Little Women, a.k.a. WTF, Amy?

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It’s the classic love story. Boy meets girl. Girl turns down boy. Boy marries girl’s youngest sister while they are travelling in Europe.

This post is, admittedly, way overdue. Sorry ’bout that. Seems to be a pattern with me lately, doesn’t it? “Stop apologizing, Catherine, and show us you’ve changed through your actions. Your apologies for late posts mean nothing to us now. We’ve heard it all before.” Yes. I know. And you are right to feel that way, dear readers.

But I’m here now, and I’m going to tell you about my experience reading Little Women (LW).

LW was a decent read. It flowed surprisingly well and was relatively easy to get through considering its length. I didn’t even have to resort to an audiobook for this one! Go me!

Much like my experience reading Jane Eyre, this one was a bit weird because I went into it with a lot of spoilers. This time, though, it happened by mistake. Somehow, I’d managed to avoid gaining any significant knowledge of LW in my life. Before reading it, I knew it was about a bunch of sisters and one of them (maybe all of them? I wasn’t sure) liked to read and/or write. That’s it.

Then the 2019 movie came out and the cast looked awesome so I ditched my traditional bowl-selection method and picked up LW. It had an introduction. I read it. I don’t know – blame it on my MA training. Pre-MA Cat would have blown past that shit. Post-MA Cat was all, “OoOoOoOo an intro – I should gain some critical insight about this book before I start reading it.”

So I read it, and it told me all the things.

Now that I’ve given you the spoiler warning I never had…

The intro told me:

  1. That Jo and Laurie don’t end up together
  2. That Beth dies (and how she dies)

Those are the biggest plot points, so I missed out on a lot of the tension and dramatic build-up that readers would have enjoyed. Oh well.

So, knowing the whole time that all of Laurie’s efforts were for naught and waiting for the death knoll to toll for Beth, I embarked on my reading journey.

It took much, much longer than I thought it would for both those things to actually happen. Beth first got sick early on in the book, and I thought, “this is it, this is when it happens.” Then it didn’t! And it was up and down like that for the rest of the book until she did die – I think I got desensitized to it all, because I knew where it would all inevitably lead. So when her death did come it seemed…I don’t know…overdue? Is that a cold thing to say? I wasn’t really moved by it. I’m a heartless monster.

But not as heartless as her family – how did they not tell Amy to come home when Beth was dying?!? My mom didn’t tell me to come home when my dogs died when I was a kid, and she didn’t tell me to come home when my cat died when I was in university, and I’m still upset about it. These people chose not to tell Amy that her SISTER was dying. But they did tell Jo. How do you defend that one to Amy? That’s cold, dude.

Then there was the moment I realized Alcott was building to Amy and Laurie getting hitched. I was unimpressed. What is it with these 19th century boys? Can’t have one sister so you marry the other? How did women agree to this? Oh right – money. It was the money thing. Right.

Nevertheless, modern reader that I am, it was Lydia and Wickham all over again.

I was glad that Jo stuck to her guns and refused Laurie. In the intro, the author explained that this was because LMA said she couldn’t do that to Jo – she was too independent and didn’t want the same marriage ending for her protagonist. But then why marry her off? I wish she would have become a cool spinster author.

Also Jo totally abandoned her lucrative writing career because this man didn’t approve of the kind of writing she was doing. Screw you, Snooty McGee. Writers’ gonna write. Rebels gonna rebel. If you don’t like a woman with some edge, go mary someone named Jane.

The Movie

What can I say? Obviously the book was better. The book is always better. But I do love the cast of this movie.

The pacing in the movie was weird, and there was no chemistry between Laurie and Amy – that relationship seemed to come out of nowhere (although, this kind of happens in the book, too, so – maybe just a general criticism of the story rather than the movie).

Amy’s character has more backbone and strength in the movie. I appreciated that. The movie also seemed to take a more feminist approach to the story, changing some things (like Amy’s character) to fit that lens. I didn’t hate that. It was kind of great to see Amy yell at Laurier about marriage as an economic proposition when she was defending her decision to marry Richie-Rich-whats-his-face.

Beth’s death was sadder in the movie. I cried – I’ll admit it. I think it’s because I had less time to prepare myself for it (even though I knew it was coming).

Anywhoozles. I give Little Women 5 European elopments out of 7 spoiled batches of jelly.

