Top Ten Most Memorable Fathers in Literature

The last time I tackled a Top Ten Tuesday topic, it was ‘Most Memorable Mothers in Literature‘. So this week I’m looking at the most memorable fathers in literature: the good, the bad, and the ugly. (This was technically supposed to be last week’s TTT topic. My bad.) Continue reading

The Classics Book Tag (AKA Oh My God I Can’t Believe I Still Haven’t Read All These Books Please Don’t Judge Me)

Garden chair

Jillian tagged me for the Classics Book Tag – thanks, Jillian! So, let’s get on with it. Also, please enjoy this completely unrelated but extremely pretty stock photo I’ve included, mostly because I’ve pretty much tapped out Unsplash’s supply of book-related stock images.

1. An over-hyped classic you really didn’t like?

Le Mort d’Arthur. It’s basically 400+ pages of dudes in chain main slicing one another’s bodily appendages off as if they were made of butter. Pass. Continue reading

Top Ten Most Memorable Mothers in Literature

Happy belated Mother’s Day, Mums! Hopefully your kids remembered that Saturday was the big day, and bought you lots of nice presents and didn’t forget, like Steve always does. Nice job, Steve.

(Full disclosure: I did forget.)

So to make up for it, Mum, here are ten memorable mothers from literature for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. Thank you for having all the qualities of the good ones and none of the qualities of the bad ones. Continue reading

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

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

Top Ten Books That Have Made Me Laugh

I’ll admit, I’m cheating a little this week – instead of following The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt this week, I’ve decided to make a small modification. This is mostly because I think humour is hugely subjective. It’s also because I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I have a simply dreadful sense of humour, so I feel it’s only fair that I not impose that on others. So instead of sharing ‘Ten Books That Will Make You Laugh’, I’ve decided to list the books that have made me laugh (or, at least, think ‘hey, that’s pretty funny’). Warning: the following may contain incredibly childish jokes, simply dreadful puns, and even a little toilet humour. You’ve been warned. Continue reading

My Top Ten Non-Romantic Loves in Fiction

FezzikInigoThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about Valentine’s Day, but since I’ve always been a bit of a cynic about a commercial holiday which demands that lovers be nice to each other for one day (thus allowing them to be perfectly horrible to each other for the next three hundred and sixty-four days in the year), I’ve decided to make this Top Ten Tuesday list all about my favourite examples of non-romantic love in fiction. The following relationships are not without their struggles and complications, but I think they all show that non-romantic love can be just as messy, affectionate – and ultimately uplifting – as romantic love.

My Top Ten Non-Romantic Loves in Fiction

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

Longbourn (2013), by Jo Baker

longbournI’m sure that many reviews of Jo Baker’s Longbourn begin like this, but I’ll say it anyway: I don’t usually read Jane Austen sequels. Or prequels. Or indeed anything ‘inspired by’, ‘in the style of’, or ‘after’ Jane Austen. In fact, many years ago now I declared my household a ‘Jane Austen Sequel-Free Zone’, a new development my family had no trouble getting behind on account of them not really caring about Jane Austen at all (it’s tough, but with family you have to love them for all their qualities, good and bad).

The reason behind this strict ruling is simple. I admire Jane Austen. I admire her as a writer, and in particular as a comic writer of incredible skill and subtlety. Continue reading

Pride and Prejudice (1813), by Jane Austen

imagesR599V0UM2013 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve arrived a little late to the party, but I decided to re-read Austen’s most famous novel a few weeks ago in order to try and figure out what, exactly, is so engaging about it.

Many people find it strange that a two-hundred-year-old novelist, who wrote primarily about the process of courtship in the early nineteenth century, should still be so popular in the twenty-first. Jane Austen is often dismissed as ‘girly fiction’, as the precursor to ‘chick-lit’ and the modern romantic comedy.

But the idea that the plots of her novels merely appeal to the ‘romantic’ reading tastes of women (the notion that men and women exclusively enjoy certain types of fiction is in itself laughable) is, to me, insufficient to explain why Austen is so popular today. Why does she continue to be read by critics and ordinary readers alike? And why does she, despite all the criticism aimed at her, hold such an important place in the Western canon?

I’ve always felt the need, when speaking about books, to defend my love of Austen’s novels. To say someone is a fan of Austen these days seems shorthand for suggesting that they are romantic, fanciful, and unrealistic. And if you’re involved in any kind of literary studies, admitting to liking Jane Austen often singles you out as an imposter; as someone who likes reading ‘easy’ books for enjoyment rather than ‘hard’ books for deep intellectual examination.

So I admit to liking Jane Austen with a hint of embarrassment, and always accompany the admission with a hurried explanation: “I don’t like her because of her plots, you know, I like her because she’s a brilliant writer technically,” or “People don’t realise how nuanced and intelligent her writing is until they start to dig deeper.” No matter what I say, I inevitably end up sounding either unconvincing or pretentious.

Despite these setbacks, however, I will persist in defending Austen. And in honour of two hundred years’ worth of reading, I’ve compiled a short list of Austen’s achievements in Pride and Prejudice. Most of them, I hope you’ll agree, could just as easily apply to her other novels. Continue reading