The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Title: The Dud Avocado
Author: Elaine Dundy
Published: 1958
Source: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5

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It’s 1958 and Sally Jay Gorce, hair “dyed a marvelous shade of pale red so popular with Parisian tarts”, is an aspiring actress in her early 20’s and living in Paris courtesy of her rich Uncle Roger who, after one too many runaway attempts as a teenager, told her he would pay her way for two years once she had finished college so she could have the adventures she dreamt of having.

“I just want to eat about a hundred million oysters and two tons of caviar and go swimming naked in champagne…”

Dying her hair is just one of the many ways she has embraced the Parisian way of life; she hangs out with artists, stays up late drinking absinthe and has become the lover of an Italian diplomat (not his mistress, he already has one of those). From pretty much page one of the book, her life is disorganised and chaotic; when we meet her, she is in an evening gown in the middle of the day as she slept late and missed picking up her clothes at the dry cleaners.

“That’s the story of my life. Someone’s behavior strikes me as a bit odd and the next thing I know all hell breaks loose.”

My Time in Middlemarch

Although I’ve read other George Eliot novels, Middlemarch has always scared me a little – in part, because it always seems to end up on the greatest books of all time lists. The other part is the length – my copy was 900 or so pages long, which is long! In the back of my mind, though, I’ve always felt I’ve been missing something by not reading it. That’s why I included it in my classic club list. Then I received a review copy of My Life in Middlemarch, a book a really wanted to read – but without spoiling Middlemarch itself for me. So, it felt like (almost) now or never and I cracked the spine. I’m really glad I did – even if I’ve pretty much read nothing else for the last four or so weeks – because I loved it.

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Set in the 1830s, Middlemarch is the tale of residents of what Eliot describes as a provincial town. They include Dorothea, who makes an unsuitable marriage to the much older Mr. Casabaun; Mr. Ladislaw, Casabaun’s nephew who he supports but comes to dislike and distrust; Mr. Lydgate whose modern thoughts on medicine make the establishment dislike him but whose recent arrival makes Rosamond fall in love with the idea of marrying him; Fred Vincy who doesn’t feel the need to study or take life seriously as he is bound to come into an inheritance; the Garths, whose life Fred almost ruins with his recklessness; and Mr. Bulstrode whose past comes back to haunt him. There are many other characters too and each life weaves around the others as they often do in small towns or social circles.

For many of the characters, their stories are of love, and it’s (sometimes) disappointments. They are also stories of how people grow – older and (if they are lucky) wiser – of how simple things, thoughts and feelings, and the decisions they lead to, can have such a huge impact on their lives and those of others. And how actions are so often based on how we perceive things and how we wish to be perceived, even if this means we go against our better judgement.

The fact there are so many stories being told and there are so many strong, interesting, characters are two of the things I liked most about the novel. I also like Eliot’s writing style, even though it can be a bit “meandering” at times. She is smart, witty, and insightful, and has a way of pointing out the absurdities in life. Absurdities which apply very much to the now, not just the way back when this was written, because human nature doesn’t change that much, or that quickly, and books like this remind us of that.

So, if you have a month to spare, definitely one for the reading list (unless you’ve read it, of course, in which case I would love to know if you enjoyed it as much as I did).

(My First) Classic Club Spin

Following on from Friday’s post, tomorrow is the Classic Club Spin…my first chance to start making good on my plan to read more classic novels. To take part, you list 20 books from your full list and then on Monday they post a number between 1 and 20. You have to read that book by 6th October and (ideally, I guess) post a review.

After just picking 50 books, I was a bit hesitant about now cutting it down to 20 so I chose a bit of a haphazard approach and asked my daughter to keep giving me numbers until I had enough (not very scientific but it worked) and so, here it is, my spin list.

My Fifty Classics

I’ve been following The Classic Club blog for a while now and, the whole time I had my first blog, wanted to join in with their reading challenge.  It was part of a master plan I never quite got round to and a way to make sure I read any number of books that always seem to be on my “to be read” list.  The idea is you choose 50 classics you want to read and commit to reading them within a set period of time – no more than five years.

With starting my new blog, and the focus being on books, I thought now might be a good time to join at last – it also ties in nicely with their Classic Club Spin on Monday, which should be a nice way to kick start my classics reading. 

So, without further ado, here are the 50 books I plan on reading by 7th August, 2019 (I went for the longest time frame because I always find classics take longer to read than I ever think they will):