Monday, March 11, 2019

Fenny by Lettice Cooper: An Expat Living in Italy

I bought Fenny almost three years ago, after reading and loving Lettice Cooper's National Provincial. I never got around to reading it until last week when I was going on a short jaunt to Dubrovnik -- I do try to bring books on holiday that have a local connection. I couldn't find anything on my shelves set in the Balkans or on the Adriatic, so I decided a book set in Italy would have to do.

Set in the 1930s through the 1940s, Fenny is the story of an Ellen Fenwick, an English schoolteacher who gives up her job at a girls' school to take a temporary post as governess to a little English girl living in Tuscany. The story begins in 1933 when Fenny arrives in Italy to begin her new post at the Villa Meridiana, a house loaned to the Mr. and Mrs. Rivers. The husband travels back and forth from his work in London, so most of the time it's just Ellen, nicknamed Fenny, with her charge Juliet and her mother Madeleine, the daughter of a famous stage actress. They tend to socialize with the Warners, another ex-pat family, and Fenny finds herself much thrown together with Daniel, tutor to Warner's the oldest child. It seems like an obvious romantic interlude but things take a very unexpected turn. The rest of the book details Fenny's life until the late 1940s, and how it is entwined with members of the two families, before and after the war.

Though it's primarily a domestic story, Fenny does include the rise of fascism and WWII, and how expats were affected. The book is divided into four parts, and the second part jumps forward about three years, just before the war; then to 1945, as the war is ending; and finally 1949.

The Tuscan countryside, near Siena.

I really enjoyed this book but I think I would have liked it even better without the time jumps -- I really wanted to know more about Fenny's story, especially during the war. Also, I feel like some of the side characters' outcomes were only mentioned as afterthoughts. I know there seem to be a lot of books where characters miraculously show up years later, and it's completely realistic that people disappear from your life entirely, but still, it felt a little unresolved. Of course it would have made for a much longer book but I'm quite sure I would have enjoyed that! National Provincial is about 600 pages but I was thoroughly engrossed.

I do want to read more of Lettice Cooper's work, but I don't know a thing about any of her other novels except National Provincial and The New House, both Persephone reprints I loved. Most of her novels seem to have plenty of used copies available online, except for one called Desirable Residence, copies of which start at around $35 US, and have price listings upwards of $200! However, there seem to be library copies available through WorldCat, so I'll have to wait and check it out via ILL after I return to the U.S.

I'm counting this as my book set in Italy for the Reading Europe Challenge

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester

I'm not much of romance reader, but back when I lived in Texas I read The Grand Sophy for my Jane Austen book club and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Georgette Heyer wrote 50 novels, mostly historical. They're rather light and fluffy, but mostly great fun and they're very well researched. I was poking around Half-Price Books in San Antonio and found this biography, so I thought it would be a good addition to my TBR Pile Challenge list. Georgette Heyer wrote 50 novels. in 72 years. Starting when she was just 17, she published a book nearly every year of her life, sometimes more. Most of them were romances and historical fiction, but she also wrote mysteries and a few contemporary novels, and nearly all of them are still in print. 

Heyer's first novel, The Black Moth, began as a story she made up to amuse her younger brother, who suffered from hemophilia. She continued writing after her marriage to a mining engineer, with whom she moved to Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Macedonia. They moved back to the UK and Heyer mostly supported the family with her writing while her husband made some career changes (he and her son both became lawyers). Heyer's commitment to research and her literary output are pretty astonishing -- her historical novel An Infamous Army is now considered one of the best historical works on the battle of Waterloo. And once she had completed the research and settled on the plot and characters, she could write a book in a matter of weeks. 

Though she's now best known for her historical romances set in the Regency period, she actually only wrote one (Regency Buck) before WWII. Her most successful novel before that time was about the Napoleonic Wars, but she couldn't bear to write a war novel during the Blitz. Heyer was afraid that it was frivolous to write a light historical romance, but she needed a distraction and wrote a Regency novel, Faro's Child. It was just what the public wanted and was a huge success. Thereafter she continued with mostly Regency novels until her death. 

