Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

I'm finally down to the single digits in my Classics Club list, but I realized that I have less than six months to go before my deadline! The other day I was at the library and just for fun, I looked to see if they had any of the books on the list on the shelves. Lo and behold there was Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. I'd tried to read it about a year ago but just couldn't get into it, mostly because I was listening on audiobook and couldn't stand the narrator, who sounded like she was reading to small children. Anyway, I gave it another shot and it was so worth it, because this book is brilliant.

Main Street is a satire of small-town life in the Midwest about 100 years ago. Carol, a bright young librarian living in St. Paul, meets a doctor at a party. He's about 12 years older and from a small town called Gopher Prairie. After a bit of a whirlwind courtship, they marry and return to Gopher Prairie, population 6,000. Carol has many good intentions and is convinced she can make the town into a place of beauty and culture, but she is foiled at every turn, by nosy neighbors, gossips, and people who think life is just fine as it is. Over a period of years, she tries to improve by volunteering on the library board, joining literary societies, and even directing an amateur theatrical. 

She is also the subject of much gossip, about her clothing, her interior decorating, and her choice of friends, whether they be working-class servants, socialists, or well-dressed arty types. World War I erupts, and there are some painful reminders of racism and political backlash that are incredibly timely. There's also a character who is mocked for being effeminate which made me really uncomfortable and a terrible incident about a woman who is basically run out of town after a boorish young man ruins her reputation with gossip. It made me furious but incidents like this still happen today. 

I thought Sinclair Lewis drew a brilliant portrait of small towns -- his characters are really well developed and the descriptions of scenery are wonderful. It reminded me a little of the winters in Little House in the Prairie. There's also lots of snappy dialogue and great quotes. I don't usually include this many quotes in a review but these three were so great I had to include them. This one is my favorite and I forced it upon my family with great delight: 

Carol drove through an astonishing number of books from the public library and from city shops. Kennicott was at first uncomfortable over her disconcerting habit of buying them. A book was a book, and if you had several thousand of them right here in the library, free, why the dickens should you spend your good money? After worrying about it for two or three years, he decided that this was one of the Funny Ideas which she had caught as a librarian and from which she would never entirely recover.

I imagine many book bloggers can relate to this as well!

Here is another of my favorite quotes that made me laugh out loud. Carol is at Sunday dinner with some annoying relatives: 

Carol reflected that the carving-knife would make an excellent dagger with which to kill Uncle Whittier. It would slide in easily. The headlines would be terrible.

Lewis had his snarky moments, but he's also incredibly insightful:

There are two insults which no human being will endure: the assertion that he hasn't a sense of humor, and the doubly impertinent assertion that he has never known trouble.

I raced through this book in less than a week and highly recommend it if you're looking for a well-written, insightful American classic. I'm sure it will be one of my top reads of the year, and now I have only seven books left on my Classics Club list!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Back From a Blogging Break and Literary London

View of the Rhine valley and Bacharach from Stahleck Castle.

It's been several months since my last post.  We did move to Germany, near Kaiserslautern, which is in the Rhineland-Palatinate in the southwest part of the country. The transition has been more complicated than I expected, especially since we didn't have internet in our new house for two months. The one upside was that I had lots of time for reading; hopefully now I'll get caught up with my book blogging.

Before I start posting reviews again, I thought I'd share a few photos. I haven't done too much traveling around Germany yet, but we did make a quick trip to beautiful Bacharach, along the Rhine.

I also had two amazing trips with my girls, one to Paris (just over 2 hours by express train from Kaiserslautern!) and London. I thought I'd include some photos of literary landmarks. 

One of our first stops was the V&A and we thought we'd stop by Harrod's. Walking along Cromwell road I realized I was passing Brompton Square, where Lucia lives in E. F. Benson's Lucia in London, which I'd finished just a few weeks before. I googled the address and lo and behold, there it was with a blue historical marker:

Closer inspection revealed this was Benson's own house!

