Sven-jolly

Another classic, another disaster. I will include a spoiler alert because if you are like me and haven’t heard about this book other than the words – Trilby and Svengali – well you are in for a rude awakening. You may think you know the plot but trust me that is not even the half of it. So, if you want to read the book first, bookmark this page and come back to it after you have finished it.

If you are short on time, I can summarize the theme of the book in two words – Anti-Semitic and Misogynist. That’s all you really need to know but because this is a review, I will elaborate.

Let us start with the titular characters – Trilby and Svengali. Shocker: they are not the protagonists!! They are barely in the story at all! They make up maybe 30%, if I am being generous. The book is actually about a pathetic dumbass painter called Little Billy and his two friends. The story is set in 1800s Paris – or famously known as Belle Epoque Paris and revolves around three European painters. These painters are worse than Werther in some ways – they also possess the holier than thou, straight white male, chastity-worshipping, stalker qualities that were oh so prevalent in that century. All three of them encounter Trilby – described in the second most misogynistic way in the book – while they are spending their days in good old Paris’ Latin Quarter painting, drinking, being pretentious, looking down upon women that ‘sit for the figure’. A big deal is made about how Tribly is the worst singer they have encountered with a gorgeous sound and how much she hates Svengali.

Speaking of Svengali, I stopped reading the book several times because I could simply not get past the Anti-Semitism. The misogyny is horrible, don’t get me wrong but maybe I have just come to expect such nonsense from male authors (even today!) and so it wasn’t as shocking as the racism. It was just as depressing though. It is quite impressive (sarcasm, duh) how George du Maurier was able to fit in an exorbitant amount of racism for a character that barely appears in the book. But since I had started it, I had to finish it.

The majority of the book is about how innocent and pure Little Billy is and how the three men spend their time in Paris. In a twist that everybody saw coming, all three men fall in love with Trilby but Little Billy is the only one that expresses his love and wears her down into saying yes. But immediately after, Little Billy’s mother lands in Paris because she won’t have a ‘figure-sitting loose woman’ for a daughter-in-law. In a turn of events, Trilby abandons Little Billy because he is too good for her. The rest of the book talks about Little Billy’s ‘depression’ brought on by Trilby’s rejection. Unlike Werther, Little Billy is unable to stalk Trilby because he has no idea where she is but it doesn’t make him any less insufferable than Werther. The moaning, the whining, the fetishizing of the ‘virgin’ is all just too much.

The last thirty-something pages of the book get to the actual plot. The entire world is talking about a new singing diva – The Lady Svengali and it is none other than our Trilby. Little Billy is immediately cured of his ‘depression’ – he starts to feel love again but is unable to believe that Trilby is with a man like Svengali. They also notice a huge change in Trilby. She almost seems like an entirely different person. Our three heroes have no idea what to make of it all.

A lot of anti- Semitism later.

Svengali dies during a concert and Trilby has no idea where she is. Her health starts to deteriorate rapidly. Everybody thinks that the grief of losing her husband has made her lose her mind and though it is peculiar that she only remembers parts of her life and none of the diva memories are retained, they are too occupied by her health to worry about these lapses. Eventually, Trilby is at death’s door and a few minutes before her life calls it quit, she encounters a portrait of Svengali. As though in a trance, Trilby belts out one last heavenly rendition of Chopin’s Impromptu in A flat and dies. Little Billy dies shortly afterwards overcome by grief.

The book was extremely tiring to read. It may have been that the translation I read wasn’t the best one but I don’t think so. I generally don’t enjoy reading racist misogynistic characters and I don’t enjoy reading descriptions of music. There are also an incredible number of adverbs used to describe things and it gets old pretty soon. Despite all that the final description of what transpired between Svengali and Trilby as divulged to Taffy by Gecko was one of the most haunting things I have ever read. All I can say is, at least, the ending lived up to the hype. But was it worth it? Tell me what you think in the comments.

The OG Emo

SPOILER ALERT: Spoiler Alert in place for The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Do classics need spoiler alerts?

I am a sucker for star crossed lovers and romantic era stories. I thoroughly enjoy the classics. Wuthering Heights is my all time favorite novel very closely followed by Little Women. Frankenstein was chilling and Dracula genuinely scared me. Three of the four books I just mentioned were written by women and maybe I am biased. Werther is not going to make my list of top ten and least of its problems is the misogyny. It may be obvious to point out that a novel written in the late 1770s is misogynistic but I feel a need to mention it to maintain a holistic review.

I really enjoyed Goethe’s writing style, I am definitely open to reading other books by him. I wasn’t too upset by the plot either. Considering it was the first of its kind, the plot has been very well paced and comes along quiet well. What I didn’t enjoy is the character of Werther himself. The first half Werther is at least tolerable but the second half Werther is insufferable. He is nothing but a creepy, whiny stalker. His infatuation with Lotte is sudden and obsessive. Though Lotte’s personality and beauty are described in great detail, she comes across as nothing but ditzy. Albert is there.

I liked the descriptions of nature – the linden trees, the mountains, the suicidal ideation but was put off by all the Christianity. I was impressed by the observations of class behaviors especially because it was written in a time before class was even a thing. Werther’s isolation makes you sympathetic until he starts ranting about how all the people around him are foolish. He seemed extremely pretentious for someone with a low self-esteem. His suicidal ideation is very characteristic of the Romantic era and I think the Werther mania that followed the publication of the book emerged from this ideation.

To summarize – Albert is no Edgar, Lotte is no Cathy and Werther is no Heathcliff.

Books I could re-read forever

Kicking off with books I could re-read forever. This is definitely a long list and so I am limiting myself to 10 books; also, because I recycled this idea from a post from last year found at That Artsy reader Girl Top Ten Tuesday – Books I could re-read forever.

