Plays by G.B.S

Includes Man and Superman, Arms and the Man, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Candida

 

This book was lent to me by one of a close family friend. Tagging along with my parents, I was at their place for a christian sermon event. Mr– was a very kind man, a person of vigorous intellect and respectable position. As a fellow book fan, he found me reading at the couch in the corner and kindly brought me to his house library to recommend me some books.

I have never read a book in the form of a play before. The last time I had was at school, when reading Macbeth or Merchant of Venice was mandatory. To be frank, I was a little skeptical initially.

But the tasteful and witty character of Vivie got my immediate attention.

The character of Vivie was so marked with a moral uprightness and charm that she immediately rose to the status of being an unforgettable figure. Unabashed as she is in facing the toils of life head on, she is forgiving and graceful. She is loving, yet hard on her mother who coaxes her to join her in her work. She is kind and compliant, yet is as clear cut in her rejection of men who asks for her hand. She is gentle as she is ruthless.

And whatever decision she made, she made with such convincing force I found myself admiring her and rooting for her unhesitatingly.

And like the rest of the characters in the other stories, it seems the author is fond of portraying unconventional women, who dont think the way they are ‘supposed’ to, with a streak of character that extends beyond mere love of finery or propriety.

In fact, all of the characters behave ‘unpredictably’, which makes their dialogues so much more alive and sparkling with attitude. They are overflowing with their own distinguished personality that it feels almost as if they are defying the author’s vision of them, and thinking on their own, refusing to be limited by the author’s vision.

This book is definitely a must read.

 

 

 

 

War and Peace

How Ive come to know this story:

It was a book that has been on my mind and that I wanted to read for a long time, especially from reading Anna Karenina. Given to me as a gift, I was more than eager to be whisked away to the 1800’s Russian context society. Just when I thought I could not be more in awe and full of praise from reading Anna Karenina, War and Peace proves that it is a legend notwithstanding to be any less than the worthy title that leaves readers dumbstruck and with poignant insights about life.

Summary:

Set in the period of early 19th century Russia, when Napoleon along with his vast empire was on his conquest to rule all of Europe, the lives of four main families (Bezukhov, Kuragin, Bolkonsky, and Rostov) intermingle and weave a powerful tale of love, family, friendship, suffering, death, and the like from each of their own unique experiences. Perspectives shift numerous times, but the narratives of Pierre Bezukhov, Natasha Rostova, Prince Andrei, and Nikolai Rostov often take on the lead roles.

Before reading, I was a little apprehensive about the number of characters appearing in the story, but Tolstoy makes sure that the reader is able to see and feel what each character is sensing, enabling the characters to etch their memories and personalities in the heart of the readers.

Apart from the charming and astoundingly real and human characters, Tolstoy is able to vividly describe the setting of war, of the freezing and starving soldiers, the positions of cannons/artillery and their booming sound, of the bloody casualties and corpses on the field, napoleon’s extravagant quarters, the ballroom where characters fall in love, the country house where princess Marya dutifully takes care of her increasingly senile father, and much more. As the foreword mentions: Nothing escapes his observations.

War and Peace will take the reader to experience a diverse range of feelings: Angry when Ellen Kuragin shows her obvious goal of marrying Pierre for his wealth, pity for the Count Rostov who despite his magnanimity faces an unexpected financial crisis, terrified when Anatol Kuragin tries to lure Natasha Rostova (already with a fiance) to escape with him and lead her to vice, and celebrate in happiness when Pierre does not die at the hands of the French while taken prisoner.

Tolstoy through these diverse temperaments, truly show the growth and personal development of each characters’ journey towards maturity and spiritual freedom. It is astounding how he manifests the most powerful and compelling lessons of life through the eyes of the different characters.

Although it is not a fast read, War and Peace is a story one must be acquainted with, and expect that it will stay in one’s heart as more than just an acquaintance.

