Reading England 2015 Book List

For a general and very handy reference, I’ve included O’s list of books by English county, copied from her blog.

                The Two Sisters by H. E. Bates
                My Uncle Silas by H. E. Bates
                Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan
                The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
                Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy 
                Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes
                Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
                The Merry Wives of Winsor by William Shakespeare
                The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde
                Evelina by Fanny Burney
                Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
                The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster
                Maurice by E. M. Forster
                Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf
                Glory by Vladimir Nabakov
                Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
                Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
                Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
                Basil & Rambles Beyond Railways by Wilkie Collins
                Basil & Rambles Beyond Railways by Wilkie Collins
                The Tennant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
                The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices by Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins
                The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
                Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
                Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope
                The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth
                Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë [uncertain]
                Adam Bede by George Eliot
                Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
                The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker
                Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
                Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
                The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
                Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
                He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
                Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope
                The Worm Forgives the Plow by John Stewart Collis
                Moonfleet by J. Meade Faulkner
                Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
                The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
                The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
                Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
                Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
                Thank you, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
                  (see Tyne & Wear)
                Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
                Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
                Nightingale Woods by Stella Gibbons
                The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
                Cider With Rose by Laurie Lee
                The Tailor of Gloucestershire by Beatrix Potter
                Watership Down by Richard Adams
                The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
                On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
                The Diaries of Francis Kilvert by Rev. Francis Kilvert
                Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
                Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
                To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
                The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates
                The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
                Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
                Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
                The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
                Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
                Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
                Hard Times by Charles Dickens
                Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
                North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
                Redburn by Herman Melville
                The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
                Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
                The Right to an Answer by Anthony Burgess
                John Marchmount’s Legacy by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
                The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
                Pamela, or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson
                Emma by Jane Austen
                Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
                A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
                The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Buttler
                The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
                Fanny Hill by John Cleland
                No Name by Wilkie Collins
                Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
                A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
                Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
                Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
                The Nether World by George Gissing
                New Grub Street by George Gissing
                The Diary of a Nobody by George and Wheedon Grossmith
                Hanover Square by Patrick Hamilton
                Esther Waters by George Moore
                The Diary of Samuel Pepys
                Vanity Fairy by William Makepeace Thackerary
                Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
                Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
                The Big Six by Arthur Ransome
                Mansfield Park by Jane Austen [uncertain]
                Mistress Masham’s Repose by T. H. White
                Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
                Ruined City by Nevil Shute
                Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
                The Rainbow by D. . Lawrence
                Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
                The White Peacock by D. H. Lawrence
                The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
                Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
                Howards End by E. M. Forster
                A Shopshire Lad by A.E. Housman
                Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
                Persuasion by Jane Austen
                No Name by Wilkie Collins
                The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding
                Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
                The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope
                Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse
                Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett
                The Old Wives Tale by Arnold Bennett
                Adam Bede by George Eliot
                Celia by Fanny Burney
                No Name by Wilkie Collins
                We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome
                The Watsons by Jane Austen
                A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
                The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
                Sanditon by Jane Austen
                The Worm Forgives the Plow by John Stewart Collis
                The Last Post by Lord Maddox Ford
                The Collector by John Fowles
                Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
                Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
                The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
                The History of Mr. Polly by H. G. Wells
                The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
Tyne & Wear (formerly Durham)
                Afternoon Off by Alan Bennett
                The novels of Catherine Cookson
                The Stars Look Down by A.J. Cronin
                Rokeby by Walter Scott
                The Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
                Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes
                Kenilworth by Walter Scott
                As You Like It by William Shakespeare
                The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
                The Chronicles of Barset by Anthony Trollope
                Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
                Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
                The Well of Loneliness by Radcyffe Hall
                Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë [uncertain]
                Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
                Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
                The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
                No Name by Wilkie Collins
                Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
                The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
                A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
                The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne
                Dracula by Bram Stoker

For those who would like to learn where the counties are situated in England, some handy references are: this link to a map of the counties; as well as this quiz; and this quiz; and this jigsaw puzzle.

Picture me rubbing my hands together gleefully.  I just can’t wait!

Reading England 2015

Ah, my first commitment to a challenge for 2015!  O at Behold the Stars is hosting a Reading England Challenge for this coming year and how could I not participate?  Not only should this challenge be particularly easy because of my love for English literature, it will also give me an education in learning the counties of England.  While I’ve had exposure to various English counties through reading, I have no idea on a map where each is located (except I know that Surrey is in the south!) so what a chance to further my knowledge of the country!

