30 June 2013

Reading report for June 2013

I finished 12 books in June, 8 of them rereads (of which one was an audiobook). Unusually, all the rereading had nothing to do with depression this time. I simply wanted to revisit some old friends (and possibly justify to myself why I keep them around). I finished one book in my Brontë project and one TBR challenge book. I also added a number of books to my library, mostly cookbooks, which fortunately don‘t count towards the TBR challenge, but I also added some books that do.

All four ‘never-before-read‘ books were satisfying reads (I hardly need to mention that all of the rereads were as well). The highlight was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but the favourite will probably end up being the Calvin and Hobbes book. I can never get enough Calvin and Hobbes.

The Nora Roberts novel was the best by her that I have read this year. I have been noticing more and more that while I happily devour her old category serial romances and read her other books with enjoyment, the ones I end up giving the best marks tend to be romantic suspense (e.g. Northern Lights, Carolina Moon, Montana Sky).

All in all, I had a highly satisfying reading month.

In July I hope to finish Shirley, and hopefully also the first of three books I am contributing to a group challenge on my favourite reading forum. We are reading one book published in every year of the 20th century. This is a one-year-one-reader challenge and each participant need read no more books that she or he feels like. My first pick was 1924 and the book A passage to India by E.M. Forster, which I have been meaning to read since I saw the movie about 25 years ago. I might (I say might!) turn this into a personal 20th century challenge for myself , although I am more inclined towards the 19th century (see my previous comments on the subject).

The Books:
  • Anne Brontë: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Romance. 
  • Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer: Agnes and the Hitman. Romantic suspense. Reread. 
  • Georgette Heyer: The Black Moth. Historical romance. Reread. 
  • Georgette Heyer: These Old Shades. Historical romance. Reread. 
  • Georgette Heyer: Devil's Cub. Historical romance. Reread. 
  • Georgette Heyer: Venetia. Historical romance. Reread. 
  • Georgette Heyer: Lady of Quality. Historical romance. Reread. 
  • Terry Pratchett: Monstrous Regiment. Fantasy. Reread. 
  • Nora Roberts: Whiskey Beach. Contemporary romantic suspense. 
  • Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Taylors. Mystery. Reread (first listen).
  • The Bathroom Readers' Institute: Uncle John's Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader. Trivia.
  •  Bill Watterson: The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes. Collected comic strips.


Reading year by year

I have been keeping a reading journal since 2004. Before that year, my reading bookkeeping was sketchy to non-existent, and while I do have a list of around 370 books I know I read before that time (mostly keepers and old favourites), it's just a list of remembered titles with very little other information. I had the sense to compile certain statistical information right from the beginning of my journalling in 2004 and one of the things I have kept track of since the start was the original year in which the books I read were published.

The last time I was between books and in the limbo of deciding what to read next I was inspired by a discussion thread on my favourite book discussion board in which some of the members were organising a year-by-year group reading challenge for the 20th century.
I sat down and compiled a list of books I have read, by year, with a view to possibly doing a "fill in the gaps" year-by-year reading challenge. This was easy, because at the beginning of every month I enter the statistical information about the books I read the month before into an Excel file which I can then manipulate at will to extract statistics. What I discovered was this:

In the list are 1702 books with publication years. In that time I read several more for which I, for some reason, didn't write down the original publication year, so they weren't counted. I didn't remove rereads, so the numbers for some of the years may be represented several times by the same book, thus skewing the number read by year count. It is, for example, highly likely that many of the doubles and some of the multiples from before 1930 represent the same book, in some cases over and over. For example, I have down 10 books for 1908, the publication year Anne of Green Gables, one of my favourite books and a frequent reread. It is probable that at least half of the books behind that number are really that one book. Likewise, any year after the Discworld series started coming out is likely to be somewhat skewed by my periodic rereading of those books, as are the years of publication of any of my other perennial favourites. That information will need to be corrected if I want it to show the correct number of individual titles for each year. I have included some of it anyway, just for fun.

