Skip to content

Search results for 'Reading England'

Reading England…

Here I was, sitting happily with all my November planned reading done and feeling smug on how well I cope with Reading Challenges and my TBR when God did an LOL and I read Jane’s post and I knew…well, I knew I would be a part of it, even before I read the details. It’s called Reading England 2015 and was originally conceived by o at Behold the Stars!

reading-england-1

The goals and rules are simple enough and I quote verbatim from o :

The Goal: To travel England by reading, and read at least one book per however many counties of England you decide to read.

The Rules:

  • This challenge begins on the 1st January 2015 and ends on 31st December 2015, but of course if you really get into it then keep it going 🙂
  • You can sign up any time between now and the end of 2015. Only books read after 1st January 2015 count, though.
  • Choose a level (below), but do not feel obliged to pick your books or even your counties beforehand.
  • Because this is a classics blog, I’d encourage people to read classic novels, but how you define classics is up to you.
  • You are not limited to English authors. Henry James, for example, is American but his novel The Turn of the Screw is set in Essex, and so he counts for the challenge.
  • It would be grand if you blogged about the books you read for each county but you don’t have to. If you do, you don’t have to feel obliged to give any information about the county in general other than, maybe, “This is my review of x which is set in the county of x”. You could also include a description of the landscape in your posts, but again you don’t have to.
  • You do not have to read the books in their original language, translations are accepted (I only read in English so I would never dream of making other people read in their second language!)
  • Audio books, Kindles, and whatnot are accepted too.
  • Poetry, plays, biographies, and autobiographies count as well as novels.

The Levels:

  • Level one: 1 – 3 counties
  • Level two: 4 – 6 counties
  • Level three: 7 – 12 counties
  • Level four: 12 + counties

I have decided not be overambitious or give in to my intellectual greed in 2015 and therefore contend myself to Level Two 4-6 counties; if by chance I better it, well so much the better I guess.

Now for the books – This is my plan, but not a concrete and cemented boundary line and therefore subject to change!!

Cornwall

  • Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier

Cumbria

  • Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope

Lancashire

  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Shropshire

  • Howards End by E. M. Forster

Wiltshire

  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Worcestershire

  • Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Here goes the list and here I go again…I never learn!!! But there is just sooooooo much to read!!

P.S. I was planning to review “Picnic at Hanging Rocks by Joan Lindsey, but that will now have to wait!!!

October and Reading

October is HERE! Yes…October is REALLY HERE!! So what if it feels like I am inside a boiler and there are no winds with a hint of chill and no delicious smell of wood fire smoke signaling the onset of Winter, but October the calendar assures me is here! As most of you know I live only between October to March, the rest of the months are just a bid to survive somehow. Fall and Winter bring out the best in the geography I live in and being a Winter borne, I take it much more in my stride than the pelting merciless heat of the summer! Everything about this season is joyous….more festivals, more holidays, more travels and naturally the hope of new year and new beginning! But I am as always getting ahead of myself and I must stop and add, that this is an especially good season to get a big book, a comfortable blanket and a big cup of coffee/tea/Irish coffee and indulge in my most favorite work time  – Reading (Reading cannot be a past time; I was born to read but am forced to work!)

My October Reading plans do not look very good, especially since I have HUGE left overs from September! But like I said, this is the season of more holidays, so heaven have mercy and I should be able to get through more, this month for sure! ( One’s gotta be Optimistic!) I was immensely proud of myself about not giving into the temptation and not going for Classic Club Spin #14. Just as I finished patting my back, I stumbled on Lauren’s blog and discovered the Victober and I was in before I knew the whats and hows. So while Classic Club would have been only 1 book added on to my tottering pile, I have now added 4. I have a IQ score that is tagged under the category of Superior, but when I do things like this, I feel somebody messed up the scoring for sure!! Anyhow I am in with 4 books written during the Victorian age for sure. I just need to quickly figure out what those books are and get going. Besides this additional load, I have the 12 Months Classical Challenge Reading Event and the theme is  A Classic by a Female Author and I go with O Pioneer by Willa Cather. Because I know that reading a female author for the Victober is also a criterion, I will combine it with the Women’s Classical Reading Event and read a novel; just need to figure out what that novel is! Under my woefully neglected Reading England project I am planning to read Under The Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy covering Dorset. I read Hardy years back and I did not get him at all. Hopefully as a more mature individual I will find something to appreciate, but I am not holding out on that hope very strongly!!I also have to finish Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome as part of my September Reading England Project. (Yes! I am hanging my head in shame!)