This book is very fact-heavy, especially on issues of publication and tax payments -- often she would write a book specifically to pay off a debt. She also sometimes made unwise decisions to sell off the rights to books for what now seems a pittance. I would have loved to read more about her creative process, but Georgette Heyer was an extremely private person and gave almost no interviews, so Kloester had to rely on letter and papers. However, I found it an extremely fast read. There were some surprises, like the fact that Heyer's publishers did essentially no editing -- she would just send them the title and some basic information, then her manuscript would arrive and that was pretty much it! She did have some fights with printers who would take it upon themselves to change spelling without consulting her -- then had the nerve to charge her! 

Even if you're not a fan of Heyer's romances, this is an extremely interesting look at the life of a prolific writer (it also inspired me to read two more of her books while I was reading this one!) I still  have literary biographies and memoirs of three other writers on my TBR Pile Challenge list: Margaret Mitchell, Edith Wharton, and Elizabeth Jane Howard. Bloggers, which should I read next?

This is my second book for the TBR Pile Challenge 2019. Only ten left to go!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Children by Edith Wharton : Lifestyles of the Rich and Selfish

"If children don't look after each other, who's going to do it for them? You can't expect parents to, when they don't know how to look after themselves."

This quote basically sums up the entire novel in two lines. Middle-aged bachelor Martin Boyne is an engineer traveling by ship from Algeria around Italy and up the Adriatic to Venice. Before the ship leaves port, he reflects that there's nobody interesting on bored, and is convinced he will be bored for the entire two-week journey. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing could be further from the truth, when he meets a party of seven children on board who will change his life. 

The Wheater children are a collection of siblings, half-siblings, and step-siblings, headed by Judith, aged 15 and wise beyond her years. The pack also includes baby Chipstone, their father's favorite; the clever yet delicate Terry, the eldest son; his twin sister Blanca; a half-sister Zinnie; and the two step-siblings, nicknamed Bun and Beechy. The Wheater parents are old acquaintances of Boyne from his youth, so naturally he takes an interest. Apparently, Cliffe and Joyce Wheater had the oldest three children then divorced, whereupon Cliffe fathered Zinnie with an actress. Meanwhile, Joyce married an Italian whereby she acquired two step-children, Bun and Beechy. Eventually, the Wheaters split with their respective spouses and remarried, producing baby Chip. Got all that? 

Martin first meets the children when he discovers young Terry, aged about 11, will be sharing his cabin; meanwhile Joyce is assigned the adjacent deck chair. He gets to know the children and their governess during the voyage and is swept into the delightful chaos of their lives. When they arrive in Venice he spends a few days trying to help find a suitable tutor for Terry, and gets the full picture of their family dynamic when they meet up with their parents. 

The adult Wheaters are essentially shallow, wealthy Americans living abroad who flit from one luxurious resort to another, dragging their children along. They're so self-absorbed they can't see how much damage they're doing to their own children. Meanwhile, it's the eldest, Judith, who has taken on the role of mother and protector, and she is determined to keep all the children together, despite the disappearance and reappearance of absent parents, step-parents, and potential step-parents, as Cliffe and Joyce seem to be constantly on the verge of affairs, breakups, and reconciliations. 

After leaving the Wheaters in Venice, Martin goes up to the Italian Alps, where he meets up with an old flame, Mrs. Sellars, who is recently widowed after an unhappy marriage. He's hoping to take their long-distance romance to the next level when the reappearance of the Wheater children interrupt their domestic bliss. Martin has to decide whether his loyalties lie with Mrs. Sellars or with this boisterous brood of children who really need a responsible adult in their lives. Also, it becomes apparent that Martin's feelings for young Judith may be not just fatherly. 

Published in 1928, this was a best-seller at the time, though it's now one of Wharton's lesser-read novels (less than 700 ratings on Goodreads, compared to more than 125,000 for The Age of Innocence and nearly 100,000 for Ethan Frome). I really enjoyed it -- it's a quick read and I finished it in only three days. I found the plot interesting and the characters engaging and well-developed, and parts of it are quite funny -- in particular, there's a chapter when Martin is trying to negotiate with the Wheater parents to keep the children together permanently. The parents keep putting off the discussion because they're far too busy amusing themselves with their society friends, and when they do meet, they're constantly interrupted by all the ex-spouses, step-parents and hangers-on trying to put their two cents in.  Cliffe and Joyce Wheater are so easily distracted by their social calendar they seem less mature than 15-year-old Judith. Edith Wharton spent much of her life as a wealthy expat so I'm sure she had plenty of first-hand knowledge of this sort of shallow, wealthy American living abroad. 

