The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells

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Notable for its sheer invention, suspense, and psychological nuance, The Invisible Man focuses on Griffin, a scientist who has discovered the means to make himself invisible. His initial, almost comedic, adventures are soon overshadowed by the bizarre streak of terror he unleashes upon the inhabitants of a small village.

 

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
Published 1897 by Pearson’s Weekly
Format: e-book/library hardcover/audiobook; 192 pages (clearly I couldn’t put this book down!)
Classics/Science Fiction
Also By This Author: War of the Worlds, The Time Machine
Goodreads
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

What a creepy story! I have to admit, when I first picked up The Invisible Man, I was not expecting it to be a Gothic suspense story, so I was pleasantly surprised to read the subtitle: a grotesque romance. I love Gothic literature, especially when paired with science fiction! [side note: there is no romance in this novella; according to the footnote, that description refers to the fact that this story deals with supernatural incidents that are removed from every day life.]

The Invisible Man starts off right away by throwing readers into suspense and intrigue. We meet our antihero, whom we later learn is called Griffin, as he arrives at an inn and begins terrorizing the local townspeople. Terrorizing is a little harsh; at first he is simply worrying them with his shroud of mystery, but as the novel progresses and Griffin’s condition worsens, he enacts a self-proclaimed reign of terror.

I must confess that in the beginning I liked Griffin, despite the fact that he was impatient, rude, and prone to outbursts. He reminded me of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre and he had an unusual sense of humor about him. But then Griffin started harming other people without remorse, and I felt torn over my former sympathy for his predicament and my later fear of and disappointment in his mental decline.

There are several minor characters, but none of them are nearly as interesting as Griffin; however, I did feel for both Marvel and Dr. Kemp at times.

The ending was appropriately abrupt, and the story was resolved in a surprising and inevitable way (the best type of ending!). This was my third H. G. Wells novel, after War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, and I will definitely be reading more of his novels in the future.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy classic novels and science fiction.
…you appreciate Gothic literature.
…you’re interested in books that feature a villain or antihero as the main character.
…you’re looking for a suspenseful story that has a fair amount of creepiness.

You May Also Enjoy…

waroftheworldsFrankensteinThe Birthmark

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Villette by Charlotte Bronté

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Arguably Brontë’s most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette, flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy’s struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë’s strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.

Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Published 1853 (under Currer Bell) by Smith, Elder & Co.
Format: e-book; 432 pages
Classics/Romance/Gothic Fiction
Also By This Author: Jane EyreShirley
AmazonGoodreads
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

Villette took me months to finish; 10 months to be exact. It may be surprising, therefore, that I would give this book a 4-star rating, but despite feeling like a sloth trying to force my way through the majority of this novel, the last 50-60 pages made the sluggish journey completely worth it.

Villette, much like its beloved sister-novel Jane Eyre, is a gothic Victorian love story involving a persevering, deep-feeling narrator and a misunderstood, secretly caring Byronic hero. Unlike Jane Eyre, Miss Lucy Snowe is an unreliable, often unlikable narrator. I actually had a hard time desiring good things for her until the final chapters. I won’t sugar coat it; being inside her mind was annoying at times. She was judgmental and behaved bitterly towards most of her companions. Charlotte Brontë purposefully gave her an icy surname.

Honestly, I was very disinterested in Villette until the climax of the story and from that point on I was hooked. The long-awaited sentimentality that Charlotte Brontë excelled at did not disappoint. On the contrary, it was so lovely I probably would have cried if I hadn’t been reading it at work (I happily sobbed through the ending of Jane Eyre from the privacy of my bedroom).

It also helps to know that Villette borrows from real events in the author’s life. It could even be called autobiographical in many ways. If you’ve already read Villette or you don’t mind major spoilers, here’s an excellent analysis of the novel and Charlotte’s connection to Lucy Snowe.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy classic gothic literature (think Jane EyreNorthanger Abbey, or even Edgar Allan Poe).
…you love unrequited love stories.
…you can enjoy a book even if the main character is unpleasant or hard to sympathize with.
…you love captivating conclusions (Villette will intrigue you and stay on your mind long after you finish it).

Final Musings

There was a 1970s miniseries of Villette, but alas! It has been lost. Unfortunately this is the case for numerous British miniseries from the 1970s and earlier. Frankly I think it’s horrible and I’m really upset because I would love to watch all of the literary-inspired shows!

