Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Jude the Obscure: Possibly the Most Depressing Book Ever

I hadn't planned on reading a third Hardy novel this year (I read Under the Greenwood Tree and A Pair of Blue Eyes practically back-to-back) but recently comedian Michael Ian Black started a podcast called Obscure in which he reads one chapter of Hardy aloud per week, interspersed with his comments. He goes off on tangents and does terrible accents for some of the characters, and I find it delightful. However, if I read along with Michael, it would take nearly a year to finish Jude, so I've read ahead. And let me tell you, Hardy deserves the reputation of my first impressions. Jude has four main characters who are all miserable, and terrible things happen to them. It is possibly one of the most depressing books I have ever read.

Here's the setup: schoolteacher Mr. Phillotson is packing up and leaving a small village in Wessex to continue studying at Christminster, a large university town (based on Oxford). Young Jude Fawley, a bright but poor pupil, is sad to see him go and vows to someday go to Christminster himself to study. As a poor boy with no resources, and being of a lower class, this is practically impossible. He lives with his great aunt who is full of dire predictions about the Fawleys, and how they should never marry, that they are essentially cursed.

Nevertheless, Jude works hard, gets hold of some Greek and Latin grammar books, and does his best to study on his own. As he grows up, he begins training as a stonemason, while still improving himself by studying late into the night. Then his plans are sidetracked one day when he is literally hit in the face (with pig offal, no less) by a sultry temptress known as Arabella.

Yes, women are the root of all evil. Jude is a strapping young man and he is distracted, as is to be expected, by the temptations of a woman. One thing leads to another and rather than the shining halls of Christminster, Jude is led down the aisle by Arabella because she has led him to believe that she is In Trouble. Eventually, their marriage turns sour and they separate. Jude vows to begin a life of chastity and study. However, he tracks down his cousin, Sue Bridehead, in whom he finds a kindred spirit. Sue everything that Arabella is not. Of course, he falls in love with Sue but can't have her.

So, the lives of Jude, Sue, Arabella, and his old schoolmaster Phillotson become entwined and tragic. I was actually sort of enjoying this book, despite the dire predictions and rumors that this book was really sad. Things weren't looking great for Jude and Sue, but I was going along with it, then BAM! About 3/4 of the way through I was absolutely blindsided by a plot twist that was so unexpected and horrible I gasped aloud. I was absolutely gobsmacked and had to stop reading (well, listening, as I was in the car with the audiobook.) It was almost 24 hours before I could pick it up again and I did not know what could possibly happen next -- how could things get worse? (They did.)

Clearly, Hardy had some very serious thoughts about the nature of marriage and love and happiness. I had read a bit about Hardy in Wikipedia and I knew that he had a very unhappy marriage; also, that Jude the Obscure was so controversial for its time, and that there was a great deal of backlash. Though Hardy lived another 30 years after the publication of Jude in 1895, he never published another novel, just plays and poems.

I cannot say that I liked Jude, but I can appreciate the writing and parts of the plot, but I don't think I can forgive Hardy for that terrible plot twist. Jude the Obscure definitely gets my vote for Most Depressing Book Ever.

There is also a film adaptation from 1996, which is out of print but there are still copies floating about. One of my library's branches has a copy so I put in a request. It is supposedly en route but now I don't know if I can bear to watch it. It does star Christopher Eccleston so it might be worth a look, but I just don't know. Here is a still from the film with Jude and Kate Winslet as cousin Sue:

The wonderful Rachel Griffiths is Arabella and Liam Cunningham is Jude's former tutor Phillotson. Who knew that the Onion Knight from Game of Thrones was in a Hardy adaptation? He is my favorite GoT character so I might take a look out of curiosity. 

Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight in Game of Thrones.

Should I bother watching the film version of Jude? Is it the most depressing book ever? Should I give Hardy another chance or are all of his novels just soul-crushing?

 I'm counting this as my Classic That Scares You for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

London War Notes by Mollie Panter-Downes

It's taken me more than two months, but I've finally finished London War Notes, my tenth book for the TBR Pile Challenge 2018. First published in book format in 1971, this is a collection of essays written biweekly for the New Yorker during World War Two. It remained sadly out of print for many years until Persephone books republished it in 2014. I'm quite fascinated by the war years, particularly the war at home, so I was sure this would be right up my alley. Only the length had discouraged me since I bought it four years ago and I thought this would be a good time to get to it. 

