Summer Reading Progress 2017

Total Books Read (since July 1st):: 6
10 Books of Summer Challenge:: 6/10 (see my book list here)
Classics Club Challenge:: 5/50     (see my book list here)

Since I didn’t finish too many books in July, I wanted to wait a little while longer to post an update. Now I’ve finished 6 novels since my last update in June, and I think that’s a good number.

The first book I finished in July was My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. This novel has become very popular in the last year or so because a movie adaptation was recently released which I have not seen. On the whole I am still not really sure what to think of it. It’s written in a way that kind of leaves certain plot points up for interpretation (which I’ve found I do not like very much!!). I read it as part of a book group read, and everyone else in the group seemed to interpret the events in a different way than I did (you can read more about it in my review here if you’re interested). I did enjoy it as I read because the writing is good, but after reading Rebecca I was just expecting a little bit more.

After that, I needed a little bit of a pallet cleanser, so I picked up a quick book called Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood, my review of which is here. I have been a lover of Ernest Hemingway since I first read A Farewell to Arms as a 17 year old, and I love reading anything by or about him. Mrs. Hemingway outlines the overlaps, beginnings, and endings of Hem’s four marriages. Each are given an equal piece of the story, and I learned a lot about some of his later marriages that I had not been familiar with. It is fiction though, not a history book ;-)

After that I dug back into my 10 Books of Summer Challenge and read The Fireman by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son, if you didn’t know). I don’t have a review of this up as of the time I am posting this (I am quite behind on writing them to be honest). I started this apocalyptic novel last summer after it had first come out and it fizzled out (by no fault of the story or writing), so I wanted to start it over and finish it this time. I really enjoyed it, and it had a lot of similarities to one of his dad’s most famous books, The Stand, especially in the beginning. It’s really long and it took me awhile to finish, but I felt satisfied at the end. There is nothing worse than investing a lot of time into a book that ends up being disappointing…

The next book I read was another short/palette cleanser type of novel called The Madwoman Upstairs. It’s a contemporary mystery/adventure story about the last Brontë descendant and a rumored secret Brontë inheritance. It was quick and entertaining, just as I was hoping for….because at the same time I was listening to…

Middlemarch, by George Eliot. Oh, my, goodness. I loved this novel, and I am working on a review. It was such a lovely story that surrounds several characters throughout the town of Middlemarch, many of which are youngsters who are looking for love and marriage. There are sooo many wholesome themes in this novel that I’m afraid I won’t do them justice even in my discussion of it in a dedicated post (that is bound to be about a million words), but what you should know about it is – you should read it! Yes, it’s super long, but it is worth it a thousand times (in my opinion). This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year!

And finally, just this week I finished reading Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. This was such a joy to read as well, in quite a different way. It was written at the turn of the 20th century and follows a little orphan girl who is adopted by some older folks who take her in and raise her right. She is a spirited young girl who lives so much within her imagination and touches the lives of everyone around her. It’s a beautiful coming of age story that most people probably read when they were much younger than 28 (ha), but as an adult I still enjoyed it very much and I plan to continue the series.

Right now I am reading a book called The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. The first of which I came across awhile ago and had to buy (I’m about halfway through at the moment and not entirely sure what to think of it), the second of which I just finished reading in January before my son was born and am reading again. I’m only a few chapters into it as a reread and already SO much is coming back to me about this incredible book. It is so complex and lovely…and I could probably read it again next year and enjoy it just as much again.

I am curious, all of you blog readers, which have been your favorite books this year? Leave a comment and let me know!

e.

 

Thoughts on My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier

My Cousin RachelLast night I finished reading My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier. It had been at the top of my to read list for the past several years, but I never got past the first several pages until last week, which is strange, because the first several pages are almost as gripping as the first pages in Rebecca, one of my favorite classic novels.

My Cousin Rachel begins in a place similar to Rebecca, with an orphan and a gothic, almost sinister, undertone. If I hadn’t been expecting great things already judging by the woman who wrote it, I definitely was after the first chapter, and I think ultimately this is what led to my disappointment in the novel.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it is about a young man named Phillip who was raised by his cousin Ambrose. When advised to winter away from his damp home in Cornwall by his doctor, Ambrose goes south to the continent of Europe. He goes to Italy where he meets and marries his cousin Rachel. Having been a bachelor all his life, this comes as a great surprise to Phillip and their friends in Cornwall. The marriage seems to suit him until Phillip begins to receive odd letters from his cousin, and before he is able to see Ambrose again, he is dead. Did his new wife have something to do with it? How will Phillip behave once he finally meets this mysterious cousin? What about this woman caused a lifelong bachelor to finally ‘take the plunge’?

