Set in a small town in Alabama in the mid-1930s, Mockingbird follows the lives of Jean-Louise Finch, or "Scout", her older brother Jem and their frien...moreSet in a small town in Alabama in the mid-1930s, Mockingbird follows the lives of Jean-Louise Finch, or "Scout", her older brother Jem and their friend Dill over the course of two or three years during which they taunt their never-seen neighbour, Arthur "Boo" Radley, read to the cruel-tongued Mrs. Dubose as she fights off her morphine addiction, and get into fights with schoolmates over their father, Atticus Finch, defending a black man, Tom Robinson, arrested for raping a white woman.
The trial is apparently based on a true story, and I hear there are also similarities between Lee and Scout, but I don't know anything about that. This is one of those books, like Catcher in the Rye, that every student in Canada and America has to read in high school, but which no one else has read. I can see why it's a classic, and high school is the best time to read it. As an adult, and especially one with limited knowledge of US history and a degree in literature, I found To Kill a Mockingbird incredibly heavy-handed and obvious. Very little is left to the reader to figure out on their own. In fact, it was so shoved down my throat that if it hadn't have been written so engagingly, and the trial so fascinating, I would have really struggled to finish it.
"If you had been on that jury, son, and eleven other boys like you, Tom would be a free man," said Atticus. "So far nothing in your life has interfered with your reasoning process. Those are twelve reasonable men in everyday life, Tom's jury, but you saw something come between them and reason. You saw the same thing that night in front of the jail. When that crew went away, they didn't go as reasonable men, they went because we were there. There's something in our world that makes men lose their heads - they couldn't be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it's a white man's word against a black man's, the white man always wins. They're ugly, but those are the facts of life."
"Doesn't make it right," said Jem stolidly. He beat his fist softly on his knee. "You just can't convict a man on evidence like that - you can't."
"You couldn't, but they could and did. The older you grow the more of it you'll see. The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any colour of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you someting and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash."
The unsubtle moralising and preaching, for me, got in the way of an otherwise good story. The characters are so cliched they must be true to their time and place, and the connection between the townsfolk hating Hitler because he judges and persecutes Jews, and then doing exactly the same thing not just to black people but also poor white people too - and each other, in fact - is pretty blatant. Not that it's not true - we can all be pretty hypocritical at times - but my point is that there's no subtlety in this book.
The use of Boo Radley's character in capturing the prejudice-born-of-ignorance of the three young children, stands in for the towns' attitude towards the black population. Every lady is a gossip, every man a rustic. Over it all, little 7, 8 year old Scout's voice documents it all with many shifts in diction. There are times when she slips and, while her vocabulary can be explained by having the father and upbringing that she had, her "gonnas" and "ain'ts" disappear at moments of adult reflection. Her adjectives, her reading of body language and what's going on between adults, speaks of a greater understanding than she shows when she speaks. Ah well, it's no That Eye, The Sky but "it ain't bad neither."
And it's probably done wonders for the American social conscience. Some messages are just too important to let slip between the silky lines of wankerite literature.(less)
Jane is a poor, plain orphan girl living with her aunt Reed and cousins Georgiana, John and Eliza. She has no friends or protectors now that her uncle...moreJane is a poor, plain orphan girl living with her aunt Reed and cousins Georgiana, John and Eliza. She has no friends or protectors now that her uncle is dead, and with her active imagination sees his ghost in the Red Room where she is locked up as punishment. Sent to a girl's school in the country where she is promptly forgotten, she makes her first friend in Helen Burns - who is taken from her when typhus sweeps through the school.
Conditions afterward improve somewhat and she becomes a teacher at the school. Desirous of making her own way, though, she puts out an ad for a governess position and secures one at Thornfield Hall, teaching a little French girl called Adele who is ward to the master of the house, Mr Rochester. Rochester is almost always absent but when he does return home they form an unlikely and, for Jane, a surprising friendship.
