Book Review

All About Books: Hardy, Eliot, and Ten Boom

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

I recently finished reading Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. I’ve read it once before, back in my heathen college days, and didn’t like it. I suspect I was too stupid to appreciate Hardy’s vocabulary and too shallow to appreciate his detailed descriptions of flora, fauna, and architecture.

Let me tell you, though, I couldn’t put the book down this time, even in spite of its daunting 362 pages.

This is the same copy I read in college. It even had my old notes in it, which were hysterical to read.

Far From the Madding Crowd is set in rural nineteenth century England and follows the fate of Gabriel Oak who meets and falls immediately in love with a very vain woman named Bathesheba. Then we meet two more men in the novel: Mr. Boldwood and Captain Troy.

Now just looks at those names. What comes to mind? There are so many biblical and ancient references in this book that it’s no wonder I was clueless the first time I read it. (Which is why, by the way, it’s worthwhile to revisit a book that one read a long time ago.)

In any case, this book was amusing and a sheer delight to read.

Silas Marner by George Eliot

I read this book by George Eliot (i.e. Mary Ann Evans) for four reasons:

  1. It’s short.
  2. It’s a Victorian novel. (I love Victorian novels.)
  3. I enjoyed two of Eliot’s other novels, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, so why not read another?
  4. Since the gals (and Mr. Banks) were reading it at the Literary Life Podcast, I wanted to follow along with them.

Now, did I like it? Meh. It picked up as I went along, but I must admit, I got tired of the didactic tone, and I found parts of it unbelievable–possible, yes, but unbelievable.

Basically this novel follows the plight of Silas Marner, a thwarted weaver living in the sticks who loses all, but gains something even better. I won’t spoil it for those of you tempted to read it, for it is worth a read.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

I’ve written about this excellent book before. (Click HERE for details.) The reason I reread it was for a local book club–The Well-Read Mom.

As I’ve said before, if you haven’t read this autobiography, you are missing out. Corrie Ten Boom tells her story of hiding Jews during WWII and of how she survived a Nazi concentration camp. I give it a 10+.

Go buy a copy NOW. You won’t be able to put it down.

Bonus Book Mention: And now, a book I tossed into the trash…

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

This book was another read for the Well-Read Mom Book Club. It seems that every year at least one sketchy book is selected.

I tried to finish it, really. But page after page was chock full of occult practices and disordered sexual references, that I quit on page 47. I then looked up the author. It would appear to me that she had an agenda with this book. She wrote it specifically for Young Adults and even won awards for it. Disgusting.

I should have known even before page 47 when Alvarez has one the older sisters tell her younger sister that, “Sometimes you need to do a bad thing for good to come.”* Nope. No, you don’t. The ends never justify the means.

It’s not that authors can’t write about bad or evil things, though. They can, but what matters is that the good is good and the bad is bad. It’s harmful to read books that don’t get virtue and vice right. In others words, you can’t pass bad things off as good, which I think Alvarez does.

Alvarez even admits to having no biographical information about these four sisters who died in the Dominican Republic under a totalitarian regime, and the picture she paints is, well, disturbing. She’s got them playing fortune telling games with a priest, buying and reading spell books behind their mother’s back, drawing pictures of private male anatomy and then laughing when caught, participating in a girl stripping naked for others just to look at, and finally, where I quit, the masturbation scene.

Now you tell me, with zero biographical information, was all that necessary? Or is Alvarez sending a different message? Regardless of what other messages she may want to portray in the book, it would appear that Alvarez is trivializing and therefore normalizing these other completely disordered and disgusting behaviors. And remember, her intended audience are teenagers.

What Am I Reading Next?

I don’t know yet. I might pick up George Orwell’s 1984. Or I might read another Dorothy Sayers detective novel. Or maybe Agatha Christie?

What are you all reading?

*I can’t verify the exact quotation, because I threw the book away. But if you still have the book, check between pages 40-46. Then throw that trash away.

11 thoughts on “All About Books: Hardy, Eliot, and Ten Boom”

  1. I didn’t like Silas Marner. I’m about to re-read The Hiding Place for WRM. And I did finish In the Time of the Butterflies … but I agree with your analysis! My twelve-year-old avid reader wanted to read it, and I was like, “No. way.” She said, “Is it too inappropriate for me?” I said, “It was too inappropriate for me.” Have you read The Mayor of Casterbridge by Hardy? 😊 (Why can I not underline or italicize in comments …?)

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  2. I completely burst out laughing when I saw that garbage picture. I have stood over many a garbage can, contemplating whether or not I need to retrieve what I’ve just chucked.

    I’ve just finished the Story of St. Dominic Savio by St. John Bosco. What an example for our teenagers!

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    1. Saint stories are so inspiring and important. They’re what I read aloud every afternoon to the children. We particularly like the Mary Fabyan Windeatt books:

      https://tanbooks.com/catholic-kids-books/windeatt-series/mary-fabyan-windeatt-20-book-set/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwi7yCBhDJARIsAMWFScOudtoqMaBBeX8bujd0Q1znwcV2fSdQTogQqQHzDEwtzY3R-x5JI3YaAgqIEALw_wcB

      Don’t be deceived by the simplistic book covers. Those books are the real deal.

      I didn’t know St. John Bosco wrote a book about St. Dominic Savio. That looks awesome.

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  3. I finished As You Like It by Shakespeare which was alright. Probably (or definitely) better to see a performance than just read that one as it’s pretty predictable. I’m slowly working my way through Charlotte Mason ‘s volume 6 for a discussion group. I think I need to find a novel to jazz things up a bit, though. My go to genre of interest is 19th classic British literature! I still remember years ago Netflix made me my own special list of suggestions based on films I had already watched 😂 It was eerily accurate to what I would like lol. I wouldn’t trust them to generate a list for me in more recent times! I don’t know if you’ve followed their controversy a few months ago. Yikes.

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    1. I’ve never read As You Like It. I’m sorely lacking in my Shakespeare education.

      My boys keep pestering me to do Henry V for our next Shakespeare play, only because of the famous St. Crispian’s Day speech. The boys love that speech and want to memorize it too because my husband likes to blast it while driving in the car with them.

      Personally, I think the play sounds boring. Only one female character. 😉 Has anyone read it?

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  4. One of my favorite quotes comes from Silas Marner. Here it is: “In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction; a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they may look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child’s.” George Eliot from Silas Marner

    I really like George Eliot. Another of my favorite Victorian era authors is Elizabeth Gaskell. Have you read any of her books?

    Melisa

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  5. I just started In the time of the butterflies for WRM, meeting next week- I’m glad this is one I borrowed from the library and didn’t purchase!

    Do you usually have several books going at once, or are you more of a one-at-a-time reader? Just curious.

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    1. That depends on how you look at it…

      I’ve got my morning spiritual reading, which I do after Lauds. Then I’ve got a book I’m reading aloud to the children. Then I’ve got my “normal” book that I happen to be perusing. (1984 at the moment.) Then I’ve got one on my nightstand for the evening when I wait for my husband to crawl into bed.

      So, usually I’ve got four books going. But really, only one that’s my “main” read. Does that make sense?

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