The January Reading Month….

Many moons ago, when I was still young (relatively speaking) I used to do these round up posts for the month. Then life and its complications intruded and everything including my regular blogging commitments fell apart. However, the thing about life is it passes and like I said previously, the only way to normalize things is to go back to the simpler tasks and do it again, as much as possible. So here I stand with a round up of January readings!

Personally January and I am knocking on the wood as I say and write this saw a whole lot of improvement from December. Yes, things continue to be tough, but I felt a growth and a letting go and learning of new lessons, which hereto I was not completely aware off. You would think at the advanced age of 37, I would know it all, but I did not and this month has opened up my mind to new ideas and thoughts and interesting revelations that I never thought existed and it’s all been very educational. With Dad’s health a tad improved and some brighter things on the horizon from the professional front, I can say, that January has been a good start to the year! (Knocking really hard on the wood!)

Reading in Winters
Summer morning by Robert Vonnoh, 1895

From a reading perspective, it seems like, while I have read quite a bit (GoodReads says I am 2 books ahead of my 2020 reading challenge !) it has mostly, actually, completely, been a re-read kind of a month. As I previously stated, I am picking thing’s up on a whim, reading what I feel is entertaining or enlightening and not worrying too much about what-should-be-read! Considering the kind of stress life has lately been under, the joy of reading old favorites has especially been comforting and in some cases even inspirational. I continued on my “selective” Harry Potter journey; while I have read and own the entire series, there are certain parts that I like more than the others and those I re-visit more than often. I managed to re-read The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Half Blood Prince in January. The Prisoner of Azkaban is my most favorite; and among various reasons, this is book that kicked of my Harry Potter love affair! Speaking of fantasy and inspirations, no one did it better than Sir Terence David John Pratchett aka Terry Pratchett. His Discworld series are one of those very few books that teaches all of us to be better, kinder and more generous to our fellow creatures, all the while making us laugh till we ache and also telling us a highly entertaining story in the process. (If you want more details, please read my dedicatory post to him, here!) He was a genius and his words gives many of strength and courage and in year where things were more dimmer than brighter; re-reading Maskerade and Men at Arms was a good reminder of courage, honesty and doing the right thing, even if it’s the hardest thing to do! Vi Va Sir Pratchett, gone too soon! If you have never read his work, please go ahead and buy some, not all books are great, and some are for sure better than the others, but they all teach us something! Finally with all the hype around the new Little Women film, I kind of ended up re-reading this wonderful classic again. And once again was left in awe of the quiet courage of Mrs. March and the sheer goodness of Beth who has always been the role model since I was 11 and read the abridged version. All my friends wanted to Jo, but I always aspired to be Beth, albeit wanting to lead a happy boisterous life! Beth’s death always moves me (Yes! I cry every time!) and I picked up a little know but very funny novel for variation – Kissing Toads by Jemma Harvey. While this book has very few readers and it is easy to categorize it as a chick-lit, 10 minutes into the book you realize that it is anything but one. Sure, there is romance, but it is primarily about friendships and sisterhood and friends who are family that this book really touches upon!

That was my January reading! For February, I already started on Carpe Jagulum by Terry Pratchett ( because once you start, you cannot stop!) Also, I have almost completed this wonderful selection of essays on literary woman and woman authors by Elizabet,h Chadwick called Seduction and Betrayal. Kaggsy introduced me to this brilliant collection and I am ever so grateful to have read this volume. I also have the new Jeffrey Archer novel, Nothing Ventured lined up and while my chunkster reading – The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton has hit a slump, I hope to get started again!

That is all I had for today! Happy February everyone!

P.S. Does anyone know the artist who painted the picture I have incorporated. I have done all kinds of searches but cannot find the author of this wonderful piece of art and I really really want to give the due credit and learn more about their work!

P.P.S. Kaggsy to rescue again; Painting identified and updated with due credits.

 

The End of July

Yet another super late post! I wish I was bit more regular and diligent but crazy work hours and super hectic weekends, have slowed the pace of reading and blogging severely! I barely got any reading done in July and did very little in terms of leisure activity besides watching the Wimbledon semi final and final round matches. Yet looking back, I must say, that it was not so bad, if I managed to watch all the semi-finals including the Men’s Singles each of which was 5+hours long! Oh! Well! Hindsight is an interesting thing!

Moving on, like I said, between work, Wimbledon and socially busy weekend, reading really took a back seat! However, if we were to claim quality and never quantity matters, then, I had a wonderful reading month, because, despite the limited number, the sheer  brilliance of the works, made the reading a truly enriching experience! My reading for the month went something like this –

I Claudius by Robert Graves

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There are two different ways of writing history: one is to persuade men to virtue and the other is to compel men to truth”

Final Meeting : Selected Poetry by Anna Akhmatova; Translated by Andrey Kneller

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Faced with this grief, the mountains bend,

The mighty river stops its flow,

But iron bolts won’t even dent,

Behind them – “the convicts’ den”

And somber deathly woe.

