New Read: Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem

After enjoying several swashbuckling classics, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to read another, Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari, by its translator Nico Lorenzutti. So I put it on my 10 Books of Summer 2017 list to make sure I got to it at last.

Sandokan, the feared “Tiger of Malaysia”, and his loyal band of rebel pirates are the scourge of the colonial powers of the Dutch and British empires in the South China sea. Mercilessly they roam the seas attacking ships and islands seeking vengeance, wealth and the destruction of their Western oppressors. Then return with their bounty to the safety of their fortified island of Mompracem, where they have lived happily and untouched for many years. But the fate and fortune of Sandokan and his “tigers” is to suddenly change when they learn of the lauded “Pearl of Labuan”.

While on the surface our protagonist Sandokan appears to just be a blood thirsty villain, as we read on we come to discover he is actually a prince, who was brought low to piracy after the British and their local allies murdered his family and stole his throne. Since then Sandokan has sailed the seas in righteous anger. With his faithful friend Yanez De Gomera, a Portuguese wanderer and adventurer, by his side. Yanez is a more charming and cool headed character, who is a more instantly likeable character. But the love and devotion Yanez and the “tigers” have for their leader helps to show a more likeable side to Sandokan.

However everything is to change when Sandokan hears of the extraordinary “Pearl of Labuan” and risks a trip with two of his ships to the island of Labuan in hopes of catching sight of her. Yes her, as the “Pearl” is not the type of treasure you may have first imagined, but instead she is a young Western woman; famed for her beauty, golden hair and her kindness to the natives of the island. Pretty much on first sight Sandokan falls in love with the “Pearl” and decides to move heaven and earth to obtain her. In the process selfishly risking the lives of all his men and their home of Mompracem, although if he didn’t we wouldn’t have an exciting story to read.

Apparently since Emilio Salgari wrote this adventure novel in 1900 it has been, for more than a century, Italy’s second most famous love story. As a modern reader though I couldn’t help thinking the love was all a bit quick and while we are assured it is a mutual feeling, we get to know little about how the lady thinks or feels. In fact she sadly proves to play a small, passive role in the adventure, except for crying and fainting quite a bit. This is a reflection of the time period is was written in though. Fortunately I didn’t pick this up for love. Instead I was looking for adventure and boy did Salgari give me that in spade loads. With battles at sea, deadly storms, jungle ambushes, clandestine meetings, disguises, sharks, faked deaths and impossible odds! And it is this that kept me wanting to read more.

Overall, I thought Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem was a rip-roaring adventure (and love story) that swept me back in time and across the seas to an exotic dangerous land. Good read.

Thank you to the translator for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of Sandokan’s other adventures?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 4/10

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New Read: Angels

For my birthday earlier this year, my brother bought me a copy of Angels by Lee Faber. Not an author I had heard of before, but the topic was one I was definitely interested in. So when my church’s book club decided to take a break, just before Easter, I decided to read this to fill my faith reading gap.

In the first half of this book, the author Lee takes us on journey looking at angels as they are depicted in religion, history, art, music, films, literature and today. As well as discussing specifically the experiences of soldiers in WWI with the ‘Angels of Mons’. I particularly enjoyed this half of the book and sped through it. As I discovered the books, films and beautiful artwork that contain and/or have been inspired by angels. And I learnt more about angels in religion, not just being part of Judaism and Christianity, but also Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Mormonism.

The second half of the book, was then made up in the largest part by a diverse collection of real-life angel encounters. Surprisingly this is the section I enjoyed this least. I think this is because there really is some very diverse and differing beliefs on what angels are and do. I was looking for inspiration while instead I found generally differing beliefs to my own Christian based ones. However I did then enjoy the following, smaller section on angel names and finally Lee shared some of her angel inspired recipes. The recipes really were a surprise but a pleasant one as food is another big interest for me.

Overall, I thought Angels was a well written, eclectic and interesting look into the beliefs and culture that has grown up around the idea of angels. This has definitely wetted my appetite to read more about these elusive beings. Good read.

Have you read this? Any recommendations what I should read next?

The Classics Club: My Lady Ludlow

Last year, after having long wanted to read something by Elizabeth Gaskell, I read first the eponymous Cranford and then Mr Harrison’s Confessions. So it seemed appropriate that I should finish my Classics Club challenge with My Lady Ludlow, the final story in The Cranford Chronicles.