We also saw THREE West End plays while we were in London, two of them classics:

I loved all the plays, each was completely different. I had to include The Mousetrap which I saw as a child while visiting Toronto. I was delighted to find this marker honoring Agatha Christie in the theater district:

The Mousetrap played for years at the Toronto Truck Theater, a converted church. It's no longer running in Toronto but it's still going strong in London. This counter in the lobby shows exactly how many performances:

Of course I knew the ending but it was still a great show and my girls loved it. 

Naturally, we visited multiple bookshops. We went to Waterston's at Trafalgar Square and in Piccadilly Circus; Daunt Books in Marylebone, and Foyle's near Charing Cross. I can't remember exactly how many books I bought but I wanted ALL OF THESE classic mysteries:

And I couldn't have missed a pilgrimage to Bloomsbury where I finally got to visit the Persephone Book shop. It's covered in scaffolding but still open. 

I arrived on a Saturday morning and my heart dropped when I saw the shop was closed! However, we double-checked the hours and it didn't open until noon that day, so I wasn't disappointed. I bought three more books, some bookmarks and a lovely Persephone tote bag. 

And no literary trip to London would be complete with out a trip to Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross!!

People line up to have their photos taken and sometimes it's quite a long wait. We went the first day of our trip and the lines were long, so we tried again the last morning of our trip and were pleasantly surprised by how quickly it moved. The employees were delightfully enthusiastic and of course there's a Harry Potter shop full of all sorts of souvenirs. (Also a great restaurant close by with a delicious Full English Breakfast.) I adored London and there's so much I didn't see, so I hope to go back soon. 

I hope to post more photos soon and actual reviews of books I've been reading this summer! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I've really had a hard time sticking to a book lately -- we have so much going on with our upcoming move, it's really hard for me to concentrate on anything -- it's definitely time for those non-challenging comfort reads. Luckily, the list of my unread Persephone books included The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I actually own a copy from 1907 just like the one picture above. I'd put off reading it because it's just over 500 pages long, but it's in the public domain and readily available for download on my smartphone. I started reading it in bits and pieces, and by the fourth or fifth chapter, I was completely hooked and couldn't stop reading it.

Basically, this is the story of a society marriage gone wrong, and the dramatic aftermath. Like Downton Abbey's Cora Crawley, Rosalie Vanderpoel is a wealthy heiress wooed by a titled Englishman in financial straits. Rosalie is young, tenderhearted, and impressionable, and she agrees to marry Nigel Anstruther though she doesn't realize quite how desperate he is. Her younger sister Betty, though a child of nine, sees right through him and dislikes him instantly.

Sadly, no one realizes what a good judge of character Betty is, and the marriage takes place. Once Rosalie reaches England, her husband becomes a very different person. He's furious that he can't control her money, so he becomes abusive and cuts Rosalie off from her family with little explanation.

Twelve years later, Betty is now a beautiful, intelligent, confident young woman, and she is determined to find out what really happened to Rosalie. With her father's blessing (and his virtually unlimited resources) she sails to England on a mission. On the boat over, she also has a chance encounter with a second-class passenger, James Salter. She is impressed by his forthrightness and strength of character (not to mention his good looks), but assumes she'll never see him again.

After finding her sister and young nephew in terrible circumstances, Betty takes matters into her own hands and is determined to put things right at their crumbling estate, with her diabolical brother-in-law, and finds true love along the way. It's a bit of a fairy tale, but what I really liked about this book is what a great character Betty is -- she doesn't wait around for a man to save her, she's frequently the one doing the saving. Of course the fact that she comes from a rich family makes it much easier, but I got the sense that this is a woman that would have done great things with or with out the money. She's a real go-getter.

I also loved reading how Betty took charge of improving the derelict estate. The book is a bit like a cross between Downton Abbey (but with an abusive Lord Grantham) and an episode of This Old British House. There are also some fun quirky side characters, like local villagers, the vicar Mr. Penzance, and a traveling American salesman named G. Selden. Frances Hodgson Burnett was born in England but spent much of her life in America, crossing the Atlantic numerous times, and her characters from both countries seem lovingly portrayed.

