Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Angels & Demons: A Novel (Hardcover) | Tattered Cover Book Store

When CERN director Maximilian Kohler discovers the dead body of his top physicist, Leonardo Vetra, in his secure lab, branded with the dreadful Illuminati ambigram symbol, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon’s world is turned upside down. Traveling to Switzerland, Langdon realizes that the Illuminati, a secret society long thought disbanded, is actually alive and well, and have only one assignment to fulfill – the complete annihilation of the Catholic Church and Vatican City.

Together, Langdon and Vetra’s adopted daughter Vittoria must race to locate a deadly sample of antimatter taken from the late Vetra’s lab. To make matters worse, unless Langdon and Vittoria successfully track down the stolen antimatter, and Vetra’s killer, before the clock strikes midnight, not only will Vatican City explode, due to the recent death of the Pope, every major figure of the Catholic Church will perish along with the Vatican.

On a race against time, Langdon and Vittoria must follow the path laid by the ancient Illuminati members centuries ago, in the hopes of saving lives as they do it. However, the closer the two get to the final showdown, the higher the stakes are raised, and the more danger they find themselves embroiled in.

Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons is a definite read for fans of real historical facts interwoven with heart-racing action scenes and mystery theme elements. Fans of The Da Vinci Code will certainly enjoy the first chronicle of Langdon’s adventures.

-Mahak M.

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is an educating, eye-opening novel about two sisters, Pearl and May, whose unbreakable bond is put to the test as they leave their war-torn home of Shanghai, China, and immigrate to the United States.

In 1937 Shanghai, which Pearl refers to as the Paris of Asia, the sisters are accustomed to a luxurious life of wealth and extravagance. Pearl and May even pose as ‘beautiful girls’ for calendars and magazine advertisements, defying what it means to be a traditional Chinese young woman, much to their mother’s dismay. One night, as Pearl and May are getting ready for an evening of fun and partying, they receive terrible news from their parents: their father has gambled away their wealth.

Consequently, their father sells the girls as brides to a man by the name of Mr. Louie, who is journeying with his wife and two sons to America to find opportunity. Pearl and May do everything they can to avoid leaving with Mr. Louie and his sons, Sam and Vern, and even miss the boat they are supposed to be traveling on. The girls realize this was the wrong decision, however, as more bombs fall on Shanghai and the second Sino-Japanese war continues to ensue. Pearl, May, and their mother flee Shanghai to Hong Kong in hopes they can catch a ship to San Francisco. Unfortunately, before they are able to board the ship, their mother dies, and Pearl and May are forced to be strong enough to endure the long journey by themselves.

When Pearl and May finally arrive in America, they encounter Angel Island, an immigration station, where they are interviewed vigorously by government officials to see if they are spies. Pearl and May stay at Angel Island for a significant amount of time, and eventually, Pearl realizes May has been answering the questions in her interviews incorrectly. When Pearl asks her why she has been doing this, May tells her she is pregnant. This news shocks Pearl and she knows she must protect her sister and stall their time on Angel Island so she can have her baby in America. Pearl and May decide that Pearl should take the baby, Joy, as her own child. Once they leave Angel Island, Pearl and May head to Chinatown to find their new family. Almost immediately upon their arrival, Pearl and May begin to work at Mr. Louie’s shops and formulate a plan to earn enough money so that they can run away and start their own, independent life. These plans change quickly, though, when Pearl and May discover that Sam is a paper son, and the only legitimate son of Mr. Louie is Vern.

After hearing this news, Pearl and May decide not to run away and realize their new family is trying their best to build a new, successful life in Los Angeles, and they need all the help they can get. As Joy continues to grow, the conflict between Pearl and May starts to form. This conflict only deepens when Pearl gets pregnant and loses her baby, realizing she will never be able to have children. The United States’ suspicion of the Communist movement in China also adds to this familial controversy, and as Joy grows older, she begins to fall in love with communist ideals. Joy’s suspicious activities result in the government finding out her father is a paper son, and she flees the country out of guilt. Pearl plans to follow after her, and the book ends with her plan to go save her daughter. 

