Huge Books and the Importance of Characters

A massive book can be a great way for us to immerse ourselves in a fictional world. The longer we spend with the characters that give life to the stories on the page, the more interested we become in their personalities, tribulations and activities. Feeling like we know the characters intimately certainly helps to continue to turn the pages of a huge tome, even if it seems that we are not making any significant progress. But what if the characters of a huge book fail to entrance us or don’t feel well developed?

There were four huge books that I wanted to read this year. Although I started all of them, I only finished one – Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. The other ones I decided to DNF, and the overall reason was the same for all of them. As I was struggling to connect with the characters, I lost all interest in the plot and I could not possibly force myself to continue to slug through the pages just for the sake of getting to the end of the following books.

 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The humongous War and Peace starts during a soirée organised by Anna Pavlovna in 1805. Various characters discuss not only occurrences in their lives, but also the political and military movements of Napoleon. I was not being able to remember whom any of the characters were or their connections with one another. They were just a massive muddle of names on pages with no distinguishable features or personalities. I lost all the desire to read this classic very early on, despite having cherished reading Anna Karenina some years ago. Continue reading

Last Ten Books Tag

A week ago, I saw the Last Ten Books Tag on Marina Sofia’s blog (I couldn’t unearth who the original creator was) and decided to give it a go, although I don’t tend to do tags very often. I always struggle to come up with answers for numerous of the questions asked on tags for some reason, so forgive me if my replies are not particularly remarkable and insightful.

 

Last book I gave up on

This one is easy! I gave up on War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy early on in January after reading less than ten chapters. In 1805, Anna Pavlovna organised a soirée where various characters discussed not only their lives, but also Napoleon and his political and military movements. I just couldn’t memorise whom any of the characters were or their connections with one another. For that reason, I lost all interest in this massive novel, which I had been meaning to read for years.

 

Last book I reread

After deciding not to finish War and Peace, I figured that it was a good idea to read an old favourite. I reread Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and loved it as much as the first time around. The dystopian society it portrays is well known for its telescreens and being ruled by the Party, whose face is the Big Brother. Winston, the main character, works in the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites past information. His life gets progressively more complicated as he becomes involved with Julia. Continue reading

Book Haul – December 2020

A long time has passed since I wrote my previous book haul. I bought some books between then and now but never in bulk. As I was reading them almost immediately after buying them, I didn’t feel like sharing them with you on a post before reviewing them. This month, though, I decided to order seven books from the UK (before the Brexit transition period ends to avoid them potentially ending up in Customs next year) and they all arrived at the same time!

 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries is one of the four massive books that I plan to read during the first half of 2021. Set in the 19th century, it has as main character Walter Moody, who decided to try to make his fortune in the goldfields of New Zealand. He becomes involved in the mystery surrounding various unsolved crimes. Although I wasn’t impressed by the TV adaptation, I decided to give the novel by Eleanor Catton a whirl.

 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

It is decided! The first book that I’ll read next year is the colossal War and Peace! Now that I’ve finally bought it (in a stunning Vintage Classic Russians edition, which sadly arrived damaged), I can’t delay picking it up anymore. As Napoleon’s army marches on Russia, the lives of a group of young people change forever. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy it as much as Anna Karenina. Continue reading

Huge Books on My Wish List

Since I’ve started setting myself a minimum number of books to read in each given year, I feel like I’ve been (unconsciously) avoiding picking up huge books. I only read around an hour per day on average, so it takes me several weeks to read a book longer than 800 pages. There are four massive books that I want to read soon, though! And by soon, I mean probably next year, since I will have to either maybe lower the number of books on my usual reading challenge or not to have one at all.

 

The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber

Set in Victorian London, it has as main character Sugar, a young woman trying to achieve a better life in any way she can. It is around 860 pages long. As the majority of the reviews that I read are quite positive, it has inexcusably been on my wish list for far too long.

 

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the fantasy series The Farseer Trilogy (the first one more than the second to be honest), whose main character and narrator is the royal bastard Fitz. Thus, I’m curious to read the third instalment, Assassin’s Quest. At the same time, however, I’m fearful, as I found Royal Assassin unnecessarily lengthy and its follow-up is even longer. Will it justify being around 840 pages long? Continue reading

Favourite Opening Lines

By the time that we finish reading most books, the opening lines have already vanished from our memory. A selected few, however, linger on, long after we close the books and start new ones. They remain forever imprinted in our mind. My favourites are long and short, summarise the premise of the book or just leave readers wondering. There’s not a specific characteristic that distinguishes all of them.

