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

Review 1310: Classics Club Spin Review! To the Lighthouse

Cover from To the LighthouseWhen the Classics Club Spin chose To the Lighthouse for me from my list, I wasn’t sure how pleased I was. I first read it in college and remembered very little of it except that it wasn’t my favorite. On the other hand, our tastes change as we grow, and I had enjoyed Mrs. Dalloway.

The novel is divided into three sections. The first is about a day in the life of the Ramsey family, as they vacation on the Isle of Skye with their friends. The second is about the house and the passage of time. The third takes place there again ten or eleven years later.

Young James Ramsey has been begging for a trip the next day to the lighthouse, and both he and Mrs. Ramsey are irritated with Mr. Ramsey for so assuredly stating that the weather will be too stormy. The novel revolves around the presence of Mrs. Ramsey, a beautiful, quiet, assured mother of eight. Although we briefly see things from other characters’ points of view, the most prevalent are those of Mrs. Ramsey and of Lily Briscoe, a painter.

Nothing much happens in this part of the novel. The family doesn’t go to the lighthouse; Lily has difficulty with her painting, and although she has insight during dinner, she doesn’t finish it; Minta loses her brooch on the beach and accepts a proposal from Paul; Lily resists Mrs. Ramsey’s old-fashioned idea that she must marry and her attempts to pair her off with William Bankes. The action of the novel isn’t really the point, though, it’s the complex relationships between friends and family.

At times the narrative is a little hard to follow, because Woolf switches time and pronouns so that you don’t always know whether something takes place in the novel’s present or past or who is being referred to. The novel is impressionistic in its approach, both in its descriptions of characters’ thoughts and of the settings. Over everything is the strong presence of Mrs. Ramsey.

Time passes, the war intervenes, and the family does not return for more than 10 years. When it does, things have changed.

I enjoyed reading this novel, although I’m sure I missed a lot. I think it could be food for study and contemplation, but I did not have time to do so.

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Classics Club Spin #19

CC spin logoThe Classics Club has announced a spin for the end of this month. If you post a numbered list of 20 of your Classics Club books by November 27th, the club will spin to pick the number of your next read for the club. The deadline for reading the book and posting a review is January 31, 2019, so the club has challenged us all to put our biggest tomes on the list because of the extra reading time.

So, with no further ado, here is my list. I will say ahead of time that I have no idea whether some of these books are tomes are not:

  1. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  2. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett
  3. Challenge by Vita Sackville-West
  4. Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  5. The Viscount de Braggalone by Alexandre Dumas
  6. Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton
  7. The Old Man’s Birthday by Richmal Crompton
  8. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
  9. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
  10. Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
  11. Evelina by Frances Burney
  12. The Lady and the Unicorn by Rumer Godden
  13. Joanna Godden by Sheila Kay-Smith
  14. Mary Lavelle by Kate O’Brien
  15. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  16. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  17. The Prince by Machievelli
  18. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  19. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi
  20. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau

Happy reading to everyone, and I hope the spin selects a good book for you.

As it is Thanksgiving Day here in the U. S., Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

 

 

Day 1258: Classics Club Spin #18! The Heir of Redclyffe

Frontispiece for The Heir of RedclyffeIt’s a quirk of mine that, while I research the books for my Classics Club list, when I finally get to them, I don’t remind myself what they are about before reading them. So, when I got The Heir of Redclyffe in the Classics Club spin, I vaguely guessed from the title that it might be a gothic thriller. Boy, was I wrong.

In fact, in tone and attention to right behavior and emphasis on everyday family life, the novel reminds me more of works by Jane Austen than anything else I’ve read, although it lacks the Austen humor and sense of the absurd. In addition, it perhaps doesn’t translate as well to modern times because of its sense of piety.

The Heir of Redclyffe is the story of two cousins, the branches of whose families have long held a feud. Guy Morville is the heir, at the beginning of the novel a 17-year-old who comes under the guardianship of Mr. Edmonstone. Guy is a stranger to the Edmonstone family when he comes to stay. He has been strictly brought up out of his grandfather’s fear of his family’s violent tendencies. The Edmonstones find him charismatic and full of the joy of life but quick to temper, always attempting to control his darker impulses.

Philip Morville, Guy’s cousin from the other side of the feud, is long a friend of the Edmonstone family. He is a captain in the army, and the young Edmonstones have been used to think of him as a pattern of well-bred, right behavior. Charlie Edmonstone, an invalid, thinks him patronizing and sententious, and Amabel, who is shy, is a little afraid of him, but Laura, the oldest daughter, thinks he can do no wrong, and her parents rely on his advice.

Unfortunately, Philip takes a dislike to Guy that he does not recognize himself. Instead, he thinks he is concerned for Guy’s welfare when he interferes in Guy’s life and misconstrues his actions. Although Guy forms an excellent relationship with the Edmonstones, Philip creates serious trouble for him by almost willfully assuming the worst about him.

The latter part of this novel is  full of sentimentality and pathos similar to Dickens at his “worst,” but the characters seem believable and interesting, and we care what happens to them. Perhaps modern readers won’t find the quiet and delicate but determined Amy to be the most interesting heroine, but in contemporary times she was considered a pattern of womanhood, as Guy was the epitome of the Romantic hero.

I was interested to read that in her time, Charlotte M. Yonge’s books were as popular as Dickens’s and she wrote to the service of the Oxford Movement, yet these days we don’t know her name. Like many other women writers, she was probably pushed aside by editors and academics as not as worthy to be remembered as her male counterparts.

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Another Classics Club Spin!

The Classics Club has just announced spin #18, where club members post a list of 20 classics and the spin chooses a number. You then pledge to read and post a review of that book by August 31.

So, with no further ado, here is my list:

  1. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Anne Brontë
  2. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett
  3. My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather
  4. Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton
  5. Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson
  6. Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
  7. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  8. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  9. The Heir of Redclyff by Charlotte M. Yonge
  10. The Old Man’s Birthday by Richmal Crompton
  11. Greenery Street by Denis MacKail
  12. Mary Lavelle by Kate O’Brien
  13. Challenge by Vita Sackville-West
  14. I Go by Land, I Go by Sea by P. L. Travers
  15. The Viscounte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  16. The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
  17. Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  18. The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster
  19. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  20. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford