Book Review: “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol

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Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing all right. Here I am once again with a book review. As I had promised in my last one, I’m going to talk about “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol.

This was my first book by Gogol and I absolutely loved it. They are both short stories but they are both meaningful and very deep in my opinion.

Let me start with “The Overcoat”, which is my favorite of the two. I guess the main character of the story, as the title suggests, is the overcoat that Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin, a rather poor government copyist, has to buy in order to keep himself warm during the cold St. Petersburg winter. Basically what happens is that Bashmachikin, a dedicated worker who is the subject of his coworker’s jokes for his overly used coat, takes his coat to the tailor to have it repaired but the tailor says that he needs to buy a new one. Since Bashmachikin lives a very basic life and does not have a lot of money he doesn’t really know what to do but, in the end, he finds a way to get the money he needs for his new overcoat.

Now I’m not going to reveal the ending because you have to read it, seriously, but somehow this story spoke a little bit to my heart. Probably because I could relate to Bashmachikin situation, which is what I really loved about this story because as I understand Gogol drew a lot from his personal experiences in order to write it.

This is a universal story, and it reminded me a little bit about Dostoyevsky’s “White Nights”. I think that it’s because both of these stories are about a feeling of isolation from the rest of society, and I think that everyone who ever felt alienated or alone will really love them. In fact, there’s a famous saying attributed to Dostoyevsky: “We all come out from Gogol’s Overcoat.”

This is my favorite quote from “The Overcoat”:

“And for a long time afterwards, even during his gayest moments, he would see that stooping figure with a bald patch in front, muttering pathetically: “Leave me alone, why do you have to torment me?” And in these piercing words he could hear the sound of others: “I am your brother.” The poor young man would bury his face in his hands and many times later in life shuddered at the thought of how brutal men could be and how the most refined manners and breeding often concealed the most savage coarseness, even, dear God, in someone universally recognized for his honesty and uprightness…” – Nikolai Gogol.

The other short story is called “The Nose”, and frankly, it’s one of the strangest stories I’ve ever read. It kind of funny, but it’s a very dark sense of humor I guess. It’s an absurd story about a man who basically loses his nose and has to go through a lot of tribulations to get it back to its place since the nose has decided to wander around the city.

It was really fun to read, I recommend it. Here’s my favorite quote:

“But nothing is permanent in this world. Joy in the second moment of its arrival is already less keen than in the first, is still fainter in the third, and finishes by coalescing with our normal mental state, just as the circles which the fall of a pebble forms on the surface of water, gradually die away.” –  Nikolai Gogol.

Now I just want to say something about Russian literature, in general: the more I read about it the more I love it. It’s so dark and twisted but also incredibly deep, it’s really amazing, I have no idea why I thought it was too hard to read I’m completely fascinated by it, and I recommend it to everyone.

As always if you want to tell me something about your thoughts let me know in the comments.

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Book Review: The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin

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Hi everyone! How have you been doing? Today I’d like to write about a book I finished recently. The book is called “The Queen of Spades” and it’s by the famous Russian author Alexander Pushkin. In the book edition that I got there was also another short story, also by him, called “The Shot”.

I really liked both of these short stories, particularly “The Queen of Spades” which is a story about a young officer, named Hermann, who watches other gamble but never play himself. One night one of his friends tells him the story of his grandmother, who a long time ago was able to win back the fortune she had lost at cards by using the secret of the tree winning cars. The countess never played again and Hermann becomes obsessed with learning the trick from her.

I’m not going to reveal the ending but I have to say it was quite unpredictable to me, I mean I thought it was going to end in a certain way and it ended in the opposite way. I really like Pushkin style so far, I find it easier than I expected it to be, yet it always kind of sophisticated, and it’s never boring. I highly recommend this short story.

The other one, “The shot” was the story of a retired soldier named Silvio, who seeks revenge against a man who disrespected him a long time ago.