According to the list I have, since I started keeping tabs, read two books that were written before the beginning of the current era (i.e. C.E. 1). One of these was The Epic of Gilgamesh and the other was the Bhagavad-Gita (for some reason the Google spell-checker wants to turn this into "Bravado-Gita", which I think would make a good name for a science-fiction character or a female gun-slinger in a western). I know of three more I read before I started the journal: the Bible's Old Testament, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

Then the list shows one date between 500 B.C.E. and 1719 C.E. but I know of several more, all but two of them Icelandic Sagas. There are four dates in the 18th century, 27 in the 19th, and when it comes to the 20th century only one year is missing: 1924. Of the 21st century I have every year covered.

The numbers fluctuate between single and double figures from 1908 to 1975, and then there is an upward trend which peaks in 2003 and drops by leaps and bounds back to a single figure for 2012 and one book for 2013, which is only natural as I don't read a lot of very new books. The most represented year is 2003 with 63 books, followed by 2001 and 2002 each with 62 and 1999 and 2000 each with 61.

 The conclusion to all this is that if I am going to do a year-by-year challenge to read books from years hitherto unrepresented in my reading, it will have to be the 18th or 19th century I choose. In the meantime I am participating in the aforementioned 20th century reading challenge and have reserved the year 1924 and chosen A Passage to India by E. M. Forster as the book.


28 June 2013

Friday book list # 10: Whiskey Beach (Nora Roberts) and Venetia (Georgette Heyer)

I have two book lists to offer this week, both gleaned from books mentioned in romance novels. One is all fictional titles and the other all genuine titles.

Lets start with Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts: 


Fictional titles, both non-fiction, history:
Calypso: Doomed Treasure by Charles G. Haversham
Whiskey Beach: A Legacy of Mystery and Madness

And now Venetia, by Georgette Heyer:

Reference to the Greek and Latin texts is to the original languages in the novel, links here are to English translations.

Poetry: 
"The Corsair" by Lord Byron
"Cherry-ripe" (by Thomas Campion)
The Aeneid, The Georgics and The Eclogues by Virgil
The Odes, The Satires and The Epistles by Horace

Play:
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Novels: 
Guy Mannering (by Sir Walter Scott)

Philosophy:
Phaedo (by Plato)
The Intellectual Powers of Man (as Intellectual Powers) by Thomas Reid

Non-fiction:
Essay on the Principles of Translation by Alexander Fraser Tytler (I have downloaded this one to my Kindle and plan to read it)


27 June 2013

Booking through Thursday

Today's question on Booking Through Thursday is "What’s the worst thing you ever did to your reading material?"

It’s time for summer reading, so … today’s question? What’s the worst thing you ever did to your reading material? Sand in the bindings from the beach? Dropped into the pool? Covers smeared with sunscreen?
And, if you’ve never done actual summer-time damage … have you EVER damaged your book/magazine/paper? Dropped it in the bathtub? Used it to kill a bug? Spilled with coffee?

The worst thing I have accidentally done to a book was spill tea all over it. I may also have crushed an insect or two between pages and left food-stains inside books.

I have, however, deliberately done worse things to books.
I have:
  • hollowed them out to make hiding places. To be fair to myself, these were books I bought second hand and started reading, only to discover that there were pages missing. I do have one Reader's Digest book ready for hollowing and I don't feel bad about it at all - it is, after all, a volume of digested, i.e. edited books, and in my opinion that is one of the worst things you can do to a good book (don't, however, get me started on bloated monstrosities like The Historian - that I would gladly edit and it would be better for it).
  • given them to my pet parrots to shred (one book with missing pages and one terrible, terrible book that made me mad because of homophobic elements)
  • put them in the recycling bin 
In my opinion, the very worst thing you can do to a book is to leave it unread. If you can not or will not read a book you have in your possession, give someone else a chance to read it. It's disrespectful to the author, the publisher and not least the trees that gave their lives for the paper to not give a book a chance to be read. This may be why I love second hand books so much. I know most of them have already been read at least once and so I don't feel too guilty about leaving them in my TBR stack for years on end.

25 June 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme where we post about top ten subjects relating to books. This time around it's "Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013".

