A discrete advertisement in The Times, addressed to "those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine," is the prelude to a revelatory month for four very d...moreA discrete advertisement in The Times, addressed to "those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine," is the prelude to a revelatory month for four very different women. High above a bay on the Italian Riviera stands the medieval castle San Salvatore. Beckoned to this haven are Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Fisher, and Lady Caroline Dester, each quietly craving a respite. Lulled by the gentle spirit of the Mediterranean, they gradually shed their public skins, discovering a harmony each of them has longed for but none has ever known. First published in 1922, this captivating novel is imbued with the descriptive power and lighthearted irreverence for which Elizabeth von Arnim is renowned
Published in 1922, this book starts with Mrs Wilkins seeing an advert for a castle to rent in Italy posted on the front of the times. Married to a solicitor, with a small nestegg of £90 and looking at the rain outside she wonders if she could ever spend money in this way After reading the advert in her local club, she spots Mrs Arbuthnot, who goes to the same church as Wilkins but the two women have never talked. Both women are married and both have different reasons to disappear from their husbands – Wilkins because she fears she has become a non-entity and that her husband doesnt even notice she exists. Mrs Arbuthnot because she realises that she and her husband have grown apart – him to concentrate on writing his books, her to work on the things that fill her time as he keeps himself away from the marital home
They agree to take the castle, and search for two other women to share the expenses with.
Lady Caroline, young, beautiful, wanting to be left alone but realises that ultimately whilst very busy her life is essentially empty
If no one an San salvia tore had ever heard of her, if for a whole month she could shed herself, get right away from everything connected with herself, be allowed to forget the clinging and the clogging and al the noise, why, perhaps, she might make something of herself after all. She might think; really clear up her mind; really come to some conclusion
Mrs Fisher, the oldest, stuck in the past where the people of the day can never match the famous people who she knew when a child as they were always more intelligent, interesting, better mannered or more dominant. In turn she has turned into a bitter old woman who thinks everyone goes against her on purpose
The four women arrive at the castle at the beginning of April and the place, surrounded by all the lovely flowers and flora, soon begin to shed their previous selves, some quicker than others. Very quickly Mrs Wilkins (Lottie) decides to invite her husband along. He does turn up, and is stunned at the change he has found in his wife. Because of his job as a solicitor, who needs more women clients, he is solicitous towards all the other women in the house too.
Mrs Arbuthnot (Rose) is more reticent to invite her husband, but finally she does. However, he arrives at the castle, not looking for his wife, but looking for Lady Caroline, with whom he has become infatuated with whilst in London. However, in seeing his wife changed so much for the better, he realises his mistake and returns to the marital house.
Mrs Arbuthnot realises:
Why had she not been attractive sooner? Why the sudden flowering?
He little realises the competition he had from Mr Briggs, the owner of the castle, who has been briefly infatuated with Rose and come to pay a visit. Unfortunately, Rose is almost immediately eclipsed with the arrival of Caroline into the room, which distracts Briggs. Briggs in the mean time has melted the icy heart of Mrs Fisher, who realises she was stuck in the past with the dead and needed live young people around her to bring her out of herself
So ultimately, everyone gets to be where they should be, helped by good weather, good food, a little absence from each other and the benefit of a little solitude. Everyone is so middle classed British, stuck in that weird bit between the wars where people are still feeling the impact of the Great War, but haven’t really lost the Victorian Class system yet (less)
Setting in for a cozy night of brandy and darts at the pub, an inebriated lawyer suffers a seemingly harmless dart puncture. But within moments of his...moreSetting in for a cozy night of brandy and darts at the pub, an inebriated lawyer suffers a seemingly harmless dart puncture. But within moments of his injury, the unlucky barrister loses more than a simple game of darts--he loses his life. Called in to investigate this alleged accident, Inspector Roderick Alleyn wonders about the rules of this friendly bar game--and probes into a pub full of motives for murder
I have a feeling that I've read this book before, but remembered little enough of what went on to find the re-read worth while.
The main protagonists are a group of friends from London, who often spend their holidays in the village: Luke Watchman, an eminent lawyer, Sebastian Parish, celebrated actor, and Norman Cubitt, painter, who is painting a portrait of Parish in the countryside near the village.
