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Showing posts from April, 2011

Review: Anderby Wold, by Winifred Holtby

Pages: 310 Original date of publication: 1923 My edition: 1981 (Virago) Why I decided to read: Winifred Holtby is one of my favorite authors How I acquired my copy: Ebay, February 2011 Winifred Holtby quickly became one of my favorite authors when I read The Crowded Street early last year. Although Anderby Wold was Holbty’s first published novel, it ranks up there as one of my favorites. The novel is set in a familiar Holtby milieu—agricultural and rural Yorkshire. Mary Robson is a young housewife married to a man much older than she. Her marriage is pleasant, but lacking in passion. Although she has lived in Anderby all her life, she is somewhat of an outsider. Nonetheless, she’s a kind of social queen. One day, in the most dramatic fashion possible, she meets David Rossitur, a socialist writer who really shakes things up, so to speak, both in Anderby and with Mary herself. Anderby Wold suffers a little bit from first-time writer’s syndrome; Winifred Holtby uses

Review: Mrs. Miniver, by Jan Struther

Pages: 145 Original date of publication: 1939 My edition: 1993 (Virago) Why I decided to read: It’s one of the books featured in Ruth Adam’s A Woman’s Place How I acquired my copy: Online, March 2011 Mrs. Miniver is a novel and collection of essays that focuses on the day-to-day life of a 1930s housewife. The “chapters” are more vignettes that focus on the trivial events of Mrs. Miniver’s life: visits to the dentist’s, the changing of the seasons, holidays with her husband, an architect, and their three children, and Christmas shopping. All of this sounds, boring, but it’s not. Jan Struther describes Mrs. Miniver’s life poetically, with emphasis on the little details. The essays are a reflective look into the thoughts and feelings of one inter-war housewife (although the story is told in the third person). There’s no plot or character development, but Mrs. Miniver describes her lifelife exquisitely. There’s also a subtle undercurrent of humor to this book, although

Review: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Pages: 624 Original date of publication: 1847 My edition: 2010 (Vintage) Why I decided to re-read: the film adaptation inspired me to re-read this book How I acquired my copy: Borders, Mach 2011 Oh, Jane Eyre , how do I love thee? The first time I read this book was in middle school; then I read it twice in high school and once in college. The recent movie adaptation inspired me to re-read this book after an eight-year gap since my last reading. I won’t go into the plot since it’s one of those plots that most people in the English-speaking world seem to know (even if they haven’t read the book), and one of those plots that resonates throughout English literature. Suffice it to say that Jane Eyre is one of those books that stands up to the test of time well—not just historically but personally as well. It captured my imagination as a teenager; and, as I’ve been dealing with some recent emotional disappointment, there are some quotes in Jane Eyre that really seemed

Review: Alas, Poor Lady, by Rachel Ferguson

Pages: 463 Original date of publication: 1937 My edition: 2006 (Persephone) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Persephone catalogue, January 201 1 Born in 1870, Grace Scrimgeour is the youngest daughter in a large, not-wealthy Victorian family. In an age and society where women were defined by their marital status, the Scrimgeours fail to make any provision for marriage for their younger daughters—Grace, Queenie, and Mary. One of the sisters becomes a nun; the others marry; but the focus is on the spinsters who remain at home with their mother, a selfish woman who fritters away money in their large house in Kensington. The book chronicles Grace’s life from birth, through her abortive attempts to find a husband because she’s not attractive enough, through the family’s poverty and Grace’s attempts to earn money as a governess, work that she’s completely unsuited for. It’s a desperately sad novel about what happened to unmarried women—the book opens with Grace

The Sunday Salon

Another week, come and gone! I spent today in New York City; Friday was my sister’s birthday, and my dad and I drove up to have brunch with her and her boyfriend at one of my favorite restaurants, located near Union Square. A trip to New York couldn’t be complete without sojourns to the enormous Barnes and Noble at Union Square, and the Strand, a few blocks away. I’m newly-obsessed with the reprints put out by New York Review Books Classics, and Barnes and Noble has many, many of them in stock. So I came away with: Cassandra at the Wedding, by Dorothy Baker; The Long Ships, by Frans G. Bengtsson; A House and its Head, by Ivy Compton Burnett; The Vet’s Daughter, by Barbara Comyns; The Towers of Trebizond, by Rose MacAulay; Summer Will Show, by Sylvia Townsend Warner. My spending at the Strand was slightly less expensive: I picked up The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald; The Vera Wright Trilogy, by Elizabeth Jolley; and Chronicles of Fairacre, by Miss Read. Then I also found a VMC e

Review: The Glass-Blowers, by Daphne Du Maurier

Pages: 368 Original date of publication: 1963 My edition: 2004 (Virago) Why I decided to read: it’s been on my TBR list forever How I acquired my copy: Online, February 2011 The Glass-Blowers is the story of the Bussons, a family of glassblowers in the late 18th century (and ancestors to Daphne Du Murier). The story is told through the eyes of their sister, Sophie Duval, married to a master glassblower. The novel takes the family. Daphne Du Maurier wrote frequently about various members of her ancestors and family members, and this is a fantastic fictional account of the French Revolution and the effects it had on one family. Daphne Du Maurier is one of my favorite authors, but sadly, this to me wasn’t one of her better books. There’s not much about the glassblowing trade in this novel, and the details the reader gets on the events of the period are sketchy. Granted, Sophie Duval spends most of her time out in the countryside, but maybe the story could have been told from the point of

Review: The Outcast, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Pages: 594 Original date of publication: 1998 My edition: 2007 (Sphere) Why I decided to read: I’m trying to read through the Morland Dynasty series How I acquired my copy: book Depository, April 2010 #21: 1857-1865; covers the American Civil W ar This installment of the Morland series takes the family from England to South Carolina—just as war is about to tear apart the United States. A foundling shows up at Benedict Morland’s door, and he takes the child to South Carolina, where his daughter Mary is a wife and mother on a large plantation. Back in England, Charlotte’s marriage to Oliver Fleetwood slowly crumbles over her friendship with a doctor, even as she becomes involved in the divorce reform bill. This book takes a break from England, and I thought it was a welcome change from the usual. As the books in this series usually are, the events described are well-researched and give the reader a glimpse into what life was like in the 1850s and ‘60s. Mary’s mar

The Sunday Salon

It’s Sunday again! In September 2009, when I went on vacation to London by my lonesome, I got hooked on a British show called Who Do You Think You Are , a BBC show focusing on celebrities who explore their family history. Today I discovered that there’s an American version that recently aired its second season on NBC—so I’ve spent my day glued to my computer screen watching past episodes on hulu. I think the American version is much more interesting—first because I’ve actually heard of the celebrities featured (eg, Vanessa Williams, Tim McGraw), second because these celebrities’ stories are a reflection of larger, American history; and third because they travel to more exotic places. The first season is available on DVD and it’s at the top of my Netflix queue as we speak! I’d love to watch the episodes of the British version I haven’t seen… Otherwise, it’s been a quiet kind of Sunday—went to the gym, grocery store, the usual Sunday afternoon of a spinster maid! I’m still trying

Review: Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, by Isabella Bird

Pages: 333 Original date of publication: 1880 My edition: 1984 (Virago) Why I decided to read: recommended to me through LibraryThing How I acquired my copy: Amazon UK seller, January 2011 Unbeaten Tracks in Japan is composed of a series of letters that Isabella Bird wrote home to her sister and friends during the summer of 1878. She set out from Tokyo, eager to explore the “unbeaten tracks” of the northern part of Honshu (the largest island of Japan) and Hokkaido. The letters are a combination of travelogue, anthropological study, and cultural study. I was especially eager to grab this book off my TBR shelf after what’s recently happened in Japan, and I enjoyed reading about Isabella Bird’s adventures there 130 years ago—a very different experience from when my family lived in Tokyo in the 1980s and ‘90s! Isabella Bird inserts very little of her own thoughts and feelings into the narrative of her letters, but at times her very subtle sense of humor comes through,

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 page Be 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! “We went to our ball last night—it was pretty; the room was hung round with such profusion of garlands and a sort of stage, on which there were green arches decked out with flowers; but what particularly took my fancy was a set of European soldiers dressed up for the night as footmen, real red plush trousers, with blue coats and red collars, and white cotton stockings, and powdered heads, and they carried about trays of tea and ices. After the turbaned heads and ‘the trash and tiffany,’ as Hook says, with which we