Finally come my read alongs and they remain completely unchanged and thank fully I have added only one book, which is a matter of some rejoice! I will continue reading   The Pickwick Paper Read Along and chase to catch up with Cleo  in reading The Brother Karmazov’s by Foydor Dostoyevsky and Jane Eyer by Charlotte Bronte Read Along, the latter, hosted by Hamlette. I  also  am reading The Silk Road – A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan and Jerusalem, A Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore from last month, but these two I am taking slowly and I think these two books will stretch to December! The only addition to this never ending pile is How to Think About the Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization by Mortimer J Adler and again I have been tempted by Cleo to join this as well! To be very fair, I did not need much temptation!!!Thankfully, this too is a book that will stretch for week on ends and each chapter is small and adds to my never ending efforts to read and better understand the nuances of philosophy and concepts like Truth, morality etc!

Thats that then! So here’s to happy reading and some wonderful autumnal moments in October!!

 

 

 

July and Reading….

I realize this post should go up on the 1st of the month, instead of the 10th but, I thought my last post was more important to share and since then, well life getting busieth! But it is what it is and lets just get down to the reading plans of July –

To begin with of course, I have the Women’s Classic Literature Reading Event and I am reading this hidden gem called “The Romance of a Shop” by Amy Levy. I owe Jane as usual an immense obligation in finding and sharing these lost books to the world! I am still struggling to complete my May and June books for the 12 Months Classic Challenge, but I am hoping to finish “Dombey and Sons” (My June Read) this week and then start Henrik Ibsen’s “The Dolls House” for July; the theme of the month being A European classic (non-British). For my Reading England Project which I have been overlooking for some time, I am reading “Cakes and Ale” by Somerset Maugham, covering the county of Kent. Finally I continue my “Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte Read Along with Cleo and Hamlette who is hosting the event. I also follow the monthly “Pickwick Paper by Charles Dickens Read Along hosted by O.

I realize this reading list looks kind of tame compared to my past lists; however, I seem to be straying again from the well trodden documented path and picking up books on the fly. I am breaking bad so to speak in my reading explorations, so to speak! Therefore it makes perfect sense for me to stick to basics, atleast for now and then pick up books as I like and what I chose , while balancing the progress of my this year’s reading goals!

Finally as I close this post, I wanted to share that I will be hosting my first ever read along in August. Cleo, my partner in all reading adventures has promised to join and I am hoping some of you will also join both of us as we read Rabindranath Tagore’s masterpiece “Home and the World“. One of the most intriguing and bold pieces of literature to come out of India in 19th century, it remains a resounding classic about human fallacies and courage. I will be sharing details of the reading plan as well some historical context for the novel, so that we may enjoy it to the best in the upcoming weeks! I hope many of you will join us as we explore one of the best works of Eastern literature!

About Summers and Reading

I am seeing many posts around the internet, celebrating Summer! Reading and Summer seems a most conducive combination; reminds of my summer vacation from schools, with 2 and a half month of bliss, reading and eating! Unfortunately, as  a Project Leader, I do not get summer vacations and more importantly, the concept of an idyllic summer with bright, cheerful days and quite balmy nights is dispelled in my part of the word and instead replaced by unceasing, pounding heat,  that makes one feel like one is being slowly baked in one’s skin in the very middle of a vast furnace, with the earth and the sun belching out fire! Temperatures have hit 51ºC or 123º F and there is no respite in sight….monsoons when they come, if they come, will be hailed as Godsend by most, especially the farmers of this country, struggling with heat and drought!

Realities are harsh and books as usual provide a consolation from all that is mundane and distressing! Therefore without further ado, lets plunge into June Bookish Plans! As most are aware, for May, I had dispelled all reading plans because I had tremendous catching up to do; thankfully, I am almost caught up with all, but there are still some items that need to be finished, but hopefully should finish soon! I venture towards June again finally with a reading plan!

