Two Days in Manchester: Plus, Mr Darcy Fangirling

Manchester Night

Welcome back to Lit Major Abroad, everybody, the segment where I post stories from my literature-inspired travels, usually about seven to thirteen months after said travels actually took place! Up next: an extremely belated description of a trip through Northern England. Warning: I will not divulge exactly when this trip took place. Suffice it to say that several seasons (as in, leaves falling to the ground, turning brown, and then growing on the trees all over again like those sped-up montages from the movies) have passed since this trip took place.

Like many readers of North and South, I had an idea of what Manchester would be like. Dirty and smoky, full of cramped streets and ugly factories that attested to a cruel age of economic power and social irresponsibility. I was influenced by things like the TV adaptation of Gaskell’s novel, and the experiences of family members who had been to the north of England (admittedly, several decades ago, when the English were considerably less on top of things as far as the aesthetic appeal of their cities goes). So when I decided to take a Gaskell-inspired detour through the north of England last year, I was sure I was heading towards a dirty, depressing industrial city. Continue reading

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Top Ten Books I Feel Differently About As Time Passes

Pride and Prejudice ReadingWith hundreds of new titles published every week, re-reading books may seem like a bit of a foolish endeavour these days. But re-reading books – ones you loved, hated, or were simply puzzled by – can be an excellent exercise, one that helps you to better understand a text. Or, sometimes, even better understand yourself, as I’m afraid the following list may very well reveal. The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday theme this week is ‘Books I Feel Differently About Now That Time Has Passed’, and I’ve come up with a list of books that I have re-read either once or many times, with different emotions every time. Continue reading

All Our Old Heroines: How To Be A Heroine (2014), by Samantha Ellis

How To Be A HeroineEvery avid childhood reader remembers the heroes and the heroines that defined their young lives. They’re almost like close friends, those Lizzie Bennets and Lucy Pevensies and Harry Potters. They taught us how to laugh, to love, but perhaps most of all, how to be. How to be children and – to a great extent – how to be adults. How to be individuals, to be principled, to be strong.

But our heroes and heroines don’t just change us. To a large extent, we control them. We get out what we put in, and it’s hardly surprising that the best-loved books stay with readers throughout their lives, each time offering the reader something slightly different.

Heroes and heroines offer us a template for how to be – funny, brave, clever, whatever the author thinks is most important – but whether we, as readers, chose to accept these templates is a different matter altogether. This is perhaps particularly true of heroines, because the social roles imposed on women (mother, wife, daughter) are echoed in fiction, and reading anything published more than a few decades ago (and, regrettably, sometimes even just a few days ago) seems to offer women a pretty narrow scope of templates to accept. So there’s often a debate about whether we should give girls books like A Little Princess or Little Women, while offering boys Treasure Island is scarcely ever thought quite so problematic (presumably there’s no issue with giving girls Treasure Island, and no possibility of giving boys Little Women). Continue reading

Back From the Dead: Rebecca (1938), by Daphne du Maurier

rebeccadumaurierThis review contains some pretty big spoilers, so please watch out, especially in the second half of the review.

While I’m on the subject of Jane Eyre and creepy husbands, I thought I’d re-read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Based on Brontë’s classic, Rebecca tells the tale of an unnamed, penniless heroine who marries a rich widower and goes to live on his beautiful estate in the south of England, Manderley.

So far, so good. But for anyone looking for a nice, romantic story, Rebecca is most definitely not the book for you. Because it is, first and foremost, an incredibly creepy book. And it’s not the sort of book that sends a chill up the spine; no, it’s the kind of book whose creepiness hits you about twenty minutes after you’ve put it down, and you’ve already sat down to eat cereal. Continue 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

Top Ten Authors Whose Books I Own

ShelvesIt’s no secret that I own a lot of books. My tiny Ikea bookshelf is crammed, and on most shelves the books are stacked in two rows, one in front of the other. And since this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish asks which author’s books appear on our shelves the most, I thought I’d do a little bit of a bookshelf review. One bookshelf-clutter-related accident later, I gave up on trying to catalogue every book I own, and set out with bandaged finger to find the authors who stood out to me the most.

Top Ten Authors Whose Books I Own

(This episode of Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you by the Society For The Prevention Of Bookshelf-Related Accidents. Remember, kids: clutter can kill. Always rearrange your bookshelves with a buddy.) Continue reading

My Favourite Classics (Top Ten Tuesday)

favouriteclassicsEvery week the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish prompt bloggers to compose a Top Ten list based on a weekly theme. This week’s theme is ‘Top Ten Favourite Classic Books’. Since I don’t think I’ve actually shared a list of my favourite books yet, I thought today would be as good a chance as any to share some of them with my lovely readers. :)

So here they are, just for you… Continue reading