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Posts tagged ‘Charles Dickens’

The Longest Read Along – EVER!

This post is LATE! Like beyond late, it is like late to the power of infinity! However, like I say better late than never and all that! So here goes –

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More than 2 years ago, O, who always sets the bar for heavy weight as well as innovative readings, came up with the idea of doing a 21 Month Read Along of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, in the chronology it was published. She shared that a friend of hers had advised her to read in that style to grasp the flavor of the original narrative. It was an interesting idea and I was very willing to give this novel a try, since my first reading, in my teens, did not make a significant impression. Besides, I wanted to see if I can control a book binge if hooked. Thus I in the company of many others, set along the path of what could be possibly one of the longest Read Alongs ever!!

The Pickwick Papers, chronicles, the adventure of Mr. Samuel Pickwick, a mature gentleman of independent means and head of the Pickwick Club and his chums; Mr.Tracy Tupman, a contemporary of Mr. Pickwick in age, but lacking the former’s sagacity and quite capable of falling in love, at the drop of a hat. Mr. Nathaniel Winkle and Mr. Augustus Snodgrass form the remaining partners in adventure; they are younger with unique talents – Mr. Winkle is a Sportsman and Mr. Snodgrass, a poet! They set out from London to explore unique and authentic phenomena across England and report them for the club. Thus begins a journey of a thousand miles; on the way, Mr. Pickwick picks up  young Sam Weller as his valet who sticks by his Master’s schemes through thick and thin. They meet the wonderful families and good for nothing confidence men. There is imprisonment on false charges and there are elopements, but nothing dims the optimistic and honorable spirit of Mr. Pickwick and his trusty aid, Sam Weller as they over come obstacles and challenges to find the most reasonable solution for all their dilemmas!

One of his first creations, one can see the brilliance of Charles Dickens coming through in the novel, though he was only 23 when writing it. There is wonderful characterization and gentle satire and sense of fun through all the 800 pages. There is confusion, adventure and rambunctious fun! Yet, despite all this humor, there is a harsh commentary on the 18th century English society. All the laughs he wrote out in the book, cannot take away, the harsh reality of the Debtor’s prison or the horrific conditions of people living without means. The corruption of officials and politicians are clearly called out with a scathing condemnation for a society unable to take care of it’s poorer population. Dicken’s sense of justice is passionate and we see glimpses of things to come in this novel. Some of the characters are really well drawn out, like Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller and his father, and Mr. Jingle, who talks in hyphens, but others do not emerge all that clearly!  There are times, when you can make out that this was being written in installments, like, how the initial chapters have a story within a story for Mr. Pickwick to capture for the club and then there are no such episodes in the latter half. Similarly, technically, Mr. Pickwick’s chums began as the focal points after Mr. Pickwick himself, but somewhere the brilliance and sheer street smartness of Sam Weller took over and he become the second most important character of the book. Not that I am complaining, all one needs is one Sam Weller in the world, and one can fight through everything! But it does show, a bit of sketchy character development, with Sam coming through clearly and all there friends being clubbed together as muddle heads.

Like I mentioned, the first time I read the book, back in my teens, I did not get it! But sometimes the right book comes at the right time and that was the case, this time round, through it was over a period of 2 years. I could immerse myself in the book after a bad day at work or some other mental irritation and emerge happy and smiling. There were times, when after I broke off reading for one spell, it was difficult to connect the dots and remember all the characters, but these anomalies, resolved as I progressed and did not really impact my absolute and utter sense of joy when reading this novel.

All in all, I am super super glad to have given this book another try! A big shout out to O for coming up with the idea and for Cleo who always kept me on track with her regular posts!

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

The Pickwick Papers Read-Along

Many moons ago, some of the greatest Victorian authors, like the worthy Mr. Charles Dickens, Mr. Wilkie Collins, Mrs. Margaret Oliphant and Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell, wrote some of their best works not in a single bound novel, but as serialized installments in various magazines. Imagine reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell in piecemeal fashion; I am not sure I would have the patience, but her original readers in 1854-55 did. They waited patiently and like Cleo mentions, probably allowed themselves to think over what they have already read, adding another layer to their reading- of course, the thinking could have added a good or a bad flavor, depending on perspective, but it added a flavor nevertheless. It is very unique form of reading, practically unknown in this day of instant gratification unless you look at the Game of Thrones variety as serialized storytelling and really, that seems to be stretching the concept very far!!

I have always been intrigued by this form of literary exploration and when O at Behold the Stars came up with the idea of reading The Pickwick Paper by Charles Dickens as it was originally published in a serial form, to celebrate 180 years of it publication anniversary, I was sold! I read the novel long back and did not enjoy it much, but as O’s friend suggested, it was meant to be read in a piecemeal fashion, to fully enjoy it. Made perfect sense to give it a try this way!

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This is probably one of the longest read along ever, its definitely the longest read along I have ever participated in, with a schedule starting from March 2016 and ending in November 2017 and goes like this-

I – March 2016 (chapters 1–2)
II – April 2016 (chapters 3–5)
III – May 2016 (chapters 6–8)
IV – June 2016 (chapters 9-11)
V – July 2016 (chapters 12–14)
VI – August 2016 (chapters 15–17)
VII – September 2016 (chapters 18–20)
VIII – October 2016 (chapters 21–23)
IX – November 2016 (chapters 24–26)
– December 2016 (chapters 27–29)
XI – January 2017 (chapters 30–32)
XII – February 2017 (chapters 33–34)
XIII – March 2017 (chapters 35–37)
XIV – April 2017 (chapters 38–40)
XV – June 2017 (chapters 41–43)
XVI – July 2017 (chapters 44–46)
XVII – August 2017 (chapters 47-49)
XVIII – September 2017 (chapters 50–52)
XIX – October 2017 (chapters 53–55)
XX – November 2017 (chapters 56–57)

I am super exited to participate in this event and will blog over the chapters read every month. A big shout out to O for starting the idea and then getting it organized!

Stay Tuned!

 

 

Time To Go Spinning Again….

I missed the last couple of Classic Club Spins due to ill-health, over work, blah, blah blah! But like I mentioned in one of previous blogs, I back anew. Therefore it’s only natural that I undertake to be part of the Classic Club Spin again, even if I get to read books I never like (Remember Madame Bovary!!!) But then to counterbalance the whole thing, I did absolutely fall in love again with Dickens and re-read the entire Dickens collection! Anyway, as part of starting anew, I present my list! What’s if any is different this time you ask? Well starting anew is also charting untested waters, so all the books I have listed, I have never read before and I am slightly dubious about. But fortune favors the brave, therefore without any further ado, I plunge in –

  1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  4. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  5. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  7. Wives and Daughter by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  9. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
  10. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  11. The Wings of Dove by Henry James
  12. Washington Square by Henry James
  13. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  14. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  15. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  16. The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield by Katherine Mansfield
  17. The Good Solider by Ford Maddox Ford
  18. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
  19. Dubliners by James Joyce
  20. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope

There is THE list – books I have never read and some I never really want to (Kate Chopin and Ms Woolf top that list!) but onwards new journey!

Now waiting for Monday May 12th!

And December Will Come Spinning ….!

No! No! I cannot and I mean I CANNOT take on more projects! The Classic Club Spin#4 is way too much for a plate that already has so much and spilling over. Besides the Classic Club spin batting rate in favor of the books I selected is only 33%. I did not like re-reading Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert, but became a re-convert to Charles Dickens after revisiting Great Expectations; but again lost my way with George Elliot’s Middlemarch! There are enough reasons to shy away from this event and I will! I have will power! I do!

Oh! Heck! No I do not have will power! The devil in my mind points out that I have to read this through November and December and that by December my plate will be practically empty. Besides I have two weeks of vacation coming up, so what the hell? Go for it says the devil and I willingly jump into the deep blue sea.

Here goeth the list –

  1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  3. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  4. Wives and Daughter by Elizabeth Gaskell
  5. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  6. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  7. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  8. Emma by Jane Austen
  9. King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard
  10. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  11. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  12. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  13. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
  14. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
  15. The Moonstone by Willie Collins
  16. The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells
  17. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
  18. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
  19. The Grand Babylon by Arnold Bennett
  20. Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne

The list is primarily more or less the same, however because it’s December and Christmas and I have had an officially a lousy 2013, I have decided to make myself a little present via the list. I have included books I want to read and have never read as well as books I read long ago and wanted to revisit but never did; but taken off all the books that I dread reading or did not like reading it the first time round – yes! I know! Like before I may lose out an opportunity to rediscover and love an author /book because of my prejudices, but there is always 2014 to set forth for new brave adventures. In the meanwhile, the holidays are coming and I will indulge myself just this time round!

And for the August path….

So I did the disappearing act again but I was travelling on business for 4 whole weeks and the project implementation kind of sucked all life force out of me, leaving me with no time for anything I hold remotely close to my heart – eating, travelling, writing; the only indulgence I had been reading and that too with limited timeframes. I keep promising myself that I will not let the Project Manager me take over the writer me and time and again I fail. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do and there is after all a mountain of bills to be paid! Nevertheless, not to be deterred by temporary setbacks, we march on boldly and I present to you my August reading list (Yes! I know, I never got back to all of you with my July plan, but there is still time and I will get back!)

Reading classics1. Bleak House by Charles Dickens – Great Expectations had me hooked! Since I SO LOVED the book as an adult, I decided to be brave and venture forth with what many scholars have termed as the most ambitious of Charles Dickens’s work. At 800+ pages, it’s definitely voluminous even by Mr. Dickens’s standards; but so far I am loving Esther, Ada, Robert, Caddy and Mr. Jardynce ; I am overawed with the sarcasm and the sensitive detailing without indulging into crass sentimentalism on the state of poverty and hope that the ending will hold as good!
2. The Blood Letter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty – Based on the true historical account of Don Julius, the illegitimate son of Rudolph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, circa. 1600 and his mental illness, the book captures his dynamics with Marketa, the daughter of the local blood letter/barber, whose help is secured to treat the Prince. Rich in details, shedding light on one of the lesser discussed aspect of European history, I am completely hooked on to this book; will definitely post a review when done
3. Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr – I picked this up on a whim since it had some very strong parallels to Wild Swans – Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang and since I loved it, I am hoping Daughters would be interesting too! (Yes! I know it’s unfair to have such expectations from two completely different genres of authors, but I am only taking of the subject!) I have not read the book as yet but the synopsis on Kindle which promoted me to buy the book states that it’s a family saga of three generations of Christian Palestinian women from 19th century to modern-day. I love everything Middle Eastern and here’s a historical fiction about woman in the Middle East; I mean how could I let this one go??

4. Embers by Sandor Marai – I have heard a lot of great reviews about Sandor Marai though have never read him. On recommendation of my sister, I picked this one up and so far, it’s very unusual and keeps you gripped. In a secluded Castle in Bavaria, a General prepares to entertain an old comrade, and the meeting will lead to some secrets being unfolded of betrayal and friendship and the memory of the long dead wife of the General.
5. The Great Transformation: The Beginning of our Religious Tolerance by Kate Armstrong – Kate Armstrong is one my favorite writers and I loved her History of God and Holy Wars. I had picked this one up some time ago, but just did not find any time to complete the same. The author reviews how some of the most popular religions of the world, Hinduism, Daoism, Monotheism all evolved from violent times in an effort to create order among increased chaos. Hope to post a review soon.

That’s my list for this month! Considering half the month is past; but I am still looking forward to all these readings and I promise to come back with details

Exceeding Expectations

I know this is kind of late, but I guess better late than never! Though Oscar Wilde felt very differently about that quote! But as usual I digress; this is not a post about Oscar Wilde but about Charles Dickens’s Great Expectation.

Now I know in bits and parts I have moaned about the fact that I did not like this book at all during my middle school and I still do not understand the point of making 13 year olds read Dickens or Bronte or Eilliot! I mean these authors did not write young adult books, they wrote absolutely adult books – you know by adults, of adults and for adults! But why do schools insist on putting young students through such torture is beyond me – I mean I am sure a lot of my contemporaries have developed an absolute horror for literature because of such childhood inflictions. The schools should stick to Ann of Green Gables and at their most ambitious, Little Women. Not more than that! They should seriously consider how many readers they are turning away by forcing them to read “great literature” when the audience concerned can barely spell literature! I mean the estates/publishers of Brontes and Dickens should seriously consider suing the school boards. But again I digress.

great-expectations-by-charles-dickensSo thanks to the July Spin of Classics Club, I was forced to confront my nemesis – I have never been fond of Dickens and the childhood experience kind of left me wary. Add to that my last trial with the Classic Club Spin – I came away disliking Madame Bovary as much as before and was glad when I was done with it. So it was with some perdition that I picked up Great Expectations. But am I glad I did! I l loved the book! Absolutely loved it! Just goes to show that one cannot always go by experience and stereotypes
I am sure most people know the story of Great Expectations – Orphaned Pip is growing up with his harridan of a sister and kind brother in law, until a fruitful encounter with an escaped convict whom he manages to assist, though the former is caught and sent away. The next adventure that comes back in Pip’s life is to “come and play” at Miss Havisham’s house, the most wealthy denizen of the town. There he meets and falls in love with Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter. As he falls deeper and deeper in love with Estella, he is horrified to know that he cannot be “gentleman” capable of courting Estella and his life was to be confined to the iron forges of his brother in law’s trade. An unexpected turn of event changes his life as he is made aware that an anonymous benefactor whose identity is not be disclosed and who has endorsed Mr Jaggers, the lawyer to act as a guardian to Pip and enable him to receive a gentleman’s education and live in that style. Pip is then moved from Kent and his adventures in London and his coming of age is the main plot line of the book.

Now what I really love about the book is the details – whether it is the description of the Christmas Lunch or the description of the now devastated venue of Miss Havisham‘s wedding or John Wemmick’s “Castle”. I am also extremely enamored of the characters – one cannot help but love the kind hearted Joe or the sensible Biddy, one wants a friend like Herbert and despite the entire idiosyncrasy, there is certain pathos about Miss Havisham which really moved me. I am still unsure about Estella, but I did dislike her as much as I had when I originally read the book. Most importantly what I loved about the book was the “humane” depiction on Pip and his actions. When Joe first comes to visit Pip, Pip’s behavior leaves one much ashamed and yet I am sure that many and that too many honest people would act in a similar fashion in that kind of time and place. But again the true portrayal of the vast range of emotions that a human is capable when the same Pip goes to John Wemmick and requests that he assist him in setting up Herbert without letting him know that Pip is his benefactor and he has not really “earned” the partnership. And finally the end wins your heart for ever – you realize Pip is just like you capable of great things and though the end does not come with a perfect ending, I cannot help but think that in the imperfection of the ending lies the most perfect piece of the tale. Otherwise there were one too many neat packages in the book!

Like I said, I loved it and I would strongly recommend reading it. In fact the book has made me brave enough to attempt Bleak House and David Copperfield again!

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