The Rules:
  • This challenge begins on the 1st January 2015 and ends on 31st December 2015, but of course if you really get into it then keep it going 🙂
  • You can sign up any time between now and the end of 2015. Only books read after 1st January 2015 count, though.
  • Choose a level (below), but do not feel obliged to pick your books or even your counties beforehand. 
  • Because this is a classics blog, I’d encourage people to read classic novels, but how you define classics is up to you.
  • You are not limited to English authors. Henry James, for example, is American but his novel The Turn of the Screw is set in Essex, and so he counts for the challenge
  • It would be grand if you blogged about the books you read for each county but you don’t have to. If you do, you don’t have to feel obliged to give any information about the county in general other than, maybe, “This is my review of x which is set in the county of x“. You could also include a description of the landscape in your posts, but again you don’t have to.
  • You do not have to read the books in their original language, translations are accepted (I only read in English so I would never dream of making other people read in their second language!)
  • Audio books, Kindles, and whatnot are accepted too.
  • Poetry, plays, biographies, and autobiographies count as well as novels. 

The Levels:
  • Level one: 1 – 3 counties
  • Level two: 4 – 6 counties
  • Level three: 7 – 12 counties
  • Level four: 12 + counties

The English books I have on my slate for 2015 are:

Orlando Virginia Woolf
Framley ParsonageAnthony Trollope
The Cantebury TalesGeoffrey Chaucer
Grace Abounding to the Chief of SinnersJohn Bunyan

I’m notoriously bad at making lists and sticking to them so while my list is short, I’m certain I’ll be able to add many more books to it.  Level Two is my goal but I’ll probably be able to get to Level Three easily.

O added a wonderful list of English books sorted by county, so I’m planning to do another post just on this excellent reference.  I’m going to need it!

Le Morte d’Arthur Read-Along: Update #3

Well, perhaps I should have written more about Tristram in my last post as his adventures seem never ending.  He is the son of King Mark of Cornwall’s sister, but the king eventually decides to hate his nephew, from what I can gather, simply for being such a successful knight.  Before I’d read this book, I’d read of Tristram’s treachery with regard to his relationship with King Mark’s wife, La Belle Isoud, but Malory gives us some revealing information.  Tristram actually saw and fell in love with Isoud first, but when King Mark heard of her beauty from Tristram, he was determined to have her.  And what should an honourable knight do but bring back his lady love to be his king’s wife?  Then, of course, the two of them (Tristram and Isould) drink a love potion and carry on behind the king’s back.  And on and on …..

Tristram and Isolde (1916)
John William Waterhouse
source Wikiart

King Mark finally gets a glimmer of suspicion: “Then king Mark had great despite of the renown of Sir Tristram, and then he chased him out of Cornwall: yet was he nephew unto king Mark, but he had great suspicion unto Sir Tristram, because of his queen, La Beale Isoud: for him seemed that there was too much love between the both.”  Well, no kidding.  I guess he just missed the time they were caught together and Tristram had to jump naked out of the window.  And the time that Tristram stole Isoud and took her to stay with him in a castle, must have just slipped king Mark’s mind.  In any case, king Mark is a despicable scoundrel, always trying to slay Tristram and even sneaks into King Arthur’s court in disguise to pounce on his hated nephew.

King Mark and La Belle Iseult
Edward Burne-Jones
source Wikiart

Malory seems to undergo wild changes of topic in these sections.  “And so they let run their horses, and there Sir Palamides bare Archade on his spear over his horse tail.  And then Palamides alight, and drew his sword; but Sir Archade might not arise, and there Sir Palamides rased off his helm, and smote off his head.  Then the haut Prince and Guinever went to supper.”  It’s like riding in a car and having the brakes suddenly slammed on.  You have to be prepared.

Sir Tramtrist (Tristram) & Sir Palomides

A lesson to learn: do not feed knights food they dislike.  “Then they blew to lodgings, and the knights unarmed them, and drew them to their dinner; and at the midst of their dinner in came Dinadan, and began to rail. Then he beheld the haut prince, that seemed wroth with some fault that he saw.  For he had a custom he loved not fish; and because he was served with fish, the which he hated, therefore he was not merry.”  And if you don’t like your dinner, throw a tantrum.

Sir Galahad
George Frederick Watts
source Wikiart

Otherwise, we have more shenanigans between Palamides, the Saracen knight, and Sir Tristram.  A sword appears in a floating stone and Arthur commands Gawaine to pull it out, in spite of a curse placed on the ones who cannot complete the task.  He is unable and Percival follows to share in his curse. However, Galahad, the son of Lancelot, acquires the sword and with it the title of the greatest knight in the world.  Galahad seems a somewhat different knight from the rest and his adventures are more measured and more focused on good.  In any case, there are lots of knights running after each other, trying to seek each other, hermits and visions and such. Lancelot begins to realize that his life has been spent in unworthy occupations, which is the start of his repentance.

And, of course, so begins the quest for the Holy Sangreal!  It has been appearing and disappearing at will, and Gawaine invents the marvellous idea of a quest.  Arthur is wroth and woeful, as he sees all his knights leaving him and knows in his heart a great number will not return.  Definitely a sadder, more pathetic aura has fallen over the tone of the book at this point.