Some people feel the soothing breeze,

For some the sun shines red –

For us these wonders long have ceased,

We only hear the grinding keys

And soldiers’ heavy tread.

We rose as though to early mass

And crossed the capital in throngs,

More breathless than the ones who’ve passed,

The Neva’s hazy, overcast,

But hope continues with its song.

There’s the verdict… Tears burst loud,

She’s singled out, on her own,

As if her life has been ripped out,

As if she’s thrown onto the ground…

She’s staggers… stumbling… alone…

Where are the friends with whom I’ve shared

Two years of living in that hell?

What blizzards do they have to bear?

What visions in the lunar glare?

To them I’m sending this farewell

Augustus Carp, Esq. By Himself Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man by Henry Howarth Bashford

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“For the first time, I was in the presence of the greatest human vice. Nor have I ever, perhaps, entirely recovered from the enormous shock of that discovery. For though I had been aware, of course, from my studies on Holy Scripture, that such things had occurred in the Middle East, and had even deduced from contemporary newspapers their occasional survival in the British Islands, I had never dreamed it possible that here, in a public park in the Xtian London of my experience, a married man could thus openly sit with his arm round a female who was not his wife.”

That is all for now folks! Like I said, not too many readings, but some very qualitative and interesting ones! Hopefully August will bring many more Reading Hours!

When Alice Went Wondering

Everybody knows that I often keep **complaining** about all the reading adventures Cleo gets me dragged into! But heart of heart, I know that life would be one mundane boring reading if it was not for friends like Cleo, who make you read everything from Beowulf to The Histories to The Metamorphosis. Naturally, this year is no different, and after swearing off on doing any read along on account of being crazy busy at work, I was soon signing up to read with her several works!! What do they say about, road to hell being paved with good intentions??

Anyhow, Thanks to Cleo, I got to know that Amanda at Simpler Pastimes, is hosting the Classics Children’s Literature Event 5 and not only that, the suggested book was Alice Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll! Now I have always wondered about Alice in Wonderland; as a child when my Dad got me that huge pop up book with some lovely illustrations, I remember loving the colors and pictures but not putting in too much tuck with the story! As I grew up, I read a lot of Carroll’s limericks and puzzles and I was moderately impressed but hardly blown away, As a student of English Literature, I read a lot of “analysis” on Alice in Wonderland and when this event came along, it was as good a time as any to revisit the book and decide once and for all, do I like Lewis Carroll or not??!!

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The story is too well known to everyone; nevertheless, here goes a brief summary. One summer afternoon, Alice finds herself bored and drowsy, sitting by her elder sister who was reading, near the riverbank, when she noticed a rabbit in a waistcoat and a pocket watch hurrying off. She follows the rabbit and falls a long way, until she reaches a hall with many doors. She spies a beautiful garden beyond the doors, which she wants to visit, but is to big to get through the door. She finds a drink which shrinks her to enable her to get through the door but then she realizes that the key was still on table and now she was too tiny to get it. Thus begins her adventures of growing big and small and of meeting rabbits and the Duchess and the Cheshire cat and the King and Queen of hearts. She drinks tea with Mad Hatter and his friends and plays croquet with flamingos, until she ends up in a most strange court room case!

I have read a lot of essays attempting to de-code this tale. Its been called a sarcastic commentary on  the education system of 19th century to the author’s word play with French. I am sure there are other many interesting interpretations – but to me it is still a very good yarn for the children. Imagination and fun flows through the tale. It’s like an adventure where you let go of reality and let the author take you places for he would. I loved the quirky crazy sense of humor. I loved how from one tale to another, we jumped characters and situations without any need to justify the previous occurrences. I loved the characters – Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat were my most favorite, but I quite loved the King of Cards trying to run the court! I thoroughly enjoyed Carroll’s mockery of “moral tales”. But it was Alice herself that left be in her language “Curiouser and curiouser”. I am not sure what to make of her – true, she is only a 10 year old but I found her quite annoying 10 year old and while she does display a lot of spunk, but she seems to come across as someone completely oblivious of others. I get it 10 years old is very young, but 10 year olds can be as sensitive and kind as any adult, in fact more so. While Alice seems to be just a bratty kid!

Overall I am so very glad I re-read this book! I am still not too fond of Carroll, but that still did not diminish my complete and thorough enjoyment of the book!