Of course these essays discuss a lot of what's going on in London and the surrounding area during the war, especially the bombings, there's definitely a lot more history about the battles and the politics that were going on. There has been so much written about the war (go into any Barnes and Noble bookstore and you will be amazed at how many nonfiction books there are about WWII), but so much of what's published is centered around Europe, I'd forgotten how critical the battles in North Africa and the Far East were, especially places like Burma and Singapore. So much of what Americans associate with WW2 in Asia is centered around Japan -- I didn't really realize how significant the loss of Burma and the rubber plantations was to the war effort and everyday life in Britain. I did have to stop a number of times and look up historical events mentioned in the book that would have been common knowledge at the time of publication.

The other thing that really struck me about this book was the overwhelming sense of anxiety. As an American growing up in the late 20th and 21st century, I cannot imagine living with the thought that you could be bombed at any moment, to be evacuated from your home, or to have to endure rationing for food, clothing, and fuel. It's a little easier to read knowing that the war would be won, but it must have seemed like it was dragging out forever -- and of course rationing didn't end for a long time afterward. I've been a little disappointed being unable to buy Warburton's crumpets the past few weeks because of the CO2 shortage, boo hoo.

Detail from the endpapers of the Persephone edition
I do, however, think that I can relate to the sense of anxiety. Every day when I wake up and look at the news, I keep waiting for the worst, and wonder how much longer it will get worse before it gets better. I know a lot of Americans are feeling similar anxiety. I'm sure it's worse for people actually living in the U. S.

I'm very glad I read it, but this is the slowest I've read any book for this challenge, in this year or previous years. I suppose was a mistake to be reading this 459 page nonfiction book about World War Two at the same time I was reading a 661 page memoir about World War One (Testament of Youth). You think? I did in fact take a long break from London War Notes in June. I thought that it would be easy to pick it up again halfway, but I was wrong -- I really feel like I lost momentum. 

And now for a lighter anecdote! Reading this book also reminded me of one of my visit to the Churchill War Rooms during one of my visits to London. It's part of the Imperial War Museum and is really fascinating -- the underground bunker where Churchill and others lived, worked, and slept during the war. It is quite fascinating and there were a lot of interesting displays. Of course one has to walk through the gift shop on the way out and this was one of my favorite purchases:

Yes, these are two-handed oven mitts with a wartime propaganda slogan. I got it as part of a set with a matching apron (also available as a tea towel). There were a lot of fun postcards and prints with wartime slogans. Here's another of my favorites:

It's really worth visiting if you're in London and have any interest in wartime history. There's also an online shop here if you just want the oven mitts or the poster version.

So -- that's book #10 for my TBR Pile Challenge 2018! I'm making good progress and hopefully I'll complete the last two AND my two alternate reads this year! How is everyone else doing with their TBR piles? 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Classics Club Spin #18

One of my favorite parts of being a member of the Classics Club are the Spins. Basically, participants select 20 books from their Classics Club list and number them. The club chooses a random number, and club members read the corresponding book from the list with that number, and have a month to read and post about it. I've just started my second Classics Club list, which has some very obscure classics because I'm desperately trying to read books from my own shelves. Here's my list:

Five Classics I've Owned the Longest:
1. Imperial Palace by Arnold Bennett
2. Alas, Poor Lady by Rachel Ferguson
3. Living/Loving/Party Going by Henry Green
4. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore
5. The Children by Edith Wharton

Five From the 20th Century:
6. Westwood by Stella Gibbons
7. The Hireling by L. P. Hartley
8. The Little Ottleys by Ada Leverson
9. Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie

10. Barmy in Wonderland by P. G. Wodehouse

Five in Translation:
11. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
12. The Misunderstanding by Irene Nemirovsky
13. The Bright Side of Life by Emile Zola
14. The Fortunes of the Rougons by Emile Zola
15. Beware of Pity by Stephan Zweig

Five Virago Modern Classics:
16. Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy
17. Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamund Lehmann

18. The World My Wilderness by Rose Macauley
19. Jenny Wren by E. H. Young
20. Frost in May by Antonia White

On August 1 I'll be assigned a number and that will be my next Spin pick! Which ones should I be hoping for? Which should I be dreading? And what's on your Spin list? 

Updated: The number is up, and I'll be reading #9, Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie. Sounds like a perfect summer read and I'm looking forward to it. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Pomfret Towers: A Comfort Read Set in Downton Abbey (Plus a Bad Book Cover)

Nice cover on this Virago Modern Classic edition. It reminds me of a vintage travel poster. 

