I am reading this again for my Ravelry "Knitting like the Dickens" group and these are my comments for this reading.
December 30, 2013:
I'm finished! (a...moreI am reading this again for my Ravelry "Knitting like the Dickens" group and these are my comments for this reading.
December 30, 2013:
I'm finished! (again) This book has been with me for months and months. What will I do without it??? It did drag a bit in the middle, but then it picked up and I wanted it to go on and on. For one thing, I would have had a chapter on Mrs. Micawber's family and how the felt about Mr. Micawber after he was such a success. I bet they would have been on the first boat to Australia swearing they always knew he was going to be successful!
I've read this so many times, but I always see things I missed. When he was traveling and finally realized that he had taught Agnes not to love him and now he realized that he loved her he wrote so beautifully about the regret of missed opportunities and the sorrow of seeing things clearly when there was no way to rectify an earlier action, I realized that he had felt that in his life. I know that sounds obvious, but I don't think I have ever thought about someone of Dickens genius feeling the same kind of feelings we all feel. I see him as so wise and insightful that it's hard to see him as oblivious to his feelings about "Agnes."
That got me to thinking about the tortured lives of many of the greatest artists, writers, dancers, songwriters etc. I've heard the saying that genius is closest to madness, and I am just realizing a bit more about how it happens. First the writer has to have disturbing things happen...for Dickens, his father's imprisonment for one example. He has to allow himself to really feel that pain instead of sublimating it in some way. Then he has to open himself to the pain again in order to write about it convincingly and convey it to his audience, then, he writes of its consequences. Dickens created a new better outcome, but other writers, Sylvia Plath in *The Bell Jar* not so good. All this leads me to a conclusion. If you wish to become a great writer you are going to be very thin skinned and you are inviting tragedy into your life ;>)
For Dickens, another deep pain was the unfairness of Victorian society and the treatment of the poor and infirm. I've have often thought that the nightly news brings us more of the pain and human misery than we can absorb and that can make us callous. Dickens saw that misery all around him and he never allowed himself to become calloused. It is what Jacob Marley told Scrooge. He was cursed to spend eternity seeing the poor and miserable and not being able to do something to help them.
An earlier review:
I am re-reading this as part of my refresher course in Dickens. This has always been on of my favorites, but this time I am paying especial attention to Dickens use of language to create a mood or define a character.
I thoroughly enjoyed this once again. Each time I read it, I catch more things that I missed. There are so many characters in this book that are so clear and well drawn, that it hardly seems possible they really didn't exist. Mr. Micawber is one of my favorites as well as Betsy Trotwood and the world would be a bit better if there were more Agnes' in it.
On the negative side, we have a cast of characters we love to hate beginning and ending with Uriah Heep. He is so despicable that we wonder that he ever fools anyone, but he does. His name is like an adjective for me, describing my feelings about people I have met. One need only compare the person to Heep and any person who has read this book will know exactly what the villein's personality is like.
To me Steerforth is the most interesting character in the book. One of my pet peeves is when writers, especially mystery writers, have a character turn out to be a villain in the last chapter of the book when there was no hint of it in the character's previous behavior. A clear example is the villain in Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. In Steerforth, we find hints being given all through the book as to his true character. In this, he reminds me of many politicians who fall from grace. I distinctly remember when scandals about the then Governor Bill Clinton were being reported during the election. Countless editorials put forth the notion that what he did in private had nothing to do with the way he would conduct himself as president. Four years later our government seemed to come to a screeching halt while those troubles pervaded everything he did. Just about any person who watches the news or reads a paper can give a list of politicians and businessmen who fall from grace. As we read their backgrounds, we find that the disgrace did not come out of nowhere and that there were hints all along. Dickens gives us a Steerforth who is callous, does not admit the rights of others to guide his actions. His early actions show that he lacks a conscience, and the troubled relationship with his mother shows exactly how it has been nurtured.
