Two great classics: Great Expectations and The House of Mirth

It seems that I’ve missed a whole month!  Where did January go?  I’ve not posted since the end of December – have you missed me?  Probably not…

My neglect has been bugging me, but honestly, I’ve not had the time to act on that niggle in the back of my mind.  I started a new job the week before Christmas, and new hours and a new location have meant that I haven’t been able to use my usual blogging time – i.e. on the train! – to write.  And I’ve not felt like putting my laptop on at home.  I look at a screen all day, and my evenings and weekends have become very precious to me.  The idea of using them to look at a computer for any longer, even to write, fills me with lethargy.

However, on Friday my first magazine at my new job went to print, and after a hectic few weeks I feel a bit more myself again!  I felt like a new start, and so thought a blogging update was in order.  I’m still following Savidge Reads and AJ Reads’ Classically Challenged, and reading along with them, but the reviews have been getting behind.  I was already behind on my reviews before I started my new job, and now my “to review” shelf is filling me with despair!  But I want my blog to be fun, not a chore (another reason why I haven’t forced myself to blog while I haven’t felt like it), so I thought that I could combine a little update with two short reviews in one.  Hopefully you won’t feel too short-changed! More

The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon

The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy DillonJust to be a complete literary snob for a second, The Secret of Happy Ever After is not the type of book I normally buy.  I’m more than happy to read “chick-lit” (although I do hate that title) if someone’s recommended a particular book and lent it to me, but I don’t normally seek it out.

So why did I buy this one?  Firstly, the fairy tale sound of the title drew me in enough to pull the book off the shelf.  Then the picture of the Dalmatian on the front cover (I can’t resist a story about animals) persuaded me to read the blurb.  Finally, once I’d discovered that the story was set in a bookshop, I was sold!

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Book Review: The Warden by Anthony Trollope

The Warden by Anthony TrollopeMy mum has wanted me to read Trollope for years.  I’m not sure why I resisted the recommendation really, as she usually knows what I’ll like: she did introduce me to the wonderful Rebecca after all.  I think the idea I’d formed of what the Barchester Towers series would be about didn’t really appeal.  A load of books set in a church?  What’s really going to happen with a setting like that?  It seemed a bit too safe and quiet.

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Book Review: Tiger’s Eye by Inga Clendinnen

Tiger's Eye by Inga ClendinnenI’ve mentioned in other posts that I like reading book blurbs. Rightly or wrongly, I often judge a book by its back cover.  The blurb for Tiger’s Eye, actually an extract from a review in the Australian newspaper The Age, absolutely sold the book to me, while strangely revealing little about the book’s content:

“This is a rare book, and rare in its own time.  It is memoir, history, fiction, a documenting of filial gratitude and ingratitude, and a record of the cauldron experience of a near-fatal illness, all bundled, coherently – that’s the miracle – between covers.  And written with a white intensity that assaults the way a Southern Ocean breaker does: first, shock, then – exhilaration…

The paradox of this intensely personal, powerfully intelligent memoir is that it lets the reader through while leaving Clendinnen and the people she anatomises with their skins on and mystery intact…I am reminded of Sylvia Plath’s last poems, not because Clendinnen is derivative – she is indelibly herself – but because she, too, can extrude clarity out of chaos.”

I knew nothing about the writer and had never heard of the title, but standing dithering in the bookshop I decided that at only £1 it was worth a gamble, so I took it home.  Then I spent months not reading it and looking at its glossy black spine, questioning the impulse which had made me buy it – would I be wasting my precious reading time by even starting it?

But when I finally read it, I loved it.  Absolutely loved it.

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Book Review: Judith by Lawrence Durrell

Judith by Lawrence DurrellI wrote a review a little while back on My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell: an autobiographical account of the author’s unorthodox childhood in Corfu.  I liked the book very much and enjoyed getting to know Durrell’s pets, neighbours and eccentric family members.

Judith is written by Gerald Durrell’s older brother Lawrence.  Lawrence Durrell is in fact much better-known as a writer, having published a huge range of work including novels, travel writings, poetry and plays throughout his long literary career; I just happened to chance across Gerald’s work first.  I’m glad I did, actually, as I felt as though I had already got to know Judith’s author to some degree.  I was pleased to find that the same type of humour and clever character sketches which made me warm to My Family and Other Animals were also present in this novel, even though this is a very different kind of book.

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Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Persuasion by Jane AustenPersuasion was completed when Jane Austen was already a successful writer, and was published shortly before her death, aged 41, in 1817.  It’s her most romantic and best-loved novel, in the opinion of some, and her weakest and most mournful according to others.  It has a reputation for dividing her fans into one of these love/hate camps.

If you’ve read my Classically Challenged introductory post, you’ll know that I’ve already planted my feet squarely in the romantic camp.  I love Persuasion for so many reasons!  I’ll take you through a few of them…

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Book Review: The Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire by Abigail Gibbs

The Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire by Abigail GibbsThere’s plenty of vampire-related literature around at the moment: so much so that readers are spoilt for choice.  If I’m honest, it’s not my favourite genre (I think it deserves to be called a genre in its own right).  I don’t mind the vampires (I have an over-active imagination and am quite prepared to scare myself silly on a dark night wondering if a thirsty, sharp-toothed mythical being is lurking in the shadows).  My problem is with the fact that modern vampires tend to be bratty teenagers: they never seem to be quiet bookish types or suave and sophisticated charmers; they all tend to be a bit gobby, full of self-confidence, and/or very angsty.

However, I found myself drawn to the teenage vampire at the centre of this novel: prince of the vampire kingdom, Kaspar.  More

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