I’m into the last stretch of the journey and am both excited and hesitant to see what it will bring!

The Classics Club “50” Survey

Being swamped with reads and my two courses (one of which is taking three times as long as they estimated), I was going to wisely ignore the 50 question survey from the Classics Club.  But when I read a few of my blogging friends interesting posts, I had to give it a whirl.  It took 2 weeks to compile but worth every minute.  I’d almost forgotten the habit of past contemplation, which brings such value into our present reading habits.

1. Share a link to your club list.
Here’s a link to my current list.  I’m about 1/5 of the way through.
2. When did you join The Classics Club? How many titles have you read for the club? 
I joined on November 12, 2013.  My complete list is comprised of 168 books:  15 books from Ancient times; 16 books from Medieval/Early Renaissance;  41 books from Early Modern times; and 96 books from Modern times.  Of the 168 books, I’ve finished 33, so I’m exactly on track (or ½ a book behind, if I want to be picky!).
3. What are you currently reading?

Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and Utopiaby Sir Thomas More.  Two books by two “sirs” ….. boy, how did that happen?
4. What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it?
Four Shakespeare plays, Romeo & Juliet, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.  I’m reading them for an edX Shakespeare course.  Both new to me were Romeo and Juliet and Othello and I really enjoyed them, especially Othello.  The last two were re-reads: I love Much Ado but A Midsummer Night’s Dream has never really been a favourite.
5. What are you reading next? Why?
For Christmas, I’d like to read Dickens,  The Chimes; for the spin, I’ll be reading Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift; God in the Dock for my C.S. Lewis Project; and I hope to get to Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope to continue the series, but I am doubting that will happen until January.
6. Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why?
Absolutely, without even having to think about it, Paradise Lost by John Milton. It completely blew me away; his characterization of Satan was by far the best that I’ve ever encountered, and the scope of the work was so ambitious that one could only admire his ability, even if he fell short in certain areas.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, would probably come second.  As I just mentioned on Ruth’s blog, after I finished this one book, I felt I’d had the benefit of reading three!
7. Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list?
Oh, the anticipation changes depending on my mood.  Right now, I’m looking most forward to Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott and The Histories by Herodotus. 
8. Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why?
My dread of certain books, however, does not often change.  I would go to the furthest Antipodes to avoid The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and Aristotle’s Ethics. I would have also paid to avoid anything by Henry James, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, etc.   I have few of these writers on my CC list, which was really dumb because now they’ll all be populating my second list. 
9. First classic you ever read?
I believe it was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Either that or The Vicar of Wakefield  by Oliver Goldsmith.  I was late starting to read classics and, honestly, read mostly garbage before I hit 20.
10. Toughest classic you ever read?
Well, because I was a classics newbie, I’d have to say The Vicar of Wakefield but only because my brain had to be trained to absorb well-written prose.  Thankfully I was a fast-learner.  But after I was “classicfied”, I would probably choose The Divine Comedy.  On the surface, it’s not a tough read but if you want to dig deeper, there are so many layers to it that I don’t think you could mine them all if you read it once per year.   
11. Classic that inspired you? or scared you? made you cry? made you angry?
The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  The relationship between one of the characters and his father was so well-drawn out, yet vibrating with conflict and tension.  I don’t want to give too much away, but for most of the book, you’re shocked at how one character treats the other, then at the end you find out why he has been acting in that manner, and it’s a good reason.  Then you experience the internal conflict within yourself …… his behaviour is wrong yet it’s not wrong.  You want to condemn him yet, how, when his motivations were pure?  It’s really quite a fantastic book.
12. Longest classic you’ve read? Longest classic left on your club list?
Definitely, The Count of Monte Cristo followed by War and Peace.  And the longest left on my list ……????  Wow, thanks for this question ….. it’s made me realize the number of true chunksters I have yet to read.  And it’s scary!  Probably The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (did I really put this on my list?) and then possibly, The Fairie Queene.
13. Oldest classic you’ve read? Oldest classic left on your club list?
That would be The Epic of Gilgamesh, which I think dates to around 2000 B.C., and the oldest one left is Herodotus’ Histories.
14. Favorite biography about a classic author you’ve read — or, the biography on a classic author you most want to read, if any?
I’ve read a great number of biographies this year and I’m not sure that I could pick a favourite.  Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain was wonderful, as was Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis.  And I can’t miss mentioning Augustine’s Confessions, as well as saying that I began a new relationship with Montaigne after reading selected portions of his Essays!  
15. Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why?
Oh, I don’t think I can answer this one. I need to give recommendations based on the person or it could go horribly wrong.
16. Favorite edition of a classic you own, if any?
I have a first edition of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, which has four engravings missing.  Every time I look at it, it gives me a thrill. 
17. Favorite movie adaption of a classic?
Pride and Prejudice from 1995 with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle; Cold Comfort Farm with Kate Beckinsale; and  Kenneth Branaugh’s Mucho Ado About Nothing.
18. Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film.
Dante’s The Divine Comedy, or a good adaptation of Le Morte d’Arthur, both likely impossibliites.
19. Least favorite classic? Why?
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  Should I start ducking the tomatoes?  It was painful!  The characters didn’t resemble real people and their actions were stupefyingly dense.  I’m still trying to brace myself to read some more of her works.
20. Name five authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read.
1.             Albert Camus
2.             Winston Churchill
3.             Herodotus
4.             Honoré Balzac
5.             Samuel Johnson
21. Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why?
I don’t know but grasping at a first thought, I’ll say, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland by Samuel Johnson.
22. Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? (This could be with the club or before it.)
I can’t think of any that specifically fit this criteria, but I did hate A Picture of Dorian Gray for about ¾ of the book and then ended up loving it.  I also thought I’d hate The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac but was charmed by it.  Perhaps I’m really a closet-hippie, perish the thought! 
23. Which classic character can’t you get out of your head?
Monsieur Myriel from Les Miserables, Satan from Paradise Lost, Sarpedon from The Iliad (don’t ask me why),  Moomintroll and Socrates.  Whew!  What a list!.
24. Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?
Definitely Elizabeth Bennet!!
25. Which classic character do you most wish you could be like?
Cassandra from I Capture the Castle but probably for only certain parts of her life, Gerald Durrell for the part of his life that he was on Corfu as a child, and Elizabeth Bennett.
26. Which classic character reminds you of your best friend?
Believe it or not, Jane Bennett.
27. If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading? Or, would you avoid the augmented manuscript in favor of the original? Why?
Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre (I think O mentioned these books too) In these books it always seems like the fun ends after marriage, and it would be groundbreaking to discover that it doesn’t!
28. Favorite children’s classic?
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome and Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson.
29. Who recommended your first classic?
I chose it myself.
30. Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature. (Recommends the right editions, suggests great titles, etc.)
My blogger friends, particularly O who finds absolute treasures, Jean, who I think knows about every book that was ever printed, and Ruth who picks truly wonderful reads.  I also go to Nancy for history books and other eclectic finds, and Sophia for YA fiction; they don’t always fit into the classics category but I’m mentioning them in any case.
31. Favorite memory with a classic?

