In early nineteenth century Russia, one’s status is decided based on how many enslaved workers (serfs) under your name. Likewise, property owners do not pay taxes on the land own but rather on the number of serfs assigned to them at the last census. Even if a serf dies, a property owner must pay taxes

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Miss Buncle is an aging old maid in a boring town in the suburbia of London, 1930s. When she finds herself in need of funds, she decides to earn some money by writing a novel. Miss Buncle’s book causes waves in the careful social fabric of the small town because she has written about the

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I read Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery (first published 1848) over the course of four months, and then I’ve been delaying writing my thoughts about it for more than two weeks. My hesitation to post about it now is related to the fact that this master tome of Victorian literature is well deserving of

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Regular readers of my blog know that I really enjoy a good Victorian novel. So I have to say I’ve struggled to pull together my thoughts on Erewhon by Samuel Butler (published 1872) simply because it’s not one of the good ones. As a satirical look at Victorian society in the form of a dystopia,

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Bleak House (published serially 1852-1853) is a sweeping saga of epic proportions. Charles Dickens obviously planned the plot carefully, especially by providing introduction and characters for the bulk of the first third of the novel, so that the last third of the novel would swiftly move to a satisfying conclusion that ties all the previously

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Voltaire’s Candide (originally published 17581) is alternatively titled Optimism. A rosy outlook on life is the main target of Voltaire’s satire. Rather than embracing a truly pessimistic approach to the world, however, Voltaire seems to me to be arguing for a realistic and reasonable approach to life. The humorous look at both optimism and pessimism

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The goatherds’ observation that “This gentleman must have a few vacant chambers in his head” (page 439) comes at the end of part 1 of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (first published 1605, translated by Edith Grossman 2003). Yet, that is exactly the thought I had as I began the novel. Why, oh why,

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Cranford (published 1851) is a quiet book, focusing on traditions in a changing pre-Victorian society in a small rural community. Given it’s slow pace, when I first read Cranford (thoughts here), I really struggled. I felt stifled by the overbearing traditions of the community of Cranford, and I wondered where the plot was. Yet, by

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Please note: This post may contain “spoilers,” particularly for Huckleberry Finn. Rereading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (written 1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (written 1876-1885) as an adult reminds me just why I love Huckleberry Finn so much more. Tom Sawyer is a book I have always had fond memories of because of

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In 1934, an African-American doctor invented a surgical procedure that allowed black people to become white (specially, Nordic) in all respects. Black No More, Incorporated, became a highly profitable business, and the people of world were forever changed. Such is the premise of George S. Schuyler’s Black No More. It caught my eye because of

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It was diverting to read, but Utopia by Thomas More was not a delightful, engaging read. It has essentially no plot: a world-traveler tells a man named Thomas More about a land called Utopia as they discuss various social problems. And yet, Utopia was interesting to me as a commentary on “utopias” and “dystopias” in

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