Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Victorian Literature’

10 Reads For That Lazy Sunday Afternoon….

A friend of mine is trying to develop a habit of reading and naturally is finding the process a bit rough to get going with, since she is starting at the ripe age of 35; never having developed the kind of attention span that requires when reading a book! But it is always better late than never and really, there is no age for starting something as enriching as reading! Therefore I was all excited as a missionary who has just secured another difficult convert and of course supportive; and when asked me for insights to help her select some best suited for ability and interest! Her best time for reading is the Sunday afternoon and she asked me to refer to her to a couple of books that will get her hooked, was not very in-depth or philosophical and would keep her interest flowing till the end!  After much trawling of the Internet for a good reading list, I found absolutely nothing I could recommend and instead decided to come up with a plan of my own. Having come up with my plan, I naturally had to share it with all of you and get your thoughts on what you would want to read when, the time for a while, stops still, especially when starting at very edge of the reading curve –

Poynter_An-Evening-at-Home-1888

An Evening at Home, by Sir Edward John Poynter,1888

  1. The Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – If I am getting started in reading and I am not motivated by fiction as much as I am by facts, in that case, this book for sure is for you! I cannot think of a more all encompassing, easy to read and yet funny book, on a subject, (Evolution) usually considered very dry and prosaic!
  2. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery – I know this is often considered a”young adult” book, but I feel there is much to love as an “older adult” in following Anne in her journey from a impetuous dramatic little girl, to a kind and gracious young woman, to a teacher and then as a wife and a mother, with all the gorgeous beauty of Prince Edward’s Island, that Ms. Montgomery brought beautifully to life!
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – The ultimate book on fairness, morality combines with a very very good yarn. I do not care about the controversy and I do not care what “Atticus” was originally meant to be; all I know is, in its current form this book is perfection! The narration of Finch Scout takes the reader through the innocent past times of children in deep Southern America in 1930’s, which is suddenly and irrevocably disturbed, when their father takes on a case defending an African American man accused of raping a white girl!
  4. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window & Disappeared by Jonas Jonnason – A fun ride into the fallacies of 21st century, at once a laugh riot as well a deeply thoughtful read! International Politics comes to life as never before as we follow Allan and his merry band as they take to road, and travel to discover the events of history and themselves, in this brilliant joyride!
  5. The Diary of Nobody George Grossmith – It is late 20th century England and the Pooters have moved into a new house and in a inspired moment, Mr. Pooter has decided to keep a diary! This diary that deals with domestic issues, life in high society and a wayward son, the effort of the Potters as they try their riotous best to keep it all together is a treat and provides undiluted, absolutely liberating hilarity to the readers!
  6. The Remains Of The Day by Ishiguro Kazuo – A more somber work than the ones listed above, this slim novel, is however a perfect start to for some soul food reading. Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall decides to take a 6 day trip to West England and through the journey, he revisits the past, both of Darlington Hall and himself, and choices made and unmade! Lucid, succinct and rich in sparse prose, the way only Kazuo can write, this novel about lost moments in life and memories, takes one’s breath away!
  7. The Feast by Margaret Kennedy – This comparatively lesser known work is one of the prime examples of clear prose and strong character development, around an age old morality  tale! The collapse of the cliff, killing some of the residents of Pendzac Hotel, while sparing some is a tragedy, but as the reader travels, back to the 7 days, preceding the collapse, there are reasons galore, why some lived, while others did not!
  8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Cliched, I know but I also know the efficacy of this book in getting readers, especially new readers going. This heart wrenching tale of World War II Germany and the desperate effort 9 year old Liesel to learn to read, and her growing bond with her adoptive parents and the eventual tragedy, draws the reader in with its plots and characterization!
  9. A Rising Man(Sam Wyndham #1) by Abir Mukherjee – I am not much of a fan of modern whodunits.  But this murder mystery set in 1920’s Calcutta is really something else! Mr. Mukherjee deftly brings the time, the politics and the social mores to life, at the same time, keeping a strong hold on the characters and the plot! Easy prose and just right amount of history, make this a perfect reading for that afternoon, when you want something to give you an escape from the everyday and mundane!
  10. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels & Stories, Volume 1 &2 by Arthur Conan Doyle – I cannot pick one, so all I can say is if you are a beginner wading in the waters of English Literature, trying to find out, if you can swim here or not, you will have no better coach the Dr. Doyle and his brilliant creations in form of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they solve crimes of blackmail, theft and political intrigue!

There you go, that’s my take, for all those trying to get reading or for those looking for one sumptuous read on a lazy afternoon! What are some of the books, you would add or recommend, in similar circumstances?