If you've ever read anything by Wharton, you know that her books rarely have happy endings. This book isn't as tragic as most of them, but it is still ultimately rather sad, though there are many lighthearted moments. The only thing I didn't like about the book was Martin's relationship with Judith -- he's in his mid-forties and Judith is only 15. I realize this book was published 90 years ago and it wasn't uncommon for middle-aged men to marry very young women, but it made me uncomfortable -- not as bad as Lolita, but more uncomfortable than Emma. 

I'm very glad to have finally read it -- I've owned a copy since about 2010. I started reading Wharton more than 10 years ago and have since completed most of her novels and short stories, and I've enjoyed nearly all of them. I still have two unread on my shelves, Hudson River Bracketed and The Fruit of the Tree (which are even more obscure than The Children); plus a massive biography of Wharton by Hermione Lee which I'm planning to read soon for the TBR Pile Challenge -- it's more than 700 pages long so it's rather daunting. 

I'm counting this as my Classic From the Americas for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: Fight Club to The Age of Innocence

I don't post about as many memes as I used to, but I'm in the middle of several different books. Six Degrees of Separation is a challenge to connect six different books in a chain. This month my chain has an underground boxing ring, dystopian fiction, and a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. 

So, the starting point is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Never read it, never want to, nor seen the movie. But I have read another book by Palahniuk, Diary, about an artist living in a family-run hotel on a island resort. 

It was really weird and I didn't enjoy it much, but I was living in Japan in the time and we didn't have many books to choose from, so when I saw it at the Base Exchange I bought it. I remember reading most of this on various train journeys around Tokyo. Which leads me to my next book, also read while riding the Tokyo trains. 

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I don't remember much about this because it's been more than ten years since I read it, but I do remember it's a story within a story and that I really liked it. I think I bought it for $1 at the library sale, and that I read most of it on a series of train rides from Tokyo to the suburb of Saitama, where I went to see the John Lennon Museum. It closed in 2010 so I'm really glad I made the trip to see it. 

Of course Margaret Atwood's most famous book is The Handmaid's Tale. I remember reading it back in the 1990s, around the time of the original movie adaptation, which I've never seen. I have since watched the first season of the TV adaptation and it's absolutely chilling. I was hoping my book group would read it this year. We only choose about two months ahead so hopefully we'll get to it before we break for the summer. 

My book group leads me to the next book in the chain, It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. It's another classic with a timely twist that would be great for discussion. Published in 1935, it's about the rise of fascism and a fictional president who becomes a dictator to " save the nation from welfare cheats, rampant promiscuity, crime, and a liberal press." This is another book I would love to read with a group, though I'm a little scared to read it, it sounds almost too timely. 

Sinclair Lewis leads me to Main Street, which I finally got around to reading in 2016, just after I moved here. I can't imagine why it took me so long to read it, as it's about a young librarian in the Midwest which is right up my alley. I don't know why I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I just read somewhere that this book was favored to win the Pulitzer Prize but narrowly lost to Edith Wharton for the next book in the chain.

Edith Wharton, one of my favorite authors, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for The Age of Innocence (the first woman to be awarded the prize). It's her most famous novel, about a wealthy man named Newland Archer, and his love for a scandalous divorcee. It was the first novel I read by Wharton, and I liked it but I didn't become a fan until I read The House of Mirth, which got me completely hooked on Wharton. I've since read nearly all her novels, plus her novellas and many of her short stories. I'm currently reading The Children and will most likely tackle her biography next. The Age of Innocence isn't my favorite of her books but I should probably give it another read. 

