41. Iphigenie in Tauris
42. Torquato Tasso (both by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
One is the story of Iphigenie, daughter of Menelaus, who was supposed to be sacrificed to Artemis but rescued by the goddess at the last minute and transported to Tauris, where she becomes a priestess who years later is commanded to sacrifice two foreigners who have turned up on the island- her brother and her cousin. The other deals with Tasso, who was an Italian poet in the sixteenth century, and a series of events over the period of a few hours at the court where he lives.
I’m grouping these two plays together because they’re quite similar in style- they’re both driven very much by the characters rather than action. This can work well, but I think it’s better if you can identify with the characters at all, which I found was a problem with ‘Torquato Tasso’, because all he ever does is complain. Seriously. Iphigenie was an easier character to connect with, so I found that one much easier going.
43. Women as Lovers (Elfriede Jelinek)
This book deals with two similar stories running parallel: that of Brigitte, who gets it ‘right’ by following what society dictates, and that of Paula, who gets it ‘wrong’ by trying to follow her dreams. The plot traces their lives for a while, and they both end up stuck in loveless marriages (though as Brigitte didn’t really like her husband much past his money anyway, that seems to be irrelevant for her).
The characters aren’t necessarily characters in this book: they’re more used to comment on the inequality of women in the book’s society (Jelinek first published it in 1975). On a technical level, I think the book works really well, alternating as it does between two stories and using a very jarring style of writing to defamiliarise the reader. The problem I had with it though was that I really couldn’t identify with anyone in it because I didn’t really feel sorry for anyone. Maybe that’s the point, but for me it made it a bit tough going at times. But of course your mileage may vary.
44-50. Fullmetal Alchemist, volumes 1-7 (Hiromu Arakawa)
In a nutshell? Two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, try to bring back their dead mother using alchemy. However, it went terribly wrong, resulting in Ed losing a leg and Al losing his body, only for Ed to sacrifice his arm in order to seal his brother’s soul inside a suit of armour. The story follows their attempts to regain their bodies, although that’s not all they have to contend with.
A lot of people have probably at least heard of this. I decided to read this after seeing the original anime series, which follows the manga to a point. I’d definitely recommend it- it’s a pretty fast read, the characters are interesting and the plot draws you in quickly.