Her new happiness increases as she finds herself falling in love with the bad-tempered man, only to have it beaten at when he boldly hints at marrying Miss Blanche Ingram, a very pretty but cold young woman who lives nearby. The truth will out, though, in more ways than one, and at the peak of her happiness, Jane's world will shatter irrevocably. Or perhaps not...
This remains one of my favourite books. I first read it in primary school - and right proud I was too of reading such a grown-up book! - and have found that the Jane and Rochester pairing is as wonderful as Lizzy and Darcy, if not better, 'cause let's face it, Rochester is a lot more intense and Jane is such a familiar, shy girl who just needs the right person to notice and appreciate her.
I can read this in just a couple of days, though I like to savour it. The writing is a bit sickly in the scene where Jane threatens to leave - I have a hard time picturing Rochester like that, behaving like such a little boy! The third section where Jane lives with her new-found relatives is the least interesting (I've never liked St. John). I also don't like how she gives St. John the last word. But none of this takes anything away from the overall power this story continues to have over me.(less)
I loved this movie as a kid, and still do, though I no longer have a copy (it's on my list). When I was little - about 5 or 6 I'd say, going by my lov...moreI loved this movie as a kid, and still do, though I no longer have a copy (it's on my list). When I was little - about 5 or 6 I'd say, going by my lovely handwriting (that stage when you've learnt how to write your name so you write it on everything you can find), my mum gave me a jigsaw puzzle of Watership Down. I still have it, it was the only puzzle (I love them!) I didn't get rid of when I left Melbourne last January. It has 6 stills from the movie, separated by vines and plants and field flowers. My imagination used to run wild with this puzzle, as it was some years before I saw the movie again and, though it all flooded back when I did finally watch it again, the scenes on this puzzle became larger than life for me.
One is of Fiver, looking out over the field at dusk, that he sees as covered with blood. A scary, powerful image, one that has stuck with me ever since.
Several years ago I found a copy of the book at Salamanca, or at a secondhand bookshop, somewhere like that. Has that lovely soft feeling old paperbacks get, the pages discoloured and thin. That lovely book smell.
Watership Down is a stirring book written almost exclusively from the point of view of a small collection of rabbits who, motivated by little Fiver who gets premonitions (or, as Bigwig says in a fit of bad temper, "a funny feeling in my toe"!) that something very bad is going to happen to the warren, set out to find a safe place.
The heros of this tale are Hazel - who becomes the new Chief Rabbit, not because he's big, which he isn't, but because he's level-headed, smart, kind and kept them all together and alive - Fiver, Bigwig - who was in the old warren's Owsla, is big and brave - Dandelion - the fastest rabbit and an excellent storyteller - Blackberry - who is very clever and figures out all sorts of things - and Holly - once the Captain of the Owsla in the old warren. There are other characters in the group, but these ones figure the most prominently.
The group of rabbits traverse a great distance, falling in with an almost empty warren which gets vegetable from the farmer, who sets snares all around - hence the small number of rabbits, and Bigwig's near-death experience. It's an eery place, led mostly by a rabbit called Cowslip - who, in the movie, is drawn and voiced so well, his character comes aross immediately. I really felt like I already knew him, and all the others, when I was reading this book.
After they escape from Cowslip's warren, they reach Watership Down, a high, dry hill where they dig a warren under a tree. Soon Hazel broaches a topic they haven't really considered: they have no does (females) with them. With the help of a gull, Kehaar, who they befriend, they find out that there's a big warren called Efrafa about 3 miles away. They approach the warren, which is overcrowded, and ask to take away with them any does who want to come. Efrafa, ruled by a military dictator called General Woundwort, is an extremely scary place. Their request refused, the "emissaries" are also not allowed to leave. They escape, and despite the almost insurmountable obstacles and difficulties, Hazel, Blackberry and Bigwig hatch a clever plan to rescue as many does as they can.
There are many moments in this story that are quite scary. It's not really a children's book, the language is not that accessible, though that doesn't mean children wouldn't or shouldn't enjoy it if they want to tackle it. The movie is quite scary in places too - and reading this book made me really appreciate and admire the adaptation, which is supurb - and I'm not just saying that because it's one of my favourite movies and I'm very attached to it.
