Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson

Mapp and Lucia“Though it was nearly a year since her husband’s death, Emmeline Lucas (universally known to her friends as Lucia) still wore the deepest and most uncompromising mourning. “

Why is it that the British seem overstocked with authors who can write humorous tales that make readers want to read more, immediately after they finish the first book?  I can think of a number of books and authors that fit into this category:  P.G. Wodehouse, Jerome K. Jerome, I Capture the Castle, The Diary of a Nobody, Henrietta’s War, Stella Gibbons, and now E.F. Benson comes to the forefront.

I first was introduced to the Mapp and Lucia BBC production and wondered if the books could be just as entertaining.  I was wrong.  This one was even better!

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Giant’s Bread by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)

Giant's BreadGiant’s Bread: “It was New Year’s Eve.”

 

Main Character: Vernon Deyre

Published: April 1930 (14th published book)

Length: 437 pages

Setting: various: Abbots Puisannts, London, Germany, Holland, Moscow, New York, etc.

 

My chronological Agatha Christie read continues with Giant’s Bread, her first novel published under the pseudonym, Mary Westmacott.  There is no detective work in this story, as Christie/Westmacott treats her readers to a very modern novel. In any case, it must have been a much needed break from the detective novels Christie was expected to write.

Covering a vast number of characters and spanning a few decades of years, this first contemporary novel written under a pseudonym, proves Christie wanted this genre of her writing judged on its own merits instead of being buoyed up by her previous successes.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream by G.K. Chesterton

A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1897) Giovanni Boldini
~ source Wikiart

“The greatest of Shakespeare’s comedies is also, from a certain point of view, the greatest of his plays.”

Or so G.K. Chesterton says with regard to Shakespeare’s well-known comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It appears Chesterton and I differ radically.  Even with three readings and two performances, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has left me somewhat unimpressed.  I’m not sure if it’s the silliness that puts me off, but the comedic aspect of it fails in my opinion and I’ve never been able to find much meaning in it at all.  Can Chesterton change my mind and reveal to me the appeal of this play that I’ve perhaps been missing?  Let’s find out!

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The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

The mysteries of udolphoThe Mysteries of Udolpho: “On the pleasant banks of the Garrone, in the province of Gascony, stood, in the year 1584, the chateau of Monsieur St. Aubert.”

Finally, I have finished The Mysteries of Udolpho, the turtle coming in over the finish line of her own read-along.  It was actually more like a last-minute buddy read but still everyone finished before me and I think a good number of you enjoyed the read.

I must say, Radcliffe surprised me.  I had expected a novel infused with the overly dramatic, filled with unbelievable occurrences, overdrawn characters, and sentimentality galore.  While there was a little of each within the novel, it was much less than I expected.  Emily, the heroine, while she did faint on occasion, was actually quite strong and steadfast given her age and circumstances.  I’m a little puzzled as to why she’s mocked so heavily in other reviews I’ve read.

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Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope

Christmas StoriesChristmas at Thompson Hall

Those of you who have read Anthony Trollope’s novels know that he is a master of the art of character creation.  Each of the people who populate his novels have distinct personalities that bring them alive to the reader and draw them into his world.  With a short story, however, I wondered if Trollope’s fine skills would hold up using a smaller palette.  And so I began to read Christmas at Thompson Hall with a somewhat apprehensive curiosity.

 

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The Phoenix and the Turtle by William Shakespeare

The Phoenix and the Turtle

I drew The Phoenix and the Turtle, a poem by William Shakespeare, for my Deal Me In Challenge, and after reading it, I’m so confused.  Fortunately, I pulled up an article on it which said it is one of the more confusing poems in English literature, so I feel a little better.  But only a little.  Let’s see what I can discover about it ……

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The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.”

Like many readers, I read The Wind in the Willows as a child and was completely charmed by the adventures of Ratty and Mole and Badger and Mr. Toad and the other creatures who populated Grahame’s captivating tale.  Yet like any children’s book read as an adult, you wonder if it will have the same effect now as then. Would I relate to its characters, be able to vividly imagine its setting, to become part of the story instead of simply experiencing it? Fortunately, I found time had diminished none of its magic. From the moment that Mole discovered the river and began “messing around in boats,” I was there. I could hear the fresh wind rushing through the reeds and the splash of the water as Mole fell out of the boat.  I could feel the warmth of Ratty’s snug house and the fear of Mole as he trekked through the Wild Woods.  And what became appreciated once again became familiar and what became familiar became loved.

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The Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle

Christmas StoriesThe Blue Carbuncle

Two days after Christmas, Watson calls on Sherlock Holmes only to find him scrutinizing an old battered hat.  Holmes reveals that Peterson, a commissionaire, saw a man with a goose over his shoulder being assaulted by some ruffians.  The man raised his cane to defend himself and broke a window behind him; when he saw Peterson running towards him, he hastily fled, leaving his hat and the goose behind.  Peterson sought Holmes for help finding the owner of these treasures, but the only physical clues they discover are a tag on the goose, reading, “For Mrs. Henry Baker” and the initials H.B. inscribed on the inside of the hat.

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The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton by Charles Dickens

Christmas StoriesI’m trying to read some Christmas stories to get in the mood for the season and I’ve had this book, aptly titled Christmas Stories, waiting for me since I saw O’s postings last year, and I decided to order it immediately.  It’s a lovely collection of stories, mostly from classic authors like Dickens, Gogol, Trollope, Tolstoy, Cather, etc.  The Story of the Goblins Who Stole the Sexton is the first story in the collection and it goes like this …

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The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford“This is the saddest story I have ever heard.”

It has been a long, long time since a book has made me angry, yet A Good Soldier has managed to disturb my normally cheerful and placid demeanour.  It was part of a buddy read yet most of the participants dropped out after reading the beginning of the book.  Sadly, I persevered and I don’t think I’m the better for it.

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