Rebecca, Reckless, The Prime Minister, The Thief Lord, and more Inkheart

Even though I wasn’t blogging, at least I was reading. Du Maurier, Trollope, and lots of Cornelia Funke today.

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really an excellent book, and so evocatively written. Rebecca is full of lusciously described scenery and chillingly dark atmosphere. Some have compared it to Jane Eyre, and while I agree that the plot has a more than superficial resemblance, the protagonist is so unlike Jane Eyre that I would characterize it more as . . . I don’t know, maybe a serious version of Northanger Abbey.

That said, the inequity between the unnamed narrator/protagonist and her much older husband made me want to tear my hair out. Where Jane Eyre is utterly self-possessed and invested in her own inner sense of right and wrong, the narrator of Rebecca constantly questions herself, completely disappearing into her role as “Mrs. de Winter.” Definitely “problematic” from a feminist point of view, although if you’d like to read a decent feminist critique of the book, you can try here.

Warning: this is a gothic novel. It was definitely too creepy and suspenseful for me to read at night.

Inkspell (Inkheart, #2)Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As I read this book, I could not stop thinking about the fact that Cornelia Funke’s husband died of cancer in between when she published Inkheart and when she published Inkspell. Inkspell is very preoccupied with death, and particularly with the threatened or actual death of the two principal male characters (Dustfinger and Mo), and their wives’ feelings and reactions.

Like Inkheart, this book is filled with inventive plot twists (as well as some silly ones), and amusingly described, if rather flat supporting characters. It was an enjoyable read, but I think without my previous emotional attachment to the characters (especially Brendan Fraser’s Mo) I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as Inkheart.

Inkdeath (Inkheart, #3)Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Is it just me, or does the skull on the front look like it’s wearing braces? From Inkspell‘s almost morbid preoccupation with death, this book moves to an absolute obsession with it. Definitely a dark ending.

I didn’t like this book quite as much as the previous two. One of the major factors that holds a fantasy novel together is the reader’s understanding of certain “natural laws” that are followed consistently, even if they vary from the natural laws of the real world. In Inkdeath we see a pretty serious breakdown of natural law as we’ve understood it in the Inkworld. Pretty much anything can (and does) happen.

On the plus side, I did enjoy the further development of Resa’s character, which has come a long way from when she was (literally) voiceless in Inkheart.

Reckless (Reckless, #1)Reckless by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sorry! Yet more Cornelia Funke. Reckless turns out to be the sort of melodramatic, superficial fiction I normally associate with the “Young Adult” label. (I mean, lark’s water? Seriously? Come on!) It was a fun read, though. People made out of rock, curses, jealous fairy lovers, and every fractured fairy tale come true.

The Thief LordThe Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

OK, I am officially out of my Funke. (ha, ha, right?) The Thief Lord reads as a sort of watered-down cross between From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Strange? Yes. Believable or entertaining? No.

The Prime MinisterThe Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I take back every bad thing I’ve ever said about Anthony Trollope, even though he proves himself in this book to be racist as well as male chauvinist. The Prime Minister is delightfully full of Trollope’s usual incisive insight into human nature. Here we find even the almost otherworldly Plantagenet Palliser ever so slightly corrupted by power.

I was reading this book during election season, and reliving the vagaries of 19th century British politics was a great escape, as well as a fascinating parallel. It’s hard to believe that Trollope didn’t secretly in his heart of hearts at least foresee (even if he didn’t entirely approve) the future success of the women’s rights movement. I think it must have been as obvious to him as to everyone else that Lady Glencora would have made a first-rate Prime Minister.

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