Showing 391 - 400 of 569 annotations in the genre "Novel"

Amsterdam

McEwan, Ian

Last Updated: Apr-09-2002
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Molly Lane, restaurant critic and photographer, has died of a progressive neurological disease. She is survived by George, her husband, as well as by several past lovers, including Clive Linley, a famous composer, his old friend Vernon Halliday, editor of a London newspaper, and Julian Garmony, the British foreign secretary, rumored to be headed for Downing Street. After Molly's funeral, both Clive and Vernon experience odd neurological symptoms and make a mutual pact to help each other commit suicide in order to end suffering. The symptoms appear in both cases to have been psychosomatic, but the pact remains.

George has found career-destroying photographs of Julian Garmony (in drag) among Molly's things, and he gives them to Vernon for the newspaper. Vernon and Clive quarrel over the ethics of a decision each has made: Vernon's decision to publish the pictures, and over Clive's decision not to intervene when, while working on a crucial melody for his symphony during a walk in the country, he sees a woman being attacked by a man who turns out to be a serial rapist. When Vernon is fired and Clive's symphony is a failure, each blames the other and the suicide pact becomes a means of mutual revenge.

A subtext has been a running storyline in Vernon's paper about rumored abuse of the Netherlands's liberal euthanasia laws; the novel ends in Amsterdam, each man involuntarily euthanized by a physician paid by his friend. (Meantime, Garmony's career is in ruins. George has successfully destroyed all three of his wife's lovers.)

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The Fifth Child

Lessing, Doris

Last Updated: Mar-24-2002
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the "free love" context of the nineteen-sixties, Harriet and David Lovatt are throwbacks to a more conservative, traditional, and family-oriented decade. Their life dream is to have a big house in the country filled with children, and it seems that they will succeed. After bearing four young children, however, Harriet is feeling the strain of years of childbearing, sleeplessness, money trouble, and her parents' and in-laws' disapproval of her fecundity.

Her fifth pregnancy is not only unplanned, but also unusually painful and disruptive. Harriet's doctor prescribes sedatives but finds nothing abnormal in her situation. When Ben is born, Harriet jokes that he is like "a troll or a goblin," but no one responds well to this unusually hairy and physically vigorous baby, who in turn does not respond to anything but his own desires and fears.

As he grows older, family pets and other children seem to be in physical danger. Health care professionals do not confirm the couple's conviction that Ben is not normal, but neither do they obstruct the decision to send Ben to a private institution, a removal that leaves the family temporarily happy until Harriet visits Ben and recognizes the institution for what it is, a place where all manner of "different" children are sent to live heavily medicated, physically restrained, and foreshortened lives away from families who do not want them.

Harriet brings Ben home, where he grows up amid what remains of the Lovatts' domestic fantasy, and finds community in a gang of thuggish older boys whom Harriet suspects are involved in various criminal acts. As the story closes, Ben has left home and Harriet imagines him in another country, "searching the faces in the crowd for another of his own kind" (133).

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Philip Carey, the central character of this early 20th century Bildungsroman, is both an orphan and afflicted with a club foot. He is sent at age nine, after the death of his mother, to live with a childless uncle--a deeply religious Vicar--and his submissive aunt. They have no idea how to be parents, so send Philip away to a boys' boarding school where the child begins to learn what it means to be less than physically "perfect." The remainder of Philip's development is cast in this light.

He roams about looking for himself and his place--to Germany to learn languages, to London to learn a trade, to Paris to study art, and finally, as a last resort, a default decision to follow in the steps of his father the physician. A major part of Philip's maturation is based in making decisions about women and about sensual love. The most painful portions of his story are those that evolve around his stumbling and frequently failed attempts to find security in his personal relationships.

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Dream Story

Schnitzler, Arthur

Last Updated: Feb-19-2002
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Fridolin, a doctor, and his wife, Albertine, have been married for a few years and are the parents of a much adored little girl. In a moment of unusual frankness, they decide to confess all their temptations and adventures to one another. Albertine admits that she deeply desired a blond Dane encountered in the previous summer. Fridolin professes to welcome this news and tells of similar attractions. They promise to confide the sexual adventures of their waking and dreaming states.