A Very Special Date

Raahrarraaahhhh!!! Tara Dum! Tara Dee!!! Roll the drums and bring on the fanfare, for today, ahem! ahem! we celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices!!! (Virtual confetti being showered!!!) Yay!!Its the big 5 blogaversary!

It’s been 5 years since I started this blog after being rather disgusted over a over-hyped thing I saw at the mall on Valentine’s Day. As most know, 5 years down the line, my thoughts have not changed much as was evident from my last post. Oh! Well…everything changes and nothing does. But not really!

Over the last 5 years I have gained so much that I could scarcely believe was possible when I started out that February morning of 2012! I have written more blogs not only for myself but also for many other sites. I have felt myself improve as a writer and in the process become a more evolved individual. I have a read more books and ventured into literary spheres which I would have scarcely ventured into had it not been for all of you opening up the erudite vistas for me. I have read such a variety of non fiction, classics and poetry than I would have thought possible in February 2012, forcing me out of my comfort zone and making me look at the world at large in whole different perspective! I have read Metamorphosis by Ovid and Bewoulf because of Cleo. I have read science fiction because of Stefanie and found innumerable lost authors, thanks to Jane who has a knack for finding these authors. There are sooooo many others who have made me read so many different things! You all have helped me not only read more but also do things that I would have not thought possible from participating in marathons to cooking yumilious carrot ginger soup!! You have made me grow in all possible ways! Most importantly, I have made some awesome friends – friends I have not met, but who have stood by me through thick and thin, through deaths and dumpings and cheered me on when I was promoted or took one an adventurous road trip. Through 1000 miles of geography and cultures that separate us, they came together as a bunch of kindred souls while helping me navigate through the choppy waters of life! Finally my readers, thank you for sticking around and reading my blah-blah. I am sure you do not always like what I write and may often be bored, but thank you for sticking around and reading anyways!

Since I was/am feeling all sentimental anyway, I thought I will complete the trip to the very end and feel nostalgic as well. Therefore I went back and read some of my older posts and thought I will share some of them with you, especially the ones which most seemed to have enjoyed and were also kind of personal blogging milestones –

  1. Satire be my song….List of 10 best satires from all time – February 19th 2012 – One of my very fast posts, about things which I liked the best – books!
  2. Love and Mutiny in the Time of British Raj – July 1 2012 – I begin to get into the groove of book reviews.
  3. The Year Through Posts -December 7th 2014 – Inspired by Jane, this seemed a perfect way to wrap the year!
  4. Defining Style – An Alternative Perspective – February 17 2015 – Where I venture out of bookish blogs and start posting for other sites!
  5. Celebrating Freedom – The Home and The World Read Along – July 19th 2016 – I host my very first Read Along!

It’s been such wonderful 5 years of learning, fun and cherished memories! Thank you for being part of this wandering with me and for enriching my life with your ideas, enthusiasm and thoughts!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End of the Madness

Finally, we are at the end of the Madness, aka,Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. I cannot believe that 24 hours are over already! To say I will miss it is an understatement and I will count days until the April event comes along! This was MAGNIFICENT and so very unique, that I am still in a kind of awe of it! Don’t get me wrong, I have read through the nights many times, but this rush was something out of the world. This sense of so many readers all over the world reading together,different time zones, different genres, but united by books is so out of the world that it takes one’s breathe away!One of the most memorable events of virtual reading/blogging lives.

Now for the closing survey –

1.Which hour was most daunting for you?

Afternoon! Nights I can manage, but Sunday afternoon after a good lunch is always a snooze time

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Depending on the interest of the readers, I would recommend,the following

  • History – The Wonder that was India by AL Basham
  • Literary – The Book of Snobs by WM Thackeray
  • Historical Fiction – The Source by James Michener
  • Chick Lit – Kissing Toads by Jemma Harvey

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?

I think you all are doing an awesome job! Just perfect!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

This is my first readathon, so cannot say much, but your tips on preparing for the readathon really really helped in keeping me going

5.How many books did you read?

2.5 😀

6.What were the names of the books you read?

  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • Land of the Seven Rivers by Sanjeev Sanyal
  • Halfway through – The Book of Snobs by WM Thackeray

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

Toss up between Land of Seven Rivers and the Book of Snobs

8. Which did you enjoy least?

Least is a reletive term, but I felt The Girl on the Train was kind of cliched

9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest chance of participation, I would say 20!! Since I am still kind of new to the game, I would say, I will stick to being a participant reader for now!

Like I said, this is the end my friend! However before I close this post, a big thank you to Cleo and Brona for keeping me going and cheering me on! Finally, to the bestest hostesses in the world at Dewey’s @estellasrevenge and @capriciousreadr for your innovation, energy and passion! You guys seriously rock!!