-Adriana A.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie

Death Comes As The End by Agatha Christie - Agatha Christie

One of Agatha Christie’s only historical mystery novels, Death Comes as the End is set in 2000 BC in ancient Egypt, one of the singular civilizations that nearly valued death over life. At the bottom of a cliff in the city of Thebes lies the broken body of Nofret, concubine to a ka-priest, whose beautiful face was a harsh contrast to the venomous words that came out of her mouth, causing all who met her to hate her with a passion.

Though Nofret’s death is easily written off as an accident, Renisenb, the priest’s daughter, finds herself suspecting something more behind the tragedy. Increasingly, she becomes convinced that the source of evil is not an external spirit or force exacting revenge, but present within her own household.

As members of her family continue to die in “accidents,” Renisenb, her friend Hori, and her grandmother Esa must race against time to discover the true killer, before they, too, find themselves on the boat of Ra…

Beginning with a lighthearted tone, Death Comes as the End gradually descends into the darkness of a family surrounded by fear with no escape in sight. However, Christie also brings her experience in writing mysteries to the table by delving into the psychology of murder, which, far from being boring, serves as a yet another plot element leading up to the shocking, unseen conclusion.

Overall, Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie is a fantastic read, and all fans of the Queen of Mystery should be sure to read it.

-Mahak M.

Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

As a lover of historical fiction books, this novel always caught my eye when I passed by the shelves of the library, but I never looked into it because I assumed the book would be generic and clique. Recent famous novels I’ve read tend to follow the same plot line and character development, so most readers are not surprised by the ending. However, The Book Thief, written by Mark Zusak, an Australian writer who won the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 2014, has created a classic that lives up to its recognition, taking an interesting perspective on such a well known historical event. It dives deeper into the heart of World War 2, pushing the novel further through the contradictory and questionable actions of the human race.

Beginning on a train in the 1940s, the main character, Liesel Meminger witnesses the death of her younger brother on their way to Molching, Germany, where she meets her new foster parents. Throughout the story, Liesel grows as a character, unfolding the cruel reality of Hitler and his treatment of Jews and how it ties to her own story, thus encouraging her to write and steal books as an act of rebellion against the Nazis. The book grows through her normal life in Germany, yet slowly intertwines with history in a compelling manner. The main character witnesses the intimate, loving interactions between friends and family, but also the aggressive actions of others blinded by propaganda.

Compared to other historical fiction novels, Zusak provides readers another viewpoint on a historical event many are aware of, making readers acknowledge the other side of the war. The book makes us question ourselves and the validity of our opinions. For example, most believe all Germans were villainous because a majority were Nazi members, but there’s still a good portion of Germans that value all human life. Generally speaking, all of them are still just the same as we are; some were innocent children, others were working middle class jobs, many still wanted to live. But most importantly, what right do we have to villainize them if we don’t even feel sympathy or compassion in return? Zusak was able to brilliantly create a novel, who’s plots and underlying meanings create a puzzle–readers just have to put it together.

Despite the grand amount of pages, The Book Thief should be read slowly and carefully; every page has their own meaning and the slow pace builds up suspense to make the book a worthy read. Also, all of the characters are lovable and reveal their own flaws as humans. Overall, the author made it extremely unique, including a mixture of metaphors, imagery, and specifically, the humanistic characterization of Death. The context of the book was surprisingly poetic, even as it jumped to different passages of time. Zusak wrote a marvelous, emotional story as an ode to humanity itself, a tale that tugs at readers’ heartstrings in ways words can’t even describe.

-Natisha P.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: 9780593198025 ...

Little Women is a novel written by Louisa May Alcott and first published in 1868.

The novel was an autobiographical family ethics novel set in the American Civil War and based on the life’s trifles of four sisters in an ordinary family in New England in the 19th century. Influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great thinker of the time, the novel emphasizes the concept of personal dignity, independence and self-discipline. The content is simple but exquisite; the structure is simple but profound, full of strong appeal. Little Women is a semi-autobiographical novel with female characters and feminist consciousness.