This novel lacked the feeling of suspense that I adored in Rebecca. There were no twists, no shocking revelations, and honestly once I set it down for the last time I was left wondering what the point of the book had been. I’m not saying it wasn’t compelling or well written, because it was, but there was never the sense of satisfaction in the end for me. After such a kick ass beginning, I expected more. I gave it three stars on goodreads because it is quite an entertaining book, I just took issue with the ending – it left things unresolved for me. I’m having the same issue with the ending of Gone With the Wind (I am still working on a post for that one).

For those of you who have already read it, here is a little more detail of what I thought of the story::

The beginning is excellent. It sets the tone beautifully and anchors the story in a gothic mood. The plot set-up is also perfect – a man meets a woman, marries her, has a crisis that leads to his death, and his family is left to wonder/discover whether or not this mysterious woman had a hand in it. I mean, that’s got to be an excellent story, right?

Eh.

I felt like I was turning pages in order to find out if Rachel had really had any fault in Ambrose’s death or not. Since I still don’t know for sure it just feels unfinished. I feel like the story leaves off in exactly the same place as it was after the first few chapters of the book. In the end, none of the plot really changed anything in the character’s lives. I guess I was expecting something equally mysterious and scandalous to happen to Phillip once Rachel came to town, but the only thing that happened is Phillip absolutely losing his mind in love and sabotaging himself. And yet, he wasn’t really sabotaged after all. It’s like everything that happened had the ability to be a complete disaster, but in the end Phillip is left exactly as he was after Ambrose’s death, a wealthy bachelor.

There was a looming mystery as to what Rachel’s big fault was, and all it turned out to be was a shopping addiction (who doesn’t know someone like that?). There was the giving of the estate to Rachel, and what changed for Phillip? Not a thing, except Rachel’s attitude was a bit colder (but that’s because he is a fool who expects her to marry him). There was the death of Rachel, but even that was unsatisfying. Did Phillip intend to let her die that night, or was he so preoccupied with his own mission that night that he completely forgot there was any danger in the garden? For me, it seemed like the emphasis kept falling on things that didn’t matter, and the things I was really interested in were only briefly mentioned.

In my group on goodreads, everyone seemed to agree with the implications at the end, that Rachel had been innocent the whole time and that she had done nothing wrong. But how can that be? Did he not find the poisonous seeds in her drawer? …..hello!? Was that just another figment of his imagination? …or mine? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!!

This story just wasn’t for me in the end. I still adore Rebecca, and I for sure haven’t sworn off du Maurier by any stretch, but this one just didn’t sit well with me. However, it will be lingering in the back of my mind for quite some time, I’m sure. And maybe that was the point after all.

If you’ve read My Cousin Rachel, please share your ideas with me in the comments about your theories. This is a book that begs to be discussed!

E.

A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle

This is the second Sherlock Holmes story I have read (the first was The Hound of the Baskervilles), and I have to say I remain surprised by the way they read. I suppose it is the enormous fame of the characters, the familiarity with which I felt I had with them before ever reading one of the original stories that set me up for the subtle shock they’ve given me. And at the same time I’m not surprised at all; having read Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, I was already familiarized with his writing style.

Sherlock Holmes Pipe

The Sherlock Holmes stories are very different from what you may think of as a detective or mystery novel today. If you read a modern mystery novel, subtle clues are laid out for you and persuasive writing leads you to a certain conclusion by the end of the story. A good mystery will probably have left other clues you were unaware of that will satisfy a twist ending you weren’t expecting. This novel is not like that. There are clues, yes, but goaded by questions from Dr. Watson, generally they are explained quickly and thouroughly by Sherlock Holmes leaving the reader wanting for the grand finale type reveal at the end. There is explanation at the end, a final run through if all clues and deductions in the case, but it felt very anti-climactic for me.