I really liked this story as well, it was very short, even shorter than the first one but it was still entertaining. What I have found interesting is that, sadly, Pushkin life ended tragically in a duel, and I thought about what a sad set of circumstances had to take place in order for that end to happen. It’s such a shame that one of the greatest writers of all time had to die in such a way, I think of what more he could have done if things would have been different.

The next stories I will be reading next are two short stories by Gogol: The Overcoat and The Nose. I don’t think it will take me that long to finish them because they are very short as well, so expect a review in the next few days.

This is it for now, let me know in the comments if you have read these stories and what did you think about them, and also if you have any suggestion about what to read next, I not sure if I should start with some of the longer novels first, for example, I want to start reading “The Brothers Karamazov”, “The Idiot” and “Demons” by Dostoyevsky, “War and Peace” by Tolstoy, or if I should go for other short stories first, if you have any suggestion please let me know in the comments below, thanks.

I live you with my favorite quote from “The Queen of Spades” (if you haven’t read the story yet, let me warn you that it contains a spoiler):

“Lizaveta listened to him in terror. So all those passionate letters, those ardent desires, this bold obstinate pursuit—all this was not love! Money—that was what his soul yearned for! She could not satisfy his desire and make him happy! The poor girl had been nothing but the blind tool of a robber, of the murderer of her aged benefactress! … She wept bitter tears of agonized repentance. Hermann gazed at her in silence: his heart, too, was a prey to violent emotion, but neither the tears of the poor girl, nor the wonderful charm of her beauty, enhanced by her grief, could produce any impression upon his hardened soul. He felt no pricking of conscience at the thought of the dead old woman. One thing only grieved him: the irreparable loss of the secret from which he had expected to obtain great wealth.” Alexander Pushkin.

Book Review: Teutoburgo by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

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Hi everyone! I hope you guys are doing all right. Today I want to talk about a book I just finished reading. The book is called “Teutoburgo” and it’s from the Italian author Valerio Massimo Manfredi, I don’t know if the book has already been translated into English yet, I read the Italian version.

Overall I liked this book, I had never read anything by this author before and I enjoyed his style. This is a historical book that revolves around the famous Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, an event in Roman history that has always interested me. For those of you who don’t know what it was, basically, it was one of Rome’s greatest defeat. Three entire legions were destroyed by an anti-roman alliance, made up of different German tribes and led by Arminius, a prince from the Cherusci Tribe who was taken hostage in his youth and served in the Roman Army after receiving military education and the Roman citizenship.

Since I have found out about Arminius, a few years ago, I have always been fascinated by him. In fact, he fascinates me so much that I decided to use him as a character from in of my books. So, when I saw this book about the Teutoburg Battle at the library I immediately decided to pick it up.

The book is a fictionalized version of the events, it starts with Arminius and his brother getting captured by the Romans, as young boys, and it basically ends with (spoiler alert) Arminius death.

It basically covers that part of the story which led to this incredible battle, and then, of course, it covers the battle and the aftermath. The writer is also a historian and archeologist so his fictionalized version is pretty accurate historically. I saw that he has written a lot of other novels so I might check them out in the future, some of them look particularly interesting.

How about you guys? Have you heard of this battle before? Does anyone have some suggestions about books from this author? What do you think of him? And what do you think about historical book? As always, let me know in the comments.

Right now I just started another book by Pushkin and then I have a few more by other Russian authors but I’m always open to suggestions if you have some let me know in the comments below, until next time.

Book Review: The Captain’s Daughter by Alexander Pushkin

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Hi everyone! Guess what I was finally able to finish in the last few days? … *drumroll*… “The Captain’s Daughter” by Alexander Pushkin!

I know it has been a while since I had promised you a review but for a number of reasons I wasn’t able to finish the book up until now.

The book itself it’s not long at all, you can easily read it in just a few days, and as I said in one of my previous posts, the reason why I wasn’t able to finish it was that I wasn’t actually reading it, I read the first chapter and then I stopped. By the way the version I’ve read was the Italian translated one.