During the American Civil War, Mr. March went to war as a chaplain, and his four daughters and their mother lived a poor but strong and optimistic life at home. They were poor, but willing to help their neighbors, the Hummels, who needed help more than they did. Women have vanity; they want to get beautiful clothes, eat delicious food, live like a princess. Although full of fantasy, in real life, they use their own efforts to solve the various difficulties in life. The eldest daughter, Meg, is beautiful by nature and full of longing for love; the second daughter, Jo, was independent and determined to be a writer; the third daughter, Beth, is the traditional good girl, weak and lovable. The youngest daughter, Amy, loves painting. The story follows these four women as they grow from girls into little women, recounting their unruly experiences and respective pursuit of different ideals and the processing of finding their true self.

The reason why the four March sisters, who are the true, the good and the beautiful, have such qualities as kindness, diligence, selflessness, tolerance and toughness cannot be separated from Mrs. March’s excellent education. Parents are their children’s first teachers, and there is no doubt that Mrs. March is an excellent teacher. She is generous, ready to help others, not easily angry, and grateful for life. In the eyes of the children, she is not only a good mother, but also their best friend. They liked to confide their worries to Mrs. March, who gave them good advice and help. It is because of Mrs. March’s unique family education that the four sisters became little women loved by everyone. Consequently, the courageous images of women in this book touch the heartstrings of numerous female readers.

-Coreen C.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

“They took me in my nightgown.”

Like Moby Dick’s “Call me Ishmael,” a book’s opening line sets more than just the tone of the story. It humanizes a character, as it is the first introduction of the reader into a new world. And Sepetys demonstrates the striking quality of a few words in the first line of Between Shades of Gray. She narrates the fragile account of a persecuted 15-year-old Lithuanian girl and the story of an unmendable world falling apart.

Lina Vilkas was preparing to attend art school. In an already dark world, Lina looked up to the iconic Edvard Munch for inspiration in her sketches. She, alongside her mother and younger brother, was taken by the Soviet secret police and is introduced to the never-ending gruesome reality of a world ruled by the Stalinist administration. As Lina, her mother, and her brother struggle to survive in the cold labor camp, the syntax of writing seemingly wavers as well. Slowly, pictures of their previous lives in Lithuania appear across the pages, in italicized flashbacks.

Sepetys’ writing intertwines the feeling of a coming-of-age story, though constantly in juxtaposition to perpetual starvation, sickness, and loss. Well deserving of recognition as a #1 New York Times Bestselling author, Sepetys artistically crafts each anecdote, putting indescribable meaning to trivial occurrences, like the gaze from a loved one. It was reminiscent of the timeless Don McLean song, “Vincent” (“Starry Starry Night”). Between Sepetys’ use of language and Lina’s connection to Edward Munch, I found myself constantly paralleling the song to the story. As Vincent Van Gogh painted from his cell in a mental hospital in his final days, he tried to see the beauty in the bitter world. Similarly, I feel as though Lina would also find solace in this song, as the only way she can express herself is through her sketches in the snow, on the tree bark, or on the final pages in her notebook.

Ruta Sepetys composes a devastatingly realistic through the pages of “Between Shades of Gray.” I highly recommend the read, and I look forward to exploring more of her works, especially in the era of the Second World War.

-Maya S.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea, written by best-seller author of Between Shades of Grey Ruta Sepetys, tells a heart-wrenching and gripping historical fiction account of an overlooked by-product of WWII. Tragically symbolic of the disaster, Sepetys eternalizes the story of human struggle across the pages of the novel from four intertwined voices: Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred.

The unique characters, of varying backgrounds—a compassionate Lithuanian nurse, an innocent German soldier, a young, pregnant Polish girl, and a careful Prussian thief—cross the paths of each other, pushed together by calamity and betrayal. The book follows their journey to the Wilhelm Gustloff, the only light at the end of their tunneled worlds. The ship, an escape from the Red Army, however, is overpopulated.