The other thing that surprised me about this novel was the sharp change in setting in the middle of the book. With no warning at all, suddenly you are reading a completely different story. I actually stopped the book and went on goodreads to make sure my audible download hadn’t messed up somehow. One moment you are in the thick of the investigation (the supposed bad guy has been captured!), and the next you are on another continent as an old man and a young girl are rescued in the desert by the Mormons…..it was jolting, and it didn’t make sense until much later. I am still on the fence about how effective it was. After the story was all said and done I did really enjoy having all of that background knowledge that explains the murderer’s motive intimately, yet I think it could have used a transition to anchor the reader a little bit. Perhaps if I had been reading a physical copy it wouldn’t have been so bad, that is a possibility.

Speaking on the characters themselves and the set-up of what has turned out to be an infinitely famous crime-investigating duo, I was pleased enormously. The book is written from Dr. Watson’s perspective, I believe the reader is to believe the words have been taken from his journal. It opens with the explanation of Watson’s history as a doctor with the British Army, and how he ended up in poor health recovering in London. On a search for a flat mate, he is introduced through a mutual acquaintance to Mr. Sherlock Holmes. After finding one another agreeable, they move in together. Watson is unsure at first what Mr. Holmes’ occupation may be, it is the first mystery of the novel, and once he discovers he is a consulting detective he is endlessly fascinated and becomes a tag-along to the current case. The rest, as they say, is history.

Overall I enjoyed the book. It was different from what I had expected (again, I don’t know why I expected anything different), but in the end it was a very pleasant book to read, and it came to a satisfying conclusion. I look forward to reading more of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I could probably stand to reread THotB.

On another note, I need to do some reading about the foundations of Mormonism. …cause if what this book suggests is true…yikes!

E.

 

June Reading Wrap Up

Hello friends – I hope your month of reading in June was as good as mine! I will just go ahead and admit right now that the last several years of my life have basically been one big reading slump, so the fact that I read 5 (FIVE) books in June makes me feel freaking awesome! So since I actually have something to talk about, I thought it would be appropriate to write a post summarizing my month in reading.

Total Books Read:: 5
10 Books of Summer Challenge:: 4/10    (see my book list here)
Classics Club Challenge:: 2/50     (see my book list here)

I started June with a mission: finish Gone With the Wind. I usually have issues finishing longer books, and I don’t know why. It’s so bad that I’ve been calling it a curse! The only way I’ve been able to get through doorstop books are by reading them either on an e-reader (The Stand, Stephen King), or as an audiobook (Game of Thrones books 2 & 3…and half of 4). Well, I am happy to say that the curse appears to have broken! I finished Gone With the Wind, my copy has 1,024 pages, in 25 days! I cannot adequately express how proud this makes me without making myself sound ridiculous, but ah who cares. I’m awesome!

However…

I still feel like I’m in a little bit of shock from it. It is not the book I was expecting…at all. To be fair, I didn’t really have any expectations about it going in, but I was expecting it to blow me away. After all, sooo many people say this is one of their favorite books ever. I’ve been keeping reading journals here on the blog after finishing each Part, but I am still gathering my thoughts on an actual full-book review. If you are interested in reading those, here are the links:   Part I   Part II   Part III   Part IV
I found the movie on Amazon Video, so I am planning to watch that and possibly blog about it as well.

I finished the rest of the four books I read this month on audio. The first was the only non-fiction book I read this month, The View from the Cheap Seats. I’ve already blogged my thoughts on this book here,  but I’ll say it again – I highly recommend it for anyone who loves Neil Gaiman, or anyone who is a fan of comics, or writers, or the science fiction genre, or literature in general.

Next I listened to a book called The Girl You Left Behind (my review is here). This book was recommended to me by a friend at work numerous times. I was on the fence about reading it since I didn’t love Me Before You, also by Jojo Moyes, but she finally convinced me. I was surprised at how dark it was, and ultimately I really enjoyed it. It had some issues, but overall it was very impactful, and I still think about it ocaasionally. Funny how some books just stick with you that way.

I also read A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle (review will be up in the next few days). This was another book from my Classics Club challenge, and it was a super quick read. I can’t say either of the two Sherlock stories I’ve read so far engrossed me, but I did like this one.

And finally Lincoln in the Bardo. This audiobook has something like 166 narrators. It’s nuts. I’ve never listened to an audiobook production with a full cast, and in the beginning it was very off-putting (it’s quite a cacophony of voices at times), but you adjust to it quickly enough. I especially loved that I could pick out voices of some of my favorite people; Nick Offerman, Rainn Wilson, David Sedaris, Megan Mullally, and many other names I know, but didn’t recognize while immersed in the story. I am still working out what I might say about this book in a blog post, so it may be awhile until you find it here on my blog, but I kind of loved it.