Burnett clearly loved England and you can also see hints of her future novel, The Secret Garden, when Betty Vanderpoel admires the beautiful countryside of Kent and plans improvements with the estate gardeners. Burnett rented Great Maytham Hall in Kent and the gardens inspired her. I haven't read The Secret Garden since I was a child so I think it's time for a re-read.

Great Maytham Hall garden
"One feels it so much in a garden," she said. "I have never lived in a garden of my own. This is not mine, but I have been living in it—with Kedgers [the gardener]. One is so close to Life in it—the stirring in the brown earth, the piercing through of green spears, that breaking of buds and pouring forth of scent! Why shouldn't one tremble, if one thinks? I have stood in a potting shed and watched Kedgers fill a shallow box with damp rich mould and scatter over it a thin layer of infinitesimal seeds; then he moistens them and carries them reverently to his altars in a greenhouse. The ledges in Kedgers' green-houses are altars. I think he offers prayers before them. Why not? I should. And when one comes to see them, the moist seeds are swelled to fulness, and when one comes again they are bursting. And the next time, tiny green things are curling outward. And, at last, there is a fairy forest of tiniest pale green stems and leaves. And one is standing close to the Secret of the World! And why should not one prostrate one's self, breathing softly—and touching one's awed forehead to the earth?"

I only have a few tiny quibbles with the novel -- as much as I loved Betty, she really doesn't seem to have any faults, and Sir Nigel Anstruthers is a bit of an over-the-top, mustachioed villain. Also, the ending was a little melodramatic for my taste. But overall, this was a very enjoyable read and it's one of my favorite reads so far this year. 

I'm counting this as my Classic by a Woman novelist for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and also for Reading England Challenge.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The 1938 Club: National Provincial by Lettice Cooper

Just in time for the end of The 1938 Club, I finished National Provincial by Lettice Cooper. I'd read and loved The New House several years ago, so when I realized she'd published another book that fit the parameters, I put in an ILL request immediately. It arrived in time but took me much longer to finish than I expected. 

Set in the 1930s, this is an ambitious work about several families living in the fictional town of Aire, in Yorkshire. The book begins with a egg woman named Mary Welburn, who's leaving her job as a journalist in London to start work at a smaller regional paper close to her childhood home, mostly so she can help with her disabled mother, since her sister is about to get married. The reader begins to learn about the local residents of different classes and their intertwining lives. Mostly, the characters and setting are a microcosm of British society, examining the conflict between the classes and the ongoing changes in society, both social and political, against the backdrop of the late 1930s, just before the war. 

As Mary begins reporting, we learn about some of the prominent families and events going on in the area. The Harding family used to be the wealthiest landowners, but one half the family lost money (but not status) after a business failure during the depression. The younger son, Stephen, took a job with a local factory owner, Mr. Ward, who was born poor but created a manufacturing empire by dint of hard work and determination. His wife would love nothing more than to be accepted by the local gentry, but sadly, she's viewed as a social climber and not the right sort. She and her husband try to keep a tight rein on the lives of their two young adult children. Mary befriends the daughter, Marjorie, who has left school and can't join the family business since it "wouldn't be ladylike." Her brother Leslie is at the local university, and befriends two of the younger professors and their wives, with mixed results. 

Mary's sister is engaged to marry a local cricket star, and she's close to her childless aunt and uncle. Uncle John is the union rep for Ward's clothing factory, and has a young protege, Tom, but the two begin to disagree about wages at the factory. Tom also has a shallow, self-absorbed girlfriend named Olive, who's embarrassed by her brother's girlfriend who works as a domestic for one of the Harding's sons.

This book covers about a year and a half and follows real events, including the death of George V, the abdication of Edward VII, and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. It's very interesting to read this knowing that Cooper didn't know exactly what was going to happen in Europe, though some of the characters definitely suspect that war is looming on the horizon. This was such a contrast to the other Cooper novel that I read, The New House, which took place entirely over one day with one family. National Provincial was more than 600 pages in my edition, and includes several extended families as well. (One of my few quibbles about the book is that there are so many characters I sometimes confused them, and there were a few stories that I found unresolved). 