I started reading Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire series last fall, when I was in dire need of a comfort read. Beginning in 1933, Angela Mackail Thirkell (sister of Denis Mackail, who wrote the charming Greenery Street) wrote 29 novels set in the fictional county of Barsetshire, the same county as Trollope's novels. So far I've read five of the first six and have found all of them mostly delightful.  If the words "English country house party in the 1930s" pique your interest as they do mine, then this is quite possibly the book for you.

Pomfret Towers is #6 in the series and was published in 1938. The story begins with an invitation to a weekend house party. (I kept imagining it set in pre-war Highclere Castle AKA Downton Abbey, which I just visited in the UK; I'll post about it soon). The elderly Lord Pomfret is having a group for the weekend and is looking for some young people, so he invites Guy and Alice Barton, the young adult children of one of his tenants. Mr. Barton is a successful architect and his wife is a successful writer of historical novels. Guy works for his father and Alice, shy and delicate, is terrified of the idea of spending a weekend with a lot of smart and fashionable people. She warily accepts after Lord Pomfret tells her to bring along her friends Roddy and Sally Wicklow. Rowdy works for Lord Pomfret's agent, and Sally is a quintessential country girl who loves dogs and horses and is quite jolly. 

The house party gets under way and Alice is taken under the wing of the beautiful Phoebe Rivers, a sort of cousin to Lord Pomfret, who is visiting with her brother Julian, a rather spoiled artist-type, and their overbearing mother, Hermione, another novelist. Mrs. Rivers' primary purpose in the visit is to get Phoebe paired off with Lord Pomfret's heir apparent, Giles Foster. The house also party includes Mr. Johns, one of the partners of Mrs. Rivers' publishing firm, who is not convinced that the income from her books is worth the trouble of putting up with her. 

Most of the story is taken up with the possible pairings-off between the various young people and the chagrin of Mrs. Rivers when these silly youths don't follow her wishes. There are also some very funny bits about writers and publishers. Our omniscient narrator gives us some of Mr. Johns' more amusing thoughts, as well as Lady Pomfret's steadfast secretary Miss Merriman, in whom the unbearable Mrs. Rivers has met her match.

. . . [Mrs. Rivers] was forced to fall back on the interesting subject of herself and tell Miss Merriman how many signed photographs she gave away last year. If Miss Merriman had had real tact she would have asked whether Mrs. Rivers could possibly spare her one, but she merely remarked that she must get one of Mrs. Rivers' books from the library as soon as she had time to do some reading, and that Lady Pomfret had had Mrs. Rivers' last book on the [waiting] list ever since it came out but hadn't got it yet. Whether Miss Merriman knew how annoying this was to Mrs. Rivers, who have liked the libraries to buy enough copies for all the subscribers, we are not in a position to say. (p. 129)

I really enjoyed this book -- it was light and funny, if a bit predictable. It was pretty easy to guess who was going to end up with whom, though there were some amusing minor plot twists. Also, in previous Thirkell books there have been occasional racist remarks which made me uncomfortable (though I do realize anti-Semitism was pretty common among the middle and upper classes during that period); this book, thankfully, didn't have any that I remember. 

And now for some alternate book covers! 

This cover is from the 1980s. Is that supposed to be Deborah Kerr? Whoever she is, she looks far too old and glamorous unless she's supposed to be Mrs. Rivers. And what is that bizarre cord wrapped around her shoulder and bosom? is she being lassoed by the guy hiding in the bushes? It's all very strange.

I suppose this one is better, it's the Moyer-Bell edition from 2007. Their covers are generally good (though I have found some egregious typographical errors in the text). I don't know enough about fashion history to know if this dress is period-appropriate. I don't have this edition so I don't know the source of the cover image.

The original cover. I do love how it explains Thirkell is the "author of 'August Folly' and other delightful novels.' Even her own publisher thinks her books are delightful, so it must be true!

Anyway, of the five Thirkell novels I've read so far, this was definitely my favorite and I'm very much looking forward to the next 24 (!) books in the series. I already own about a dozen in Moyer-Bell editions that I picked up at Half-Price Books back in Texas, though there are a few volumes in the series which are difficult to find and can be pricey.