Similar to Cranford, we are introduced to a young woman, Miss Dawson, who after the loss of her father is invited to live at Hanbury Court by her charitable, distant relative Lady Ludlow. Through Dawson’s eyes we come to see how the Hanbury estate and the surrounding rural community are ruled over by this indomitable but beloved Lady, who eccentrically chooses to employ no servant who can read and write. However the winds of change are blowing through the community as the new vicar, Mr Gray, has the preposterous idea to open a school for the poor! Our Lady Ludlow has a rough time ahead but she is perhaps not as rigid as even she thought.

I must admit to be rather disappointed this was (again!) not set in Cranford, as the BBC’s 2007 TV adaptation had built me up by merging these novellas into one setting. However I can see how this has been placed in these chronicles because of the small rural setting and the dominate female presence. In this setting, men are neither feared or coveted but instead tolerated, with the larger-than-life personality of the matriarchal Lady Ludlow overruling their thoughts and beliefs. I fear I am making our Lady sound like a real horror, in fact I found her wonderful to read about – especially the French Revolution back story that explains many of her rigid views – and the power she holds really only comes from the fact she is so well loved.

This tale sees Gaskell returning to her steady, touching and meticulous style, that follows in detail the simple action and drama of a small Victorian community during a time of peaceful revolution. Before this, I had found Gaskell perhaps not as gripping or dramatic as some of her contemporaries, however the French Revolution section of this one really did grip me – I was desperate to find out what happened next!  While it also still retained a wonderfully comforting and personable style, stories and characters. Happily I picked this up and read a chapter or two a night, and just lost myself in this nostalgic world.

Overall, I thought My Lady Ludlow was a charming classic that made for a very comforting read, although Cranford is still definitely my favourite. Now I look forward to reading one of Gaskell’s full-length novels – I have North and South on my TBR read pile. Good read.

Have you read this? Or can you recommend anything else by Gaskell?

The Classics Club – 50/50

The Classics Club: The Man in the Iron Mask

man-in-the-iron-mask

In 2014 I was swept away by the sweeping, romantic French classic The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Skipping the lesser known D’Artagnan romances, I decided to continue my journey with D’Artagnan, and his friends Aramis, Porthos and Athos in the later and better known The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas.

Our new tale opens some three or four decades after the adventures of the Three Musketeers, who have now all retired leaving only D’Artagnan, as Captain of the King’s Musketeers, in loyal service to the corrupt King Louis XIV. However unbeknownst to D’Artagnan his old friend Aramis, with the help of trusting Porthos, is the instigator of a treasonous plot to bring about the replacement of the inept king and an audacious break out from the Bastille of a mysterious young man; who has been secretly imprisoned most of his life with no known charge or reason.

The plot is both complicated and thrilling, and yet the actually mystery of ‘the Man in the Iron Mask’ is resolved within the first half of the novel. But it is to have long reaching consequences that ripple out through the rest of the novel. Which will send D’Artagnan out first in hot pursuit of former financier Fouquet and finally against his own friends, Aramis and Porthos, who are held out at the heavily fortified Belle Isle. Now at this point you may be wondering where is Athos?! Athos’ part in this story is a sad and lonely one, as he faces the departure and longs for the return of his only son, Raoul, who has journeyed to North Africa with the Duc de Beaufort. Which leaves him separated from his old friends and sorely missing from the action.

As with The Three Musketeers, this is a highly detailed tale with wordy, eloquent speeches and many interesting characters and threads which again swept me back to 17th century France for more adventures and intrigue. I did feel though there was less of the romance about these adventures and more of the cold, hard realities, such as: death, disgrace, ruin and heartache. This is a powerful, gripping read but the sadder tone and the fact I missed my favourite character, Athos, made this not quite as an enjoyable read as The Three Musketeers.

Overall, The Man in the Iron Mask is a gripping historical adventure full of political intrigue, betrayal and loyalty. There are other D’Artagnan romances by Dumas, which I am seriously tempted to go back to now. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of the other D’Artagnan tales?

The Classics Club – 48/50
What’s in a Name 2016 – An item of clothing (4/6)

Challenge: Women’s Classic Literature Event (December)

Blog - Women's Classic Literature Event

Hello my fellow bookworms and classic lovers, it is time for the fifth and final check-in for The Women’s Classic Literature Event. Since the October check-in I have read:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Christie’s first published novel which introduces her famous and well-loved detective Hercule Poirot. My full thoughts on this book are still to be posted.

