Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

I read A Christmas Carol as a part of my bookclub reading list, even though I didn't actually end up going that particular week. We had decided to read it because not only does it show up in a lot of pop culture (Doctor who!) but one member had heard that week that it was a good Dickens to start with.

Being short I was keen (you would think by now I would have learnt about short books) and wanted to be able to say "I've read some Dickens" whether or not "A Christmas Carol" was *actually* on the list.

I did not like this book. I suspect that was because I was very familiar with the concept. When I was a kid one year we went to the Myer windows and the story was A Christmas Carol (check year?) and while I never really watched any donald duck-type cartoons I knew about "scrooge mcduck" and him diving into his monies.

Knowing the plotline of a book is not necessarily a dealbreaker (I still enjoyed A Picture of Dorian Grey) but I found myself eager to get on with it: "okay okay, next ghost, let's get a move on".
Perhaps because I knew what the ending would be, or perhaps it is a kids book - is it a kids book? - I found the story too simplistic. Dude gets visited by 3 ghosts and then loves Christmas.
Aaaaaand perhaps it is a little because I am not actually the biggest fan of Christmas in the world. I misliked the overarching theme of "you must like christmas and be agreeable because: CHRISTMAS"

There were definitely flaws with the way that Scrooge was living, and people need to be loving and caring ALL year around, not just at christmas.
I just didn't think that the arguments the ghosts made really would have convinced someone so set in his ways as scrooge.

That being said, there were times when I really appreciated the writing. Despite me not being a big fan of the book, I think that perhaps my fellow bookclubber was correct, it was a good entry-Dickens. What it did do was make me interested to read a story of his in which I am less familiar with the plotlines so that I can appreciate
both story and writing. Provided it is, in fact, a good story!


Monday, November 5, 2012

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells
Edited to add a plot synopsis at Emmeline's request:
The Invisible Man is about a bloke who works out how to turn himself invisible but can't undo the effect. The story is about his efforts to fix the issue and how he manages to operate in a world in which one really has to be visible to be interacted with. [/edit]

Having previously watched Warehouse 13 on Syfy [very minor season 2 spoiler] the authorship of The Invisible Man was confusing to me because in Warehouse 13 H.G. Wells is brought back to life* and to almost everyone's surprise is actually a woman, Helena, who goes by 'HG' and used her brother as a cover but was actually the ideas powerhouse. From my brief research (yes, I just glanced over the wikipage), Wells does not appear to have been a woman, but having watched HG run around with Agents Bering and Latimer she was very much ingrained in my head as a woman.

I do believe that you read a book differently if the author is a woman or a man**. So I was doing this weird thing whereby the lens through which I read the book kept switching back and forth between female and male authorship.
Even though I knew the author was a man.

I didn't like the main character, the invisible man. And I don't believe he is supposed to be sympathetic, given that for most of the book we follow the story through the eyes of those around him; Mrs Hall, Mr Marvel and Kemp.
The invisible man was nasty and rude and as the story progresses one imagines that he has always been so, it isn't just as a result of his invisibility.
Later in the book they describe the man that was as having been an albino but the whole way I imagined him as black or very dark-featured because early on someone pointed out he had black legs.

"I seed through the tear of his trousers and the tear of his glove. You'd have expected a sort of pinky to show, wouldn't you? Well—there wasn't none. Just blackness. I tell you, he's as black as my hat."..."That marn's a piebald, Teddy. Black here and white there—in patches."

Even though I knew the reason his leg was 'black' was because what the man was seeing through the tear was, infact, the dark inside of an empty trouser leg.

This book was fairly unpleasant as none of the characters were particularly sympathetic. I was unable to connect with Mrs Hall; with Marvel I merely feared for his life (see below for reasons why); and whilst I liked Kemp he (and everyone) was hardly around long enough to get to know him.
The reason I feared for Marvel's life was because the way I read the back of the book was: Invisible man kills a man and goes to a friend for help. So I was waiting for him to kill someone in a rage or accidentally, which never seemed to happen.


Perhaps I misread and they were talking about when the Invisible Man is accidentally killed. But I spend the whole book on tenterhooks.


On the whole this book was not bad. As I say, the characters were not overly likeable but it moved quickly and was over soon. I wouldn't say that this is something everyone should read, but if you want to be able to say you've read some H.G.Wells you might want to go with this. From Warehouse 13 I was led to believe that Wells wrote about all sorts of fantastical inventions, so I was a bit disappointed in the lack thereof.


* In my handwritten notes (written about 6 months ago) I put an asterix here, but didn't put a corresponding thought anywhere on the page... so now I'm not sure why!
** For example, when I first read Harry Potter I believed that 'J.K.' was a man. I believe I was intentionally misled. Would Harry Potter have been as famous if, from the outset, the books were by 'Joanne Rowling'?