The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

General information 

The novel (an original title ‘El Club Dumas’) was written by a Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte and published in 1993 (Spanish) and 1996 (English). It is considered to belong to a crime/mystery novel genre. The novel served as an inspiration for Roman Polański (a Polish film director) who created a film based on it – ‘The Ninth Gate’ (1999).

Plot overview 

Lucas Corso, a book-dealer specializing in getting rare and valuable editions for anonymous buyers, acquires a previously unknown tale from ‘The Three Musketeers’ called ‘The Anjou Wine‘ and tries to check its authenticity. The manuscript was given to Flavio La Ponte, a bibliophile and Corso’s friend, by Enrique Taillefer who commited mysterious suicide right after giving away his book. In the meantime, Corso is given another task to accomplish. Varo Bojra, a collector of occult books, employs him to find and check authenticity of two remaining copies of the book he owns – ‘The Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows’ which is supposed to contain a formula for summoning the devil. Corso’s investigation leads him to diverse places in Spain, Portugal and France and makes him discover mysterious and dark facts about the book, as well as face a serious danger. His “mission” and intriguing characters he encounters bear a strong resemblance to the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Soon, the reality, the story of ‘The Three Musketeers’ and the mystery of  ‘The Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows’ start to intertwine and Corso does not realise that his role in the events was preplanned and is of vast importance…

 Review

Personally, I consider this novel to be one of the best I have ever read. I am very fond of books which incorporate elements of mystery, supernatural, evil forces and history. ‘The Club Dumas’ has all of them. What I like the most about it is its atmosphere, intriguing, scary, but at the same time funny in a couple of scenes.

The plot is quite complicated and consists of various events which mix with each other and make a very engrossing whole. At times, the plot is quite hard to follow and it requires paying a lot of attention. It is not a book that you can take and read without being focused. But I regard it as an advantage of ‘The Club Dumas’ because this
complexity is not overwhelming and makes the novel more interesting and sophisticated.

The only drawback of the novel that I can think of is predictability. Sometimes it was easy to guess what will happen next, so I simply missed the element of surprise. However, all in all, I find the book worth reading and I will definitely get lost in its pages again and again.

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100 Must-Read Books

Here is the list of 100 books that according to BBC everyone should read.

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M. Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18. Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zifon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Inferno – Dante
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – A.S. Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factoy – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Introduction

The novel was written by an English writer Diana Gabaldon and published by Dell Books on June 1, 1991. The book came into being accidentally, as an experiment. As Gabaldon claims “I decided to write a novel for practice, in order a) to learn what it took to write a novel, and b) to decide whether I really wanted to do that for real.” (Source: http://www.dianagabaldon.com). It is quite hard to classify the novel by a single genre, since it incorporates elements coming from diverse literary categories. The author describes her work in the following way: ” Frankly, I have never been able to describe this book in twenty-five words or less, and neither has anyone else in the twenty years since it was first published. I have seen it (and the rest of the series) sold—with evident success—as <deep breath> Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical NON-fiction (Really. Well, they are very accurate), Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Military History (No, honest), Gay and Lesbian Fiction, and…Horror. (Really! One of my books beat both George R.R. Martin and Stephen King for a Quill Award in 2006.) Anyway, the only way I have ever found of describing this book to anyone is to begin telling them the story.” (Source: http://www.dianagabaldon.com). The novel is the first book in the Outlander series, which encompasses the following works:

1. Outlander (1991)

2. Dragonfly In Amber (1992)

3. Voyager (1994)

4. Drums Of Autumn (1997)

5. The Fiery Cross (2001)

6. A Breath Of Snow And Ashes (2005)

7. An Echo In The Bone (2009)

8. Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (will be released in 2013)


 Plot Overview

It is the year 1946, World War II is over and a young, ex-combat nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall spends a second honeymoon with her husband Frank, who was in the army as well and with whom she has been separated for six years, in the Scottish Highlands. The couple want to give their relationship a second life. However, everything turns upside-down when one day Claire takes a walk and comes across a circle of standing stones which are very common in this part of Great Britain. She goes through a cleft in one of the stones and disappears. It turns out that she moves back in time, back into 1743. Scared and confused she meets Jack Randal, a gentleman wearing a 18th-century army officer’s uniform, who looks just like her husband. Later on it turns out that Jack is her husband’s six-times-great-grandfather. He also reveals his true nature of a sadistic bisexual pervert. Claire tries to get out of his hands and accidentally bumps into the group of Highland Scots who are trying to escape from Jack Randal as well. As different events go by, it becomes obvious for Claire that the only way to get out of the hands of the cruel captain is to marry one of the young, Scottish clansmen, Jamie Fraser. Claire tries to escape from her just married man and come back home, to her real husband Frank. Things get complicated when she finds out that she has fallen in love with the young Scot. And here the story starts to roll on…

Review 

When I first got to know the plot overview of this novel I was not very pleased. I immediately categorized it as a lame and boring romance in which the passionate scenes of love would be the most sophisticated aspects of the book.  How positively surprised I was after starting to read it. The novel turned out to be not a low-quality love story, but an interesting mixture of romance, supernatural elements and historical background. The story depicts the 18th century situation in Scotland such as the clan system, Scottish-English conflicts etc. The plot is very engrossing, since it is built up on various subsections which mixed together create one of the most interesting wholes I have ever read.

