Archive for the ‘Classics’ Category


Unceasing Gladness for Everything

Review of Pollyana; Eleanor H. Porter; Puffin Classics, first published by Harrap 1927; pp 269

– Shana Susan Ninan

I haven’t seen many people who can remain ‘glad’ even in the darkest of times. And here’s a teeny girl, cheerful and with unbounded joy, looking optimistic at life. This was my second reading of the book (the first being in my teenage), and as an adult, I now see the story from Aunt Polly’s and the other adults’ eyes.

Pollyanna Whittier – her mom named her after her two sisters, Polly and Anna! – a recently orphaned girl, comes to live with her aunt, Polly. Now, Ms Polly is a stern spinster, who rarely smiles, let alone have the capacity to be glad about something in her life.

The little girl spreads cheer to all around her, whether at home or in the neighbourhood. And Aunt Polly finds it amusing, and irritating, that Pollyanna would even be happy to be punished! The young girl’s laughter and bubbling nature fills the house, to the point where when an accident befalls her, the whole place goes quiet and sad. Pollyanna’s optimism sees her through the dark days, giving strength to those who tend to her, too.

Pollyanna’s story is set in a time when mirrors were called looking-glass, and cars, motor-cars. The soothing narrative has a serene countryside and typical characters in it. And as a classic, it definitely scores. It made my day, once more.



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Rating: 6.5/10 (6 votes cast)

Black Is Definitely Beautiful!

Black Beauty; Anna Sewell; Penguin Classics

– Shana Susan Ninan

Written by English author Anna Sewell, Black Beauty is a heart-warming autobiographical tale of a horse. It is divided into 49 small chapters across four parts. The story is narrated in the voice of Black Beauty a beautiful horse that grew up to a kind master but saw many hardships and cruelty during his lifetime. Sewell was inspired by Bessie, her brother horse, to write Black Beauty. She completed and published it in 1877. Her mother, an established children’s author, helped Sewell to finish it.

Sewell, in a fall when she was 14, injured her knees. This left her a cripple for life. Sewell grew up around horses and was even a great driver.

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Rating: 9.2/10 (5 votes cast)

‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ Is 50

This classic of a book written by Harper Lee and adapted into a successful motion picture is celebrating its 50th anniversary. I remember after seeing the movie, I felt it was one of the best novel-adapted movies ever. Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout was just superb, to say the least.

In honour of the anniversary, theatres, art galleries, publishers and others in New York and elsewhere have planned more than 50 events that include book readings, enacts  from the film and screenings, walking tour of the author’s hometown in Alabama and silent auctions. HarperCollins also plans to bring out four new editions of the novel, with elegant new covers.

The literary achievements and recognitions that this book has received is humongous. It was originally published in 1960 by JB Lippincott and Co, which is now part of HarperCollins, won a Pulitzer Prize. The book sold about a million copies and in the past five years has been the second-best-selling backlist title in the country, beaten out only by The Kite Runner.

There’s artwork also created to honour ths great book. As part of the Alabama Humanities Foundation celebration the Stonehenge Gallery in Montegomery has displayed 36 pieces of work and movie showing at the Capri theatre.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (3 votes cast)

Re’fresh’ing indeed

Something Fresh: P.G. Wodehouse

Blandings has impostors the way other house has mice.” The author’s note at the beginning of the book, Something Fresh, his very first Blandings novel, says it all about the Blandings castle.

My ex-employer, the editor-in-chief of a national daily, says of P.G. Wodehouse, “He’s the perfect antidote to depression.” True. Even if you’re suffering from the most incurable disease in the world, or have been through a trying day, the moment you pick up a Wodehouse novel and gulp down the first few lines, all’s well with world is what you’d feel. The fact that each and every book of his ends positively is a reassuring feeling.

Here’s an interesting extract from the impostor-ridden novel:

Coming down to first causes, the only reason why collisions of any kind occur is because two bodies defy Nature’s law that a given spot on a given plane shall at a given moment be occupied by only one body. There was a certain spot near the foot of the great staircase which Ashe, coming downstairs, and George Emerson coming up, had to pass on their respective routes. George reached it at one minute and three seconds after 2 a.m., moving silently but swiftly, and Ashe, also maintaining a good rate of speed, arrived there are one minute and four seconds after the hour, when he ceased to walk and began to fly, accompanied by George Emerson, now going down. His arms were round George’s neck, and George was clinging to his waist. In due season they reached the foot of the stairs and a small table covered with occasional china and photographs in frames which lay adjacent to the foot of the stairs.

That, especially the occasional china, was what Baxter had heard.

George Emerson thought it was a burglar. Ashe did not know what it was, but he knew he wanted to shake it off, so he insinuated a hand beneath George’s chin and pushed upwards. George, by this time parted for ever from the tongue, the bread, the knife, the fork, the salt, the corkscrew, and the bottle of white wine, and… Ashe rediscovered George’s throat and began to squeeze it afresh, and a pleasant time was being had by all, when the Efficient Baxter, whizzing down the sitars, tripped over Ashe’s legs, shot forward, and cannoned into another table, also covered with occasional china and photographs in frames…

Ashe was strongly opposed to being discovered and called upon to account for his presence there at that hour, and George, conscious of the tongue, and its adjuncts now strewn about the hall, had a similar prejudice against the tedious explanations which detention must involve. As if by mutual consent each relaxed his grip. They stood panting for an instant, then, Ashe in the direction where he supposed the green-baize door of the servants’ quarters to be, George to the staircase which led to his bedroom, they went away from that place. They had hardly done so, when Baxter, having dissociated himself from the contents of the table which he had upset, began to grope his way towards the electric light switch, the same being situated near the foot of the main staircase. He went on all fours, as a safer method of locomotion, if slower, than the one which he had attempted before…

He raised his head in the darkness, and cried aloud, to those approaching. He meant to cry, “Help! Murder!” but fear prevented clear articulation. What he shouted was, “Heh! Mer!” Upon which from the neighbourhood of the staircase someone began to fire off a revolver… Extremely fortunate for him, Efficient Baxter had not changed his all-fours attitude. This undoubtedly saved Lord Emsworth the worry of engaging a new secretary. The shots sang above Baxter’s head, one after the other, six in all, and found themselves billets other than his person…

“My dear Baxter,” he [Lord Emsworth] said in the tones which usually he reserved for the correction of his son Freddie, “if your hunger is so great that you are unable to wait for breakfast and have to raid my larder in the middle of the night, I wish to goodness you would contrive to make less noise about it. I do not grudge you the food – help yourself when you please – but do remember that people who do not have such keen appetites as yourself like to sleep during the night…”

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Rating: 5.0/10 (2 votes cast)