Like Animal Farm (which I haven't read yet), but in a less deliberate way perhaps, Watership Down uses animals - rabbits - in an analogy of our own political and religious ideologies. Cowslip's warren, where their numbers are small and the farmer keeps "elil" (animals that prey on rabbits) away, the rabbits of this warren have lost their cautious edge, will never talk of "where" anything comes from, and have become artists and philosophers and poets - in the most depressing way. In Efrafa, the rabbits are repressed, organised into "marks", guarded by sentries more to stop anyone running away than to protect them from elil, and punished for infractions.
Watership Down becomes a beacon of hope, freedom and peace, though - and this is what saves it from becoming corny or propagandist - there's no particular ideology at all at work there. They simply live as rabbits, clever rabbits to be sure, but do not in turn force their own ideas down other rabbits' throats. (Terry Goodkind could learn a lot from reading Watership Down!!)
This is a great book, though it does make me want to get hold of the movie again! If you haven't seen it, I'd actually recommend watching it before you read the book. The movie is so well written and animated and voiced, the characters in the book are so completely fleshed out, a truly remarkable (I think) achievement for an animated film. Hazel and Fiver and the others, are like childhood friends. I'm happy I finally read the book, and feel like I know them even better now. (less)
I've wanted to read this book for years, but I'm glad I waited till I was at a stage in my life when I might appreciate it the most (though it wasn't...moreI've wanted to read this book for years, but I'm glad I waited till I was at a stage in my life when I might appreciate it the most (though it wasn't deliberate). I didn't know anything about the story before I started except that it's a classic Australian novel, epic in scope, and was made into a mini-series or something starring Rachel Ward years ago. I like not knowing much about books before I read them, though: it leaves you wide-open for the story to be told, and absorbed.
This is indeed an epic book. It spans three generations of the Cleary family, focusing mostly on Meggie. Starting in New Zealand on the day of her fourth birthday, The Thorn Birds follows the large family of Paddy and Fee and their children Frank, Bob, Jack, Hughie, Stuart, Meggie and baby Hal as they sail to Australia at the invitation of Paddy's wealthy land-owning sister Mary, who intends him to inherit the vast estate of Drogheda in northwest NSW. Even by Australian standards, it's a big farm: 250,000 acres, 80 miles across at its widest point, home to over 100,000 merino sheep.
The Clearys, who had been poor farmhands in NZ, fall in love with Drogheda and learn the ways of the land, the climate, the weather, the animals, pretty quickly. The book is divided up into 7 sections titled Meggie 1915-1917; Ralph 1921-1928; Paddy 1929-1932; Luke 1933-1938; Fee 1938-1953; Dane 1954-1965; and Justine 1965-1969. These provide a slight focus, but the only characters who really dominate the story are Meggie, Ralph - the Catholic priest who falls in love with her - and Justine, Meggie's daughter by Luke.
There is definitely tragedy in this book, but I never once found it depressing. It is similar in its structure to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, but completely different, and successful in a way the latter book was not (for me): The Thorn Birds made me care. Each character is so beautifully rendered, as if they were indeed living people whose memories were captured by a light, non-judgemental hand. Every character evoked strong feelings in me, which changed as the characters changed. Luke, for instance, I wanted to throttle and ended up pitying. Meggie, in her naivete, was at times exasperating, yet she learned and I was proud of her for that - then angry, for the way she set Dane above Justine. Sometimes I absolutely hated Ralph and wanted to smack him; at other times I felt so deeply for him and his emotional turmoil.
I can't get over how well written this book is. It is simply told, in an omniscient third-person voice, only sometimes, when needed, delving in deeper into the hearts and minds of the main characters to reveal their thoughts and feelings. The clashing perceptions people have are accurately portrayed, the poor judgements, bad decisions, mistakes - all so life-like, so real. Inferences, connections and insights can be deduced from hints in the story, but McCullough leaves a lot for the reader to realise on their own. And behind it all, like a glorious backdrop, the gorgeous landscape, so vivid and true. History and politics are there also: two world wars, the Depression, the Great Drought that ended when WWII ended, everything from clothing to attitudes to cars, as well as changing Australian slang, attitudes, the quirks - most of it slipping in unobtrusively, at other times pivotal to the plot.
