bežných ľudí“ a ktorí si chcú priblížiť život svojich starých rodičov a vo všeobecnosti život Slovákov v 40. rokoch.


british_flag_clip_art_14068

MY REVIEW:

Even though I believe this book is not translated to English, I still decided to write an English review, so that I can introduce our current Slovak literature to my readers.

I’ve been eyeing this series for a while now and I finally decided to start it when I saw this book in our newly
refurbished library. I’m starting with the 1940s and I’ll work my way up chronologically to the more recent decades, even though I think they were written the other way around.

When reading, the first thing that caught my eye was the author’s sarcasm and his rather dry humor, which I always appreciate. There were several instances when I laughed out loud at the author’s interesting choice of words or the absurdity of some of his conclusions.

“WHW – Winter Hilfe Whatever”

The book is very well written, and despite there not being any real plot or action, it reads quickly and not at all like a boring history book. It is divided into several parts and short chapters and offers a nice look at the life in Bratislava during the war to people who might not have experienced it first-hand. Mr. Šebo often mentions the names of particular streets and businesses and/or buildings that used to be there, which only those who really know Bratislava can appreciate.

The part I was most interested in, was introducing and describing the history of the most famous café of that time called Štefánka (Stephania). Here, many of the Slovak greats gathered, including poets, writers, politicians and lots of other interesting and important individuals.

The author offered a great amount of photographies in particular chapters, which help in creating a whole and complex picture of the events mentioned. Be it family photos, car prices, advertisements, letters, posters, etc. All this offers a better idea of the times in which many of our ancestors grew up.

However, there were few things that could have been left out. For instance, the author frequently commented that “In these days, everything sucks; everything was better back then”. This does not read well. It reads like a memoir of a frustrated, angry old man.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. I would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone who enjoys the history of “the common people” and to the curious ones who just want to get a better look at the lives of our ancestors in the 1940s Slovakia.


That is all for my first review on this blog.
Thank you for reading and have a nice day!
Oh, and Happy Easter!

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