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General Fiction Recommendations

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 10:58 am    Post subject: General Fiction Recommendations Reply with quote

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Well... this should ruin what's left of my reputation. ;)

I'm not a fan of the romance genre in literature, so it explains why at the age of 40 that I thought avoided reading Austen until now had been one of life's successes. :) After reading this, and watching a fine adaptation of the book, I'm forced to conceed that I was an idiot for avoiding the writer.

The structure is "comedy of errors" style in finding things to keep potential lovers apart, but those things are decidely not comedic nor really "errors". They are usually logical and natural extensions of the personalities and observations of the characters, or the twists of events and how the characters would rightly play off them. The book has a good deal of wit, especially the lead character's sharp tongue. But it really is quite a dramatic book, so if it's "comedy of errors" in structure, it puts that structure in a dramatic setting.

The plotting is exceptional. As mentioned, though we know from the form that these lovers will be split or kept apart, the methods in doing it are very well thought out, playing off various seeds sown earlier in the characters. Even the last major, near tragic one is completely set up by the personalities and our observations of the characters who cause it. When we later have one last attempt to split the leads, again it's well set up and in character rather than out of left field, and even as we read it we know the author is telling us rather lovelingly at that moment that it is doomed to fail and right around the corner is our payoff.

If I've ever read a better plotted book, I do not recall it. Certainly ones that were more complex and tried to pull off more, but that's not always the sign of great plotting. Navigating what may looking like a simple form, but doing it to perfection with everything falling into piece, can be every bit as skilled of an accomplishment.

Austen's skill in using letters to comminucate is wonderful. Of course it *was* the form of comminucation at distance in her lifetime, but she makes it an artform in expressing characters and their emotions, along with revealing elements of the plot. Darcy's letter to Elizabeth is one of the emotional high points of the book, so strong that the two even at the end having resolved their feelings for one another, still refer back to and discuss it.

But even the less famous letters are exquiste in their use. Jane's later letter to Elizabeth bringing troubling news is a masterpiece not just in presenting a major hook to the plot, but also in so expressively capturing Jane as the writer of the letter. One reads the letter, then re-reads it again, and one the *character* throughout it. Austen just doesn't throw out a letter from "someone", "anyone", to give the major news. Instead, it's Jane who writes this news, and we here her "voice" in the writing on the "page". We are given a clear picture that if Jane, who thinks the best of everyone and almost everything, is shaken this strongly that it's a tragic event. Austen has uses a touch at the end as a postscript that is so skilled that you can literally feel Jane starting to panic, and as we the readers sense it, we know her sister Elizabther, who knows her better than anyone, can sense it. What could be a throwaway letter just to advance to plot is instead a artistry, and even calling it that I don't think I do justice to the skill of the writer.

Another later letter by Mrs. Gardiner, has a similar basic role of "advancing the plot". Again we have the character of Mrs. Gardiner shining through, quite wonderful that it puts a smile on your face at her little stylings, italics, and read-between-the-lines comments to Elizabeth. But more than that, the letter doesn't mearly move the plot along with a simply "Darcy is a good guy" device. Through Mrs. Gardiner's words on his actions, and her commentaries of them, we see Darcy spring up to life infront of Elizabeth's eyes as she reads it. In turns vivid, dramatic and humorous, it resolves many issues for Elizabeth and we the reader. In lesser hands, it would have been a throwaway plot device. Not here.

The book is filled with terrific characters, obviously the best being the leads Elizabeth Bennent and Mr. Darcy. But around them are a host of characters with almost all have their moments.

Really an amazing book. I'll have to read Austen's now.


Last edited by jdw on Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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The Greatest Man Alive

Joined: 03 Sep 2006
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Location: Manassas, VA

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 1:41 pm    Post subject: Prayer? Reply with quote

Sorry I don't have the imaging skills of others here, but in between deeper theological reading for my degree work, I've been greatly enjoying the bizarre wit of John Irving in A Prayer for Owen Meany. As soon as I'm done with that I'm finally going to get around to reading Ender's Game.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tend to go to Amazon first and see if they have an easy image to link to. If not, I go to the advanced imaging search at Google:

Google Images: Advanced Image Search

I like the control of being able to drop an exact phrase such as a book title, and refine it other ways with the search tool.

Here's Owen:

Wiki is rating pretty high these days on image searches when they have one of books.

My mother has been a big fan of Irving.

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Iron Chad

Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I resisted reading "A Prayer for Owen Meany" for years despite pretty much everyone recommending it. I finally sat down and read it in college and it's probably always going to be my favorite book (granted, I read very little recreationally since I have to read so much for my job).

I also dug Irving's "A Widow for One Year".

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