Overally, I really enjoyed this book. I found the characters really well developed and realistic -- nobody is completely bad, and nobody is completely good either. I thought Cooper did a really good job showing both sides of various conflicts, especially some of the political struggles with the Union at Ward's clothing factory. 

As I read this, I couldn't help being reminded of some of my favorite British novels, including Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South; Winifred Holdby's South Riding; and even a little bit of Downton Abbey. It's a really great book and I'm so glad I read it! I'm really intrigued by the novels of Lettice Cooper and I'm email Persephone books to suggest it as a reprint. I'm also going to order another of Cooper's novels called Fenny which was reprinted by Virago back in the 1980s. 

Has anyone else read anything by Lettice Cooper that you recommend? And how did everyone enjoy the 1938 Club! Thanks again to Simon and Karen for hosting, and to Cosy Books who mentioned National Provincial as a possible read.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The 1938 Club: The Baker's Daughter by D. E. Stevenson

I was really struggling to find a book to read for The 1938 Club Readalong, hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings. It seemed I'd read all the best books already (including the P. G. Wodehouse classic The Code of the Woosters, which I finished just days before the readalong was announced). Nonetheless, the librarian in me refused to give up and I kept hunting; I finally and came up with not one but three books from 1938 that I wanted to read. 

The first book I read was The Baker's Daughter by D. E. Stevenson. I'm thrilled that Sourcebooks is reprinting her works, I just wish they would published more than two a year! The Baker's Daughter just came out in January, (though I was actually able to get my hands on a different edition from ILL, as I just can't bear to buy another book right now). Anyway, alight charming book by Stevenson was just the thing.

The setup: set in the 1930s, Sue Pringle is in her early 20s, living with her stepmother, younger brother, and curmudgeonly father, the baker, in a small town in Scotland. Her late mother's parents own a successful grocery shop and would love for Sue to come and live with them, as she doesn't much get along with her stepmother. One day, while visiting her grandmother at the shop, a customer has an unusual request -- not just groceries, but an actual cook. The customer is the Mrs. Darnay, wife of an artist who's just left glamorous London rented a cottage so he can paint in the wilds of Scotland. Sue, bored with her dull life, is intrigued by the idea of an artist, jumps at the chance and agrees to take on the job. After Mrs. Darnay suddenly does a runner back to London, Sue takes pity on Mr. Darnay, and stays on to keep house for him and keep him from starving, as he's so absorbed in his work. Naturally, one thing leads to another, and Sue finds herself falling in love with the reclusive artist. 

This was a quick, light read, and if you've read Miss Buncle's Book or any of Stevenson's other novels, you'll find few surprises here. It's a charming little novel with a fairly predictable outcome, though there were some interesting twists along the way. I liked the characters, especially Sue's grandparents, and I liked how Stevenson really seemed to appreciate Scotland, with nice descriptions of the scenery. She also gave the characters depth and color without making them too stereotypical.

However, there was an attempt at one plot twist that I thought was really unnecessary, and a weird anti-Semitic remark that kind of came out of left field, with a reference to Hitler. I'm not sure if Stevenson was criticizing what was happening politically in the late 1930s, but it seemed really incongruous to the storyline. Also, the ending was kind of abrupt. But overall, it was a very enjoyable book and a perfect comfort read if you like middlebrow women's fiction from that time period. 

There are two other Stevenson reprints by Sourcebooks I haven't read yet, Celia's House and The Listening Valley. My library actually owns both of them but I'm rather torn, I don't know if I should read them now for free or read up more of my TBR shelves now and save those for later, since I can actually buy them from Sourcebooks later. Bloggers, have you read any other books by D. E. Stevenson? Which do you recommend? And are you enjoying The 1938 Club?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Exciting News

So after nearly eight years in Texas, the military has decided that it's time for my family to relocate. . . (drumroll, please) and we're going to . . . . 


Not my new house. It's Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. 

