MINI-REVIEWS: A Christmas Carol, Agnes Grey, Mike & Psmith

MINI-REVIEWS: A Christmas Carol, Agnes Grey, Mike & PsmithA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Published: Project Gutenberg (1843), eBook, 104pg
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy



Cruel miser Ebeneezer Scrooge has never met a shilling he doesn't like...and hardly a man he does. And he hates Christmas most of all. When Scrooge is visited by his old partner, Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, he learns eternal lessons of charity, kindness, and goodwill. Experience a true Victorian Christmas!

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I have a bad history with Charles Dickens. I was forced to read at least one of his books in school– Great Expectations— and it had left a great stain of anti-Dickens sentiment upon my soul. I hate Dickens! I hate his dour stories, his depressing characters, and the whole dank coating of gloom that hovers over his books. I don’t even watch the TV show versions, and I can only enjoy Oliver Twist if it’s in the musical format. So it was with some surprise that last month I found myself somewhat willing to give Dickens another shot. I didn’t want to start off ambitiously– I wasn’t about to read Nicholas Nickleby or, heaven forbid, A Tale of Two Cities, not when I still felt MOSTLY anti-Dickens– but I thought I might make it through a shorter Dickens work. And as it’s coming up on Christmas: I chose A Christmas Carol.

Well! I had a pleasant surprise. A Christmas Carol is funny, touching, and laced with enough sarcasm throughout that I think even people who hate Christmastime (or Dickens) would like it. It’s also really short, so Dickens doesn’t have a chance to do that infernal wordcount padding that all serialists seem to do, and it’s entertaining enough that the story really does just fly by. I had such a good time reading it that I feel slightly more up to reading a longer Dickens story now! Although it definitely will not be Great Expectations.

Read: December 2-3, 2010

MINI-REVIEWS: A Christmas Carol, Agnes Grey, Mike & PsmithAgnes Grey by Anne Bronte
Published: Girlebooks (1847), eBook, 251pg
Genres: Fiction



First published in 1847, Agnes Grey was Anne Brontë’s first novel and thought to be her most autobiographical. It is the story a young woman who works as a governess to help support her family. Through the course of the novel she is employed in two different families, however her experiences of dealing with spoiled and ignorant children (and employers) is similar in both households.

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I haven’t read any of the Bronte sisters’ books before this one, although I was naturally more familiar with Charlotte and Emily’s books than with Anne’s. I felt sort of bad for Anne, who always seems to get the short end of the literary stick, and so I decided to read one of her books first.

Unfortunately I don’t think this was the best one to start out with. The beginning was fine, and the middle was great (hints of romance and adventure!) but the ending turned preachy and boring and I felt really disappointed by the time I finished Agnes Grey. You can tell it’s autobiographical (Anne was a governess for a while) and that’s somewhat interesting, but by the time Agnes started into her romance it got really dull. Agnes started out as such a strong-willed character who wanted to go out and take care of herself but by the end she was so impotent and resigned to her fate (as a spinster?) that I was actually somewhat shocked. It was like because she was a governess once she couldn’t be anything else ever again, which of course is untrue. Just look at Anne herself!

Read: December 6-9, 2010

MINI-REVIEWS: A Christmas Carol, Agnes Grey, Mike & PsmithMike and Psmith (Psmith #1) by P.G. Wodehouse
Published: Project Gutenberg (1909), eBook, 244pg
Genres: Fiction



Mike, due to take over as cricket captain at Wrykyn, is withdrawn from the school by his father and sent to a lesser school, called Sedleigh. On arrival at Sedleigh, he meets the eccentric Rupert Psmith, another new arrival from the superior school of Eton. Becoming fast friends, the two eschew cricket and indulge in all manner of high-jinks and adventures.

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First off: this book has entirely too much cricket in it. I know Mike is obsessed with it (and Psmith too, I suppose), but being a person who only knows about cricket from TV and The Lives of Christopher Chant I spent much of the time wondering what the hell was going on. However, despite not knowing the intricacies of the sport, I could get the general idea of what was going on with Wodehouse’s kind help (excellent descriptions of players’ movements), and that kept me from being utterly irritated.

Secondly: this is a really fun book. Excepting the cricket problem, it’s a really good pre-WWII school story, with school intrigue and that weird schoolboy friendship stuff that pops up, and it also takes place in a boarding school, so that’s nice. I quite liked Psmith, who’s eccentric and weirdly like Lord Peter minus the propensity for solving mysteries, and I’m definitely planning on reading the other Psmith books. Apparently there’s less cricket in them, so that’s good.

Read: December 9-10, 2010

11 thoughts on “MINI-REVIEWS: A Christmas Carol, Agnes Grey, Mike & Psmith”

  1. I feel the exact same way about Dickens. But we had to read way more than 1 of his books during English–Tale of Two Cities, some other book that I didn’t read because I decided I’d rather rip my eyes out than read another Dickens novel, EVER, and a book of our choosing. I chose The Pickwick Papers and went for Cliff’s Notes.

    That being said, I found myself oddly tempted to read A Christmas Carol last week. But I resisted.

    1. We probably had to read more than Great Expectations but I only remember that one because it was the most frustrating two months of my life! I do sort of want to read Pickwick Papers, though, if only because it was mentioned in Little Women (and I love Little Women).

      But yeah, if you can get over your hatred for Dickens, A Christmas Carol is a decent read. (It’s not as good as A Muppet Christmas Carol, though. But then very few things are.)

  2. Huh. I wonder if I read Mike and Psmith — I had it in my head that I’d read it, but I don’t remember the cricket stuff at all. I love Psmith though! He makes me smile.

    1. Mike and Psmith is the second part in Mike— the first part is Mike at Wrykyn— so you may have read it but under a different name? Although if you don’t remember the cricket you might not have read it at all, lol. The cricket is a large part of the story, yeah.

  3. I have mostly good feelins re: Dickens, though I’m really 50/50 on enjoyment of his books. (I’ve read just two.) I think I’m going to read Our Mutual Friend this year.

    I read Agnes Grey when I was in high school, I think. I wasn’t impressed either. I love Jane Eyre, so be assured better Brontes are to come.

    1. I do think sometimes that the teacher who made us read Great Expectations could have done a better job– i.e. made it fun and interesting instead of a giant slog– but she was so focused on vocab tests and correcting punctuation that I guess she didn’t realize we all hated it!

      I’m looking forward to trying out the other Brontes, although I’m a little worried about Wuthering Heights because sometimes when people talk about it, it sounds a bit like melodramatic romantic drivel. I’m almost certain it isn’t…er. Right?

    2. I just have one point to argue with– most people say Anne Bronte is incomparable with her two elder sisters. This is not really true, because honestly, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights is more shifted to romanticism and Agnes Grey and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall is shifted toward realism, therefore people who love the first two Bronte may become a little sticky and ewey with Anne, whose style is closer to Jane Austen and Stendhal. So basically, if you’re all up for excitement and adventure, try to avoid Agnes Grey. On the other hand, if you can’t stand Jane Eyre, you might get a little with Anne.

  4. If you want to read the Bronte’s work, I guess Agnes Grey is definitely not a great start. The Bronte sisters are famous for romanticism, but Agnes Grey is much more realistic and religious. I could never finish Jane Eyre, but so far Agnes is doing great, although yeah, if you’re the type who likes romance and adventure, Agnes Grey is not a great choice. But tenant of Wildfell Hall may be more suited to your taste, and it’s by Anne Bronte as well. It’s basically about this woman who married this bad guy and when she fails to reform him she had to move out with her son and try to live on her own. 🙂

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