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Posts from the ‘Jane Austen’ Category

The Fourth Attempt at the 24hrs Madness

Many moons ago (actually over 1.5 years ago; excuse the dramatics!) I was casually meandering over my fellow blogger’s post, when I stumbled upon Brona’s post on Dewey’s 24hrs Hours Readathon – a reading event, that happens twice a year, where a bunch of book crazies across the world come together and read for 24hrs. Its not literally 24 hrs, but as much as you can and of course, the idea is to bond with fellow bookish people, discuss books, food, running (anything that keeps you awake!) and have fun! I started on a whim back in the October event of 2016 and have ever since looked forward to the event with great anticipation and eagerness! This year is no different and on April 29th, I embark with all my fellow book crazies on this 24 hour madness!

readathon5

The big question is what books do I read? The organizers this time have come up with a very unique and intriguing  concept of a Scavenger Hunt and the idea is to match books to some of those categories; nothing is mandatory, but it is  a lot of fun to compare and discuss and talk when we participate in such group efforts , so here goes –

  1. Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather – This is part of my Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge’s April Read and also neatly fits in the category #25 Bust the TBR – (on the TBR shelf for more than a year)
  2. Shakespeare – The World as a Stage by Bill Bryson – I think it’s high time I read some biographies and I love Bryson’s writing, so I am really looking forward to this one. This also fulfills category # 10 – Learn something new (Read a non-fiction book, be that self-help, biography, autobiography, etc) of the Scavenger Hunt
  3. The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn – I cannot do a 24 hour reading event without 1 Historical Fiction; ok, make that 2! This one comes highly recommended by Helen, whom I have much faith in! This one goes towards category # 16  – Visit 50 countries of the Scavenger list! Set in Scotland!
  4. Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce – This is the second historical fiction for the reading list, and yet another recommendation by Helen. Goes towards category #6 – Unknown Books (Read books with less than 1,000 Goodreads ratings) of the Hunt
  5. Persuasion by Jane Austen – I live by every wise word of Ms. Austen and in this arduous attempt, will not be abandoned by her! (Yes! Dramatics again! The pre-madness effect!) This addresses Category #5 –  – Popular Books (Read books that have more than 100,000 Goodreads ratings)

Cautionary Warning – Just because I have made this list, does not mean, at the last minute I will NOT change my mind and add or delete some book from the list!! But for now, this is the plan to kick start with!!

Now for those who may be new to this sort of thing, I do not in anyway consider myself an old hand, but I did learn a thing or two, over the last couple of events,  which I am happy to share –

  1. Start with shorter books; they get the momentum going and keep you pumped up when you are at your reading best, which is usually the initial hours!
  2. Choose books which you are really looking forward to reading and have a set of options; if one does not work for you, switch gears and pick another up, so that the interest keeps flowing
  3. Stock up plenty of food and drinks; whatever works for you and you like. It is already very very hot in my part of the world, so I avoid caffeine and instead go for cooling  and nourishing drinks like Buttermilk, which I drink by the gallon!
  4. Interact with your fellow readers. For me, personally, one of the most enjoyble part of this event is when I get to in and chatter with all my fellow book readers. There are host of mini challenges and hourly events which help flow the conversation and exponentially increase the fun quotient! It’s like a virtual all night party!
  5. Have Fun!!!!!

I am also playing a host for an hour over at the Dewey’s GoodReads page! The organizers do such an awesome job, each time, every time and this is a small way for me to help out. I am still waiting for Gabby to confirm which slot, but I will be around for sure!

Well, that’s about it for now!! I am really really excited and cannot wait for Saturday to come around and finally get started! See you all, in 3 days!!!

The Madness Starts

Couple of minutes left to start! I am all set at the starting line.  Dewey’s Readathon, Bring it on!

Me, the obsessive control freak, has made a list and checked and double checked all items.

  1. E-Book Reader Charged – Check
  2. Snacks set and dinner plans in place – Check
  3. Plenty of Water Bottles – Check
  4. Good Music – Check
  5. Have told Dad and all friends/relations not to call me till Sunday Evening – Check

Seems like I am all-ok to make SOME dent in my reading list!

