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Posts tagged ‘Edwardian England’

About Chevron

As everyone is aware, I am very very susceptible to temptation, especially of the bookish variety! I read a good review, and then I want to read that book as soon as possible. Fortunately for me, in all my bookish adventures, I have had excellent guides and I have in last 5 years (i.e. number of years I have had the blog) read many books which I would have never touched with a 6 ft barge, had it not been for these guides turned friends! Jane is one of those guides and with her I discovered some brilliant authors including Margaret Kennedy and Margery Sharp. It was therefore only natural that after reading her excellent review on The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West, I would begin to wonder in earnest about reading this novel, which had been in lying in my TBR forever! This also happened to be one of my Grandmother’s favorite go-to books and she always said, that I would enjoy it once I get started. However, work these days is a serious impediment to my reading life and it was not until this weekend, I was actually able to make any headway into this work!

The novel opens at Chevron, the seat of Duke of Chevron, 19 year old Sebastian and there is a house party, his mother, the Duchess is hosting. It is 1905 and the Duchess, Lucy and her set, considered “fast” by many of the older members of the English society, are infact the cream who interact socially with the King and help him stave off boredom. They are fun loving, gossipy bunch, who are part of the illusive circle by virtue of their birth or their riches, leading a frivolous, hedonistic life with no depth and little understanding of greater matters of mankind! Sebastian is torn between the worlds that he seems to exist in – on one side, as the Squire Sebastian, he loves  Chevron and all its dependent details and taking care of his tenants and the land and its associated work, that makes him truly and genuinely happy. However he is in constant conflict with the “social” Sebastian; he does not like interacting with “Society” though he goes along for the appearance of it. He feels the duplicity and lack of honesty in those relations and thinks himself confined by them. His sister Viola is 16, intelligent and sensitive, sees through all the hypocrasy of the society and scorns the inheritance of “Lady Viola”.  It is at this house party, they meet, Anquetil, an explorer who is the current hero on England, which is the reason why he is invited to the party. Born to poor parents, who made his life through his intelligence and education, he finds the “society” at once amusing and pitiable and despite his rough manners, he is humane enough to understand how things stand in places like this. It is Anquetil who open Sebastian and Viola to another world and shows them how different life can be if they chose to make it, but it is the beginning of coming of age for both Sebastian and Viola as they discover what really means to live!

Now that I have read the book, I keep wondering, why did I not read this sooner! I absolutely loved it! The narrative is an easy and flowing prose, and plot, despite some jumps in the time, moves along well and keeps the reader engaged. I did feel the last chapter was a bit hurried, lying Ms. Sackville West had a lot to say and not enough pages or time to say it, but it does not impact the narrative and takes nothing away from the plot. However it is the characters that the author has sketched that brings this novel to life! In the character of Sebastian and Viola we see the first generations of 20th century who are realizing that the days of feudal landholding and Squiredom are over and life and people ought to be treated with equality.  Both brother and sister come to their realization in their own unique way and though I cannot say I really warmed upto  Sebastian’s methods, and therefore could not like him completely, it did bring an interesting perspective of the many means of reaching self realization. The supporting cast from Therese to the Dowger Duchess to Lady Roehampton provide a very interesting insight into the variety of belief and mores that existed in Edwardian England and how despite social and economic divides, the belief that appearances need to be kept up triumphed above all. I really wanted to read more about Viola, in whom the author had created a wonderful, likable rebel and Anquetil, the true man of the world, instead of brief tantalizing appereance through the life of the narrative!

To end, it is a great read and while it is perhaps not one of the “classics”, it is nevertheless an wonderful sojourn into a world long gone by and a complete entertainment!

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

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