I discovered the lovely story of The Canterville Ghost via film as a small child while visiting my aunt.
Therefore it came as no surprise to find that it was written by one of my favourite authors – Oscar Wilde.
The story is based at the end of the 19th century when the Otis family of the United States move to England and live the country house on Canterville Chase which has a reputation for being haunted by the murderous Sir Simon Canterville.
Sir Simon has removed many people very successfully in the past however; he has his work cut out for him when it comes to removing these stubborn Americans who refuse to be scared away by him making his existence even more unbearable.
That is until he develops a relationship with the 15 year old Virginia Otis who may be able to help solve all his problems.
It is a simple story of love, sacrifice, loss and redemption that strangely warms your heart.
There have been several films, telemovies and TV series made based on this story over the years with one of the better ones being a relatively modern version starring Patrick Stewart and Neve Campbell.
So if you are looking for heart warming story; or just like the brilliance of Oscar Wilde this moderately easy read is for you.
It is now many years later and I am glad that I have – now.
It is the story of Buck, a strong and handsome half-breed, who is stolen from his comfortable existence as ‘the Judge’s dog’ in Southern California to be taken to the icy gold fields of the Arctic Circle.
The story tells of Buck’s introduction to the cruelty of man, survival of the fittest and of strength, love and loyalty.
As the book progresses we learn how Buck establishes himself within the pack, and how he starts to understand his instincts and the very nature of his ancestors.
This is not a hard book to read; quite short and very enjoyable however, not one suitable to read to young children as there are quite graphic descriptions of animal cruelty and violence.
This also goes for adult who may also find this distressing, so take care if you start to read it.
Please do not confuse the Man Who Knew Too Much by GK Chesterton with the Hitchcock or Truffaut films of the same name.
They are completely different and another possible Hollywood deception.
Horne Fisher is the Man and while these detective stories feel a little similar to those of Sherlock Holmes; Fisher doesn’t carry the smug arrogance that Holmes seems to.
In fact, he feels disgusted for what he knows about people’s behaviour and society in general.
A knowledge he uses to solve the variety of crimes committed.
Partnering with his journalist friend, Harold March, we go through a series of eight stories of human betrayal, theft and murder.
All stories are quite poetic and I was left with a sense of sorrow for Fisher and his burden.
It is a short and relatively easy read of about 166 pages and because it is broken up into a series of short stories, it is easy to put down and a joy to pick up again.
As usual, it can be found at Project Gutenberg in a variety of electronic formats.
The printed version can be found at Amazon.com and other booksellers.
For all fans of horror I am sorry to disappoint.
Hollywood has deceived you.
This is not a horror story.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is Science Fiction and a very good example too.
Victor Frankenstein; arrogant by youth and saddened by the death of his mother, travels to Germany to study science.
Fascinated and seduced by dubious scientific practices, Victor secretly goes about creating a being, which he hopes to be the solution to the pain of the death of a loved one.
But, as soon as his creation comes to life, he is horrified by it and rejects it completely.
As the story continues we learn of how the monster survives and then, the ultimate cost of those around them to make Victor Frankenstein accountable.
As with a lot science fiction, the story warns of what can happen when man interferes with balance of nature and that by ‘playing God’, harsh lessons will be learned at a great cost.
I found this a great book to read, but don’t be deceived by its size. Though relatively small in page numbers, it can be a bit difficult, and some parts need to re-read to gain full understanding of what has just taken place.
If you don’t want to read the book and would prefer a film version, I recommend Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 version of Frankenstein which sticks to the original better than most. Just be aware as with most films based on literature there are some changes.
Christian Theologians! Lay down your Charles Spurgeons and Phillip Yanceys, and pick up Harriet Beecher Stowe!
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first published in 1852 and is credited in part for laying the ground work for the US Civil War.
Tom; a hard working and loyal slave and a small boy, Harry, are to be reluctantly sold by their owner to clear an unfortunate debt.
The boy’s mother overhears the fate of her son and runs away with him.
Tom however accepts his fate and departs with a trader headed south.
As their stories unravel we learn that Tom, a strong and God fearing man continues to lead his life faithfully serving God through his quiet dignity and strength of character.
Strong but not arrogant in his convictions, he has a profound effect on the characters who cross his path.
Through all this, from one family to the next, the reader looks forward to the time when Tom will be released from his slavery and return home.
This a a profound book which stays with you for days (or much longer).
While the book comes across as a little ‘preachie’ sometimes, forgiveness for this is quickly attained when we consider the reasons why and for whom the book was written.
So, if you are interested in social justice, US history or love Mark Twain but are looking for something a little different; Uncle Tom’s Cabin is for you.
Remember: Don’t put it off until tomorrow if you know that it is the right thing to do today.
Considered ‘an idiot’ due to his illness and his simple approach to life, Prince Lef Nicolaievitch Muishkin, becomes entwined with, and has a strong effect on, the lives of the many characters he comes in contact with.
We first meet the Prince as a young man, travelling back to Russia after many years of living in Switzerland where he was being treated for his epilepsy.
He has received a letter and, as he has no close living relative he intends to call on a distant relation before commencing his life back in St Petersburg.
From the very start he meets Parfen Rogojin who becomes both friend and nemesis.
As the story progresses he meets a variety of characters, including the beautiful Nastasia Philipovna, who will continue to play havoc with his life until the very end of the book.
Like many Russian novels, it is quite a long read with a great number of characters whose lives continue to intertwine. Murder, philosophy, religion and politics are all matters discussed and examined within the life of this novel.
While many commentators consider Muishkin to be ‘Christlike’, I tend to disagree.
I like that Muishkin has the ability for seeing people as they really are. This combined with always attempting to see the very best in them gave him a great simplicity.
But, I also found him a bit wishy washy and by the end of the novel I wanted him to just make up his mind about which woman he loved!
Prepare yourself for a long read of over 650 pages. (depending on the publisher and the translation)
If you struggle with Russian novels at the best of times, try a later translation of the work to make the job a bit easier.
I found the Project Gutenburg version very good, but it depends on your reading choice and the challenge you would like to give yourself.
The print version can also be purchased new or secondhand at Amazon.com and other booksellers.
Please feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
The Island of Dr Moreau may be one of the lesser known books of HG Wells, but it is one of my favourite ones so far.
Like The Time Machine it is a story about a man who is transported to a foreign place being confronted with issues that did not exist in his late 19th Century life.
Edward Prendick, a man of science, is lost at sea and is picked up by Montgomery, a doctor who is returning to Dr Moreau’s island with their annual supplies.
After a series of events, Prendick, is forced to join Montgomery on the island.
Disturbed by the anguished cries of the puma in the next room, he decides takes a late afternoon stroll which turns into a terrifying night.
After recovering from the previous evening’s events, Prendick walks into the Moreau laboratory to find a ‘human like’ being strapped to a table. Believing that he may be part of the new experiment Prendick escapes from the compound and starts to discover the island and the Beast therein.
While you may delve into the variety of themes proposed in the novel such as men playing God and the dangers of scientific progress, it is also a pleasant enough read as pure science fiction and that’s how I read and enjoyed it.
This free book can be found in a variety of electronic and audible forms at Project Gutenburg.
The print version is about 82 pages and can be found at Amazon.com and other booksellers.