There are also two different radio dramatizations of Villette that BBC Radio has produced, but I haven’t found a way to listen to them, yet :(

Northanger Abbey & Being Catherine Morland

Northanger Abbey

Yes, Catherine. The middle of the night is definitely the perfect time to inspect some creepy old cabinet.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Published Dec 1817 by John Murray
Classic/Romance/Suspense
Format: e-book; 170 pages
Also From This Author: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Persuasion
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

I was filled with a bitter-sweet feeling after finishing Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey last month; bitter because it was the last Austen novel I had yet to read and sweet because I finally found the Austen heroine I most resemble. Yes, I am Catherine Morland: young, adventurous, naive at times, and above all, impressively talented at scaring myself.

Earlier this year I read Shannon Hale’s novels Austenland and Midnight in Austenland. The first novel borrows extensively from Pride and Prejudice, but Midnight in Austenland is a partial re-imagining of Northanger Abbey, so of course that means I wanted to stay up until 2 A.M. reading it. This is the perfect hour to read gothic novels: the moon is high and bright in the sky, everyone else in my apartment complex is fast asleep, and it’s either eerily quiet outside or there’s that one pair of stray cats defending their territories somewhere far off.

For those of you unfamiliar with Northanger or Midnight in Austenland, without spoiling too much, both Catherine Morland and Charlotte Kinder convince themselves that a gruesome murder has been committed and then become obsessed with finding (mainly fabricating) evidence and motives. So, while reading Midnight in Austenland, I heard (or imagined) a noise somewhere in my apartment and immediately my heart started pounding. Of course this noise can’t be nothing, and although, unlike our gothic heroines, I didn’t immediately imagine a murder scene, I did use the flashlight on my phone to quickly scan my bedroom to make sure nothing was lurking about. And that is the moment I knew I was Catherine Morland (despite the fact that at that point I hadn’t even read Northanger Abbey yet).

Northanger Abbey was published posthumously, roughly four months after Austen’s death, but interestingly enough it was actually the first novel Austen completed. It has many similarities to Austen’s other novels, for example it is a coming-of-age tale that includes deceptive “gold-digger” type characters, exaggerates inappropriate behaviors, and discusses the relationship between love, marriage, and fortune. However, this novel reads a lot differently than Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice, which were Austen’s first two published novels. I felt that the characters were somewhat flat and didn’t possess complex personalities, but this was probably Austen’s design in wanting her novel to be more plot-driven. She’s very much criticizing gothic literature in her unique comical way, and if she knew how badly I spooked myself while reading Northanger Abbey, she’d probably smirk and shake her head at me.

Besides Catherine Morland, we also have the witty and always-amiable Mr. Henry Tilney who unintentionally provokes Catherine’s overactive imagination, as well as the persistently arrogant John Thorpe, who literally had me muttering my annoyances out loud. Well done Austen for making a character seem both flat and unbearably annoying at the same time.

Like I usually do after reading most classic novels, I watched the film adaptation to Northanger Abbey as well. Fun fact: Mr. Henry Tilney is played by JJ Field, who also plays the male lead in the film adaptation of Austenland. I think I preferred his light-hearted and teasing nature as Mr. Tilney, but maybe that’s just the Catherine in me speaking ;) Either way, I enjoyed both films, although Austenland is typically cheesy.

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Top: Northanger Abbey (2007) // Bottom: Austenland (2013)

Jane Eyre Chapters XII-XXI

Here is my post for Part II of the Jane Eyre read-along I’m participating in. Prepare yourselves for a longer than usual post, because I have many Jane Eyr-ie things to discuss today (and also, my husband loves to purposefully call the novel Jane Eyrie and play it off with the “I’m French” card)! I’ve actually had to write this post early (it is currently Thursday) since I can’t seem to put this book down, and I want only to talk about chapters 12-21 without interference from future plot happenings (especially because things are really starting to get good!). →So, from this point on, take caution if you have not read up until Chapter 21 of Jane Eyre. I would hate to have anything spoiled for you!←

As you can tell, I am loving Jane Eyre. I did not think it possible at first, so I would like to make an addendum to the old saying and propose instead to say: “Never judge a book by its beginning chapters.” Okay, that can’t quite be applied to every novel, but I will apply it to my first impressions of Jane Eyre, and I think it is rather fitting, since I have heard of the novel being compared to Pride and Prejudice, which was almost titled First Impressions. The shared theme runs deeper than that, but I will elaborate further on that next week.