Reading Middlemarch by George Eliot for the first time.  I read it in the summer on the beach and was completely enthralled for the 6 days it took me to read it.  I can still remember the crash of the waves.

32. Classic author you’ve read the most works by?
Definitely C.S.  Lewis.  I could probably teach a course on him now.  I probably know more about him than he knew about himself.  Wait, no, Jean knows more than I do.
33. Classic author who has the most works on your club list?
William Shakespeare.  There is really no excuse as to why I haven’t read all of his plays. 
34. Classic author you own the most books by?
C.S. Lewis again.  Although I do own a lot of Enid Blyton.  Would she count as a classic?  And Dickens ….. lots of Dickens.  Oh, and I have about 10 different copies of The Lord of the Rings.
35. Classic title(s) that didn’t make it to your club list that you wish you’d included? (Or, since many people edit their lists as they go, which titles have you added since initially posting your club list?)
Not really any I can think of.  I’m happy with my list and I know I’ll be making another.  Now if you’d asked me which books I’d remove from the list, I’d have a detailed answer!
36. If you could explore one author’s literary career from first publication to last — meaning you have never read this author and want to explore him or her by reading what s/he wrote in order of publication — who would you explore? Obviously this should be an author you haven’t yet read, since you can’t do this experiment on an author you’re already familiar with. 🙂 Or, which author’s work you are familiar with might it have been fun to approach this way?
Hmmm, this is difficult to answer.  Perhaps Balzac?  But that would be an enormous undertaking.  I’m reading through Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series right now (on book four) but since I’ve read him, he wouldn’t count.
37. How many rereads are on your club list? If none, why? If some, which are you most looking forward to, or did you most enjoy?
I had 11 re-reads. I was probably looking forward to The Odyssey the most of all and I did get tons more out of it on the second reading.
38. Has there been a classic title you simply could not finish?
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.  I felt that he had some ulterior motive or that I was being dragged on a journey by someone I didn’t trust.  Sounds odd, I know.  It’s on my list so I’m going to give it another try.  Oh, wait, I should have said Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Whenever I read Fitzgerald’s works I feel like I’ve wasted my time and I don’t think I’ve ever felt like this before with a classic. 
39. Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving?
Definitely! To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.  I loved her stream of consciousness in this book.
40. Seven things you’re looking forward to next year in classic literature?