The Queen of Carlingford

I was talking to Jane from Beyond Eden Rock the other day about the right books at the right time and in some weird Karma twist, it happened to me over the weekend! I had tried to read Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant more than a year ago, but I was not hooked in the first two chapters, and after a brief struggle completely gave up on it. It lay among my other unreads for many months and until last month, I had no desire whatsoever to pick it up again. However, as I had previously mentioned, the Women’s Classic Literature Event is about reading women authors and venturing into those works which I would never normally venture into! (For instance, To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf) Therefore I decided to revisit Miss Marjoriebanks as part of February reading for the event. I had a really awful Friday with more disastrous and disappointments than I can usually handle and desperately need a distraction to regain my Zen self by Monday. Ms. Oliphant was ever gracious in providing that and more!

Miss Marhoribanks, Lucilla, as she was christened by her parents, Dr. Marjoribanks and his wife of Carlingsford at the age of 15 loses her mother to illness and decided that the aim of her her life is to be a comfort to her Papa. However Dr. Marjoribanks has a different opinion on this matter and sends Lucilla back to her school after the necessary period of mourning and keeps her there for 3 years and it is not until she is 19 that she actually returns to Carlingford to do her duty and be a comfort to her papa. Her plans include the reorganization of the Carlingford’s society to show them culture, beauty, brilliance and break down the provincial and parochial mindset and cliches!Considering her youth and her recent return to her home, it would have been a daunting task for any weak minded young lady, however Miss Marjoribanks goes about the whole venture with all the clearheaded ability of a born leader and manager as she orders upholstery for the drawing room that enhances her complexion and goes about organizing an “Evening” instead of party dressed in a white dress – “high”. There are vexations that daunt her enterprise – Tom Marjoribank, her penniless cousin who proposes to her and is sent of to India to better his fortunes by an unimpressed Lucilla; Mr. Cavendish the man about town from whom much is expected including becoming a member of the Parliament and marrying Lucilla to improve his candidature, but who instead is infatuated with the drawing masters pretty but absolutely unpleasant daughter Barbra Lake and the Archdeacon who has a a bone to pick with Mr. Cavendish stemming from a shared past! But Lucilla sees everything through with wit, grace and magnanimity, arranging matters and forcing things to the right conclusion for the betterment of all society even though, there are times that the society does seem ungrateful to her for all her efforts. Trial finally comes Lucilla’s way when her father Dr. Marjoribanks passes away, the circumstances she always took for granted change overnight and though life offers a golden opportunities yet again, she finally is forced to contend what is really true in her heart and make decisions which cannot be avoided anymore!

I read somewhere that this was a Victorian Emma; maybe it was. I also felt is was a dash of Elizabeth Gaskell’s  Cranford and Anthony Trollop’s Barchestshire Chronicles all mixed together. But the book is undeniably and uniquely Carlingford and Ms. Oliphant is absolutely original in her efforts. Provincial towns dictated by Victorian mores must have seem absurd to many authors and writers of that era and this came forth in their works and the styles may overlap with each other. But this novel is soooo much more than just a comedy of manners and a social satire.  Ms. Oliphant brought to life characters that were real and throbbed of life. Lucilla is a brilliant heroine who has all the qualities that make a good heroine and yet enough frailties to make her human and to touch the readers heart. She is an independent strong minded, smart as a whip girl who has no tuck with standard social mores, and brings it down with using the inner workings of those very mores. She has courage and is undaunted in the face of struggle and believes that one can overcome anything if one puts their mind to it. She has fault and fails but is intelligent enough to see those failures, learn from her mistakes and adapt to the change. Even during her most difficult time, she sustains and her own ideas against the opinions of the entire society and finally is generous in her triumphs! You cheer for her, you laugh at her and with her and are completely entertained and invigorated by her antics. The other cast of characters do justice and are a perfect foil to Lucilla – Dr. Marjoribanks with his in-toleration for all kinds of social standards and his ability to laugh at the circumstances, even when de-throned in the domestic domain by his own daughter, the poor luckless but devoted Tom, Mr. Cavendish veering from highs to lows and undecided of what choices he should make. The entire ensemble is brilliant and you are completely hooked till the very end. The plot while lengthy and some may contend very narrow since it focuses purely on the happenings in a small town, in an era when great things where happening in England, never flags and you turn page after page with a host of emotions from chagrin to laughter to anger to amusement to being anxious to relief. Its all there and you cherish each page and emotions its adds on to a rich reading experience . The language is simple and there is no lyricism so to speak off, but there is plenty of wit and reading between the lines that keeps you laughing through the very end! It is a testimony to Ms. Oliphant’s brilliance and ability as an author that she wrote such bright optimistic work during a darkest period of her life – she had lost her 10 year old daughter, widowed and struggling to bring up her other children.