24hrreading

I am kind of confused as to whether to read The Girl on the Train first or The Land of the Seven Rivers to kick start the event. I will fit in Dombey and Sons somewhere after that, before I am too exhausted and drop off before I know; Dickens clearly is not at his best in this one. I have kept Christie and Austen for the difficult hours (late night and afternoons) and New York and Jerusalem come in when I have revved up my engines well and all set for some ground breaking reading. Thackeray will provide a wonderful diversionary break! Well this is the plan! And now that I am almost there, a though comes to, what the hell was I thinking????

Oh! Well! To late to ponder over those philosophical conundrums. Let’s just plunge in with the Opening Meme

1.What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

India, New Delhi to be exact!

2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

That had to be a toss up between The Land of Seven Rivers and New York

3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?

There are these absolutely melt in your mouth shortbreads that a dear friend from England sent me! That’s not only a motivation but also an indulgence!

4.Tell us a little something about yourself!

Dedicated reader, trying to be a writer, full time Project Leader in a financial conglomerate, amateur historian, devoted blogger, born traveler, occasional  exotic cuisine chef, daughter, sister, friend!

5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I have read many many times through my life. But reading through 24 hours should be something else. Also I am really really impressed with all the one-world-cyber-cheering and supporting happening; from United States to the Nordics to Australia to closer home in New Delhi! This feeling is totally out of the world!

And now LET’s READ!!!

The 24 Hours Madness

Ok….so here’s a discovery, well not really a discovery, more of declaration of a well known fact – I am completely and obviously crazy!! Yes, I am aware that many of you always thought so, but I guess I am pointing out the obvious!!

After an extremely stressful week at work, where I got less than cumulative of 28 hours of sleep, I am happy that the weekend is finally here! I have a lot of things to do including cleaning the house and getting some shopping done, which HAS to be done because next week is Diwali, the big festival of the Indians! I have some reading and blogging planned as well, but nothing out of the usual. I am all set and I have a plan and schedule for the two days, that is until I decide to casually scroll through Twitter and stumble on some comments by Brona and bam! all plans are in disarray and there is a whole new plan in place!

What am I ranting about you ask? I am referring to the bi-annual Dewey’s Readathon, which kick starts on Oct 24th 2016 at 8:00 AM EST which translates to 17:30 Indian Standard Time and for which, I hang my head in shame as I say this, I have SIGNED UP! The idea of course is to read non-stop or with mini stops for 24 hours straight! You can find the details and whats and hows here.

24hrreading

Yes, I can hear the “naturallys”, but come on, how can I pass up a reading event???!!? I will hold of the cleaning till Monday and I will negotiate the shopping time, opting for online stuff if need be. But participate I shall, even if I do not make it to the participant list, on account of signing up a bit too late!

Anyhow, now that my ranting and self motivation and self exoneration is over, let us proceed to matters of greater significance like, what shall we read? There are loads of suggestions on the website and after scrolling through quite a bit, this is what I came up with – a mix of many things!!

  1. The Girl on the Train by Patricia Hawkes – am on page 62 as of today and shall attempt to finish via Readathon
  2. New York by Edward Rutherford – This one is a chunkster and I have only waded to page 183 so far so, only approximately 680 [pages to go; but its historical fiction and Rutherford does write extremely gripping plots, so I am kind of kicked about it
  3. Dombey and Sons by Charles Dickens – Yes, I am still struggling to finish this! Yes I know I am really dragging this out and yes! I do have every intention of finishing it!
  4. The Book of Snobs by William Makepeace Thackeray – This combines well with with my Victober event and breaks the monotony of serious reading. Thackeray’s take on on people who look down on those considered as “socially inferior” should be interesting. Page count 143 per Kindle Edition
  5. Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal – Just because I am curious and because I need to variety while reading. Page count 352 per Kindle Editio
  6. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie – When the chips are down and interest flags, who but the brilliant Ms. Christie can keep us going! Look forward to keeping me going in this story of miscarriage of justice which I have for some reason never read before!Page count 286 per Kindle Edition
  7. Jerusalem  – A Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore – It’s History, its Middle Eastern History and the first couple of pages are very very good! Page Count 628 of which I have read 94.
  8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – You have to allow me one Austen to keep my spirits up towards the end when everything buzzes! I know the work by heart and I will glide through it when the going gets tough!

Now about the real time updates and such like, well I will update as I go along. I am not committing to an hour or two hours or any such frequency. More like when I need a  break and when I want to wander around a bit! I will also try and be deligent and keep one and all updated on Twitter and Goodreads and make an honest effort to make the posts interesting and hopefully nail baiting!