1. Start to read poetry regularly.
2. Reading more essays.  I so enjoyed Montaigne this 
3. Reading The Cantebury Tales paired with The Brubury
    Tales, a modern re-telling.
4. Continuing my WEM & Shakespeare challenges.
5. Concentrating on regularly reading some children’s
    classics for my much neglected children’s book blog,
6. Reading more regularly in French (we’ll see how that
    Challenge, I think.  For those of you who don’t know
   me, lists make me nervous, but this challenge seems
   open enough that I hope to make it work.

41. Classic you are definitely going to make happen next year?
The Cantebury Tales, and The Histories, and possibly adding Ivanhoeand The Fairie Queene as good intentions.
42. Classic you are not going to make happen next year?
I am dreading Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Good grief, why did I put it on my list?  I mean I want to read it, but when it’s on a list you have to.  I also wish to avoid The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud and Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.
43. Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club?
Being part of a blogging community has been the best thing.  I’ve made so many new blog friends and it’s been wonderful to be able to share a passion for reading with everyone and be introduced to new books.
44. List five six fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs?
Yipes!  It’s so hard to pick just five, or even six!

1. O’s blog Behold the Stars – she finds such obscure classics from well-known authors (I don’t know how she does it) and her reviews are so well-researched, amazingly well-written and chock-full of interesting tidbits.

2. Ruth @ A Great Book Study – I just love how thoughtful her reviews are; she gives insights into the deep profound mysteries of life, probably without knowing that she does it!

3. Jean @ Howling Frog Books – I have never met a blogger who has introduced me to more of an eclectic assortment of excellent books.  It’s great!  And she’s smarter than me! 😉

4. Jason @ Literatue Frenzy – he’s not always active (on his blog, I mean) but always deeply intuitive.  His posts are wonderfully eloquent, passionate and insightful, and he is perhaps the most polite blogger I know!

5. Nancy @ Ipsofactdotme – a truly contemplative reader and one with great perseverance (with much struggle, she taught herself to read in French).  Her reviews are insightful and structured in a way that make them refreshing reads.  She’s always very gracious.

6.  Carol @ Carol’s Notes – by reading just one of her posts, you can tell that she is so obviously a writer.  She blogs not only about books, but about human experience and human nature, with a wisdom that is truly amazing.  It takes me about four days to think about her posts before I’m able to respond.
Perhaps if I stop with numbers, I can get a couple more in:
Newly discovered blog:  Mockingbirds,Looking Glasses, and Prejudices – it’s quite startling how similar we are.  However we can’t agree about Mr. Rochester. 
Honourable mention:  Marianne’s blog — I know she likes to keep it low key but I can’t rave enough about her writing.  It’s just beautiful.  Every post, every comment is a delight to read and leaves you feeling like you’ve just received a unique and refreshing warm spring breeze.

And lastly, all the blogs on my blogroll to the left.  They are all excellent.
45. Favorite post you’ve read by a fellow clubber?
I think this is my favourite question.  I’d much rather talk about other people than myself! 😉

I loved O’s post on Agnes Grey — it really connected the reader to the book and the author and I think would increase the enjoyment for a first time reader X4.  

Jean’s Classics Club June Meme response was so insightful and timely.  

Jason’s post on Sense and Sensibility from a man’s point of view —- just great!

Carol’s How Did Emily Dickinson Know About Thought Police was a treat; she is a master at interweaving human nature and wisdom into her posts.

Phinnea’s first post on our Le Morte d’Arthur read-along left me in tears of laughter ……. Her posts are hilarious!

Ruth’s posts on Lewis and Clark were pretty awesome. It’s so difficult to write about non-fiction and make it sound exciting, yet she is amazingly adept at it.

……… seriously, I could go on and on with this question ……..

46. If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, tell about the experience? If you’ve participated in more than one, what’s the very best experience? the best title you’ve completed? a fond memory? a good friend made?
Oh my, yes!!  In spite of feeling that I’ve had a rather average reading year, I participated in two read-alongs that were just amazing: the Paradise Lost Read-Along and The Odyssey Read-Along.  They both happened at times when I had time to read and I learned sooooo much from having the time to read contemplatively.  I hope I can get free time that will coincide with another read-along in 2015.
47. If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why?
I’m not sure.  Perhaps Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, which is not even on my list and would be a re-read for me, but I think it would be a lot of fun! I’d also like to do a read-along on a non-fiction book because I think it would be weird, but I have no idea which one.
48. How long have you been reading classic literature?
Not very long.  I probably began in my early 20s, but seriously since 2010.
49. Share up to five posts you’ve written that tell a bit about your reading story. Reviews, journal entries, posts on novels you loved or didn’t love, lists, etc.

         1. A little about me
2. Paradise Lost (my book of the year)
3. The Beginning of 2014
4. War and Peace (my longest read)
5. Extra, extra, read all about it!

50. Question you wish was on this questionnaire? (Ask and answer it!)

I think everything has been well covered!