We'll be moving sometime this summer, probably late June or early July -- only three months away. I'm going to do my best to keep up with blogging, but of course I have lots to do with sorting, packing, and putting our house up for sale. I hope everyone will understand if I'm not posting as much as usual. Of course we're sad to leave all our friends here in Texas, but I'm really excited to be moving to Europe -- especially because I lived in Germany on a summer exchange program back in high school.  

And what to do with all my books??? I have to decide how many to take with me -- unread books, or beloved favorites? A combination? And I have to decide if I should read as many library books as possible before I leave -- (the base library won't have nearly the selection as the millions of books here in our public library system) -- or read my own books so I don't have to pack them! 

I'm also trying to decide if I should read lots of shorter books and knock them off my TBR list, or try and read some of the big fat books because they're heavier and take longer. I'll have so much to do I suspect I won't be tackling any especially taxing books in the next few months -- probably a lot of easy comfort reads in the near future. Bloggers, what would you do? And which German authors do you recommend? 

Monday, March 21, 2016

New Grub Street by George Gissing

I'm really trying no read as many as my own books as possible this year, so I picked New Grub Street by George Gissing as my Classic the a Place Name in the Title for my current read. (Also one of the last nine books on my Classics Club list -- a win/win!).

Basically, this is the story of how awful it was to be an unsuccessful or mildly successful writer in late 19th century London. Published in 1891, it follows several families: Jasper Milvain, a somewhat cynical and opportunistic journalist and writer, and his two sisters, Dora and Maud; the bitter Alfred Yule and his wife and grown daughter, Marian; and Marian's cousin Amy Reardon, and her husband Edwin, a semi-successful novelist on a downward spiral.

All three of these families are dealing with the financial difficulties of supporting one's family as a writer, to varying degrees. Alfred married a woman he considered beneath himself, and blames her for his not getting ahead among the society of writers. His daughter Marian is talented and does a lot of her father's research and some writing of her own, but rarely gets the credit for it. Alfred dreams  of editing his own literary journal, but lacks funds or connections. 

Edwin Reardon showed early promise, and after a legacy left him temporarily flush with cash, married the beautiful Amy. Now that they have a small child and money is tight, Amy doesn't want to economize and the subsequent stress over finances is causing Edwin to lose focus on his writing. 

Jasper is attracted to Marian, who seems his intellectual match, but he cynically believes that he needs a wealthy wife to help him get ahead in literary society. His sisters have become friendly with Marian but are also aware of their brother's character and ambition. Also, Alfred Yule is convinced that Jasper wrote an unflattering piece about him, so he is persona non grata. Their lives all intertwine in the literary London of the early 1890s, and the action really picks up after Alfred's brother dies, and his will changes the lives of these three families. 

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. George Gissing isn't nearly as popular as Dickens or Hardy or even Trollope -- he wrote 23 novels but as far as I can tell, only three of them are in print anymore. Gissing's writer is quite easy to read, and his characters were really well developed -- I found myself really rooting for some and booing others as the story progressed. Parts of it were quite sad, as these starving writers struggle to churn out enough pages to keep from being thrown into the workhouse and splitting up their families. Gissing makes some really good points about women writers. There were some really dramatic bits and in the end, I wanted to strangle one of the characters (though I wasn't surprised one bit how his story was going to shake out). 

Overall, a very satisfying book, and it's giving me courage to try reading some of the more obscure Victorian writers. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope

I'm really trying to read only books from my own shelves, and I know in my head it would be so much faster if I read all the short books so that the unread number would be smaller. But sometimes, I just get a craving for a big fat Victorian triple-decker that will just totally absorb me. And that's when it's time for some Trollope. 

I originally picked Phineas Redux because the audio was available on audio download free from my library -- it's a three-week checkout, but seriously, in a city of a million people, who else besides me would want to read it? I wanted a good classic on audio for dog walking, and I figured I could stretch it out for awhile. Well, I got completely hooked on the story and zoomed through it in just a couple of weeks. I was so pleasantly surprised, because this book is just brilliant. I knew the Pallisers were supposed to be as great as the Barchester Chronicles, but of the four books I've read in the series, this one is by far my favorite. It has satire, romance, politics, intrigue, and lots of my favorite characters from previous novels in the series. 

