Monday, January 13, 2020

2020 Victorian Reading Challenge


Becky at Becky's Book Reviews is hosting another Victorian Reading Challenge and the way she's organized it is so fun and interesting I can't pass it up. There are two levels: the basic level is quarterly, just read one Victorian every three months -- easy peasy! The advanced level is still pretty easy, with eleven themed months and one bonus theme. And there's a lot of flexibility with the months, which is great since so many Victorians are real doorstoppers.

Here are the themes and some possible books that would fit the challenge:



JANUARY/FEBRUARY: Journeys and Travels: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (can also count this as my Genre Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge).




FEBRUARY/MARCH: Love and Marriage: Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins. Sounds super-dramatic and sensationalist, which is always fun.



MARCH/APRIL: Second Chances. Maybe Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (I can also count this for my Abandoned Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge). I got stuck about halfway through, maybe I should watch the miniseries and it will inspire me to actually finish the book. Or Les Miserables if I can finish it in time.



APRIL/MAY: Names as Titles: Victorian authors named a lot of books after people! Maybe Basil by Wilkie Collins or a bunch of others by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. There's also The Real Charlotte (also from my Back to the Classics list!)


MAY/JUNE: Long Title or Long Subtitle. How about Harry Heathcote of Gangoil: A Tale of Australian Bushlife ? That's a long title, even for Anthony Trollope. There's also The Struggles of Brown, Jones and Robinson by One of the Firm and The Golden Lion of Grandpere. All of these are fairly obscure and there's not a single decent cover image online for any of them. At least they're all fairly short for Trollope.




JUNE/JULY: Adaptations. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy. There's a movie adaptation with Rufus Sewell, need I say more?


JULY/AUGUST: Favorite Authors, New-to-Me Titles.  Probably Elizabeth Gaskell, there are a few novellas and minor works that I haven't read yet.


AUGUST/SEPTEMBER: Back to School: I didn't have many Victorians assigned in college and high school, which is why I've been reading so many as an adult. My choices are pretty limited so I'd have to go with Jane Eyre or Great Expectations. Or maybe The Awakening by Kate Chopin -- I didn't read it in school but I think it should be included in school curriculum.





SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER: Crime or True Crime. There are so many great nonfiction books that fulfill this category. I've been meaning to read The Five by Hallie Rubenhold.




OCTOBER/NOVEMBER: Home and Family. Period Piece by Gwen Raverat, a memoir of her Victorian childhood (she was a granddaughter of Dickens); also A London Family, an omnibus by Molly Hughes. I've read the first volume but never got around to finishing the last two. I meant to read both of these last year for the TBR Pile Challenge but didn't finish that one either.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER: Comfort Reads. Pretty much anything by Anthony Trollope fits this category, or maybe Mrs. Oliphant. I loved Miss Marjoribanks and would love to read more in her Carlingford series.


SUPER-BONUS: Bearded Authors. How to choose? I think Trollope has the most impressive beard of the Victorians. Maybe that's a good month to read his biography.


Anthony Trollope
Anyone else signing up for this challenge? What other Victorian novels and novelists do you recommend? And which novelist has the best beard?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute


I started reading Nevil Shute last year because I intended to review one of his books for the 2019 Back to the Classics Challenge. I started with one of his most famous works, A Town Like Alice. Though I never got around to writing a post, I enjoyed it so much I read two more of his books before the end of the year. Though he's most famous now for his books set in Australia, Shute started writing in the 1920s, and more than half his novels were written before he moved there in 1950. 

Published in 1942, Pied Piper is set in 1940. It begins a framing device: an anonymous narrator meets an elderly man one night after dining in his London club. They are forced to stay during an air raid, and the older man relates his tale of a recent escape from the Nazi invasion of France, just after the fall of Dunkirk.