 

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Continue reading

The Translated Literature Book Tag

I’ve only done a couple of tags since starting this blog around three years ago. For no particular reason other than most of the times I can’t come up with answers to the questions, it’s usually not the type of content that I write. But when I was tagged by Callum to do the Translated Literature Book Tag, created by Diana, for once many books started to spring to mind to answer almost all of the queries.

In the context of this tag, I think it’s important to mention that I can read fluently in Portuguese and English. So, I now only read translations of books originally written in other languages besides those two. But, without further ado, let’s get into the questions.

 

  1. A translated novel you would recommend to everyone

No book can please everyone, so I can’t promise that you will all like my pick for this question. However, as Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch (translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett) mixes a crime story with musings on writing and fiction, I believe that it’s a book that readers of a wide variety of genres may appreciate. A murder is used to justify why reality and fiction have to differ. The story is told from various perspectives, and certain elements are introduced at specific moments to surprise the readers. Continue reading

Books I’ve Been Delaying Reading

There are some books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, but that I haven’t even bought yet for various reasons. Every time I see someone mention them I remember that I have them on my wish list. However, when the time comes to buy new books (I don’t tend to keep many to-be-read books on my shelves), they end up not being the ones I choose.

 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

As far as I know, this dystopian novel is about a group of teenage friends who commit a series of crimes. One of them is arrested and the State tries to reform him. The idea behind the book interested me straight away, but then I grew afraid of not understanding it, since I learnt that the language used is supposed to be an anglicised form of Russian. I still want to read it, though. I suppose I just need a bit of encouragement.

 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro   

One thing that keeps happening to me is to unintentionally watch the adaptation first and read the book afterwards. I don’t really have a huge problem with that. I usually can easily distinguish the book from the film, and I ended up discovering great books and authors I had never heard about through adaptations. Continue reading

Favourite Supporting Characters

The most famous or beloved characters in books are usually the protagonists. However, a fascinating book wouldn’t be the same without captivating supporting characters. They are crucial to add depth to the story and even to the protagonists. Being a supporting character doesn’t mean being secondary to the protagonist or less important. In fact, they usually help us to better understand the main characters.

When I first decided to write about this topic, I thought it would be easy to choose my favourite supporting characters. But I was wrong for a couple of reasons. First, it isn’t always easy to establish if a character has a main or a supporting role. And second, too many characters sprang to mind. Nevertheless, I managed to select six from among the myriad of possibilities.

 

Levin – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The main story in Anna Karenina revolves around Anna and Vronsky, so I consider Levin to be a supporting character. However, I could read an entire book just about him. He’s one of the most enthralling characters in my opinion, because it’s mainly through him that we get to know more about Russian society and politics, and his internal struggle to adjust to having a family (and it not being a perfect experience) is rather thought-provoking.   Continue reading

Authors I Want to Read More Books By

To read a book by an author new to us can sometimes be a daunting experience, as we are usually not certain about what to expect. It can either be a fantastic new discovery or a great disappointment. In the latest years, I’ve been lucky to discover new authors whose work I want to continue to delve into. These are some of the authors I’ve only read one book by but want to read more for various and different reasons.

 

Kate Atkinson

At the end of last year, I read A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson and it was one of my favourite books of 2016. This is a good enough reason to want to read more of her books, but there is another. Some of the same characters are also featured in Life After Life, leaving me quite curious about this particular book.

 

John Burnside

The Dumb House by John Burnside was also one of my favourite books of last year. I loved the exquisite writing style. Thus, I already have quite a few books by him on my wish list. Continue reading

Longest Books I Have Read

Long books can be more intimidating than short ones, as they take longer to read and require more commitment. However, once in a while I quite like to immerse myself into a long book for a few weeks. It feels like an alternative life that complements our real one, since the characters are usually more developed and the plot more detailed.

I turned my bookcase upside down to discover which are the longest books I have ever read.

 

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – 1006 pages

The story of two practical magicians, who restore magic to England during the time of the French Invasions, is quite an entertaining read. The amount of details on magic and the various footnotes transform this novel into an alternative history tale. You can read my full review here. Continue reading