Virginia Woolf is absolutely brilliant and A Room of One's Own became an instant all-time favourite. A book I meant to read slowly, highlight and take...moreVirginia Woolf is absolutely brilliant and A Room of One's Own became an instant all-time favourite. A book I meant to read slowly, highlight and take notes on, the engrossing writing demanded I plough through to find out what wisdom Woolf would be delivering next. As far as I'm concerned, this is scripture. Looking forward to a re-read!(less)
Waters has perfectly captured the insanity of the Victorian period in all its 'glory.' Fingersmith is gripping and, as it's meant to be, disturbing. T...moreWaters has perfectly captured the insanity of the Victorian period in all its 'glory.' Fingersmith is gripping and, as it's meant to be, disturbing. The depiction of insane asylums in nineteenth-century England will stick with me for quite some time. (less)
After wading my way through a few duds, I was thrilled to read a true gem. I tried reading this once before. However, I was expecting a linear narrati...moreAfter wading my way through a few duds, I was thrilled to read a true gem. I tried reading this once before. However, I was expecting a linear narrative and was therefore unprepared for this anecdotal novel. After watching the BBC miniseries (which, by the way, was excellent), I had a better idea of what to expect.
Prior to 'Cranford' my only experience with Elizabeth Gaskell was 'North and South.' Although 'North and South' is undoubtedly one of my favorite books, as a novel littered by death it can be a bit heavy. Consequently, I was blown away by how well Gaskell wrote a humorous tale. At certain points, I was unable to stop my laughter. There are several characters who make you smile while simultaneously warming your heart.
While 'Cranford' may, at first glance, seem to be about nothing, Gaskell has done something quite groundbreaking with this novel. As a town where its chief members are middle-class, single women who have little regard for the goings-on outside their insulated community, Cranford is almost matriarchal. And when compared with the world outside, Gaskell clearly suggests it is not Cranford that is to be found wanting. In fact, the way in which she highlights the lives of single women in the Victorian period is quite brilliant. Women who seem to be old-fashioned snobs prove to be strong, compassionate, caring, and self-sufficient. Witnessing the way in which these women cared for each other made me quite emotional.
Overall, 'Cranford' is a delightful place to visit, and I was sad when forced to leave. Having been enchanted by both 'Cranford' and 'North and South', I am eager to further acquaint myself with this amazing author. (First reading: September 2009)
I am thrilled to find Gaskell's novel just as charming the second time around. I will always treasure the time I have spent in Cranford -- and look forward to future visits. I feel confident they will be many. (Second reading: 20 February 2012)(less)
Continuing my Bronte trend, I read Anne's first novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, although I must say I prefer 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall....moreContinuing my Bronte trend, I read Anne's first novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, although I must say I prefer 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.' This novel, which relates the experiences of a Victorian governess, contains a much simpler narrative. Bronte highlights the isolated liminality to which women in this position were exposed - they are socially beneath the family but intellectually superior to the other servants. Agnes is seemingly invisible to many characters in the book, and I appreciated the presence of the one person who appreciated her. For those who would like to read more of the Brontes but are sometimes daunted by length, 'Agnes Grey' (at just under 200 pages) is an excellent place to begin. (less)
This might be the best non-fiction title I've ever read. So much to discuss. So much that spoke to me. I'll definitely be sharing more details on my b...moreThis might be the best non-fiction title I've ever read. So much to discuss. So much that spoke to me. I'll definitely be sharing more details on my blog soon. (less)
Very good as far as literary criticism goes; a key reference for my dissertation. Incidentally, the author was one of my professors at Birmingham. She...moreVery good as far as literary criticism goes; a key reference for my dissertation. Incidentally, the author was one of my professors at Birmingham. She was nice enough but somewhat flighty. Either she constantly forgot things or was a persevering procrsatinator. It sort of gave me a glimmer of hope that I might one day be able to teach in spite of my constant inability to focus on the task at hand. (less)
I feel quite lucky to have unearthed another new favorite. I stayed up until eight in the morning to finish this book, I became so engrossed with the...moreI feel quite lucky to have unearthed another new favorite. I stayed up until eight in the morning to finish this book, I became so engrossed with the storyline. I must also admit to giving way to an excess of tears while reading one particular scene. I know I am truly connecting with a novel when I make comments about it out loud - to myself (embarassing, I know). It was something I found myself doing fairly often as I frantically highlighted line after line of memorable writing.
Anne is, in terms of reader popularity, the least esteemed of the Bronte sisters. After familiarizing myself with one of her two novels, I am also of the opinion that she is unbelievably undervalued. Her prose is often beautifully written, and 'Wildfell Hall' also brings to light several important issues of the time period: the impotence and limitations placed upon women in marriage (both legal and cultural), the abuse unjustifiably imposed upon them, male versus female education, nature versus nurture, experience versus vacarious knowledge, reason versus passion, the role of religion in one's life. It's amazing how much this text contains. Despite the fact that Bronte addressed key Victorian debates, I found many themes to be accessible and applicable to the modern reader. Many academicians have criticized Anne for the format she employs here (the plot is divulged through letters and journal entries). But I, as a general rule, enjoy epistolary narratives, and 'Wildfell Hall' was no exception.
'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' reminded me of the eldest Bronte's eminent novel 'Jane Eyre.' Along with a few similar plot points, both highlight the internal battle waging between sense and sensibility (so prevalent in novels of the 1790s). In both novels, it is, I believe, the woman who exhibits self-control that puts her male counterparts to shame. Like Jane, Helen is a strong-minded, progressive woman. Many critics have labelled her a proto-feminist, and it was easy for me to love her. I enjoyed witnessing the progression of her character as she evolves from a naive girl to an autonomous woman with a firm sense of self. She insists upon the right to speak her mind and does so - even if it damages her in others' eyes. I also admired her ability to uphold and cling to her values in spite of the effort and cost involved. There is a plethora of information for the critical nut to devour; but above all, 'Wildfell Hall' is a romantic tale tracing one woman's struggle to attain what she deserves.
A note on this edition: the editor's notes are superb, providing explanatory, background, and analytical information. I found myself underlining the notes as much as Bronte's writing. However, the critical introduction was, at best, average. Its analysis was generally vague and superficial. I would have liked to see something more in-depth. This was particularly the case regarding Helen (and by extension Anne Bronte) and women's politics, a subject that was merely grazed upon.
Mary Hays is a writer that is often excluded from the canon. Although her writing can be a bit melodramatic and depressing at times, she also fiercely...moreMary Hays is a writer that is often excluded from the canon. Although her writing can be a bit melodramatic and depressing at times, she also fiercely argues for the rights of women while illustrating the many injustices they endure. A friend of both William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, it is not difficult to see the influence of their Romantic/feminist philosophies in Hays's fiction.(less)