Just discovering Hugo's poetry. My heart hurts, it dances, it sinks and it soars with his words. He was a Seattle native, but wrote about Montana, ItaJust discovering Hugo's poetry. My heart hurts, it dances, it sinks and it soars with his words. He was a Seattle native, but wrote about Montana, Italy and Scotland as well as the Pacific Northwest. My copy-only a week old- is becoming dog-eared as I select poems in wonder, promising to return. ...more
This is one of the most delightful, enchanting and life-affirming books I've read in ages. It is also heartbreaking, slightly surreal, a modern fableThis is one of the most delightful, enchanting and life-affirming books I've read in ages. It is also heartbreaking, slightly surreal, a modern fable that embraces and celebrates weirdness and quirkiness.
Two of my childhood literary heroines were Harriet M. Welsch, an 11-year old self-made spy who lived in privilege on the Upper East Side, obsessively recording her observations in a series of notebooks, and Ole Golly, Harriet's yellow bathrobe clad, sharp-tongued, Dostoevsky-spouting and adored nurse. Harriet's precociousness, her solitary wanderings, her vulnerability and wonder first touched my heart more than 30 years ago.
Flash-forward to the late 2000s, to a luxurious Parisian apartment building managed by a dowdy concierge, Renee, who quotes Kant and Tolstoy yet is all but invisible to the elite and privileged residents of these 4000 sq foot "apartments." One of these residents is the intriguing 12 1/2 year old Paloma. Paloma is blessed and cursed with an astonishing intellect and lives a vibrant life of the mind, while suffering the fools she encounters at home and at school. Paloma is my new Harriet- a tough but fragile soul who struggles desperately to make sense of the world. Renee shares with Ole Golly a love for Russian literature and an acute sense of the absurd, but she is the hedgehog to Ole Golly's stork, hiding her elegance behind the fear of discovery and rejection.
There is one character who unites these kindred souls, shining a bright light of compassion and joy into the darkest corners of Renee's and Paloma's troubled hearts and serving as an antidote to a culture obsessed with excess and image.
Hedgehogs, or "les hérissons" have long been an object of affection for Brendan and me. Reminiscences about summers spent with dear friends on the west coast of France always include the adorable, determined, undaunted creatures who would trundle out of the woods at night and sniff around our toes as we sat drinking wine and watching the moon rise. Now I have a new reason to think of them and smile. Brava!!...more
A beautiful book. A book that I would want to read aloud with my child and hope that he/she savored it again as an adult. Francie Nolan is my HarrietA beautiful book. A book that I would want to read aloud with my child and hope that he/she savored it again as an adult. Francie Nolan is my Harriet the Spy of turn of the century New York. She is a soul of great spirit, insight, wit and fierceness. This is one for home library, to be sure. ...more
This memoir moved me so much that I don't really want to talk about it. Elisabeth's review is pitch-perfect and I have no need to add more, except toThis memoir moved me so much that I don't really want to talk about it. Elisabeth's review is pitch-perfect and I have no need to add more, except to say, Read This, Please. ...more
THis was a reread- after many years I felt the pull of this gothic and dangerous drama. The windswept Yorkshire moors, the Heathcliff's bitter edge anTHis was a reread- after many years I felt the pull of this gothic and dangerous drama. The windswept Yorkshire moors, the Heathcliff's bitter edge and Cathy's plaintive cries of longing are utterly irresistible. An achingly beautiful book. ...more
This book represents my absolute literary vice: novels set in Europe immediately pre-during-post WWI and WWII. The "Gosford Park"-like settings, charaThis book represents my absolute literary vice: novels set in Europe immediately pre-during-post WWI and WWII. The "Gosford Park"-like settings, characters, intrigues never cease to captivate me. This series of intertwined stories by Pilcher- The Shell Seekers in particular- are the pinnacle of the genre for me. I could while away many a winter's afternoon lost in its pages... ...more
I was so deeply moved by this book. Maugham's writing is so astonishing- I reread sentences, paragraphs just savoring and marveling at his gracious, cI was so deeply moved by this book. Maugham's writing is so astonishing- I reread sentences, paragraphs just savoring and marveling at his gracious, clean, beautiful prose. The story is so rich with character and theme; it is utterly romantic in view but visionary in context. It is ironic that as a writer Maugham was so excoriated by his contemporaries: it is his voice that makes me ache to write...
Plotwise, well, I was with it until Larry wanders off to India to seek enlightenment. That bit was tedious and Larry post-India is an annoying washout for a wee while. Maugham inserts himself to play a confidante and voice of morality; I'd rather he left his characters to discover the truth without his intervention. But gorgeous nonetheless. More Maugham on the menu!...more
The filling of the reading sandwich between my first time with Mansfield Park ten years ago and last week is Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of IntroverThe filling of the reading sandwich between my first time with Mansfield Park ten years ago and last week is Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, which I happened upon two years ago. Cain's book was a revelation to me. At last, I finally understood my essence—after years of wondering what's wrong with me, why I crave so much time alone, why gatherings of people exhaust me, why, yes indeed, I steer my grocery cart abruptly away if I see someone I know in the aisle, simply to avoid the drudgery of small talk. Ain't nothing the matter with me. I'm an introvert. Friendly, not shy, at ease with public speaking, but classic introvert nonetheless.
Fanny Price. I get you. While the rest of the world seems annoyed by your reticence, your reserved nature, your seemingly quiet acquiescence, I see a kindred spirit. You'd much rather be out on a solitary walk through the grounds of Mansfield Park, or talking to your horse, than sitting in the drawing room, suffering through endless games of whist and idle gossip. And when you love, you love with a singular focus. You don't need anyone else around; your heart can be filled with few souls-a beloved brother, a trusted friend. Too many chattering voices and you lose all focus . . . yet you're a dreamer. It's simply easiest to go along and pretend to give in to others' whims, for then you'll be left alone, able to return to your inner world.
And yet, retreating does not mean you are ignorant of the greater events transpiring around you; the massive social changes ripping apart the seams of the rarefied fabric upholstering your adopted home. You question your bloviating uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, about his affairs in Antigua, which is a euphemistic stand-in for the slave trade, (abolished in England in 1808, a few years before Austen wrote Mansfield Park, but slavery itself would not be outlawed until 1833, sixteen years after her death).
You see right through Henry Crawford's cheap imitation of life, his pretty words that are no deeper than a coating of paint, yet your tender heart falls more readily for the promise of having just one BFF when Mary Crawford showers you with attention. But, as is custom for introverts, nearly all people prove to be predictably disappointing in the end. It's better just to be alone. I know you have a horse, but really, a dog would suit you at least as well. A great companion for all those solitary walks in the woods outside Mansfield Park.
This being Jane Austen, and Regency literature being what it is, there's got to be male yang to your female yin. And God love Edmund. A more perfect partner could not be found. He's quite the feminist, really; an introvert himself, a good egg, in training for the clergy. Steady, a bit dull, rather daft in matters of the heart, but eventually he gets there. You and he are the straight men in this social satire, reflecting the imperialistic privilege built on the backs of the underclass and the faraway slaves. You're both a bit moralistic and tedious, but at your cores, you are deeply conscious and conscientious. I think you will go on to do great things together. Social Justice Warriors of Regency England. I'm sure of it. And not a stage play in sight.
So, I raise my previous 4-star rating up a notch, because I get you, Fanny. I forgive you, because I've finally forgiven myself.
And Mrs. Norris? She's become my favorite Austen scoundrel. Best smackdown in all of Austen's oeuvre. ...more
At least twenty years have passed since I first read Persuasion, but the delight deriven upon the initial reading has only increased with age (mine).At least twenty years have passed since I first read Persuasion, but the delight deriven upon the initial reading has only increased with age (mine). (It's also impossible to not think and write in Austenian cadence until encounters with modern companions drive the final wisps of Dorsetshire mists from the mind).
How this little book of manners manages to capture the trembling anxiety of seeing a former love years after the broken heart has endeavored to heal and move on is its principal magic. The social scheming, the misunderstandings that arrive from an ill-timed glance, the dashing navy men in their smart uniforms, a blustering, conniving embarrassing relative or two, and a heroine who is wise, modest, learned and kind are classic Austen elements. Toss in a concussion, the dramatic backdrop of Lyme Regis, a whisper of a scandal and here is Austen flirting subtly and ironically with Gothic romance. It's unputdownable- the only bit I didn't enjoy was that it had to end.
There are some laugh-out-loud moments- I have to include some paragraphs and quotes which I found so delightful and twisted:
Part 1 Chapter VI The real circumstances of this pathetic piece of family history were, that the Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son; and the good fortune to lose him before he reached his twentieth year; that he had been sent to sea because he was stupid and unmanageable on shore; that he had been very little cared for at any time by his family, though quite as much as he deserved; seldom heard of, and scarcely at all regretted, when the intelligence of his death abroad had worked its way to Uppercross, two years before.
He had, in fact, though his sisters were now doing all they could for him, by calling him "poor Richard," been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.
This kills me. It's like Holden Caulfield was Jane Austen in a earlier life.
Part 2, Chapter III The worst of Bath was the number of its plain women. He did not mean to say that there were no pretty women, but the number of the plain was out of all proportion. He had frequently observed, as he walked, that one handsome face would be followed by thirty, or five-and-thirty frights; and once, as he had stood in a shop on Bond Street, he had counted eighty-seven women go by, one after another, without there being a tolerable face among them. It had been a frosty morning, to be sure, a sharp frost, which hardly one woman in a thousand could stand the test of. But still, there certainly were a dreadful multitude of ugly women in Bath;
That may be one of the funniest paragraphs in the canon of English literature.
Part 2 Chapter XII Who can be in doubt of what followed? When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance to carry their point, be they ever so poor, or ever so imprudent, or ever so little likely to be necessary to each other's ultimate comfort.