The Shadow Line

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Read 01/10/2015-02/10/2015

Rating: 3.5 stars

The Shadow Line is a short but very gripping account of a sailor who unexpectedly has captaincy of a stricken ship thrust upon him. Over less than 200 pages, Conrad weaves a spell from strands of madness, stoicism, compassion and bloody mindedness. An utterly brilliant insight into how the crew of a ship must pull together to survive, no matter what is thrown at them. As ever, Conrad’s understanding of human nature is to the fore, and his language as elegant as ever.

Almayer’s Folly: a story of an Eastern river

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Read 23/04/2015-26/04/2015

Rating: 4 stars

Almayer’s Folly is an incredible first novel. So intense and truthful. I love how well Conrad understands what makes people tick, and especially the interplay between men and women. Conrad’s prose is beautiful. His understanding of human nature is complete. This is a tragic tale of hopes thwarted by the hardship of life and the weak spirit of one man. Almayer’s Folly is the name given to the house built by the titular hero to house his family and demonstrate his wealth and success. It is also the theme of his life – from presuming he would inherit the fortune of his boss by marrying his adopted daughter, to thinking he could throw that daughter off when he no longer needed her, and his belief that his position as the only white man on the east coast of Malaysia would secure his fortunes. He is a weak man, who can’t rid himself of the angry woman who has been forced to marry, can’t prevent his father in law from taking his own daughter from him, and ultimately can’t make reparation with his only child. In the middle is a love story, told simply and perfectly. It’s only a short book, but it properly filled my brain.

The Secret Agent

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Read 20/01/2014-30/01/2014

Rating: 4 stars

30 January 2014

It took a while for my head to move forward in time from the 18th century to the dawn of the 20th but once I got there, The Secret Agent blew me away. It feels very modern. It could have been written at any point in the past 150 years and been current. It made me think about what an era the end of the 19th century into the 20th was – the crashing together of cultures, the speed of change, the impending arrival of modernity with all its challenges. The Verlocs seemed alive on the page to me. Continue reading

Nostromo

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Read 24/08/2014-09/09/2014

Rating: 3 stars

This is a wonderful novel, redolent with the atmosphere of 19th century South America, the coming of the railways, the exploitation of the land and minerals and the upheaval of revolution and dictatorship. The central character spends most of the novel in the background, a charismatic figure, more legend than flesh. Continue reading