That seems simple enough!! I should be well rested and bright eyes and bushy tailed come Monday, when another crippling work load comes crashing on my head!! In the meanwhile I hopeth, that I can convinceth Cleo and Brona to helpeth me through this task!! Guys – NEED HELP BADLY!!!!

Now that I have jumped, I will try and get some good sleep and ease in for the reading tomorrow so that come 17:30 IST, I really do set off!!

The Bookish Time Travel Tag

As is usual in my case, I had planned to post a blog about something totally and completely different and instead I am posting this! It’s the festival season in India and I have been quite late in catching up with all the blogs but I finally did catch up and I found myself wondering what I would have answered on a particular post; and lo! Behold, Jane had actually tagged me, hoping I would do a similar post! Now Jane is one of those friends of mine who has introduced me to a number of unknown authors and we share a lot of similar bookish tastes, including a love for Victorian-Edwardian Literature and Golden Age of British Crime. Therefore, when she thinks I will enjoy writing a post, you can be rest assured I will be! Thus, without much further ado, I present to you, The Bookish Time Travel Tag! Originally created, by The Library Lizard, I was introduced to it naturally by Jane’s Post!

  1. What is your favorite historical setting for a book?

This is a very difficult one since there are several periods of History that I love

  • The Gupta Dynasty (C.300 AD) in India – This is really going back in time but this was a defining moment in South Asian history – a time of great literature and arts. Kalidas wrote Abhijanashakuntalam and Meghduta. It was also an era in which one of the best commercial comedies and my personal favorite of Sanskrit was penned Mṛcchakaika by Sudraka.
  • King David’s Jerusalem – Don’t ask me for reasons, just that I have a double degree in Middle Eastern Politics and Israel has always fascinated me!
  • Elizabethan England – Amid the squalor and the dirt and the delicate balance of peace between Catholic and Protestants and discovery of new lands, there was brilliant works being penned by Shakespeare, Marlow and jaw breakers like Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (a book I struggleth with!)
  • Regency England, specifically the country side – I am devoted to Jane Austen and I love her portrayals of the rural country lives, divorced from the over the top Regency London and therefore the simple English countryside and plots around the manor born, is and will always remain my favorite!
  • Victorian England – How can I pass up an era of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, George Gissing, Lewis Carol, Robert Louis Stevenson, Author Conon Doyle, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Robert Browning, Christian Rosseti, Oscar Wilde, to name just a few! I think you get my drift!
  • Late British Raj in India (c. 1870s to 1940s) Also known as Bengal Renssiance, this period saw incredible development in making India a modern nation state and more especially in bringing women out of the “purdah”. The women started to get degrees in Literature, Science and medicine and began to take their rightful place in the world. Not all transition was easy nor was it completely smooth, but it was an epoch making time of Indian history. Some of the best of the Indian literature was penned during this era including Michael Madhusudan Dutta’s Meghnadh Bodh Kabyo (The Slaying of Meghnadh), Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Durgeshnandini, Rassundari Devi authored the first full-fledged autobiography in modern Bengali literature and was one of the first female authors of modern India to do so. Most importantly, this was the era of Rabindranth Tagore as he wrote masterpieces after masterpeices including Geetanjali, The Home and The World, Gora etc.
  • The Bloombury London – I do not like most of authors and their views of this set, however I cannot deny that this era and this intellectual movement, was changing the way we view modern literature and economics etc. It also included in its group the very humane John Mynard Keynes and the very sensitive E.M. Forster as well as other laudable like Virginia Wolfe, Lytton Strachey, Vita-Sackville West etc.
  • The World Wars – Simply to better understand what madness drives men to kill their fellow brothers and how small misunderstandings lead to deaths of hundreds and thousands all across the world!

Now that, this is done, I promise to be more concise with my other answers!!

  1. What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

Again there are so many of them, but in keeping with my promise, I am limiting myself to three only –

  • I would love to meet Jane Austen and share a cup of tea with her as the country society meets and greets each other and hear her gentle satire and words of wisdom as one individual meets the other.
  • Rabindranth Tagore and travel with him through the streets of 1890s Calcutta and visit all those places which are now iconic but then just a places for the intellectuals to meet and discuss how to work better with the British Masters!
  • M.Kaye and walk with her through the streets of my city of Delhi in 1920s as we explore the old Delhi and Meherauli ruins, especially the latter before it became the current up market residential area. I would also love to visit the then summer capital of British India with her, Shimla and have lunch at the celebrated Wildflower Hall and visit the Governer’s House and do all the things the British did then , before it came back into fashion thanks to The Indian Summer!
  1. What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

I have to hang my head in shame and say “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis when I was may be a 10-12 year old. I would have also loved to have read Margaret Kennedy in my 20s rather than waiting all these years. I also really wish I had started reading Emilie Zola a couple of years earlier, instead of waiting for so long to take up his books!