As for the story, I wasn’t expecting how engaging and captivating it could be, I swear that in some parts I just couldn’t wait to turn the page and find out what was going to happen. I was deeply invested in those characters, which was something I wasn’t expecting since it’s just a short book.

This is a historical novel, set during Pugachev’s Rebellion against Catherine II of Russia, during the second part of the 18th Century. The main character, Pyotr Andreyich Grinyov, is a noble young man who gets sent to the army by his father in order to strengthen his character. During his service, he meets Masha, the daughter of Captain Ivan Mironov, the commanding officer at Fort Belogorsky, which is the place where he is serving. The two fall in love and their love story is the main theme of the whole story. Things get complicated when the rebel Pugachev and his army of Cossacks attack the Fort and manage to kill Masha’s parents in the process.

I won’t reveal the ending, if you are interested I strongly advise you to read it, because I  found it to be a very interesting and compelling reading. I learned a little bit more about Russian history, and in the book edition I got there’s also another historical novel, also by Pushkin, called: “History of Pugachev” which I’m currently reading now. It is a less romanticized and more historical description of the events that led to the Pugachev’s Rebellion.

This was also my first book by Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. I was curious to find out whether I would like his style or not, and I have to say that I really, really like it. I know he is considered one of the greatest in Russian literature, like in Italy we have Dante, in England there’s Shakespeare and in Russia there’s Pushkin, so I know he was one of the big ones. I have to say that I’m truly enjoying my journey through Russian Literature, I have yet to find one book that I did not like at all. They are all unique, mysterious and deep in my opinion and I can’t wait to read more.

Right now I’m reading “History of Pugachev” and a novel by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, an Italian author, which is called “Teutoburgo”, I don’t know how the title is going to be translated in English, I guess: “Teuterburg”. After this, I have got three other books by Russian writers, “The Queen of Spades” also by Pushkin, “The Overcoat” and “The Nose” by Gogol and “Day of the Oprichnik” by Vladimir Sorokin. I’m very looking forward to reading all of them, if you have any suggestions please let me know in the comments below, and also if you want to share your thoughts and opinions about Pushkin please do.

As always, here is my favorite quote of the book:

“Young man! If my notes should fall into your hands, remember that the best and most enduring changes are those which stem from an improvement in moral behavior, without any violent upheaval.” Alexander Pushkin

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Hi everyone! Guess what? I’ve finally finished “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. I know I’ve promised you a review a while ago, but I’ve been kind of busy lately and I wasn’t able to finish this interesting book until now.

When the tv series came out I was so intrigued that I decided to read the book. I saved the last episode, so now that I’ve finished the book I can finally see the ending of the first season. I guess that I’ll write my opinions about the show in a separate post, let me just say that I really enjoyed it and I think Elisabeth Moss is amazing.

As for the book, I didn’t know anything about the story but since I’m such a book worm I’d stumbled a couple of times on the most famous quote of the book as I was going through famous quotes and literary tattoos on the web. The quote I’m referring to is obviously: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” which is mock Latin for “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. You’d be amazed to know how many people have those words tattooed on their skin.

After reading the book those words have taken a whole new meaning to me. In the book, they are a sort of mantra that the main character, Offred, keeps repeating. She is holding on to those words when she is having a hard time, and things are never particularly easy for her.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is set in a dystopian society called “The Republic of Gilead” run by a totalitarian religious regime (The Sons of Jacob). The main protagonist, Offred, basically tells the stories of her life as a handmaid mixed with her memories of how things were before this totalitarian regime seized the power. In this ultra-religious society, since a lot of men and women are barren, fertile young women are used for reproductive purposes, they are stripped of their name and they basically become property of their masters, or Commanders as they are called in the book (the names the handmaids are given literally mean they belong to their Commanders: Of-Fred). The handmaids live inside the house with the married couple and their sole purpose is to bear children for them. Once a month there’s a “ceremony” based on Rachel and Bilhah’s story from the Old Testament, where basically the handmaid has to have sex with her commander in front of the wife.