The Parish of Milby

Despite years of long and extensive reading, there are some authors, with whom I could not become friends. I have no idea why, because they write about subjects and settings that immensely interest me and are often much loved by many whose tastes and opinions I admire. But for whatever reasons things simply do not come together and they simply do not work for me! George Elliot is one such author. My grandmother, whose bookish tastes, my family says I have inherited loved, all her works. Many of my friends, both from the bloggish and non blogish world have often pointed out to the nuanced writing that her books brought forth. But I remained,  unmoved. Mill on Floss, made me want to throw the book at something and I gave up on Middlemarch, like 100 pages into the book. I was not meant to appreciate Ms. Elliot and there was not much I can do about it. Then last week, casting around for something Trollopian to read, but not Trollope, GoodReads threw up a suggestion of Scenes of Clerical Life by George Elliot. I was about to pass on and then for some reason, decided to give it a shot. It seemed like a short novel; only 200 pages (My error; I misread the 404 pages!) so it was not like I would lose much. Thus I began my journey around the Parish of Milby, the first ever novel by Ms. Elliot!

20180318_185947

Set in the last 20 years of 18th century, the book, which consists of 3 separate novellas, interwoven through the time and place and common characters, takes the reader through many different ideas of Church, Local Politics, Spirituality, and Domestic Abuse. The first narrative called “The Sad Fortunes of Reverend Amos Barton” tells the tale of an ordinary Curate in the parish church of Stepperton, near the the village of Milby. Amos Barton, has lofty ideals but neither posses brilliance of oratory or a commanding personality to morph his ideas and to make them palatable to his Parishoners and develop a following among them. He is married to a wonderful and devoted woman, Milly, who has borne him 6 children and their circumstances are strained due to the ever increasing family and the small stipend derived from the Curacy. However, Reverend Amos Barton, goes about his work with much zeal as he is convinced that he has an obligation to imbue his congregation with what he believes to be the Orthodox Church views! More troubles are however fated for the Bartons as their worldly and pretentious friend Countess Caroline Czerlaski takes up residence with them after quarreling with her brother, making the financial situation even more difficult and hurting Milly’s health as the latter is stressed physically and mentally in trying to make everyone around her comfortable, culminating in an terrible tragedy for the family! The second novella, “Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story” begins with the death of the much loved  Maynard Gilfil, who was the Vicar of Shepperton many years before Mr. Barton. Mr. Gilfil however unlike his successor was much loved and much mourned on his death. He had lead an admirable life fulfilling his duties and sometimes, going beyond it, never afraid to laugh and find amusement at whimsical nonsense, always concealing a deep personal tragedy that marked his life, at a very young age. Around 1788, when he was a young Chaplin at the Cheverel Manor, he fell in love with the Caterina Sarti, an Italian orphan brought up by Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel, who took her into their care following the death of her father. Tina, as she was called, while having a very affectionate regard for Mr. Gilfil, was however in love with Captain Anthony Wybrow, nephew and heir of Sir Christopher Cheverel. Captain Wybrow, was a man of selfish principles, whose only aim was to secure Sir Christopher’s good humor and consequently his wealth and had no qualms, in abandoning his “feelings” for Tina, when Sir Christopher, unbeknownst of the feelings of Tina, directed Captain’s Wybrow’s attention and hence approval to a suitable match. This engagement, broods no good and leaves behind a slew of tragedies, destroying the happiness of all directly and indirectly involved. The third and final novella, “Janet’s Repentance” is set in the town of Milby.  The first chapter advises the reader, of the brewing storm between the people of Milby, who are divided in two fractions – one supporting the traditional teachings of Mr. Crewe and the others, supporting the newly appointed Curate at Paddingford Common, Mr. Edgar Tryan, who is an Evangalican preacher and whose opponents view him as a dissenter. The strongest opponent of Mr. Tryan is Richard Dempster, a shrewd, strong tempered lawyer, who in companionship with others comes up with schemes to destroy Mr. Tryan’s  plans. Mr. Dempster is supported by his wife Janet, who however opposes Mr. Tryan out of her affection for Mr. and Mrs. Crew who have been her oldest and kindest friend. Beautiful and kind Janet has not had a easy life, especially after marrying Dempster, who turns out to be an alcoholic with a violent temper, who has been subjecting Janet to domestic violence for 15 years of their marriage. Deprived of children and constantly subject to severe physical violence, with no support system except an old mother, Janet, herself turns into an alcoholic to numb herself of the mental and physical degradation. As things, take a turn for worse for Janet and she falls further into the abyss, rescue, comes in the most unexpected manner, giving her back, hope and spiritual sustenance.