After considering, I have decided to count this as my Classic by a Woman Author -- Thirkell wrote this book eighty years ago and it's still in print, so I'm calling that a classic. That makes ten books read for the Back to the Classics challenge, only two left to go!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Another Trip to the UK: London and Windsor

I'd made two trips to London so far since we moved overseas, and I hadn't planned on going back to the UK for a while, but I'd been dying to see Hamilton and last November I found out more tickets to the West End production were going on sale. They are far, far easier and cheaper to get than tickets in New York (since scalping of tickets is strictly forbidden in the UK!). Seven months ago my husband and I  anxiously hovered over our laptops the minute the tickets went on sale and we scored four seats for June! Sadly, my oldest daughter had to miss it (she had an amazing internship opportunity that she just couldn't pass up), but my mother had been planning to visit so we combined a trip to London with a Jane Austen pilgrimage.

After a very early morning flight, we wandered around Hyde Park since our hotel room wasn't ready yet. I'd never been to any of the royal residences so I walked over to Kensington Palace. There was a nice display of some of Princess Diana's dresses, and you can tour the rooms where Queen Victoria lived when she was a girl. I think my favorite part was the Sunken Garden.

The gardens at Kensington are free to the public. 
As I walked back to my hotel, I found this statue of Queen Victoria:

We had tickets the first night to The Play That Goes Wrong which is HILARIOUS (it's also playing in New York and is touring the US starting in the fall). But first we had a pre-theater meal at a wonderful Italian restaurant near Covent Garden called Cicchetti. It's all small plates, similar to Italian tapas. Everything was wonderful but the desserts (for two) were the highlight:

The next day my Mother and I went to St. Paul's Cathedral, which is truly impressive. Sadly, no photos are allowed inside the cathedral, so I had to be satisfied with shots of the outside and from the top of the dome. 

I didn't ride any red London buses this trip but I do love them. So iconic.

I've gotten pretty good at climbing stairs since I moved to a four-story house on a hill. I feel justified in eating more gelato if I've climbed 47 flights of stairs. You can just see the London Eye near the bend of the Thames. 

After St. Paul's we walked through the City to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, a historic pub that Charles Dickens frequented. I forgot to take a photo outside, but after lunch I decided to visit the Dickens House Museum which was just a short walk away at 48 Doughty Street. 

This is the home where Dickens moved in 1837, just before Queen Victoria acceded the throne. While he lived here, he wrote The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby, and one of my favorites, Oliver Twist. 

Many of the original furnishings remain, including his desk:

One of the top floor bedrooms has a display of items relating to Dickens' childhood, including some bars from the window of the Marshalsea prison and a window from his childhood home. I was struck most by this display of blacking bottles. As a child, Dickens had to leave school and work in the blacking factory, pasting labels on the bottles of blacking. He worked twelve hours a day, six days a week, when he was only twelve years old. 

The Dickens house is only a five-minute walk from Lamb's Conduit Street so I couldn't resist popping into Persephone books for a quick look round! I visited two years ago and there was scaffolding covering the front, but now you can see how pretty it is. I especially love the boxes of geraniums. I could have happily bought a stack of books but I knew I'd be moving my suitcase around a lot for the next week, so I practiced self-restraint and bought just one dove-grey book, The Godwits Fly, and one from their table of "Books We Wish We'd Published" -- The Greedy Queen: Eating with Victoria by Annie Gray.

Then it was time to go home to eat and change before Hamilton !!!!

I really wish I'd taken a photo from the front of the theater. Once you go inside, you can't leave until the performance is over and by then it was dark. The theater inside is newly refurbished and absolutely beautiful. I did get this lovely photo of the ceiling interior. 

I'm no theater critic but Hamilton is probably the best musical I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a few in the past ten years. I'm not really a fan of rap but it's so much more than that -- it's got all types of music, dancing, drama, humor -- it has everything. All the performers were brilliant, but one of the stand-by performers did the role of Aaron Burr and he was absolutely mesmerizing. I cannot say enough great things about this play and I would love to see it again someday. 

The next day my mother and I checked out of the hotel and made our way to Slough where we picked up a rental car, then drove over to Windsor for lunch and to see the castle. 

It has everything you'd expect -- turrets, towers, and a moat which is now a beautiful garden. 

We also saw the church where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were recently married. It's really beautiful but the interior is different than I expected (naturally, no photos allowed.) 

I especially liked the lion and the unicorn guarding either side of the steps out front. The unicorn is on the right and the lion on the left. 