That there is a plot is undeniable: that it is noticeable, I doubt very much. I don't like to predict stories anyway - the only ones I do that to are unavoidable, like Steven Seagal movies - but there was very little in this book that I could have predicted had I tried. Maybe I'm just out of practice, but there was no sense of an author dictating or pushing the characters towards certain goals. A few things I could see coming, like Dane turning out just like his father, but even then it felt completely natural, not as though McCullough was manipulating the story.
It seems funny, reading a book of extreme heat, drought, flies, fire, endless silvery grass while outside it's freezing, snowing, bleak. But I was utterly transported, and the only thing that jarred my pleasure was the strangeness of seeing American spelling and a couple of changed words amidst the Australian slang. Why, for instance, change "nappy" to "diaper" while leaving "mum" for "mom"? (As an aside, in general I really hate it when books from the UK and Australia, for instance, must undergo an Americanisation before being published in North America, whereas when books by US authors are published in Australia it's with the American spelling and all. That just doesn't seem fair! It seems pretty insulting to the Americans I've talked to, actually, but also patronising to us.) I think, though, regardless of whose decision that was, McCullough was writing to an international audience. She never intended this book to stagnate in Australia, as many works do which are "too difficult to understand" in other countries. She doesn't talk about crutching the dags on the sheep without explaining what crutching means and what dags are, or that the big lizards are called goannas and rabbits were introduced to Australia so that it would look a little more like England for the homesick settler - I know all this, but it was still interesting to read about it.
If you're interested in reading about Australia (or just epic stories in general), this is a great book to start with. It's not even out-of-date, things change so slowly! Just picture stockmen flying helicopters around herds of cattle instead of riding, their properties are so humungous. The droughts are still there, the floods, the flies, the fires, the vernacular - though the Catholics have almost disappeared. The religion aspect of the novel is equally fascinating, and handled diplomatically as well. It is a book about ordinary people living ordinary lives, and sometimes deliberately causing themselves pain: hence the reference to the thorn bird, which pierces its breast on a rose thorn as it sings, and dies.(less)
I first read this several years ago, around 2003 I think, while I was living in Japan. I remember really struggling to read the first chapter, which i...moreI first read this several years ago, around 2003 I think, while I was living in Japan. I remember really struggling to read the first chapter, which is the narrator's description and explanation of a character called Robert Cohn. I don't know why I had so much trouble reading it, just that I couldn't follow it, couldn't keep track of it. It wasn't a good way to start. Then, I was hoping right up to the last page for a happy ending. I felt cheated that I didn't get it. Kind of like "why the hell did I read this then?"
This time around (reading it again for a book club - I missed the meeting, incidentally), because I knew what to expect, I could focus on all the other things in the novel, knowing that the narrator, Jake, would still be alone at the end of it. That he wouldn't get to keep Brett. And I had no trouble reading the first chapter. Really, the prose is incredibly easy to read, simplistic even, except for when the descriptions get vague.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Set in 1924, Fiesta is the story of Jake, an American living and working in Paris, who goes to Pamplona in Spain to see the bull fighting with some friends, a mix of American and English ex-pats - one of which is Brett, Lady Ashley, a beautiful and charismatic woman of 34 who's waiting for her divorce to come through so she can marry a bankrupt, Mike Campbell.
Jake and Brett met during the war, when he was recovering from an injury. They fell in love, but his injury was of the groin variety so they can't be physically together - hence, she doesn't want to stay with him even though she loves him. Instead, she has casual relationships and affairs, while Jake has to watch. Sometimes he even introduces them. But there's nothing he can do about it.
The story is heavily detailed with the kind of descriptions that, while apparently perfectly acceptable in classics and other works of literature, can be the cause of some rather heavy criticism in genre fiction. Like so:
"I unpacked my bags and stacked the books on the table beside the head of the bed, put out my shaving things, hung up some clothes in the big armoire, and made up a bundle for the laundry. Then I took a shower in the bathroom and went down to lunch." (p.207)
It would be petty of me to ask, Where else would he take a shower? wouldn't it. Shame.
