Classics Club Spin #26

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin. I have been trying to finish my list in time for my deadline, which is coming up at the end of June. I’m not going to make it, but I’ve been scheduling in books that I read months ago to try to get most of the books reviewed by then, and I have been reading like crazy to finish the others. With any luck, I’ll only be a month or so late. That means that my list for this spin is going to be repetitive.

To participate in the spin, you post a numbered list of 20 of the books from your Classics Club list (or in my case, however many books you have left over and over to make a list of 20). The Classics Club picks a number, and that determines the book you’ll read for the spin. So, here is my list! We are posting these lists by April 18th, and the deadline to read the chosen book is May 31.

  1. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  2. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  3. The Viscount de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  4. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  5. Evelina by Frances Burney
  6. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
  7. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
  8. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  9. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  10. The Viscount de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  11. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  12. Evelina by Frances Burney
  13. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
  14. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
  15. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  16. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  17. The Viscount de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  18. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  19. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
  20. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

Review 1607: Classic Club Spin Result! Oroonoko

Oroonoko was the book I read for the most recent Classics Club Spin.

There are a few issues with Oroonoko, written in 1688, that might make it difficult for modern audiences. One is its acceptance of slavery (although the novel is viewed as an anti-slavery work), which in the 17th century was common. The other is its graphic violence, albeit off-stage, that has caused it to vary in popularity over time. (Apparently, even the publishers of the edition I read disagree about that, because the introduction says it was Behn’s most popular work, while the cover says it was not popular because of its violence.)

Oroonoko has been considered a novella rather than a biography, because there is no proof that such a man as Oroonoko existed. However, Behn writes the story in first person as herself, and she is known to have traveled to Suriname, where it is set, shortly before the country was ceded to the Dutch. So, you have to wonder.

Oroonoko is the prince of Coramantien, an area of present-day Ghana, the grandson of the king and a great warrior. He falls in love with a beautiful girl named Imoinda, and she becomes his betrothed. However, his grandfather sends her the veil, which means she is to join his harem, even though because of her betrothal that is a break in custom. Oroonoko must accept this or die, so he accepts it with the thought that the king cannot live long. However, the king regrets his actions and sees no way to recover the situation except if Imoinda was dead. He is unable to have her killed, though, so he sells her into slavery and tells Oroonoko she is dead.

Next, an English slave trader whom Oroonoko has sold slaves to invites him for a party. When he and his men have passed out from drink, the trader enslaves them and puts them on a ship for Suriname. It is when Oroonoko arrives there that he meets Behn and her traveling companions and they learn his tale and witness the rest of the action.

Oroonoko might be the first anti-slavery novel, although it is subtle about it, showing some of its abuses while not really commenting on the institution. Behn reveals the dastardly behavior of a series of Europeans, either slavers or owners, and contrasts it with the image she builds up of a handsome, brave, forthright black hero and his beautiful and virtuous lady. The novel was interesting, but I found what happened to Imoinda through Oroonoko’s hands distressing and the reflection of a type of thinking I did not find admirable—and the ending was just plain gruesome.

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Classics Club Spin #25

It’s time for another Classics Club spin. The way it works is that Classics Club members pick 20 numbered books from their lists and post these lists by Sunday. The Classics Club selects a number, and that’s the next book you read, for a deadline of January 30. I’m glad of the long period this time, not because I usually have trouble finishing but because I plan my schedule of posts out about six weeks, so often I have to make adjustments to my schedule to add in my book for the spin. Not so this time. I think this change is a good idea anyway, because there are people who have difficulty getting the book read on time for the spin.

Without further ado, here is my list for the spin. I see I no longer have 20 books left to read, so I will have to repeat some:

  1. I Go by Land, I Go by Sea by P. L. Travers
  2. August Folly by Angela Thirkell
  3. Evelina by Fanny Burney
  4. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  5. The Prince by Machiavelli
  6. The Viscounte de Braglonne by Alexandre Dumas
  7. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau
  8. Edward III by Christopher Marlowe
  9. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
  10. Joanna Godden by Sheila Kay-Smith
  11. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  12. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  13. My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin
  14. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
  15. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
  16. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  17. Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn
  18. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  19. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  20. August Folly by Angela Thirkell

Review 1558: Classics Club Spin Result! Kennilworth

Here’s another book for RIPXV!

