A delightful and gentle little novel about one of my most favorite poets and authors--Thomas Hardy. This short novel imagines a short span of time inA delightful and gentle little novel about one of my most favorite poets and authors--Thomas Hardy. This short novel imagines a short span of time in Hardy's twilight years shortly after the First World War--he is 84 at this time--and he's written a stage version of his famous novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891). The young woman that he has chosen to play the role of 'Tess' is Gertrude Bugler. Apparently Hardy based the character of 'Tess' on Gertrude's mother, and now he does have just a bit of an infatuation with young Gertie, much to the concern of Hardy's second wife, Florence. This is the story of a not quite romantic triangle that pivots from the point-of-view of Hardy, Florence and Gertrude.
Hardy, in 1889, wrote "Love lives on propinquity, but dies on contact," and I think Nicholson's short novel infers that he likely believed that until the day he died. Even for an old Thomas Hardy there was always a young and vivacious Tess, Eustacia Vye, or Sue Bridehead out there in the world to look at tenderly and longingly.
If you are a fan of Hardy's novels and poetry, I highly recommend this novel. Christopher Nicholson's Winter gets a solid 4 of 5 stars from me....more
This book was one of my favorite reads of 2015! I read a review of Paul Kingsnorth's novel, The Wake, on National Public Radio's webpage earlier thisThis book was one of my favorite reads of 2015! I read a review of Paul Kingsnorth's novel, The Wake, on National Public Radio's webpage earlier this fall and ordered a hard-cover copy. This book tells the story of several years of armed resistance to the French occupying England following the Norman Conquest in 1066. While most of us are probably somewhat familiar with William the Conqueror and the Norman invasion of England, I had no idea that for nearly a decade following the conquest there was a fairly active and widespread resistance waged against the French overlords.
Kingsnorth's novel tells the story of a small band of Englishmen who conduct their guerrilla war against the French in the little towns and hamlets in what is now Lincolnshire. They are led by Buccmaster, a somewhat deranged, possibly even psychotic, landowner who was burned out of his house and lands and had his family slaughtered by the French. Frankly, it is kind of hard to like or admire Buccmaster, as at times he is a coward, a liar, and a flat-out manipulator of the men in his warband. At the same time though, the reader can certainly understand Buccmaster's motivation, as everything he valued has been taken by the French. He has nothing left and essentially nothing left to lose. As I read The Wake I kept thinking how any of us would react if an army of foreigners invaded our country, killed our family members and took everything from us. Like Buccmaster, I think I could be considered dangerously crazy too.
This story of medieval guerrilla warfare would, I suspect, be interesting in its own right, but what Kingsnorth does is truly something remarkable. First, the novel is completely written in a "shadow-tongue" which is a cleverly constructed amalgam of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and modern English. Kingsnorth wants the reader to experience Buccmaster's story--as much as is humanly possible--in the vernacular of the English people of Buccmaster's time. It takes some time like 30-40 pages before the reader has the "light-bulb" moment and one begins to fully comprehend this language. I think my prior exposure to Anglo-Saxon through Beowulf and some of the other Old English writings and poems that I have encountered helped me immensely too. Kingsnorth does include a brief glossary for his shadow-tongue at the end of the novel, but he makes you work for many of the words used. It really helps to read the sentence out loud as the phonetic pronunciation sometimes helps you figure out the word's meaning and context of the sentence.
The other aspect that I really found enchanting about the novel was the power of mysticism, mythology, and reverence for Nature and the old ways that Buccmaster and many of his followers believe in. Christianity had been introduced to Britain several hundred years before this, but many still believed in the elder gods that were more closely associated with the Norse, the Danes, and even the Druids illustrating the multi-national influences upon the British peoples in 1000 A.D. Finally, Buccmaster's connection with Nature and the landscape around him was expressed lyrically and almost poetically throughout much of the novel.
This is a grim, dark, violent and forbidding novel about a period of history that most of us know little to nothing at all about, but after spending several hundred pages deep in the demented mind of Buccmaster I feel like I have much better understanding of what the apocalypse of the Norman Conquest meant not only to the people of Britain, but for all of us who speak the English language today.
I want to reread Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake again very soon, while I still have the language in my head, and I surmise that I will get even more out of it. This novel was long-listed for the 2014 Man-Booker Prize, and I certainly can understand why. This is a singularly unique literary achievement, and a novel that I highly recommend.
A most excellent novel! Like Dickens, Trollope goes after a particular facet of English life in most of his novels and makes you understand why you shA most excellent novel! Like Dickens, Trollope goes after a particular facet of English life in most of his novels and makes you understand why you should care, or be concerned. In this instance, it is the legal profession and the right and wrong decisions that people make. There's something about every Trollope novel that I've read that just slowly but surely draws me in until I simply can't put the book down. This guy is so underrated by many, and I just can't--for the life of me--understand why. "Orley Farm" is a great novel!...more
This is a gut-wrenchingly painful novel to read. You can see the end coming like two trains on the same track heading at one another. This is PatrickThis is a gut-wrenchingly painful novel to read. You can see the end coming like two trains on the same track heading at one another. This is Patrick O'Brian's first novel, written in the 1950s, and it is a dandy. You can't put it down, and the title, Testimonies, means everything! I have read O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series multiple times, and I honestly have to say that this is right up there with the very best of that series. I have always loved O'Brian's elegant writing style, and this very first effort sets the standard for all that was to come.
The novel takes place in a remote part of Wales shortly after the turn of the 20th century, but it has the feel of the mid- to late-19th century, and certainly has the feel of a plot crafted by Thomas Hardy or even George Eliot. It is ever so well written and completely brings you into the world of sheep-farming in the valleys and mountains of Wales.
I'll be reading this again to be sure. A solid 4/5 stars for me....more
Like Trollope's terrific novel, Doctor Thorne, there's a lot of Jane Austen in The Small House at Allington. A quiet and pleasant and pastoral novel tLike Trollope's terrific novel, Doctor Thorne, there's a lot of Jane Austen in The Small House at Allington. A quiet and pleasant and pastoral novel that slowly enfolds you in its embrace. This is the story of the rhymes and reasons and the will and passions that guide a small group of young women and men as they endeavor to find love, and it is ever so entertaining. It can be frustrating at times too, as I found myself wanting to scream at Miss Lily Dale to get her pretty head out of her own *ss and realize that a very good life was well within her grasp. Oh well, it'd have not been much of plot if she'd done that early on. In short, this is a very satisfying novel and a Trollope that I am glad that I read and unhesitatingly recommend....more
This is a novel that lulls you into a state of complete and blissful immersion in Trollope's fascinating borough of Barsetshire. This is the story ofThis is a novel that lulls you into a state of complete and blissful immersion in Trollope's fascinating borough of Barsetshire. This is the story of a country doctor, the eponymous Doctor Thorne, and his lovely niece, Mary Thorne, and of their interactions with the landed 'Old World' gentry and the nouveau riche. While this is certainly a novel about romance, it is also a hard and critical social commentary directed at class differences and manners. This novel explores the old adage that "money is the root of all..."
Frankly, I've come to realize that Anthony Trollope is simply one hell of story-teller, and with this tale I'd swear that the shade of Jane Austen was perched over his shoulder as he wrote Doctor Thorne. It has a Dickensian cast of characters without the grotesque or patently comedic, and actually ends up leaving the reader with the sense that this was probably a fairly accurate portrayal of life in rural Victorian England.
While Doctor Thorne is included within Trollope's series, The Chronicles of Barsetshire, it stands alone quite nicely, and there are even a few characters from his later series, The Pallisers, that briefly appear in the tale. In sum, this is a terrific novel that engages the reader right from the start and then rollicks along to its very satisfying conclusion. I highly recommend Trollope's Doctor Thorne and look forward to picking this up again for a reread sometime in the future. ...more
This is an absolutely indispensable and priceless book. You can skip about and fall in love with each and every chapter in this book! So incredibly enThis is an absolutely indispensable and priceless book. You can skip about and fall in love with each and every chapter in this book! So incredibly enlightening. Gilbert is brilliant!...more