Classic Club Spin…it’s been a while

One of my new years resolutions was to get back onto my Classic Club challenge, which I neglected miserably last year.  As we’re already in March I have only started one book from the list (which still isn’t finished), I thought it might be time to join in with the classic club spin again and give my reading the kick up the … it needs.

For the spin, you pick 20 books from your list and then, tomorrow, a number is announced and you read that book.  Easy, as long as I don’t get a book I’m dreading!  Here’s my list…

 

  1. 1984 – George Orwell
  2. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
  3. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  4. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  5. East of Eden – John Steinbeck
  6. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  8. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  9. Lacuna – Barbara Kingslover
  10. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  11. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
  12. Possession – A S Byatt
  13. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
  14. Sons and Lovers – D H Lawrence
  15. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Path
  16. Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
  17. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  18. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  19. War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells
  20. Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey

I have to admit a few of these are re-reads I’m quite looking forward to revisiting (like Oscar and Lucinda which I haven’t read in over 20 years) and some are by authors I know and trust but just haven’t gotten round to reading (like Barbara Kingslover).  A few though I am dreading as I’ve tried and failed to read them before.  The biggest of those is Possession (I wrote about my inability to finish it here).  So wish me luck and keep your fingers grossed it’s not number 12!

Emma

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

So I did it, after days of struggling to read any book, let alone the only one I’d set myself for Frightfall, I finally found my rhythm late last week and got not only Frankenstein but also Eeny Meeny finished too (a review of that will follow later in the week).

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So, what did I think of Frankenstein? I liked it a lot, which I’d hoped I would.  A gothic novel and one of those books that you think you know the story of, even if you don’t, it was written by Mary Shelley when she was 18 and travelling in Europe with her future husband – Percy Shelley – and Lord Byron.

According to more than one source I read, they had challenged themselves to see who could write the best horror story – I didn’t find out if Mary Shelley won – and Frankenstein came to her in a dream.  The idea of a scientist who creates a monster and lives to regret it.

Having not read Frankenstein before, I was under the (apparently common) misconception that that was the name of the monster, not the man who created him.  That aside, though, the story itself seemed very familiar; even though I would swear I have never read the book or seen the film, I must have in my (much) younger days.

It is told by Frankenstein to the captain of a ship that rescues him from the icy waters around Siberia.  The captain (Robert Walton) introduces and ends the story through letters to his sister and the story itself was easy to read and easy to follow (coming in at just over 250 pages in my version).  Once I had gotten the rhythm, as I said, I found myself turning the pages and getting drawn into what was happening.

I didn’t find it scary though but, instead, quite sad.  Frankenstein’s monster (he doesn’t have a name) didn’t ask to be created and, once he was, was rejected by the man who created him.  He came to understand the world around him and that there was no place in it for him and no one willing to take the time to understand what he might be thinking or feeling.  It seemed to be a given that if he looked like a monster, he must be one, and so that is what he became, seeking revenge on Frankenstein and his family.

The revenge he took and the people he killed – it all seemed inevitable from Frankenstein’s first selfish act of thinking he could control life itself and I had no sympathy for him (Frankenstein) as a result, especially when his scientific mind couldn’t seem to see anything good in the creature.  I really did wish I could reach into the pages and give him a shake and say “listen to what your creation is saying”.  Towards the end of the novel, he does seem to have a moment of clarity, saying “In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature, and was bound towards him, to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being. This was my duty.”, but it doesn’t seem to last long.

There is a lot in Frankenstein I feel like I need to re-read, that there are thoughts on friendship and responsibility and the general need to be good to each other.  At some point, I will do that.  In the meantime, though, I am just happy to enjoy it for what I had hoped it would be – a good horror story!

Emma

Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

251504Under Milk Wood, my latest classic club spin, is a play originally written for the BBC in 1954.  Set in a fictional welsh village, two narrators set the scene and then lead us through the dreams and lives of its inhabitants including a captain who lost his crew at sea, a widow, and a couple in love who dream of each other.

“It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishing boat bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows’ weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.”

Starting out, I found all this a little confusing because, whilst a play it reads more like a poem and I had to get into the rhythm. Eventually I did – and then went back to the beginning so I could really understand what I was reading.

Given Dylan Thomas’ style of writing, it all still took a while because I found I couldn’t rush or skim a line without losing where I was in the plot entirely.  I knew this about Dylan having read some of his poems but this felt especially difficult to keep track of. I did, though, like the language and the images it created in my mind, even if I didn’t always know what was happening or to whom.  There was something slightly hypnotic in reading it, a feeling of floating along as if in a dream myself.

