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Book Reviews: Oliver Twist; Sarah, Plain and Tall; Skylark; Unbroken; and Bonhoeffer

October 14, 2011

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I have finally finished Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. It has taken nearly a year, but it was worth it. Whenever I read Dickens, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I am done.

Reading the long sentences with their subordinate clauses gradually grows on you, but it takes several chapters to get used to it. We are so used to instant gratification in society today that working at entertainment seems hard and foreign to us, but don’t give up. One of the finest points of the English language is its ability to communicate subordinate ideas.

Dickens’s character development is as stong as ever, but I just couldn’t connect with Oliver like some of the characters from his other novels. This probably explains the length of time it took me to read it.

Since we often place Dickens in the classical literature category, we don’t realize that what he wrote could be considered mystery genre.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

In the “read aloud” category, we just finished Sarah, Plain and Tall and its sequel Skylark, by Patricia MacLachlan. The children enjoyed these books and the chapter length was just right (short) to start our school day off.

Both books are set in Kansas and are told from the perspective of Anna, the older child. The first book is about a widower trying to find someone to share his life and to mother his two children. The second book is about Sarah learning to love the hard, dry, landscape of Kansas, after leaving her home in Maine.

I recommend both of these books family books. They are warm and show pioneer family life, but we are ready for something with more adventure.

Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas

Do you enjoy biographies? I have just started Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas. Since I am still in the beginning stages of this book – but already enjoying it – so I will reserve judgement until later.

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand

If you do like biographies, especially centering on World War II, I heartily recommend Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit). It is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete, who was shot down and adrift in the Pacific for months before being captured by the Japanese.

Since he was considered lost at sea by the US Army, he was not listed as a POW and subsequently endured torture during his imprisonment. The story doesn’t end with his physical freedom, but tells of his return to civilian life and living with the death of his dreams, the bitterness and hatred toward his captors, and finally forgiveness and new dreams.  This is a novel to motivate and stir the souls of those who feel all is lost.

What are you reading now?


You might like: Reading Aloud

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2011 10:37 am

    Phew!! When I saw you posted Bonhoeffer in your book review post I thought you were finished. I am just over halfway through. It has been really good. It is amazing all of these significant parts of life that he was a part of and you get to see through his perspective (the Liberal and Fundamentalist issues in the 1920s-30s, German Higher Criticism, the whole build up to the Nazi state). It has been really interesting, sometimes heavy reading, but still really interesting.

    So I’m reading Bonhoeffer and a few hundred journal articles (not quite hundred) for grad classes, and a history of Turkey.

    • October 14, 2011 10:43 am

      When you have some free time you MUST read Unbroken. It is really inspiring.

      In Bonhoeffer, I am just getting to Hitler’s rise to power. I have a ways to go. Thanks for not telling me you finished it in an evening! 🙂

      Candy Trygstad Heart and Home Books 2527 S Dawson Way Aurora, CO 80014 (720) 748-8027

      Check out my blog at

  2. Rosie P:otter permalink
    October 14, 2011 10:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing your books, Candy. I admire a busy mom who takes time to read. When my six were home, I didn’t do much reading, even though I have always enjoyed it.

    I am just about finished reading “Not by Chance” by Layton Talbert. It’s a slow read, having much to look up in scripture and think about. I should have taken notes because I know I do not remember some statements I thought were really worth remembering!

    The last chapter on Providence and Prayer is quite humbling and amazing at the same time.

  3. November 11, 2011 4:47 pm

    “Unbroken” sounds very inspiring. Was it violent? I am a wimp and have to read through violent sections really fast.

    • November 11, 2011 10:18 pm

      The setting is war, but I don’t think it was violent in a gory sense. It does describe the torture that he and others went through, but the book is really about his inner struggle to overcome. It was very inspiring.

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