My Read Alongs continue on track as planned – I am hoping to finish the Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien Read Along with Cleo as I had planned in June. I should also make some progress in the ever challenging The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser which I am reading with O, Cleo, Jean, Ruth and some other readers; I am going really slow with this one as it takes up quite a bit of time to truly understand and absorb the various levels of intellectual gymnastics that Mr. Spenser had laid out for his readers! The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens read along is also in the plans and its an effort to really read it in piecemeal fashion, considering I am enjoying it tremendously! I have added another to my overspilleth list with Hamlette’s Jane Eyre Read Along. I have increasingly developed a great love for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and the cold of England is very bracing psychologically, sitting in the stewing pot! Among the reading challenges, where I am really truly behind is my 12 Month Classics Reading Challenge – I am still to finish Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis for May and I have for June themed A British classic,  Dombay and Son’s by Charles Dickens. I am also somewhat struggling to catch up on my Reading England project, and for this  I am reading The Darling Buds of May by  by H. E. Bates covering Kent. Finally for my Women’s Classic Literature Event, I am reading a modern and albeit a relatively lesser known classic  by Katherine Ann Porter  – Ship of Fools. In a stand alone event, I am also reading The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy as part of Margaret Kennedy Day hosted by Jane, who had two years ago introduced me to brilliance of Margaret Kennedy’s works!

That is all I have planned for June; like I said I have had to play catch up and am still struggling to complete everything that is outstanding. This is also the first time I am giving the Classic Club spin a miss – I have yet to finish Death comes to Archbishop by Willa Cather which was my last Spin Read and also my Women’s Literature Reading Event for April and it is only fair that I venture into another Spin only after I had finished the previous one!

That’s the plan then! Wishing you all a fabulous and less heat generating summer and a scintillating brilliant reading time!

Notes on Bookish Readings When Ill

I have been writing this post in my mind for the last 3 weeks since I have recovered from a painfully long bout of bronchio-asthma, but there have been out of station weddings to attend and friends to visit and preparation for a Project Management exam, that  blogging took a back seat and worse, for a while there was not enough time to even read! Anyway, such things are happily in the past and I hope I am back to the settled rhythm of daily reading and frequent blogging!

While I was laid up three weeks, I was mostly in a irritable temper, struggling to breathe while fever came and went and the Indian summer heat rose. I could not eat much and doing almost anything gave me a headache. The only thing I was capable of was watching endless reruns of F.R.I.E.N.D.S , but for such bookish creature like us, you can watch only so much of sitcoms, without yearning to dive back into books. Herein lay the problem, I was too ill, to read my April reading plan books….I could not bear to look at Shakespeare or Poe, Spenser made my eyes dance and see things and Willa Cather was simply out of the question! So I decided to hunt the ever reliable internet for some suggested readings when ill. However for once, the cyber space completely let me down; while some sites suggested the tried and tested Austens and Rowlings, most sites suggested some very grim readings, biographies filled with struggle and toil and one site even suggested As I lay Dying (I don’t know if the guy was being funny!!) I don’t know why people would read such stuff when they are physically so unwell, which in turn has to have a psychological impact! Why read depressing stuff when you are already  down and out, but I guess, different strokes for different folks and for a different folk like me and I am hoping other like me, we need a much more cheerful reading list. Therefore, I humbly present to you 10 books/series/authors  you ought to read if you feel like laughing out loud or even chuckling a bit or simply take your mind off the physical trauma, when laid up with maladies –

  1. Jane Austen – Devoted as I am to Ms. Austen, I must say she has helped me recover several times in my life and made the illness more bearable. I do not recommend all her works but Pride and Prejudice, Emma and the lesser known Lady Susan! In the author’s own words – light, bright and sparkling!
  2. Terry Pratchett- I have said this before and I will keep saying it again, the world is a better place, thanks to Sir Terry. When your are completely fatigued with the mundane sameness of your surroundings, compounded by a sever iron grip variety headache, take a walk in the Discworld and meet the witches and the watch and Death and so many more characters, that will take you to whole new world and keep you there laughing, agreeing and coming out as a much more happier, healthier and even a better human being!
  3. Short Stories by Saki – The much lesser known Hector Hugo Munro, aka, Saki is the perfect anecdote when you are irritable and cannot stand your fellow creatures! Saki’s short stories filled with irreverent humor and biting sarcasm is a treat, as you wander into a 1900’s England filled with social gaities and find succinct observations, served with irony and dash of laughter to help recover your soul!
  4. Sherlock Holmes Series by Arthur Conan Doyle – You want to escape the physical discomfort, then there is no better escape than Victorian England where a hook nosed, opium using detective takes you down the lanes of England and Europe to unravel some of the most unbelievable acts of crime!
  5. Father Brown Series by G.K. Chesterton – While very different in tenor, than the Sherlock Holmes series, Father Brown is another detective, with whom you will be alert and constantly involved as you unravel one gritty mystery after another, in a intuitive, philosophical and patient way, that characterizes , one of the best detectives in Fiction!
  6. Miss Marple Series by Agatha Christie – When you are ill, and need a distraction, who better than the queen of crime. While all most all her books are addictive, I prefer Miss Marple, because I cannot get over the impression of a weak woolly old lady going after some of the most ruthless criminals and that kind of always makes me feel better and hope that I will recover soon!
  7. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – Cliched, I know! But I cannot help it! The wizard world is such a pick me up and then there are all kinds of fantastic creatures and constantly changing dynamics and yes, there are several deaths, but the books always end in hope! So it is way better option than As I Lay Dying, when ill!
  8. Lord Wimsey’s Series by Dorothy Sayers – I read my first and only Dorothy Sayers when I was ill and she did me a world of good! First impressions are not usually a thing to go buy, but I am taking a chance here – me think reading her when ill, will make you feel infinitely better! At any case I can vouch for Busman’s Journey, among all the other books in the series!
  9. Jeeves and Wooster by PG Woodhouse – Need I say anything! A Jeeves is exactly what you need when so ill,but it being in short supply and only available in fiction, wade through the mis– adventures of Bertie Wooster in 1920s England as he is rescued and saved every time by the dependable Jeeves!
  10. Asterix Comic Books by  written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo – Follow the Gauls through one magnificent adventure in Roman world after another, as they meet Caesars and Cleopatras and discover pun like never before! Laughter and more laughter!

There you go folks, that’s my list and my recommendation! What are yours?

 

Holiday Hangover, April Reading and Therapy…

Hello! Hello! I am back! And while I am overjoyed to be back in the world of cyberspace and virtual interactions, I must say, I soooooo do not look forward to the Monday! But that is a bridge that I will cross and dream of August again! Where was I you ask? (Even if you did not, please humor me…I am suffering from a really bad case of holiday hangovers!) I was away for last one week from the madding crowd, to the magnificent Himalayas, specifically the Dhauladhar Range,  or the White Range and I spent the first half in an artisan village, and the second half in the city of His Holiness Dalai Lama. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful places on earth and it was one of the best holidays ever! Be rest assured, that  I will share photos and adventures soon!  Yes! Those are the joys of blogging companionship!;)

For now however, April is here and considering the amount of reading I am taking on each month, I have started maintaining a Reading Journal, just so I remember what I have to read and how much I have to read and how many books at a glance are in my TBR, atleast the ones on Kindle! Just so I start getting some more discipline in not only my reading but also my book buying spree. I am not sure if this will work, but I will keep you all posted!

Now, considering I was on holiday during a significant holiday portion of March, I manage to stick to reading plan pretty well, except I did not read the fictions that I had charted out including Up the Country by Emily Eden, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel and The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe, because I was busy reading about Tibet! Since I was planning to do some serious cultural exploration of the Tibetan lives during my vacation, it made sense to read up some stuff but I may have gone on an overdrive!  But now I know much more beyond the Chinese annexation of 1951 and, for a somber moment, it is not a happy thought that a culture is passing away and hundred of Tibetans are dying with it while the world looks on! I will re-visit this later for sure!

For the April reading, there is an urgent need like I mentioned to discipline and close on everything that I already have and finish the open tasks! I am yet to complete my March Play, The Man Born to be King by Dorothy Sayers and since I did not want to add on more complications, I decided to mix my Drama Reading for April with my Reading England effort, this time covering Warwickshire and am going to read As You Like It by the Great Bard of England, William Shakespeare. Again because I have couple of books stemming from March, I decided to roll in Classic Club Spin#12 and Women’s Classical Literature Reading Event for the month and read Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather. The April theme for 12 month Reading Challenge is “A classic you’ve seen the movie/miniseries/TV show of” and I read The Murders at Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe. I have seen the 1983 made for television film recently and I was not very impressed, but I will read the book with an open mind and then decide on the matter! Finally, Ali is holding a Mary Hocking Reading Event and as both she and Jane have words of high praise about Mary Hocking’s works and since I really really appreciate their insights, which has led me to reading some brilliant works, I will for sure join this one reading event – Good Daughters by Mary Hocking!

My serial readings continue as before – I continue to read The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien with Cleo as part of my Lecito List and have now moved to The Twin Towers. I also hope to finish Metamorphoses by Ovid; I am down to the last two books and I really need to complete it before I move on to what I consider my reading albatross. For the next couple of months I will be reading The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser with Cleo, O, Ruth and many others . I read TFQ in college and did not like it at all. But I am hoping for a better experience this time, but for now I see it as an albatross! On the brighter side of things, I continue with the Pickwick Paper by Charles Dickens Read Along and I am beginning to really enjoy the work as well the way we are reading it! Finally Cleo again leads me into all these reading temptations and I have surrounded to them (completely my choice and my will)  after a long fight (actually no fight at all!) with them –  I am reading The Histories by Herodotus as well as 1 poetry a week for the National Poetry Month!

I know I need therapy! I wonder if there some kind of recovery program for the book reading obsessed! Do let me know if you find one….until then I am off to read!

 

Piracy in Restoration England

After much wringing of hand and utter confusion and mental distress, I plodded forth to read Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier as part of my Reading England project, focusing on Cornwall. As many are already aware, I had no patience with Rebecca and completely lost my sanity with Jamaica Inn, why then would I venture to another Du Maurier? What can I say, except I was hoping for third time lucky??!! Not the best logic, but considering there is a huge reading population that swear by Du Maurier, I really really wanted to give her another chance before I shut the door completely, hence the Frenchman’s Creek adventure.

The book is set in Restoration England, and at the very onset, we are introduced to Dona, Lady St. Columb, who has made a hasty departure from the decadent London Court of Charles II and is heading for her husband’s Cornish country estate of Navron with her children. Dona who has been married for six years, has adapted to the life of Charles II court of being vacuousness and frivolity without really ever belonging to it. After an attempted practical joke on a old Countess, that jars Dona to reality, she heads to Navron, seeking peace and trying to find her true self, away from the bustle of London and her clumsy husband Harry. In Navron, she soon discovers, that the county has been pillaged  by attacks from a French pirate and Dona soon learns that Navron which overlooks the creek that flows into the ocean is used by the French pirate as a hideaway. Her exploration of the creek soon brings her in contact with the great Pirate himself and Dona seeking adventure, soon becoming friends and then falls in love with him. She finally agrees to go on piracy expedition with him against one of her neighbor’s vessels. The attack is a success and Dona promises to return to the pirate after she has met her children; however once she is back in Navron, she discovers that Harry and his detestable friend, Rockingham are back with some serious designs of harming the pirate and Dona has very little time to decide on actions that will determine the pirate’s as well as her fate!

Restoration England, Cornwall and Pirates, how bad can the book be? Guess again! It was TERRIBLE! No third time lucky for me. The characters are all ridiculous and unbelievable.Lets start with Dona, she is beautiful and she is bold. That’s the beginning and end of her. She married a man of her choice and them she found him clumsy, though through the novel I could figure out that Harry, albeit clumsy was devoted to Dona. She finds the life of London shallow., after indulging in all manners of shenanigans for six years. She finds Rockingham impertinent, after she allowed him to flirt with her and kiss her. I mean this woman does everything she wants, without thought or deliberation and when the results are not to her liking, she claims boredom and dissatisfaction. The way she treats Harry is disgraceful; she orders him about, never giving him any explanation of her conduct, behaving in a illogical autocratic manner through the novel. In my opinion, Harry should have left her to begin with. Then we have our Frenchman, who is a rich, aristocrat who indulges in  Piracy because of boredom. Arrrrgggghhhh! What is it with this boredom??? Is there no better way to kill it than doing something criminal.The justification Ms. Maurier is quick to point out is that the Frenchman only robbed the rich. I may have lost my common sense here, but being rich is not a crime for which you have to pay through the actions of a Robin Hoodsque character. However stealing last I checked was a crime, regardless whom you steel from! The remaining cast and crew are nothing to write about, there is the cliched loyal servant and the classic evil villain and the goofy nobleman. At least in Jamaica Inn, there was some brilliant and torrid description of the land and climate, that set the stage for the adventure; the language in this book is just placid; it hardly changes or moves, except for one reddening storm, which came and went! There is no originality in the plot nor is there any real thrill and  I kept going simply because I wanted to finish what I had started, as a form a self torture for picking up another Du Maurier.

I know I have sworn this before, but I am truly never ever reading any Du Maurier again! She is completely unbearable. A complete waste of time!