For a lot of things, this novel is similar to another famous dystopian novel: “1984” by George Orwell, another book that I’ve loved so much.

I really enjoyed this book, I liked Offred a lot, I liked how strong she is in spite of everything, I loved the very subtle things she has to come up with in order to survive without letting anyone know what she thinks and how she feels.

I definitely recommend this book, I’ve found it very interesting and clever. The only thing that confused me a little was the use, or better, the lack of quotation marks. I didn’t understand it and I found it a bit frustrating sometimes, but other than that everything else was captivating. If you want to let me know your thoughts about this interesting novel please do, I always look forward to your comments.

My favorite quote is this one of course:

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Margaret Atwood.

 

Book Review: Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov

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Hi everyone! Today I’m going to review a little book called “Heart a of Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov.

I read the Italian version, I finished it just a couple of days ago and I’m still thinking about it. As I said before, I’ve read “The Master and Margarita” and I’ve loved it, I think it’s an incredible book, and it’s probably the strangest book I’ve ever read. It’s one of those books that kind of strikes at the heart, therefore I was looking to get my hands on something else by the same author.

After reading “Heart of a Dog” I can say that I really appreciate Bulgakov’s style. It’s unique, shrewd and incredibly entertaining. I have to admit the book is not that long, still, I’ve read it in a heartbeat.

(Spoiler alert) The plot is quite simple: it’s basically the story of a stray dog, named Sharik, that gets lured into the home of a famous professor. After a few days Sharik undergoes a “Frankenstein’s style” operation in which the professor gives him a human pituitary gland and human testicles. After a miraculous recovery Sharik slowly becomes human, he loses his hair, he starts walking on two feet and he even begins to talk. The downside of the experiment is that Sharik, who now goes by the name Poligraf Poligrafovich Sharikov, behaves badly because he has taken the negative aspects of the donor who was an alcoholic and a bully, for example he swears a lot, he drinks, he harasses the two women who work for the professor etc. The story is set during the soviet times, and it is also a smart critic to the soviet regime, there’s a lot of conflict between Sharikov and his “maker” who are on opposite sides.

If I had to describe this book very simply I would say that it’s Frankenstein meeting Animal Farm. I really enjoyed it, I think Bulgakov is an incredible author, I wish I discovered him sooner. Does anyone have any suggestion on what should I read next? I would really love to read more of his writings. To continue my trip inside the amazing Russian Literature I just started to read “The Captain’s Daughter” by Pushkin, it’s my first Pushkin book so let’s see how that goes… after that, I’m open to suggestions.

I’ll end this review with my favorite quote:

“The whole horror of the situation is that he now has a human heart, not a dog’s heart. And about the rottenest heart in all creation!” Mikhail Bulgakov

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

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Hi everyone, I just finished reading “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, which I’ve been wanting to read for a long time now. I found it in my local library when I went a few days ago, and I couldn’t resist it.

It only took me a couple of days to read it, it’s not very long and it’s a play, so it’s basically just dialogue. I’ve read the Italian version, and I’m a bit conflicted about it. There were some nice things about it but there were also some things that I didn’t like.

I’m a huge, huge Harry Potter fan, I know the books like the back of my hand, which is the reason why I wanted to read this book for so long, but it’s also the reason why I waited… mostly because I didn’t want to be disappointed.

One of the things that annoys me the most is when, for some reason, a story that I really like gets unnecessarily dragged for too long, which is, for example, what I feel about the third Hobbit movie, and I’m sorry to say this, but it’s also what I’ve felt about this Harry Potter story.

Being a hardcore fan reading anything by J.K. Rowling makes me happy but it just didn’t feel as good as reading the original books for the first time, and the main reason is that I’ve felt like there wasn’t really anything original about it.

If you haven’t read it yet, and you want to avoid spoilers you might want to stop here.