We had a little time to walk around in Windsor before heading out towards Bath. Outside a souvenir shop I was particularly amused to see this historic marker:

Several years ago I read H. G. Wells' Kipps, the story of a young draper's apprentice who unexpectedly inherits a fortune. It was also adapted into a musical called Half a Sixpence which I saw on my trip to London in 2017. 

And finally I couldn't resist taking photos of this massive hat display in a department store -- it was a few days before the Ascot races and the hats were gorgeous

Next stop: Bath and Lyme Regis!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Paris in July 2018

Paris in July is back! Hosted by Thyme for Tea, it's a month long celebration of French culture -- books, movies, art, food, etc. This year I'm going to participate by:

Reading at least two of the following books:

  • Maman, What Are We Called Now? by Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar, a diary of wartime occupied France in WWII, published by Persephone;
  • In Confidence by Irene Nemirovsky, a collection of short stories;
  • The Misunderstanding by Irene Nemirovsky, her first published novel;
  • A Good Place to Hide by Peter Grose, another nonfiction account of wartime France. This one is about a small village in the Loire that hid more than 3000 Jews during the occupation.
  • The Bright Side of Life by Emile Zola, the latest in the Rougon-Macquart series to be newly republished by Oxford University Press, with a new translation -- I'm quite excited about this one since the nice folks at OUP just sent me a review copy!

Watching French movies, some new to me and one I've seen years ago:

  • La Femme Nikita, because my daughter loves action movies and it would be fun to watch it together;
  • Les Choristes, because I've heard it's heartwarming; 
  • Un Secret, because it's been in my Netflix queue forever; 
  • Journey's End, because I'm nearly finished with Testament of Youth and want to learn more about WWI;
  • Suite Francaise, because I loved the book and was finally able to track down a DVD -- I'm not sure why it was never released in the U.S. but I was able to find a region 2 copy. 

Cooking French pastries:

  • I haven't made eclairs in years and I keep saying I want to make them again. Or profiteroles. 
  • I'd also like to try to make Tarte Tatin. It was also a Signature Challenge on the Great British Bake Off and though I've never made rough puff pastry, it can't possibly be that difficult, can it? 

I'd also like to take at least one day trip to France. The town of Bitche is just about an hour away. I have family visiting and that would be fun to cross the border into another country, and there's a citadel way up on a hill that you can climb -- a good activity for children with a lot of energy.

Bloggers, are you participating in Paris in July? What are your plans? 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Testament of Youth: War is Hell and Women Are Still Fighting For Equality

It took me more than a month, but I've finally completed Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain's classic memoir of World War I. I'd been meaning to read this book since about 2014, when it started showing up on lists of WWI reads. I put it on my TBR Pile Challenge List last year, but I kept putting off reading it until Jillian suggested a June readalong on Twitter. Sadly, I wasn't able to finish on schedule due to some travels to the UK, but I persevered and I'm glad to say that I have completed the 661 pages and am slightly exhausted.

The background: Vera Brittain was a student at Oxford when WWI broke out. Her brother Edward, sweetheart Roland, and two of their best friends all enlisted, and after a few months, Vera could not sit idly by and joined up as a VAD [Volunteer Aid Detachment], a volunteer nurse, and worked in France, Malta, and England until the end of the war, when she returned to Oxford, completing a degree in History, and became a teacher and eventually a lecturer, speaking all over the UK about pacifism and the League of Nations. The book begins with Vera's childhood in Buxton but mostly covers 1913 until about 1924. Testament of Youth was published in 1933 and is considered one of the classic WWI memoirs. Brittain also wrote novels and two more memoirs, Testament of Friendship (1940), about her relationship with classmate and best friend Winifred Holtby; and Testament of Experience (1957) -- both of which are much shorter.

I really enjoyed this book but it is long, with tiny print. I really loved reading about Brittain's life in Oxford and her friendship with Holtby and other writers (Dorothy Sayers was also an Oxford classmate). She had to fight her parents to attend Oxford, and even after the war and the suffrage movement, she was a feminist and struggled to have a career as a woman. It's so discouraging that women are still fighting for the same issues nearly 100 years later. Also terribly discouraging to hear how badly the young nurses were treated when they were volunteers, and how how inefficient some of the staffing and medical methods were. 

Of course, the sections about the war are absolutely heartbreaking. It's devastating to realize how many lives were destroyed on both sides, and how quickly Europe went back to an even bigger war just 20 years later. I cannot imagine living through a war like that as a civilian, much less as a nurse treating patients near a battlefield. 