 

The Count of Monte Cristo

“All human wisdom is contained in these two words – Wait and Hope”

A compelling plot that revolves around a protagonist in achieving a singularly, long-standing and staunched purpose: Revenge. It is from this goal that creates the intricate web of disguise and labyrinthe machinations and manipulations that the Count masterfully executes. Edmond Dantes returns, as the Count of Monte Cristo, after he’s been wrongfully imprisoned for 14 years for a belief that he did not have by the people whom he had blindly trusted, and saved by his only company, guide, and teacher in prison, Abbe Faria. No longer the naive young sailor Edmond Dantes once used to be, the Count of Monte Cristo is a calculated man, thirsty for revenge and ensuing his own definition of justice.


One notable characteristic of this book is the development of the protagonist, in how his view transitions from his rosy colored world to a despicable bloodstained world. It truly manifests the gradual process that man undergoes in real life from being a visionary youth full of hopes and dreams, to a more reticent, strategic adult, with experiences of having been burnt from the knowledge that one truly does not understand the world even by a speck, and neither has he unlocked the mysteries of life, by the people who weren’t what one thought out to be. Apart from the profound change of character highlighted most clearly, the book is commendable for the theme it upholds until the end: Revenge. The Count ruins, destroys all the lives and relationships of the conspirators (his previous sailor accompanies and a prosecutor named Villefort) he once trusted, leaving no room for mercy as even innocent lives are killed as consequences. From a moral standpoint, the Count may not be justified for his almost cruel vigilante acts. However, the charm lies not solely in contemplation of the morality of the book but simply the adventure it takes you from one twist to another.

Though not a short read, I was not able to realize how fast Ive been reading that before I even realized, I was flipping through the last pages. How the Count had managed to bedazzle the other characters he sought to revenge, and his manipulative acts of ‘betrayal’ truly astounded me, propelling me to read on. Though he was divisive and orchestrated ominous tragedies for his targets, he was in no way a subject of loathing as the readers are made to sympathize with his thoughts and circumstances. In a way, it was almost pitiful (though at some cases admirable) how the protagonist was solely driven by the sense of revenge for his reason to endure life.

Definitely a must read by anyone looking for a book of adventure wanting to experience a whirlwind of emotions and events.





Middlemarch

                                                  
         “And, of course men know best about everything, except what women know better.”

I took it upon myself the challenge of reading a book centered and themed of adult life. As expected, the undertaking of reading Middlemarch brought a new light to my understanding of complex emotions that arise from more intricate and sensitive causes. The sheer values resonating throughout the story were so rich in character and emotions, in all their genuine glory. The plot is based on the intertwining lives of people living in the town called Middlemarch of the early 19th century when ideals of society was constantly shifting.
Perhaps it had been Dorothy’s kindred spirit and compassionate view of others as well has her marked human signs of vulnerability and pain, or Lydgate’s unfortunate and sympathetic situation due to one mismatched event of ever meeting his wife, or the quirky and loyal relationship of Fred and Mary that made this book so special and dear. For me, my personal bias most definitely would be the honourable and noble love Will Ladislaw harboured for Dorothy and his occasionally unconstrained outbursts of expressions. Sharing in Lydgate’s affinity for research and scientific pursuits was enjoyable too, that is, until they were ruined by a girl who seemed to be immune and devoid of any sensibility or projection of real life.
Upon reading this, I viewed my mother differently. For the first time, I thought about parents not as parents, but human beings who once experienced (and could experience) such well-drawn emotions George Eliot had created. Admittedly, it was not a exciting moment as much as it was enlightening to think about the inner life-insecurities, fear, anxiety, even hate- and untold secrets shared in marriage between two people. And so I say to leave this with the thought that someday, I will truly understand my mother and relate to the pains and joys brought upon by loving another. For now, I’ll comfortably lean back and wonder.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

“Man is not truly one, but truly two.”