The cruel truth of the history, as well as the fictional characters created, brings the world in the book to life. Although the back-stories for the characters are not explicitly written, the mystery brings a kind of de-personalization to the series of events that occur. A reader can feel him or herself more realistically in the story, stumbling upon a group of strangers, coming together, and getting to know one another by circumstance. And then, when their stories are over, all that is left of them is a memory of the time spent together. A point evocatively hit upon in the story was how someone can be judged based solely on his or her shoes. Whether they are in good condition, made from good material, their laces (or lack thereof), a person’s shoes tell their whole story.

This particular comment reminded me of the Paul Simon song, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. The song, though brimming with shifting poly-rhythms and clever lyrics, simply tells the story of a rich New York girl, her many suitors, and her shoes, the soles laced with diamonds. Likewise, although the shoes of Sepetys’ characters tell a bit about each of their individual and unique stories, the world full of horror and hardship will continue to label these accounts as simple stories, overlooking true human condition.

For all historical fiction readers and shoe lovers, I highly recommend Sepetys’ book. She maintains a striking balance between history and fiction. And because of her beautiful words, I give her nothing but the highest praise.

-Maya S.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel/comic that was adapted into a movie. The novel is an autobiography with true events that happened in the late 1900’s. The black and white panels of the novel can effortlessly grab the attention of any reader and make it entertaining.

Persepolis follows a young girl named Marjane who lives through the revolutionary changes in her home country of Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The most interesting part is that the ongoing crisis and corruption is viewed from a child’s perspective despite how complex it is. In a way, the reader grows and learns more about the government and cultural contexts along with the maturing Marjane.

Satrapi does not fail in grasping the reader’s attention and making them feel the rollercoaster of emotions along with the main characters. The series visits very critical and mature topics during the late 1900s that the Iranians/Marjane face. Thus, more mature readers should be able to handle these topics. 

Satrapi’s series is emotional and very moving. The oppression and government conflicts can be seen as a parallel to our world today. Just like Marjane who speaks up against the corruption of her government to maintain her rights, many of us participate in rallies or protests to uphold our values. 

Similar to Marjane who is facing a revolutionary change in her nation, many of us are currently facing a new change in our nation as well. Before Marjane knew it herself, her world changed for the better! Thus, just like Marjane, we must find the will to stay strong, inspire others, and survive. 

Ultimately, Marjane’s spirit and growing perspective of the world around her is inspiring. This series is not only a best-seller but also studied in academic literature courses all over the world as a work in translation. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is struggling to pick up a book during quarantine or in their free time (ahem, I know that’s some of us). It also opens up your ideas of Iranian culture and Islamic politics during the 1900s. 

I also recommend it for anyone who wants to try a new format of reading: comic-style. The panels are very easy to read and the black and white colors are used in such a captivating way. In fact, I read this entire novel in one sitting. I definitely hope others feel the same way as well. 

-Zohal N. 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

This novel is truly my favorite novel that I have read so far, so my review might be a little long since I have so much to say. I’m not calling this a perfect novel, but the themes are very meaningful and important to Americans and people around the world today. Please bear with me and I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.

On the surface, this novel looks like a chivalric romanticism, but in essence, the first thing it tells the reader is that English and French colonialists are the root of all evil. They waged war to plunder this Indian land, and together they carried out a policy of fraud, brutality and even appalling genocide against the Indians. They bought the scalps of the Indians at high prices, anestheted their morale with “fire and water” and the Bible, deceived and coerced the Indians into using them as cannon fodder, and viciously incited the Indian tribes to kill each other to the death. Chingachgook was the great chief of the Mohican tribe, whose tribe was destroyed by the guns and treachery of white settlers. Unfortunately, even Uncas, his only heir, died by the sword of Magua, also an Indian. Like the Mohicans, the Wyandotte, who were exploited by the French colonial authorities, were completely wiped out in the last great battle on the shores of Lake George. This makes readers see vividly that the history of the development of the North American colonies is actually such a history of blood and tears of the Indians. America was originally the home of the Indians, but the white people killed and drove them away, and they found sufficient reason for themselves, that they represented God, to civilize this wild land. The author’s heart is heavy with deep sympathy and indignation over the killing of Indians and the extermination of Indian tribes. Through Hawkeye, he repeatedly admits the sins of the white men in his novels. He named the novel “The Last”, and with a sad tone describes Uncas’s heroic sacrifice and sad and touching funeral, which expresses his infinite sympathy and sorrow for the tragic fate of the Indians.