I should back up a little. Phineas Finn, the eponymous Irish politician from the second Palliser novel, is back in London after several years out of public life. At the end of Phineas Finn, he left Parliament, went back to Ireland, and married his childhood sweetheart Mary. She tragically died shortly after their marriage, leaving him childless, and he is approached by some MPs to see if he wouldn't consider attempting to try for a seat in a  borough which could be won without much trouble or financial output. Phineas has a little money and no family left, so he has nothing to lose. 

Of course, he's thrown back into society with three of his old paramours -- Lady Viola, now happily married to Lord Chiltern; her sister-in-law, Lady Laura, who is separated from her husband, the cantankerous George Kennedy; and Madame Max Goesler, the rich widow who proposed to Phineas and offered to support his political aspirations. (Madame Goesler very nearly became a Duchess when the elderly Duke of Omnium proposed to her, but she turned him down, since she could very well have been the mother to the next Duke, thereby ousting the heir apparent, Plantagenet Palliser. She sensitively turned him down rather then incur the wrath of of her friend Lady Glencora, Palliser's wife). Following all this so far? This is just the setup!

At first, I thought this was a pretty standard Trollope. There are love triangles, and proposals, and broken engagements, plus the aforementioned political machinations. (There's also the reappearance of the devious Lady Eustace from The Eustace Diamonds, who has a small but pivotal role.  However, just about halfway through, there's a pretty significant plot twist, and what I thought was a minor quarrel turns into a murder, and much of the book is taken up with the trial and its aftermath.  Although I suspected it would all turn out alright in the end, it was still riveting.

One thing I really love about Trollope is how great his female characters are -- unlike Dickens, who tends to write females as either brainless ingenues or comic older women. In this book alone, there are no less than six strong females with fully realized characterization. Of course, most of them had already been introduced in the previous books, but the female characters are the heart and soul of his books. Lady Glencora, Madame Goesler, and even the detestable Lizzie Eustace are all worth reading about. I just love that about Trollope -- the women get just as much time in the books as the men, or nearly so. (I wish some graduate student would do a study about this!)

My only quibble with the novel is that I'm really starting to see an anti-Semitic bias in Trollope that makes me uncomfortable. There's a character who is painted as an absolute villain who is Jewish, and there are some pretty derogatory remarks made about him. Also, one character is terribly jealous of Madame Max Goesler, who is a foreigner, and there are a couple of nasty jabs from her rival as well. I remember a minor Jewish character from Rachel Ray that had some anti-Semitic remarks about him, but at the time I read it, I was unsure if Trollope was satirizing anti-Semites or was one himself. I'm starting to think it was Trollope. I understand this is just a reflection of the times, but still, it's disappointing because I love Trollope's books so much. Even Charles Dickens responded to public pressure about Fagin and wrote a much more sympathetic character in Our Mutual Friend.

I also wish I had read it a little closer to Phineas Finn -- it had been almost a year, and some of the details from the first book were a little fuzzy. I suppose chronologically it comes after The Eustace Diamonds, but I certainly don't want to wait an entire year to read the final two books in the series!

I'm counting this as my 19th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge. I'm also thinking about reading more Trollope for the other Back to the Classics categories -- I do have some unread volumes of his short stories, and I also have a couple more Trollopes that might qualify for the Classic With a Place in the Title category.

Has anyone else read the Palliser novels? Which are your favorites? How's everyone else doing with the Back to the Classics Challenge? 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Top Ten Books If You're Sad About Downton Abbey Ending

I haven't participated in a Top Ten Tuesday for a long time, but I'm a little bereft at the end of my favorite Masterpiece show. Sure, it was really a gorgeously shot period soap opera with fabulous costumes, and the ending was mostly predictable, but here are some suggestions to fill the void until there's a new Masterpiece obsession. All but one of these has been adapted into a movie or TV miniseries, some of them more than once. 