Right now I am listening to one of my favorite books of all time on audio: Jane Eyre (narrated by Josephine Bailey, my preferred version), and reading My Cousin Rachel in paperback. I’m hoping to finish another 5 books in July, wish me luck!!

Gone With the Wind – A Reading Journal, Part III

This post is a reading journal, and therefore contains pretty much nothing but spoilers. You have been warned.

If you do the right things for the wrong reasons, are you still a good person?

My oh my, part three has quite a lot going on, doesn’t it? As a short summary, it opens when the front lines are just reaching the boarder of Georgia. The inhabitants of Atlanta are still feeling confident at this point that they’ll never get any nearer the fighting than that, but within a few weeks the war is in their doorstep and people are fleeing for Macon. When Atlanta falls to Sherman’s army, Scarlett and Melanie barely escape, and were only able to do so with the help of Rhett Butler, who up and decides to join the army. Having to fend for herself for the first time in her life, Scarlett has to get herself, Melanie, Prissy, Wade, and Melanie’s new baby Beau all the way to Tara by herself while avoiding Yankee troops. Once there, she finds her mother dead, her father lost his mind, and her two sisters on sickbeds unable to contribute. The only lucky thing to have happened is stumbling across a cow on their way there, and having Dilcey in milk in order to nurse Melanie’s baby. At Tara, life isn’t much better, they are always on the brink of starvation, and in constant fear of yankee troops. They are also out of the way of any news and have no idea whether the fighting is still close or if it’s moved off away from the area. And of course, the part wraps up for the third time with a scene involving Ashley – this time, he is returning from prison camp.

I learned a lot in this section. Growing up in Colorado, which didn’t exist (as a state) during the time of the Civil War, we didn’t spend too long studying about it. Basically I knew there was a battle at Gettysburg, brother fought against brother, the Underground Railroad was a thing, slavery was abolished, and the south lost the war. It’s pretty pathetic really, my lack of education on the subject. I did not know that Atlanta was captured and essentially burned to the ground. I didn’t know that soldiers marched and fought while barefoot and starving to death. I didn’t know that the entire south was cut off from the world, unable to receive goods and supplies from anywhere else, which basically starved the whole confederacy. War is a terrible thing. A terrible terrible thing. 

I read another book as I read this called The Girl You Left Behind. It’s a novel by Jojo Moyes which describes in detail a fictional account of a family (all women and children since the men are off fighting) living in German occupied France during World War I. This made the atrocities of war in both books stand out even more than they would have on their own. Those were some somber days as I read them. I even had to set Gone With the Wind aside for awhile to get through some of the tougher passages about the suffering and wounded soldiers. I cannot possibly imagine living through that time. 

This leads me back to Scarlett. Our selfish Scarlett who resented every moment she spent tending to wounded and dying men. She seemed to hate them, and as I write this it occurs to me that I can’t blame her for that. I was just about to go on and on again about how selfish she is and how much I dislike her, but maybe it wasn’t just that. Yes, Scarlett is a selfish person and is upset about how life has changed so much from what she was raised to be a part of. But perhaps the soldiers served to remind her again and again that her old life is gone now, and slowly she was realizing unconsciously that it was never going to come back either. The relentlessness of the incoming wounded and dying must have been a painful reminder of that. I don’t think anyone would have been able to deal with it all fully. You would have to put out a mental block to keep yourself from thinking about it too hard, or you’d just go crazy with death all around, wouldn’t you? 

I marked one passage to that effect as I read:

“Gradually, Scarlett drew courage from the brave faces of her friends and from the merciful adjustment which nature makes when what cannot be cured must be endured.”

On another note, Melanie has continued to amaze me. She is by far the most sensible character and such a contrast to Scarlett. She does her duty and endures that which comes her way with no complaint. She’s a better woman than I, certainly. I was sure she would die in childbirth, but I’m glad she’s still around.

I’ve never enjoyed a book with such a dislikable main character before, it’s very strange. I’m waiting patiently for the ‘epic love story’ everyone goes on about…I am having a hard time picturing how Scarlett and Rhett will end up with a happy ending, but that’s part of the magic of a story I suppose. And maybe there isn’t a happy ending after all, I shall find out soon enough!