George Elliot finally weaved her magic on me and I am still reeling from her talent, her insightfulnes and her ability to write prose as if she was painting a picture through words! I have no idea, if and when I will read her other works, but for now this first novel of her’s has rendered me speechless. I do not like reading tragedies, but her tragedies, are woven in hope and the rejuvenating spirit of love, that sustains us, even when we lose the loved ones! The first novella, requires patience as it is one of her less confident works and does not do much to keep your interest from wandering. However, it is a short novella and by the second one, you are for sure hooked. The brilliance of Ms. Elliot  I think lies in the characters she drew – in short novellas, where there is only limited ability to bring out the protagonists, she not only brings them to life, but she makes us feel that we have known them, and known them well for a very long time. Another thing that really really impressed me was her prose, her wonderful description of gardens, and chapels and homes! Here’s a sample of what I mean – the castellated house of grey-tinted stone, with the flickering sunbeams sending dashes of golden light across the many-shaped panes in the mullioned windows, and a great beech leaning athwart one of the flanking towers, and breaking, with its dark flattened boughs, the too formal symmetry of the front; the broad gravel-walk winding on the right, by a row of tall pines, alongside the pool—on the left branching out among swelling grassy mounds, surmounted by clumps of trees, where the red t of the Scotch fir glows in the descending sunlight against the bright green of limes and acacias; the great pool, where a pair of swans are swimming lazily with one leg tucked under a wing, and where the open water-lilies lie calmly accepting the kisses of the fluttering light-sparkles; the lawn, with its smooth emerald greenness, sloping down to the rougher and browner herbage of the park, from which it is invisibly fenced by a little stream that winds away from the pool, and disappears under a wooden bridge in the distant pleasure-ground; and on this lawn our two ladies, whose part in the landscape the painter, standing at a favourable point of view in the park, would represent with a few little dabs of red and white and blue.  Despite the somber subjects, Ms. Elliot also carefully manages to add in humor and satire at the then society and its follies – “What a resource it is under fatigue and irritation to have your drawing-room well supplied with small mats, which would always be ready if you ever wanted to set anything on them!” Most importantly, Ms. Elliot seemed to have been blessed with a deep understanding of man’s heart and the ability to express it to the T – “Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside itself—it only requires opportunity“. There is so much I can say about this book and so many things I can quote and  in spite of all my enthusiasm, I know these works are not perfect – there are some cliched events and convenient deaths and sometimes, things get too much descriptive. Yet such is the power of the writing of Ms. Elliot, that you only want and only will remember the brilliant parts, making you feel, that this is a work of absolute marvel!

n

And Now Its June….

As I read other posts, on glories of Summer, I am hard pressed to find one good thing about this damm season in this part of the Geography! Heat, dry and unceasingly stifling beats, down on all in the Indian sub continent and those of us able to afford air conditioning count our blessings. But what of those who are barely able to manage a roof over their heads, let alone any cooling instrument to give relief? There are many such in this part of the world and I can only say, we have a long way to go way before equality for all in all kinds becomes a reality for many!

I had no intention of kick starting this post is such a pedantic note, but sometimes you gotta stop and count  your blessings and spare a thought for those not so fortunate! Anyhow, June is here and of course its time to read! I was hoping to read a lot more in the last few days of May, which I spent at a friends place in the deep Himalayas; but nature in all its beauty kept calling me and I abandoned reading in favor of hiking all over the small Himalayan town, gossiping with friends over cups of tea and playing with my friend’s three cats! I never figured myself for a cat person, since I always had dogs around, but I guess we live and learn! Due to such wonderfully rejuvenating distractions, needless to say, reading took a back seat! But now is the time to play catch up!

I have finally finished, Histories by Herodotus (Finally and Yay! and blog post coming up soon!) and can now move on to The History of the Peloponnesian War  by Thucydides as part of The Well Educated Mind Reading Challenge  the with Cleo and Ruth! Again with Cleo, I continue reading Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. And again with Cleo and O, I continue the serialized reading of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, as part of O’s brilliant and innovative Reading Event. I have quite a few read alongs with Cleo for the Summer, and a host of interesting books to read, but then what’s so unusual about that? 😉 I also picked up The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley and am finding it very interesting and intriguing! Finally, after much plodding and many recommendations (the last being Stefanie’s decisive review), I have decided to join the Ferrantas bandwagon and plan to read My Brilliant Friend, through the next month!

Besides all of this, as many of you are aware, I am also hosting The Shadow of the Moon Read Along through June-July. Cleo and Helen are joining the event and I hope some of you will come along for the ride as well!

That’s the plan for the month and as I bid adieu for this post, I leave you with some pictures of the mountains and the cats!

 

Here Comes May….

The much dreaded Indian Summers are here and much as I would want to hide away and never really come out of igloo styled hibernation, there are bills to be paid and work to be done! So May, do thy worst, I shall live for October!!

First thing about May was changing the theme of my blog; I was tired of looking at Classical libraries and dark paintings, which while look very cosy and comfortable in Winters, they make me feel hot and stifled in summers. Inspired by O and Cleo, I decided to finally get around to changing the theme, archiving old posts and setting things up in simpler, whiter, and less cluttered theme! I know that the banner painting is still on darker tones, but it’s one and its got color so it stays! The white background, trust me does wonders as the sun beats down on everything, outside!