Reading Kenilworth for the Classics Club Spin made me contemplate the question of how important it is in a historical novel to stick to the historical facts. Of course, historical novels are fiction, so by definition something is invented. And there have been really interesting historical novels where the author purposefully changed some facts to speculate on other outcomes. But do historical novels have the license, just for a more dramatic story, to change what actually happened?

Kenilworth is the novel that famously reawakened interest in the story of Amy Robsart’s death. Amy Robsart was the wife of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, during the reign of Elizabeth I. Amy’s death is the classic mystery of did she fall or was she pushed? At the time of her death, the rumor in court was that Leicester colluded in her death because he believed he could then marry Elizabeth.

In the novel, Amy is a young bride who has run away from home for a marriage with Leicester that is secret because he is afraid for his position in court, having married without royal permission. Amy’s jilted fiancé, Tressalian, comes looking for her on behalf of her father, believing that Amy was seduced away from her home by Varney, Leicester’s master of horse.

Varney is the villain of this piece. He has Amy kept as a virtual prisoner, and eventually Amy has reason to fear for her life. So, she flees to Kenilworth, Leicester’s estate, where he is preparing to entertain Elizabeth and the court.

I fear that Scott has woven a romance with very little basis in fact, as he did with a Crusader-based novel I’ll be reviewing in a few months. First, in Kenilworth, Amy and Leicester are newly married when in fact they were married about 10 years. Next, their marriage was no secret; in fact, she was allowed to visit him in the Tower of London when he was imprisoned by Queen Mary as a relative of Lady Jane Grey. Did Leicester have a hand in her death? I read a novel a while back that posited that (it may have been Alison Weir’s The Marriage Game, but I’m not sure), but we’ll never know. More recently, historians are inclined to believe that she simply fell down the stairs. By the way, she was not being kept captive in a moldy old house but visiting friends.

So, that is a strongish negative for me, at least. I could accept a premise that Leicester ordered his wife’s death because we don’t know, but playing with the chronology of the marriage for drama’s sake (and to have a younger, dewier heroine) and making it a secret (as it was also in a movie I saw several years ago) is throwing in a bit too much fiction.

On the positive side, Scott’s descriptions of the Elizabethan court are vibrant and his attempts at Elizabethan dialogue are convincing. Also, if he was not distorting history I’d say that his plot is quite suspenseful. At the time of its publication, historians slammed The Talisman just because Scott created a fictional Plantagenet, even though he did much worse things historically in that book and in this one.

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Classics Club Spin #24

Apparently it’s time for another Classics Club Spin. For the spin, each Classics Club member posts a list of 20 books from their Classics Club list. On August 9, the club picks a number which determines the book the member will read by September 30.

So, here is my list! I find I only have about 20 books left to read!

  1. I Go by Land, I Go by Sea by P. L. Travers
  2. The Prince by Machievelli
  3. August Folly by Angela Thirkell
  4. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
  5. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  6. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
  7. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  8. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
  9. Joanna Godden by Sheila Kay-Smith
  10. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  11. Coromandel Sea Change by Rumer Godden
  12. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  13. Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn
  14. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  15. My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin
  16. The Viscount de Bragelone by Alexandre Dumas
  17. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau
  18. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  19. Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
  20. Evelina by Frances Burney

Have you read any of these? Which do you hope I’ll get?

Classics Club Spin #23

It’s time for another Classic Club Spin, in which we club members select 20 books from our lists, and the club picks a number, determining which book we read next.

So, with no more further ado, here is my list for this spin:

  1. The Prince by Machievelli
  2. I Go by Land, I Go by Sea by P. L. Travers
  3. Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
  4. August Folly by Angela Thirkell
  5. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
  6. Challenge by Vita Sackville-West
  7. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
  8. The Sea Hawk by Raphael Sabatini
  9. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
  10. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  11. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  12. Mary Lavalle by Kate O’Brien
  13. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  14. Coromandel Sea Change by Rumer Godden
  15. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  16. Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn
  17. The Viscount de Braggelone by Alexandre Duma
  18. My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin
  19. Kennilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  20. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau

Classics Club Spin #22

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin, in which we post 20 books from our Classics Club lists. On Monday, December 22, a number will determine which of the books we’ll read next.