I’ve already started part four, I couldn’t stop reading after finishing three. Hopefully I’ll finish the book by the end of June – that is my goal! Stay tuned ;-)

E.

Gone With the Wind, A Reading Journal – Part II

[Please be aware this post is full of spoilers!]

It is difficult to know where to start with this entry, so much has happened in the second section of this novel…and yet it has ended in virtually the same place as the one before it. Scarlett, while she has been through many life altering events up to this point, remains fundamentally unchanged. It is almost annoying how she has not matured at all. Still, even after being married and widowed, after bearing a son, after tending to wounded confederate soldiers in Atlanta hospitals, she is more concerned with clothes and fancy hatsZ than anything else. She seems almost even more of a spoiled brat in this section because in these times when she is needed to work for ‘the Cause’, she does so only for pretenses, not for any actual desire to do good. She has no compassion whatsoever, which is going to be hard to forgive – she has a lot to make up for in order for me to respect her. She is so hung up on this ‘love’ of Ashley Wilkes that she constantly takes for granted the only person who seems to truly be her friend, Melanie. I put love in quotes because although Ashley is a very smart and honorable character who is easily loved, Scarlett only ‘loves’ him for how beautiful he looked one day after she’d not seen him for awhile (and probably most of all because she can’t have him) and not for his brain or heart, as she should do.

Melanie seems to be the only female character with any sense so far. She is everything Scarlett isn’t: compassionate, empathetic, smart. She tends to the soldiers and raises money for The Cause dutifully and with a sense of righteousness, even when it means she has to sacrifice something. Scarlett is horrible to her and Melanie believes it is because the loss of Charlie that makes her act so, well, bitchy. Her brother’s loss is so prominent in her own heart, and this makes me dislike Scarlett even more. Because Scarlett is so catty and attention grabbing, Melanie makes less of her own feelings because she feels it must be even worse for Scarlett having lost him as a husband than for her having lost him as a brother…and all the time Scarlett could care less. What kind of soulless person can have married a man, had his child, lived in the house he grew up in with his sister and aunt who raised him, and not feel even the slightest bit of sadness, or at least a bit of sympathy? I think this is the thing that bothers me the most about Scarlett.

I also feel that Scarlett is made to be less bright in this section. I thought in the beginning she was too preoccupied with herself to pay attention to things, but that she did really have reasoning skills. This section made me question whether she has the ability to reason at all. Unless it had to do with manipulating the feelings of a man, of course. When Scarlett reads the letters from Ashley, she doesn’t seem to understand what they mean. Is she really that dim, or is it because she just doesn’t have any interest in it? It must be a severe disinterest, since those are the only words from her ‘beloved’ that she has to read, so you would think she would hang on to every one of them. It’s a little confusing when she hears the things Rhett Butler says and goes on to call it common sense. Is it just that she has been so brainwashed by the southern culture that she doesn’t seem to understand his concepts very well? Perhaps. But maybe she’s just dim and requires everyone else to do the thinking for her.

Rhett Butler is also unlikeable, yet I like him much more than Scarlett. Although his motives are entirely monetary, he doesn’t seem like a bad person, just one who has learned the hard lesson that the only person you can depend on is yourself. He has given many gifts out of compassion (buying the satin for a wedding dress, and acquiring Melanie’s wedding ring back for her). He doesn’t care what people think of him, but that is ALL Scarlett cares about. As Rhett tries to make her see that the gossip doesn’t mean anything, it becomes a battle of ‘how much can I get away with as a widow in mourning without my mother finding out?’ for her. She is entirely selfish, although, so is he’s.

I also want to touch on the southern traditions and culture at play here. There were very strict rules of ‘proper’ conduct and when you acted outside of those expectations, you were at best gossiped about, and at worst, ruined. The ‘rules’ of mourning sound especially tough, and this is one area where I do feel sorry for Scarlett. Not that Scarlett is in grief, but people deal with it differently, and should be allowed to partake in whatever they feel comfortable doing to heal. It seems very silly to me to not allow someone to go to social events for YEARS. Especially girls who are widowed so young in times of war. Luckily Scarlett had Rhett Butler, who is maybe one of two people who truly know Scarlett’s true character (the other being her father Gerald), to help her be more herself and break down the social barriers a little bit. Reputation was everything in those days.