P.S. As I look back on my review of Jamaica Inn, O had warned me that this was a bad book and I had said I would not even venture near it and then I clean FORGOT!! Next time as an act of kindness if you see me attempting another Du Maurier, just point me towards Jamaica Inn review and then this one!

Matchmaking in Regency England

I finished reading Emma by Jane Austen over the weekend. It was part of a Read Along hosted by  Sarah Emsley and Dolce Bellze’s and it fitted very nicely into my Women’s Classic Literature Event. Also while I was reading it, I realized it could also be part of my Reading England project with its coverage of Southern England and Surrey to be specific. This is why I worship Jane Austen; she always complies with all my needs!  I was supposed to read it through the month of December, but greedy me, just could not let it off!

Emma begins with a description of our primary protagonist, Ms. Emma Woodhouse of Hartfield, Highbury. She is beautiful 21 years old heiress of 30,000 pounds a year, beloved daughter to a doting father and mistress of his house. She has everything going her way, financially secure, loved by all, life is as perfect as it can be. Her sister Isabella, senior to her by 7 years is married to Mr. John Knightly who is a barrister in London. His elder brother is Mr. Knightly, a friend and neighbor to Hartfield; he owns the huge acres associated to Donwell Abbey and is the primary landowner and Justice of Peace of the area. He is also one of the few people who can see faults of behavior with Emma.  The novels opens with the marriage of Miss Taylor, former governess and then best friend and companion to Emma with Mr. Weston. Mr. Weston is a self-made man, who had suffered some misfortune in his first marriage to the very rich Miss Chruchill, who had died in the fourth year of their marriage, leaving him with a young son. This son, Mr. Frank Chruchill was brought by Mr. and Mrs. Chruchill (brother and sister-in-law) to Miss Chruchill and considered the heir to their vast estate. Therefore Mr. Weston free of all responsibilities had worked had, built a fortune, bought Randalls and finally married Miss Taylor.  Emma believes that this marriage happened through her efforts and match making skills and this un-parallel success,  convinces her to continue matchmaking among her friends, like Miss Harriet Smith, a parlor border at the local school, whose parentage is unknown and Mr. Elton the local vicar, with amusing and sometime disastrous results, finally leading to mature realization in Emma of what truly constitutes marriage, love and companionship.

What can one say about this novel that that has not been said before? I love Emma because she is so unlike other Jane Austen’s heroines – blessed with brains and good heart, she still manages to act like a scatterbrain and is not above making mistakes of being ungenerous and perhaps sometime unkind. She does not completely understand human nature is often blinded by her own self conviction.What makes her well-loved is the fact that like all us mere mortals, she makes a mistakes, realizes her errors and goes about not only repenting it but also making amends. Her heart is in the right place, and if sometimes the sheer good fortune of her status and abilities carries her away, it is her heart and conscience which makes her somber and do everything in her power to make amends. Mr. Knightly is a quintessential Austen hero – mature, generous and gentlemanly. A vigorous, always in action man, duty of a man and its completion to him is first and most primary requirement of being a gentleman. The ensemble cast is equally brilliant and extremely well-drawn out; it is difficult to choose between the hypochondriac but kind Mr. Woodhouse, simple albeit silly Harriet and the up-start Eltons. I had several laugh out loud moments every time I came to passage containing Mrs. Elton. I think while writing about Jane Fairfax,  Jane Austen wanted to create an-almost model for women, the perfect, accomplished, well-spoken, elegant lady, something for lesser mortals including Emma to aspire for. The only character I could not abide by was Mr. Frank Chruchill, exactly for the reasons that Mr.Knightly enumerates! The plot is interesting and like Tom and Belleza posted in their blogs, this novel can be called mystery novel, because one really never knows what will happen – will Harriet marry? Why is Frank Chruchill so late in his visit to Randalls? Why does Jane Fairfax insist on getting her own posts? As a reader you are hooked! Some critiques have pointed out that the end is too neatly packaged and everything falls into place – well it does; but that is part of author’s creative liberty and Austen does a good job of tying up lose ends. Had she left some of the ends lose, I have a strong feeling that the same critiques would have come back and said that the story was incomplete!! The novel is set in upper-middle class Regency England and does not include the high life of London or the politics of post Napoleon Europe. In a way it’s a time capsule, isolated and standing independent of all the historical happenings of that time England, but I believe Jane Austen wrote of the world she knew and understood well and that is why her books endure, because they give us an insight to human nature – the one constant thing that never really changes. The last parting word that I have for the novel is that like all Austen novels, the book does raise the first flags of feminism and independence of a woman. In a conversation, between Harriet and Emma, where Harriet suggests that Emma should marry or will be considered an old maid by the society, Emma gives a fitting reply, a reply which I think resonates despite 200 years since it originally put down –

If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty. Woman’s usual occupations of eye and hand and mind will be as open to me then as they are now; or with no important variation. If I draw less, I shall read more; if I give up music, I shall take to carpet-work. And as for objects of interest, objects for the affections, which is in truth the great point of inferiority, the want of which is really the great evil to be avoided in not marrying, I shall be very well off, with all the children of a sister I love so much, to care about. There will be enough of them, in all probability, to supply every sort of sensation that declining life can need. There will be enough for every hope and every fear”

What more can I say about the inimitable Ms. Austen and her work – except, Vi! Va! Ms. Austen!

December, Reading & More…..

I know I have been away, but this time it was a good away. I was on road trip with bunch of friends visiting one of the most underrated ruins of medieval world, Vijaynagar. I will post up a bunch of pictures about this wonderful city in ruins soon with a bit of history (dependent on when my flatmate downloads the pictures from her camera!) In the meanwhile, December is here; my favorite month ….the birthday month, the holiday season month, the off with old and one with the new month! I celebrate it, naturally with books and more books.

To begin with, as part of my Women’s Classic Literature Reading Event as well as my Reading England Project, I have started reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh. Jane had blogged about it way back and since then it has been on my TBR forever. I am LOVING the poem so far! I have also decided to join Sarah Emsley and Dolce Bellze’s Emma Readlong, celebrating the 200 years of publication of Emma by Jane Austen.  Being December, I have naturally overloaded myself with more books than I can possibly read – I am almost done with third Cormoran Strike Novel; this volume is just something else and there is too much of harsh reality to absorb, but I just cannot seem to stop. I have also began Kazuo Ishiguro’sThe Buried Giant, and, well I will review it pretty soon. I also have Azar Nafisi’s Republic of Imagination lined up, but I am not sure if I will be able to finish it this year.  I also bought Anita Desai’s Baumgartner’s Bombay on a whim and I plan to finish this volume soon. Finally, I realized that while I was reading extensively in English, I have not read much, especially in recent years in my native languages of Hindi and Bengali. There is a vast pool of literature that is available in both the languages and some of most beautiful prose ever written is in Bengali. Therefore, it is but natural that I begin re-reading some works in this language and towards this end, I also started reading “Kitne Pakistan” (literally meaning How many Pakistans) by Kamaleshwar – it is a courtroom drama where historical figures are bought in to be tried to understand why  was India partitioned in 1947. It’s quite a gripping read so far.

Now if this reading was not exciting enough, Classic Club is doing Spin#11 and how could I possibly give this up? The Rules are as always simple enough –

  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Try to challenge yourself: list five you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog by next Monday.
  • Monday morning, they will announce a number from 1-20. Go to the list of twenty books you posted, and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
  • The challenge is to read that book by December/January, even if it’s an icky one you dread reading!

Here goes my list –

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  2. A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  3. The Clan Of The Cave Bear by Jean M Auel
  4. The Wings of a Dove by Henry James
  5. Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  6. Love in the Times of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  7. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  8. Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  10. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
  11. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  12. Doll’s House by Henrick Ibsen
  13. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  14. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  15. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
  16. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  18. Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
  19. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  20. Queen Lucia by E F Benson

Now I wait with bated breath for Monday to arrive!

To end, as you can all see, I have changed my blog pages a bit as some things were really not working out, while I was racing in others. I thought, it best to go with the flow and therefore took off The Poetry Project and the A Century of Books and instead replaced them with Reading England and Women’s Classic Literature Event. In the near future sometime, I hope to get back to both these abandoned projects and then may re-open these pages.

That all for tonight folks! Happy Reading!

When The Intellectuals Met The Capitalists in Edwardian England

I finally managed to get through another classic as part of the Reading England event in which I am participating. I extremely pleased that I had planned on reading this book in May and after many months I have adhered to my reading plan. After several months of stop/start, it is good to finish some books that I have wanted to read and have not been able to for various reasons! Anyway, moving on, let’s get down to the book – it is Howard’s End by E.M. Forster.

reading-england-1

The only EM Forster book I had read was (Sigh! Naturally!) The Passage to India; I read it when I was 17 and did not like it one bit and considered it pretentious. But at my advanced age of 33 I have realized that it does not help to hang to all opinions formulated as a teenager and some experience shows have been proved quite wrong! Therefore I was moderately open to reading another work by EM Forester and ventured boldly forward and plunged myself into Howard’s End.