But Fridolin is not at ease. The idea that his wife desired another-even in a dream-inspires a jealous energy that sends him in search of adventures that will reassure him of his own desirability and hurt if not repudiate Albertine. On the pretext of a house call, he wanders, masked and unmasked, through the decadent private clubs and caf├ęs of night-time Vienna. He toys with the dismal daughter of a patient, an "unspoiled" prostitute, and a sophisticated matron--none of whom he actually claims, all of whom remind him of his wife, one of whom dies, he believes, in protecting him.

Uncertain if his adventure was reality or dream, he returns with tenderness to Albertine, although he has repeatedly vowed to leave her. He tells his entire story; she listens with better grace than he would have done. Then he asks what they should do. She replies that they should be grateful to have "emerged safely from these adventures" . . . "neither the reality of a single night nor even of a person's entire life can be equated with the full truth about his innermost being." "And no dream," he responds "is altogether a dream." (p. 98-9). They begin another day.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story begins in London as Lilia, the young widow of Charles Herriton departs for an extended tour of Italy, taking with her a companion (Caroline Abbott), who is supposed to keep her our of trouble. Lilia leaves her 8-year-old daughter Irma home with the Herritons. The Herritons are a snobbish upper middle class family ruled by an iron-willed matriarch, who has never approved of her daughter-in-law's unassuming and spontaneous nature.

The trouble begins when word arrives from the small town of Monteriano that Lilia has gotten engaged to an Italian man. Mrs. Herriton sends her son Philip to buy off the "wretched Italian" and bring Lilia home. But he arrives too late. The 32-year-old Lilia has already married Gino Carella, who is the unemployed son of a dentist and a decade younger than she is. Gino is charming and seems guileless, although he has no intention of adopting an English attitude toward marriage. Indeed, he has married Lilia for her money and expects her to become a proper Italian wife.

Later, Lilia dies in childbirth, but the baby survives. At first the Herritons intend to sever contact and not acknowledge the child. However, nudged by Miss Abbott, the unsuccessful chaperone, they decide to "save" the child from becoming an Italian. Once again, Philip goes to Italy to buy off Gino and bring the boy to England. Once again, he fails.

But this time, his aggressive sister Harriet intervenes; when all else fails, she steals the baby. Unfortunately, a mishap occurs, and the baby dies. Meanwhile, Philip has fallen in love with Miss Abbott who, in turn, has fallen for the recently remarried Gino. In the end it looks like Phillip and Miss Abbott will become "just good friends."

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Thinks . . .

Lodge, David

Last Updated: Feb-07-2002
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Helen Reed, a novelist, newly widowed, moves to the University of Gloucester for a semester to teach creative writing. There she meets Ralph Messenger, professor of cognitive science. Their relationship is set within a web of complex professional and family connections, most of which focus on variations of adultery. Everyone has a secret. Helen learns by reading the novel-in-progress of one of her students that the student had had an affair with her husband.

Ralph, awkwardly involved with a Czech grad student who is trying to blackmail him, is regularly unfaithful to his wife, who is in turn having an affair. Another scientist is addicted to on-line child pornography. Helen and Ralph eventually become lovers, until Ralph is found to have a lump on his liver (which later turns out not to be cancer) and then betrays Helen by reading her private journals. She then returns to London and he remains with his wife.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man. So opens the first part of "Notes from Underground," in which the narrator describes his character and psychological states. He is a low ranking public official, 40 years old, who lives alone in a small room. When he received a small inheritance, he immediately quit his job and now spends his time ruminating about who he is and what his life means.

This narrator does not simply accept the laws of nature. He dislikes "the fact that two and two makes four." He realizes that he cannot break down the wall of nature "by battering my head against it," but nonetheless "I am not going to resign myself to it simply because it is a stone wall and I am not strong enough." (p. 12) He is proud of never having begun or finished anything. (p. 17) In fact, "what man needs is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead." (p. 23)

The narrator is "underground" because he has chosen not to participate, not to accomplish, not to interact, not even to justify his non-participation in "ordinary" life. Yet, he is bored, and so he chooses to occupy himself by writing these notes.