Image source: Goodreads

The Shadow of the Wind


When The Shadow of the Wind came up as the next List read, I was excited to read something from this century. I’m fairly certain it’s the closest thing on there to contemporary fiction. Probably.

At first, I was really enamored with Zafón’s Romantic style. The plot is anchored in a love and appreciation of books, so you can see how this spoke to me on a personal level.

But then it took a turn. Here is how I described the book to a friend:

It’s a coming of age story about a boy who stumbles into and through other people’s lives and secrets, because he is incapable of minding his own damn business. Featuring incest, murder and romance.

I stand by that description, except I might revise the use of the word “stumbles” for a word with more intention…”bulldoze” has too much awareness to it…I need something that communicates slightly more purpose, but a complete lack of awareness or care…suggestions are welcome!

Anyways – here’s the problem: Zafón’s narrator, David, is a boy going through puberty. So, Zafón gave himself the challenge of writing in a Romantic (capital “R”), heavily stylized tone, delivered through the perspective and voice of a young boy navigating adolescence. This gave David’s narrative voice the appropriate level of angst and drama for a teenage boy – everything is the end of the world, all the time, and nobody understands him. Unfortunately, the combination of that voice with flowery diction and heavily stylized writing made the whole thing seem a bit disjointed to me. So many feelings and so many words. But maybe that was the point.

I think that’s what I would have written like, if I wrote a book when I was 13. So many feelings and trying so damn hard with my flowery language and using all the adjectives and metaphores – ALL OF THEM! So maybe Zafón does deserve props for nailing the voice of a pre-pubescent (and then pubescent) narrator.


However, David’s POV is markedly different from my 13-year-old self’s when it comes to sexuality and desire. Somebody needs to talk to this boy about priorities. I mean, I was a teenager once too but I had some ability to focus.

For example, if the woman you claim to love tells you that a man is stalking her and touching her without her consent, you might believe her and then feel anger, fear and concern, yes? Not if you’re David. He tells Clara she’s making it up and thinks that, if she is telling the truth, it’s really unfair that this mystery man gets to touch her and he doesn’t.

Example #2: If you snuck into the home of the woman you claim to love because you’re scared “a menacing man…with heaven knows what in mind” is doing something terrible to her, then you hear voices and sounds coming from her room, maybe call the cops, grab a weapon, or do literally anything other than stand in the hallway fantasizing about having sex with her.

Example #3: When an old, destitute, lonely woman agrees to help you pry into her life and past for the sake of appeasing your own misguided curiosity, maybe focus on what she’s telling you instead of the size of her breasts. Just a suggestion. Be at least respectful while you overstep the shit out of other people’s boundaries.

Moreover (wow, there’s a word I haven’t used in a long time) – Morever, the writing of the sex scenes and fantasies is, I do have to say, pretty awful. And there is a lot of it.


I started including examples in this post to show you just how awful it is, but there are too many. It became too much, was taking over this post, and turning in to a bit of a rant. I was seeing disturbing trends that I don’t know I fully picked up on before. But I don’t want to get into that right now because it’s making me angry. Sufficite to say the male gaze and sense of entitlement to women’s bodies are alive and well in this book.

David is infuriating. He moves through this plot with such an inflated sense of self-righteousness that he thinks the cost – death, pain, loss, murder – is worth it. Lives and people are destroyed in the service of his curiosity and feelings.

So anyways. Moving on.

With about 100 pages left in the book, the narrator switches from David to Nuria Monfort. The book gets better here, as the plot picks up speed, which is nice, but I’m not sure the narrative style/tone changed all that much, despite having switched to a completely different narrator. Maybe there’s a little bit less of the juvenile, angst-ridden self-righteousness, but overall the narrative voice is pretty consistent with the rest of the book.

According to Goodreads reviews, people out there love this book, so I’m sure my opinion is unpopular. As I said, this book did start out strong for me, and I was completely enamored with it. The way Zafón writes about books and literature through his characters is beautiful and gives expression to many of my own feelings.


But all of that got muddied by the rest of the novel and I just couldn’t get past it. Sorry to say, but Zafón lost me on this one.

From Russia with Love

After almost 8 months (and what seems like an eternity), I’ve finally finished reading War and Peace.

And before you ask, yes, it has periods of both war and peace; it’s not one or the other. Actually, it’s kind of always war and always peace. And sometimes, it seems like the “war” parts are more peaceful than the “peace” parts, and vice versa, so there ya go. Not in an Orwellian “war is peace” doublespeak kind of way, but in a “some find peace in war” kind of way.

The “war” parts were hard for me to follow, primarily because, to the very end, Tolstoy insisted on introducing umpteen-billion new characters in every war section of the novel. (Okay, I’m exaggerating – but you get my point, it was a lot.) These were throw-away characters for the most part, too, or historical figures that Tolstoy wanted to make a point of mentioning once or twice and then NEVER AGAIN. Why do you torture me this way, T? I thought we were friends.

Can we also talk about how Tolstoy originally published W&P between 1865 and 1869 (i.e., over a 5-year period)? These people originally had 5 years to read this tome and I feel like that’s an appropriate amount of time over which to expect people to read this book. I did it in 8 months. Just throwing that out there for all you folks judging how long it took me to read this beast (*cough* it’s me, I’m judging myself *cough*).

Side Bar: I also read 5(ish) books on the side while I was working on W&P so that may have contributed to the time it took me to read it.

Deception and Betrayal: The Tale of the Abridged Version

I started out reading a version of W&P that I thought was unabridged. I had good reason. It said “original version” on the cover and did not say “abridged” anywhere on it. Usually, abridged versions of classics have the common decency to tell you straight-out that they are the cheaters’ version. Well. This was not the case for the print copy I had. It was full of lies and I felt so betrayed, friends.

Thankfully, at the time I discovered its deceit, I had progressed through the book mostly using the audiobook (which was definitely not abridged). That’s actually what helped me figure it out – I had about 80 pages left in my print copy and 20 hours left on the audiobook, which did not add up at all.

As soon as I realized I was being taken for a fool, I ditched the print copy (made beautiful art out of it, actually), downloaded an unabridged ebook version, and continued on.

It made a beautiful wreath, but I was so heartbroken. Will I ever trust a book again?

But did you like it?

At the end of the day (cue Les Mis soundtrack), I don’t think I read this right. I certainly didn’t do myself any favours. For the most part, I read it to get through it, instead of reading it to enjoy it/appreciate it. I think I would have gotten a lot more out of it had I taken the time to slow down (yes, slown down – you heard me – I know it seems like a ridiculous thing to say considering how long it took me to read this book) and look up the historical references and figures Tolstoy took the trouble to incorporate into this book, or really relish the character development, or pull out a map and figure out where the EFF these battles took place and where the troops were moving. Any of those things would have enriched my experience tremendously, and that’s just scratching the surface of what I could have done.

The unfortunate thing, and how I really know that I cheated myself, is that when I dialed myself in and paid attention, I really enjoyed reading W&P. I found it to be interesting, and sometimes surprisingly hilarious, like when the boys tie a police officer to a bear, or when Pierre is trying to insist he’s not a Frenchman but the Frenchman insists that he is one because he’s nice and all Frenchmen are nice therefore he must be a Frenchman, or when Andrei (or Nikolai? It was a long time ago. I forget) throws his gun at an enemy soldier because he doesn’t know how to shoot it – to name a few. I also found it to be smart, and it had all kinds of tangents and rabbit holes I could get lost in. But I had a mission, dammit, and I was going to finish this book – distractions be damned! Onward, I said!

Readers, I think I messed this one up. Do I get a mulligan? Yes. Will I read it again one day, the right way? Maybe. I’d like to. I think what I’d really like to do is break it up in to its orginal 6 volumes and read it over the 5-year period its contemporaries got to take it in. That would give me the time I needed to do the things I really enjoy when I’m reading a book (not to mention finish my character map, which, sadly, I abandoned about 3/4 of the way through – I can’t go back now DON’T MAKE ME PLEASE).

Will I read the Second Epilogue again? No. Never. You can’t make me.

I really wish I had blogged along the way, so that I wasn’t doing one monster here-are-all-the-things-I-thought-about-this-book post, but here we are. It’s hard to know what to leave in and what to take out, so as a happy middle-ground, I thought I would provide my thoughts for you in bullet-point format.

War and Peace: Reactions and Reflections in Bullet-Point Format

  • Natasha is a baby. Why are all these old-ass men throwing themselves at her? It’s even sketchy/gross/pedophelic by historiographic standards, as evidenced by the fact that Mrs. Rostov has to inform Denisov that, oh hey, it’s definitely inappropriate for you (a grown-ass man) to propose to my (prepubescent) daughter, so maybe don’t do that? K thx bye.
  • Pierre is a prisoner of war with the French and walks for DAYS – how does he not lose any weight? If there’s no hope for Pierre, how is there any hope for the rest of us?
  • Hélène suffers from some serious slut-shaming in this book. Poor woman. She was told to marry rich and that’s what she did, and she did it well, multiple times even! The woman could wed. Also she 100% said she was pregnant and then it was never mentioned again and everyone is just okay with that?
  • There was a duel. It was awesome.
  • Pierre is a buffoon who stumbles through life and everything just seems to work out for him. Why? How?
  • Anatole. Oh, Anatole. You are an ass-hat.
  • The ending makes no sense. I legitimately do not understand how Natasha and Pierre end up together. Yes, Pierre’s feelings for her were established early on, but (a) everyone and their brother had feelings for Natasha, so big woop, and (b) Andrei was his best friend and literally just.died. It’s like Tolstoy has some great fear of his female characters becoming spinsters (“Oh no! I’ve left 2 female characters unwed, quick! Who is still single? Let them be married!”).


I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: having someone read along with you is just the very best. They can relate to the struggle, and when you text them randomly with, “Dude, shit is going down.” They respond with “I know right”, and when you say things like, “Natasha is turning into a real Lydia” and, “Rostov is such a POS”, they just get you, you know? It’s great. Highly recommend. Would read with again. 10/10.

On a more serious note, I’ve been at this thing alone for a long time now. It’s nice to have someone in the trenches with you. Reading is such a solitary sport, it’s easy to forget how communal it can be. How it can be a tool to build community and develop friendships and connect to people. The absolute joy of being able to explain in horror, or excitement, or joy, or whatever, your reactions to the story – the ability to experience a book with someone instead of in solitude – that is magical.

It takes a special person – nay, an exceptional person – to agree to read War and Peace with you. I’m grateful.

And, as a reward for reading W&P with me, I’ve given my reading buddy the honour of picking the next List read from The Bowl. Until such a time as we’re able to arrange for this to happen, I’m free to read what my heart desires. So, I’ve picked up The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Okay – that’s enough for now. I’m sure I’ll think of more things to say later. Stay tuned!

Are You Still There?

Because I wouldn’t blame you if you’d left. Nothing like a snow day (or two) to wear out my excuses for not posting. So here I am!

Since finishing Watership Down (which ended happily ever after; what a twist!), I’ve moved on to War and Peace. So, essentially I went from an adorable, if dull, children’s novel about rabbits to a hilarious, if long, Russian novel about…well…war and peace.

But first – let’s do a post-mortem on WD, shall we?

Side bar: Some people don’t like the term “post-mortem” because it’s too dark. I kind of like it. Alternatively, I could start calling these autopsies. I think that would work, too; systematically (perhaps even clinically) reviewing a book to determine what happened/present a conclusion about its end. Seems about right to me. Except…maybe my post-mortem/autopsies are not so much systematic and/or clinical as they are stream of consciousness…so maybe not. Where were we?

watership down

“Slugs are lucky not to have legs. I think I’ll be a slug.” – Bluebell, Watership Down

I had built WD in my mind to be this insurmountably boring novel. I tried once, couldn’t get past all the droning on about crossing a river, and have since lived in dread of having to revisit it. But, you know what? It really wasn’t that bad. A bit of a blunt instrument in terms of its use of allegory and symbolism, but who among us haven’t fallen into that trap once or twice in our lives? Plus, it’s a Netflix series now, which is kind of neat.


Moving on to W&P –


Before I even begin, I have to tell you that the best thing about reading War and Peace is that I have someone joining me this time. They’re calling it the Cat Book Club and it’s like my life’s aspiration to inspire a book club is now complete. I have arrived. But also it’s just great to have someone slogging through this with me – and better than me, might I add! They are tearing through W&P while I am making slow progress. It’s good though, keeps me motivated and stops me from straying from this book to other, easier, tempting young adult books on my bookshelf. Also Jurassic Park. And Jaws. And the Hannibal series.

I have to tell you, W&P may be long-winded, but it is hilarious. Ol’ Tolstoy really knows how to find the humour in social and military politics. And, true to form, it is near impossible to keep track of who everyone is, especially when you factor in all.of.the.military.personel. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? It wouldn’t be so bad if they were introduced with context, but many aren’t – new names are often thrown in off-hand and never returned to again. Or, their relevance/relation to the plot/other characters is never addressed. They’re just kind of…there…

Pro tip for reading Tolstoy: Just because he calls them prince/princess does not mean that person is royalty. Everybody up in here is a prince or a princess. And everyone has 5 versions of their name. And there are at least 3 people being referred to as “the little princess” in any given scene at any given time.

So far, the war is progressing (I would love to give you more information but I am just so confused. The Russians/Prussians/Austrians lost a bridge to the French, then they won another battle, then Rostov got injured and Boris has done nothing but go to military balls and march in parades, someone’s brother had diner with Napoleon and now they’re on their way to war again – does that help?).

There was one scene where Rostov (I think it was Rostov) falls down in battle and a French soldier approaches him. Rostov grabs his gun, but he’s never been in battle before and instead of shooting the soldier, he throws his gun at instead, then runs away in to the woods! Hilarious!

Early on in the book, we are treated to another scene in which a bunch of men are getting drunk and betting each other that they can sit in an open window sill without falling. It’s a high window. It doesn’t sound funny, but it is. Maybe you had to be there…

In terms of the “Peace” part of the book, Lise (little princess) is going to pop any minute now, Bolkonsky’s daughter (the quiet, bookish recluse) was going to marry Anatole (the arrogant bad boy), but turned him down because Bourienne (French hotty) loves him. Pierre (black sheep) went from being a nobody to the richest person in Russia after inheriting his father’s money. He married…someone…for…reasons…

The Rostov daughters are all waiting for their respective love interests to return from war. And…I think that’s about it.

I’m about a third of the way through now. I’m relying heavily on my audiobook to get me through many of the war scenes. This *could* be why I’m finding it so difficult to keep track of it all…Right? Yeah.

Okay, I’m off!

“But we have no does!”: Progress Update on Watership Down

The rabbits have now realized that they have no does and that this is a problem. Actually, they realized it shortly after my last blog post (ha!) and have been fixated on that one thing ever since. Before there was no mention of does at all, now it’s all they talk about.

The update on plot development since I last posted is as follows: The rabbits realize they have no does. They go out looking for does. They get a couple does (Hazel almost dies, NBD). They need more does. The rabbits go out looking for does. They find does at another warren. The rabbits try to take the does.

And you’re caught up!

Okay, okay – more has happened – but those are the main plot points.

I can see why this book is taught in schools – its exploration of different styles of governing and leadership styles, and not-so-subtle bias toward democracy and religious undertones would make it an easy pick for North American school boards. Similar to A Wrinkle In Time and The Chronicles of Narnia, the religious symbolism is strong with this one.

I’d like to spend some more time looking at the use of language in this book. Adams’ creation of at least 2 languages (Lapine and Hedgerow) is perhaps the most interesting part of this text. I could write a great paper about that. I’m sure others already have – but I’m just saying, if I were to study this book, that’s 100% where I would go.

Okay, I’m now making myself late so I have to run. Wrapping this up quickly: Hazel and co. have realized that a nearby warren, Efrafa, has some does they can steal convince to come live with them. They’ve devised some sort of top-secret plan to go get these does, which they are in the process of enacting.

Oh – how did Hazel almost die? Right. They “freed” 2 does from a farm and in the process of getting away, Hazel was shot. When he didn’t return the rest of the crew assumed he was dead, until Fiver set out looking for him, convinced he was still alive. Fiver finds Hazel near-death and takes him back to the warren, where he is nursed back to health just in time for Mission Doe-Possible.

Okay, now I really have to go. I’m not reading this over or editing before publishing because I don’t have time so be kind to me, readers. Until next time!

Titus Andronicus a.k.a. Murdery Bloody McMurder-Spree with Murder Pie

When I posted on social media that I would be reading Titus Andronicus, I immediately received comments like “I’ve heard it’s quite bloody”, “So bloody and so marvelous!”, and “Very appropriate for Halloween!”. This was notable for 2 reasons: (1) … Continue reading