So -- from Fight Club to The Age of Innocence. Not what I was expecting at all when I started this post, but sometimes that's how reading leads you, right? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

European Reading Challenge 2019

I have SO MANY British books, both fiction by British authors and British social history. I love the European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader so I can expand my reading to other countries. I had only planned to commit to two challenges this year, my own and the TBR Pile Challenge, but whenever possible I do try to participate in other challenges if they'll help me achieve my goal of reading more of my own books. So here are some possible reads from my own shelves to help me travel through Europe: 

Austria: Beware of Pity by Stefan ZweigThe Exiles Return by Elisabeth de Waal
Denmark: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
France: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo; The Bright Side of Life by Emile Zola
Germany: Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
Ireland: Conversation Piece by Molly Keane; The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore; The Kellys and the O'Kellys by Anthony Trollope
Italy: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante; Madame Solario by Gladys Huntington; Fenny by Lettice Cooper
Norway: The Wife (already completed) and The Cross by Sigrid Undset
Russia: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky 
UK: Imperial Palace by Arnold Bennett; Bella Poldark by Winston Graham; A Few Green Leaves by Barbara Pym; The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope (plus about 100 other books, but I'm narrowing it to three that I really hope to read this year).

Some of these I'm planning to read (or have already finished) for other challenges, but I'm hoping to read at least five, which should be easy. Ideally I'd love to finish ALL of these books, but who knows?

And some more books I really want to read from the library. Most of these are on audio or e-book, which is even better!

Belgium: Stealing the Mystic Lamb by Noah Charney
Greece: Apartment in Athens by Glenway Westcott
Hungary: Portraits of a Marriage by Sandor Marai
Poland: Irena's Children by Tilar Mazzeo
Spain: The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti
Switzerland: Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Bloggers, which of these do you recommend? And are any of you signing up for the European Reading Challenge? 

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Wife by Sigrid Undset: Kristin Lavransdatter, Vol. II

Two years ago I read the first volume of the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy (The Wreath) for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and I really enjoyed it.  I'd been meaning to complete the series so I decided on the second volume, The Wife, for this years' challenge. [Note: minor spoilers for the first volume are in this post].

The Wife covers about fifteen years, immediately following Kristin's marriage at the end of the first book, as Kristin and Erland adjust to married life, and Kristin begins managing Erland's estate, which has fallen into disrepair during his long absence. She bears his children and he becomes involved in political intrigues regarding the child king Magnus and his mother Ingebjorg, the Queen Regent, who are now ruling over Norway and Sweden. We also meet Erland's brother, a priest; and learn the fate of Kristin's parents and younger sister, as well as her former suitor, Simon. 

This volume was a little slower for me -- there was a lot more emphasis on religion and politics. The politics in particular were more difficult, as I found the names hard to keep straight. I thought about researching the history, but realized it mind end up spoiling the plot -- plus there's a third volume, so I decided to wait. I did read the introduction after I finished the book (which did have spoilers, so good thing I waited). There was a LOT of Norwegian history which was very condensed and I got even more confused. 

However, I did really enjoy learning about life in Medieval Norway. I love historical fiction, though I tend to read more about the 18th through the early 20th century. However, it did bother me how much Catholic guilt Kristin was suffering regarding the circumstances of her marriage, which seemed to recur over and over -- I get that the Church was incredibly influential, but it seemed like she was beating herself up about it constantly. 

The last third of the book has some political intrigue that seemed right out of Game of Thrones -- I could definitely picture this as an HBO series, though I suppose it's basically just been done, but with dragons. There was a plot twist with Erland's fate that I wasn't expecting. And now on to Volume III which covers the Black Death! I definitely won't wait as long between reading the last two volumes -- I had forgotten quite a few details in the gap between the first two.  

I'm counting this as my Classic by a Woman Author for the Back to the Classics Challenge. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Bolter by Frances Osborne: A Real-Life Fascinating Train Wreck

I first heard the nickname "The Bolter" back when I read Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, which I loved. In that story, the narrator, cousin to a family of eccentric sisters loosely based on the Mitfords, has been abandoned by her mother, who has "bolted" to live with her lover, or new husband, or something like that.  Anyway, Mitford was inspired by an actual bolter -- the infamous Idina Sackville, a socialite who left her husband and two small sons to live in Kenya with the scandalous Happy Valley set: rich white settlers who drank, did drugs, and took multiple lovers between the wars. Idina married and divorced five times and was possibly the most famous of them all. 