  1. What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

This one is a tough one simply because I keep thinking, and I have every intention of re-reading all most all the books I have loved through the years. But if I have to pick one and since I cannot pick one, I would say it has to be a toss-up between The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and The Discworld Series by Sir Terry Pratchet. I think both of these two incredibly talented authors manage to remind us of what is truly important, with a gritty plot and humor!

  1. What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book? E.g. Panem from The Hunger Game

I will have to skip this one! I am more of past/history person than a futuristic one!

  1. What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period(can be historical or futuristic)?

Oh!! How in the world can I keep this answer short?????!!!! Let me try

  • The Far Pavillions and The Shadow of the Moon by MM Kaye
  • The Book Thief by Mark Zukas
  • The Conquer Series by Conn Iggulden
  • The War of Roses Series by Conn Iggulden
  • The Source by James Mitchner
  • London by Edward Rutherford
  • New Forest by Edward Rutherford
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Finnigan
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Mila 18 by Leon Uris
  1. Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

No! Nix! Never!!

  1. If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

There is sooooooo much to cover, I would not know where to start and where to end – I would naturally do all the things I mentioned in #Q2.

  • I would also love to visit Rueil and see Edward Manet paint the House in Rueil and The Garden Path in Rueil.
  • I would lIke to follow Sir Author Conon Doyle across the busy Victorian London as he helped clear the injustices against George Edalji and Oscar Slator.
  • I would for sure want to take a voyage to Middle East with Mark Twain as he wrote The Innocents Aboard and visit Yuguslavia, poised on the edge of World War II with Barbra West as she wrote her seminal Black lamb and the Grey Falcon.
  • And of course, I would want to walk the streets of Calcutta and Delhi with Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Ahmed Ali respectively, as the last vestiges of a great Hindu-Muslim syncretic culture practically disappeared forever into the horizon!
  1. Favorite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?
  • The Source by James Michener that cover the birth of Israel from 9831 BCE to 1963
  • London by Edward Rutherford that tells the story of the development of the city of London from the nascent beginning in 54 BCE to the current commercial hub of 2007
  1. What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

The Conquer Series by Conn Igulden

1500 words and I am finally done!

I do not wish to obligate anyone to do this and I know we all have very busy lives, but there are some people whose posts and thoughts I would love to read and add more on to my TBR  Stefanie @ https://somanybooksblog.com/

Cleo @ http://cleoclassical.blogspot.in/

Brona @ http://bronasbooks.blogspot.in/

Lauren @ https://wheretheresinktherespaper.wordpress.com/

Ruth @ http://greatbookstudy.blogspot.in/

This was a wonderful post and it brought back a lot of memories of books that I would love to revisit. Naturally, I also added quite a few from Jane’s post to my TBR, but that’s what bookish blogs are about! J

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?

 

And Its a Wrap!

After all the lows of 2014, I was expecting things to really look up in 2015….and well, as always, when you expect too much, a letdown is but inevitable and there were moments in 2015 I would not revisit for a million dollars! It has not been a comfortable year nor a particularly satisfying one; however there is no denying that I did gain some material advantage that included a long awaited promotion and relatively speaking, the ability to dig myself out of a financial abyss following my mom’s illness and subsequent death. I am still struggling with many things, but I now know that (fingers crossed) though I may never have the luck I want, I will (thanking the mightier powers) always have the luck I need.