Since their holiday a year before, a new character has appeared on the scene: Robert (Bob) Legge, a secretive character with an interesting trick with darts. On the second night of the holiday, and after a decent amount of alcohol all round, Watchman lies dead on the pub floor, having died from cyanide poisoning, apparently injected via a dart wielded by Legge.
Through various technicalities, Alleyn and Fox end up traveling down to Devon to investigate. Fingers are pointed almost instantly at Legge, who is proving to be rather erratic in his behaviour, in no small part due to the 6 year sentence previously given as a result of Watchman's work at the bar. However, Fox and Alleyn find that everyone in the room at the time of the death has a motive for seeing the barrister dead. It all boils down to who could have got the cyanide into the Watchman's system. It's then up to Alleyn and Fox to prove precisely who killed Watchman, even when it means a risk to life and limb for the two policemen.
This is number 9 in the Alleyn series, and Marsh is on a roll. Ever so slightly racist (looking back with 20:20 hindsight about someone "visiting the Jews" - i.e. the moneylenders) but generally working class vs upper class struggles. There are plenty of over the top characters, including the local barman, the fat Irish painter, the actor etc. Some nice small touches in the relationship between Alleyn and Fox helps lighten the mood a little. Not one of the best Alleyn stories, and not one of the worst, so a middle ranking rating.
Bernice, a large and rich fish in a small pool is staying with her cousin in New York, and finds out that she...moreListened to as part of Craftlit podcast.
Bernice, a large and rich fish in a small pool is staying with her cousin in New York, and finds out that she is a small and rather boring fish in a large pool.
Her cousin Marjorie (after being overheard slanging her off after yet another disaterous party where men are bribed to dance with Bernice) tells her some home truths about what Bernice has to do to make herself popular - and it doesnt always involve her having lots of money or telling boys of what car she likes to drive best.
Bernice follows her cousin's advice about her conversation technique etc at parties, but invokes her wrath when she successfully (if untentionally) "steals" away Marjorie's best man Warren.
She is dared to "bob" her hair - by going into a barber's hair which turns into an "ugly as sin" cut. Little does she realise this was a trap set by Marjorie, the day before a significant and final party of the season.
Bernice realises that she's made a mistake, and that it was Marjorie's spiteful nature (and her own gullability) that got her into this situation. She decides that it's best if she leaves before the party, as she knows it would be impossible for her to recover. However, she decides there's a parting gift she can give to Marjorie.
Fitzgerald gives us a story where by everyone is shallow - both men and women, and women can be spiteful to each other especially where they feel threatened. Nobody really comes out well from this story, where everything is about appearance, and substance rarely comes into it.(less)
A classic book by Gaskill of a small town - almost a village - in rural England, dominated by women of a certain age. Whilst not rich, they are not ne...moreA classic book by Gaskill of a small town - almost a village - in rural England, dominated by women of a certain age. Whilst not rich, they are not necessarily poor and they have developed their own ways of presenting themselves to the local community.
The book is narrated by Mary Smith, not a native of Cranford, who makes occasional visits to Miss Mattie (and her older sister Miss Deborah, whilst she is alive), a spinster in her 50s. There is no plot, per se, rather each chapter describing an occurrence in the village and the resident's reaction to it, which can often be wildly out of proportion to what actually happened.
This is a light and amusing book, which disappointed me slightly when I realised I'd been daft enough to think this was a (Lark Rise to) Candleford book (whoops!), even though I could see a similarity in some of the characters. Looking at some other reviews of this book, it seems I am not mistaken for confusing the two (Cranford/Candleford; both set in the middle of the 19th Century; etc).
It is about Bathesheba and the 3 men who love her - Gabriel Oak, Mr Boldwood and Sergeant Troy. each have...moreReading as part of The Hardy reading group.
It is about Bathesheba and the 3 men who love her - Gabriel Oak, Mr Boldwood and Sergeant Troy. each have their own qualities but it is Gabriel who loves her first and always. She rejects his initial marriage proposal because she does not love him.
She comes to the attention of Boldwood, who has the farm next to her, after she sends him a Valentine's card partly in jest. Boldwood has difficulty accepting that she does not love him either, but gives her up when she becomes fascinated by Sergeant Troy, the educated soldier - fey in attachment, apart from drink, gambling and women as a whole - who is more in love with another woman but marries Bathsheba more for her money than anything. She soon learns her mistake and learns to hate him, especially when he keeps asking for money to go gambling.
His possible death by drowning opens her up to be courted by Boldwood again, who continues to pressure her into committing to marry him, even when he knows she doesn't love him. A party at Christmas has a detrimental effect on all concerned.
Finally, Gabriel, her one true love, gets his girl.
This is the fourth of his books and the one I've enjoyed the most so far. It has a more consistent narrative, with fewer breaks, even though I believe this was also released in serial form.
The descriptions of nature get better with this book. I believe the description of salvaging the crops during the storm is considered to be a classic scene of the genre.
Boldwood is a disconcerting and not very nice character, poor of social graces, who falls in love with a woman he's never talked to and virtually bullies her into committing to an engagement that she doesnt want. (Everyone agrees in the end that he's more than a little mad).
Troy is a glittering distraction, who can also manipulate women (but in a different way), playing on Bathesheba's insecurities in order to make her marry him immediately (she goes to Bath to talk to him and he "suggests" that he'll have to give in to chasing after some other pretty girl if she doesnt marry him immediately, so she does).
Gabriel is solid and steady, watching her make mistakes but never letting her down, even though he still loves her.
As for Bathesheba? I dont know about her. I think she grows up during this book, finally marrying the man we all know she should have in the first place. She manages to take care of her uncle's farm, even though some people think she wont and does realise her mistake in marrying Troy, especially the way she did it.(less)
Audiobook on CD. Book written detailing the adventures of Moll Flanders who lives by her wits and her body. Her fortune is made several times by herse...moreAudiobook on CD. Book written detailing the adventures of Moll Flanders who lives by her wits and her body. Her fortune is made several times by herself, but is lost again, mostly due to her poor choice in men (drunks, womanisers, already married etc). [return][return]Narrative is bawdy, jolly etc. It is both a serious (about a world where a woman can rarely survive on her own and with few rights to even her own money) and not-serious tale (she goes through husbands with almost every chapter). As a result of these dalliances, she has plenty of children, of which little is heard off once they are packed off somewhere else, to ensure that Moll isn't hindered by a flock of children following her. I dont know if a woman would really do this, or whether this is Defoe's "wishful thinking" of fertile women not actually having children in tow. [return][return]Overall an enjoyable lighthearted 18th century romp(less)
While on a mission for the British government John Clayton Lord of Greystoke and his young wife are marooned on the west Africa coast. Lady Alice Clay...moreWhile on a mission for the British government John Clayton Lord of Greystoke and his young wife are marooned on the west Africa coast. Lady Alice Clayton gives birth to a baby boy and lives for a year before passing away of an unspecified illness. John Clayton is killed soon after by a band of marauding apes. A she-ape by the name of Kala takes the young Lord Greystoke as a replacement for an infant she's recently lost.[return][return]The young Englishman is raised by the apes as one of their own and given the name Tarzan. Tarzan is at a loss in terms of size and stength when compared to his ape playmates, but he makes use of his intelligence and agility to survive and gain status in the group. [return][return]One day Tarzan discovers the cabin his father built and where he had lived with his parents. Unaware that the skeletons in the cabin are those of his parents, Tarzan explores and becomes interested in the books within the cabin. Somehow (rather dubiously) he teaches himself to both read and write English fluently with the help of the books in the cabin.[return][return]Tarzan becomes a hero to the apes by killing some of their enemies such as lions and gorillas, he also has the members of a local village of cannibal natives thinking he is a forest god. Eventually Tarzan becomes the leader of the tribe, after defeating the previous leader in single combat, he leaves the tribe following the death of Kala at the hands of the cannibal tribe.[return][return]Not long after this Tarzan sees some newcomers to the west African coast; treasure hunters. Amongst this group are the eccentric American scientist; Professor Archimedes Q. Porter, his associate and friend Samuel Philander, the British Lord (and coincidentally Tarzan's cousin) William Cecil Clayton, the negro maid Esmeralda and Professor Porter's beautiful and spirited daughter Jane.[return][return]Tarzan becomes entranced by the beautiful white woman and largely because of this he assists the party and eventually rescues Jane when she is abducted by one of the apes. Jane is with Tarzan, falling in love with him, when a French ship comes to the aid of the small group and one of their party is captured by the cannibals. After depositing Jane back on the beach Tarzan goes back into the jungle and rescues the French officer; Paul D'Arnot.[return][return]D'Arnot contracts a fever, which Tarzan nurses him through and upon discovering that the wild man can read and write English, but not speak it, teaches him French. By the time D'Arnot and Tarzan arrive back at the beach, their ship has sailed.[return][return]Determining that Tarzan wishes to learn to live as a man, mainly for the purpose of pursuing Jane and winning her love, D'Arnot takes the jungle raised man to a colonial outpost. Tarzan becomes civilized and goes to the United States to be with Jane. Unfortunately, believing that they could never be together, Jane has accepted a proposal of marriage from another. Tarzan and Jane coming together is the subject of a sequel.[return][return]Burrows' treatment of the black natives gives a lot to be desired (when looking back at it from our late 20th century eyes), but I found him to be less offensive than Defoe in "Robinson Crusoe". Crusoe considered Man Friday to have no redeeming features (he's black so he's sub human) even though without Friday, Crusoe would have died - being white and "civilised" gave him no skills to live in the real world. Burrows treats the African natives differently - ok, they're black, they live in the jungle, but they have a very evolved social structure, are efficient and awe-some warriors and can work their environment to their advantage.[return][return]Burrows also has an interesting (dare I say homo-erotic) way of describing Tarzan especially when he is in his element of travellng through the jungle or fighting. Unfortunately he tends to repeat this multiple times in later books so the novelty of his prose does soon wane.(less)
Read as a child, reread as an adult. Understood the message better as an adult (although ti was a little unsubtle at times!) but still enjoyed it.[ret...moreRead as a child, reread as an adult. Understood the message better as an adult (although ti was a little unsubtle at times!) but still enjoyed it.[return][return]Orphaned Mary returns to England from India, where she has been spoilt rotten by her now dead parents and servants.[return][return][return]She now lives, seemingly alone, in a large, rambling house where the servants are too busy to do everything for her, and soon has to learn that she needs to make her own entertainment. [return][return]Exercise outdoors soon begins to improve her health, making her less sallow, but stronger. She makes friends with both the old gardener and a robin, the latter breaking the secret place of "The Secret Garden". The garden was locked up on the death of her unknown aunt - she has yet to meet her uncle, who has been off wondering the world since the death of his wife.[return][return]She also becomes friends with Dicken, the brother of one of the housemaids and between them they start bringing the garden back to life.[return][return]Mary then finds out that she's not the only child in the house. Her cousin Colin is confined to bed, either because of, or resulting in him being a sick, weakly bad tempered child. [return][return]In secret, mary and Dicken take Colin to the secret garden and with attention, fresh air, exercise and the right food, Colin begins to gain his strength. Both he and Mary learn to share and be less pampered and stand up for themselves and what is right.[return][return]Colin's father returns to find Colin fit and healthy, running around. The Garden is open and nearly back to it's original state. He learns that perhaps he should lock things away (including looking after his son).(less)
Richard, in between jobs and trying to decide whether to remain in England or move to the US with his wife, spends the summe...moreWell, "Rebecca" this aint!
Richard, in between jobs and trying to decide whether to remain in England or move to the US with his wife, spends the summer holiday in the childhood house of his friend Magnus. A Biophysicist, Magnus has been working on a new drug, which he persuades Richard to try on himself. Richard is taken 600 years in the past, following a steward called Roger and the intricacies of large families and politics with land etc.
The side effects of the trips become worse, and add to the already taught relationship with his wife, all the time becoming more addictive.
Live other reviewers I did find all the 1300 relationships a little confusing, but this was certainly a different book to read, and well worth the time!
Epic Dumas story (he got paid by the word apparently), about Edouard Dantes, who is engaged to Mercedes. He is jailed on the notorious Chateau D'if, a...moreEpic Dumas story (he got paid by the word apparently), about Edouard Dantes, who is engaged to Mercedes. He is jailed on the notorious Chateau D'if, an island prison that is thought to be escape free.[return][return]There he befriends a priest who has also been jailed and learns the location of a fabled fortune. The priest dies, and Edouard manages to escape, and tracks down the fortune. [return][return]He then uses his fortune to track down those who jailed him, and rain destruction on their houses and families, even if it does mean that his old love loses her son in the process.(less)