Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

100 Books by 40: Great Expectations and Birdsong


I am reading Little Women right now. I hate it. I am not very keen on romance novels. This particular preference becomes important later when I write about Birdsong and Great Expectations. So Little Women has that strike against it. The author is so heavy-handed in her moral lessons, I can barely stand it. I will hold off on ranting more until I actually finish the book. On a bright note, I am liking Gone With the Wind so far.

Great Expectations wasn’t that great. I don’t know what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it. Here’s what I did find interesting about the book. The episodic writing that Dickens employs is reminiscent of TV show plot lines. I’ve read Dickens before, but I learned just prior to picking up Great Expectations that he was often writing chapter by chapter for publication in periodicals. I enjoyed the short story arcs to keep readers coming back mixed with the broader story arcs. Seriously, TV writers could take a lesson.

As mentioned earlier, I don’t really appreciate romance. So, the Pip/Estella story line was less than enthralling to me. The setting, 1800’s England, was super cool. The descriptions around the ambient culture was also super cool. Would I read it again? No. Would I suggest that others read it? Only if they want to write TV scripts. Would I read other novels by Dickens? Probably.

Birdsong. This book bounces across different times starting prior to WWI and ending in the 1970’s. This is a romance novel. By now you should know how much I appreciate that. The storytelling in this book was well executed. Some pivotal plot points hang around the characters and their relationship to WWI. There are several scenes in the book that describe WWI battles. I loved the WWI parts of this book. LOVED THEM. The large story arc is about a women getting to know more about her grandfather and learning about herself in the process.

*****SPOILER ALERT***** Do not read on if you want to read this book.
I was ok with the romance driving the book. Then I got to the end. The end of the book has the main character giving birth in a farm house. Pure cheese, I wanted to punch the book. After the bloody chapters describing WWI, this ending felt really trite. This woman who was seeking herself could only be found by becoming a mother? Like adding that complication is going to clarify what one wants out of life. I would have not started the book had I known how aggravating the ending would be. Would I read it again? NO! Would I suggest that others read it? If the person in question loves romance novels. Would I read other novels by Faulks? NO.

And since I haven’t provided you with an updated reading list in a bit, here it is.

Reading now:
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

Finished reading:
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier – this will need to come from the library or second hand books
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger – – this will need to come from the library or second hand books
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
53. The Stand, Stephen King
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.

Pending reading:
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

2 thoughts on “100 Books by 40: Great Expectations and Birdsong

  1. If you hated Little Women, you’re not going to think much of Anne of Green Gables. Just warning you. I read both of them about 100 times when I was a kid. But that was a different time. And in the 1960’s, the 1860’s didn’t seem that foreign. Now I can’t imagine a kid having any patience with either of them, though my girls loved the Anne series. Again, a different time and a different medium.

    I’d forgotten you were writing a blog. I am now a fan. And you’ve persuaded me to try Catch 22 again. I think I was too young to understand it the first time I tried it. Definitely not too young any more.

    • I suspect you are correct on Anne of Green Gables. My window for enjoying that book closed in 1990; that was probably the last moment that I could have found nostalgic fondness for it. Maybe it is a fast read.

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