As always, books and friends sustained me through all the good and the bad. Old and new books as well as old and new friends made my life so much richer and satisfying that I could not have believed was humanly possible. I saw such wonderful instances of uncalled for kindness and generosity, from so many quarters’ as to restore my faith in mankind, and hope for a better tomorrow.  Books have always been my natural therapy from all that is discouraging and distressing and this year was no different. Therefore following the tradition, I began last year, I list 12 books, which have made an indelible impression on me, out of everything I read through 2015:

  1. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – Like I originally posted, what can I ever say about this books that has not already been said? Sublime, insightful and full of sensitivity that remains unmatched, this book is a travesty of mankind. Beautifully depicting the passing of an era as well the realizations of lost opportunities, with succinct and yet powerful words, this book is one of the best I have read ever!
  2. Howards End by E.M. Forster – Again I quote from my original post, the moments of “Hey! That is so true” are liberally bestowed through the book. I again come across a book which was intuitive and deeply insightful of human nature and its ability to stand up for what is truly important, even when the standing up was done alone, against all odds. In Margaret Schlegel, I found one of the most real heroines I have ever come across!
  3. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende – Magical Realism, history, human nature and lyricism all came together in this brilliant book that describes the rise and fall of the Del Valle-Trueba clan from the end of World War I to the end of 1960s that saw an end of democracy and a bloody coup paralleling the history of the author’s native country Chile. A brilliant book that stays with you long after you finished reading it.
  4. Beowulf – One of the best things about blogging is that you get to meet people who encourage and support you to read works, which you might otherwise overlook. Beowulf was one such book, that I hesitated from reading for a long time and then Cleo came along and rescued me and helped me get on with it so to speak. The result was naturally very rewarding – one of the best epic poems ever written, singing of values much underrated today – of courage and nobility and loyalty. The adventure keeps you reaching out to turn the page over and the characterization, despite being an epic, is distinct and contrasting leaving the reader wonder, questioning and thinking
  5. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim – Beautiful book, with wonderful and complete characters and some wonderful settings, a book that tells of all things women are capable of, good and bad, of reaching out for freedom and of beauty and joy that comes from that freedom.
  6. The Custom of The Country by Edith Wharton – Edith Wharton at her best, bringing forth follies and failures of human nature in turn of the century New York, with characters who speak for themselves and of choices we make or do not makes when morals and avarice collide!
  7. The Martian by Andy Weir – Speaking of inspirations, Stefanie is another such person who keeps throwing up books which I would never venture forth on, except she does such a brilliant job of convincing me that I am compelled to try them! Science Fiction is NOT ME and I DO NOT like reading this genre! However The Martian blew me away – smart plot with crazy twists, dollops of humor and some easy to understand science, made it one of the most fulfilling reads ever!
  8. We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson – I was introduced to Ms. Jackson’s brilliance when in 2014, I read her The Haunting of Hill House as part of RIP event. I revisited her again this year as part of RIP and she did not disappoint. Eerie setting, obsessive unapologetic characters and a plot that keeps getting more threatening by the minute, the books is a singular example of the horror genre, of sending chills down the readers spine without the nasty pieces of blood and gore!
  9. Winter: A Berlin Family by Len Deighton – Known for his masterful spy thrillers, this little known historical fiction novel of Deighton is gripping and supremely dazzling. Tracing the family of Winters, father and sons, the story unfolds by taking us through Berlin and her people, beginning at the end of World War I and ending at the end of War War II, the book shakes your belief system, questions the oft repeated history and leaves you heartbroken!
  10. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – I have always been a great Gaskellian and this books lives up to all the glory that her author sought to give her. With believable and human characters and succinct truths of the newly industrialized England, the story is a exquisite and detailed picture of mill towns of 19th century, where money and culture of the old and new emerging world clash for existence and acceptance.
  11. Emma by Jane Austen – I have always believed that the more you read Austen, the newer layers you discover. The Emma readalong to celebrate 200 years of its publication, again gave me not only yet another opportunity to discover a new layer of wit and humor, but as some of my bloggers (Tom andBelleza) pointed out, read the books as an early mystery novel – will Harriet marry? Why is Frank Chruchill so late in his visit to Randalls? Why does Jane Fairfax insist on getting her own posts?
  12. Bloodline by Conn Iggulden (Part III of War of Roses Series) I think people should forget GOT for a while and read the actual events that inspired GOT. Always an Iggulden devotee, I read Stormbirds and Trinity (Part I and Part II) of the series with great enjoyment. However, it was part III that took my breathe away – magnificent descriptions of battles, plot twists and strong and endearing characters (you feel bad even for the rebels!) the book is a testimony to all the brilliance the author has shown in his Conqueror series!

Those are my top 12 of 2015, and while many others competed for this place, I must honestly say that these 12 really stood out!

What more do I say, except to end with what T.S. Elliot said wonderfully –

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning

Here wishing you all a joyous and fabulous 2016!

 

 

 

 

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!

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