***


That is one more book read over the last two months (although I am currently reading Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott too) but the event has now come to an end…

which means my final total is…

8 books

Overall, I am really pleased with this amount – I read a whopping four books by Edith Nesbit and two books by Elizabeth Gaskell; and six of those books were off my Classics Club list too. Here is my complete list:

  1. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  2. The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
  3. Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit
  4. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  5. The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit
  6. The Story of the Amulet by Edith Nesbit
  7. Mr Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Now it is time for our final group question:

‘If you could meet any of the authors you read for this event, which one would you meet, & why? What would you ask her?’

All of the authors I have read for this event are wonderful, but if I can only go back and meet one of them I think I would choose Daphne du Maurier. She lived through some amazing times: first, the roaring 20’s, then two World Wars, next the swinging 60’s and finally the 70’s and 80’s too. She will have seen some great technological advances and the world change rapidly around. She also lived to see many of her novels become bestsellers, continue to printed through out her life and to be adapted into glamorous Hollywood films. Finally, she died just a year after I was born aged 81 years old. I think she would be a hive of information and experience. In particularly I would like to ask her about the film adaptations of her work, as apparently she wasn’t a huge fan of most them. One of the few exceptions, is Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) which is one of my favourite films.

Have you read any of these books or authors? Have you read any other classic female authors recently?

New Read: Life of the Beloved

life-of-the-beloved

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and now I am a member of my church’s book club. After an interesting discussion about our second book, Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright, I was looking forward to reading our third book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri J. M. Nouwen.

When writing Life of the Beloved, Nouwen hoped it would be a book that could communicate to his dear, Jewish friend the powerful and loving invitation of Jesus Christ. Of how accepting that invitation can bring love, happiness and that acceptance we all seem to be chasing in the modern world. Sadly, Nouwen failed to communicate to his friend as he had wished. However, instead this has gone on to be a highly successful guide to living a truly uplifting life in many of today’s secular society; for Christians all over the world.

With Nouwen’s initial hope to communicate and reach out to his friend and other young people from the then growing secular population, he has written this sincere testimony – sharing his own experience of Jesus’ powerful work in his life and those around him – in a clear and down-to-earth manner. Which was easy to read, follow and reflect upon on, but this is clearly still the original edit because Nouwen often opens chapters directly speaking to his friend and referring to his friend’s life. While I give Nouwen kudos for being honest about his initial hope and so not editing the text – I did find it a little annoying as I am not his friend and his life stories are not expanded upon for those who don’t have their shared history.

Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian, who in his life worked and taught at the University of Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School. As well as working with individuals with mental and physical needs at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Ontario, USA. Having lived such a colourful, spiritual and productive life, Nouwen has a wealth of inspiring and touching experiences which he freely and candidly shares with us in this book; particularly from his time at L’Arche. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to share my thoughts on this at the book club meeting, as it landed in a crazily busy week for me which meant I couldn’t attend. I have since received positive feedback from the vicar along with further resources to check out.

In conclusion, I found Life of the Beloved to be a well-written and inspiring guide, that was a good boost for me; living in a majoritively secular society myself. Next up for the club, we will be reading and discussing The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis which will be a re-read for me. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Henri J. M. Nouwen?

The Classics Club: Monthly Meme #46

The Classics Club Meme

Each month The Classics Club releases a question to get club members thinking, discussing and sharing; either on the official site or on their own sites. This month’s question is a rewind from August 2014, contributed by Teresa (who joined in 2012):

What are your thoughts on adaptations of classics? Say mini-series or movies? Or maybe modern approaches? Are there any good ones? Is it better to read the book first? Or maybe just compare the book and an adaptation?

If you are a regular reader on my blog you will know I love adaptations: whether that’s an adapted TV series, film or play of a classic or modern novel. Some of my favourite adaptations of classics are:

  • Bleak House (2005)
  • Emma (2009)
  • Great Expectations (2011)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
  • The Railway Children (1970)
  • The Secret Garden (1993)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  • The Three Musketeers (1973)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Wuthering Heights (1992)

Apart from Emma and Wuthering Heights, I watched all of these films and TV series before reading the books. A lot of them I grew up watching and while I was encouraged to read as a child, that didn’t general include many classics. Hence why I was so keen to join The Classics Club when it was announced back in 2012. However now I have read all of these and loved them!

What is your favourite adaptation of a classic? Also, link in the comments if you have taken part in this month’s Classic Club meme too.