Here are mine, in no particular order:

A travelogue with a difference.
From the Author's Note: "This tale is the story of a real journey made in 1969 by a group of Indian villagers. For a short time I was able to travel with them. I travelled 15,000 kilometres in the third - class carriages of Indian Railways, over a period of seven months. ... To the villagers the journey was an adventure thrust upon them by unexpected fate when their kindly landowner died leaving her wealth in a trust fund for her villagers. Many of them found the confrontation with the world beyond their village alarming and unsettling. After their travels they returned to the years of crisis and war which resulted in the formation of Bangladesh and the tidal wave, famines and struggle which followed closely upon that war."

A satirical novel about science, magic and the relations between the sexes, it's funny, ugly and well worth reading. It's also loosely based on a real life person: a man who claimed to have discovered the clitoris (as a woman I find that quite funny, but of course it's about scientific discovery, not what generations of women already knew).







By turns funny, scary and sad, this is the memoir of a woman who grew up in east Africa during turbulent times. Not for the weak of heart.
A mixture of romance and military novel, this is the story of a couple who meet in Brussels and have a turbulent romance during the lead-up to the battle of Waterloo, but most of all it's about the battle itself and is still considered among the best descriptions of it.
Memoir of the childhood and teens of the famous cookbook author and actress, growing up in India in the years before during and just after World War II.
Travelogue of a retired British couple who bought a narrowboat and sailed it across the English Channel to France and along French and Belgian waterways to Carcasonne.
Roach investigates life after death in her inimitable way.
Definitive edition of Thomas' lovely poem/play about 24 hours in a small Welsh village.
Lovely, lovely children's book. I am considering starting a campaign to have it translated into Icelandic.









The latest from Nora Roberts and the best I have read by her in some time.

22 June 2013

Reading journal (and possible SPOILERS) for Shirley by Charlotte Brontë, part 3.

Shirley has arrived, and she is, as I surmised, the young owner of Fieldhead Hall and therefore Mr. Moore's landlady. So far the narrator has shown her to the reader only from the outside, i.e. her emotions and thoughts are not revealed, and so she is just a little bit mysterious.

While Shirley owns the book's title, the protagonist so far has been Caroline Helstone and it looks like an interesting little love triangle is going on between her, Shirley and Mr. Moore, with both ladies in love with him and he wavering between the penniless Caroline, whom he seems to feel some regard for, and Shirley and her money, which he is in dire need of. I only hope it will not lead to the very tiresome trope of one of the ladies dying to make way for the other to marry the gentleman. The death would have to be that of Caroline, because there have been possible foreshadowings of that nature, although there has also been an indication that it will not happen. I hope it doesn't - it's such a cliché, although maybe it wasn't considered one back when the book was written?

This, by the way, is looking more and more like a mixture of romance and a social novel, since the problems with the cloth mill and the workers are often mentioned.

21 June 2013

Friday book list # 9: Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer

Books mentioned in Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer. Some books contain oodles of titles. This one has 2:

The Inflexible Captive by Hannah More, a play.
and
The Pythagorean Diet, or Vegetables only conducive to the Preservation of Health and the Cure of Diseases, by Dr. Cocchi. Amazon.com gives the title as: The Pythagorean diet, of vegetables only, conducive to the preservation of health, and the cure of diseases. This seems to be a translation (from Itailan) of a transcript of a lecture on Pythagoreanism and would probably have been published as a pamphlet.

Both appear to be included as sources of humour.

20 June 2013

Reading journal/notes for Shirley by Charlotte Brontë, part 2. Includes teasers.

Chapter VII and still no sign of Shirley.  The chapter begins with a charming description of what it is like to be eighteen:
...at eighteen the true narrative of life is yet to be commenced. Before that time we sit listening to a tale, a marvellous fiction, delightful sometimes and sad sometimes, almost always unreal. Before that time our world is heroic, its inhabitants half-divine or semi-demon; its scenes are dream-scenes; darker woods and stranger hills, brighter skies, more dangerous waters, sweeter flowers, more tempting fruits, wider plains, drearier deserts, sunnier fields than are found in nature, over- spread our enchanted globe. What a moon we gaze on before that time! How the trembling of our hearts at her aspect bears witness to its unutterable beauty! As to our sun, it is a burning heaven - the world of gods.
It goes on for two more paragraphs, but I'll let this suffice. You can look it up if you wish to read the whole thing.
--

This novel has an omniscient or partially omniscient narrator and she comes across as arch and it is ever so slightly annoying. My mother says she always feels like an arch narrator is speaking down to the reader, like a person who has a special (falsely sweet) talking-to-children voice and addresses kids with an expression like she is looking at them over the rims of a pair of eyeglasses (even when she isn't wearing any), and I tend to agree with her. The archness does seem to be fading as the narrator gets into the real storytelling and stops describing the characters.
--

There is some unrequited love going on, but whether it will continue to be unrequited remains to be seen. I have determined that one of the characters involved must be a lead character but can't yet decide if he is a hero (in the literary meaning of the word) or not.
--

Again the importance of names.
Mr. Moore's name sounds like "more", which is clearly what he wants, and Mr. Helstone's name suggests Hell and brimstone and he seems to be just as harsh a character as the name would suggest, and a misogynist on top of it:
At heart he could not abide sense in women. He liked to see them as silly, as light-headed, as vain, as open to ridicule as possible, because they were then in reality what he held them to be, and wished them to be - inferior, toys to play with, to amuse a vacant hour, and to be thrown away.
The narrator does not like him.

The following pithy description concerns him and what would happen to the new wife if he married a second time:
...her parents, I say, would have delivered Hannah over to his loving kindness and his tender mercies without one scruple; and the second Mrs. Helstone, inverting the natural order of insect existence, would have fluttered through the honeymoon a bright, admired butterfly, and crawled the rest of her days a sordid, trampled worm.

--

The name of Mr. Langweilig is a cute little joke. Having learned German, I got it right away and it and the context in which it is mentioned made me laugh, but I wonder how many readers do catch it without an explanatory note and, for that matter, how many readers of the 1849 edition got it back then?



14 June 2013

The new Hobbit trailer

I've see it and on the one hand I am somewhat upset that a whole lot of changes have clearly been made to the beloved story, but on the other I'm going "Woa! This is going to be fun!"

I think it's best not to be too bothered about the changes and simply consider it an interpretation rather than an adaptation.

Here it is, for your perusal:

11 June 2013

Reading journal for Shirley by Charlotte Brontë, part 1 (herein may be SPOILERS, so beware)

Editied, with additions in blue.

I'm three chapters into Shirley and wondering when the titular character will make her first appearance. As with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, my first Brontë Project read, I took care not to read anything that could give me an indication of what the novel is about so that I would come to it with a (metaphorical) clean slate. You see, I am one of those people who absolutely hate reviews and forewords to books that blithely give away important plot points, as if the writer assumes that everyone must already either have read the book or at the least know everything about it so that it's okay to drop spoilers on the reader. As a result, I now read forewords only after I have read the book. But back to Shirley.

That the title character is female I only found out accidentally. I had read somewhere that before Shirley Temple rose to Hollywood fame, Shirley was a man's name, so I assumed - since this book was published in 1849 - that Brontë's Shirley must be male, but then I found out that it was apparently this book which popularised Shirley as a female name and that Shirley Temple was only the cause of a surge of popularity of the name and not the cause of the gender change. Somebody clearly got their facts muddled, and by that I mean either the person who asserts it was Shirley Temple who turned the tide or the person who claims it was Brontë's Shirley. I'd like to see proof of either.

What I have read so far is written in a style that seems ever so slightly mocking at times. One can almost imagine the narrator telling the story with the slight drawl often used to indicate dry humour in audio book readings. The word I was looking for here is arch.

I have no idea if this is going to turn out to be romance, or drama, or melodrama, or something else altogether, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

07 June 2013

Friday book list # 8: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons


Books and other publications (including poems) mentioned in Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, including imaginary works. For further discussion of some of these (and for annotations of other stuff in the book) visit the BookDrum entry for Cold Comfort Farm.

Real:
Novels: 
Did She Love Him? by James Grant
Home Influence by Grace Aguilar
How She Loved Him by Florence Marryat (this should actually be How They Loved Him)
Macaria, or Altars of Sacrifice by A. J. Evans-Wilson 
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Poetry:
'Julian and Maddalo' by Percy Bysshe Shelley
'Adonaïs' (An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, Author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc.) by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Publications:

Imaginary:
Novels: 
The Fulfilment of Martin Hoare by Anthony Pookworthy, A.B.S, L.L.R.

Non-fiction:
The Higher Common Sense and Pensées by the Abbe Fausse-Maigre (these are works of philosophy)
Madame Olga's Dream Book (presumably a book of dream interpretations)
Odour of Sanctity (a history of sanitation)
Victorian Vista (a life of Carlyle) - interestingly, there was later published a book titled Victorian Vista, but about a different subject altogether. I can't but wonder if the author got the idea from Gibbons.

Play:
Manallalive-O! by Brandt Slurb
On Your Toes! 

Publications:
"Haussman-Haffnitz on Brassières" (magazine? thesis? I have no idea)
Milk Producer's Weekly Bulletin and Cowkeeper's Guide
Photo Bits (there was a real magazine with that title, but as it ceased publication in 1914 and Cold Comfort Farm was published in the 1930s, I doubt it's the same magazine, although probably it is of similar nature) 
Internationally Progressive Farmers Guide and Helpmeet

Planned but not yet published (both by Mr. My(er)b(ur)g: 
Scapegoat: A Study of Branwell Brontë (alternative title: Pard-Spirit: A Study of Branwell Brontë)
Virginal

Doubtful:
News of People (presumably a magazine or newspaper). I could not determine whether this was real or not, but the editor of the BookDrum entry for Cold Comfort Farm suggests the title is a parody of the title of the tabloid News of the World.

05 June 2013

Reading Journal for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, part 6 - various comments and disjointed thoughts

Differences in the characters of Helen and Gilbert. Helen is a fascinating woman, strong, determined and intelligent and a proto-feminist, albeit she is sometimes a bit too fond of preaching morality. Gilbert comes across as hot-headed, rash and ever so slightly stupid, albeit also quite a solid and decent guy (as seen mostly in his interactions with her son), and it's a bit of a stretch to imagine why such a fascinating woman as Helen would fall for him. Possibly it's that he is the first potential suitor she has come across who is also a decent human being? In any case , the only thing they seem to have in common is a liking for suffering and a love of literature.
--

An interesting note on class in the story is in the final chapters of the novel when Gilbert Markham begins to have doubts about the possibility of ever getting together with Helen, because he at some point realises that they come from different social classes. I had him pegged at the beginning as a member of the landed gentry, but apparently he is "just" a well-off farmer, a step below Helen, who is a member of the landed gentry, and it is even suggested that with her money and social position, she could easily marry into the nobility and that a marriage between her and Gilbert would me a mésalliance.
--

And oh, yeah, something others have mentioned: I got Jane Austen vibes reading parts of this story.
--

Postscript:
Reading the book was really only part I of part 1 of my Brontë project. I deliberately didn't read anything that night give away the story in the book before I began reading it, because I wanted to come to it without preconceptions and possible prejudices. I intend to treat the other books in the same way. However, now I have finished it, I am having fun reading reviews and supplementary material found around the web and it's interesting to see the different reactions to and reviews of this novel.

Now I think I must get my hands on the DVD of the second TV series, starring Tara Fitzgerald as Helen and Toby Stephens (oh my!) as Gilbert. Apparently Stephens is considered well suited to Brontë material, since he has also starred as Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester. (Maybe I should wait for my re-read of Jane Eyre to address this, but really, I must ask: Why is it that handsome, even beautiful, men always get chosen for that part, when Mr. Rochester in the book is a striking rather than good-looking man?)

I have had a good laugh over the TV Tropes list of tropes used in the story, which, if printed out, would fill a good 8 pages. (Going through any list on TV Tropes can take hours, even days, because many of the tropes are so imaginatively named that one simply must investigate them better).

04 June 2013

Reading journal for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, part 5

After I wrote the last entry I didn't touch the book for several days. Not because I wasn't interested in continuing, but because I had other things to do. My mind occasionally (very occasionally) goes wandering in other directions than reading and I had a few days during which I simply didn't feel like picking up a book. On with the journalling, but first a BIG FAT SPOILER WARNING: Read no further if you don't want any surprises revealed to you about the story.

I finished it yesterday. I found the middle section, consisting of Helen's account of her courtship and marriage an utterly realistic portrait of a marriage entered into with more haste than forethought.

Both parties has unrealistic ideas of the other. Huntingdon seems to have married out of a spoiled, egotistical, hedonistic man's desire to make a conquest of something he sees as utterly desirable - in this case a living, breathing woman (or girl, really) - that didn't quite turn out to be as delightful as he thought it would be, much like a young boy who sees and advert for a toy that, once he gets his hands on it, turns out to be something less or other than he thought it was.

Helen goes into the marriage knowing he has faults, but dismisses them as minor and expects to fix them and make him the good man she imagines she sees, through the rose-coloured glasses lovers often wear, underneath the carefree, spoilt exterior. Like so many women before and after her, she then discovers that it is easier said than done to change someone who doesn't want to change. Add Huntingdon's alcoholism into the mix and the outcome is an inevitable deterioration of the marriage and a dissatisfaction on both sides that grows into contempt on his side when he finds that he can't drag her down with him, and hatred on hers when she discovers he is cheating on her. This makes her determination to not allow him to turn their son into a copy of himself utterly believable, although her method of weaning the child off alcoholic drinks is really nothing short of child abuse, however well meant it is.

It is clear to anyone who has had to deal with an alcoholic in their life that Anne Brontë was writing from real life experience. That an unmarried woman during a time when such things as marital problems were not openly discussed should be able to write so convincingly about a deteriorating marriage shows that she must also have been able to observe something of that kind. The sick-bed scenes and death scene are utterly wretched and believable as well, and the pathos of Huntingdon's death makes one almost feel sorry for the wretched man.

If I have a complaint about the story it is the emotional melodrama of the aftermath of Gilbert's reading Helen's diary. He clearly has a low self-esteem mingled with strong pride. First he uses her absence from her son's home as an excuse for not writing to her (when a letter might easily be read after her return or even be forwarded to the right address by the servants) and then, when he discovers she is an heiress, all he wants to do is run away for fear that she will reject him. This spells to me a man who is in no way certain that his beloved loves him back. And is it any wonder, when she shows so much reticence to act in her own interest and send him a word? Even with the onus of having to be seen to be in mourning for a year after her husband's death, the postal service would make it easy for her to write to him without it being noticed. Or, for that matter, it would have been so easy to take her brother into her confidence and have him drop a hint in Gilbert's direction.

All of this makes for drama and creates conflict, to be sure, but the way it is done is just a little bit over the top. But, taken altogether, this is a nicely satisfying read. I might even read it again some day.

Oh, and the scene outside the church near the end? Brilliant. He gets to make a fool of himself over her, but not so much as to make him a public laughingstock:
     I approached the little rural church—but lo! there stood a train of carriages before it; it needed not the white favours bedecking the servants and horses, nor the merry voices of the village idlers assembled to witness the show, to apprise me that there was a wedding within.  I ran in among them, demanding, with breathless eagerness, had the ceremony long commenced?  They only gaped and stared.  In my desperation, I pushed past them, and was about to enter the churchyard gate, when a group of ragged urchins, that had been hanging like bees to the window, suddenly dropped off and made a rush for the porch, vociferating in the uncouth dialect of their country something which signified, ‘It’s over—they’re coming out!’

     If Eliza Millward had seen me then she might indeed have been delighted.  I grasped the gate-post for support, and stood intently gazing towards the door to take my last look on my soul’s delight, my first on that detested mortal who had torn her from my heart, and doomed her, I was certain, to a life of misery and hollow, vain repining—for what happiness could she enjoy with him?  I did not wish to shock her with my presence now, but I had not power to move away.  Forth came the bride and bridegroom.  Him I saw not; I had eyes for none but her.  A long veil shrouded half her graceful form, but did not hide it; I could see that while she carried her head erect, her eyes were bent upon the ground, and her face and neck were suffused with a crimson blush; but every feature was radiant with smiles, and gleaming through the misty whiteness of her veil were clusters of golden ringlets!  Oh, heavens! it was not my Helen!  The first glimpse made me start—but my eyes were darkened with exhaustion and despair.  Dare I trust them?  ‘Yes—it is not she!  It was a younger, slighter, rosier beauty—lovely indeed, but with far less dignity and depth of soul—without that indefinable grace, that keenly spiritual yet gentle charm, that ineffable power to attract and subjugate the heart—my heart at least.

