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Classics Club Challenge Reading Challenges Reviews

A Heterogenous Superfluity of Trisyllabic Utterances: The Portrait of a Lady (1881), by Henry James

Ladies and gentlemen, pray mind the spoilers!

Oh my poor, poor Classics Club list. I made it in 2014 and infused it with all the optimism of my more youthful days. I was convinced I would read 100 classics (including such hefty tomes as War and Peace and Ulysses – ah the vanity of youth) in four years. Five years on and I’ve made it about 10% of the way through that list. So I’m guessing I’ll be done with it sometime around my sixtieth birthday. Hooray for me!

This book was #61 on that list, and since I somehow associated the month of March with E.M. Forster books about Italy (I read Where Angels Fear to Tread and A Room With a View in some long-ago March and since then the association has been fixed in my brain), I thought I’d read another classic that features Italy heavily. Well, last March I managed to make it about five chapters into The Portrait of a Lady before giving up. This year I was determined to make it all the way through.

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Reviews

Sexy Vampire Fun: Carmilla (1872) by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Be prepared for sexy, sexy vampire fun. Oh, and spoilers.

If you know anything about vampires in folklore and fiction, you will probably know the following:

  1. The vampire myth developed somewhere in Eastern Europe. It was all about fears of the dead coming back to life and visiting their family members to make life difficult for them, and also, because we’re dealing with Folk Legends, may have at least partly been invented by women eager to cover up the fact that they’d been fooling around with other men after their husbands had shuffled off this mortal coil. Folk legends can be so quaint and innocent and lovely like that.
  2. Surprisingly, the vampires of ancient folk legend rarely actually sucked blood. Which basically means that they more or less just… sucked.
  3. Vampires did not, under any circumstances, sparkle.
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Forgotten Classics Reviews

A Brilliant Book Where Nothing Much Happens: Hester (1883), by Margaret Oliphant

hester-oliphant“I do declare, these spoilers are simply shocking!”

The essence of this review is basically that I loved Hester and I’m not even sure if there’s really anything more to add.

That’s partly because I can’t quite put my finger on why I liked this book in the first place. One of my least-favourite topics in the world plays a large role in this book: banking and finance. For me, this is about as interesting a topic as a book about the finer points of Watching Paint Dry.

But something about Hester grabbed me right from the very beginning. Set in a small town where the Vernon family own a prosperous and seemingly stable town bank, it begins with a crisis that could see the bank collapse and the family lose all their wealth and status in one fell swoop, because the head of the family is a bad businessman. But along comes his cousin Catherine Vernon and despite suffering from a rather terminal case of Being Female, nevertheless manages to save the bank using her own money. She goes on to raise the bank back up and rule the entire Vernon clan with an iron fist.

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Prompts Memes and Other Fun Things Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

Hug Book
(Image Source)

I’d like to think I’m not particularly fussy when it comes to picking books to read. That I like to read widely and experimentally. And while this is broadly true, it’s also fair to say that I am a judgemental bitch who definitely makes snap decisions about books without sufficient evidence to back up said decisions. So, in the interests of calling me out on this terrible habit of mine, here are my top ten book turn-ons for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday: the things that will make me want to read a book straight away, laid bare. 

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Classics Club Challenge Reading Challenges Reviews

All the Things I Remember About The Moonstone (1868), by Wilkie Collins

the-moonstoneMystery fans beware! SPOILERS ahead!

This book is #63 on my Classics Club list.

I’m not exactly known for being the most up-to-date when it comes to posting my book reviews. This is usually because I’ll finish a book, write a review, and then let it sit on my hard drive for months, until I finally remember to post it up, usually about two years after I wrote it (and that’s not even an exaggeration). In the case of The Moonstone, however, I made the crucial mistake of reading it in November last year and avoiding the writing of the review itself (and only about ninety-five per cent of the reason is because I didn’t have anything particularly interesting to say about it. The other five per cent is, predictably, that I’m just lazy).

So when I finally came to write this review, I couldn’t remember a darned thing about the plot, characters, or themes. Which is especially concerning considering I also watched the 2016 BBC adaptation of the novel, and still can’t remember anything beyond the fact that the guy who plays Godfrey Ablewhite has fantastic cheekbones, and that Sarah Hadland can still make me laugh. So if you’re hoping for an in-depth postcolonial reading of Collins’ novel, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint. But if, like me, you are a newcomer to The Moonstone, you may find the following facts, dredged only by dint of great effort from the quagmire of my brain, to be quite useful.

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A Lit Major At The Movies Prompts Memes and Other Fun Things

Adapting Austen: A Roundup of My Favourite Austen Adaptations

sense-and-sensibility-rain

I’m a sucker for a good Jane Austen adaptation. In fact, I think I’ve seen just about every one in existence, apart from those awkward 1970s BBC ones that are about as exciting as cohabitation with Mr Collins. So, naturally, this week’s Classic Remarks topic is right down my alley. But since I’ve been watching Austen adaptations since I was about thirteen, it’s kind of tough to pick my favourite. So, instead, I’ve decided to group my selections to cover all the bases you might use for evaluating an Austen adaptation.

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Classics Club Challenge Reading Challenges Reviews

The One With the Big Hooter: Cyrano de Bergerac (1897), by Edmond Rostand

cyrano-de-bergeracThis book is #18 on my Classics Club list.

‘Tis well known, a big nose is indicative
Of a soul affable, and kind, and courteous,
Liberal, brave, just like myself, and such
As you can never dare to dream yourself,
Rascal contemptible!*

(Scene I: Act 4)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a French musketeer with an enormous nose.

And no, I’m not making this up. The hero of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac, is a brilliant fighter, poet, and wit.

Oh – and he is also well-known for having an absolutely enormous nose.

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Classics Club Challenge Reviews

Victorian Superheroes (Minus the Tights): Dracula (1897), by Bram Stoker

DraculaI vant to suck your blood… and varn you about ze spoilers ahead! (And also tell you zis book is #56 on my Classics Club list, bleh bleh).

On a dark and stormy night, in a castle in Transylvania, an English clerk named Jonathan Harker discovers a terrible secret about his host. It leads to an epic chase across the whole of Europe, from East to West, and back again. It’s the plot of Dracula, one of the most recognisable literary villains in history. Decades of literary criticism have shown us just how much there is to uncover in a book like Dracula. There’s no way I can possibly cover everything there is to find in a book like this, so I thought I’d start with some of the things which really caught my attention while I was reading.

Men Writing About Women Writing About Men (And Why It Always Makes Me Laugh)

In Dracula, women are everywhere. The plot revolves around two women in particular: Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker, the wife of Jonathan. In his characterisation of them, Stoker articulates anxieties about a range of issues, from Victorian sexuality to the fear of foreign invasion.*

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Prompts Memes and Other Fun Things Readalongs Readathons and Other Reading Events Reviews

Some Things I Thought About Emma (1815) by Jane Austen

Austen EmmaI am thoroughly ashamed of myself. Emma was supposed to be one of my Austen in August reads last year, given that it was published at the end of 1815. Sadly, thanks to university deadlines and the tiny inconvenience of moving halfway across the world, I wasn’t able to complete it. But after more time than I’m prepared to admit, I finally come to you with my thoughts on my re-read of Emma. If it seems incomplete, ill-informed, or just plain wrong, I’m going to go ahead and blame that on the fact that it took me about six months to finish. If I hadn’t caught the flu a few weeks ago – Austen being one of my go-to illness cures – I might still be ‘reading’ this book (by which I mean it would have been sitting by my bedside silently judging me, as only the best books can). I hope you find it interesting. I hope you don’t come away from this silently thinking I really should give up studying literature. I know I found myself wondering.

Some Things I Thought About Emma

All of Austen’s novels are about possession and belonging. It’s hardly surprising, considering the kind of world she was born into – a world where one’s worth was most often determined by how much one was worth.

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Classics Club Challenge Reading Challenges Reviews

A Very Short Review of a Very Long Novel: War and Peace (1869), by Leo Tolstoy

War and PeaceThis book is #16 on my Classics Club list.

War and Peace is well-known for being an absolute behemoth of a book. Full of deep characterisation and intricate plotting, it would probably take several reviews to begin to cover all the material in this 1,300-page novel.

So instead of trying to pick apart the immense complexity of this book, I’m going to go in the other direction, and simplify it as much as possible. Because I don’t want to bore you, or end up re-reading the entire book again (seriously, if I have to re-read this thing straight away I will cry). Also there’s a new season of Call the Midwife on at the moment – I mean… I have much work to do for… uni. Yeah. Um. Uni work. That’s right. So in the interests of brevity, I present you with:

Ten Things I Learnt From Reading War and Peace

1. Historians suck. They majorly suck. Why? Because they’re not nearly as clever as Tolstoy, that’s why. So instead they write about ‘destiny’ and ‘great men’ and ‘the will of the people’, and bore readers with extremely long expeditionary essays that seem to – OH WAIT. That’s exactly what Tolstoy does. Only in reverse. Gasp!