Coffee, the Sober Drink

Review Grab Bag # 5

The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece by Paul Cartledge

When you want to talk about the Spartans, there's probably no man in the world as knowledgeable as Paul Cartledge. As such, this was a great overview of the history of Sparta, jam-packed with information. The timeline at the front of the book is an excellent resource and will have me taking this book from the shelf again and again. There was an unevenness of tone created by what appeared to be Cartledge's attempt to write a book of interest to scholars and laymen alike. As such, it's not quite as engaging as his "Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities" which was written for a popular audience, and on the other hand there were times when I wanted to see scholarly footnotes on every page instead of those annoying endnotes that I have to keep flipping back and forth for. Also the Appendix on the debate over foxhunting is pretty humorous for me, an American, to find at the end of a history book. I'm sure it is very relevant to its intended British readers.

Overall, I feel like I have a much better grasp of Spartan culture and history now and expect this book to help me whenever I teach Thucydides.

4/5 stars

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre is the classic story about a girl who starts life in difficult circumstances, overcomes them through her education, finds a good situation in life, and falls in love with the man of her dreams. Sounds romantic, right? Oh wait, except that the man of her dreams is an emotionally and verbally abusive serial-adulterer and would-be bigamist. And also, you, the reader, are supposed to feel sorry for him and like him. Look, I don’t care that Mr. Rochester’s wife is nutters. I don’t care that his family pressured him into the marriage. You, Rochester, entered into the contract of marriage for better or worse and you, sir, should be a man of your word. Rather than a cad and a liar. Which is what you are. I’ve rarely reacted with such strong disgust against any literary character as I have Mr. Rochester, and it is beyond me how Bronte expects him to be a likeable character on any level.

Apparently, I'm not the only one.

3/5 stars

The Iliad by Homer (Richmond Lattimore, trans.)

What can one say about The Iliad? If there is such a thing as a canon of literature, then this has to be the book of Genesis. This is my third time through The Iliad and I find something new with each re-reading. The story loses none of its earnestness and human interest. Western Literature, in the best sense, begins here and subsequently only occasionally equals or surpasses the high bar set by Homer.

5/5 stars

The Peterkin Papers by Lucretia Hale

The reason Saturday Night Live movies are rarely funny is that they take a clever premise that makes a hilarious 5 minute sketch and try to stretch the one joke out to 2 hours. Although "The Peterkin Papers" is a predecessor to Amelia Bedilia, it feels like someone took the one joke of an Amelia Bedilia book (hey, there's this person who comically misunderstands things), applies the joke to an entire family, and stretches it out to 200 pages. The result is uneven and thin. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's simply tiresome.

2/5 stars

My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

This book contains 4 of the best Bertie and Jeeves stories I've read. (5 stars)

It also contains 4 stories about a chappie named Reggie Pepper. These are essentially what a Bertie and Jeeves story would be like minus Jeeves. Without the valet who always endeavors to give satisfaction, the stories are a bit lacking in the full-of-beans department. In a word, inferior. (3 stars)

Overall average 4/5 stars

Comments

Mom said…
Please! Please! Do a review of Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur! Tis a most excellent book & deserves a review by my most excellent son!
Erica said…
The only thing that makes me feel any sympathy at all for Rochester is that the law of reaping and sowing catches up to him quite thoroughly. Still, the whole thing makes me feel icky.