This is an odd movie version package of two Dessen books, Someone Like You and That Summer, of which I like Someone Like You quite a bit more. I reall...moreThis is an odd movie version package of two Dessen books, Someone Like You and That Summer, of which I like Someone Like You quite a bit more. I really like how Dessen delineates Halley and Scarlett's close but not always perfect friendship and her sympathetic portrayal of teen pregnancy. That Summer pushes fewer buttons, I guess; I didn't like Haven, the protagonist, as much as I did Halley and Scarlett, and I wasn't as interested in her issues with her family. Still, it does have the insight and depth of characterization that I love about Dessen.(less)
Robertson Davies originally wrote these eighteen stories to be read at his college's Christmas party, so of course they all feature ghosts in the coll...moreRobertson Davies originally wrote these eighteen stories to be read at his college's Christmas party, so of course they all feature ghosts in the college setting and of various literary and historical origins, from Queen Victoria to Henrik Ibsen. They're all entertaining, with only a touch of scariness, and full of Davies' signature erudite wit; I particularly liked the tale of the "ghost who vanished by degrees", who needs to take his Ph.D. examination in order to pass on to the other side, the one about a scholar possessed by Dickens, and the parody of Frankenstein about a monster cat.(less)
I have a love/hate relationship with Dickens. He's always verbose and often sloppily sentimental, and I find most of his female characters trying, but...moreI have a love/hate relationship with Dickens. He's always verbose and often sloppily sentimental, and I find most of his female characters trying, but there's something that keeps me reading. Our Mutual Friend is about identity, disguise, and concealment, which I mostly found interesting, but I hated a deception that's revealed at the end, because it simply plays into my dislike of Dickens' childlike-type women (one of whom is deliberately, lengthily deceived "for her own good"). However, that aside, I did mostly enjoy the book, certainly more than the last Dickens I read, The Pickwick Papers; I found one of the two romances quite a bit more appealing than the other, and I generally do like Dickens' settings and social concerns.(less)
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is set in a painstakingly detailed alternate Regency England, in which magic once existed but is now only studied by...moreJonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is set in a painstakingly detailed alternate Regency England, in which magic once existed but is now only studied by scholars, called theoretical magicians. When Mr. Norrell of Yorkshire reveals that he is a practicing magician and raises a young woman from the dead, he becomes famed all over England, works for the Government in the war against Napoleon, and takes an apprentice, Jonathan Strange. However, Strange and Norrell hold widely differing viewpoints about the practice of magic and about the mysterious Raven King, who was once magician-king of Northern England, and they become mortal enemies as Strange delves deeper into the mysteries of the Raven King and of the faery realm from which he came.
Clarke's world is utterly believable; I normally object to footnotes in fiction, but those she inserts as background information on the magic and history of her alternate England actually enhance the credibility of the world. It's like reading a critical edition of a 19th-century novel, so that I could almost have been convinced that there really was a tradition of magic in 19th-century England, and I just hadn't happened to run across it before. The historical details are wholly convincing, with appearances by personages from the Duke of Wellington to Lord Byron (of whom Strange comments, "No Englishman alive can equal his lordship for an insult"). Perhaps my favorite of these was the suggestion that the Government "should commission Mr Beckford, Mr Lewis and Mrs Radcliffe [all authors of well-known Gothic novels:] to create dreams of vivid horror that Mr Norrell could then pop into Buonaparte's head" (since the bad dreams Mr Norrell was creating for Napoleon proved to be inadequately frightening).
I keep seeing reviews referring to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell as "Harry Potter meets Jane Austen", but it's not really much like either; although the period is right for Austen, the voice is far more like Anthony Trollope, and the magic is nothing at all like J.K. Rowling's. If I had to categorize it, I'd call it "Anthony Trollope meets Lord Dunsany", but even that doesn't do it justice. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is something so rich and strange that as soon as I'd finished it late at night, I had to resist the urge to sit down and read it right over again. (less)
I think this is the breakout book in this series. The earlier ones are good; this one is great, more complex of plot, and deeper in characterization,...moreI think this is the breakout book in this series. The earlier ones are good; this one is great, more complex of plot, and deeper in characterization, especially of the non-series characters. (less)
O I forbid you, maidens a', That wear gowd on your hair, To come or gae by Carterhaugh, For young Tam Lin is there.
These are the first lines of the bes...moreO I forbid you, maidens a', That wear gowd on your hair, To come or gae by Carterhaugh, For young Tam Lin is there.
These are the first lines of the best-known version of the Scottish ballad Tam Lin, about a young man doomed to be given to hell by the faerie queen, and the young woman who saves him. It's a ballad whose fascination is enduring and which has inspired a number of retellings, of which Pamela Dean's is my favorite (followed closely by Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock).
Dean's version of the story is set in the Midwestern college of Blackstock (based on Dean's alma mater, Carleton). When Janet Carter enters college, she and her roommates, Molly and Tina, fall in with a small group of charismatic students, who are all closely connected with the Classics department and its Professor Medeous, an enigmatic but fascinating woman. As Janet wends her way through her four years at college, she learns more and more about Medeous and her followers and eventually finds herself entangled in their intrigues.
Dean spins Janet's story into the tale of Tam Lin in a slow, subtle, and gorgeous way. Hints of the unearthly begin early, from the ghost who throws books from the windows of Janet's dorm, to the mysterious horse riders she encounters on Hallowe'en. Yet much of the book's charm lies in its exploration of college life. It makes me nostalgic, even though I didn't go to a small college and my experiences were nothing like Janet's. The excitement of learning, the thrills of first love, the sheer difference of living on your own, away from your parents; these are all there.
I think I'm particularly drawn to the book because of its interest in literature and in the Classics. I love the bit where Janet and her friends are going through the steam tunnels below campus and come upon some graffiti on the walls: the opening lines of Homer's Iliad, in Greek, whereupon the Classics majors read it aloud and offer a couple of translations (one of which is Chapman's Homer, immortalized in the Keats sonnet). (less)
Though I liked the range of periods and styles and the inclusion of more women (particularly in the first story), I think I wanted something...I d'kno...moreThough I liked the range of periods and styles and the inclusion of more women (particularly in the first story), I think I wanted something...I d'know...deeper? after Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Don't get me wrong, the stories are charming, and I enjoyed reading them, but I was never very involved. Really, this just made me want to reread Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.(less)