Needless to say I LOVED this book! Ms. Marjoribanks has reinforced my belief that anything can be conquered with courage and ability and as I face another daunting Monday, with all the energy that had seemed lost on Friday, I have to say this novel has become one my favorites and I can see it joining my go-to books shelves!

Once Upon A Time, let Ms. Gakell lead you on further….

On this night after Halloween, it makes sense that I close my RIP IX readings with Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Gothic Tales” (Yeah!! I know I am day late, but with everyone going crazy with the “Halloween rage” thingy, it’s good that I did not pile on to already overcrowded bandwagon of Halloween celebrations). I state close, though I did mention in my RIP post that I would be reading 4, besides the read along is because my 4th book is completely untenable, unpalatable, un-everything!! If I thought “Rebecca” was OTT and “The Sign of Four” had a weird appraisal of women, then “Angelica” wins hands down on all that  is unbelievable dumb, stupid and all kinds of unpleasant adjective. I could not go on beyond the 100 pages – there is not one bit of scare and I completely hated Angelica and the entire family. I am not sure if the book gets better later but I am no longer making an effort to find out. I am so thoroughly disappointed – I was really looking forward to Arthur Phillips’s work and it was such a letdown!

Anyway, this post is about “Gothic Tales” and not “Angelica” which does not deserve even one sentence and I have already wasted 3! “Gothic Tales” is an anthology of all works mystery, gothic and horror genre written by Elizabeth Gaskell between 1851 and 1861, published mostly in Household Words and the Christmas special edition of All Year Round. Elizabeth Gaskell with her complete flexibility and virtuosity of the art weaves tales which are old legends like “Disappearances” as well as a ghastly ghostly tale of a secret marriage and a mysterious child that roams the freezing Northumberland in “The Old Nurse’s Tale.” There is an absolutely terrifying doppelgänger and threatens the future of the one person the witch who gave the curse loves in “The Poor Clare”. “Lois the Witch” is a sympathetic take on the young women accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witch hunt in 16th Century. Another sympathetic and heartbreaking novella is the “Crooked Branch”, a tragic tale of love gone awry. “The Doom of the Griffiths” is also a sympathetic narrative of loneliness, filial love and loyalty. Then there is “Curious if True” a fun and extremely weird narrative that includes all famous fairy tale characters including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast etc. The other novellas include “The Squire’s tale” and “The Grey Woman”, stories about ruthless highway men and chases across countries.

The book is a brilliant collection of all kinds of weird tales, some downright scary and others plain bizarre and yet others which points to utter foolishness of men and women in believing in stupid superstitious nonsense. Each tale is distinctive and is located in a different time and different geographies. We move between England, United States, Netherlands, Germany and travel between 17th to 19th centuries. These are not short stories but novellas and reading one does take time, simply because of the lovely details Ms. Gaskell has put in. Like a storyteller from old (I realize that she is from the old!!) she sits around the fire and tells you the story in a “once upon a time” style. There is no rushing, no get to the point in her tale, no breathtaking actions; but a slow meandering walk in which you follow her lead and suddenly you are in the middle of thick events. If you want fast paced adventure, she is not for you, but like a wine, if you savor this book slow, well get ready to sleep with the lights turned on!! This collection more than ever convinces me of the extreme brilliance of Ms. Gaskell – she is completely in her element writing a North and South and can turn her eye equally masterfully to satire; Cranford being the prime example. And now Gothic Tales is a testimony to the fact that an author need not really have a declared “genre” as long as he or she had a great tale to tell and knows how to create the atmosphere and evoke the reader’s imagination with use of words.

Considering that this year, my RIP reads have been borderline, disasters, I am eternally grateful to the last Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell and Ms. Shirley Jackson, from rescuing it from complete and utter annihilation!

P.S. Yes …you know what I will say – I would again urge all too please help us in supporting the project that I am currently leading. This help from you will ensure preservation and continuation of a now practically extinct culture – there are many ways to support this cause –

  1. We need financial patronage – We need your monetary help to complete this project. Every contribution is of great value and you have our heartfelt appreciation for any amount that you put forth. You can pay via a credit/debit card, directly at Indiegogo’s Website (The project is called Identity on a Palate)
  2. Help us Spread the Word – Please share this campaign on your social network so that more people can become aware of this project. The more people see this, more the chances of us reaching our goal. Please so send me the link or a mail for the same, as we would love to see this live!

Please do help and Thank You again!