The second part is less rumination and more narrative, as the protagonist describes some seminal events in his life. When he was a young clerk, he was a loner with no friends. One day he decided to visit Simonov, an old school acquaintance, who happened at the time to be planning a dinner with some friends to honor another friend, Zverkov, who had done well in the military. The protagonist awkwardly invited himself to this dinner, despite having no money to pay for it, and later, after being thoroughly obnoxious and insulting his hosts, he followed them to a brothel, where he encountered a whore named Liza and conned her into thinking that he cared for her.

When she appeared at his apartment a few days later, he angrily told her that the "fine sentiments" were all false: "I was laughing at you!" When Liza then ran away, the narrator became agitated and tried to follow, but quickly dropped the idea. "Would I not begin to hate her, perhaps even tomorrow, just because I had kissed her feet today? Would I give her happiness? Had I not recognized that day, for the hundredth time, what I was worth?" (p. 113) At this point he breaks off, saying that he chooses not to write any further notes form underground.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is a massive study of Paris and of Notre Dame set in the fifteenth century, but written from the viewpoint of the nineteenth century. Hugo gives us not only the magnificence and the horrid secrets of the great cathedral, but the boisterous city over which it stood. Quasimodo, the legendary hunchbacked bellringer of the great church, is the title character.

But the reader is also treated to a small group of individuals, including a high-ranking priest, a beautiful dancing street entertainer, a soldier of fortune, an itinerant poet, and a grieving mother whose lives are intricately woven together in the often painful plot line. The author, obviously deeply entrenched in the history of his city, gives his readers a dense, sometimes chaotic, trip through medieval Paris in all of its allure and its sordidness as his carefully crafted characters come together and gradually destroy one another and/or themselves.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Mr. Galyadkin, minor clerk in Russian business, is introduced by the author as he begins an outrageous journey which takes him madly about St. Petersburg visiting his physician, who sends him away, and old friends who won't admit him to their homes. It is apparent that this man has either done something extremely objectionable to offend everyone, or he is not recognized by those whom he visits.

As he wanders along the streets, trying to decide why he is being so badly treated, he encounters a man who looks very like himself, in fact, who calls himself Mr. Galyadkin and was born in the same village as our hero. Mr. Galyadkin (now designated as "senior") welcomes the new Mr. G. into his life, sharing everything, including a position at his workplace.

The pleasures are short-lived, as the newcomer begins to act outrageously with the consequences being assigned to Mr. G, Sr. Life becomes unbearable for Mr. G; the worse things seem the more badly he and his double behave. And eventually, Dr. Krestyan Ivanovich is called to trick Mr. G into entering the carriage bound for the insane asylum.

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True History of the Kelly Gang

Carey, Peter

Last Updated: Dec-19-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel purports to be the story of Ned Kelly, the most famous of all Australian outlaws, as told in his own words. We learn that after Ned’s capture in the shoot-out at Glenrowan on June 28th, 1880, "thirteen parcels of stained and dog-eared papers, every one of them in Ned Kelly’s distinctive hand" (p. 4), were discovered among his things. These parcels turned out to be a memoir, addressed to the infant daughter whom he was never to see because his wife fled to San Francisco.

Ned was the son of poor Irish immigrants who farmed a "selection" (i.e. homestead) in the northern part of the colony of Victoria. After his father died, in order to help support her children, Ned’s mother took up with a series of dubious men, including an outlaw named Harry Power, who became the boy’s manipulative mentor. The memoir presents Ned as a goodhearted, loyal, and basically honest young man who came to blows with the law partly as a result of his bad companions, and partly through the intrinsic malice of the police.

Along with his brothers and two friends, he reluctantly becomes a bank robber, commits a few incidental murders, and ends up as a popular hero whose final capture has become part of Australian legend. The memoir shows us that the 26-year-old Ned could have escaped to America with his wife, but chose to remain in Victoria because he hoped somehow to free his mother, who was serving a jail sentence in Melbourne. The memoir also describes the origin of the famous iron armor that Ned was wearing when he was captured.

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