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Showing posts from November, 2010

Review: The Land of Green Ginger, by Winifred Holtby

Pages: 311Original date of publication: 1927My edition: 1987 (Virago)Why I decided to read: heard about it through LTER’s Virago Modern Classics groupHow I acquired my copy: Ebay, August 2010Born in Africa to English parents, Joanna grows up back in England. During WWI, she meets Teddy, a young man with tuberculosis (although she doesn’t know it at the time). They settle down on a farm in Yorkshire with their two daughters. A group of Eastern European workers move into town, including a young interpreter from Hungary who Joanna befriends. Their friendship is the start of her troubles with Teddy, and eventually leads to tragedy.This is a very powerful, strongly emotional novel (without going overboard). Despite the fact that Teddy is an invalid, it’s nearly impossible for the reader to like or sympathize with him; he constantly feels sorry for himself. Joanna is high-spirited, and this is also what causes a rift between the two of them. Joanna doesn’t fit in with her English neighbors,…

The Sunday Salon

Happy belated Thanksgiving, to those of you in the United States! It was a very busy weekend here at my parents’ house; we had family come up to visit, including a 110-pound Newfoundland! We avoided the shopping rush on Friday, only to be sucked back into it yesterday. And it truly is crazy; as I was searching for a parking place at the mall, I saw a woman steal a parking place that another woman was waiting for. The woman who was waiting honked her horn furiously; the woman who stole the place got out of her car and walked into the mall, with the other woman screaming obscenities and honking her horn at her! Crazy. Then today I went to Anthropologie to buy gifts. Since Anthro is one of my favorite stores, and since I nearly always find something I like in there, it was hard not to buy for myself! In terms of reading, I spent most of this week re-reading The Thorn Birds, a book I first read about this time of year when I was thirteen or so. Now that I’m re-reading it at the age of 27,…

Review: Lords of the White Castle, by Elizabeth Chadwick

Pages: 678Original date of publication: 2000My edition: 2007 (Sphere)Why I decided to read: I’m trying to read everything Elizabeth Chadwick has writtenHow I acquired my copy: Waterstones, Piccadilly, London, September 2009Lords of the White Castle is one of Elizabeth Chadwick’s longer books. Set during the later part of Richard I’s reign and King John’s, this is the story of Fulke Fitzwarin, a young squire who acquires the enmity of Prince John. Fulke and his family have lost their family home, and Fulke and his brothers spend a good deal of the novel fighting to regain it—becoming, at one point, outlaws. Moreover, Fulke falls in love with Maude le Vavasour, a noblewoman at court and the wife of his mentor, Theobald.As I’ve noticed in the past, Elizabeth Chadwick’s books follow a certain formula. The romance aspect of the novel takes center stage, but despite this, the book really works as a historical novel. I’ve said this over and over again, but Elizabeth Chadwick is exceptionally…

Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling, by Deanna Raybourn

Pages: 388Original date of publication: 2010My edition: 2010 (Mira)Why I decided to read: Heard about this book through the author’s website and blogHow I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, October 2010Dark Road to Darjeeling is the fourth book in the Lady Julia Grey series. This time, Lady Julia and Nicholas, nine months married, are headed to India, where Julia’s sister Portia’s friend, Jane, has recently been made a widow. Jane suspects that her husband has been murdered, and so Lady Julia goes to investigate. Lots of people have reason to want Freddie Cavendish dead—and the child that Jane carries. I love that Deanna Raybourn took Julia out of England for this one. India is always a stellar place to set a novel, and I loved the descriptions of Darjeeling and Calcutta. I was nervous about seeing what would happen now that Julia and Brisbane are married; but the tension between them is still alive and kicking (and Deanna Raybourn depicts their relationship much more deftly than Tasha Al…

The Sunday Salon

A slightly chilly Sunday here; the temperature is down in the 40s, though it’s been up in the 60s here recently and it’s likely to stay that way in the near future. It’s kind of frustrating; all I want to do is pull out a warm, chunky sweater to wear, and I can’t do that! This weekend my sister and her boyfriend are in town; right now they’re down in Center City watching a friend race in the Philadelphia Marathon.This past week has been a slightly busier week than normal; every Thursday we had a weekly meeting in my department where the fellows go over their research projects; this week, we held the meeting at our office in Egg Harbor Township, NJ, which is about a hour’s drive from Philly. The meeting, which started at 3, went until about 6:30; and then the rest of my coworkers wanted to go to Atlantic City to gamble. Since I had to go meet my parents and sister back in Center City, my boss gave me a ride to the train station. The long of the short of it was that I was so completely …

Review: Dimanche and Other Stories, by Irene Nemirovsky

Pages: 270Original date of publication: 1934-1941My edition: 2010 (Persephone)Why I decided to read: it’s a Persephone!How I acquired my copy: Persephone website, April 2010Dimanche and Other Stories is a collection of ten stories, some very short, some much longer. Irene Nemirovsky’s stories focus on average, everyday people in France just before and during WWII, when these stories were published. Love, in all its forms, is an overriding theme of this book, but Nemirovsky’s collection is also about the diametric differences in social situations of her characters.I’ll be honest and say straight away that I really didn’t like Suite Francaise when it was reprinted a number of years ago, although everyone else was raving about it. I just thought it was to depressing. In this collection of short stories, Nemirovsky deals with the same topics and themes, but for some reason I much preferred this book to her other. Nemirovsky is skilled at highlighting and putting under a microscope the rel…

Review: The Gentlewomen, by Laura Talbot

Pages: 280Original date of publication: 1952My edition: 1986 (Virago Modern Classics)Why I decided to read: it was on the list of Virago Modern ClassicsHow I acquired my copy: Ebay, June 2010The Gentlewomen is one of the first books I added to my TBR list when I first heard about Virago Modern Classics back in May (how come I’d never heard about them before then?). This particular VMS tells the tale of Roona Bolby, a middle-aged governess who styles herself as a “gentlewomen.” She gets a situation with the daughters of Lady Rushford. It’s wartime, but the old attitude towards governesses still stands. Miss Bolby places great stress upon her genteel connections and Indian background, but she can’t quite launch herself out of the in-between ground that governesses occupy.Miss Bolby is perhaps one of the most detestable characters I’ve come across in a really long time. She is one of the most conceited, snobbish, and rude characters I’ve ever seen. The reader isn’t really supposed to lik…

Review: Mary Lavelle, by Kate O'Brien

Pages: 345Original date of publication: 1936My edition: 1985 (Virago Modern Classics)Why I decided to read:How I acquired my copy: LTER member, September 2010Kate O’Brien is a perfect example of why I continue to read an author’s books, even if I didn’t like the first book I read by them. I didn’t like The Ante-Room, Kate O’Brien’s novel about a woman in 1880s Ireland who is in love with her sister’s husband; but I had much more success with Mary Lavelle, a novel that is far more romantic in tone. The Ante-Room and Mary Lavelle share a common theme: forbidden love. In this book, a young Irish woman leaves her fiancĂ©e at home and goes to Spain, where she becomes an English teacher to the three daughters of a wealthy family. Things become a lot more complicated when Mary meets Juanito, the girls’ older brother. The action of the novel takes place in various parts of Spain; the country itself even becomes a character. Kate O’Brien is a master of describing, and I loved the way that she d…

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:--Grab your current read--Open to a random page--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that pageBe sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!“One night as Anne and I prepared for bed, Tallie told me what a clerk had told her of a letter written by the king to the widowed queen of France. It seemed that my father stubbornly refused to give up on marrying me to the former Dauphin, after all, in spite of the French rebuff.”--From The King’s Daughter, by Christie Dickason

Review: Making Conversation, by Christine Longford

Pages: 288Original date of publication: 1931My edition: 2009 (Persephone)Why I decided to read: Heard about it through the Persephone catalogueHow I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, August 2010I’ve wanted to read it ever since Persephone decided to reprint this forgotten classic. Our main character is Martha Freke, a socially awkward girl who talks either far to much or not enough. She actually sounds a lot like me, so I thought I’d really enjoy reading this book. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I thought it would, but I did like it.Martha is a little less socially awkward as I thought she would be; she’s not the type of person who says things at inopportune moments. She’s actually quite eloquent when she does talk. She is supposed to be socially awkward, but I found myself liking her for her strength of character. She is intelligent and at times very funny in her naivetĂ©. The novel chronicles Martha’s growth from childhood up through her time at Oxford and into adulthood…

The Sunday Salon

“Spring forward, fall back!” I totally forgot that the clocks were supposed to change back today, so I ended up doing my Sunday routine a whole hour earlier today! It definitely feels like fall or early winter here, and it’s sunny, which I really love. I can’t wait for winter to get here in earnest (though I’ll probably be regretting my words when March rolls around!)I bought a new winter coat last weekend (Banana Republic) that I’ve had a chance to break out this week and weekend. I’ve had good luck with BR’s winter coats in the past (my last one from four years ago was a BR purchase), so I was thrilled to get my new one on sale. I recently went from wearing scrubs at work to regular business attire. This has been a bit of a challenge considering that I’ve lost a bit of weight over the past two years and so most of my clothes from when I lived in New York no longer fit. I’m mildly obsessed with the clothes that Anthropologie sells, but I’m trying to restrain myself. Meanwhile, I’ve d…

review: Vile Bodies, by Evelyn Waugh

Pages: 320Original date of publication: 1958My edition: 1999 (Back Bay Books)Why I decided to read: I was inspired to read it after reading Bright Young PeopleHow I acquired my copy: Local library sale, November 2009I bought this book a year ago, after a member on Shelfari recommended it to me. It came back on my radar after reading Bright Young People, DJ Taylor’s biography of the Bright Young things of 1920s English society. Vile Bodies is a parody of that group, and several characters in this book are clearly exaggerated versions of real people that Evelyn Waugh knew. Our main character, Adam Fenwick-Symes, is clearly a projection of Waugh, on the fringe of the society that he writes about. Vile Bodies is a very funny, highly stylized version of 1920s and ‘30s society. On one hand, these are highly glamorous people Waugh is writing about; on the other, they’re superficial and empty. As with most satirical writing, this book tends to be very over-the-top at times, but that’s one of …

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:--Grab your current read--Open to a random page--share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that pageBe sure NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)--Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!“The young men held a mock tourney on the sward behind the keep and the older men joined in, lured by memories of their youth. Looking on in the June sunshine, the women laughed an chattered among themselves, exchanging gossip, commenting on the play.”--From Lords of the White Castle, by Elizabeth Chadwick

Review: Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell

Pages: 177Original date of publication: 1853My edition: 2009 (Barnes and Noble)Why I decided to read: I watched the BBC miniseries of Cranford last winter and loved itHow I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, February 2010Last winter, I rented Cranford, the BBC miniseries (starring Judi Dench), from Netflix—and that got me interested in the book on which that’s based. The book is a series of vignettes about the ladies of the town of Cranford, many of whom are elderly spinsters like Miss Matty Jenkyns and her sister Deborah, or Miss Pole (much as I tried not to, I kept seeing Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton in the roles of Miss Matty and Miss Pole). This short story differs significantly from the miniseries; the miniseries focuses a lot on the encroachment of the railways on the town of Cranford, and there’s a romantic subplot going on there. The book is much more centered on the middle-aged and elderly ladies of the town, as seen through a semi-outsider, Miss Mary Smith, the daughter o…