I am annoyed by Scarlett’s behavior towards the end of this part. Still believing that Ashley returns her love after he has spurned her again and again – how is it possible? She is blinding herself, making up her own reality and doesn’t even seem to realize she’s doing it. And beyond that, she is falling in love with Rhett, but is too stupid to actually realize that they are REAL feelings she is having towards Rhett, when her relationship with Ashley is actually a relationship with her own mind.

I do not know where the story will go from here. Already the war is almost over and I am only a quarter of the way through the book. I am skeptical that Scarlett will be able to redeem herself and become someone I can respect. I am infinitely curious to see what the catalyst could possibly be for so radical a change. Hopefully there will be some progress in Scarlett’s character in Part III.

E.

Gone With the Wind, A Reading Journal – Part 1

I’m not sure how I was talked into reading this book so suddenly and completely, given that the number of books I’ve finished with upwards of 700 pages I could probably count on one hand (and all read in some other format than a printed book at that…e-books and audiobooks). I jovially call it a curse that I can’t finish books with too many pages, but I think that the real issue has to do with pacing. Long books with slow pacing inevitably have boring stretches, and I don’t have enough self-discipline to make myself keep trudging through it when another book right next to it seems to be calling out to me to pick it up. A few of them I regret not finishing; The Three Musketeers I put down right at halfway through and Anna Karenina I quit with only a quarter left to read. So basically I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping that the momentum I have going with reading lately will help me push through the 1,000 pages of this novel. So far, I’d say it’s going well. Be warned, this is a reading journal and not a book review, so there will be spoilers ahead (through part 1).

I picked up my copy of Gone With the Wind from a thrift shop for probably only a dollar or two, simply because it’s a well known classic. It’s a beaten up mass market paperback that was printed in 1973 (the twenty third printing, apparently). The edges of the pages are a vibrant red, faded just a bit near the spine on either side, and if I’m not careful with it, the cover may not survive a full read through. This is not the type of book I am attracted to. In fact, when I was working on my bookshelves over the weekend the thought of donating it back to the thrift store crossed my mind before I sighed and tucked it back away with the other mass market paperbacks I own, hidden behind the door of a cabinet. I can at least read it first, I told myself. And so I put it on my newly revised classics club list, which I posted about later that day, and by the late afternoon, I had cracked the cover and started to read.

It was a comment conversation with Jillian from Of Cannons and Books that convinced me to read it. I believe it is her very favorite book. It is hard to resist a book when someone who loves it passionately is urging you to read it. Before two days ago, I didn’t know a single thing about Gone With the Wind except that there was a guy named Rhett in it, and it had been made into a film which also became a classic. What I learned from the brief exchange with Jillian is that Gone With the Wind is my favorite kind of book, a transformational one, a great coming-of-age story, or a bildungsroman, if you will. When I read her comments on it, it rang a bell of similarity to my favorite novel, Jane Eyre. Suddenly I wanted to read about this young girl who was enormously conceited at the beginning of the novel and grows and matures as the circumstances around her change. After all, that is everyone’s story, is it not? Growing up?

What I didn’t realize until I started reading was how conceited Scarlett O’Hara is. She’s a mean girl. She steals boyfriends just to say she’s done it, and gives a cold shoulder to the girl she’s stolen him from. As I read through all of part one I was more and more surprised at just how little she cared about how her actions were effecting those around her. It served her right to hear the other girls talking about how wicked she was behind a closed door. But then to go and marry the beaux of the girl who bad-mouthed her even though she was indifferent to him at best? That’s cold. Frozen, in fact. And yet, I had a phase of Scarlett O’Hara syndrome, just after high school, when my second boyfriend broke up with me. I wanted to be wanted, and by god I was. Looking back on that time in my life makes me feel guilty and terrible, but it was only a phase, and I still had a brain (and even though it’s made clear, especially in the beginning, that Scarlett hates books and school and doesn’t value education in the least, she also isn’t stupid. Stupid people aren’t good at scheming.). Mostly Scarlett’s story so far reminds me of middle school, when everyone is hormonal and moody and likes to feel like the one in charge or the popular one.

Although Scarlett couldn’t be bothered to listen to the boys when the subject of war came up, I find I’ve enjoyed the snip-its here and there mentioning it very much. And before I forget to mention it, I think the way it is weaved into the story when the main character has no interest whatever about it is very skillful. I tip my hat to Miss Mitchell. I know almost nothing about the civil war anymore, and that is another reason I was kind of intrigued to read this. I’m especially interested to see the perspective from the confederate’s side. Already I’ve learned quite a bit, which is probably a sad testament to my public education and should probably be embarrassing to admit. One thing I found interesting, for example, is that the slaves of the rich families were considered a higher class than the poor ‘white trash’ families who survived off of the charity of their neighbors.