So, with no further ado, here’s my list. I hope for a good one!

  1. I Go By Land, I Go By Sea by P. L. Travers
  2. August Folly by Angela Thirkell
  3. Challenge by Vita Sackville-West
  4. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  5. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  6. Mary Lavelle by Kate O’Brien
  7. Joanna Godden by Sheila Kay-Smith
  8. Coromandel Sea Change by Rumer Godden
  9. Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn
  10. My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin
  11. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau
  12. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  13. Vanishing Cornwall by Daphne du Maurier
  14. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  15. The Viscount de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  16. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  17. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  18. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  19. Evelina by Frances Burney
  20. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster

Review 1412: Classics Club Spin Review! The Wise Virgins

The novel selected for me by the latest Classics Club Spin is The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf. This semi-autobiographical novel is partially about the courtship of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, in the characters of Harry Davis and Camilla Lawrence.

Harry and his family have just moved to the London suburb of Richstead and are shortly befriended by the Garland family, which has four unmarried daughters. Harry is disdainful of life in Richstead and of the fates of the spinster daughters, given up to good works or golf and tennis. The youngest daughter, Gwen, is naïve and gives undue weight to his discontented utterances. He amuses himself by giving her books and plays to read of Dostoevsky and Shaw.

In his art class, Harry is drawn to Camilla Lawrence, a cool beauty. When she invites him home, he finds it one of ideas and stimulating conversation. Camilla has suitors, but she is less interested in marriage than in a quest for self-fulfillment. She is repeatedly alleged to be passionless.

This novel was considered somewhat shocking in its time but was notable for examining the fates of conventional young women in Edwardian England. Harry is not a likable hero nor is Camilla very knowable. I personally did not like their glib and superior dismissal of whole classes of people. I always imagine the Bloomsbury circle snidely sniping at everyone else (and behind each other’s backs), and this novel didn’t make me rethink that idea.

This is probably taking the novel out of its time, but simply the continual reference to unmarried women by Harry as virgins irritated me to no end. He is so superior and supercilious. The introduction to the book says that “virgin” was synonymous with unmarried woman to Edwardians, but clearly for Harry there’s a sneer involved. One article I read calls Harry a truth-teller, but some of the things he says seem only designed to stir people up and make him seem more like eighteen than twenty-eight. Also uncomfortable for modern readers is the antisemitism that is accepted unquestioned by Harry and his family, who are Jewish.

Finally, there are lots of references to talking in this book, and for people who are looking for a purpose in life besides marriage and other predictable fates, they aren’t doing much actual acting. I think Woolf is pointing that out, though, by the chapter headings.

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Another Classics Club Spin

The Classics Club is having another spin. For that, we post a list of twenty of the books from our Classics Club lists, and then Classics Club picks a number, and that’s the book we read next. The goal is to read the book by October 31st.

So, here is my list for Spin #21:

  1. I Go by Land, I Go by Sea by P. L. Travers
  2. The Old Man’s Birthday by Richmal Crompton
  3. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  4. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
  5. The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf
  6. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
  7. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  8. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  9. Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
  10. The Viscounte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  11. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau
  12. August Folly by Angela Thirkell
  13. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  14. Evelina by Frances Burney
  15. The Prince by Machievelli
  16. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  17. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  18. Challenge by Vita Sackville-West
  19. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  20. My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

 

Classics Club Spin #20!

Classics Club has announced another spin, in which we post 20 books from our Classics Club lists. On April 22, the club will pick a number, and that will determine the book we read for our spin by May 31. So, with no further ado, here is the list for my spin.

  1. The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf
  2. Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton
  3. The Prince by Machievelli
  4. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett
  5. Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  6. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  8. Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
  9. Mary Lavelle by Kate O’Brien
  10. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
  11. The Viscounte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  12. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  13. Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
  14. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  15. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  16. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  17. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
  18. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau
  19. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi
  20. August Folly by Angela Thirkell