Sindbad the SailorSindbad the Sailor by Unknown (#54)

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A great little snippet, showing 3 of the many tales that Sindbad the sailor tells Sindbad the porter. This just reminds me how much I want to read the 1000 and 1 Arabian Nights in full. I had an abridged version with about 20 or so tales when I was a kid, and loves the twisting story that always circled back and never seemed to end.

It also reminded me of all the reasons I disliked The Wrath & the Dawn, for missing the mark on the way the stories fitted together.

A few people have commented on how repetitive the stories are, and that didn’t bother me. I imagine it is in part a reflection or recreation of oral storytelling styles. People who were illiterate could enjoy familiar tales told out loud, and the familiar pattern beginning each one is much like the ‘Once upon a time’ device at the beginning of fairytales, settles you into a setting you know, and then the storyteller adds their own flair to the tale in the action.


The Great Winglebury Duel (Little Black Classics, #37)The Great Winglebury Duel by Charles Dickens (#37)

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I just couldn’t get into these stories, found myself struggling to keep my eyes on the page. I also felt as though the stories were setting themselves up for punch lines that were over my head.

I’ve enjoyed other works by Dickens, but unfortunately these two stories weren’t for me.


The Terrors of the NightThe Terrors of the Night by Thomas Nashe (#30)

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Skip this book it’s not worth your time. If there was a prize for most misleading blurb this book would win it. I want my $2 back.

The blurb says: ‘Demonic horrors and spirits dreamt up by the most exuberant, inventive prose writer of Elizabethan England’. Sound intriguing right? Wrong. This is a 50 page rant about the Devil’s evil influence on society and how (I’m extrapolating) darkness is bad.

The only context in which it might be interesting to read this is if you were studying Christianity of the mid 1500’s.


A Hippo BanquetA Hippo Banquet by Mary Henrietta Kingsley (#32)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting insight into colonial Africa, from the perspective of a female adventurer.

My favourite of these short tales was the final one: Fight with a Leopard. It was the most amusing and Kingsley’s attitude towards animals is most keenly shown.

Overall I think this collection lack cohesion. The subject matter and writer are certainly interesting, but the 4 stories don’t tie together in any kind of chronology, and it feel like a significant amount of context has been lost in presenting them in this format.


The ReckoningThe Reckoning by Edith Wharton (#48)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two short stories on the topic of marriage. They were both quite nice, but not particularly interesting. I find Wharton’s style a bit dull, without flourish.



The Old Man of the Moon (Little Black Classics, #60)The Old Man of the Moon by Shen Fu (#60)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A tale of true love and companionship ‘for rich or for poor’ and definitely ‘in sickness and in health’. For me though, I could connect with the story, it was sad but felt a bit bland. Perhaps some of the emotional nuance has been lost in translation.

Not my favourite from this series.


Mrs Rosie and the PriestMrs Rosie and the Priest by Giovanni Boccaccio (#1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved this set of lewd tales from 14th century Italy. Written sometime in the early 1300’s this takes the place of oldest work of fiction I’ve read, and it holds that title well. There are pimps and prostitutes, affairs and manipulation, pirates and princes, all getting caught up in highly titillating circumstances.

I think stories like these help remind us that the generations of the past were not dry sentences in a textbook, they were people the same as us who laughed and smirked as naughty stories, who cheered on the good guys, and loved any opportunity to make fun of those in a position of power.

My favourite of the Little Black Classics collection so far.


OlallaOlalla by Robert Louis Stevenson (#19)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Olalla is a single short story, a gothic tale of tortured love and (because it’s Victorian) vampirism! I loved it, a little time capsule of fears, superstition, and the Victorian taste for the wicked or sensational.

The writing style is completely over the top, but it was enjoyable to read. I can’t imagine anyone expressing themselves in quite such a contrived manner, it was equal parts fascinating and amusing to read the declarations of love after a mere glimpse of the supposed love’s face in a dark passageway.

The entire book implies vampirism but it isn’t ever directly mentioned or explained, which makes the whole story for more exciting.

One of my favourite little Penguins so far.


Miss Brill (Little Black Classics, #72)Miss Brill by Katherine Mansfield (#72)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderfully melancholy collection of 3 short stories. All 3 had an element of naivete about the protagonist, something like an air of innocence that becomes tainted before the story is over. It is the shattering of the gentle illusions that left me as a reader feeling a pang of loss on their behalf. Mansfield has a flair for moody domestic scenes, and I will definitely seek out her other work.


The Yellow Wall-PaperThe Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (#42)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.”- Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper

After so many recommendations I couldn’t resist picking this Little Black Classic up. The stories are all strange psychological thrillers that border on horror. Though I enjoyed the title story, my favourite was Old Water, I guess because it was less morbid than the other two.

All 3 stories explore the dynamics of power between men and women in different ways. The back of the book states that the title story is semi-autobiographical, which is terrifying to consider given the awful treatment of the woman with a mental illness in that story. Without knowing more about Charlotte’s life it is hard to know where the line between fact and fiction is blurred, but the stories were very interesting so I will seek out more of her work.


A Pair of Silk Stockings (Little Black Classics, #66)A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin (#66)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful little collection of short stories. The subject matter is varied, but all focus on women in different stations of society and times of life. Chopin has a real mastery of the short-story format, and each tale feels fully formed and vivid – though some are only 3 or 4 tiny pages long.

The whole ‘book’ is 56 pages long, the perfect size to read while I was waiting at the hairdresser. These little black Penguins are going to be a permanent fixture in my handbag.

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Dimitri - Babbling Books
Wannabe website fixer-upperer, amateur reader and self-published author of Dead Men Walking, available on Amazon.

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