I will drink lots of water, nimboo pani which is an Indian version of lemonade only more sweet and spicy, stick to cold soups and dream of cooler weathers that October will bring! In between, hopefully around end May, I plan to go running back in the welcoming and cool arms of the Great Himalayan range; now that a close friend has opened a cafe in the Dhauladhar Range, Himalayas are actually a second home, which I plan to utilize the most, especially as the plains burn in the sun, as we head towards June and July!

Anyway, so much about themes and weather, the point is what reading is happeneth this month? While I know you all must be bored of listening to me go on and on about this one book, but I shall finish one day and until then, it stays put in my reading plans; naturally I am talking about The Histories by Herodotus. As the entire, universe must be aware by now, I was reading this with Cleo and Ruth as part of The Well Educated Mind Reading Challenge. Speaking of Cleo, I am also reading Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, with her. And again with Cleo and O, I continue the serialized reading of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, as part of O’s brilliant and innovative Reading Event.  I am also reading The Patriot by Sana Karsikov with Brona and this is one book, I am seriously excited about!

The change in the blog theme, also brings forward a resolution about something that has one been on my mind for a while! Like in many other things, here too, I am inspired by Stefanie ………so what is this big resolution you ask? The resolution is (DEEP BREATHE)  –  I will not buy any new books until I finish the ones next to my bed side table and those on my writing desk. This means I diligently stick to finishing The Instance of the Finger Post by Ian Pears, The Last of the Mohincans by James Fenimore Copper and finish the three Terry Pratchets, The Fifth Elephant and Snuff. I also have several unread volumes lying dormant in my Kindle and its high time I finished what I bought! That is the resolution as of now…of course everyone knows of my will power and how I cannot be tempted and I always stick to my goals, especially bookish goals! Yes, you can stop laughing now! Ok…I will try, that is all I am committing to now! And I am allowed to borrow from the library! Ok…that seems reasonable, now to actual READING!

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??!!

alice-300

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!

Murder in an American Farm

As part of my Victober Reads, I decided to read The Dead Alive by Wilkie Collins as part of the Read a Victorian novel where a plot is afoot category! This novella was one of Collins’s earlier works and is supposedly based on a true story, based on the Broon Brother murder case.

The plot unlike other Collin’s plots, is based away from England and set in rural America.Philip Lefrank, an overworked and now sick lawyer is advised by his doctors to take a break from work for the sake of his health. He therefore sets off to America to visit some cousins of his who run a farm – The Medowcroft of the Morwick Farm. He arrives at Morwick station and is met my Issac Medowcroft’s eldest son – Ambrose, who appears to be a handsome and personable individual and who entertains Lefrank with interesting and candid conversation all the way to their journey to the Mrowick Farm.There he finally meets his host and the patriarch of the family Issac Medowcroft, his daughter, his daughter, a grim faced unhappy looking Miss Medowcroft and their cousin, Naomi Colebrook, with whom Ambrose seemed to be in love. The atmosphere of the house seemed strained and Lefrank was glad to retire to his own room. When he came down for dinner that night, he was introduced to the younger brother Silas and yet another person, John Jago who apparently ran the farm on behalf of Issac Medowcroft. It is soon apparent to Lefrank that things are not as they seem and there are tensions and undercurrents at play in between the Medowcroft household. The brothers do not like John Jago who seems to have the good opinion and trust of the elder Medowcroft and Miss Medowcroft for sure did not like Naomi Colebrook.  After dinner, Naomi, seeks an interview with Lefrank and shares her angst about the continuing tension and unpleasantness in the household and seeks his help in trying to speak to the brothers. It is at this point John Jago approaches Naomi and requests to speak to her, to which Naomi agrees, setting of a series of events, with unforeseen results.

This is not perhaps one of the best works of Collin’s and it lacks the plot tenacity of The Moonstone or the Women in White. But it is Collin’s and till the end, you are kept guessing what and who? The ensemble of characters like all of  Collin’s works have a large range -the now enfeebled patriarch, the angry woman scorned, the gentle heroine, the good brother and the weakling and the strange outsider. You name it and they are all there and they are woven so  well in the plot that it seems like taking even one of them out would leave a gaping hole in the narrative.The women do seem to verge at two ends of the spectrum, but this was a Victorian man writing the novel and allowances have to be made for that day and age!  The narrative without doubt the tale is kind of uni-dimensional. the length of the novella and the vivid characterization ensures that the story does not come across as flat. It straight forward no frills and no gore writing that brings the reader to the climatic end, smoothly and tries up the lose ends cleanly.

A very good one time, read it through the night novella!

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!!

%d bloggers like this: