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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.* Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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! Continue reading

Eugene Onegin (1825), in One Really Terrible Sonnet

Eugene OneginThis book is #35 on my Classics Club List.

Pushkin’s Euegene Onegin, what can I say?
He was a great looker, a fine young dandy;
an aristocrat, all work and no play,
danced the mazurka and drank much brandy.
Most readers, they prefer Tanya though;
lovely girl, Pushkin’s finest creation,
‘Russian spirit’, quite why I don’t know
Just the thing to inspire an emerging nation.
Pushkin, he loved Byron and Shakespeare;
Russian aristos they knew English and French
But not their mother tongue, it’s decidedly queer
an appetite for Europe, Pushkin wanted to quench.
How to sum up this novel in just one word?
All the characters are wealthy and extremely – bored.

The atrocious poem above took me far longer to compose than I care to admit. But although it’s quite possibly the worst thing I’ve ever written in my life (seriously – I’ve got some stories about seahorses that I wrote when I was seven years old; this poem makes them look like Shakespeare), it was a useful exercise. Continue reading

A Lit Major At The Movies: Mansfield Park (1999)

Mansfield Park 1999Last year I re-read Mansfield Park. And made a surprising discovery.

I actually liked it. All those years of avoidance, staring at it on the shelf and wondering whether it would ever do anything more other than round out my collection of Austen’s work – what a waste.

So when I found myself loving the book, I naturally wondered whether perhaps my younger self had also been unfair on the movie adaptations of the novel. In particular, the 1999 version directed by Patricia Rozema. So I tracked it down and gave it another go. And what I found was, if not the most enjoyable viewing experience (or, indeed, true-to-the-book adaptation), at least a thought-provoking one.

The 1999 version of Mansfield Park is a darker, more sombre version of Austen than those made earlier in the decade. This turn-of-the-millennium Austen hints at the changes that are going to begin appearing in Austen adaptations of the noughties: an interest in the grungy, the suppressed; in sex, and in the characters who frequently hover on the periphery of Austen’s narratives (domestic servants and, in this particular adaptation, slaves on the sugar plantations owned by the Bertram family). Although we never really see either slaves or servants, these individuals are conspicuous in their absence.

Continue reading

Austen in August 2015

austeninaugustrbr-buttonIs anybody else’s mind simply blown by the realisation that is is August again, already? Mine certainly is. But August means Austen in August, the super-fun reading event that celebrates everything Jane Austen.

I’ve got a much shorter to-read list this time around, mostly because I don’t know how much time I’ll get to read this month. So I’ve only got a few choice selections:

  1. Emma – this will be my Austen re-read for the month, as 2015 marks two hundred years since its publication (I know, Miss Woodhouse looks simply amazing for two hundred – how does she do it?) Completed (finally); review here.
  2. Jane Austen Cover To Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan Completed; review here.
  3. Why Jane Austen? by Rachel Brownstein Completed; review here.
  4. Everybody’s Jane by Juliette Wells Completed; review here.

Bonus: A review of the 1999 film version of Mansfield Park, and a post on the new Jane Austen waxwork.

As you can see, this year I’m continuing my theme of reading books dedicated to dissecting the Jane Austen phenomenon.

Are you participating in this month’s event? What will you be reading?

Romance, Heroes, and a Re-Reading of Jane Eyre

janeeyrePlease note: there are spoilers in the following paragraphs! If you haven’t read Jane Eyre yet – hang on, why haven’t you read Jane Eyre yet?

Towards the end of last year a strange feeling came over me. With two weeks before my final university assignments were due, in the madness of that final rush to the finish line, in the midst of research, re-writes, and late-night drafting sessions – I felt the strangest desire to re-read Jane Eyre.

At the time, I thought it was odd. Given the amount of reading I had to do for class, it seemed bizarre to me that I would want to add yet another book to my immense reading pile; although, granted, Jane Eyre was somewhat lighter and more enjoyable than my class-related reading, namely Freud For Kiddies (published by the Department for the Elucidation of Freudian Theories of Psychosexual Development, at the University of YouveGottaBeKiddingMe Press, MA, 2011) and The Complete and Absolutely In No Way Abridged, Explicated, or Rationalised Works of Jacques Lacan (University of KillMeNow Press, forthcoming).*

Continue reading