I read this as part of an online course on Fantasy and Science Fiction. It's interesting to re-read these stories from an adult perspective and I enjoI read this as part of an online course on Fantasy and Science Fiction. It's interesting to re-read these stories from an adult perspective and I enjoyed delving into the deeper messages that they conveyed.
One thing that struck me was the role of men. These tend to fall into two distinct areas: princes and kings, and fathers.
The princes and kings are driven by the acquisition of riches and the physical attributes of the maidens they choose as their wives. Many a girl is raised from obscure origins not only because she is beautiful but because she can spin gold or spit pearls from her mouth.
The other role of men is that of fathers. Many of these have a second wife who is a stepmother to the heroine. The motives of the step-mothers stem from jealousy of the heroine’s relationship with her father in tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel. The step-mothers are intent on ridding themselves of the daughter. But why do the fathers allow this to happen? In Aschenputtel, for example, the father brings home expensive gifts for his step-daughters but only the twig that his real daughter has requested. Did he not think that his daughter would have liked similar gowns and shoes to her step-sisters? Similar issues are raised in Cinderella. Why does Cinderella’s father allow his wife to treat his daughter like a slave? And in Hansel and Gretel, why is the father subservient when his wife persuades him to abandon his children in the forest?
Perhaps the message that is being sent to boys should be discussed as well as the stereotyping of girls in these tales, because at the moment the message seems to be that if you don’t choose a woman who is beautiful and can bring you riches you will end up with a hag who will try to kill your daughter - and there will be nothing you can do about it! ...more
I recently took a MOOC called Plagues, Witches and War where Prof Bruce Holsinger was the educator so of course I had to read his own historical fictiI recently took a MOOC called Plagues, Witches and War where Prof Bruce Holsinger was the educator so of course I had to read his own historical fiction novel when it was published. A Burnable Book is a fascinating read. Although it is a complex plot it all comes together and the hints dropped and ideas seeded in the reader's mind are all followed through. Sometimes I read a book and I think I can see where the plot is headed, but then I'm disappointed because the author either doesn't follow through or introduces new ideas. But with A Burnable Book all my guesses and hunches were dealt with at the end and that left me feeling good.
The story revolves around a book of prophesies of the deaths of kings and a threatened assassination of Richard II. But the idea is so much more than that and the book is only part of the story. It involves a large cast of characters, including real people such as Geoffrey Chaucer. It's sometimes difficult to remember exactly who is who, especially when the text moves around in time and place, but it works for most of the time and the vital bits of information tend to be repeated in case you missed them. In some of the reviews I read before beginning the book, it was said that the story was too complex and that some parts could have been left out, but I don't agree. There's nothing there that is superfluous and to leave out any of the aspects would remove important parts of the story. The plot isn't that difficult to grasp and surely not every book has to be dumbed down to the simplest level?
I didn't realise until I'd finished reading that the main character John Gower was also a real person. I must read up on him! I say that he's the main character but really the book is stolen by the transvestite prostitute Eleanor/Edgar who is cleverly referred to as either 'she' or 'he' depending on what she/he is wearing at the time. And the descriptions of medieval London are excellent - just enough detail to make you part of the place, but not so much as to make it boring.