This is an excellent books and well deserves a reading every decade at least. .(less)
This is one of my all time favorite books. I finally managed to get a copy when it came back in print. It is the story of a young woman who comes to s...moreThis is one of my all time favorite books. I finally managed to get a copy when it came back in print. It is the story of a young woman who comes to spend the summer with her uncle in the old Revolutionary home which is also populated with a number of ghosts. She has a relationship with the ghosts and a young man she meets on her way to the house. It is a delightful book! While it isn't quite as exciting as it was when I first read it about 45 years ago, it is still a great story.(less)
In this third book of the series, the local children are attempting to get the fairies to help them and they find a true believer in Beatrix Potter. S...moreIn this third book of the series, the local children are attempting to get the fairies to help them and they find a true believer in Beatrix Potter. Susan Wittig Albert writes about fairies with the same mix of awe, reverence and fear that Tolkien does. The quest for the fairies help and the plight of the children is by far, the most important thread in the book. We are led into a world where fairies do get involved with the life of the “big people,” but they can never be taken for granted or controlled. They come and go as they please and are only visible to the young at heart.
In contrast, the “big people” are embroiled in their own problems and most don’t see how fairies could possible be a part of them. The local Boer war hero, has returned dreadfully wounded, but with a new bride who sets the village’s teeth on edge. What in the world could he be thinking of? She is totally inappropriate for village life and she isn’t even nice. To add to it, there is something suspicious in her relationship to a new man who appears to be a relative of the vicar’s and has come to stay, and stay, and stay.
One of the things I like about this series is that it follows the life of Beatrix Potter and weaves known attitudes and events into a beautifully crafted historical and yet fanciful--- tale. It is a wonderful series to curl up with on a rainy day and enjoy to the fullest. There is just enough mystery to keep you engaged while you enjoy life in a kinder and gentler time. (less)
In this second tale of life in the village, Bearix Potter is beginning to fit in better because of her kind manner and quiet ways. The villagers don’t...moreIn this second tale of life in the village, Bearix Potter is beginning to fit in better because of her kind manner and quiet ways. The villagers don’t know what to make of her determination to run her farm by herself though, but they like the fact that she is attempting to build up a herd of local sheep which are in danger of dying out. When she goes to look over some sheep she has bought, she finds the body of the elderly shepherd and it appears that he has been murdered.
At the same time, she is struggling to build an addition to her farm so that she can keep on the family who have worked the farm for so long and yet give her the privacy of her own home. Working with the local builder is a daunting task, but Beatrix is proving to be tougher than she looks.
In the village a crisis has arisen when the job of head teacher is vacant and the hiring of a new head is suddenly called into question. Everyone favors the primary teacher, but the lady of the manor has suddenly brought in a new candidate with much better credentials. Something seems wrong about him though and it is not just his credentials. The Lady’s personal assistant seems to be wielding more and more power and things just smell funny to Beatrix.
This is a delightful book to just sit back and read or, even better, listen to as an audiobook. The people are engaging and the animals keep up enough chatter to push the plot ahead and sometimes get through to their owners.
This is a delightful tale based loosely on the life of Beatrix Potter while she was staying on a village farm in the lakes district which she bought w...moreThis is a delightful tale based loosely on the life of Beatrix Potter while she was staying on a village farm in the lakes district which she bought with the proceeds of her books. It is a combination of the Miss Read tales with The First Ladies Detective Agency books. There is a mystery here, but it is secondary to the goings on of the village. This is especially charming because the village animals and Ms Potter's pets also talk to each other to move the plot along and provide commentary.
In her description of village life, I could hear the echoes of Miss Read as she describes the little puzzles of life in Thrush Green. Many of these seem like mysteries because the reader is unsure of how the problems can be resolved in a way that is good for all the people involved.
This is definitely a cozy mystery and a comfort book, wonderful to read when you are tired of the complexity of your life and the plights or our modern world. The book is a far cry from Osama bin Laden and the Japanese earthquake and will definitely recharge your batteries.(less)
Fairies take center stage in this book also and we get to know them even better as they interact with the “big people.” During the village fete, a bab...more Fairies take center stage in this book also and we get to know them even better as they interact with the “big people.” During the village fete, a baby is deposited on Beatrix Potter’s doorstep with a sprig of hawthorn on it. Beatrix would love to care for it herself, but the care of her demanding parents and her work as an author seem to make it impossible. Still, she lives with regret, which is made even more poignant, by her work as a children’s author and her instinctive understanding of them and the magical world they inhabit.
Keeping the baby is no problem for her friend, Dimity though. All thoughts of having children seem to have gone from Dimity’s life with the marriage of the Boer War hero from the last book. Dimity has loved him all her life and she has never married, content to keep house for her brother and make herself respected and useful in the village. But where did the baby come from? The only clue is the hawthorn sprig tucked in with the baby. It apparently has come from Hawthorn Manor, an unfortunate old mansion cursed by the spirits in the Hawthorn trees ruthlessly chopped down to improve the view of the lake. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the trees had been informed and treated with reverence. Part of the curse put on the house is that no babies will fill its walls. An old crone was seen running to Beatrix’s house with a bundle and many of the villagers think she was the spirit of the hawthorns or a fairy in disguise.
This book was especially good, I thought. There was a little more of a mystery in this one and it took some research and more active sleuthing on the part of Beatrix to solve. The development of the children is richer in this book also and they are becoming characters with a following as well as Beatrix and her friends. (less)
I loved 44 Scotland Street and this was just as good. It is the characters that make this series so rich, as it is in all Alexander McCall Smith's boo...moreI loved 44 Scotland Street and this was just as good. It is the characters that make this series so rich, as it is in all Alexander McCall Smith's books. I feel like I'm visiting people I know. Undoubtedly, Bertie is the best character. He is the not quite 6 year old prodigy who is now ready for the Steiner school, when he really wants to go to a nice Rugby playing school. Bertie wouldn't be Bertie if it wasn't for his awful mother...the character you love to hate. And then there is Lou, the big-hearted coffee-shop owner whose loyal customers fill these pages. And her opposite, the narcissictic Bruce who can't pass a mirror without looking in it. Pat, Matthew, Dominica, Angus and his beer drinking dog Cyril round out the main characters, although Bertie's dad, Stewart, is making himself known. They are wonderful, charming, entertaining and thoroughly real. Like his other series, you don't read the 44 Scotland Street series for its plot. The books are about the characters and I love them all. (less)
This book is another visit with the characters in and around 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh and are introduced to two new and very promising characte...moreThis book is another visit with the characters in and around 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh and are introduced to two new and very promising characters; a very shady character from Glasgow who is a special friend of Bertie's and anthropologist Domenica Macdonald's friend who has come to stay in her flat while she is studying pirates. In this book we find Bertie managing to rebel against his horrid mother a little more with the help of his father. He also manages to get loose in Paris to his intense delight, and manages very well. Bruce sells his flat and Pat has to find someplace new to life which manages to usher in the "love" over Scotland Street, but not in the way she imagines.
I love these books because they charming without being trite. Smith has a wonderful way of creating characters that are real and likable even with all their faults. I feel like I am catching up with old friends and when I finish a book, I feel a real sense of sadness. I find myself wanting to know how they think and feel about my world and I find myself changing because of some of the subtle bits of philosophy that resonate with me.(less)
Unfortunately this book is finished and I have to wait for the last one to come by Interlibrary Loan. I enjoy being with the people in these books so...moreUnfortunately this book is finished and I have to wait for the last one to come by Interlibrary Loan. I enjoy being with the people in these books so much and I miss them when they are "gone."
This story sees Bertie joining the "Cub Scouts" much to his mother's dismay. Occasionally Bertie's father prevails, and this is one of them. Alas, girls may join the cubs now and Olive has caught wind of it and she shows up to torment Bertie and Tofu. If you want to know what Bertie's horrid mother was like as a child, just look at Olive.
Bertie's therapist has moved to Aberdeen and he has a new one from Australia and for a while it looks as if Bertie might graduate out of therapy. This new doctor is not a fan of Melanie Klein and not, seemingly, Bertie's mother, but unfortunately, something happens to make him keep Bertie...at least for a time. Personally, I'm glad. Poor Bertie needs a good therapist to help him cope with his mother.
The rest of the neighbors are back in full force. Matt is swept out to sea on his honeymoon and I won't tell what happens next. Angus and Domenica are playing thief and then police which is a new role for them, and narcissistic Bruce undergoes the greatest change of all...but can he truly reform?
These delightful stories are about real people leading everyday lives that Alexander McCall Smith manages to find humor, pathos and comfort in. It is his genius that makes us see them as we hopefully see ourselves with all our faults and all our goodness.(less)
Bertie is just about my favorite character and in this book we see a lot of him. His biggest problem in this book is, of course, his mother and we hav...moreBertie is just about my favorite character and in this book we see a lot of him. His biggest problem in this book is, of course, his mother and we have the addition of a baby brother, Ulysses, who looks suspiciously like Bertie's therapist. Bertie, who doesn't lie, mentions this a couple of times. His mother has decided that he should have his good "friend" Olive over to play with him weekly and he is in despair, not only can he not stand her, but his mother has painted his room pink again.
Pat is having her heart problems again. She and Matt have begun a relationship when the unbeliveably and narcissisticly handsome Bruce is back in Scotland. Matt is sweet and kind and...Pat is confused again.
One of the biggest problems in the book is that Angus Lordie's dog, Cyril, has been arrested for biting people and is in the pound awaiting trial. He is almost sure to be put down and Angus is beside himself. How can he get Cyril out of jail?
This is a re-read, probably for about the 5th time. It is always fresh no matter how many times I read it. There are so many things that I find that I...moreThis is a re-read, probably for about the 5th time. It is always fresh no matter how many times I read it. There are so many things that I find that I have missed.
The story is set in England in the 19th century. While the village is only 17 miles from London, it is deep in the country. Emma, the bright, clever, pretty and beloved daughter of one of the first families in the district, has been spoiled dreadfully in her upbringing. She has no social equals and after the loss of her governess and friend, she sets to work to manipulate the lives of others in the village by attempting to make matches between the people she knows. The only person who has ever not spoiled Emma is the local, most eligible, bachelor, George Knightly. While he cares deeply for Emma and her father, he has always tried to bring some semblance of discipline into Emma's life by speaking the truth plainly to her.
As with almost every book by Jane Austen, there are plots and subplots, innuendo, misinformation, and wrong assumptions. Even though the elements of her stories are similar, the characters stand out almost as real people. In fact, next to Dickens, I believe Jane Austen created the most memorable characters in English Literature. Sometimes I think I re-read this book just to encounter the deliciously obnoxious Mrs. Elton.
Emma is a dynamic character and I found myself very irritated with her for the first half or more of the book. She meddles in people's lives and thinks she knows what is best for them. She has a deep seated snobbishness but a kind heart and, where she has found favor, a lack of class consciousness. In other words, she is a complex character who is basically kind and loving, but the petting and spoiling of her early life has led her to believe that everything she believes is right. She cheerfully meddles in people's lives and then is chagrined when the desired outcome does not work the way she intended.
There are some rough places in the book, especially when listening to an audiobook. The silly, boring and incredibally talkative Mrs. Bates, can be easily be skimmed over in a book, but she is hard to skip in an audiobook. She goes on and on and I am sure Jane Austen meant for her readers to experience just how boring she could be. There is also a lot of description which may irritate some readers, but to me evokes a time when lives moved at a slower pace and the concerns of the people were more mundane and closer to home. The endless discussions of what people should eat, or the superiority of the local doctor by Emma's father were similar to conversations I listened to in the 60's on the isolated Eastern Shore of Virginia. Where there is very little that changes, conversations center on the tiny details of daily life and family and this is what Jane Austen shows us. As with all of Jane Austen's book, in the end the threads are gathered together, all ends well, and dear Emma has come out a wiser and happier young woman.(less)
This is a wonderful book. It has a Ghost, a gothic setting, a heroine caught in the spell of a mysterious and tortured genius and a young lover who is...moreThis is a wonderful book. It has a Ghost, a gothic setting, a heroine caught in the spell of a mysterious and tortured genius and a young lover who is trying to set her free. What more could you ask for?
The Paris Opera House has a ghost who makes demands on the managers. When the old owners get tired of his games and demands, the leave the opera house to two other men who ooze the hubris of the age. When mysterious things begin to happen when the opera ghost's demands are not met things begin to get uncomfortable.