July’s People by Nadine Gordimer

“You like to have some cup of tea?  —– July bent at the doorway and began that day for them as his kind has always done for their kind.”

In South Africa, the black South Africans have risen up against the whites, and the country is in chaos.  July, the servant of Bamford and Maureen Smales, secrets them out of the city and transport them to his village, in order to save their lives and the lives of their three children.  Nadine Gordimer’s novel was written before the end of apartheid in South Africa and is a fictional account of the beginnings of a civil war where the black South Africans have thrown the country into chaos as they attempt to abolish the apartheid system.

Honestly, I decided to read this book because it was on my Guardian’s 1000 best novel list.  In spite of having a few South African friends, I have only very cursory knowledge of South Africa or apartheid.  I was hoping to acquire a basic understanding of the country and its struggles in reading this book, but unfortunately no larger pictures of life or the people were revealed.  The narrative was somewhat choppy and disjointed, requiring effort to follow Gordimer’s train of thought, but also to follow in detail the action in the story.

Drakensburg Mountains
source Wikipedia

Obviously there is no question about racial inequality with regard to the issues in South Africa, but I thought this book portrayed it in an unexpected way.  July had been a servant in the Smales house previous to the uprising and, while he had been treated well, he had been treated as such.  However, once he rescues the family, the roles invert and July gradually assumes more control of the situation, as the Smales are dependent on him for their livelihood and survival.  At climax of the novel,  July takes command of their yellow bakkie without their permission, and you sense that now they are completely in his power.  Yet with July’s increase in authority, there was really no exhibition of compassion or understanding.  One would think he would be able to see parallels in their situations and treat the Smales with an equality that had been lacking in their original treatment of him.  I’m really not sure what Gordimer was trying to communicate by this portrayal …….. that human nature is universal and unchangeable and that exploitation from one group can infect the victims if the tables are turned?  Are we so devoid of any sort of empathy and so self-centered, that no one can care about the freedom and identity of another person, no matter what the circumstances?  Sigh.  For me, Gordimer was not very clear with her intent, but perhaps that was the point.  In any case, the novel ends with Maureen Smales desperately running towards an unidentified helicopter that could carry South African police or revolutionaries.  Was she running to safety and freedom, or a different type of captivity, or even death?  Or perhaps she was simply wildly and mistakenly trying to run towards the life she once knew.

I honestly I can’t say that I enjoyed this read.  It was interesting in the way it is interesting to examine a dead insect, but nothing in it really spoke to my sympathies.   There was nothing beautiful in the writing that communicated the beauty of the country or the peoples, and no goodness shone through in the hearts of any of the characters.  I do realize that the dire situation in the country at this time may not have encouraged such writing, but people need hope in those times, and perhaps art that exemplifies that type of hope is never more necessary.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

“O, Romeo, Romeo!  Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name
Of, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”

Of course, we all know the story.   In Medieval Verona, the Capulets and Montagues are feuding, their hatred spilling over into battles in the streets; revenge and killings abound.  Yet Romeo, the Montague, meets Juliet, a Capulet, and all thoughts of his former love, Rosaline, fly from his head as his heart is captured by her beauty.  Will Romeo and Juliet’s love survive the heated rivalry and secret machinations of the houses of Montague and Capulet?

Well, no, of course not!

John William Waterhouse
source Wikiart

While Romeo and Juliet is certainly a story of young love, it is also a cautionary tale against letting one’s heart (and other body parts) rule one’s head with unhealthy intensity.  Friar Lawrence cautiions Romeo during his effusive praise of Juliet after only one glance of her:

“These violent delights have violent ends 
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, 
Which, as they kiss, consume.  The sweetest honey 
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately.  Long love doth so.
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.”

Romeo and Juliet the tomb scene (1790)
Joseph Wright
source Wikiart

Later, when Romeo’s friend, Mercutio is slain by the Capulet, Tybalt, cousin to Juliet, love is forgotten in the passions of revenge and Tybalt’s life is forfeit under the steel of Romeo’s sword.  A sentence of exile is pronounced as the lovers’ hopes spiral into a well of despair.  A message gone astray, culminates in the deaths of these two lovers, echoing a tragic pathos that the reader can sense building throughout the play.  Right from the beginning, when you view their impulsive, forbidden love, blossoming amongst the fields of vendettas, discord and enmity, you know that it cannot last.  It’s like an explosion of fireworks that streak across the sky in a pattern of colours and textures and beauty.  But eventually these grand passions burn themselves out and in place of the awe-inspiring spectacle, darkness remains.

Yet while there is tragedy in the fateful story, Shakespeare also shines rays of hope.  With the deaths of the two heirs of both the Montagues and Capulets, all animosity melts away as the families share the pain of a double grief.  So instead of Romeo and Juliet’s deaths being merely tragic, the lovers’ demise turn out to be a kind of sacrifice, two deaths that culminate in the saving fate of the two families.  Is Shakespeare alluding to the belief that peace in society is more important than a passionate love of two individuals?  Who knows, but it’s a thought that resonated with me long after I turned the last page …….