A Burnable Book is a 'page turner' that made me late turning out my bedside light for quite a few nights in a row. If you like history, mystery and don't mind a touch of sex and gore then I can recommend it. ...more
I read this with my book group. Perhaps it was because we only read part of it each week, but it never really captured my interest. It was filled withI read this with my book group. Perhaps it was because we only read part of it each week, but it never really captured my interest. It was filled with clever ideas about time and about Buddism and life in Japan and those were the most interesting parts. I found the sections about Ruth slightly tedious though, and the whole thing seemed disjointed. But, as I said, I think it may have been the way I read it and I think that I may go back to it again at some time in the future when I can give it more attention....more
I read this for the Coursera MOOC on historical fiction -Plagues, Witches and War - the worlds of historical fiction. But I wasn't sure whether it couI read this for the Coursera MOOC on historical fiction -Plagues, Witches and War - the worlds of historical fiction. But I wasn't sure whether it counted as historical fiction. The majority of it is set in 1991, although there are passages that are from the 17th century during the Salem during the witch trials. It tells the story of a graduate student's search for a lost book - the book which gives the novel its title. It is also a romance. It was readable, but it didn't really excite me. I think I was disappointed by the modernity of it. I was interested in the historical part but felt that it was continually snatched away as the novel returned to a time and setting that I found less interesting. ...more
I'm familiar with most of Dickens' books but, for some reason, this one had eluded me. I think it's because I knew the story, had seen the film and prI'm familiar with most of Dickens' books but, for some reason, this one had eluded me. I think it's because I knew the story, had seen the film and probably thought that I had actually read it. Knowing the ending possibly spoiled it a little and I wish that I could have read it without knowing what was coming, but even so I found it a very powerful story and one that addressed truths that are still relevant today as we see uprisings of the poor and oppressed in countries around the world. The story revolves around vengeance and the desire for revenge for an atrocious deed, except that the revenge is aimed at an innocent man simply because he is a descendant of the perpetrators of the original crime. Of course, Dickens knew that his readers wouldn't want an unhappy ending so he introduces Sidney Carton as the character who makes the ultimate sacrifice at the end of the book - 'It is a far, far better thing that I do now...' Peopled with a cast of interesting minor characters, described in Dickens' inimitable style, and touching on subjects of the day such as grave robbing, the story never fails to keep you involved and the ending, even though I knew what was coming, stunned me. If you've never found the time to read this one, give it a go. It will not disappoint....more
I read this for a book club so I'm going to share my feedback for that here:
The War of the Worlds tells the story of the invasion of earth by a race oI read this for a book club so I'm going to share my feedback for that here:
The War of the Worlds tells the story of the invasion of earth by a race of aliens from the planet Mars. It’s split into two books. First: the story of the invasion. Second: life on earth under Martian rule. Because Mars is an older world than the earth, it has become frozen and desolate and the Martians are seeking another world on which to settle. H.G. Wells writes: Yet across the gulf of space … intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. This may have seemed credible at the time that it was written. But how relevant is it now? I think that men have always looked up into the night sky and wondered what is out there. The idea that only earth has life seems improbable to many and the recent discoveries of traces of water on the planet mars, would seem to indicate that life may be abundant in the universe. Of course we know that there are no Martians about to invade our planet, but the questions that H.G. Wells addressed are still very relevant. Is there intelligent life out there? Is it more intelligent than we are? And what would happen if those life-forms came across our earth and saw it as a valuable resource. The SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) project uses thousands of computers worldwide in search of evidence of intelligent life on other planets. And last week NASA’s Voyager spacecraft was the first manmade object to leave our solar system. On board is a gold-plated phonograph which contains sounds and images that reflected life on earth in the 1970s, including natural sounds and greetings in 55 different languages. Advertising our own presence may have seemed like a good idea at the time. But was it sensible? Should the scientists who sent it have taken more account of H.G. Wells novel? The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking thinks so. He believes that there are aliens out there, but that humans might not want to meet them and in 2010 he said that we should try to avoid them as they might see us and our planet as a source of food and fuel. When H.G.Wells wrote The War of the Worlds he was partly commenting on the spread of the British Empire and the way in which Britain invaded countries such as Africa, Australia, America and Asia to strip them of their valuable assets whilst showing little concern for the natives who lived there. In chapter one he says: And before we judge them [the Martians] too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished Bison and the Dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit? The threat from an invading species remains as worrying as ever it was, especially if you are the ones being invaded. How can we be confident that if we send a message out into the universe anyone who comes across it will be friendly towards us? You only need to look at the warring nations on earth to see that peace and co-operation is not easy to come by. Personally I agree with Stephen Hawking. I think we should keep quiet about our existence because what happened in The War of the Worlds could become a reality for us at some time in the (perhaps not too distant) future. And this is why I think that The War of the Worlds is still relevant today and that it is much more than mere science fiction. ...more
I enjoyed this. It was so much more than a romance. The story of Rose and Alex unfolds against the interesting and well-researched background of WW1 aI enjoyed this. It was so much more than a romance. The story of Rose and Alex unfolds against the interesting and well-researched background of WW1 and the part that was played by the women who nursed the injured soldiers. Written from both Rose's and Alex's points of view it didn't shy away from the horrors of war and it held my interest for most of the time, although the story was slightly repetitive in places. But on the whole I'm glad I tried it as it was quite different from what I had anticipated....more
I read this book at my library group.It isn't something I would normally have read, but I enjoyed it even if it was slightly gory in places - and I diI read this book at my library group.It isn't something I would normally have read, but I enjoyed it even if it was slightly gory in places - and I did skim through the battle scenes. But it contained enough well researched history and human interest to keep me involved with the story. As the middle book of a trilogy it worked as a stand alone novel....more
This was an attempt to discover the character of Dorothy Wordsworth from her writing, mostly the journals that she kept. I found her to be an enigmatiThis was an attempt to discover the character of Dorothy Wordsworth from her writing, mostly the journals that she kept. I found her to be an enigmatic but fascinating character and Frances Wilson's book was readable and interesting without her putting too many of her own thoughts into Dorothy's head. I finished feeling that I knew a little more about Dorothy, but wishing that I knew more. She was a talented writer who seems to have subsumed that talent into the work of the brother she was passionately in love with....more
Dorothy Whipple came from my home town of Blackburn and I read all her books many years ago. Re -reading this one made me realise how undervalued andDorothy Whipple came from my home town of Blackburn and I read all her books many years ago. Re -reading this one made me realise how undervalued and forgotten she is as a writer. This novel, is her last, and possibly her best, although it didn't sell well at the time of publication. Maybe that was because such stories were going out of fashion or it may have been because the story does not roll along to a happy ending filled with likeable characters. In fact two of the main characters, Louise and Avery, are not likeable at all and the other, Ellen, is too nice.
Someone at a Distance tells the story of an apparently happy married couple, Avery and Ellen. They appear to be privileged and to have everything until French girl Louise steals Avery from his wife to prove to herself that she is worthy of a wealthy and intelligent man after having been abandoned by Paul in her French home for not being well born and wealthy enough to be his wife.
The story shows how the actions of one person, Louise, bring the lives of everyone she comes into contact with crashing into chaos and unhappiness. She betrays trust, she schemes and she lies. She is thoroughly unpleasant and selfish and she destroys the happiness of everyone she meets. This may all sound very gloomy and Someone at a Distance is not a light-hearted romance, but a examination of how one person can affect the lives of so many others. It is very readable and very well written and the story leaves you thinking about the characters long after the book is finished. If you are looking for an intelligent story set in a time when women were only valued for who they managed to marry, then I can highly recommend this....more
I'm reading this as part of my research into a new novel on the subject of Dr John Dee and his wife Jane. This book gives a brief, but fairly compreheI'm reading this as part of my research into a new novel on the subject of Dr John Dee and his wife Jane. This book gives a brief, but fairly comprehensive look at the life of John Dee and in particular his association with Edward Kelley. It is well researched and there are plenty of footnotes and links to other publications that I will find useful...more
This was an interesting account of the life of Katherine Parr, the last queen of Henry VIII. It was easy reading, although at times I was jolted out oThis was an interesting account of the life of Katherine Parr, the last queen of Henry VIII. It was easy reading, although at times I was jolted out of the historical setting by modern language and idioms - such as someone being described as 'flighty' - a word not in use until the 1800s. I would have liked more emphasis on the religious divisions and perhaps more use of the secondary viewpoint character Dot as someone who is 'invisible' and yet can overhear gossip and even read stray documents. But on the whole I enjoyed it and my reading group were very positive about the book....more
I enjoyed this book and think it's well worth reading if you enjoy historical fiction. The story of Sadie and Ella was well plotted although I felt t I enjoyed this book and think it's well worth reading if you enjoy historical fiction. The story of Sadie and Ella was well plotted although I felt that it slowed too much in the middle and became slightly repetitive before racing towards an action filled ending. If you enjoy romance you may find it disappointing as it wasn't 'romantic' in the conventional sense and the action rather overcame any emotional pay-off at the conclusion. Many of the characters were thoroughly unpleasant and it didn't always make comfortable reading, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It was well researched and held my interest. At no point was I tempted to give it up, which must be a recommendation in itself....more