Last week (I smile at that, knowing I will most likely already be finished with the novel by the time I publish this post) we left our beloved Jane–yes, I have come to adore our intriguing heroine!–in unusually hopeful circumstances. Dun, dun, dun! Obviously this is foreshadowing. Jane herself says that “happiness is irrevocably denied” to her (chapter 14). BUT I am in simultaneous hope and fear as I continue reading. This is why I love Gothic lit, you’re always kept on the edge!

I love how this novel is narrated by Jane herself. It gives us appreciative insight into the workings of her mind. One of my favorite instances of this is actually two separate yet intertwined passages. When Jane first confesses that she is developing feelings towards Mr. Rochester, she attempts to subdue them by focusing on her employer’s romantic opportunities. Jane then uses a portrait she sketched of Blanche Ingram in order to point out her own shortcomings, essentially to remind herself of her place and her own meager opportunities. In this chapter Jane views herself inferior and beneath Blanche and Mr. Rochester (whom she also feels unworthy of). However, and I loved this part, two chapters later, once Jane has met and observed the accomplished Miss Ingram, her attitude towards her has changed drastically.

“There was nothing to cool or banish love in these circumstances, though much to create despair. Much too, you will think, reader, to engender jealousy: if a woman, in my position, could presume to be jealous of a woman in Miss Ingram’s. But I was not jealous: or very rarely;–the nature of the pain I suffered could not be explained by that word. Miss Ingram was a mark beneath jealousy: she was too inferior to excite the feeling. Pardon the seeming paradox; I mean what I say.”

BAM! And this is when I came to really admire Jane. She sees people solely for their inward qualities, their actions, their treatment of others. Appearances no longer matter to her, and conventionalities are beginning to lose their influence as well. And yes, we could also state that Jane, although she denies it, does exhibit feelings of jealousy. After all, they do desire the same man’s affections, right? But no, Jane is not jealous (or as she says, “very rarely”); if anything she is disturbed by the idea of Mr. Rochester marrying anyone undeserving of his affections. How beautiful a reaction is that! It doesn’t ring of jealousy; it displays a mark of true love.

And what of the compelling Mr. Rochester? I have come to like him a great deal, as well, yet there is something I’ve been having a difficult time understanding: can anyone please explain to me why Rochester did not reveal to Jane who he was during their meeting on the road? I believe it ties in with the gypsy scene; clearly he has a thing for disguises and secrets, but I could not help but think how awkward I would have felt in Jane’s place, yet she doesn’t even question his beguilement…why? Does he act this way simply because of his standoffish persona, or is it because of his troubled history, which Mrs. Fairfax briefly explains to us?

I had also wanted to discuss Jane’s visit to Gateshead, but I would be more interested in reading YOUR thoughts instead. How did you react to that chapter? What observations did you make about Jane’s aunt and cousins, or even about Jane herself? Tell me in the comments or in your own post!

Last week I left you readers with some crossover memes. This week I will be signing off with a humorous little ghost story that happened to me the other night. Like the typical bookworm that I am, I was awake until nearly two in the morning reading Jane Eyre. It happened to be the chapter when Mr. Rochester’s room is arsoned, so already I was in a heightened state. I should mention here that the weather in my corner of France has been beautifully autumnescent (I do not believe that is a real word, but feel free to add it to your vocabulary nonetheless) as of late, which goes hand in hand with a story like Charlotte Brontë’s:

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Ahh…I wish half the year was spent in fallen leaves and the other half in fields of wildflowers.

So, while reading late at night with the window ajar and the fresh air flowing my bedroom, I was just passing the part when Jane has to wait alone in Mr. Rochester’s smoke-filled, water-drenched chamber when I started to faintly hear the eery soundtrack of an old black-and-white film being played somewhere in our apartment building. Now, in most cases, classic film music is lively, joyful, and nostalgic. For me, it was certainly recalling old memories…but memories of watching “The Twilight Zone” or passing through scare zones and haunted houses at Halloween Horror Nights. Needless to say I quickly shut the window, finished my chapter, and buried myself in the comforts of my covers before any chainsaw wielding maniac could seek me out. Nothing like a gothic ghost story to send you off to dreamland… (I also just realized how fittingly this story coincides with Anne Shirley’s Haunted Wood mishap in Anne of Green Gables: I’m letting my overactive imagination run away with me!).

Happy Reading everyone!