Juliet and her Nurse (c. 1860)
John Roddam Spencer Stanhope
source Wikiart

I read this play for my edX Shakespeare: On Page and Performance course, play 1 of 6.

Productions Watched:
         Romeo & Juliet – Shakespeare Stratford Collection    (★★★☆)
         Archangel Audiobook – Romeo & Juliet (★★★★★)                           

Remembrance Day 2014

In Flanders fields
In Flanders fields the poppies grow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This well-known Remembrance Day poem was written by John McCrae, a poet and physician from Guelph, Ontario.  While most people know the first couple of lines of the poem, I’m embarrassed to admit I only learned the rest of it a few years ago.  I’m curious to know if this poem is only popular in Canada, or elsewhere too?

The following poem I’ve heard was found on the wall of a hospital in the Philippines after WWII:

A Prayer to Saint Peter
Let them in, Peter
For they are very tired
Give them couches where the angels sleep
And light those fires
Let them wake whole again
To brand new dawns
Fired by the sun
Not war-times bloody guns
May their peace be deep
Remember where the broken bodies lie
God knows how young they were
To have to die
Give them things they like
Let them make some noise
Give dance hall bands not golden harps
To these our boys
Let them love, Peter
For they’ve had no time
They should have bird songs and trees
And hills to climb
The taste of summer
And a ripened pear
And girls as sweet as meadow wind
And flowing hair
And tell them how they are missed
But say not to fear
It’s gonna be all right
With us down here

And later Edwin McCain put it to song:

Lest We Forget.

Classics Club Spin #8 ……… And the Winner Is ……………

Number 13 !

Yipes!  That means I’ll be reading:

I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.  I’m happy to read it but I think there is a deeper message, a commentary on government or society, or something like that ……..???

Curiously, I’m reading Utopia by Thomas More at the moment so it might be interesting to do a comparison.

For anyone who has read Gulliver’s Travels, can you offer any advice or let me know what to expect?  Should I do some research beforehand?

Okay,  a deep breath, and happy reading everyone!

Le Morte d’Arthur Read-Along: Update #2

Books VI through IX

Okay, this book just keeps getting stranger and stranger.  In this section, the reader first gets the honour of following Lancelot on his journeys.  We have more incidents of kidnapped knights, devious damsels, murderous giants, prison escapes and vengeance.  It always amazes me that these knights can be in the middle of a fight to the death but still manage to hold polite conversation with one another.   I’m still unclear as to the chivalric rules of when you kill a knight and when you let him live.  Do you only let him live if he’s honourable?  What if he’s honourable, yet he’s offended you?  I’m not sure.  And why, for heaven’s sake, do Knights of the Round Table fight each other?  Because there’s no one else handy?  Well, back to Lancelot …… our trusty knight further spent his time cutting cloth and stealing swords from corpses; refusing to kiss ladies who perished from their sorrow, and suffered foiled attempts at rescuing ladies from their murderous husbands who finally manage to lop off their heads.  Ay me, what fun!

Lancelot du Lac
N.C. Wyeth
source Wikiart

Beaumains arrives at court and has a fight with the greatest knight Sir Lancelot.  He nearly defeats Lancelot and only gives over when Lancelot promises to knight him.  He does this without Arthur’s knowledge, nor does he reveal that Sir Beaumains is actually Sir Gareth, the younger brother of Gawaine and Gaheris.  I have given up asking why in this book.

Sir Beaumains, with his hidden identity, proceeds to have his own adventures, attaching himself to a maiden who want nothing to do with him, and defeating everyone he meets.  Thankfully there is little killing, all due to the maiden who pleads for his rivals’ lives.  But, good gracious, does she have a tongue on her! She abuses and belittles him at every opportunity, yet Beaumains will only confess that Linet’s debasement of him makes him fight better.  O-kay ……  

Sir Gareth

Eventually Beaumains announces that he loves the lady’s sister, Liones, which doesn’t seem to bother Linet, but apparently the lack of knowledge of Beaumains’ identity does bother them, so, with their brother’s help, they decide to steal his dwarf.  That’s right. Beaumains’ dwarf.  Why they didn’t just ask Beaumains who he was, remains a mystery.  Well, our good Beaumains arrives at the castle to demand the return of his dwarf and the culprits comply since they have discovered that Beaumains is Gareth, son of a king and nephew to King Arthur.  The sparks fly between Liones and Gareth and they pledge their love to each other.  Are you with me?  Good, because it gets better …… or worse, as the case may be ……..  That night while sleeping in the hall on a couch (apparently knights need no better sleeping arrangements) a mysterious knight appears, he does battle with Gareth, and Gareth, even though severely wounded in the thigh, lops off his opponents head. Disgusting, yes, but there’s more.