The protagonist, John Howard, is a widower, bereft after the loss of his only son, an RAF pilot. He's unable to help with the war effort due to health issues, and in early spring of 1940, has cabin fever and decides to go on a fishing holiday in France, in a small town near the Swiss border, near the Jura mountains. Howard had hoped to have no reminders of the war, which seems very far away, and is mildly annoyed to find British tourists staying at the same small hotel. Young Sheila and Robbie are on holiday but normally attend school in Geneva, where their father is working for the League of Nations. Gradually Howard befriends the family, and after the fall of Dunkirk, decides it's best to go home to England. The children's parents are alarmed at the speed of the invasion, and beg him to take the children with him back to England, to stay with relatives. 


It seems like a relatively easy task to take a train to Dijon and then to Paris, but Howard underestimates the difficulty of traveling with children, and the rapid escalation of the invasion. The younger child, Sheila, becomes feverish and the party is forced to spend the night in a hotel. Trains stop running, luggage goes missing, and Howard is forced to keep finding alternate routes to get back to England. Meanwhile, thousands of people are attempting to evacuate before the arrival of the Nazis. The small party begins to increase as more and more children join Howard and he attempts to get them all to safety. 

I really liked this book. I do love reading about the lives of ordinary people during the wars. This is also a survival story, which I always enjoy. I liked how Howard comes out of his shell when he makes it his life's purpose to protect the children. I also enjoyed following their route across France as they zigzag toward safety to try and elude the Nazis. There were also some good side characters that helped them. It's always nice to read about the kindness of strangers. 

This was also a really fast read, I think I finished the whole thing in one day. It also reminded me a bit of A Town Called Alice, which also includes wartime refugees on a march, trying to survive, though that one is set in Malaya. I definitely want to read more works by Shute, though some of them are a bit obscure. They're a bit tricky to find in libraries but there are many inexpensive used copies from online retailers.  

I'm counting this as my 20th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics challenge.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Challenge Link-Up Post: Adapted Classic


Please link your reviews for your Adapted Classic here. This is only for the Adapted Classic category. This is any classic book that's been adapted for a movie or TV series. If you like, you can watch an adaptation and include your thoughts in your review. 

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Bleak House)." 


Challenge Link-Up Post: Abandoned Classic


Please link your reviews for your Abandoned Classic here. This is only for the Abandoned Classic category. Pick a classic book that you started that never finished -- it could be something you didn't like or just didn't have time to finish. 

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (A Clockwork Orange)." 


Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic About a Family


Please link your reviews for your Classic About a Family here. This is only for the Classic About a Family category. This classics should be about a family and have multiple primary characters who are related, either in the same generation or multiple generations.

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (The Brothers Karamazov)." 



Challenge Link-Up Post: Nature in the Title


Please link your reviews for your Classic with a Nature in the Title here.  This is only for the Classic with Nature in the Title category. This can be anything that occurs in nature, except animals, i.e., mountains, rivers, elements, plants, etc. 

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (On the Beach)."




Challenge Link-Up Post: Place in the Title


Please link your reviews for your Classic with a Place in the Title here.  This is only for the Classic with a Place in the Title category.  It can be a country, a city, a street, or a building, but it must include the proper name of a place. 


If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (The Belly of Paris). "





Challenge Link-Up Post: Name in the Title


Please link your reviews for your Classic with a Name in the Title here.  This is only for the Classic with a Name in the Title category. It can be a first name, last name, or both, but it should be the proper name of a person. 


If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Jane Eyre)."

Challenge Link-Up Post: Genre Classic


Please link your reviews for your Genre Classic here. This is only for the Genre Classic category. This should be a classic work that falls into a genre fiction category, such as fantasy, science fiction, mystery, romance, Western, and horror. Please include the genre somewhere in your review if it isn't obvious. 
   
If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Murder on the Orient Express)." 


Challenge Link-Up Post: Classic by a POC Author


Please link your reviews for your Classic By a POC (Person of Color) Author here.  This is only for the Classic By a POC Author category.  These should all be classics that were written by an author who is not white; i.e., African-American, Asian, Latino, etc. The classic can be in translation or written in English. 

If you do not have a blog, or somewhere public on the internet where you post book reviews, please write your mini-review/thoughts in the comments section.  If you like, you can include the name of your blog and/or the title of the book in your link, like this: "Karen K. @ Books and Chocolate (Their Eyes Were Watching God)."