The death of the just and brave Uncas and the beautiful and good Cora is not without a deeper meaning: with their death, the virtue and purity of their hearts also died, leaving only the greed and the cruel malice and the evil thoughts that covered the land of America. Although Cooper realized the tragic fate of the Indians, he failed to break through the ideology at that time. He sympathized with the unfortunate experience of the Indians and partly attributed their tragic fate to their own ignorant backwardness. While describing the cunning and greed of the colonists, the author also makes no secret of the ignorance and savagery of the Indians. This seemingly contradictory description not only shows to the reader that the author advocates realism, but also reveals the author’s ambivalent feelings towards the Indians. In the author’s eyes, the conflict between the white people and the Indians is not only the struggle between colonization and anti-colonization, but also the conflict between different civilizations and religious beliefs. Especially in the novel, Hawkeye has a contradiction: he has a deep friendship with the “good” Indian, Uncas, and at the same time has a sense of superiority. He sympathizes with the Indians but ignores their lives. The advantage of Hawkeye in morality, knowledge and ability is also the historical necessity of whitewashing to swallow the Indian civilization. Faced with the dilemma of sympathy and disgust, reason and emotion, Cooper finally chose to use the law of the jungle to explain the miserable fate of the Indians who were almost exterminated. He called Hawkeye and the Indians forest dwellers, and the hunters living in the jungle were natural persons far away from society, who could not escape the natural law of “survival of the fittest”.

The existence of the two heroines in the book also reflects the complexity of the white hero image. On the surface, the book focuses on the capture and rescue of the two heroines. Almost all men’s actions point to them, and the book praises their nobility and grace to the utmost. On the other hand, the characters often use demeaning language. This contradiction helps to explore the meaning behind it. First, Cooper places two noble women in the wilderness, forest and battlefield. It is their “fear” and “shivering” that reflect the hero’s masculinity, though it is unrealistic. The value of heroines in the text can be said in a sense that they are the tools to express the myth of the white male. This overzealous promotion of masculinity is, so to speak, part of the whole white male myth. The author also described the Indians’ ability to survive and track in the wild in a commendable manner, but Hawkeye’s wise analysis and correct judgment always helped them to get out of danger in critical moments. In the plot arrangement, the author also fails to get rid of the influence of racial prejudice and social status on the concept of hierarchy. In dealing with Major Duncan Heyward and the Cora sisters, this thought is particularly evident. When Major Duncan Heyward learns that Cora is Munro’s child by a woman of black descent, he immediately turns to Cora’s sister, Alice. In comparing Cora with Alice, the author actually raises the question of how the white civilization views such fine qualities as intelligence, courage, perseverance, calmness and eloquence in women. By placing these qualities in Cora and arranging for her to be killed by her enemies, Cooper is likely to give the answer that in women, all these good qualities mean nothing.

After all, although Cora’s firmness, bravery, and perseverance set her apart from her vulnerable sister, on the battlefield, Cora and Alice could only be women, and both sisters were equally “defenseless.” When Magua considered exchanging Cora for the scout, the scout cautiously backed away, saying that a promising young warrior, even the best girl on the border, would not be equal. For the two sisters, it is conceivable that the surviving sister will live a happy life, because she is not only a woman, but also more white. Some even quipped that, using Cora’s special background, Cooper managed to keep Uncas from crossing racial lines to love the daughter of a British officer. Perhaps for the author, he pays attention to the status of female figures in the society, and also gives some consideration to the value of women under the domination of patriarchal culture. But he never broke through the cultural stereotypes of his own patriarchal standard, revealing his patriarchal values, believing that in the white world, a woman’s weakness is her strength, because it inspires men to fight for her. Women should give up the dangerous dream of an independent self and exist as a protectorate and appendage of men, and only in this way is there any value. The author is very good at using indigenous languages. On the one hand, he vividly embodies the characteristics of indigenous languages such as barbarism, vulgarity and non-standard. But at the same time, he also shows the vivid and multifigurative features of the native language. As the preface says, the Indians are good at snatching metaphors from the clouds, seasons, birds, beasts, and plant world. The flower symbolized the Mohican, which meant that Indian life had blossomed like a flower.

