Classics Club Spin #31

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin. Members who want to participate post a numbered list of 20 of the books from their Classics Club list by this Sunday, September 18. The club takes a spin, and the number selected determines which book from my list I’ll read next.

So, here’s my list:

  1. We by Yevgeny Zemyatin
  2. Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
  3. Love’s Labour Lost by William Shakespeare
  4. The Fair Jilt by Aphra Behn
  5. Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth
  6. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
  7. Miss Mole by E. H. Young
  8. Cecilia, Memoirs of an Heiress by Fanny Burney
  9. Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford
  10. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  11. The Saga of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerloff
  12. The Book of Dede Korkut by Anonymous
  13. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  14. The Prophet’s Mantle by E. Nesbitt
  15. The Methods of Lady Walderhurst by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  16. A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova
  17. Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston
  18. The Tree of Heaven by May Sinclaire
  19. Merkland, a Story of Scottish Life by Mrs. Oliphant
  20. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

I’ll be waiting to see which one I got. Did you join the spin? What book would you like to get?

Review 2004: Classics Club Spin Result! Phineas Finn

When I put Phineas Finn on my Classics Club list, I was just looking for a book by Trollope that I hadn’t read. I didn’t realize it was the second of the Palliser novels, so now I’m going to have to go back and read the first.

Against the advice of his father and his mentor, Mr. Low, Phineas Finn has been persuaded by friends to run for Parliament even though he has just recently finished his law studies. The difficulty is that he has no money and Parliamentary representatives aren’t paid, so his father, who is a country doctor, will have to continue to support him unless he can get a paid government position.

Nevertheless, he goes ahead and gets “elected” as member for an Irish pocket borough, where the lord who awards it has feuded with his son, the incumbent. So, Phineas begins his career.

One of his friends who has encouraged him in politics is Lady Laura Standish, a young woman who takes a great interest in politics. Although she had some fortune, she gave it away to her brother, Lord Chiltern, to pay off his debts in the hopes he can reconcile with his father, the Earl of Brentford. Both the Earl and Lady Laura are encouraging about Phineas’s career, and Phineas finds himself in love with Lady Laura. However, he has a rival, Mr. Kennedy, who is stiff and formal but very rich.

The novel details Phineas’s Parliamentary career as well as his friendships with several young ladies as he looks for a wife. It is thoughtful about the choices for women at this time and deals with the consequences when Lady Laura makes the wrong choice of husband. Another character, Laura’s best friend Violet Effingham, is wealthy in her own right and wants to remain single and run her own household but finds she is not allowed to. Finally, there is Marie Max Goesler, an intriguing character. She is a wealthy widow who is known for her select parties. She is an admitted social climber, but she takes a great interest in Phineas’s career.

Phineas himself is a likable fellow who sometimes seems a little suggestible but by and large works hard and leads an ethical life. I enjoyed this book very much. The only thing I found disappointing was that of the four women he considers marrying, he ends up with the least interesting and most insipid.

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Classics Club Spin #30

The Classics Club has announced another spin. To participate, members post a numbered list of 20 of the books from their personal lists, to be posted by this Sunday, June 12. The club announces a number, and that determines which book to read by Sunday, August 7.

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

  1. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
  2. Cecilia, Memoirs of an Heiress by Fanny Burney
  3. The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
  4. The Aeneid by Virgil
  5. Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope
  6. Miss Mole by E. H. Young
  7. Weatherley Parade by Richmal Crompton
  8. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
  9. Love’s Labours Lost by William Shakespeare
  10. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  11. Merkland, A Story of Scottish Life by Mrs. Oliphant
  12. The Saga of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerloff
  13. Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
  14. The Deepening Stream by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  15. The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermoût
  16. Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford
  17. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  18. Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth
  19. Iza’s Ballad by Magda Szabo
  20. A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova

Review 1846: Classics Club Spin Book! The Dead Secret

The latest Classics Club Spin ended up with The Dead Secret as the book I should read. It is Wilkie Collins’ first full-length novel but unfortunately not his best.

Mrs. Treverton is on her deathbed at Porthgenna Tower, but she has a secret. She wants to disclose it to her husband but can’t bring herself to do it. So, she forces her maid, Sarah Leeson, to write it down. She makes Sarah promise not to destroy the confession or remove it from the house, but she dies before she can make her promise to give it to her husband. So, Sarah hides it in a ruined wing of the house and then flees.

Fifteen or sixteen years later, Mrs. Treverton’s daughter Rosamond is a young wife. She and her blind husband, Leonard Frankland, are on their way to Cornwall to take up residence at Porthgenna Tower, where Rosamond has not lived since she was five. They intend to renovate the house, including the ruined north wing, but they have had to stop their journey because Rosamond has gone into premature labor.

The local doctor, in seeking a nurse for the new mother and son, consults a householder only to have her housekeeper, Mrs. Jazeph, unexpectedly volunteer to do it herself. However, Mrs. Jazeph’s odd behavior that evening causes her to be dismissed. Before leaving, she tells Rosamond to stay out of the Myrtle Room.

With a ruined old mansion on the coast of Cornwall that is possibly haunted and a secret too awful to tell, this novel promises to be all that a sensation novel should be. However, Collins is clearly learning here, for this novel is dripping with sentimentality and soppiness. Moreover, the behavior of the maid (it’s not hard to guess who she is) is so exaggerated that I could hardly stand to read about her at times. Collins took Dickens for his model, and Rosamond is a typical type for Dickens—sweet, a little foolish at times, loving, needing the guidance of her morally correct husband. Without having spent enough time with Sarah for us to care much for her—in fact, at times her behavior is extremely irritating—he spends too long a time with a supposedly heart-rending scene.

The secret isn’t very hard to guess, nor are the events of the plot difficult to predict. This isn’t a terrible novel, but Collins has written better ones.

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Classics Club Spin #29!

It looks like the Classics Club is having another spin. Members can participate by making a numbered list of 20 of the books on their Classics Club lists and posting it by Sunday. On March 20, the Classics Club will pick a number, and that determines which of the books on your list to read by Saturday, April 30.

So, here’s my list for the spin:

  1. The Aenied by Virgil
  2. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
  3. The Mayor’s Wife by Anna Katherine Green
  4. Much Dithering by Dorothy Lambert
  5. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp
  6. Music in the Hills by D. E. Stevenson
  7. We by Yevgeny Zemyatin
  8. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
  9. Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
  10. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  11. The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins
  12. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  13. Merkland, A Story of Scottish Life by Margaret Oliphant
  14. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  15. The Moorland Cottage by Elizabeth Gaskell
  16. The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
  17. Isa’s Ballad by Magda Szabo
  18. A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova
  19. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  20. The Saga of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerlof

If you choose to participate, good look on getting a book you enjoy!

My List for Classics Club Spin #28

The Classics Club has announced another spin. How do the spins work? I pick 20 books from my Classics Club list and number them. On October 17, the club picks a number, and that’s the book I will read before December 12, the deadline for this spin. So, here is my list for this spin. This time, I haven’t picked any of the difficult books on my list:

  1. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
  2. The Mayor’s Wife by Anna Katherine Green
  3. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  4. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp
  5. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
  6. Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
  7. Merkland, A Story of Scottish Life by Margaret Oliphant
  8. Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith
  9. Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare
  10. The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins
  11. Much Dithering by Dorothy Lambert
  12. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
  13. Weatherley Parade by Richmal Crompton
  14. The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
  15. Iza’s Ballad by Magda Szabo
  16. Music in the Hills by D. E. Stevenson
  17. Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford
  18. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  19. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  20. The Saga of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerlof

Review 1710: Classics Club Spin Result! The Woods in Winter

I might have saved The Woods in Winter for a chillier time of year, but its number was chosen for me for the latest Classics Club spin. It’s a lovely tale.

Ivy Gover (not Gower, as it says on the back cover of my Furrowed Middlebrow edition), three times a widow and a charwoman, is living in a tidy but small North London flat when she receives a letter. Not being able to read well, she takes it to her employer, Miss Helen Green, who tells her she has inherited her great-uncle’s cottage out in Buckinghamshire for her lifetime.

Ivy abruptly moves to the country but not before stealing a neighbor’s dog that she has heard barking for months and finds living in its own dirt. Although the cottage is primitive and has a hole in its thatch, she moves right in and begins befriending the local animals. For she has a touch with wild things and for healing, as Lord Gowerville finds out when she magically cures his dying dog. The next day, he sends someone over to fix the thatch in her roof.

As Ivy befriends the birds, a fox, and eventually a boy, her neighbors also have their adventures. The vicar is suddenly taken with Pearl Cartaret, one of two sisters who open a tea shop. Helen is sometimes nearby pursuing an affair with an elusive young man. Angela Mordaunt, a “spinster” brought up by her mother more as a well-bred boy than a girl, catches the eye of Sam Lambert, a kind farm laborer.

This novel was the last one published (in 1970) during Stella Gibbons’ lifetime and displays a longing for the England of 40 years before, when most of it is set. I just loved it. It is funny yet astringent, has some engaging and other very lifelike characters, and contains lyrical descriptions of the countryside around Ivy’s cottage as well as a conservationist conclusion. Ivy herself is a spunky individualist. I liked her a lot.

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Classics Club Spin #27

I just posted a new Classics Club list last week, and coincidentally, now they have announced a spin. The way it works is, if you want to participate, you pick 20 books from your list and post that list. The spin picks a number, and that determines which book you read next. The deadline for reading the book this time is August 22.

Since I have a new list to work with, I decided to pick 20 of the books I want to read most. Here they are:

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. The Bride of Lammermoor by Walter Scott
  3. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  4. Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
  5. Weatherley Parade by Richmal Crompton
  6. The Woods in Winter by Stella Gibbons
  7. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
  8. Much Dithering by Dorothy Lambert
  9. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
  10. The Moon Spinners by Mary Stewart
  11. Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith
  12. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp
  13. Merkland, A Story of Scottish Life by Margaret Oliphant
  14. The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins
  15. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  16. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  17. The Methods of Lady Waldenhurst by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  18. Music in the Hills by D. E. Stevenson
  19. Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope
  20. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

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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