The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

“It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.” 
― H.G. WellsThe Time Machine

I have long been looking forward to reading Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, but upon opening it, was confronted by a note stating that “The author would be sorry if any reader supposed he was too stupid to have enjoyed Mr. H.G. Well’s fantasies or too ungrateful to acknowledge his debt to them.” Thus, I felt that it would be a disrespect to both Mr. Lewis and Mr. Wells to read this before sampling some of Wells’ writing.  So, I immediately purchased the first novel of his that I came across: The Time Machine.Image

This book had been resting alluringly next to Narnia for some time before I was finally able to read it in my rare moments not occupied by studying, practicing, and more studying. I found it intriguing and it was with great difficult that I set it aside at night. (I suppose I may just as well have kept reading though, since I lay awake wondering what would happen next anyway.) However, although I enjoyed it, it was not at all what I expected. (Except for the time travel…somehow I saw that coming…) I admit part of me was disappointed. I loved the unique manner of storytelling, the contrasting imagery of beauty and terror, and the masterful blend of science and fantasy.  That said, I honestly expected more. Granted, it was a short piece, but I would have gladly read several times its length had the author included other adventures by the unnamed time traveler instead of just one. I had been hoping to read of the distant past or even the near future rather than the same description of the earth in 800,000 years, however fascinating that might have been.

Overall, despite my one complaint, it was thought-provoking and bore similarities to two of my favorite authors. The language flowed similar to that of C.S. Lewis in Until We Have Faces (if I remember correctly) and the eerie quality of the plot resembled a drawn-out Ray Bradbury tale. The concepts covered by this book are also astounding, especially in light of its tiny size. It delves into the necessity of fear and struggle, the consequences of the class-system, and even the rise and fall of basic morality.  Not to mention, this is considered the first serious book about time travel, responsible for starting a trend that my “Whovian” friends certainly appreciate.

Longing for Avonlea

“I am simply a ‘book drunkard.’ Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.”

― L.M. Montgomery

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Overcome with this “irresistible temptation”, I visited the shrine… er…shelf… that I have devoted to L.M. Montgomery’s novels and discovered two thoughts which, like Anne in chapter fourteen of her story, “I am ready to confess.”

Confession #1: My copy of Anne of Green Gables looks like I ran over it in Matthew Cuthbert’s buggy, but really all I am guilty of is loving it to pieces.  I don’t even know how many times I have read it and often turn to it for comfort. It’s characters are among my dearest friends (and in Gilbert Blythe’s case, my dearest literary crush…) and although I’ve never really been there, its Prince Edward Island setting feels like home.

Confession #2: I have a more durable copy of this book, as well as a digital copy.  However, no matter how hard I try to read the other copies, they just do not feel right. They have the same words (although the digital copy mistakenly insists on changing Marilla’s name to “Manila”) but they lack the smell and texture particular to my old and worn copy. Even with the cover half-missing and the spine threatening to crumble at the next page turn, I cannot seem to retire this book and so am forced to sentence the hardback a lifetime on the shelf and the digital to electronic isolation.

There, now I’ve confessed and now may continue singing my love of L.M. Montgomery’s works.  I have read at least thirteen of her novels and was delighted with each one! Anne and Emily will always be my favorites, though the others are wonderful too.  But why do I love these books so much? Is it because they feature the usual literary elements praised by English teachers everywhere? No. While I do enjoy allusions and metaphors, I believe the real charm of Montgomery’s writing is in its simple elegance and wisdom; turn to any page you wish and there is certain to be some quotable line that, although prose, flows like poetry and refreshes the reader’s soul!

Anna Karenina

I recently finished Anna Karenina, despite the warnings of a friend that Russian novels are tedious and that I would better spend my time chewing cardboard. Yes, it was lengthy, but tedious? Certainly not!

The depth to this book was incredible.  It was witty, enchanting, heart-breaking, and thought-provoking all at once.  However, I disagree with most readers (or… movie watchers) about the most important theme of this book.  While most argue that the theme of Anna Karenina is love, whether forbidden love, maternal love, wedded love, or sisterly love, I would argue that Leo Tolstoy’s real intent was to display through wonderfully flawed characters the universal struggle between spiritual truth and our own pride.

What leads me to this conclusion is the ending of the book.  (I know, it took over 800 pages to get there, but it is worth it!) Throughout the book, the individual struggles of an enormous cast of characters are related in detail.  This is common to classic literature and at first seems tedious (more than once I have sighed in aggravation: “Get on with the love story, Tolstoy!”) but it results in a more well-rounded piece that features a caricature of nearly every type of person, revealing his or her unique struggle and the ultimate resolution of that struggle.

In order to avoid spoilers, I’ll use Constantine Levin as an example rather than the alluring Mrs. Karenina.  At the beginning of the novel, Levin is introduced as a hard-working yet sensitive farmer.  He makes it clear to all who meet him that he is an agnostic, something shocking to the hypocritical Russian aristocracy of the late seventeenth century.  Throughout the novel, Levin holds fast to this view, even when he marries… (No spoilers! Read the book!) a devout Christian. Despite his insistence that his logical mind prevents him from accepting Christianity, he is in turmoil, always pursuing something more through farming, writing, or marriage, but never quite satisfying the void in his life.  Finally, when he had gained success in the eyes of society and should have been content, he allows himself to admit his hopelessness.  He had everything he had desired: a thriving farm, a lovely wife, a healthy son, and plenty of friends, but his soul was lost.  At last, after reflecting alone over his struggles and questions, he reached the conclusion that what he had truly been missing was faith.  As soon as he realized this, the anguish he had hid for years fled and he breathed in the peace he had been yearning for, stating:

“I have discovered nothing. I have only perceived what it is that I know.  I have understood the Power that not only gave me life in the past but is giving me life now. I have freed myself from deception and learnt to know my Master” (Tostoy 785).

Thus, the meaning of this book is not that “if one loves, one loves the whole person as he or she is,” although that is definitely a major theme.  Rather, the overarching claim of this novel is that there is hope for the soul in agony.  Some characters, such as Levin, found this hope or possessed it from the opening chapter, and some (again, no spoilers, so I won’t say who…) continued to careen down the paths of selfish desire that they paved for themselves, ultimately ending in tragedy.