First off, I'd like to thank everyone who stopped by to participate in this week's Weekly Geek. These are some great questions and I look forward to answering them. I decided to answer the questions in a single post rather than in separate reviews, mainly because I don't have the time right now to squeeze in that many reviews. Anyway, here are the questions with my answers:
Pussreboots asked: Have you read "The Woman in White"? If so, how does it compare to "Moonstone"? What's your general impression of the book and do you think you'll read more of the author's books?
I have yet to read The Woman in White, but most of the reviews that I have read have said that it is good, but that it tends to unwind at the end. If that is indeed the case, then I would say that The Moonstone is a much tighter story that keeps a good pace. I enjoyed the story overall with its various characters and its early detective story elements. Wilkie Collins tends to be overshadowed by Dickens, but I think that he deserves to be read and taught more than he is. The Woman in White is definitely in my TBR pile.
Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness asked: What did you think of all the food descriptions in Redwall? Did they get tedious, or did you enjoy them? Are you planning to read the next book in the series?
The food descriptions remind me of the poems and songs in The Lord of the Rings. Though they can be tedious at times, I think that they add to the overall richness of the story. To me, the descriptions of the food and feasts really added to the warm and homey atmosphere of Redwall Abbey. I have read other stories in the series, but the original Redwall is still the best IMO (with its prequel Mossflower running a close second). I usually recommend these tales to any young teen reader that I meet.
Jodie asked: How much did you notice the Christian warrior theme in Redwall while you were reading it? Did you think Cluny was a dastardly enough villain? I think Jacques animal characters always fall into traditional stereotypes (carnivores and rats evil, mice and hares good etc) do you think his books would work as well if they reversed this idea would work as well?
As a Christian, the "Christian Warrior" feeling of Redwall was pretty apparent, but I'm not sure that that was what Jacques intended. As in Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, any symbolism will probably be lost on most non-Christian readers. I did find Cluny to be a pretty evil villain (though perhaps a little one-dimensional). From the minute he appears on the page, it is known that he will threaten the peace of Redwall Abbey.
As for the stereotypes, there are two ways of looking at it. One is that Jacques is being stereotypical and telling his readers that evil only comes in certain forms. Or you can look at it in the sense that unlike humans, animals have natural enemies. All weasels and rats are the enemies of all mice and rabbits. They are also the enemies of humans in some cases (most people would rather see a mouse than a rat). If you look at it this way, Jacques could be teaching his readers to simply recognize evil. This seemingly stereotypical element is also a part of the British literary tradition (see The Wind in the Willows and Chronicles of Narnia).
Jodie also asked: Do you agree with Atticus Finch’s optimism that progress is being made in the south because it takes the jury such a long time to convict Tom? Did you feel any negative reaction towards the book’s portrayal of black characters?
In some ways, I do agree with Atticus. As a lifelong southerner, I have seen the strong prejudices of the region (though this has mellowed considerably since the time of TKAM), and I believe that even a second spent in seeing someone not as black or white, male or female, but simply as a person, is a step in the right direction. Neither did I feel any negative portrayal of black people in the novel. We have examples of blacks who respect people regardless of color (Calpurnia and Tom Robinson) and blacks who also have a hard time seeing beyond color (the lady at Calpurnia's church). Lee seems to treat her black characters the same as she does her white characters.
Sherrie asked: I have wanted to read Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, but have put it off for years. Is this book hard to read and hold your attention?
It isn't easy for me to say whether or not a book is hard to read or will hold your attention. Every reader is different and just because I enjoy a book doesn't mean that you will. I will say, however, that Madame Bovary was an enjoyable read for me. It isn't a horribly long novel (300-400 pages), and the characters, though not always likable, are very human. Most people will identify at least a piece of themselves in the tragic Emma Bovary. I think that you should at least give it a shot.
Trisha asked: What is most memorable to you about Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone? If you were to teach this book, what activities would you do?
One of the things that I liked about The Moonstone was Collins' use of "multi-narration". It was great to see the story from so many different points of view with each narrator giving it their own distinctive touch. Those written by Gabriel Betteredge are especially good. I also enjoyed the pathetic side story of Rosanna. Her tragic end was so touching.
As far as teaching the story, I'm not sure exactly what activities I would do, but they would definitely involve learning more about the Hindu beliefs, especially those centering around sacred jewels. It also calls for look at Britain's treatment of the native Indians as well as the use of drugs in Victorian England.
Eva asked: Have you read Anna Karenina? If so, do you think the comparisons between it and Madame Bovary are justified?
I have read Anna Karenina and it is also a great book. I found there to be many similarities between the two novels from the strong females looking for love and identity outside of their seemingly mundane lives to their lovers who, though initially mesmerized by the women, soon find them distasteful and empty. If their is one major difference between the two, it is that Tolstoy lends a more spiritual quality to Anna Karenina than Flaubert does to Madame Bovary. This gives Anna Karenina a bit more balance than the stark realism of Madame Bovary.
Again, thank you to everyone who left questions. If you have more questions related to my answers, please feel free to leave me comment. Great topic Weekly Geeks!