Sunday, May 1, 2022
Thursday, April 21, 2022
Within a few weeks funerals were to become a common occurrence in that village; but at this time they were rather scarce and looked forward to eagerly.
I've read several books by Barbara Comyns and was delighted to find out one of them had been published in 1954 -- perfect for Simon and Kaggsy's 1954 Club event. Even better, I found out my local library had a copy of this book, a weirdly twisted take on village country life.
It's the beginning of June and the floodwaters soon subside. What follows that summer is slightly sordid and increasingly unsettling; quirky and eccentric behavior among the village residents turns dark, violent, and tragic. I should probably give more details about the plot but I don't think I can without giving too much away.
Sunday, April 17, 2022
|Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster and Nicholas Palliser as Stilton Cheesewright from the 1993 TV adaptation, the episode entitled "The Delayed Arrival." Jeeves does not approve of Bertie's mustache.|
Monday, March 21, 2022
|Detail of "The Shower" by William Herbert Dunton. |
The original is in the American Museum of Western Art in Denver, Colorado
|The original 1947 cover. |
I love the illustration, like a reverse woodblock print.
|From the 1983 edition. This cover is SO 1980s!|
Friday, March 18, 2022
|Wow, this cover is TERRIBLE. |
|This cover is not much better|
I expected the whole story to be about this particular assignment for Richard, but it ends rather abruptly and he moves on to other jobs. But over the course of a couple of years, he and Fanny drift in and out of each other's lives as Richard takes on private nursing assignments. Some are sad, some are amusing, but overall this book is just sort of melancholy, but it didn't end at all how I was expecting. In retrospect there were hints all along that made perfect sense as I read the final paragraphs.
Tuesday, March 15, 2022
I've been very bad the past year or so about my Classics Club list -- I have thirteen books left on the list, and just about a year left to complete them! I did add several of them to the TBR Pile Challenge, and some of them would work as selections for other challenges (including my own Back to the Classics Challenge). Enter the latest Classics Club Spin -- I do love having other people choose books for me, so I've selected seven from my list that would work nicely with my other scheduled reading for the year.
Next Sunday, March 20, the Spin will randomly assign a number from one to twenty, and whichever number is chosen, I'm pledging to finish that book by April 30! Here's my list:
1. My American by Stella Gibbons
2. A Pin to See the Peepshow by F. Tennyson Jesse
3. The World My Wilderness by Rose Macauley
4. Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal
5. Jenny Wren by E. H. Young
6. The Bright Side of Life by Emile Zola
7. Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig
11. Noli Me Tangere
12. Jenny Wren
13. The Bright Side of Life
16. A Pin to See the Peepshow
17. The World My Wilderness
18. Jenny Wren
19. The Bright Side of Life
20. Beware of Pity
Sunday, March 13, 2022
It is impossible that these volumes should be graced by any hero, for the story does not admit of one. But if there were to be a hero, Herbert Fitzgerald would be the man.
A Victorian novel by Anthony Trollope, set in Ireland? This book could not be any more in my wheelhouse. For the Back to the Classics Challenge I needed a book from the 19th Century and I still had five unread Trollopes on my TBR shelve. Two of them were set in Ireland so that seemed like an obvious choice for March.
Trollope spent nearly twenty years in Ireland working for the post office, and began his writing career there. His first two novels are set in Ireland, and were written during the Great Famine. Castle Richmond, his third novel set in Ireland, was published in 1860, but is set several years earlier. It does use the Great Famine as a plot point, but much less so than I was expecting.
Basically, it's the story of a love triangle between two cousins of the landed gentry, Owen and Herbert Fitzgerald, and the girl they both love, Clara Desmond, the beautiful but poor daughter of Countess Desmond, a young widow whose marriage was less than happy. There's also a complicated plot about the inheritance of Castle Richmond, the seat of the wealthy Fitzgerald family. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Owen Fitzgerald is the young squire of Hap House in County Cork -- technically gentry, but the poorer branch of the Fitzgerald family, and untitled. He is handsome and dashing, and befriends the young Earl of Desmond, acting as a sort of older brother. They go hunting and fishing and whatnot, and Owen also notices the young Earl's older sister, Clara, who is about sixteen. Eventually he declares his love for her, and she returns his feelings. However, her young widowed mother, who is not yet forty, quashes all her hopes -- Owen is too poor and lacks a title, so she refuses to acknowledge any engagement and forbids Clara to see or write to Owen. (The reader is also aware that the young Countess is also crushing on Owen and secretly wanted him for herself).
