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

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

‘Owning’ the Past: Possession (1990), by A. S. Byatt

Possession ByattIf you wish to trace, dear reader,
The history recounted in prose,
By esteemed A. S. Byatt
From the start to the close,
Heed my warnings, which here I give:
Beware of SPOILERS, beware of those
That would seek to ruin a book
To lessen their own woes.

Beware of – currents – swirling swift –
And postmodernist – angst – that creates a rift
Beware of – bees – that sting –
But most of all, beware of bad poetry, of which I write far too much.

Having spent the better half of the last six years in and around universities, I can tell you that they are fascinating, absorbing places, filled with wild ideas and interesting people. But this doesn’t mean that the lives of literary scholars make for a good novel. I’ve spent a great deal of time in literature departments, libraries, and archives, but even I wouldn’t want to read a five-hundred-page novel about them. But then came A. S. Byatt’s Possession, bringing with it a great deal of acclaim and the promise of a really juicy (fake) literary mystery.

Hold on to your hats, people, because somehow the stakes in this novel seem incredibly high, despite the fact that they revolve around the lives of two fake Victorian poets. Continue reading

In the Mood for a Little Victorian?: Lark Rise To Candleford (1939-1943), by Flora Thompson

Lark RiseThis book is #87 on my Classics Club list.

A couple of years ago I began watching a hugely enjoyable BBC series. And then, one season in, I discovered that it had in fact been based on a series of books.

As a person who hates watching the movie before reading the book, you can imagine how much this irked me. So although I’d been given a box set of the series for a recent birthday, I resolved not to watch any further until I had read the source material for myself.

Two years later, and I have finally finished Lark Rise to Candleford. It’s taken me a while and one abortive attempt, but I’m pleased to say that I’ve read this trio of novels about the Oxfordshire countryside. Whether it was worth the two-year wait will probably become apparent when I finally finish watching the BBC adaptation next year. Continue reading