Reading Challenge Update #6

I recently finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This was a book that it seemed like everyone had read except me. Even my mom read it and she reads about 3 books a year. I picked this book based on her recommendation. I don’t read much modern literature, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much coming into this novel. I was pleasantly surprised, though.

the art of racing in the rain

At first the narration style got on my nerves a bit. The wording was often simple, but repetitive. I had to keep telling myself that the style was like that because the narrator is a dog. This dog is no ordinary dog though, and he soon won me over completely. Enzo has a child-like spirit and marvels at small things that we often take for granted, like opposable thumbs. At times he is brutally honest, but his wisdom shines through.

The novel focuses a lot on racing and cars, so I thought I wouldn’t enjoy that emphasis much, since I don’t really have a strong interest in cars, but the metaphors were well written throughout the novel, helping, rather than hindering the narrative. Enzo’s master is Denny Swift, a racing enthusiast, so it makes sense that Enzo loves racing just as much as he loves Denny. I loved seeing their relationship develop, because like human relationships, there are ups and downs.

Maybe I enjoyed this novel so much because I have a puppy of my own. In some ways, Enzo is every dog, loyal, loving, and pure-hearted. But because I have a puppy, the emotional parts of the novel were likely even more emotional than they would be if I had never had a pet of my own. Overall, I think this is a must-read novel for any dog-lover, or animal-lover, for that matter.

I will say that the story progression is a bit predictable. If the narrator were anyone but a dog, I would have put the book down after the first chapter or so. The story is more remarkable because of the canine narrator. Even with the mostly predictable story line, it’s still a cute novel. I can’t really give much of a summary without spoilers, but it’s a quick read.

Reading Challenge Update #5

About two week ago I finished reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. I counted this under the category ‘a book set in Europe’, although it could have counted as a few different things.
owc-tenant-of-wildfell-hall1
Although Anne Bronte is one of the least well-known Bronte sisters, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The style seemed like a mix between Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. It has a similar style to Charlotte Bronte with the feminist themes, coupled with beautiful and accurate observations of characters/setting, but it also resembles Austen’s style that is lighter and more relationship-focused than that of Charlotte Bronte.

I loved that the novel used some of the Gothic elements, like many Victorian novels, including Jane Eyre (one of my top 5 favorites). The Tenant of Wildfell Hall presents an interesting adaptation of the Byronic hero that is present in so many Gothic novels, in that the hero is actually a heroine. It’s definitely arguable that Helen Graham, the main character of the novel exhibits the traits of the Byronic hero, or in this case, heroine.

For those who may or may not know, the Byronic hero was named after Lord Byron, as a variation of the romantic hero.
Character traits of the Byronic hero include: high level of intelligence/ keen observation skills; cunning and adaptability; sophisticated/ educated; self-critical/ introspective; mysterious/brooding, but also charismatic/ magnetic; struggles with integrity; power of seduction and sexual attraction; social/ sexual dominance. Helen doesn’t necessarily fit every category, but many Byronic heroes won’t check every box.

A brief summary without spoilers: A mysterious widow arrives at Wildfell Hall, a manor near Gilbert Markham, the narrator of the first and third parts of the novel. He observes her with great interest and begins to learn about her life, despite her wishes to remain as isolated as possible from the world around her. However, Mr. Markham and Arthur, Helen’s son, soon form a strong bond, and Helen is eventually drawn into a friendship with Mr. Markham. Helen harbors secrets though, that if the truth was found out, her and little Arthur’s lives could be drastically changed forever.

That’s all I’ll say of that. There are elements of mystery and intrigue, as well as romance and heartbreak. If you’re looking for drama and Victorian gossip, there’s some of that as well. Honestly, it has all the elements of a great novel, and the characterization is vivid. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone remotely interested in Victorian literature.