The main plot revolves around certain events of the past, which we already know, the main one is the Triwizard Tournament. This is because Albus Severus wants to change the course of the past with a time turner in order to save Cedric Diggory. Obviously, things go wrong and every time they go back they end up changing things for the worst.

So yeah I didn’t like the fact that it was mostly about the past and about events we already know about from the original book. I didn’t like how in the end it was kind of a predictable story.

Also, I didn’t like Albus character, I found him very annoying. The only two new characters that were kind of developed were Albus and Scorpius, I realize this was not a novel, only a play, but still, I would have loved to learn a little bit more about the other characters as well.

There were certain things that I did like, for instance, my heart jumped when at a certain point Snape was still alive, as a consequence of messing up with time.

I mean as a Harry Potter fan I guess you would still like this story but probably not as much as the books.

This is it for now, next I’ll probably blog about the first episode of American Gods which I’m going to watch tonight, so stick around if you want to read my first impressions about this new exciting series.

I’ll end my review with my favorite quote:

“They were great men, with huge flaws, and you know what– those flaws almost made them greater.” J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany.

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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Hi guys!

Here I am with another review. Before I even begin let me just say one thing: Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, if not my absolute favorite. I’ve loved every Gaiman book I’ve read so far, and I’ve read quite a few. My favorite one is American Gods, and by the way, I’m super excited about the upcoming show produced by Starz.

Let’s get right to it: the book I’m reviewing is “Norse Mythology”. It’s basically a collection of the most important stories about the Norse gods, retold by Gaiman in his unique style.

I’ve always been interested in mythology, growing up in Italy I’ve been hearing the tales about the Greek and Roman gods since when I was a child. I knew a little about the Norse gods but I have to admit I’ve always believed that those stories were particularly complicated.
I don’t know if it was the weird names or the fact that I was more exposed to the southern gods, but I’ve never really bothered to look into the northern gods stories. The few times that I did I was really discouraged by the fact that I found some of the names of impossible to read.

With this little book for the first time, I was able to read about those gods and to learn their stories, and I thank the author for the simple and interesting way he retold them. I believe there are more stories and he chose to tell the most important and the ones that were more interesting to him. Reading this book gives you a better understating of Norse mythology, and the main gods, Odin, Thor and Loki in particular.

I was really happy that Gaiman did this book because as a big fan of his work I realized that Norse mythology was a big source of inspiration for him, Odin and Loki show up in his stories more than once, so it was nice to be able to read those stories retold by him.

I liked reading this book because it made me realize how many authors have been inspired by Norse mythology. For instance one of my favorite series: “A song of ice and fire” by George R.R. Martin has a lot of similarities with some of the tales.

Lastly, I particularly enjoyed the design of this book published by W.W. Norton & Company, the cover was amazingly soft and inviting, it is a really nice product.

My favorite stories were “The treasures of the Gods”, “The master builder” and “The children of Loki”. I don’t really have a favorite quote, I chose this one because I found it funny:

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.” Neil Gaiman

Book Review: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

the-notebook Hey everyone!

Yesterday I’ve finally finished “The notebook” by Nicholas Sparks, here’s my review:

First of all, let me just say that I’ve seen the movie a while ago and I really liked it. I know a lot of people say this is a classic girl movie but I disagree. Yes, of course, it’s a romantic movie, probably one of the most romantic movies ever but what I liked about it was that the love story wasn’t the usual cheesy love story, without any depth. It’s this sort of universal love story, just two young kids that fall in love, real love, unattached and pure and it’s beautiful to watch. Of course like any love story there are adversities and obstacles, but in the end, you just want them to finally end up together.

The book is very similar to the movie, almost identical. The scenes are the same and so is the storyline. The main difference is that a large part of the book is about the two days when Allie and Noah meet again after all the years they’ve been apart. Like that is the center of the book. In the movie, while it’s still an essential part is not the whole thing.

Well as I said I liked the story from the movie so I liked it even more from the book. There were a lot of nice quotes and it was nice to learn more about the characters and what they were thinking, which obviously only the book can explain. So for me reading the book brought even a broader picture to the story and I really enjoyed that.

As for the two main characters, I mean I liked Noah from the movie but the book version is even more sweet and lovable, he’s just an angel. On the other hand, I still liked Allie but I didn’t really like the book version of her, I think because it was a result of a man trying to describe a female perspective and I don’t think he got it quite right, not everybody can do it I guess.

There are a lot of good quotes in this book, but I’ve narrowed it down to two:

Favorite quote N.1:

You are the answer to every prayer I’ve offered. You are a song, a dream, a whisper, and I don’t know how I could have lived without you for as long as I have. I love you, more than you can ever imagine. I always have, and I always will. – Nicholas Sparks

Favorite quote N.2:

The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls were connected. Maybe they always have and will be. Maybe we’ve lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them, we’ve found each other. And maybe each time, we’ve been forced apart for the same reasons. That means that this goodbye is both goodbye for the past ten thousand years and a prelude to what will come. When I look at you, I see your charm and your gentleness and know they have grown stronger with every life you have lived. And I know I have spent every life before this one searching for you. Not someone like you, but you, for your soul and mine must always come together. And then, for some reason neither of us understands we were forced to say goodbye. I would love to tell you that everything will work out for us, and I promise to do all I can to make sure it does. But if we never meet again and this is truly goodbye, I know we will see each other again in another life. We will find each other again and maybe the stars will have changed, and we will not only love each other in that time but for all the times we had before. – Nicholas Sparks

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So that’s my review for you, let me know in the comments your thoughts about the book or the movie, and if you have suggestions about other books from Nicholas Sparks that I might like since this was the first one I’ve read.

Right now I’m reading “Norse Mythology” by my favorite author: Neil Gaiman. I started right after I’ve finished “The Notebook” and I’m loving it so far, expect a review in the next few days.

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

2181f3e792bdd06f0639b30e9742c116This review is going to be about “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, this is actually the first Dickens’s book I’ve read and I must say I really enjoyed it.

Of course, I knew the story beforehand, I grew up in Italy where every year at Christmas time the movie “Scrooged” with Bill Murray was shown on TV. I’ve seen the Disney adaptation, and I believe everyone who grew up in a western country knows this particular story.

This novel is so widely known that the main character’s name “Scrooge” became a synonym for a miser or stingy person in the English language.

But I’ve never actually read the original book. Finally, I decided to give it a try, mostly out of curiosity and to get some familiarity with Dickens writing.

I don’t know why but I had a preconceived notion that I might find it hard to read, but it was not the case. To my surprise, the writing style was fluid, clear and accessible to anyone.

As I kept reading I think I realized why this story became so well known. I believe it is because it deals with universal issues in such an open and frank manner and because it gives a message of hope that can shake even the worst of us.

It speaks about feelings and emotions we all share, and that we are not so eager to talk about, mostly because we are ashamed, but I’m pretty sure everyone has experienced them, at least once in their lifetime. This book is about some of our worst qualities: greed, indifference, fear and loneliness and also about the best ones: love, redemption, compassion and gratitude.

What I liked most about it is the message that it carries. In my opinion, it’s a message of hope: it’s never too late to learn from your mistakes and to change the course of your future.

Of course in the book Scrooge is forced to see his mistakes with the help of the ghosts, and he decide to change mostly out of fear of what would happen to him if he does not change, although in the novel it’s never specified if the future he has seen is inevitable or if it can change. In the end, the only thing we can do, is to do our best, do good to others and hope, which is what Scrooge does in the end, he changes hoping that it will do something to prevent the horrible future that awaits him if he does not. So yeah, if you, like me have not read this wonderful little book yet, give it a try, it won’t take long and I promise it will restore a little bit of faith in humanity for you… or at least that is what it has done for me.

Favorite quote:

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Charles Dickens