Read as part of the local "Hardy Readers" book group, that is reading many of Hardy's published works, in order.
This is the first book in the series.
I...moreRead as part of the local "Hardy Readers" book group, that is reading many of Hardy's published works, in order.
This is the first book in the series.
It starts with Cytherea and her brother Owen. Their family back history is given short shrift - the father falls in love, has a relationship, she leaves (the implication being to have his child), and he then marries another woman and has two children - Owen, and Cytherea, who was named after his first love.
Both parents die, leaving little money and Owen barely trained to earn a living, and Cytherea trained to do even less. A short term contract leads Owen to another job and Cytherea in love with Edward. When the need to get another job becomes pressing, Cytherea gets a job as a lady's maid, which she gets through words of mouth. She is separated from Owen who has to get elsewhere to complete his training and earn money. It soon becomes apparent that she is not suitable to be a lady's maid, but the woman she is now employed by (Miss Aldclyffe) is her father's first love. She is kept on as a companion, and a new maid is hired.
Miss Aldclyffe is a capricious character - seemingly prone to whims and changes in direction. After the death of her father, she hires a steward (Aeneas Manston) over some men who are eminently more qualified to do the job, including Edward, Cytherea's love. The implication being that Mantson is her son. Despite being married, Manston falls in love with Cytherea. After the death of his wife in an accidental fire, Manston blackmails Aldclyffe into helping him get Edward married off to his cousin so that the way to Cytherea is clear. Unable to seduce Cytherea, he resorts to blackmail and emotional pressure into making her marry him, even though she doesnt love him.
However, almost immediately after the marriage, doubt is shed over the death of Manston's first wife, and then things start to unravel for Manston.
Review/Commentary[return][return]As to the story itself, I liked it - mystery, true love, blackmail, intrigue, murder - really, what's not to like?[return][return]As far as I'm concerned, the thing I didnt like was the execution. He did lose me during volume 2, as something I dislike about Hardy's work is his reliance on/habit of "implication". Time and again things are implied (I want to read Tess again to see if it's just as annoying there as I remember too), with things rarely being made explicit or concrete. Manston 's wife does write to Aldclyffe to essentially blackmail her, and I think that's the most concrete statement about Manston's parentage in the whole book almost right to the end.[return][return]I have to admit that things did pick up in Volume 3, and did turn my review of the book around - it was not going to be a good review! If only the whole book had been this good! [return][return]Hardy was either not comfortable with or did not enjoy writing dialogue. Whole passages/pages are spent without a word of dialogue being put down on the page. [return][return]The book is split into sub chapters, some of which covering a matter of minutes or hours, some covering months. Each sub chapter had a heading detailing the time period it covered. I was trying to decide whether I liked this format or not, but decided that the pace suffered in switching from the minute to the epic scale and back within chapters.
As I mentioned earlier, Aldclyffe is capricious and moody. Some of her behaviour is explainable - e.g. her desire to bring Manston to the estate results in her excluding people more qualified for the job but some of it isnt. Her behaviour when she realises who Cytherea is is slightly disturbing, over the top, and uncomfortable - a scene that Hardy himself was not happy with (according to the notes) with the implication that it might be construed as a Lesbian scene, and not a scene I think he corrected particularly well. Her desire (and what she's prepared to resort to) to get Cytherea to marry Manston is not altogether clear until the very last pages of the book. She disappears for most of the second half of the book only to appear again in the last few chapters.
Cytherea is a strange character as well. In some ways she's strong - she rejects Manston for a long time, and evaluates the situation before she finally accepts. However, she's also quite "weak" - some might call it naive.
Edward was always going to be "the hero" and "the one true love" and is a quietly strong man, stuck in a moment waiting for his love.[return][return]Owen is much like his sister, weak and naive, and a little undeveloped.(less)
definately a book of it's time (white englishman is a higher moral ethical and valuable animal than both black men and the spanish/portuguese), but in...moredefinately a book of it's time (white englishman is a higher moral ethical and valuable animal than both black men and the spanish/portuguese), but interesting to read nevertheless(less)
Under the Greenwood Tree" is the story of the romantic entanglement between church musician, Dick Dewey, and the attractive new school mistress, Fancy...moreUnder the Greenwood Tree" is the story of the romantic entanglement between church musician, Dick Dewey, and the attractive new school mistress, Fancy Day. A pleasant romantic tale set in the Victorian era, "Under the Greenwood Tree" is one of Thomas Hardy's most gentle and pastoral novels.
Second book to be read in the local "Hardy Readers" bookgroup after Desperate Remedies.
This is a shorter, lighter book that is also easier to read that Desperate Remedies. It is about a small local community, and the story starts with description of the "choir" (singers and musicians) who are going round the houses (often isolated) one Christmas night. They briefly glimpse sight of the new school teacher - Miss Day - who becomes the centre of attention.
She and Dick Dewy fall in love, but their engagement faces obstacles from both her father and the fact that other men are vying for her hand. As a subplot the choir, who also accompany the mass, find that they will be ousted, to be replaced by a new organ, which the vicar has decided will be played by Miss Day, even though she has stated that she doesnt want to..
It is a much happier book than DR, has a more continuous flow in the narrative (although being split into 4 "seasons"). As I was not struggling with the narrative on this one, I was able to pay better attention to Hardy's descriptions of nature, and it was much more pleasing.(less)
**spoiler alert** Read as part of the Hardy Readers Reading Group.
Elfride and her father have lived in their community (where he is the vicar) for ab...more**spoiler alert** Read as part of the Hardy Readers Reading Group.
Elfride and her father have lived in their community (where he is the vicar) for about 18 months when the architect Stephen Smith comes up from London to put into progress the rebuilding of the church tower.
Smith and Elfride fall in love, but when Smith asks her father for her hand he refuses, having found out that Smith is a local boy and of a lower social class. Elfride and Smith elope but she finds she cant go through with it and returns home. Here she finds her father, rather hypocritically, has married a woman of a higher social class than himself. Smith returns to London and gets posted to Bombay to try and get experience and money.
Nearly a year later, and being with her stepmother has widened Elfride's world view a little, and brought her a wider circle of acquaintance. Whilst out in London one day, they come across Henry Knight, a distant relative of the new Mrs Swanscourt. Elfride is aware that he is a friend of Smith (but he doesn't know she knows or who she is as Knight and Smith have lost contact), and it becomes clear that he is more intellectually superior to his friend (he plays chess better for a start). He falls in love with her, the two get engaged, but he finds out that she has been engaged before - and had another admirer who subsequently died - and he breaks off the engagement.
Meanwhile, Smith has become a much more successful and richer man with better prospects, probably because of rather than in spite of his broken engagement. Through a chance meeting in London, Knight finds out the whole truth from Smith, and the two men find out how much they have lost.
I have to admit I did struggle with this book and it took me much longer to read than it should have. I did enjoy Hardy's descriptions of nature and the wild isolation of much of the landscape. I did however struggle with the heavy angst of the humans which could go on for paragraphs or pages. His dialogue between Elfride and Knight often seemed forced and I did glaze over occasionally (P&P and even Jane Eyre does the 'banter' between couples better). There were a few good passages, such as when Knight and Elfride are playing chess for the first time. The double standards set against men and women and varying classes are well played out.(less)
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).
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.
I remember reading this as a child, and it's interesting how much I do and don't remember.......I knew Simon went a tad peculiar, but never remember w...moreI remember reading this as a child, and it's interesting how much I do and don't remember.......I knew Simon went a tad peculiar, but never remember what happened next. I also thought something else happened to Piggy (whose real name we never know), and a lot earlier in the book. [return][return]Much of the book is now iconic - the painted children, the hunting of the pigs, the conch, the rules versus the return to savage.(less)
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)
This is being read as part of the local Hardy reading group.
This is the first book that I've been able to read with some level of ease - the others' I...moreThis is being read as part of the local Hardy reading group.
This is the first book that I've been able to read with some level of ease - the others' I have struggled at one level or another.
It is a story of mixed connections, lost (and re-found) loves, disappointments and misunderstandings. Very few lives are not altered in some way. Eustacia Vye wishes to escape the desolation and isolation of Egdon Heath, and believes that Clym, returning from Paris, will be the ticket to her escape. However, his dislike of Paris - the main cause of his return - plus a subsequent illness, ensures that Eustacia is further chained to the Heath, her chances of escape ruined.
Clym's cousin, Thomasin, becomes married Wildeve, despite his previous and unresolved dalliance with Eusticia. No one really ever settles, and it all ends in disaster. The heath is another character in this book, presenting an isolating force in the book and enforcing a loneliness on the likes of Eusticia by living so far from her nearest neighbours. Had she - had anyone - lived closer to each other, would things have happened differently? (less)
This is a many layered story, essentially about romance and being prepared to change your mind - first impressions dont always last![return][return]Mr...moreThis is a many layered story, essentially about romance and being prepared to change your mind - first impressions dont always last![return][return]Mr Bennett has a silly wife and 5 daughters of varying levels of silliness. Jane and Elizabeth are the eldest two and the two whose marriage prospects are damaged the most by the other three. [return]Into the small Merton community comes Mr Bingley, his haughty sisters, his proud (and immensely wealthy) friend Mr Darcy and sleepy brother in law.[return][return]Bingley is immediately attached to Jane who is likewise attached. Mr Darcy is at first too proud to consider that there are people worthy of his attention, but he soon comes round to that perhaps Elizabeth is spirited and interesting. However his Pride has already made her prejudiced against him, and she is unwilling to consider his interest. In fact, she is so blinded against him, she is willing to be duped by another "gentleman" who is only too willing to feed the flames to his own advantage. She finds out (almost) too late what Bingley's true character is really like, but this gives Darcy the opportunity to display *his* true character.....[return][return]Meanwhile Bingley, being a decent but easily influenced man, is persuaded that Jane is not interested, and disappears up to town. Once again it is Darcy who coems in to save the day, and a proposal is finally on the books. [return][return]Mr Bennett, having no sons, finds himself in the situation that his house is entailed away on his death to his rather silly cousin Mr Collins. Having been rejected by Elizabeth, he marries Charlotte. Charlotte is not in love with Collins, is clearly aware of his faults, but knows she is unlikely to make a better match (in terms of prospects, income or the society that he inhabits), so tries to make the best of things. [return][return]Jane and Elizabeth get the men they want, Lydia gets the man she deserves, Mis Bingley doesnt get the man she plotted to get and Charlotte gets the man (and position) she thinks she can best achieve. You sometimes hope that Mrs Bennett will change her ways and become less silly, but you know that will never happen. Mr Bennett remains in his library, as far away from his wife as he can, ensuring that he also remains apart from his children. He is not the strongest of father figures - he tends to keep his head down and out of the way in order to keep his life quiet, rather than standing up for what is correct behaviour. He realises that he has not guided his family and their behaviours only when it is too late.[return][return]Elizabeth and Darcy, being the hero and heroine, are the ones who learn/change the most whislt remaining true to themselves - Darcy has wealth and influence but does not need to be so aloof and principled against those "beneath him" to put it all to good use, and Lizzy learns that keeping to first impressions isnt always a(less)
Emily Fox-Seton is a single, well bred woman of 35, with some education but absolutely no money. She lives in one room of a boarding house, and with t...moreEmily Fox-Seton is a single, well bred woman of 35, with some education but absolutely no money. She lives in one room of a boarding house, and with the help of the daughter of the house, is able to work her limited wardrobe as best they can.[return][return]She therefore works for a living, surviving by running errands for various wealthy people around London. When one of her employers invites her for a summer holiday at a country estate, Emily is ecstatically grateful and accepts. One of the guests is the Marquis of Walderhurst, an older, very rich but not someone Emily considers to be particularly attractive. With three younger, more attractive (but not necessarily richer) single women in the house party, there is immense speculation as to who the Marquis is going to select as his second wife (his first wife having died not long after giving birth to the now dead first child).[return][return]To her surprise the Marquis (he's in his late 50s) proposes and they are married. Soon afterwards the Osborns - the heir presumptive to the Marquis' title and estate if he hadnt married again with another chance of having an heir - returns to England with his pregnant wife. Emily, being a naive innocent women, befriends both of them and Hester in particular. [return][return][return]Emily realises she is pregnant when Edward is away on business in India, and it takes a while for others to realise that the Osborns wish her and her unborn baby harm. She escapes to London where she is protected. She gives birth to the wanted boy but is on her death bed when Edward returns from India (he's been ill himself and Emily has been warned not to tell of the prengancy).[return][return]It later transpires that the Osborns have had a girl (who would never have inherited no matter what happened with Emily), and that Alec had died after "accidentally" shooting himself in the head whilst drunk.[return][return]This book is a surprise in several different ways. First that Burnett had written a book for adults, as she is better known for writing for children. Second, that she has includes alcoholism and domestic abuse (in the Osborns). The last chapter in particular is not a "happily ever after" rather a "here's how an abusive husband has been managed and I have to live with the result".[return][return]The Marquis appears little in the story - it is primarily about her after all, and how people react to someone who is essentially good and innocent (a desire to protect and look after being the uppermost wants). The only people who want to damage her really are The Osborns - Alec because he is a drunk who sees his escape from debts and India being taken away from him by this healthy decent woman, Hester because she's scared of Alec and Hester's amah because she'll do anything for her mistress. [return][return]As a reader Emily not an annoying character - Burnett travels a fine line between an attractive innocent and someone you want to shake to bring her to her senses.[return][return]If compared to "The secret Garden", "marchioness" is a more subtle, less "playing outside is good for you" patronising - although Emily does have a favourite place outside away from everyone and beside a quiet pool, where she gets to mediate, so there is a certain amount of showing Burnett's interest in gardening.(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!
This was Jane Austen's micky take on the Gothic romances and the stupidity/vaccuity of some girls.[return][return]Catherine is taken to Bath by some r...moreThis was Jane Austen's micky take on the Gothic romances and the stupidity/vaccuity of some girls.[return][return]Catherine is taken to Bath by some reasonably well off neighbours, who are not as socially adept as they would like to think they are. The Bath Season is horrendous ("There's noone here" says Catherine's mentor, despite the Assembly rooms being so packed that they cant move, and there are no seats to be had).[return][return]Catherine gets introduced to Henry, and manages an invite to the Tilney's old house for an extended stay. Every where she looks she imagines that something horrendous is going to happen (e.g. looking for hidden doors behind tapestries, candles being blown out for other reasons than there just being a draught). In fact, not an awful lot happens during her stay (apart from her and Henry falling in love natch!).[return][return]Henry's father is a bit of a drunk and not particularly nice and tries to put a stop to any marriage by threatening to cut Henry off (which in all gothic novels would have instantly happened and that would have put an end to things). However, Henry stands up to his father, and he and Catherine get married.[return][return](Originally I wasnt going to read this book, but watched the TV version - with "scary" music in the late 1980s so decided to read it. My English teacher was not impressed that it took a TV programme to get us to read a book).(less)