“Listen. It is night moving in the streets, the processional salt slow musical wind in Coronation Street and Cockle Row, it is the grass growing on Llaregyb Hill, dewfall, starfall, the sleep of birds in Milk Wood.”

Throughout, there are also some funny moments and some sad ones.  I found myself sympathising with many of the characters and the way they lived their lives, having seen their dreams and what went on inside their heads.

Given it’s a radio play, this is a short read (I can’t say easy given my previous comments) and I did enjoy it.  I then went and listened to the Richard Burton version and enjoyed it more.  It definitely is something to be spoken vs. read and I would recommend to anyone wanted to read this to maybe go down that route.  Read it aloud or listen to someone else doing it – and enjoy getting lost in the language.

Emma

Classic Club Spin (Number 9)

It’s Classic Club spin time again, something I really enjoy as it keeps me motivated to read from my Classic Club list but also means I can’t necessarily avoid reading some of those books that are on there because I feel I should read them, not because I actually want to (like Bleak House, which I dread).

The idea of the spin is you pick 20 books from your main list (mine is here) and a number is picked on Monday 6th April. You read that numbered book on your list by 15th May. Last time, I got The Moonstone, which I loved. Let’s hope I’m as lucky this time. Here is my list…

1. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

2. Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas

3. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

4. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

5. On the Road – Jack Kerouac

6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

7. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway

8. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan

9. Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett

10. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

11. War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells

12. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

13. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare

14. Bleak House – Charles Dickens

15. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel

16. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

17. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

18. The Golden Notebook – Dorothy Lessing

19. The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandlor

20. Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

I’ll be back Monday to let you know what I get. Any I should be keeping my fingers crossed for?

Emma

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone, my latest Classic Club Spin, is billed as the first proper detective novel and I can see why. A country house, a distraught heiress who is hiding something (but what?), a butler, a detective who can learn a lot by a smudged bit of paint, handsome gentlemen with non to clear motives, and a missing diamond. Add in plenty of red herrings and accusations and you have a great “whodunit”.

The story of the missing diamond (known as the Moonstone and obtained by the distraught heiress’ uncle under questionable circumstances whilst fighting in India) is told in turn by each of the primary characters. Each tells only of their direct knowledge of events, meaning you are always filling in the gaps as the story progresses and wanting to know what happens next (I was pretty much wrong the whole way through!).

Wilkie does a good job of distinguishing the voices of each person, although the attitudes are a bit dated in a few parts made me cringe as a result. He also uses them to add a bit of social commentary here and there – especially through the Betteredge the Butler – which I liked given my love of politics and there is also the odd bit of humour, making me smile if not laugh out loud.

The main person you want to hear from, of course, is the Heiress, Rachel. She seems to be the only one who knows what has happened to the Moonstone and keeps everyone guessing, running off at one point to avoid being interviewed by the police. By the time I got to her version of events I was holding my breath a little. In fact, I did that on and off all the way through. By the end of each person’s story, I really, really, wanted to know more and found the book harder and harder to put down as the story went on.

When I’d added this book to my Classic Club list, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I had a good response to my post, telling me it was a good book and so I hoped I would enjoy it. I really did. I haven’t read any other Wilkie Collins but I will now. Possibly my best classic club pick yet!

Emma

What I’m Reading This Week: 5th January, 2015

After a couple of weeks of nothing but ebooks, and with last week’s books still to finish off, I headed down the library this week to get some “real” books. I am an ebook convert and love their convenience but you can’t beat holding a book in your hands and turning the pages. Often, when I’m at the library I pick books which catch my eye and for no other reason. This week, though, all three books I chose were on my To Read list. They were:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, no. 5 on my classic club list.

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Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his
distress…

Rooms By Lauren Oliver because I read an review of it a few weeks ago (and which I now can’t find) which peaked my interest.

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Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family-bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna-have arrived for their inheritance. But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself-in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb. The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide-with cataclysmic results.

First up, though, is Stone Matress by Margaret Atwood, because she is probably my favourite author.

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A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet’s syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly-formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. A woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. And a crime committed long-ago is revenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion year old stromatalite.

And that’s it for this week. What are you planning on reading?

Emma

Once again, I’m linking in with Sheila at Book Journey, who has a weekly linky post, It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Click on the link to find out what Sheila and other book bloggers are reading.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton was no. 1 on my classic club list and a book I had wanted to read for a long time.

The Age of Innocence

Set in 1870’s New York, it is the story of the upper class elite, specifically Newland Archer, his fiancé – beautiful if slightly shallow – May, her cousin Ellen – who has just returned from Europe after (scandalously) leaving her husband – and their families and friends, the majority of whom are narrow-minded, judgemental and determined to live within a strict set of rules governing behaviour for their social circle.

From the outset, this means an unwillingness to accept Ellen when she arrives back in New York – especially as she has made the mistake of wearing an unsuitable address for her first public appearance, causing a stir and much comment.  Eager to help her cousin, May asks Newland to be nice to her, hoping others will then follow suit.  Eager to help his fiancé, Archer goes one step further, announcing their engagement – tying his well-respected family to theirs in the eyes of the public.

It’s only then that Archer starts to get to know Ellen.  And like her.  She is a free spirit, unwilling (unable it seems) to bend her will to the world around her.  She follows her heart, has the strength of her convictions, and a love of life..  She is, in fact, a female version of everything Archer secretly wishes he was but finds he can’t be.  Because of this, he starts to question the decision to marry May, who lives life on the surface.  She is a woman who is happy in their world and finds nothing in it she would like to change.Read More »

What I’m Reading This Week: 1st December, 2014

I cannot believe I woke up in December this morning.  Does anyone else think that Christmas is coming way too quickly?  On a plus note, I’ve got quite a few books on my Christmas list so maybe I should be wishing it was here sooner?

It was a really good week for me last week reading wise (though I blogged very little). I made it through / caught up with all the books on my reading list and, as my hubby is from the States, spent the weekend belatedly celebrating Thanksgiving with way too much food and fizz.  Out of principle though (as we are in the UK at the moment) I avoided all Black Friday sales and will be doing the same with Cyber Monday.  Instead, I’ll spend my time reading some (or all if I’m lucky) of the following:

First up, I plan on finishing One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson, which I started reading a couple of weeks ago and has been slow going.  It’s a hardback and it’s huge so I can’t take it anywhere meaning I keep losing track of what I’ve read and then the motivation to keep going.  I’m not enjoying it as much as his other books but that may be because I just need to sit down and actually read it.

I’m also going to start Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone.

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This was my classic club spin and I have to say, as a fan of crime fiction, I’m quite looking forward to it.  Here’s what it says on Goodreads:Read More »

Classic Club Spin (No. 8)

For November/ December I’m taking part in The Classic Club’s “Spin” again, choosing 20 books from my main Classic Club list. A number from 1 to 20 will then be chosen at random tomorrow, November 10th. I’ll then have until January 5th, 2015, to read the book.

Last time I got A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf and loved it so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another good pick. For the last spin, I let my daughter randomly select which ones to read. This time, I’ve chosen books under four categories to see how that works out for me.

Books I Really Want to Read

1. 1984 – George Orwell

2. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

4. East of Eden – John Steinbeck

5. Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

Books I Really Don’t Want to Read but Feel I Should

6. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

7. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

8. The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

9. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

10. Bleak House – Charles Dickens

Books I Know So Little About I Don’t Know if I Want to Read

11. The Golden Notebook – Dorothy Lessing

12. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan

13. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

15. Lacuna – Barbara Kingslover

Books I’ve Read Before and Hope are as Good as I Remember

16. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

17. On the Road – Jack Kerouac

18. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

19. The Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy

20. Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey

And that’s the list. the number has been drawn and the winner is No. 13 The Moonstone.

 

Happy Reading!

Emma x

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One’s Own was my Classic Club Spin book back in August, something I was quite pleased about as it’s one of those books I’ve always wanted to read. Although I admit to knowing very little about it before I picked it up, I just knew it was one of those works that has had an impact on a lot of people and is frequently referenced in feminist literature. I thought it was something I would probably enjoy reading and get a lot out of. I did on both counts.

A Room of Ones Own Cover

The book itself is not that long at 123 pages, an extended essay based on two lectures Virginia Woolf gave to female students at Cambridge in 1929 on the subject of Women and Fiction. It is easy to read, though some references to writers and the politics of the time weren’t that familiar to me so I may have lost some of the finer points of her argument, and not dry at all (a slight worry as I knew this was initially written to be heard, not read).

Woolf starts by discussing what could be covered under the heading, women who write fiction, for example, or women in fiction, before stating that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. This is because without these things, she will never have the space and freedom to write; she will spend her time instead trying to earn a living or make ends meet, taking care of her home, her husband and her children, and bending to the wills and expectations of a patriarchal society (Woolf writes, “England is under the rule of a patriarchy. Nobody in their senses could fail to detect the dominance of the professor. He was the power and the money and the influence.”) Read More »