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Posts tagged ‘Gaskell’

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!

A laughing tiny brook from 1830s

It was nearly closing time at the Library and as usual I was bewildered on what to pick and what not to. The Librarians were politely, but firmly telling the patrons that they need to make their choice in the next 10 odd minutes and I was still unsure about the last book I wanted to borrow in my allowed membership quota of 5 books for 3 weeks. With very little time to spare, I randomly picked up a book lying on top of a pile of the latest returns. It was only while I was getting the issuing formalities completed, I realised that I had picked up Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford.  I was not very happy, but by then it was too late to change the selection. So I was stuck! I had read Gaskell’s North and South and I was really not in the mood for another Bleak House meets Industrial Revolution.

There is an old old adage – Never judge a book by its cover. In case of Cranford, I realised this was applicable literally.

Before I discuss the book, let me give you a short overview of its author. Elizabeth Gaskell was born in 1810 to a Unitarian Minister turned Keeper of Treasury Records and was brought up by her aunt, at Knutsford, after her mother’s death, barely 13 months after her birth.  She had an elder brother who joined the East India Company fleet but went missing during an expedition in 1827. In 1832, she married William Gaskell and settled in Manchester, where her husband was a Minister at the Cross Street Unitarian Chapel. She had four surviving children – Marianne, Margaret Emily, Elizabeth Florence and Julia.  She began her literary career initially by co-authoring a book of poems with her husband which was published in 1837. In 1848, she published her first novel Mary Barton. Following the publication of this novel, Mrs Gaskell and her family moved to Plymouth, where she would write her remaining works, while her husband managed many welfare committees. Their house soon became a centre for gathering of intellectuals, religious dissenters, and political reformers and their friends included, William and Mary Howitt, Charles Dickens and John Ruskin. She became a contributor to Charles Dickens’ Household Words. Her most famous works includes, North and South, Wives and Daughters and Cranford. She dies of a sudden heart attack in 1865.

Mrs Gaskell wrote from her real life experiences and was influenced by what she saw and observed around her. North and South is a testimony of her life and observations in the industrialized Manchester. Written from a perspective of a young woman Margaret Hale, who settles in a fictionalized industrial town of Milton, where she witnesses the harsh and unhealthy conditions of the factory workers and is forced into confrontation with John Thornton, a cotton mill owner. The story is a vivid and sometimes depressing, but true portrayal of poverty and oppression of the mill workers. It does not make for a light reading and in the light of such memories, it was but natural that I was not looking forward to Cranford.

Cover of "Cranford (Nonsuch Classics)"

Cover of Cranford (Nonsuch Classics)

But this is where I really underestimated the flexibility and the capacity of creative ingenuity that Elizabeth Gaskell possessed. Based on her years in Knutsford, Cranford is slow, leisurely walk down the Victorian society and her social mores, bringing out the generosity of people who has very little to give and documenting the irony and humor of everyday lives.  The book is really a series of events and happenings centered on Cranford and Ms Matty Jenkyns and other characters of Cranford including Miss Pole, the first lady of Cranford Mrs Jaimeson, Thomas Holbrook, Captain Brown and Lady Glenmire. The small town of Cranford is ruled by the ladies and everyday revolves on appearances of gentility (which is really a covert attempt to mask Poverty, because to discuss poverty is so vulgar!), card games, tea and friendship. It revolves around incidents like the collapse of a bank, a titled lady who stoops to marry a common surgeon,  and cows in flannel pajamas (I told you this book is funny!) and finally the return of someone from the past.

The book is dipped in humor and filled with laugh out loud scenes. It has a gentle narrative structure (do not read it if you want something that is fast paced and packed with action!) that puts you as reader at peace with the world, making you wish that the book never comes to an end. Written in clear, crisp style, without superfluous language or plot, the book is an easy read that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. Read it on Saturday, when you are lazy and contended and the day stretches in front of you – it’s a worthy treat. To end, I am shamelessly borrowing my flatmate’s review of the book, which she updated on her FB status after reading the book (after I had gone on and on about it for like 114th time!) – Just finished reading ‘Cranford’ by dear Gaskell. It was such a pleasure reading her soft, restive prose overflowing with that typical, delightful all-pervading humour…like a laughing, tiny brook…

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