The Cliff and Morality…

I just finished my first of the two Margaret Kennedy for the Margret Kennedy Week that Jane is hosting. I read “The Feast”, published in 1950, has  had been in my TBR for a VERY LONG TIME! And now that I have read it, I cannot help but kick myself and think – why the hell did I wait so long to read this novel????!!!! It has completely blown me away!

The story begins with Father Bott putting off his age-old ritual of playing chess when his dear friend Reverend Seddon visited him. Father Bott explains that he has to prepare for an unexpected Funeral for 7 people, who died when the edge of the cliff collapsed over Pendizack Hotel. The narrative then reverses back to the last 7 days preceding this event. Pendzac kHotel is run by the Siddals – rather Mrs. Siddal who is a lady and forced to convert her husband’s property into a hotel to educate her sons because her husband, though perfectly intelligent, with all functional limbs is incapable of earning or maintaining his family’s livelihood. It becomes clear right at the very start, that Mrs. Siddal though proclaiming that the conversion of the house to the hotel is an effort to improve the lives of all her three sons, it is actually to put her youngest and favorite son Duff through to Oxford that is her primary concern. In fact she is so determined and engrossed in making this happen, that she is ready to sacrifice the lives of her other sons including her eldest son’s marriage to make this happen. Gerry is the eldest of Siddon sons and a doctor by profession – responsible, sincere and self-effacing; he bears his mother’s inattention to him with equanimity. He tries to help out in the running of the hotel as and when possible and accepts that his income is critical to make his mother’s ambition a success, regardless of his own wishes and aspirations. The hotel is run with the help of Nancibel and Ms. Ellis. Nancibel is a lovely, generous local girl who worked in ATS during the war and was on the brink of getting married when her fiancée cried it off. Now she lives with her parents at the cottage and works full time at the hotel. Ms. Ellis is an impoverished gentlewoman who feels the loss of her status bitterly; she believes herself superior to performing such menial tasks as changing beds sheets and often shy’s away from all work and spends her time in malicious gossip. The guests occupying the hotel at the time of this event include Canon Wraxton and his daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Paley, Lord and Lady Gifford and the Cove family. They are soon joined by Anna Lechren and her secretary cum chauffer Bruce. Cannon Wraxton is a loud, unhappy quarrelsome man who argues and contests everything and constantly bullies his daughter. Evangeline Wraxton is his young daughter who abides by her quarrelsome father, because of a deathbed wish made to her mother, that she would always take care of Cannon Wraxton; however this has unexpected results as Evangeline slowly succumbs to neurosis caused by her father’s temperament and bullish behavior! Mr and Mrs Paley, an unhappily married couple who no longer find any joy or companionship in each other’s company especially since the tragic death of their daughter. Sir Henry Giffordis an aristocratic upright kind gentleman, who takes interest in his work and understands his obligation to the country as a statesman, though he is no longer happy in his marriage. Lady Gifford is a lazy hypochondriac woman who lives beyond her means and flouts all laws, believing that nothing can touch her because of her place. They have three children, of whom three have been adopted. The Coves family consists of a mother and three daughters who seem to live on the strictest economy as funds for them seem scarce. Finally this motley crew is joined by Anna Lechene, a famous novelist and her secretary cum driver cum aspiring writer Bruce. Over a period of 7 days, this group interact with each other, through incidents and daily lives routines, that propel the story forward with wonderful re-grouping of old loyalties and changing of dynamics – there are two romances, several friendships, self-realization and freeing oneself form his/her “prison soul”! On the 7th day, the poor Cove children who always dreamt of holding a feast, are finally able to organize one, with help of others. There are invitation cards sent out, fancy dresses selected and a whole range of food and wines! Everybody who attends gets into the swing of this grand party and then…the cliff collapses!

kennedy-badgeThis is a social drama, a morality tale, a romance and so much more! Ms. Kennedy draws complex characters that have their whimsical follies and non-sense as well as a realization of self-worth through daily everyday occurrences and no miraculous fictional turn of events. They are all rich, powerful and intriguing characters that draw you to the tale and keep you glued on. It’s the characters more than the events that actually propel the story forward. More than anything else, Ms. Kennedy understood both the most noble and the very base instinct of the human heart and her characters brought them forth with force and unerring honesty! Simple percepts on human behaviors’, like the less you have the more you give and the more you have the more you covet, is brought out beautifully through the story, without once steering to a high moral tome or sounding even remotely pedagogic. The book was written in the back drop post World War II when England was recovering from the aftermath of the War and the left inclining Labor Party was in power; this change in political – social order is beautifully portrayed through the everyday lives and decisions made by the characters. And then there is the language of the novel, such beautiful metaphors – such lovely phrases, Ms. Kennedy sure knew what would touch the reader’s hearts – “Their shoulders hold the sky suspended. They stand and earth’s foundations stay!” or “We are members of one another. An arm has no integrity if it is amputated. It is nothing unless it is part of a body, with a heart to pump blood through it and a brain to guide it.” And my favorite “Do you pay enough? Does anybody pay enough? Has any man repaid a millionth part all that he has received? Where would you be without us? Did you ever read Helen Keller? Blind, Deaf, Dumb…a soul in a prison, an intellect frozen by solitude….unable to reach us! All alone!

This one of the best books I have ever read and going by this and my previous experience of Ms. Kennedy’s work, she is soon joining my personal high gods of best-loved authors! Viva Ms. Kennedy, you were truly marvelous!!

P.S. I am now about to start The Wild Swan!Yay!

And the list keeps growing……

romance 2I know I have not written in a while and I have a perfect excuse for that! I was too busy reading – gosh! I have been reading and reading and reading and I know you are thinking what the hell is new about that, but it’s just that I have never tried reading 7 books in one go and some of the plot lines are now overlapping each other and sometimes need revisiting! Remember I have a full-time job in a financial institution where they thrive by drinking my blood (and some more poor souls like me) with a straw and a pink cocktail umbrella (No! I do not exaggerate! Try working in a hardcore financial corporate sector with a double personality of a writer inside you!) On top of that there has been some severe personal crisis, including several verbose conversations with Mr Soulmate that left us both of ranting mad at each other! (Don’t hold your breath…we are at peace now! At least I think I am at peace can’t say about him. I have discovered we hold very different ideas of what constitute war or peace and what should or should not be a matter of war or peace!)

 
After all the moaning about my misfortunes, let me get down to the part I can be really effusive about – what all books am I reading?
1. Great Expectation by Charles Dickens. This is part of The Classic Club May Spin series. In fact I just finished reading about it today and was in too minds about whether to write about the books or generally continue with my random nonsense! As you can see, random nonsense won! However my next blog will be completely dedicated to discussing this work, so come armed!
2. Game of Throne  by George R.R. Martin – Sigh! I know! I know! HBO premiered the series 2 years back and I must have lived in dark ages; but really I seem to catch up on fads very late. I got hooked on to Harry Porter nearly 4 years after the first book was published. There is something that recoils in me from reading up anything that is cried up by a large section of the population. However I did develop an obsession for Harry Porter and now seem to be well on my way on developing similar craziness for Game of Throne
3. Citadel by Kate Mosse – I picked it up on a whim. I really liked her Labyrinth; it was fresh and original and I loved the Cather history to which I was introduced to! I hated her Sepulcher; I never understood what it stood for and what it tried to say and was quite sick of Leonie. So the third book seemed to be a decider and I decided that though Citadel is definitely better than Sepulcher, it is fails in comparison to Labyrinth. I picked it up because it was about women and World War II and France…looks like a great ingredients for a great book! But it was not a complete read – I did not warm to Sandrine Vidal and I did not and could not feel the chemistry between her and Raul and then there is all this running around for the Codex and Ghosts and what not and all of it quite unnecessary. It could have been a simple and brilliant tale of women in the French Résistance but instead it became a muddle of Ancient Rome, Ghosts and stereotypical Nazis!
4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – I love Elizabeth Gaskell and think of her as one the most gifted authors of Victorian era.  I have just reached the part where Margaret and her family are moving to Darkshire leaving behind their beloved Helstone. The book has immense promise and I hope to finish it before soon. Hopefully, I will be able to dedicate another exclusive blog to Ms. Gaskell
5. The Other Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Ever since revisiting The Great Gatsby, I have developed a I won’t say a passion, but a certain soft corner for Fitzgerald. This was his first novel and as I wade through it, I discover the sparks of satire and prose that would mark his later works. I would do a separate review of this as well!
6. The Crisis in European Minds by Paul Hazard – I was introduced to this by Stephanie and will again be in her debt for making me read something marvelously original, intuitive and brilliant! If you have taste for history/sociology, then this book is an absolute must!
7. The Seven Wonders by Steven Saylor – This is an easy read picked primarily for light reading before I crash. It’s set in 92 B.C.  and Gordianus has turned 18 and is undertaking an educational journey to the seven wonders of the ancient world and is accompanied by his tutor who is none other than Antipater of Sidon. As student and teacher travel across the ancient world, there is a murder, some witches and a lot of sleuthing. Told you, it’s light reading

That’s my reading list for the week! I must admit the books staved off some of the more frustrating moments at work and held me back when I was an inch away from throwing the fattest volume at Mr Soulmate – after all I had yet to read it and did not want to damage the volume. And yes! It’s a joke and no, neither of us indulges in violence; unless you call God of War (Yes! The bloody game that he is so bloody fond off! )  violence, which I do, but then that’s another story!

Liking Jane…..

This blog is in response to the March Meme of The Classics Club. The subject is Jane Austen…now how can I ever pass out on opportunity to wax eloquently on my all-time favorite author – the very witty, the very talented and an acute observer of all the fallacies of human nature.

While Jane Austen has always been at the very top of my ladder of veneration that I reserve for my most beloved writers, it is very surprising that I never wrote about her before. But then what can I say for Ms. Austen that has not been said before – what can I say that is original and not hackneyed or trite?  However let me attempt to spell out why I resort to Jane Austen, when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am confused, when I need distraction or simply when I need to attain a Zen state of mind!

By now, the very first question of The Classic Club for this subject should be answered by now – I do not love Jane Austen; I am obsessed with her!!!!!

Now to broach why I love Jane Austen – I love reading her because she is one of the original fountain of all wisdom pertaining to relationships, especially those between a man and a woman. All those of who had been nourished on a healthy and completely untrue diet of Prince Charming carry poor little Cinders away, despite strong objections against her background got of first taste of reality through Austen’s work. Whether it is Mrs. Bennett or her relations, there can be no denying that improper behavior by the family of the protagonist will always be a hindrance in the path of true love and will always make a lover hesitate in declaring his intentions. How many times in your adult life have you heard your boyfriend say that your mother/aunt/sister is too loud and an embarrassment in public which led to an eventual showdown between the two of you, regardless of the validity of criticism? I feel this keenly and therefore try as much as possible to shield my guy from my extended family.  She was one of the first writers to put forth that while filial respect is always important and should always be of greatest import, one cannot turn away from the obvious shortcoming of the parents, which at times may lead to disastrous effect on the child. Example of the same is Mrs. Dashwood who does not try and control the imprudence of Marianne in her relations to Willoughby leading to heartbreak for one and exposing another to the censure of the world. Sir Elliot’s vanity and pride deprives his daughter Ann Elliot from happiness for seven long years. These were revolutionary concepts, especially when we look at the era that Ms. Austen was writing from.

Many claim Jane Austen had written a 18th century Mills & Boone through Pride and Prejudice. But this  in itself is a very simplistic understanding of the novel – this was one of the first books where the heroine asserts not only her own self-respect but also forces the male protagonist to respect her family through sheer force of character. Ms. Eliza Bennett is not a milk and honey  miss, like her other fictional compatriots, who faint at anything remotely stressful; nor does she give away to hysteria when ill befalls her family – instead she faces them as a strong individual, sharing burdens with her sister and keeping her own repining in check and rarelyhas moments of self-indulgence. She does not go around being pedagogic to her suitor, but speaks to him on equal terms, in mixture of humor, angst or anger as dictated by natural human tendency.  Pride and Prejudice was also one of the first writings to throw an egalitarian twist – while Mr Darcy had 10000 a year and Pemberly, he is dismissed as a gentleman by Elizabeth, who claims equality as a gentleman’s daughter and is completely unapologetic about the comparative material inequities between the two.

Ms. Austen was one of the first writers to create a flawed heroine, whether it was Elizabeth Bennett’s initial liking for Mr Wickham or Emma Woodhouse’s meddling and sometimes rude conduct towards her friends and neighbors. She makes her heroine fall to only make them rise, realize their mistake and become better human beings, woman, wife, daughter etc.

Finally many critics have condemned Jane Austen as parochial and not addressing some of the pressing concerns of her time, like the Napoleonic Wars. She does refer to the Napoleanic Wars when there is a need – Persuasion is filled with allusion to peace after the war; but mostly she wrote about the country – the kind of place she grew up and spent most of her adult life. She wrote about things that she understood and had complete command over than attempt something for which she was dependent on second-hand sources and which may have a false bearing on the tale. After all, since Ms. Austen’s celebrated examples of writing about spheres understood by the author, more than 200 years later, the apparently modern and up-to-date social networks, work on her principle of writing locally!

Jane Austen is not out dated, she is not boring and she is not parochial – she is in fact very cool, with writings that can be handed down from one generation to another, because it addresses the really never-changing mores of human interactions!

To address the last part of The Classic Club Challenge – my favorites in order of 1 to 6 are (with 1 being the best!)

  1. Pride and Prejudice (No Surprise there!)
  2. Emma
  3. Sense and Sensibility and Persuasions (I know…I cannot decide between the two!)
  4. Northanger Abbey
  5. Lady Susan
  6. Mansfield Park (Only Austen that I consider tedious and didactic!)

Do let me know what you think about Ms. Austen as well!