Mini Reviews #22: I Like Historical Fiction Now?

by - 8:54 PM

Possibly controversial opinion: I've never been one of those people who can really read or write long review posts about a single book. Kudos to those who can, but that's just not me. Thusly, on THIS blog, we do mini reviews. Like those below. Enjoy.

Also. Yes. I am aware I am reusing old rating pictures. And no. I don't care. Take me or leave me, k? 

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

America’s first psychological novel, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a dark tale of love, crime, and revenge set in colonial New England. It revolves around a single, forbidden act of passion that forever alters the lives of three members of a small Puritan community: Hester Prynne, an ardent and fierce woman who bears the punishment of her sin in humble silence; the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a respected public figure who is inwardly tormented by long-hidden guilt; and the malevolent Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband—a man who seethes with an Ahab-like lust for vengeance.

5/5 literal cinnamon rolls.

This was a required read for English class, and I totally wasn't expecting to like it going in. My best friend loves classics and reads them all the time, and she couldn't stand The Scarlet Letter. So I was shocked when, almost right away, I found myself sucked into this book.

Hawthorne's writing style isn't for everyone, but I loved it. I enjoy flowery, difficult writing on the order of Hawthorne, Shakespeare, and Dickens because it makes me work hard to understand it. So once I do finally get the meaning, it feels that much more precious, like I've unearthed some buried treasure. Plus, the plot was full of heart-wrenching, slow-burn suspense, and I loved all the characters. (Yes, even Chillingworth.) For anyone who enjoys classics -- or is even just interested by the blurb -- I can't recommend enough that you try The Scarlett Letter.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Considered by many to be Dickens's finest novel, Great Expectations traces the growth of the book's narrator, Pip, from a boy of shallow dreams to a man with depth of character. From its famous dramatic opening on the bleak Kentish marshes, the story abounds with some of Dickens's most memorable characters. Among them are the kindly blacksmith Joe Gargery, the mysterious convict Abel Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Haversham and her beautiful ward Estella, Pip's good-hearted room-mate Herbert Pocket and the pompous Pumblechook. As Pip unravels the truth behind his own 'great expectations' in his quest to become a gentleman, the mysteries of the past and the convolutions of fate through a series of thrilling adventures serve to steer him towards maturity and his most important discovery of all - the truth about himself.
4/5 high-functioning sociopaths.

This was another required read -- and unlike The Scarlett Letter, it took me a while to get into this one. Until Pip came into his inheritance, I found the pacing too slow and the plot too commonplace. But once he moved to London, things really picked up.

I enjoyed most of the characters, from Herbert to Compeyson, and I LOVED the way everyone's lives ended up being threaded together. It's not at all realistic, but it's a trope I just adore. Dickens's writing style also grew on me, and by the end, I was sad to set Great Expectations down. I'm now planning out my next Dickens read, whether it be Bleak House, The Old Curiosity Shop, or something else. If you enjoy classics, you have to give this one a shot!

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

5/5 baby donkeys.

This is one of those books I always knew I'd get around to reading, but I never actually did. It lay around my house for the longest time, always at the edge of my consciousness, until my mom wanted to sell it at a garage sale. That kind of provided the oomph that boosted me to read it. It appeared its time on Earth (or, at least, in my house) was limited.

And I'm so glad I read it.

The Secret Life of Bees is probably one of my favorite reads of this year. It combines realism and hope in the best possible way, and it deals very well with the deeper issues present in this book, from racism to child abuse. They're handled well, but they don't overpower the book or make it too heavy to read. Plus, I was fascinated by all the characters (@ August) and by the rituals surrounding the Black Madonna. And BEES!! We all love bees.

Conclusion: if anything I've just said appealed to you in the least, you have to try this book. If you take nothing else from this post, The Secret Life of Bees is a title that simply has to go on your TBR pile.

Let's chat! Have you read any of these books? What have been your favorite -- and least favorite -- school-required reads? Do you like historical fiction? Comment below, and have a fabulous day.

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  1. Bleak House is one of my favorite books ever! 100% recommend.

  2. I haven't read The Scarlet Letter but it's on my to-read list. I loved Great Expectations - the way everybody's story connected was super-unrealistic, but Dickens wrote it so well that I didn't mind. If you haven't yet read it, you might want to check out Little Dorrit by Dickens - it was very classical soap opera, but still so enjoyable and I liked it even more than GE. Great reviews! :)

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques


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