In no particular order, here are ten Downton-esque novels that I've read and loved (some are series):

1. The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford.  Two books in one! These are the first two in Mitford's hilarious satires of upper-crust life in country mansion. Mitford's own father is skewed as the bellowing Uncle Matthew. Also a great BBC adaptation with the luminous Rosamund Pike.

2. The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse. Bertie Wooster is ensnared by his Aunt Dahlia to steal an antique silver cow creamer while simultaneously trying to save the engagements of two friends. Jeeves just wants to go on a cruise around the world, but saves the day anyway. Highclere Castle (the real-life Downton Abbey) was the location for parts of the BBC episode of Jeeves & Wooster that adapted this book (it's Season 2, Episode 1 if you want to watch the DVD, or it's available on demand from Amazon.)

3. The Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro. What if Carson wrote a book about his life at Downton? A long-suffering butler reflects on his years in service. 

4. The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton. Cora Crawley isn't the only American heiress to marry a cash-poor British aristocrat. Her last novel is the story of four American debs on the hunt for titled husbands. Wharton died before finishing the last third of the novel, which was completed based on her notes. 

5. The Light Years and the entire Cazalet series by Elizabeth Jane Howard. Great family saga about an extended British family that starts in the 1930s and continues through WWII and the aftermath. And there are five books, enough to fall in love with all the characters. 

6. The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley. Forbidden love on an estate between a wealthy young woman and a handsome farmer, as viewed by a twelve-year old boy. 

7. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Fanny Price isn't actually a servant, but her snobbish cousins treat her like a second-class citizen after they take her in. Lots of scandalous behavior upstairs, enough to rival Downton Abbey.

8. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. A shy, introverted paid companion of a rich American meets a handsome, wealthy English widower in Monte Carlo, and after a brief and odd courtship, he marries her and takes her home to the family estate in Cornwall, where the secrets of his first marriage are exposed. Great atmosphere and a seriously messed-up housekeeper make this one of my all-time favorites. 

9. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. Another Masterpiece favorite, this book moves through the Victorian, Edwardian, and WWI eras of English history, and shows how an upper-class family changing to keep up with the times. Originally published as three books, it won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1932. 

10. The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt. Another saga about an extended family, this one in the Edwardian era and beyond. It's basically a really great history lesson about English society as it transitions from the Victorian Era to the horrors of the Great War, with the family of an eccentric children's book author as a microcosm. It hasn't been adapted as a TV miniseries yet, but it would be amazing if someone adapted it. BBC, are you reading this? 

And of course there are lots more books about the Edwardians, WWI, and 1920s, both fiction and nonfiction. Bloggers, what do you recommend? And what are you watching now that Downton is all over? 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Classics Spin #12

Another Classics Club Spin! If you're not familiar, participants post a list of 20 books on their Classics Club list. On Monday morning, a random number will be posted, and I'll read the corresponding title from my list and put up my post on May 2. I've had great like with the random spin picks, so it's always fun to have someone else choose the next read from my list.

I only have nine books left, so I'm going to have to repeat the list to get to an even 20.  In no particular order, here's my list:

1. Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
2. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
3. The Four Feathers by A. E. W. Mason
4. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
5. New Grub Street by George Gissing
6. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
7. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
8. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
9. A Dance to the Music of Time (First Movement) by Anthony Powell

Now the repeats:

10. Portrait of a Lady
11. New Grub Street
12. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
13. The Man in the Iron Mask
14. The Four Feathers
15. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
16. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
17. A Dance to the Music of Time (First Movement)
18. Lark Rise to Candleford
19. New Grub Street 
20. The Man in the Iron Mask

Right now I'm kind of hoping for The Man in the Iron Mask, Portrait of a Lady, or A Dance to the Music of Time.  I'm kind of dreading Hunchback -- I tried listening to the audio version and it's moving incredibly slow.

Bloggers, have you read any of these books? Which should I hope for?

Updated: The Spin has given me #8 -- The Hunchback of Notre Dame! I'll just have to buckle down and give it another try.