The book is set in Edwardian England of 1910 and follows the lives and experience of the Schlegel sisters – Margaret and Helen. Brought up in an atmosphere of art and literature with financial independence, the two sisters have surrounded themselves with a music, literature, theater, travel etc and live at Wickham Place in London with their younger brother Tilby. The rhythm of their lives undergo a change when Helen, the younger sister visits the Wilcox family, who, the Schlegels had met during a trip to Germany and are invited by Mrs Wilcox to visit them  at Howard’s End and enters into a hasty engagement with the younger son, Paul. Though the engagement is broken off the same day, it puts the two families on uncomfortable grounds; however honest sincere friendship between Mrs. Wilcox and Margret that began from the trip in Germany and continued despite the broken engagement, help cement relations and sustain even after Mrs. Wilcox’s death. Mr. Wilcox soon starts socializing with the Schlegel sisters and basis an insider tip, they convince an acquaintance of theirs Leonard Bast, a young clerk who aspires for better things, to leave his position in an insurance company and seek employment elsewhere, since Mr. Wilcox is convinced that the insurance company is going to be dissolved. Mr. Wilcox and Margaret soon develop a healthy respect for each other which turns to love and they decide to get married. Helen does not like Mr. Wilcox, considering him materialistic, and especially after it turned out that Leonard Bast who had left his insurance company of the advice of the sisters had lost his new job due to retrenchment and the Insurance company was not going to be dissolved; and is aggrieved by the fact that her sister is marrying him, despite knowing the kind of harm Mr. Wilcox did to Mr.Bast. Despite Helen’s staunch dislike, the wedding date is is set for September, after Evie, Mr. Wilcox’s daughter is married. However on the eve of Evie’s wedding, series of events are set rolling by Helen that would change the lives of Wilcoxs and Schlegels forever, bending and breaking relations and forging truths that come back from actions in the past for everyone to dwell on!

What can I say about the book except that I was stumped! I was mesmerized and all the while reading the book, there were so many instance of “Hey! That is so true!” EM Forster had written an extremely intelligent, sensitive and intuitive book. The book that forces the reader to see the apparent truth and succinctly point out, what most of us ignore or choose to not really give attention to because, while obvious, it is also uncomfortable! Like -“I believe we shall come to care about people less and less, Helen. The more people one knows the easier it becomes to replace them. It’s one of the curses of London. I quite expect to end my life caring most for a place.” Or Culture had worked in her own case, but during the last few weeks she had doubted whether it humanized the majority, so wide and so widening is the gulf that stretches between the natural and the philosophic man, so many the good chaps who are wrecked in trying to cross it. The plot beautifully brings out the two ends of the Edwardian society – The Wilcoxes – hardworking, intelligent folks who get things done and the intellectuals Schlegels who represent all that intransient and intangible – art, music and books! Despite all the “material’ considerations of Wilcoxes, Foster shows them is a very positive light as a class of people because of whom countries become nations and nations empire. “If Wilcoxes hadn’t worked and died in England for thousands of years, you and I couldn’t sit here without having our throats cut.  There would be no trains, no ships to carry us literary people about in, no fields even.  Just savagery.  No–perhaps not even that.  Without their spirit life might never have moved out of protoplasm.  More and more do I refuse to draw my income and sneer at those who guarantee it!”  The characters are wonderfully woven and even when they fall, they redeem themselves by some other act of kindness. In Margaret Schlegel especially, Forster created one of the most brilliant heroines of all times – she is intelligent, intuitive, with bottomless capacity to understand and guide human behavior, forgiving  and generous with a body of solid morals, capable of  standing alone against the world when need be! Forster through the character of Margaret Schlegel comes out blazing in support of women emancipation and their right to be treated as equals. Finally, I cannot help but feel that this book is an Forster’s ode to England – England and its natural beauty is described and referred to all through the book , in  all its glory and beauty.

It’s a wonderful book and I am so glad to have read it….its filled with such wonderful instinctive truths that I had more underlines in this book, than any that I have lately! I could share all of them with you, but I rather you read it holistically to grasp the wonderful brilliance of this book!

%d bloggers like this: