Title: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Publisher: Arrow Books
Genre: Historical Novel
“No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent… therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” This quote by John Donne inspired Hemingway’s novel, which tells us about death and suicide but, above all, it shows the devastating consequences of war.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is set during the Spanish Civil War and the plot shows a parallel development with the war itself. At the beginning, Jordan and the Republican guerrillas go through an optimistic stage but later the Fascist forces overwhelm the protagonist, pushing him into a dark fate. Furthermore, the novel is not a mere fictional book but a primary historical source whose content has been key to understanding our contemporary context.
What is thrilling about this novel is its clear and concise writing style. Ernest Hemingway’s style is one of the main attractions of the book: not a single barroquity or pompouse adjective is found. The direct grammar drives us into the vertiginous relationship between Jordan and Maria within the implacable civil war. What’s more, some characters -such as Anselmo or Pilar- are so well depicted that they accurately embody traditional Spanish stereotypes and characteristics. It seems you could come across them round the corner.
Even though it is a historical novel, it can not be regarded as objective nonfiction. The Spanish Civil War was the consequence of a geographic and historical framework which divided the country and the people, making foreign volunteers become nothing more than mere spectators.
Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Publication date: 1813
Genre: Romance novel
Jane Austen was born on 16th December 1775, in Hampshire (Hants), southern England. As the seventh of eight children, she received a very complete education in the internship of Steventon, where kids were instructed and prepared for college. She wrote other books such as “Sense and Sensibility” and “Emma”.
“Pride and Prejudice” narrates the situation and problems that the Bennet family will have to face in order to keep their small fortune, with the help from a rich, singular man who falls in love with one of the five daughters of Mr. Bennet (Elizabeth).
The novel represents a fierce criticism on the social conventions and the big abyss that existed between classes at the beginning of the 19th century. In it we can find the protagonist determined to marry for love, but at the same time she assumes without drama the treatment that single women received, showing she was proud of being what she was… a woman.
I think this novel inspired many writers and even film directors to use women as powerful characters who become independent, strong and educated, having the possibility to succeed in life as much as any man.
Title: Perfume – The Story of a Murderer
Author: Patrick Süskind
Publication date: 1985
Genre: Magic realism, horror fiction
“Perfume: the Story of a Murderer” is a 1985 novel by the best-selling German author Patrick Süskind. It follows a young orphan born in Paris during the late modern times who has an extraordinary sense of smell that allows him to sense objects and things that other people could only imagine. It comes to a point when he doesn’t need his sight to guide himself around the city, as he easily recognizes the smell of everything around him. One day, he crosses paths with a virgin girl whose scent he’d never come across before and becomes obsessed with it. From then on, Grenouille begins murdering young girls with a similar fragrance in order to preserve them.
“Perfume” is a book that absorbed and fascinated me in ways others haven’t in years. I’d watched the film a few years ago but, either it didn’t succeed in capturing the novel’s essence, or I was too little for it to significantly mark me.
“Perfume” is written in a way that not only seizes your attention, but physically immerses you into the story too. There were passages where the different smells were so beautifully written that you thought you might be able to feel them in real life. I think my favourite element from the novel was Grenouille’s characterization. In my opinion, “Perfume” is more about his inner journey than about the serial killings, even if these are sold as the main focus of the story.
In conclusion, Süskind’s “Perfume: the Story of a Murderer” is a fantastic book that covered every expectation I had and managed to secure a spot among my favourites.
Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Brontë
Publication date: 1847
Genre: Bildungsroman (‘coming-of-age’ story)
The book that I’m going to comment on was written in 1847 by Charlotte Brontë, a famous novelist born in England in 1816. The novel, called “Jane Eyre”, is one of her most renowned works.
The book tells us about Jane and her complicated life. As an orphan, she has a hard childhood, she also has to live with her poorly affectionate aunt. Then, when she becomes a teen, Jane goes to Lowood school, since she gets a job in Thornfield Hall, in which she had to serve Mr. Rochester’s daughter. Jane starts a relationship with this mysterious man until she discovers more about the secrets that the house and the family conceal.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the main themes that Brontë develops are love and intrigue. The author also immerses us into the social organization of the Victorian Era, making us understand that it was a period characterized by an attempt to improve social organization, closely related with industrial and scientific growth. Those are some of the themes that make “Jane Eyre” one of the most representative in its period, but it’s necessary to say that Brontë includes other essential themes in her literature, such as feminism, depicted by Jane’s attitude toward Mr Rochester.
Moreover, the book teaches us a lot about the context and the author’s background, as “Jane Eyre” is a kind of biography that Brontë wrote about herself. I think what makes the book keep you hooked is the perfect combination between romance and mystery, which allows the reader to be always interested in the following scene or chapter.
Title: The Thin Man
Author: Dashiell Hammett
Publication date: 1933
Genre: Detective fiction
The Thin Man is a detective novel written by Dashiell Hammett which, published in 1933 by Alfred A. Knopf. It is important to highlight that this novel was the last one he ever published before his death and its great success led to a six-part film series which also had a lot of popularity back then.
This book, Hammett´s fifth novel, is a return to first-person narration, following Nick Charles as he tells the story of a case he´s forced to take on while vacationing, six years after he left the Detective Agency. The story is set in the early 1930s in Manhattan, New York City, where Nick investigates the murder of Julia Wolf, the secretary of Nick´s old client, Clyde Wynant.
I would say I have found this detective novel a very exciting one from my inexperienced point of view on the genre, since I have paid careful attention all along the storyline, which is the reason why I´d highly recommend this book to any reader.
Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Publisher: Little, Brown and company
Genre: Social novel
“I mean, how do you know what you´re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t. I think I am, but how do I know? I swear it´s a stupid question.” This is one of the hundreds of thoughts young Holden Caulfield has. Many people feel drown to him because he feels alienated, lonely and responsible for kids who are still innocent and not fake, unlike teenagers and adults. He makes a critique of society from a very identifiable point of view.
Holden Caulfield is a young adult from a rich family. He doesn´t seem to fit in any of the schools he goes to, and at Christmas he decides to go home after he is expelled again. While he wanders around New York many situations happen, which trigger deep critiques about how fake everyone seems to be, or how aloof he is from other people… except for children. He thinks of himself as the one who has to protect children from losing their innocence. He pictures it as a rye field next to a cliff, and he has to catch the kids who get too close to it, making himself become “the catcher in the rye”.
María M. A.
Title: A Clockwork Orange
Author: Anthony Burgess
Publisher: Penguin Essentials
“What´s it going to be then, eh?” One of Alex’s most characteristic sentences. He’s the leader of a young gang who spend their time robbing, fighting or raping until he realizes what his deeds could lead him to.
A Clockwork Orange is a book that deals with themes such as violence, robbery and harassment. The perspective from which the reader perceives the ethical values depends on Alex´s situation. For example, after he´s been brainwashed, you realize people’s unexplainable thirst for revenge towards him, even though he´s defenseless.
A Clockwork Orange is a novel whose characters have different psychological states. Alex’s friends believe that they always need to follow their instincts, while the people affected by them have a need for revenge On the other hand, it would be mentionable that the vocabulary used is complex as well as informal, due to the use of gang slang. Despite that, the book achieves interesting dialogues as well as peculiar descriptions.
The fact that the author suffered many aggressions and his wife was raped would be worth mentioning to understand the story, as those situations are present throughout the plot. Despite that, the book offers an uncommon tale, which I would only recommend to adults and experienced readers, due to the themes treated as well as its slang vocabulary.