The Green Knight preparing to battle
Sir Beaumains
N.C. Wyeth
source Wikiart

The lady Liones arrives, then her brother, but when Linet appears she immediately plucks up the head, smothers it with ointment, does the same to the neck, and then sticks the two together, whereupon the knight pops up and Linet takes him to her chamber.  Enough, right? Malory could not possibly continue the comedy.  But he does.  The next night, the knight with the re-attached head attacks again and this time Gareth takes no chances.  Once again, beheading him, he chops the head into hundreds of pieces and tosses his fleshy confetti out of the window.  Does this faze Linet?  Not one bit; she runs outside, gathers up the pieces and once again, by some sort of sorcery, re-assembles the hacked up knight.  One wonders what would happen if she missed a piece ……..   In any case, does this sound like a family you would want to marry into?  Well, Gareth does eventually marry the Lady Liones.  I guess it could come in handy having a healing sorceress as a sister-in-law.  As to the benefits of a rouge dwarf-stealing brother-in-law, I’m not sure …….

Tristram and Isolde
N.C. Wyeth
source Wikiart

Sir Tristram is also introduced to the reader in the last book and we learn of his love for La Belle Isould.  Again, it’s rather confusing and this post is getting long so we’ll perhaps save their shenanigans for next time!

So, all in all, an interesting read and I must say I’m enjoying it better than when I started.  My favourite story of this section is, as you can tell, the story of Sir Gareth.  My favourite name?  Definitely King Anguish of Ireland.  His name brings a sort of brotherly emotion to the spirit of the read!

Classics Club Spin #8

Oh, no.  When I saw it was spin time at the Classics Club, I stopped breathing. I’m swamped beneath a pile of books for online book groups AND courses. For one course, I’m actually required to read Dante’s Inferno and Vita Nuova three times in six weeks!  Help!  So the sane thing to do would be to let this spin pass, right?  …….. Are you kidding?  I wouldn’t miss it!

For my last spin I finished The Importance of Being Earnest (review still in progress) and Moonlight Readers spin book, Summer by Edith Wharton.  This time I’m not going to be attempting double spins, I promise!

As per usual, the rules for the spin are:

  1. Go to your blog.
  2. Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club list.
  3. Post that list, numbered 1 – 20, on your blog by next Monday.
  4. Monday morning, we’ll announce a number from 1 – 20.  Go to the list of twenty books you posted and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
  5. The challenge is to read that book by October 6th.

I used the random list organizer here to choose the 20 books from my master list.  So my list ended up looking like this:

  1. Ivanhoe (1820) – Sir Walter Scott
  2. Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son (1894) – Sholem Aleichem
  3. Twenty Years After (1845) – Alexandre Dumas
  4. Tom Sawyer (1876) – Mark Twain
  5. King Lear (1603 – 1606) – William Shakespeare
  6. 1984 (1949) – George Orwell
  7. Bondage of the Will (1525) – Martin Luther
  8. Henry V (1599) – William Shakespeare
  9. The Cherry Orchard (1904) – Anton Chekhov
  10. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) – Victor Hugo
  11. Hamlet (1603 – 1604) – William Shakespeare
  12. Pensées (1669) – Blaise Pascal
  13. Gulliver’s Travels (1726) – Jonathan Swift
  14. The Time Machine (1895) – H.G. Wells
  15. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860) – Jacob Burckhardt
  16. Dead Souls (1842) – Nikolai Gogol
  17. Animal Farm (1945) – George Orwell
  18. L’Argent (1891) – Emile Zola
  19. The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) – Sigmund Freud
  20. The Prince (1513) – Niccolo Machiavelli
Five Books I’m Hesitant to Read
1.  The Interpretation of Dreams – Sigmund Freud (uh, why did I include this
           on my list???)
2.  The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli (but it’s short so that’s not too bad)
3.  Ivanhoe – Walter Scott (only because it’s so long)
4.  ——
5.  ——
Five Books I Can’t Wait to Read
1.  Ivanhoe – Walter Scott (I’ve been wanting to read it for ages!)
2.  L’Argent – Émile Zola (I can’t wait to visit Zola again)
3.  The Cherry Orchard – Anton Chekhov (I think I’m hooked on Russian lit)
4.  Tevye the Dairyman and Moti the Cantor’s Son – Sholem Aleichem
           (looks like fun)
5.  King Lear – William Shakespeare (loved it the first time, what about the

This list is a fantastic draw.  My only concern is the length of the book chosen. Reading anything extra in November is impossible, so that will only leave me one month to finish.  Ivanhoe, as much as I’m dying to read it, is probably not the best choice.

So now all I have to do is hold my breath, cross my fingers and wait.

Are you excited about this spin?  Which titles do you hope to see chosen?