This book is all prose, very little plot. It's not that it's wordy, rather that it reads like a mouth full of crooked, over-crowded teeth. The dialogue is very 20s-specific, and if I was the kind of reviewer who liked to write snappy, witty, clever little reviews, the first thing I'd do is satirise the dialogue. Like so:
"I feel so rotten!" Brett said. "Don't be a damned fool," Jake said. "The count's a brick." "Let's have a drink." "Here's the pub." "This is a hell of a place," Bill said. "Why don't you see when you're not wanted, Cohn? Go away. Take that sad Jewish face away," said Mike. "I feel like hell. Don't let's talk," said Brett. "It's been damned hard on Mike." "Do you still love me Jake?" asked Brett. "Yes." "Because I'm a goner. I'm in love with the bullfighting boy." "It's been damned hard on Mike." "Where's that beer?" Mike asked.
And so on. A lot of repetition, a lot of drunken mouthing off, a lot of really very pointless, empty conversation that goes round and round in circles. The problem is, of course, that the characters are all horrible, shallow, self-interested, boorish, ill-mannered, childish tourists, the kind that make you cringe. Jake is probably the only character you can feel any real sympathy for, but even he has his moments.
As the first-person narrator, it's amazing how little we know Jake's thoughts. He hides behind recounting pointless dialogue and describing mundane things. There are times when he gets thoughtful, wistful even, and those parts are what make the novel worthwhile. It's also very easy to feel like you're in Paris, and Spain. The heavily descriptive prose does help create a realistic, breathing setting. Especially when they reach Pamplona, to watch the bull-fighting. It just also happens to be the place where their behaviour becomes even more embarrassing.
I'm not sure if Hemingway was criticising his fellow ex-pats or not - but I think he is. Maybe he was just describing it how it was - and it is believable. Jake isn't a judgemental character, but I wonder how much of that is Jake and how much Hemingway? This edition doesn't come with any additional notes or introductions or appendices, so I haven't read anything about the novel that might shed light on this. As a chronicle of ex-pat life, especially among those who have money, in the 20s, and of bull-fighting, it's a success. But it's still two-dimensional.
As for the bull-fighting, it's one of the more interesting sections, especially towards the end where there's an involved recounting of three bull-fighters at work. We now know that bull's are red-green colour-blind; it's the movement of the cape that enrages them, not the colour. So I wonder what was wrong with the bull Jake assumed was colour-blind?
As simplistic as I've made this novel sound, there is quite a lot going on in the details, things that make it both interesting and deplorable. The bull fighting, for instance, is both a commemoration and a presentation of a highly controversial topic. There's certainly a parallel between the beauty and brutality of the bull-fighting, and the way these ex-pats treat each other. They are at once unlikeable, and likeable. It just goes to show how confounding humans can be, and how contradictory.(less)
Set in the early decades of the 19th century, mostly in Regency London, Thackeray tells the "history" of a cast of characters whose lives, interests,...moreSet in the early decades of the 19th century, mostly in Regency London, Thackeray tells the "history" of a cast of characters whose lives, interests, ambitions and pleasures intertwine, along with a staggering supporting cast of real and imagined people of all description and class. Through the friendship of the stockbroker's daughter Amelia Sedley and the drawing master's (and opera dancer's) daughter Rebecca Sharp, who went to school together, we meet Amelia's family of parents and portly brother Jos; her betrothed, George Osborne as well as his father and two sisters; and his best friend Captain William Dobbin, who falls in love with her at first meeting. When Rebecca leaves the Sedley family after a visit during which she tries to snare Jos, we meet the family she is to act as governess for: Sir Pitt and his Lady Crawley, their two sons and two daughters; rich, fat Miss Crawley who is to leave all her money to the second son, Rawdon; Sir Pitt's brother Bute and Mrs. Bute at the Rectory; and so on. The Sedleys, Osbornes and Crawleys are the main families in this novel, around which all else revolves.