It always seems odd to me how eager young men always seem to be to go to war. It’s easy to say it was stupid to be that way now I suppose, knowing how bloody the Civil War turned out to be. But I do not doubt that the scenes depicted in the novel were not so different than what truly happened in some communities. I liked the passage where Mr. McRae spoke about war. “You all don’t know what war is. You think it’s riding a pretty horse and having the girls throw flowers at you and coming home a hero. Well, it ain’t. No, Sir! It’s going hungry, and getting the measles and pneumonia from sleeping in the wet.” …Not to mention death and entire fields soaked with blood and all for what? One scene from the trailer Jillian shared with me was of Scarlett walking through a field of dead and wounded men from the war. What a powerful image. It sounds weird to phrase it this way but I’m tired and can’t think of the true sentiment I’m trying to convey, but I’m really excited to read the bits about the war going forward. One of my other favorite novels, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an incredible novel about recovering from WWII in England. I guess I’m hoping for a little bit of that as well.

It’s getting late now, and I was hoping to finish this quickly so I could start part two tonight, but if I don’t get some sleep now I’m going to regret it in the morning! Thank you, Jillian, for convincing me to start this novel. I think I’m going to like it very much :-)

Goodnight!
E.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emmuska Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emmuska Orczy
Classic/Adventure
271 Pages
Published 1905
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To Buy at Book Depository

I actually read this book back in March of this year, but I wasn’t feeling very motivated to write reviews at that time, so this is quite late! I read it with a group I am a part of on goodreads. Before that, I don’t think I’d ever heard of this novel.

I admit I rushed through this novel a little bit. Since it is so short, I wanted to knock it out quickly and move on to something I wanted to read more, which I slightly regret after the fact. It was an interesting story, and the plot was constantly moving forward, but something about it wasn’t as engaging as I’d hoped for. This novel is widely considered the first of it’s kind, a political spy/rebellious thriller complete with tricks, secret identities, and sidekicks/accomplices.

I remember being a little bit irked that the wife was not ‘allowed’ by the characters or the author to play the role that seemed natural for her to do in the climax of the plot. I felt like there was a lot of lead up to where there was a greater expectation for her part in the adventure, but all she ended up doing was solving the mystery and getting herself in the way. For that reason, it wasn’t my favorite book, but I do appreciate it for what it is, and I’m glad this novel opened the creative door for future works such as Zorro and other political mysteries and thrillers.

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Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights Cover

Wuthering Heights has been on my list of ‘to-dos’ for some time now. Several reasons led me to believe that I would like it despite the fact that I knew almost nothing about it:: 1) It’s Gothic. 2) It was written by the sister of the author who wrote my favorite book. 3) At the time, people used to think that the same person wrote Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey, so I knew it had to be something similar to my favorite book in writing style. 4) It’s somewhat of a romance (though a different kind than I thought).

This novel was not what I expected. First, the plot completely unfolds in retrospect. The narrator (who is a man, another surprise) is a new tenant of a property that neighbors the landlords @ Wuthering Heights. When he calls over to meet the man, he is astounded by the behavior of everyone in the house, and encounters a ghost in one of the upper rooms. Once he gets back to his own house, the housekeeper, who has lived on the grounds since she was a child, begins to tell him the tale of how things came to be the way they are (so technically, there are two narrators, one man and one woman).

Coming from Mansfield Park, this novel was exciting and easy to read. I can see how there could also be some name confusion (the family trees get a little interesting), but all and all it’s a much more modern feeling novel than an Austen; it read quickly and there was much more excitement.

Basically it is a story of Heathcliff, a man who came from nothing and how he basically comes to have everything, except the one thing he wants:: to be with his true love. He’s a harsh and sinister man, and just generally grotesque. He’s manipulative, mean, vengeful and unlikable. The rest of the characters are also very flawed and quite unhappy. It’s not a very happy story, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book. On the contrary; while it doesn’t come close to Jane Eyre in my eyes (others would argue otherwise), Wuthering Heights is still worth reading – yes, even outside of a school assignment. It’s haunting and desperate and it’s about striving for love, and how even that isn’t enough sometimes. It’s a solid four stars.