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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As my son sat watching Dora the Explorer, I thought of my recent read of Fahrenheit  451 (1953). “Say, ‘backpack!’” Dora said. “Backpack,” Raisin responded. “Louder!” Dora’s friend prompted. “Backpack!” Raisin yelled. And this is just what Guy Montag’s wife (did she garner a name? It slips my mind now) does all day long in

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In 1948, hundreds of Segenalese railway workers along the main rail line left work in a strike against the French colonist’s repression of the native’s way of life and status as employees of the railway. In God’s Bits of Wood, Sembene Ousmane tells their story. Ousmane’s writing was impressive. Although I’ve never been to Senegal,

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At first, I didn’t love Sense and Sensibility. The characters felt like flat stereotypes. The elder sister, Elinor Dashwood, was full of sense and Marianne (and her mother) was flighty and emotional (the “sensibility” of the title). These two acted in the extremes of their stereotypes, and I didn’t feel drawn in to the story.

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Oliver Twist surprised me. Oliver’s story is familiar to me: I watched the musical many times as a young girl (my mother fast forwarding past That Scene). I loved the music and found the characters delightful. I always loved Artful Dodger! And yet, when I read the book, I was surprised. I expected this book

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I thought I understood satire when I read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” But reading Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels solidified the meaning of satire for me. The two works seemed to illustrate the difference between telling and showing. Reading “A Modest Proposal” was like reading a textbook example of satire, while experiencing the nuances and humor

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Jane Addams was born shortly before the Civil War to a privileged family in rural Illinois. After graduating from Rockford College, Addams determined to “live with the poor” (page 44). In the coming decades and for the remainder of her life, Addams was an influential leader for Chicago social reform. Beyond her leadership, though, Addams

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