Though there were a few sections that I did skim over (particularly some of the politics which I'm not as familiar with, especially at the end) the writing in this book is just wonderful and insightful. I copied at least ten passages that I would love to quote, but I've narrowed it to just a couple: 

What exhausts women in wartime is not the strenuous and unfamiliar tasks that fall upon them, nor even the hourly dread of death for husbands or lovers or brothers or sons; it is the incessant conflict between personal and national claims which wears out their energy and breaks their spirit. (p. 422- 423).

One had to go on living because it was less trouble than finding a way out, but the early ideals of the War were all shattered, trampled into the mud which covered the bodies of those with them I had shared them. What was the use of hypocritically seeking out exalted consolations for death, when I knew so well that there were none? (p. 446).

Only gradually did I realize that the War had condemned me to live to the end of my days in a world without confidence or security, a world in which every dear relationship would be fearfully cherished under the shadow of apprehension; in which love would seem threatened perpetually by death, and happiness appear a house without duration, built upon the shifting sands of chance. I might, perhaps, have it again, but never again should I hold it. (p. 470).

It did not seem, perhaps, as though we, the War generation, would be able to do all that we had once hoped for the actual rebuilding of civilisation. I understood now that the results of the War would last longer than ourselves; it was obvious, in Central Europe, that its consequences were deeper rooted, and farther reaching, than any of us, with our lack of experience, had believed just after it was over. . . . . Perhaps, after all, the best that we who were left could do was refuse to forget, and to teach our successors what we remembered in the hope that they, when their own day came, would have more power to change the state of the world than this bankrupt, shattered generation. (pp 645-646.)

I had been rather dreading this because of the length and subject, but I'm really glad I read it, so thanks to Jillian for suggesting it! I'm also inspired to read Testament of Friendship which I must track down, and to read the remaining Winifred Holtby novels that are on my TBR shelves (Poor Caroline and Mandoa, Mandoa!). I also have the TV adaptation saved on the DVR, but I might have to wait a bit to watch it -- I can't imagine how this has been adapted to film. Bloggers, have any of you seen it? Is it worth watching or should I just delete it? 

This is book #9 for the TBR Pile Challenge 2018

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge: Mid-Year Check-in and Giveaway!

2018 is already halfway over! How's everyone doing with the Back to the Classics Challenge?

I'm happy to report that I've already finished nine of of the twelve categories.  Here's what I've read so far:

That leaves me with only three categories left: Classic by a Woman Author; Classic Crime Novel; and (naturally) Classic That Scares You. So far I think my favorite was The Jewel in the Crown (except for Wives and Daughters, of course!) I'm hoping to start the next book in the series this summer, though I won't be able to count it for this challenge since it doesn't really fit any of the remaining categories. 

I'm also planning on reading Crime and Punishment this summer, which I will probably count as the Classic that Scares Me (unless I count it for Classic Crime). I'm also hoping to read something by Irene Nemirovsky which I can count as my Classic by a Woman Author.

I'm very pleased with my progress. And how is everyone else doing? As a little incentive, I'm having a giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a beautiful Penguin Clothbound Classic of their choice (value up to US $20).  

Here are the rules for the Giveaway:

1.  To enter, you must already have been signed up for the challenge (sorry, the cutoff date was back in March.) If you have not already on the list, YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE.

2.  Challenge participants must have already linked at least one review to one of the twelve categories in the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. If you've signed up but haven't posted any reviews, the cutoff date to post is July 31.

3.  Any new links to the Challenge must follow the original parameters for the Challenge.

4.  Challenge participants must leave a comment below, letting me know which book they've most enjoyed reading for the challenge. If you like, you can also tell me which Penguin Clothbound Classic you would choose if you won (you can change your mind if you're the winner). Include an link or an email address so I can let you know if you've won. 

5. One lucky winner, drawn at random, will receive his or her choice of Penguin Clothbound Classic valued up to $20 (US) from either Amazon.com OR The Book Depository. The winner must live in a country where they can receive delivery from Amazon.com or The Book Depository. If you're not sure, click here to see if The Book Depository delivers to your country. 

6.  Comments and links must be posted no later than July 31, 2018 at 11:59 p.m., U.S. Pacific Standard Time. On July 1, I'll post the name of the winner. 

7.  The winner must contact me with a good address by August 8, 2018, at 11:59 p.m., or I'll choose another winner. 

So what are you waiting for?  Post some reviews, tell me which books you liked best, and let me know which Penguin Classic you'd pick if you won!