The story is narrated in the point of view of an impartial, acute lawyer, Mr. Utterson. In the dead of night, he witnesses a brutal act committed by an exteriorly hideously looking man and finds out he lives by the name, Mr. Edward Hyde. More ominous accounts of Mr Hyde are told by other dark happenings in the city. Meanwhile, Mr. Utterson has long been a confidant and conversation company for a respectable man referred to as Dr. Jekyll, who upholds a respectable reputation and unassuming disposition among those who are acquainted with him. However, he soon finds out that Doctor Jekyll was not a man unpretentious to his demeanor and more crucially, unrelated to the suspicious events circulating in town.
If man has a side catered and polished to pleasurably meet and emulate the standards of society, then he has an equally opposite facet or break in character, a grotesque attribute buried and locked within the depths of his soul that would be regarded at least an umbrage to reality. The question of whether man is inherently evil or good strike my mind. Upon introspection, this applies to me and perhaps it was an adapted natural tendency acquired to survive in this world, more than an inherent trait of mind. The story felt simple but weighed with great gravity that will put the readers to an uncomfortable yet characteristically charming degree of reflection.

Readers note: I was surprised to see that this story composed of only one-fifth of the book. There were other stories included such as the Suicide Club, Rajah’s Diamond, The Pavilion on the Links. I was expecting to see the book to be all about Dr.Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but it had only been part of a collection of short stories. Perhaps they entitled it such to highlight the story.

Robinson Crusoe

 “Evil: I am cast upon a horrible desolate Island, void of all hope of Recovery.
Good: But I am alive, and not drown’d as all my Ship’d Company was.”
A book of the old 17th century, Robinson Crusoe centers around a man who, against his family’s wishes, has his heart set on travelling across the seas. Early on in the book, he is equipped with skills and techniques relating to the process of trade, profits, and a general experience in handling the rules of the sea. He is quick to assimilate and adapt to new methods. However, all is lost when he experiences a shipwreck one day on his expedition to West Africa, and finds only himself stranded on an island. With only remaining resources from the ship to last, Crusoe must devise a way to survive… alone.

Though it might at first glance seem like an ordinary tale of adventure from a single point of view, Robinson Crusoe deals with the deepest, rawest aspect of human life. When stripped off of everything, Defoe accurately portrays man dealing with the verge of insanity, despair, will to live, and an ordeal of faith. A civilization within a solitary man. Defoe leaves the readers wondering how we take for granted the web of society we are in and how unimaginably bare and helpless the current generation would be in if thrown in the same condition as Crusoe. For me, this thought went so far as how I am the product of my ancestors who had miraculously survived through a tireless cycle of survival. It is  truly a powerful story.

Little Men

“…we’re twins, and so we love each other more than other people…”

“…a good name was more precious than gold; for once lost money could not buy it back; and faith in one another made life smooth and happy as nothing else could do.”

“It takes so little to make a child happy, that it is a pity in a world full of sunshine and pleasant things, that there should be any wistful faces, empty hands, and lonely little hearts.”

Browsing through the shelves in the library of what masterpiece would next fall to my eager clutches, I spotted the book which caught my eye written by the same author who so endearingly captivated my heart in the past. Even before reading, there was an air of familiarity and feeling of kinship that arose the moment it was picked. Although expectations were high, I thought that nothing could par my love for Little Women. As I began reading, someone noticed the book and gave me a knowing eye. I asked her which book she enjoyed reading more, and she replied jestingly, “Little Men, since I have a little bias for fictional male characters.” Indeed bias it was as I also found myself quickly enamored with the characters in the story. Not only did I have bias for male characters, but also the bucolic scenery, carefree environment and imaginative descriptions. Louisa May Alcott yet again proved why she tops the list of the most admirable and heartfelt authors of all time.
Portrayed as the ‘follow-up’ story in the perspective of Jo March, Little Men tells an extraordinary tale of the events in the daily life of the children in Plumfield where Mr. and Mrs Bhaer, Jo’s husband, govern together. Though they all start as blithe almost wild young girls and boys, one can gradually and almost wistfully feel the growth of each one becoming someone solidly grounded, remaining faithful to their principles and lessons taught by their caretakers. Alcott depicts the transitions and the coming of age in the most insightful and skillful way that gives lasting impact to the readers.  I cannot possibly give enough praise and adulation for it. Truly, it is one of the most remarkable, laugh and cry along books I’ve encountered.