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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Review 1896: Sense and Sensibility

When I was making up my current Classics Club list, I realized I hadn’t reread any Austen for a while. So, I picked Sense and Sensibility.

When Mr. Dashwood was dying, he made his son John promise to take care of his second wife and daughters, since he was unable to leave them anything due to an entail. John makes this promise with good intentions and tells his wife he will give each of them £1000, but she talks him out of each of his suggestions until he gives them nothing.

On a very small budget, then, Mrs. Dashwood must find a new home for herself and her three daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. Just as things are getting unbearable at the shared home, a relative of Mrs. Dashwood, Sir John Middleton, offers the women a cottage in Devonshire at a low rate.

Elinor regrets leaving her home all the more because she has developed what she believes is a shared attachment with her brother-in-law, Edward Ferrars. But Mrs. John Dashwood wants her brother as far away from Elinor as possible. Both she and her mother plan for him to marry well.

Relocated to their new home, the Dashwoods find their neighbors, the Middletons, and Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Middleton’s mother, to be almost overly friendly.

One day Marianne and Margaret are caught out in a rainstorm and Marianne sprains her ankle skidding down a grassy hill. A gentleman rescues her, and he, Mr. Willoughby, becomes a frequent visitor. It is clear he is attracted to Marianne, and she, having fully adopted the ideals of Romanticism, shows plainly that she’s in love with him. Meanwhile, Elinor wonders why she isn’t hearing from Edward.

This novel is about two sisters who deal with unhappy love affairs in opposite ways and the result. It has vividly believable characters, some funny, and in its own way constitutes a sharp social satire. This novel is one of my favorites by Austen.

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Review 1880: The Castle of Otranto

I first read The Castle of Otranto too long ago as assignment for high school and thought it was very silly. However, it was the first gothic novel, written in 1764, and led the way toward a fascination with Gothic culture in a country littered with ruined Gothic churches and abbeys as a result of the so-called “Bloodless Revolution.” So, I put it on my Classics Club list to see what I think about it now.

Well, it’s a silly book. It is represented in the Preface as a manuscript written sometime between 1095 and 1243. Practically the first thing that happens in it is that Conrad, the son of Manfred, prince of Otranto, has a gigantic helmet fall on him out of nowhere and crush him to death on the day he is to be betrothed to Isabella, the Marquiz of Vincenza’s daughter. This is the first supernatural event in a very short book that includes walking portraits, statues crying tears of blood, and various enormous body parts appearing in the castle.

Why? It appears that Manfred’s grandfather took the castle unlawfully, and the legend is that his family may hold it until its real owner grows too large to inhabit it. Hence, the enormous body parts.

This novel exhibits all the hallmarks of the subsequent gothic novels, many of which aren’t that palatable to modern readers—overblown speeches, submissive and virtuous women (Manfred’s wife even being so submissive as to agree to her own divorce), a nearly insane villain in Manfred, a hero in disguise, a lot of fainting, and supernatural events.

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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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Review 1836: Rhododendron Pie

Ann Laventie comes from an artistic and elegant family, all of whom are witty and have excellent taste. All, that is, except for Ann, who thinks they are wonderful but likes ordinary things and people. While her family disdains their solid Sussex neighbors and stays away from them, she likes them, especially the large and noisy Gayford family. Still, she feels she must be at fault.

A young film maker, Gilbert Croy, comes to stay and pays Ann a lot of attention. After Ann’s sister Elizabeth moves to London, Ann goes to visit her, convinced that she is in love with Croy and determined to come back engaged. But once in London, she begins to notice things. Her brother Dick’s sculptures, for example, all look alike. She absolutely adores a girl that everyone in her siblings’ group of friends shuns.

Rhododendron Pie is Margery Sharp’s first novel, and it’s quite funny as it explores the bohemian world of her upbringing versus the more mundane. Ann is an appealing heroine, and frankly I liked the Gayfords a lot better than the Laventies, especially in their reaction to Ann’s engagement. Her mother, though, an invalid who is mostly just a presence in the novel, gives a wonderful speech at the end. A fun one from Margery Sharp. I’m glad to have read it for my Classics Club list.

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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!

Review 1741: Classics Club Dare 2.0: The Bride of Lammermoor

If you’re not familiar with the plot of The Bride of Lammermoor, you might be wondering why I picked it for the Classics Club Dare 2.0, Time to Get Your Goth On. It’s not a gothic horror story common for the time but one of Sir Walter Scott’s historical novels about a doomed love. However, the ending, which I’m not revealing, puts it in a more appropriate category as do the dark local legends and prophesies of withered old dames (perhaps witches), not to mention the ruined tower.

Edgar, Master of Ravenwood, is from a proud Scottish family of distinguished lineage. His profligate father, however, did his best to waste the family estate and finished things off by fighting on the wrong side of the revolution. With other parties in power, lawsuits filed against the estate by William Ashton, Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, have resulted in almost all of the Ravenwood property being turned over to Ashton and in an early grave for Ravenwood’s father. The impoverished Master has sworn vengeance against Ashton.

Ashton, however, is a politician, and he hears that the political situation is changing. Things may be looking up for the Marquis of A___ and thus for his relative, the Master. After the Master saves Ashton and his beautiful daughter Lucy from a wild bull, Ashton tries to befriend him, even encouraging him to spend time with Lucy and Ashton himself considering the benefits of a marriage between the two. Against the Master’s better judgment (and supernatural warnings), he begins to fall in love with Lucy. They become betrothed, but Lucy wants it kept secret from her family.

Some meddling from a neighbor who is not a friend of the Master’s leads Lady Ashton, staying with friends away from home, to hear the rumors that her daughter is engaged to him. She is his implacable enemy, so she swoops home to Ravenwood Castle just as the Marquis of A___ comes for a visit. The Master has been residing there at Ashton’s invitation, but Lady Ashton unceremoniously throws him out. He has already agreed with Lucy, however, that he will consider himself betrothed until she herself releases him. Then he goes off to make his fortune.

This novel was quite hard going for me at times, particularly in the sections and whole chapters that are in Scottish vernacular. These are the parts concerning the common people, and some of them are supposed to be funny, especially the ones about the machinations of Caleb Balderstone, the Master’s only servant, as he tries to hide what everyone already knows—that his master is destitute. I just felt they slowed down the action as well as being hard to understand and not that funny.

The action, however, eventually gets going and really picks up toward the end of the novel. I read the second half twice as quickly as the first.

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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