Married at just twenty, Idina left her first husband to marry another man and start over in Kenya because of her husband's infidelities. Apparently it was extremely common for the British aristocrats (both men and women -- as long as the women had produced "an heir and a spare") to take multiple lovers, as long nobody talked about it publicly or had the poor taste to file for divorce, thus making it common knowledge. But when Idina's husband fell in love with her younger sister's best friend, she decided she would rather leave her sons (who could never be raised by another man) and start over in a new country. However, the wild behavior of the upper crust was even worse in the colonies. One of her ex-husbands was almost killed by his new lover in an unsuccessful murder/suicide, and her third ex-husband was eventually shot and killed by the jealous husband of his then lover. 

Dina with her third husband, Josslyn Hay, Lord Errol.
He was later shot and killed by his lover's husband.
All this made the news and was naturally terribly scandalous, both in Kenya and back in Britain. After she left her first husband, Idina wasn't allowed to contact her two young sons and didn't see either of them until they were in college. She had a daughter by her third husband, who was sent back to England to live with family there, and eventually became estranged because Idina's behavior and multiple marriages were just too scandalous. She did have stepchildren by her fourth husband that she loved very much, but eventually that husband also left her to marry another woman, taking those  children with him to South Africa. 

Idina's life was really tragic and quite fascinating, in a trainwreck sort of way. I had a hard time with her leaving her small children behind, but then of course I can't imagine what it would be like to have my husband having an affair with my sister's best friend either. (I guess I'm just not cut out for that crazy lifestyle.) She had to have known that eventually her bad behavior would eventually cut her off from her family, but she kept on doing it. 

Portrait of Idina by Sir William Orpen.
The Bolter was written by Frances Osborne, Idina's great-granddaughter by one of the sons of her first marriage. I can definitely imagine that having such an infamous ancestor would inspire you to write a book. I did enjoy this book though I have a few quibbles -- mainly that the author seemed to take a few liberties with the narrative of the story. Osborne writes about what Idina is thinking and feeling, or describes exactly what she does, without source material. But it's a pretty riveting story, though I did want to jump back in time and yell at her. I was also imagining Lady Mary from Downton Abbey though Idina was way more scandalous -- why hasn't this been turned into a miniseries? 

This is my first book completed for the TBR Pile Challenge 2019.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

I Am a Camera by John Van Druten: Not Just Cabaret Without Music

In the past few years I've discovered how much I enjoy the theater. I do love movies, but there is something indescribable about seeing a live performance. I've been trying to see at least one play whenever I visit my daughter in New York, and since we've lived in Europe I've made a few trips to London, and I try to see shows on the West End as well (you can get half-price tickets the same day as a performance, and everything is first-rate). There is an excellent English-language theater in Frankfurt, which is just over an hour's drive away from me, and every season one of the four or five plays they perform is a musical. This year it's Cabaret, which I had never seen. I got tickets for myself and my daughter and we went to see it after Christmas. 

I also realized that my reading of classics is woefully lacking in plays, so I decided to add that category this year to the Back to the Classics Challenge. Written in 1951, I Am a Camera is the original play which was later adapted as the musical version of Cabaret. I was really quite surprised to see how much the musical differed from the original play (which was itself adapted from Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin). 

The original play is in three acts, set in Berlin in 1930. All of the action takes place in a boarding house owned by Fraulein Schneider, in a room first rented by a struggling writer named Christopher Isherwood. The title of the play comes from the first line of the novel Christopher is trying to write:

I am a camera, with its shutter open, quite passive. Some day all of this will have to be developed, printed, fixed.

Isherwood takes English-language pupils to pay the rent, but since he's nearly broke he moves to a smaller room. Through one of his students, Fritz, he meets Sally Bowles, an English cabaret singer. She's looking for a new place to live and takes over his old room, and they become friends. 

Sally lives a rather fast life, and always seems to be hungover, struggling for money, and though she and Christopher never become romantically involved, he's always there for her. He observes the highs and lows of her life over the course of about a year, with the looming backdrop of growing anti-Semitism and the Nazi party. 

If you've seen the musical, you might be surprised at how it's changed from the original play. Some of the major plot points about Sally are there, but in the musical, she and Christopher become lovers. All the scenes in the original play take place in the boarding house -- there's nothing in the cabaret and in fact, Sally is hardly working as a singer at all. 

In the musical, the landlady has a sweet but probably doomed romance with one of the boarders, a Jewish fruit-seller, which isn't in the story at all -- she's actually anti-Semitic. There's also a sub-plot in the play about Christopher's student Fritz, and his love for a Jewish girl Natalia, the daughter of a department store owner; and there's an interesting plot twist about Sally in the third act. 

Despite the changes, I do feel like the musical captured the characters of Sally and Christopher, and their struggles and feelings of desperation in prewar Berlin. The growing threat of the Nazis and the rise of Fascism is equally present in both versions -- it's not exactly the focus of either story, but it's definitely an important factor. I really liked both versions -- the English Theater in Frankfurt is first-rate, and I'm hoping to see more plays there this year before I return back to the U.S. 

Here's the video preview of the production in Frankfurt. 

I was also very happy to find an online version of the script for I am a Camera through a website called -- anyone can sign up for an free account and check out digital content, from libraries worldwide. I've just started using it but I've been able to get some items that I would normally have found through Inter-Library Loan, which is tough to get overseas. I highly recommend it if you have trouble finding rare items. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Alexander's Bridge: For the Hard-Core Willa Cather Fan

Last year I waited until the bitter end to complete my own reading challenge, and I am determined that I'll read way ahead this year for the Back to the Classics Challenge. I have thrown myself headfirst into my TBR piles this year and have already completed three books for the two challenges for which I've signed up (BTCC and the TBR Pile Challenge). 

Published in 1912, Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather is her first novel, and the last of hers for me to complete (except for the short stories). It is the story of Bartley Alexander, a successful American engineer, famous for creating unbuildable bridges. The story begins in Boston, where an old schoolmate Lucius Wilson has come to visit. Wilson meets Alexander's beautiful and gracious wife Winifred, and learns all about Alexander's success and how they met while he was building a famous bridge in Canada, his first big break. 

Soon after, Alexander travels to London for work, where he is reunited with an old flame, an Irish actress named Hilda Burgoyne. They had been madly in love years ago, but Alexander broke things off when he met and married Winifred. Hilda has now become very successful and she and Alexander keep meeting. One thing leads to another and soon they're having an affair which lasts off and on for several years, as Alexander travels back and forth between London and America, working on various jobs. The bridges that he builds are a metaphor for his struggles to connect his two lives. He loves both women and can't bear the thought of living without either of them. 

The book started out a little slowly but picked up when Alexander went to London and met up with Hilda. I think I appreciated it more because I've been to London a few times since moving overseas, and have been able to go to some of the theaters in the West End, so I could really picture that part of the story. The plot is very simple, but I didn't find the characters as compelling as in some of her later novels like Lucy Gayheart which I read last year. (Of course it's Cather's first novel and so it's not surprising.) I did find some of the writing beautiful and insightful. 

This was a very quick read -- I literally read this entire book in one sitting on an airplane (and it was a fairly short flight). It's not my favorite by Willa Cather but if you're a fan of her work, it's worth reading. 

I'm counting this as my Classic Novella for the Back to the Classics Challenge. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Back to the Classics 2018: The Winner

Sorry for taking so long to post this (I've been traveling and it's nearly impossible to edit posts without my laptop). But without further ado, the winner of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 is.  .  .  . 

Allison @ Climbing Mount To Be Read !!!!!!!!!!!!

Allison won a $30 gift card from! Congratulations! And many thanks and congratulations to everyone who participated in this challenge -- more than 180 people signed up, and 55 people completed the challenge. Most of them finished all twelve categories, a record! 

And every one of us crossed a bunch of classic books off our to-read lists! I hope everyone enjoyed all the new books and authors they discovered. I hope all everyone has signed up for the 2019 Back to the Classics Challenge -- I'm already working on my new reading list and can't wait to see what everyone else is reading!