Chunky Books Need Love Too!

Chevy Chase LibraryStaff Picks

Chunky Books Need Love Too!

Voluminous books inspire dread and fear even among avowed book worms and other voracious readers because of their size. I am here to tell you, in the hands of a writer with a gift for storytelling, the reading of a “chunky” book can be pleasurable. This list includes no unfamiliar of obscure titles. Four of the five books I would say are in the back of the minds of many readers to make time to read Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas Pere, Victor Hugo, and of course Leo Tolstoy. I also added Ivanhoe as well by Sir Walter Scott as well. There is no time like right now to undertake a read of a lengthy book since we are living under restrictions on places that we can go for entertainment and leisure due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Give one of them a try. They are very enjoyable reads.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I particularly enjoyed the chuckle-inducing observations and insights that only a child could make, that were made by young “Pip” before he left his village to go and claim his great expectations. We see how the influence of money and position affect Pip's relations with his family and former neighbors. There are lots of surprising twists and turns in the plot. As always, a Dickens novel is brimming over with interesting and unusual characters that eventually all play a part in the big picture of the story. Another reason to recommend this novel is its plot development. At the time of publication, Dickens was writing in a serialized format, so he needed to keep his readers hooked so that they'd want to buy the next issue of the periodical to read the next installment, in order to see what happens next. 

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Imagine my surprise after reading The Count of Monte Cristo, that Alexander Dumas has made me laugh aloud in The Three Musketeers. All three of them, along with D’Artangan are so over-the-top, but Dumas writes as if they should be taken seriously. I never knew Dumas was a humorist, but I have been both mistaken and pleasantly surprised by The Three Musketeers
The author gives the reader no reason to admire anyone in this story, but the reader is able to be swept along with the escapades and “derring-do” of these men and even cheer them on toward their conquests of women, rivals, and the world of French politics.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Set against the backdrop of the 1832 revolution that took place in Paris, Les Misérables is a story of love, injustice, deprivation, sacrifice, and redemption. There are probably few people who do not know the basic story of Jean Valjean, since it became such a famous Broadway play, but that is only a very small part of what Victor Hugo accomplished with this tale. Within the story itself are treatises on the Battle of Waterloo; the religious lives of nuns and cloisters; the wonder of the natural world and gardening; the treatment of prisoners by both the state and by the populace; the history of revolution; the importance and construction of the sewers of Paris, including the pollution of the Seine and guano itself. If there is a single important issue of his day that Hugo fails to address, I cannot imagine what it could have been. His understanding and willingness to examine the plight of the poor is perhaps, only rivaled by his English contemporary, Charles Dickens.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
This book is the original source for the Robin Hood “trope,” subsequent portrayals of King Richard the Lion-Heart, as well as his brother Prince John in fiction, tv and in film. Scott is also responsible for the interest in Medievalism that continues to this day.
Although it took me quite a while to get used to the flowery language and early 19th-century sentence structure, Ivanhoe is part adventure, part historical fiction and part romance. A major flaw of the book is that Ivanhoe himself figures into this tale sporadically, and the Jewess Rebecca is more fully developed than the actual heroine, Rowena. It is easy to see why Sir Walter Scott was a popular writer in his time and has survived to this day. The story is fun, in the same way that tales of King Arthur and his Knights are enjoyable to read. The descriptions of the lists and tournaments are vividly described. There are plot surprises, humor and there is familiarity in the characters that we have seen time and again.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
If you are afraid to pick up this monster, don't be. It is easy reading, engaging, and exciting. Despite its length and dread in the minds of readers, even the war chapters and the explanations of the battle strategy to employ against Napoleon Bonaparte by Russian general Kutuzov are concise and readable. The complaint I would have for Tolstoy, is that he kept writing when the story was over. I hated plodding through the final 2 sections after I had enjoyed the story so much. He didn’t know when to end the book.

Hint: Before you begin to read War and Peace, I advise everyone to print out a list of the characters that shows family relationships.