Now, I wonder which I should read next? Another book by Anne, or should I move on to Charlotte? I don't think I'm quite ready for Emily yet.


03 June 2013

Reading journal for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, part 4


This is either very profound, or very trite, I can't decide which. I just know I like it:
Helen to Gilbert, at their parting:
"We are children now; we feel as children, and we understand as children; and when we are told that men and women do not play with toys, and that our companions will one day weary of the trivial sports and occupations that interest them and us so deeply now, we cannot help being saddened at the thoughts of such an alteration, because we cannot conceive that as we grow up our own minds will become so enlarged and elevated that we ourselves shall then regard as trifling those objects and pursuits we now so fondly cherish, and that, though our companions will no longer join us in those childish pastimes, they will drink with us at other fountains of delight, and mingle their souls with ours in higher aims and nobler occupations beyond our present comprehension, but not less deeply relished or less truly good for that, while yet both we and they remain essentially the same individuals as before."

02 June 2013

Reading report for May 2013

I finished 11 books in May, 6 of them rereads. Two others I had started reading some months previously but then stalled. It was nice to reduce my stack of partially read books, even if just a little. Another 2 were audio books, both Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, one a re"read" and the other a first time "read". I generally prefer to read books rather than listen to them the first time I encounter them, as I feel that I absorb them better off the page, but with all the audio books I have listened to in the past 2 months I feel I am regaining my ability, acquired during my childhood and teens when I listened avidly to plays and book readings on the radio, to perfectly follow and enjoy books aurally.

The relatively low number of books read, as well as both the rereading and the audio books, may be "blamed" on other activities: I have been quite busy with some of my other hobbies, especially painting and sewing, and with tidying up and attempting to de-clutter my apartment. When this is the case, I prefer to read books I know well and can put down at a moment‘s notice without losing the enjoyment of their reading, or to listen to audio books while I attend to things like tidying or simple painting that do not require much concentration.

This month's stand-out among my first-time reads was Narrow Dog to Carcasonne by Terry Darlington. At first I found his style a bit unusual and slightly difficult, but I got used to it and highly enjoyed reading about the Darlingtons' adventures in their canal-boat. I also enjoyed Climbing the Mango Trees, part one of TV cook, cookbook author and actress Madhur Jaffrey‘s autobiography. As for the rest, see the notes after the titles in the list.

All the rereads are among my perennial comfort reads, but I must especially mention Le Nid des Marsupilamis (The Marsupilamis' Nest), which never fails to enchant me. This mocumentary piece of natural history was published in Icelandic (as Gormahreiðrið) when I was 10, and I was lucky enough to receive a copy which has held up remarkably well considering I and others have probably read it hundreds of times. I would quite like to get my hands on a copy in the original French, as I really need to practice reading in that language.

The Books:
  • Benjamin Daniels: Confessions of a GP. Memoir. Reads like a blog brought to book form, with each chapter a complete unit in itself. This is not necessarily bad, but does make it a bit disjointed.
  • Terry Darlington: Narrow Dog to Carcasonne. Travelogue.
  • Franquin: Le Nid des Marsupilamis. Comic book. Reread.
  • Stella Gibbons: Cold Comfort Farm. Comic novel. Reread.
  • Goscinny & Tabarry: Le Tapis Magique. Comic book. Reread.
  • Madhur Jaffrey: Climbing the Mango Trees. Autobiography.
  • Terry Pratchett: Unseen Academicals. Fantasy. Reread.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night. Murder mystery, romantic. Reread. Audio book.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers: Busman's Honeymoon. Murder mystery, romantic. Audio book. I didn't care much for the mystery in this one, but enjoyed reading about the further development of Harriet and Peter's relationship.
  • Sir Walter Scott: The Talisman. Historical novel. Reread.
  • Peter Stanford: The Devil: A Biography. History. An informative and sometimes terrifying journey through the history of Old Nick.