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 ……
“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.
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.
I’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 …
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.
The Return of the Native: “A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment.”
Oh my, I was laughing after finishing this novel, which perhaps wasn’t the reaction that Hardy had envisioned. But the drama! The high drama! I was beginning to wonder what other circumstance of fate (which actually didn’t seem like fate but a deliberate thwarting of anyone’s happiness) was going to occur to cause yet another catastrophe. It was a medley of characters making the same mistakes over and over again and never learning one thing from them.
“Whan that April with his shoures soote The droughte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour;….”
Twenty-nine pilgrims and the narrator meet in Southwark, in Harry Bailey’s Tabard Inn, before setting off on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, where they will behold Thomas Becket’s shrine. On the journey each pilgrim will tell four tales, two on the way there and two on the way back. A free dinner will be awarded to the one with the best story. And so begins Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous poem, a medley of lively stories that gives the reader a captivating window into 14th century England.
The Gateway at Canterbury (1889)
Phantastes: A Faerie Romance: “I awoke one morning with the usual perplexity of mind which accompanies the return of consciousness.”
I read Phantastes for the first time in 2012, and while reading it, I was very confused with the progress of the story. So many questions swirled around in my head as to the plot, such as why Anodos, the main character, decided to go to a particular place and why he didn’t listen to advice and what was the point of his wanderings? I approached the book as I would a book like The Lord of the Rings where I was expecting an obvious quest in the culmination of something grand. What I received was a sort of lazy, fanciful wandering by Anodos as he continually encountered faerie princesses and maidens, along with a knight, giants and other evil malefactors. While there were instances of adventure and situations where he had to employ his strength and good sense, these instances seemed solitary experiences that did not connect to the whole. I just couldn’t figure out the point of the story. When I couldn’t find it, I was left somewhat disappointed and unimpressed. Flash-forward to my second reading this year and an epiphany! ….
For someone who has read Cold Comfort Farm, I was so excited to find this book, however I was disappointed to discover the title is misleading. Instead of being further adventures from Cold Comfort Farm, it is actually a compilation of short stories by Stella Gibbons and Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm is only one of them. And to add further disappointment, only one or two of them even remotely mentions Christmas. Fool me once, and all that ……
In any case, for a book of short stories they were quite interesting, even if they were mostly missing the Christmas theme.
The Little Christmas Tree
Thirty-three year old Miss Rhoda Harting is a single spinster who makes her living as a writer. Retiring to a cottage in Buckinghamshire one Christmas season she finds herself lonely, a stark contrast to her usually reclusive yet positive character. On Christmas Day she encounters three children at her door who are attracted by her tiny Christmas tree in the window of her cottage. After lunch and a wild story, the arrival of their father sets up a question: is Rhoda destined to live life as a spinster or will love rearrange her carefully ordered life?
We all know this treasured Christmas story. Scrooge, a cantankerous old bachelor who lives a solitary life and whose sole purpose is to increase his wealth, initially has a vision of his dead partner, Jacob Marley, on his doorknocker. Not one for fancy, Scrooge humbugs his daydream, but when he is visited by Marley’s ghost, which is then succeeded by three other spirits – the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future, Scrooge learns many lessons of what he has lost, what he has become, and his fate if he continues on his selfish and merciless path.