Tag Archives: classics

Book Review: Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne

It’s not often that I have a cold, rainy Saturday with nothing to do.  Oh sure, there are plenty of things I could have done, but since I didn’t have to I decided to finish this book.

Five Weeks in a Balloon is the first in a collection of seven novels in this gorgeous volume I picked up at Barnes and Noble a few months ago.  The tale follows Dr. Ferguson, Dick Kennedy, and the faithful Joe Wilson as they traverse Africa in a balloon, attempting to investigate the depths of the continent that have up until that point been unreachable by other explorers traveling on the ground.

Verne, as always, did a fantastic job with his description.  As the trio explores vast landscapes, battles dangerous animals, and fights the elements, the reader is easily pulled into every scene.  They say that as a writer you have to learn how to torture your characters in order to make a good story, and that most certainly happens in this novel.  The characters are almost constantly in danger of some sort, just barely pulling free before it’s too late.  One of my favorite examples of this is when the men in the balloon pull a man from his horse to safety as he’s being pursued by a group of angry horsemen.

A tale of exploration, peril, and constant adventure, I recommend Five Weeks in a Balloon to anyone looking for a little excitement.  I would also suggest that the reader keep in mind the fact that this book was published in 1863, so the rather Eurocentric viewpoint is a manifestation of its time in history.

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The Mockingbird No Longer Teases Me

I have a secret that has recently been forced out into the light, so I may as well share it.  It’s not the deepest, darkest secret in existence, but it’s embarrassing.  There is something most people have done well before they are in their thirties, and sadly I never had.

I never read To Kill a Mockingbird.

I’m not sure how this happened.  I could blame the various schools I attended, because I’m fairly certain most kids are forced to read this book whether they like it or not.  It was certainly nothing that was presented as part of the curriculum and I skipped out on it, because I love to read even if it’s assigned.

I discovered the discrepancy when a discussion arose about To Kill a Mockingbird during a class I’m taking, and I was certain I was the only person who hadn’t explored this typical tome of teenage tutelage.  So I checked it out from the library (hoping not to have to make an excuse and say it was for my kids, who are far too young to read it).

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I finished the book last night, and here’s what I have to say:  Wow.  Just plain, flat out, wow.  Where had this book been all my life?  There was so much voice, the characters were amazing, and I found the plot gripping.  To Kill a Mockingbird addresses every kind of prejudice available:  white vs. black, class vs. class, and even disabled vs. not.  It’s a story of growing up and realizing how the world around you really works.  I can see why this is part of (most people’s) education.

As I finished the last page and shut the book, I made my spouse pause the movie he was watching so I could tell him how amazed I was.  The poor thing probably didn’t really care, but he humored me and told me he was glad I liked it so much.  This book has started a trend for me of catching up on the classics.  Sure, I’ve read Treasure Island three times, and absolutely adored Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but my booklog is sadly devoid of many of the classics.  That’s kind of pitiful for a bookworm like me.

Next up?  Don Quixote, followed by Kafka’s Metamorphosis.  If you have other recommendations, feel free to hurl them my way!

 

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