Gabaldon does not use a sophisticated language, which can be considered lame by a lot of readers. However, for me literary structures she utilizes make the novel very comprehensible and easy to follow. It enables the reader to focus completely on the plot, to get lost in pages. Just like I did.

Outlander is definitely worth recommending. It is not a stereotypical love story which only girls with romantic personality may like. It will satisfy every reader who appreciate diversity and truth that every good book has.

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Duma Key by Stephen King

Plot overview 

The following novel by Stephen King, first released in January 2008, presents the story of Edgar Freemantle who looses his arm and psychical balance in a construction site accident. Being irked by uncontrolled outbursts of rage, he decides to leave his previous life behind and start a new one. Edgar’s suicidal thoughts make his psychologist suggest him moving to an island called Duma Key and taking up drawing which has turned out to be Edgar’s hidden and unfulfilled hobby. After renting a house on the breathtaking and isolated island off the shore of Florida, which belongs to an elderly lady named Elisabeth Eastlake, Edgar has only one thing in his mind: to draw. Pictures and paintings created with obsessive passion are results of his talent which soon gets out of control. Edgar discovers that by means of his paintings, which come into being in a wild trance, he has an ability to influence the reality. After getting to know the stories of his landlady – Elisabeth and his new friend, woman’s caretaker – Wireman, Edgar starts to realize that he was called to the island by some unknown power. His works of art, which gain a lot of popularity and appreciation, seem to shout out the story which frightens Edgar, but at the same time makes him curious and willing to discover it. His curiosity is finally satisfied when he realizes the power of his paintings and is familiarized with a detailed story of Elisabeth’s life. But then it turns out to be too late to turn back, too late to escape. He needs to fight against great evil which has woken up to spread destruction after being once defeated by a young Elisabeth.

Below you can watch a video on which Stephen King comments on his novel.

Review

I admit that at the beginning I was a bit sceptical about Stephen King’s novels. However, since I started reading them I have been getting more and more interested in the works of this author. ‘Duma Key’ is definitely the best King’s novel I have read so far. There is a large number of reasons which made me form such an opinion.

First of all, the plot. It will not be enough to say that it is interesting. It is so engrossing that it makes you be completely absorbed and transfered to the world of the novel. The story develops gradually. First, the reader is given the background, some introductory information which enables to understand characters and their ways of thinking. At the beginning nothing unusual seems to be involved in the story. A man who has experienced a terrible accident, after which he undergoes a lot of difficulties connected with his health condition and social life, decides to take part in a hopeless fight to get his life back. He aims to cure his body struggling with pain and free his emotional side from uncontrolled attacks of anger. But as the pages go by, the action becomes more and more complicated, mysterious and supernatural, but in moderation. That is a good point of this novel. Even if the plot incorporates some supernatural phenomena, the way the author presents them is very reliable and the reader may actually consider them to be true. And what is more, the plot is scary and gives the reader goose bumps, which is what a good horror novel ought to do.

Second of all, I just love the characters that King has created. Each of the main heroes has some story to be uncovered, some skeletons in the cupboard to be revealed. This makes the reader want to know more and more about the characters, get into their lives, know their secrets and understand their behavior.

Third of all, the language used by the author is both sophisticated and comprehensible. It is not too simple and requires some amount of concentration while reading, but at the same time it is understandable enough not to make the reader get lost. Moreover, King is the master of creating a proper atmosphere by means of the language. The words he uses, the way of describing places, people and expressing emotions… It is all on a very high level. The author makes the reader feel what characters feel, see what characters see, and basically have the impression of being inside the action, participate in all events.

Finally, what I also appreciate about this novel is the message it carries. I am aware that the interpretation of books is always something personal, depending on readers and their points of view, however, I would like to share my opinion on this matter. For me the  novel is not only about the fight between good and evil, between the men and supernatural, powerful forces. The book emphasizes the strength of one’s will-power and willingness to fight with their own weaknesses and limitations. It shows that no matter how low one falls, there is always a way up. What is more, the importance of friendship, love and responsibility for others is underlined.

Summing up, the book is definitely a perfect way to forget the world around and get lost in another, mysterious, intriguing and scary reality which will evoke diverse kinds of emotion in the reader.

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