About a year Clara is befriended by two of Owen's distant cousins, Mary and Emmeline Fitzgerald, from the wealthier portion of the Fitzgeralds -- the family living at Castle Richmond. She spends time with them and is much thrown together with their brother Herbert, the heir and future Baronet. He's younger and more bookish than his dashing cousin Owen, who considers him a prig. It would seem that Clara and Herbert would be a perfect match -- she's beautiful and he's rich, and they're both gentry. But that would make for a very short novel, so there must be complications -- which arrive with some nasty characters from London, Mr. Matthew Mollett and his son Abraham, who have come to County Cork to stir up trouble for the wealthy Fitzgeralds.
Before marrying Lord Fitzgerald of Castle Richmond, his beautiful wife Lady Fitzgerald had made an unfortunate marriage with a ne'er-do-well named Talbot who deserted her and her child and ran off to Paris, where he was supposedly killed in a fight over a gambling debt. Eventually, she met and married Lord Fitzgerald. Now the Molletts have arrived with the intent of blackmailing the Fitzgeralds, claiming that Lady Fitzgerald's husband is still alive and that her children are illegitimate. . . making Owen Fitzgerald the rightful heir of Castle Richmond and the title.
I liked this novel, though the love triangle and the blackmail plot lines are the strongest. But these characters are basically wealthy Protestant landowners. There's actually not that much in the story about Ireland and the famine -- that's mostly a peripheral plot point only in how it affects the main characters. As landlords, the Fitzgeralds are trying to help the starving population, and there's some infighting between the Catholic and Protestant clergy about how to best help everyone which is pretty infuriating, but that's not a large part of the story.
I also found Clara to be a very undeveloped character -- both of these men are in love with her, but she's mostly a flat character, just very pretty and sweet. She gets a little character development writing letters to both of the men in love with her, but not much. She's not as annoying as some of Dickens' ingenues, but not nearly as interesting as some of the women in Trollope's later novels.
Overall I did enjoy the novel and sped through the 500 pages in just about a week. I'm getting down to the last few unread books by Anthony Trollope. I can proudly say that I've now finished 38 (!) of his 47 novels. When I've finished them all I'm sure I'll be sad but I guess I'll just have to start reading them all over again!
This is my 19th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and my Irish read for the European Reading Challenge.
Friday, March 4, 2022
New York was the nowhere he had built around himself, and he realized he had no intention of ever leaving it again. (City of Glass)
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
|The Blackfriars Playhouse at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA|
Monday, February 21, 2022
Years ago while living in Texas I was at the Half-Price Books in San Antonio whereupon I found this bought this adorably wee little volume of short stories (6.5 x 5 inches/17 x 12.5 cm) by Arnold Bennett. I had just completed and loved his novel The Old Wives Tale so why not? Well, at least ten years and three moves later I finally gotten around to finishing it. One would think that a small volume of 22 short stories shouldn't take that long, but you know how it is.
If you haven't read Arnold Bennett, he seems to me a sort of transitional writer between the 19th and 20th centuries. This volume is copyrighted 1912, but many of the stories had a more Victorian feeling. Most of his stories are about working-class and middle-class people, just slices of life set in his fictional Five Towns which are modeled on the six Pottery towns in the Staffordshire area of Northern England.
Once started, it still took me awhile to get into this book -- it's divided up between "Tragic" and "Frolic" with the majority in the latter category. The first stories is the eponymous "Matador of the Five Towns" and it's also the longest, which is probably why it seemed to take forever to get into. But once I started I found that I really enjoyed them, mostly the lighter comic "Frolic" stories. I won't go into each story into detail but just a few highlights:
"Catching the Train" -- a man and his brother are repeatedly thwarted on a train journey to a Very Important Destination which isn't revealed until the end. It's one of those trips where anything that can possibly go wrong, does so in the worst possible way.
"The Blue Suit" -- a woman slyly manipulates her nephew's wardrobe choices while on a seaside holiday in Wales, with unexpected results.
"Hot Potatoes" -- the mother of a violin prodigy desperately tries to keep her son's hands warm for a concert on a cold day.
"The Long-Lost Uncle" -- a young man has an opportunity for romance after the sudden departure of his miserly uncle.
"Why the Clock Stopped" -- a pair of aging siblings have secrets from one another.
I definitely preferred the lighter comic stories to the tragic (though they weren't so terribly tragic) and I found that many of them had delightful twist endings. They reminded me a bit of the short stories of Edith Wharton, a bit like O. Henry, and even a little like Trollope, so if you like any of these authors, you might enjoy exploring Arnold Bennett. This volume is also available on iBooks and on Project Gutenberg, as are most of Bennett's early works. To be honest, I actually ended up reading most of it on Gutenberg via my laptop because as cute as this volume was, the print was really tiny! (Plus I have become used to reading while I eat my lunch and it's so much easier while reading on a screen).
Overally I did enjoy this book and will definitely read more Arnold Bennett, I have a vintage copies of both Hilda Lessways and Buried Alive and would love to read both or either of them this year.
This is my second book for the Back to the Classics Challenge, also counting this as my UK read for the European Reading Challenge.