The withered leaves symbolized the death of the Mohicans. His inability to prevent his preordained fate is emblematic of the human tragedy of his inability to control his own destiny. Indians, for example, often refer to their companions by nicknames, such as Uncas, who is often called a fast-legged deer for his speed, and Chingachgook, who is called The Great Snake because he is as agile as a snake when he is lost in the jungle. Uncas with excellent reconnaissance and tracking ability, was dubbed Hawkeye. It is also argued that the frequent use of metaphors in indigenous languages reflects the lack of expressive power of the language. Cooper has succeeded in making every detail audible in a special way, through the description of native languages and gestures. Of course, this kind of combination will have some limitations, which are reflected in the incongruity of style and content, incoherence before and after speech, and incongruity of style. Hawkeye, for instance, often spoke in terms and phrases that did not coincide, and gave the impression that his speech had changed from elegance to vulgarity. Cooper has always been known for describing thrilling scenes and natural scenery, and “nature” has a special meaning here. It is the pronoun of “freedom” and “individuality liberation”; It is also the boundary of the ideal pursued by romantic writers.

In “The Last Mohicans,” he makes full use of the dense forests that threaten the unknowable and the mysterious ways of Native Americans for romance. In his writing, the forests and prairies infested by the Indians are richly colored, thus combining the romantic imagination with the material of the wild regions of America. Between the areas occupied by the English and French sides lay a vast, seemingly impenetrable forest frontier. It often takes months to climb mountains and wade through rivers, going through hardships to find a chance to play in a more intense battle. The forested frontier became the first object to be confronted, beyond the British and French belligerents. In Cooper’s works, the natural environment often plays a role of independent value. In the novel, there are high mountains, deep valleys and forests that swallow people. Nature has a majestic and fearsome sublime beauty. The grotesque branches and jagged tops of the trees dimly covered the stars, and everything below them was in a gloom. Behind them the river was winding and hidden from view by the dark trees. But ahead, a little way off, the river seemed to rise into the sky, and the water poured down into the cave. These descriptions construct the naturalness of the American frontier, where there are few people, in contrast to colonized, domesticated societies. Nature can make people feel small rather than confident in the omnipotence of civilization. When people feel fear, they will also have a sense of reverence for nature. But the description of the bleak nature of the American frontier also highlights America’s characteristic toughness, roughness and grandeur. The United States does not have a long history.

From the very beginning, the ghosts of the past linger in this country, namely the expulsion of Indians during white colonization and the enslavement of blacks brought by slavery. This pattern of hostility leads to paranoia about persecution and a loss of security. It was not only strange lands and mountains that were in danger, but nature concealed invisible enemies. The novel vividly depicts the fear of the white people through the natural environment. Even during the day, they need to tread carefully. For deep in the forest, behind every tree there might be Indians ready to hunt for their lives. The glistening wild fruit may be the glistening eyes of the natives. The wind whistling through the trees was probably an Indian gathering. The description of the natural environment in the novel is not only a nostalgia for the natural frontier. More important is the author’s historical representation of the relationship between white Americans and Indians. By this time, though, the Indians had disappeared from view, along with the jungle wilderness. However, the white people’s fear of nature and Indians in the unique frontier landscape of The United States conveyed the anxiety and uneasiness that they felt in the face of the original sin of history and overstepping, stealing and tampering. Through this description of the sufferings of the people living in this land, the landscape depicted in the novel is rather bleak. Bloody pools of water, dark skies, all bleak images remind the reader of a nightmarish world of pain. The main function of this style of writing in the novel is to reveal the uncertainty that afflicts the white man in a new and terrible environment.

They are inexperienced, insecure about their inability to understand and master the world around them, and their misunderstandings and misconceptions only bring fear, and they are the most vulnerable victims in the story. Even though the setting is an American wilderness, not a haunted castle, the enemy is a savage Indian, not a supernatural being. The fear of the Indians is the equivalent of the fear of the demons and ghosts of Gothic fiction, suggesting that Cooper has adapted the model thoroughly to the American environment. It also shows that without the vicissitudes of history, the castles and temples of European Gothic writers, the American landscape can produce Gothic works as well. The representation of American history and reality through gothic scenes and techniques is of great significance to Cooper’s creation and American literature. Cooper’s cultural system originated from the European continent. Although he tried hard to break away from it, he could not set the main characters and their destinies according to the established cultural cognition in his novels. For example, David Camus, the teacher of chants, gives readers the impression that he is a dispensary. There was a sense of incongruity in his appearance. There was no particular deformity in the figure, but it was very asymmetrical. It is not difficult to see from this that David is extremely ugly in both appearance and costume, and he is basically unable to play any active role in the development of the story. However, in literature, the composition of a narrative object, no matter how abnormal or unusual it is, is still a kind of social behavior and reflects the society behind or content of it, while what David embodies is the representative of Western culture — the Bible.

In the Indian tribe, the native people have the most primitive totem worship, each Indian warrior has the animal pattern closely related to their life to distinguish the different tribes. To the highly educated white eye, these images were ignorant, even terrifying. Cooper uses the words and deeds of David to describe the social life under the colonial environment in an acceptable and established way, and this cultural penetration in the way of Bible or hymn runs through the whole novel. In the whole work, David seems to stand outside the hero and heroine, observing the social norms of the Indian tribes and judging the people living in them according to established ways and principles. He used hymns to indoctrinate those in the “subcultural” system. After David had formally introduced his profession, Cooper praised the Bible as noble and irreplaceable. He never said anything but the thoughts and wishes of the king of Israel. This translation in the New England colonies greatly exceeds all others, and in its richness, correctness, and doctrinal purity approximates to the original greatness of the inspired writer. After expressing the worship of the Bible, in the novel, whenever there are scenes of blood or violence, the author tries to use the words of David to call these ignorant people in order to eliminate the evil nature of the wilds, as if no force can tame them except the omnipotent God. When he and the sisters fell into Magua’s hands, though the Hurons could not understand what he was singing about, out of awe of the madman, he was never in real danger and was treated better than any other captive with the right to free to move. After he and Hawkeye set Uncas free, the man in charge of Uncas found that the prisoner had been transferred and had not touched him at all.

It’s not hard to see the author’s own cultural inclinations in this far-fetched plot, and how they affect the whole book. Some of the details in the novel touch on key issues, some of the assumptions are too bold, some of the plots too stiff or quirky. For example, at the critical moment when father was defeated and captured, the sisters Cora and Alice went to visit him and gave him comfort and encouragement. It was a far-fetched assumption, but one could argue that they were motivated by father-daughter affection. But it is perverse to allow two weak women to be separated from the army and left to act alone in a wild and dangerous area, and the author does not provide a compelling motive or reason for doing so in the novel. In fact, if it weren’t for this “time travel,” there would be no novel, because the whole story is caused by it. In addition to the far-fetched coincidences and adventures, there are also many idealized factors in the characterization, such as the perfection of the positive characters and the cruelty, stupidity and malice of the negative characters. There are also some problems with character description, such as the vast majority of characters’ personalities, words and deeds are static and unchanged. They had desires, they had ideals, they had concerns, but they all stopped there. It is not because their desires and ideals, once satisfied and realized, change the things they care about and cause changes and development in their own character or words and deeds. The main character, Hawkeye, seems to be the same cool, brave “prince in the forest” from beginning to end. The novel was composed in 1826, the third year of the Seven Years’ War between Britain and France for the colonies in North America.

Britain and France expelled the Indians by force and carried out a cruel policy of genocide against them. The title of the work, “The Last”, has a strong practical significance, highlighting the theme of the extinction of Indian tribes. Cooper tells the reader the tragic fate of the native Indians. As the Native Americans who immigrated to North America, the Indians who created the glorious civilization of America became homeless due to the invasion of a large number of Europeans. They were forced to move west. Their culture is likely to wither away as external shocks dilute it. Rewriting history, Cooper expressed his sympathy for the plight of the Indians and gave them, and the world, a warning to Indians and other tribes or countries that were becoming assimilated into foreign cultures, languages, and customs. Today’s rise of the Mohican in some parts of the world may also be a reflection of the culture’s disappearance. The degree of civilization of the Indians lags far behind that of European nature, but they have formed a special coexisting relationship with nature in their long-term development. They saw the land as a common mother, and over time evolved a kind of nature worship, a worship of the mother earth that arose from the hunting and eating of the land. Like a fish swimming across the water or a bird flying through the blue sky, the Indians pass through the wilderness without leaving any trace. This harmonious relationship with nature and the Indian’s awe and worship of nature is also of significance for human civilization to deal with industrial development and environmental damage today.

-Coreen C.

Authors We Love: Ruta Sepetys

Ruts Sepetys is one of the most well known young adult historical fiction authors ever! With historical fiction being my favorite genre, I consider myself proud to say that Ruta Sepetys is my favorite author of all time. I have read all of the books she has written and I consider every single one of them to be some of my favorite books. 

Unlike many historical fiction authors, she doesn’t exclusively write about one event in history. With a setting like New Orleans, Barcelona, and Siberia, Sepetys takes us into a plethora of historical events, with different time periods, people, and settings. 

One specific thing I love about historical fiction is you learn something along the way, and all of Ruta Sepetys writes about overlooked events in history. These aren’t things you learn from your history textbook, they’re much more than that. Her books take you on a journey through events like the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that took 10 times the lives the Titanic did, and is the biggest maritime disaster of all time. But for some unknown reason, nobody talks about it, except for Sepetys.

Not only does she shed these huge historical events to light, but she does also these events justice. Although what she writes is fiction, the historical events they’re based on are all too real. Sepetys does an amazing job of research. In her most recent novel, The Fountains of Silence, the back of the book offered more details about her writing and research process, as well as pages of her notes. Sepetys do years and years of research for just one novel, and by reading the books you can tell how much effort was put into them. 

As for her World War Il novels, she has interviewed countless figures, both strangers and family, that were involved in those events, and based some of her books off of real events her family has gone through. 

Another part that I really love about her books is her writing style. With short and quick chapters, the writing allows you to be constantly engaged. The constant point of view switches keep you on your toes and makes every single one of her books a page-turner.

Between Shades of Gray (2011): Not your everyday World War 2 novel, Between Shades of Gray shows the dark side of Polish deportation and labor camps. With a knowledgeable protagonist and a family trying not to fall apart in the face of war, this brutal novel is a must-read. My Rating: 9/10

Out of the Easy (2013): Out of the Easy is a novel describing the life of the daughter of a prostitute longing to be free and live her own life outside of the bustling city of New Orleans. When a customer at her bookstore is found dead, she finally finds the escape she’s been looking for. My Rating: 7/10

Salt to the Sea (2016): The biggest maritime disaster, and the long path refugees are forced to take to flee Germany, this story tells the tale no one wishes to tell about World War 2.  In this novel, everyone has a secret to tell, and with them come guaranteed tears. My Rating: 10/10

The Fountains of Silence (2019): the Fountains of Silence tells the unknown story of how the Spanish people recovered after their own civil war. Told through the eyes of a photographer tourist from Texas, and a hotel employee who works hard for every penny she earns. This novel shows the trials and tribulations of most families during the reconstruction, but the star of this novel is truly the romance. Greatest of all, you get to learn about what’s really happening with the Spanish government behind closed doors. My Rating: 9/10

-Asli B. 

The works of Ruta Sepetys are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive