The Code of the Woosters

woostersWhat ho Bertie!  That aged relation Aunt Dahlia needs Bertie to steal Sir Watkyn Bassett’s cow creamer, there’s a serious rift in the engagement between Gussie Fink-Nottle and Madeline Bassett and Stiffy Byng and the Reverend Harold ‘Stinker’ Pinker have their own plans for Bertie, so with Jeeves at his side it’s off to Totleigh Towers, Totleigh-in-the-Wold, because you can’t let a pal down, it’s the code of the Woosters,

‘I braced myself with the old Wooster grit. Up came the chin, back went the shoulders’

Continue reading “The Code of the Woosters”

The Leopard

leopard

It’s 1860 and Fabrizio, Prince of Salina rules over thousands of acres, hundreds of people, his wife and seven children. But when Garibaldi lands in Sicily and is hailed a hero and liberator by the people, it is clear that the old way of life is changing.

Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa is writing about his great grandfather, by following the prince to his death in 1883 we get a glimpse of a Sicilian nobleman at a moment of crisis and the degeneration of his family until almost collapse in 1910.  Continue reading “The Leopard”

Classics Club Spin #20

spinning-book

There’s another spin! Here’s my list of 20 titles from my original Classics Challenge list. On Monday 22nd April the spin will tell me which number I must read by 31st May.

 

  1. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  2. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  3. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  4. Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
  5. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  6. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  7. The Outsiders by Albert Camus
  8. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  9. Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac
  10. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  11. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  12. Maude by Christina Rosetti
  13. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  14. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  15. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  16. A Passage to India by E.M.Forster
  17. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  18. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  19. If This is a Man by Primo Levy
  20. Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

My fingers are crossed for The Code of the Woosters!

 

A Tale Of Two Cities

2 citiesI had forgotten how satisfying it is to read a Dickens’ novel, I don’t know why I hadn’t read this one before but from the very beginning it was like putting on my favourite cosy jumper. It feels safe being in such good hands and despite being half the length of his other novels, this was a masterclass in story telling. Written in 1859, the action is set between 1775 and 1793, between London and Paris and the French Revolution.  Slowly building up the tension from the loving family life of Lucie and her father Dr. Manette in London to Madame and Monsieur Defarge, the blood stained streets of revolution in Paris, and the whirling of La Guillotine. Continue reading “A Tale Of Two Cities”

The Story Of An African Farm

 

african farmWritten and published in 1883, The Story of an African Farm is set in South Africa in 1860. It’s a classic of feminist fiction but Olive Schreiner also discusses gender roles and loneliness,science and religion and the constraints imposed by a repressive colonial society.

 ‘The full African moon poured down its light from the blue sky into the wide, lonely plain’.

The only break in the ‘solemn monotony of the plain’ is the farm where two cousins Emily and Lyndall live with the widowed Tante’ Sannie, the German overseer Otto and his son Waldo.  This is Olive Schreiner’s own landscape, where she lived a lonely and isolated childhood with her Calvinist missionary parents. It’s a fictionalized autobiography that’s essentially a coming of age story told through a series of vignettes. Dream sequences, allegorical tales and extended metaphors often interrupt the realistic plot in a way that foreshadows modernist fiction, and makes for some quite odd reading at times. Continue reading “The Story Of An African Farm”

Northanger Abbey

 

northangerabbey‘No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine’ from the very beginning Northanger Abbey sparkles with wit and fun. The daughter of a clergyman, never handsome and called Richard and a mother full of ‘useful plain sense’, Catherine has led a sheltered life amongst her ten siblings in an English village. So when their rich neighbours, Mr and Mrs Allen invite her to Bath for six weeks, everyone is delighted. Six weeks of discussing muslins, parading in front of the Pump Room and hopefully making new friends and falling in love!

Catherine is 17, naive and impressionable and thoroughly loveable.  Her kind-hearted character is the perfect foil with which to satirise the absurdity of ‘society’, young girls’ intense friendships and the problems of mixing up reality and make-believe!  Written for family entertainment, contemporary readers must have revelled in reading about the actual buildings they went to, the streets they walked along and the novels they read. If Dublin could be re-built from Ulysses, what an easier time the city planners of Bath would have! Continue reading “Northanger Abbey”

The Mysteries of Udolpho

udolpho
In January I read The Mysteries of Udolpho for the Classics Club Chunkster Spin – it was a great way to start the year!

