Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘ll start off strongly recommending this Penguin edition.

Firstly I loved the cover

– even though I doubt that Jane ever wore pink.

This edition was also very well annotated. I don’t think I have ever made such good use of notes at the back of a work of fiction.

&, last but not least, I read Michael Mason’s very good introduction after I completed the book as I have had too many reads ruined for me by spoiler filled introductions (looking at you Martin Edwards) While not at the Edwardian (heh) level of spoilers, I still think I made the right choice. This was a very thoughtful introduction, that made the point;

Jane Eyre is a novel which it’s readers tend to remember inaccurately at certain points. It may not be mis-remembered more than other novels, but it is mis-remembered more conspicuously than most…

I think this is very true. I have no memory of [Jane’s desperate flight from Thornfield Hall, & her cousins, the Rivers family. My memory of this book is so much more… um chaste that I’m wondering if my previous readings (all over forty years ago) were abridged/censored editions. I was certainly unprepared for the passion in this book.

So I started the book fully prepared for the self-righteous Victorian cruelty to the orphaned Jane, I think I expected the rectitude but was unprepared for the passion. Rochester & Jane’s declaration of love for each other are truly beautiful. Jane remains true to herself and her beliefs throughout except when St John (who I personally really disliked) was doing a form of Christian grooming on Jane. To be honest, I welcomed this (in a literary sense) as the book after Jane runs away from Rochester became a little dull.

Other flaws were a bit earlier. Rochester [ dressing as a fortune teller  – that was a little silly. & Charlotte, as a storyteller, just about ties herself in knots trying to explain Rochester’s pursuit of Miss Ingram. Rochester never looks more unappealing then he does when he tries to explain that to Jane. & frankly, like Heathcliff, Rochester never looks that appealing to me. If any of the Bronte’s ever wrote a male lead that didn’t look like an arrogant sod, please let me know.

While I didn’t totally love this book I admire it enormously -so ahead of its time! & in parts I was totally enthralled. The one thing I didn’t stop doing was admiring Jane.

Nightingale Wood

by Stella Gibbons

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Firstly I want to say – just look at the cover of this edition!

Light, effervescent, wonderful colour palette – would have one expecting something Woodhousian, wouldn’t one?

Which this book really isn’t, even though there are flashes of humour. What this book is is a study of the British Class System and social values at a time (late 1930s) when the world is starting to change.

The widowed (& nearly penniless)Viola feels she has no choice but to accept her starchy in-laws offer of a home. The Wither family (great choice of surname!) are frozen in their tyrannical father’s idea of time. The rest of them are miserable! Viola, young, spendthrift and none too bright, is wondering if she made a terrible mistake leaving her friend’s home in London. But then comes the Charity Ball…

I end up liking this book very much, for its wonderful social commentary in the middle. Be aware that the scene setting at the start may feel a bit tedious, but it is necessary for the events that unfold. The ending had too much telling & not enough showing for me, but what I liked was that I didn’t predict the correct ending for anyone!

I am now going to be on the hunt for Gibbons best known book, Cold Comfort Farm.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

by Edwin A. Abbott

For the most part I hate maths, other than stats & arithmetic, but I loved this absolutely mad book!

My copy didn’t come with the line drawings, but they are available on http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/~banchoff/Flatland/

 I only found this site after I finished my read last night. I was happy with my imagination travelling with A Square trying to puzzle out his universe!

I wish I had discovered this book when I was at intermediate school. I was decent at maths until Year 10 and using my love of words may have made me try harder with maths – although I don’t think anything could have made me & trig friends!

Knocked off a star for an often patronising attitude to women. Abbott may have thought he was being funny.

I didn’t.

My Brilliant Career

by Miles Franklin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Sybylla is the epitome of an Aussie Battler!

What started as an idyllic if tough childhood, changed when her father decided to chase dreams beyond his abilities. When the family’s circumstances change to beyond desperate, Sybylla is sent to live with her grandmother and an aunt, before her mother decides to virtually enslave Sybylla to pay one of Sybylla’s fathers debtors.

But there is a solution.

I loved this story and the only reason this wasn’t a 5★ read is the incident where Sybylla lashes out and hits her suitor Harry across the face with a riding crop. Harry has done nothing to deserve treatment like that. I don’t think I have ever felt more sorry for a hero in a novel.

Harry loves Syb (as he calls her) – I did want to ask, “Why?”

Nonetheless, I did admire Sybylla’s fierce and brave spirit, her ambition and desire for an independent life. I liked her!

The Enchanted April

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5 ★

The Enchanted April is an enchanting book!

Within the first couple of paragraphs I knew it was the book for me! I am still in Lockdown and I needed something that would help me escape the world’s frightening realities. & mostly set in one of my favourite countries – what could be better?

Answer – not much!

A chance spotting of an advertisement leads to two virtual strangers, Lottie & Rose, deciding to rent an Italian castle together & have a month’s escape from their dull, unhappy lives. The rent proves to be much more than they had envisaged, so they advertise and find two other ladies, the waspish, selfish Mrs Fisher and the self absorbed Lady Caroline. in different ways the ladies are transformed by their experiences and the beauty that they are living amongst. Von Arnim herself was supposed to be a very keen gardener and her love of plants shows in every word.

All down the stone steps on either side were periwinkles in full flower, and she could now see what it was that had caught at her the night before and brushed, wet and scented, across her face. It was wisteria. Wisteria and sunshine . . . she remembered the advertisement. Here indeed were both in profusion. The wisteria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life, its prodigality of flowering; and where the pergola ended the sun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them, and nasturtiums in great heaps, and marigolds so brilliant that they seemed to be burning, and red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright, fierce colour. The ground behind these flaming things dropped away in terraces to the sea, each terrace a little orchard, where among the olives grew vines on trellises, and fig-trees, and peach-trees, and cherry-trees. The cherry-trees and peach-trees were in blossom–lovely showers of white and deep rose-colour among the trembling delicacy of the olives; the fig-leaves were just big enough to smell of figs, the vine-buds were only beginning to show. And beneath these trees were groups of blue and purple irises, and bushes of lavender, and grey, sharp cactuses, and the grass was thick with dandelions and daisies, and right down at the bottom was the sea. Colour seemed flung down anyhow, anywhere; every sort of colour piled up in heaps, pouring along in rivers….

I knocked of half a ★ because I wasn’t totally convinced by the resolution of some of storylines, but if you want to remember Italy in happier times or simply want an escape from grim reality, this could be the book for you!

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A Damsel in Distress

I am very far behind indeed with adding my book reviews to my blog. I got a bit discouraged, then New Zealand went out of Lockdown, so I have been away on holiday.

& then I got sick. Not Coronavirus thank heavens, but until today I didn’t feel like doing much. So let’s see how I get on!

A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

You would think being in a country where Lockdown has been taken very seriously indeed that an avid reader such as myself would be losing themselves in a mountain of books! Not so, I have found it very difficult to concentrate on anything that isn’t a beloved reread.

Thank heavens this book entered my life.

Honesty compels me to admit it isn’t quite perfect. Far too many characters were introduced at the start and I had trouble figuring out who were the important ones. But once the love story of George and Maud kicks off, it does so with a bang and every few pages had me giving a chuckle – and chuckles are hard to come by in these Coronavirus filled times.

Two tramps of supernatural exuberance called at the cottage shortly after breakfast to ask George, whom they had never even consulted about their marriages, to help support their wives and children.

Vintage Wodehouse.

I can’t go to quite the whole 5★ as P.g.w has done very similar stories to this one even better – most notably Frozen Assets by P.G. Wodehouse but still highly recommended!

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Sanditon (The Novel)

3.5★

Just to be clear – I’m only reading what The Divine Jane actually wrote. I have a horrible feeling that this incomplete work has been combined with editions of this work that have been finished by other authors. Sigh. A GR librarian’s work is never done – but it is going to be ignored for a few days!

So my incomplete work has 12 chapters. Others have mentioned reading copies with only initials – mine has the characters’ names.

I love the start – the idea of a Jane Austen character as a seaside resort developer had enormous appeal for me! But this is the last book JA worked on – and she was already unwell. Her character studies become nastier than I am used to from Jane. I’m sure JA would have revised and made the storyline sharper if she has lived and smoothed out the rough edges on some characters.

By the end – not enjoyable for me.

I will watch the TV adaptation when it hits my shores. Everyone just better be prepared for some vinaigrette sniffing and pearl clutching as I just don’t associate Jane Austen with sexy times.

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