To avoid making this a ridiculously long post, I will try to reign in my excitement and stick to a paragraph per book (except for the first one).

Every book is a new world. I have lived and died many times over, in many worlds

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com

My top ten – used the TurboCollage Lite app

Looking back at the books I have read brought back a lot of fond memories. Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Books I Could Re-read Forever.
SPOILER ALERT: I have tried to not give away too much about the plot. I accidentally might have and so this is a cautionary spoiler alert.

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Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

On top of this list is definitely Harry Potter. I could and have re-read the entire series many times. I even own the audio books. I listen to them when I have trouble falling asleep. Harry Potter, honestly, is my go-to series. I read it when I am sad, happy, angry, whenever. I am from the generation that grew up reading the books. My mom bought me my first one when I was twelve and I immediately fell in love.

A lot of my life revolves around Harry Potter, to be honest. It is not only my security blanket but I weirdly draw strength from Harry’s world. I know in my heart, no matter what happens, nobody can take this away from me. This series represents so much more to me than just books; it has been a ray of light in my darkest hour. I can always count on losing myself for at least a few hours with Harry, leaving all my troubles behind.

I am a nerd, I own it, I love it, it’s who I am. Sci-fi and fantasy stories are mostly what I live for. I am not usually a big fan of non-fiction. However, I am trying to expand my horizons. This is why I joined the Read Harder challenge, it forces me to step out of my comfort zone. Reading non-fiction isn’t technically ‘stepping out’ of my comfort zone. I will read pretty much anything but I tend to stick to sci-fi, fantasy, murder mysteries and thrillers. I can’t resist a good story.

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Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna

I found this book by complete fluke. I had no idea what to expect – I don’t judge a book by it’s cover. This book blew me away. I will be honest, I wasn’t stoked by her writing style as much as I was about her story-telling. The story spans a few generations and is so beautifully told that it evokes emotions you normally wouldn’t feel for fictional characters. The most interesting thing I found about this book, however, was how my perspective changed when I read the book at different phases of my life. As I grew older, it wasn’t just about an epic romance; it was also about the fate of rape victims in India, of rape itself and how no one can ever predict how what life may throw at you next.

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The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Oh! How I love this book. This is one of those ‘food for thought’ books all while being one of the most intriguing stories I have read. It’s fascinating how all the different short stories come together and are connected while being seemingly disconnected. I would describe this as the Black Mirror of books. It is also kind of a cheat to add this to this list because you can always pick and choose only a select short stories to read without having to read the entire book. Of all the short stories in this book, my favorite is ‘The Exiles’. It gave me the chills.

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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This was the best book I read in all of 2017. I read 17 books and this one easily takes the cake. Her writing style is so unique, I literally have no words to express how much I enjoyed it. I will try because this is a blog post about books. I visited Kerala when I was in undergrad and have a lot of malayali friends. I spent four years surrounded by their rich culture. Reading this book, somehow, brought back all my memories from that time. I will say this, I did not enjoy the end. She added a little bit of an ‘after story’ to the novel and I could have done without it. It seemed to me she added that part only for the sake of increasing her sales and it was definitely disappointing. Apart from that, this book was a delight. I will read this again except the last part.

On a side note – her latest book Ministry of Utmost Happiness seemed dull in comparison. If you plan on reading this book, I would suggest reading Ministry of Utmost Happiness before this one because it will not live up to it’s predecessor.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Enough has been said about this classic by a lot of people. There is nothing I can say to add on to that. This is my favorite classic of all classic literature. I am a sucker for epic tragic romances, what can I say?

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Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

My love for Geek Love is a mysterious one. I have never been able to understand what exactly it is about this book that I love. I guess it classifies as a tragic romance but it is so much more than that. Frankly, her writing style isn’t outstanding, the story itself isn’t new and the characters aren’t special but put all that together and you have this amazing, haunting read. I have thought long and hard about why this book is so appealing to me. I really think it might just be that I picked this one up when I had been feeling like an outsider. It was a time in my life I did not think I belonged anywhere. I am definitely not comparing myself to carnival folk, I do understand their struggles are great. I think at that time in my life I was able to relate to their feeling of discrimination and abandonment.

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Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

How can I call myself a nerd and not include Lord of the Rings in this list? This series is here on it’s own merit, though, not just because I am a nerd. I don’t think I need to say anything about them. If you haven’t read it, it is the gospel of fantasy books everywhere. I have never read any other book that is so immersed in it’s world and so detailed. I also strongly believe this is the only book-to-film adaptation that does any justice to the story (extended version of course).

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A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

I enjoy a murder mystery more than the average Joe. Agatha Christie is my favorite thriller genre author. Her mysteries are so well thought out. I would say, the one problem people usually face while reading her books is that there’s a lot of detail about the setting. She can easily spend three pages describing a room. Now, that is not everybody’s cup of tea. It doesn’t bother me that much. In fact I enjoy it, it helps make my imagination that much more accurate and clear. Why this book in particular, you may ask. This was my first ever Agatha Christie book. It has sentimental value. I do prefer the plot of ‘Cards on the Table’ but in my opinion, this is the mystery you can read over and over again without ever losing interest.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Five words – it is a feminist classic. Bonus – there is also a tragic romance.

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Tell Me Your Dreams – Sidney Sheldon

Before you judge me, hear me out. This is a guilty pleasure. I picked up Sidney Sheldon during my mid-teens. I must have read over half of everything he has ever written. This is the pizza of books. Is it good for you? No. Is it entertaining? Oh, definitely. I could re-read this book a million times because who doesn’t love pizza?


I hope you have enjoyed my list of books I would re-read forever. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have read any of these books or if you think I would enjoy some books that you have read.

Check out my Goodreads for books I am currently reading.