Emily St Aubert is a young women leading an idyllic life with her parents at their estate in France. Her time is spent walking through the lush countryside playing her lute singing and taking delight in the natural world around her.   When her mother dies, she and her father travel through France taking comfort in each others company and the beauty of the landscape.  They meet a young soldier, Valencourt who is smitten with Emily and has the approval of Monsieur St Aubert since he too, sings, writes poetry, plays the lute and clearly has never been to Paris! This is a black and white world where the city means shallow and wicked and the countryside spiritual happiness. Indeed,the countryside is almost its own character since everything trembles – lips, leaves, voices, moonlight, hearts –  all the natural world and the good people in it.

But suddenly orphaned, Emily’s life takes a turn. Taken into the care of her aunt (who has been to and loved Paris!) and her villainous step-uncle, Signor Montoni, she is taken to Italy – to the castle of Udolpho. And there the adventures begin. A creepy old castle of ‘mouldering stones and heavy buttresses’, there are hidden staircases, subterranean dungeons and labyrinthine passages,  strange noises and cries, horrible shapes beneath sheets and a beautiful, melancholy voice that sings in the middle of the night. Imprisoned and with the prospect of being sold in marriage, there were moments of very fast page turning and gasping on my part! My Penguin edition had 638 pages and still at page 574 new horrors were being unmasked! Continue reading “The Mysteries of Udolpho”

Doctor Zhivago

dr.zhivago

This wasn’t at all what I expected. I thought I was going to read a sweeping love story set against a backdrop of snow.

Instead I found the history of Russia in the first half of the 20th century, world wars, revolution, civil war and the political terror of the 1930’s told through the eyes of a doctor and poet.

But it was the plain, almost dispassionate style that surprised me the most. Writing in 1957 Pasternak describes the civil war vividly, but without sentiment. A sense of catastrophe and upheaval is always present, the characters come thick and fast, which gives a sense of the chaos and disorder but somehow Yuri Zhivago is detached, as if he’s watching events through a window and never really taking part. Continue reading “Doctor Zhivago”

Classics Club Spin #19

spinning-book

At last I’m organised enough to join in with a spin! It was one of the things that first appealed to me about joining The Classics Club and yet it’s never happened – until now!

A numbered list of 20 titles from our original challenge list needs to be posted by Tuesday, 27th November when the spin will reveal which number we should read by January 31st 2019 – what a great way to start the new year.

This is my spin list:

  1. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe
  2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  3. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  4. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  6. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  7. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  8. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner
  10. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  11. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  12. Gullivers Travels by Jonathan Swift
  13. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  14. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  15. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  16. The Outsider by Albert Camus
  17. If This is a Man by Primo Levi
  18. Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
  19. Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac
  20. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Stern

Not all chunksters but hopefully all good reads.

 

Reading Finnegans Wake

finnegans wakeEaster 2017 and my reading chums and I finished Ulysses, we absolutely loved it and quickly read (and went to see) Hamlet to explore the father/son motif, read Dubliners so we could spend more time with the characters and went to Dublin to celebrate Bloomsday.  We read Portrait of the Artist to get more of Stephen Dedalus, we even went on a course and gave (very short) presentations on different aspects of the book.  We were in awe of his intelligence, his sparkling language – how could we get more Joyce?
Let’s read Finnegans Wake we said!

The first week, armed with Oxford Classic editions and our guide A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake (Joseph Campbell) we had a really fun time annotating our copies with the chapter headings that Mr key to FWCampbell provided “to serve as a handrail for the reader groping (their) way along unfamiliar galleries'” and wondered how we were going to read it.

“It is a strange book, a compound of fable, symphony, and nightmare – a monstrous enigma beckoning imperiously from the shadowy pits of sleep.” (Joseph Campbell).  It’s a vast dream, crowded with characters where all time occurs simultaneously. A revolving stage of mythological heroes, remotest antiquity and popular culture. Continue reading “Reading Finnegans Wake”