Beginning in the year or so before the Battle of Waterloo outside Brussels, we follow the machinations and manipulations of the clever, indomitable Becky Sharp, and the pain and suffering of sweet, naive Amelia, whose family is ruined and cast into poverty and who would never have married George if gentle, good-hearted Dobbin hadn't brought it about. From London we travel to Brussels - by this time Becky has married Captain Rawdon, which secretive act has lost Rawdon his aunt's inheritance, but she is still stringing along all manner of men, including Amelia's cocky husband. During the battle, George Osborne is killed, and the stage is set for a dramatic saga on all sides, interspersed with Thackeray's opinions, insights, philosophising, cheeky asides and liberal-minded essays on class, women, men, wealth, and so on. If you've ever seen the BBC series or watched the more recent movie, you'll be familiar with the story, but not with Thackeray's - ahem - thoughts.
Thackeray's theory of characterization proceeds generally on the assumption that the acts of men and women are directed not by principle, but by instincts, selfish or amiable--that toleration of human weakness is possible only by lowering the standard of human capacity and obligation--and that the preliminary condition of an accurate knowledge of human character is distrust of ideals and repudiation of patterns. This view is narrow, and by no means covers all the facts of history and human life, but what relative truth it has is splendidly illustrated in Vanity Fair. There is not a person in the book who excites the reader's respect, and not one who fails to excite his interest. The morbid quickness of the author's perceptions of the selfish element, even in his few amiable characters, is a constant source of surprise. The novel not only has no hero, but implies the non-existence of heroism.
I totally agree with this, and there isn't much more I feel able to add. Throughout the novel, I struggled to find a character whom I could identify with, or respect, or even like. Perhaps only Dobbin could be said to be heroic, but he has his short-comings too, as Thackeray has no problem in showing (and telling) us. But this novel isn't about liking people, it's more about understanding human nature. It's a remarkable study of character, personality and society, and could easily be describing today. Thackeray (his voice is strong and constant throughout the book - he even, towards the end, intrudes in person) has very "modern" insights into the lower classes, the socially constructed (as opposed to natural) differences between classes, and how and why women are their own enemies. There are some great lines, some telling paragraphs, and more than a few times, a hint of reproach:
Rebecca's appearance struck Amelia with terror, and made her shrink back. It recalled her to the world, and the remembrance of yesterday. In the overpowering fears about tomorrow she had forgotten Rebecca - jealousy - everything except that her husband was gone and was in danger. Until this dauntless worldling came in and broke the spell, and lifted the latch, we too have foreborne to enter that sad chamber. How long had that poor girl been on her knees! what hours of speechless prayer and bitter prostration had she passed there! The war-chroniclers who write brilliant stories of fight and triumph scarcely tell us of these. These are too mean parts of the pageant: and you don't hear widow's cries or mother's sobs in the midst of the shouts and jubilation in the great Chorus of Victory. And yet when was the time, that such have not cried out: heart-broken humble protestants, unheard in the uproar of the triumph! (pp364-365)
Thackeray concerns himself greatly with women, individuals and in general, in Vanity Fair, presenting an insightful study and a very compassionate understanding of their trials and tribulations, showing his readers what is not included in the histories. While it's surely appreciated, he does neither gender any favours. It's curious, that he would strive to expose the strictures at the same time as the manipulations, just as he lends a page here and there to the conditions of servants even while describing them in less than a flattering light, right down to thieving. Is he looking for balance? Open-mindedness? To show off his genius in understanding all manner of people?
I just want to take a moment to say, since there is no "most virtuous" character, who do I consider to be the most reprehensible? That one's easy: George Osborne's father, Mr Osborne, who refused to let his eldest daughter marry because he wanted her to housekeep for him and didn't feel like letting her marry; and for being such a bastard when Mr Sedley became bankrupt; and for the things he encouraged in Amelia's son, and more besides. Yeah, he took the cake alright.
Rich and heavy in detail, this is not a book you can skim. It is a painfully slow read, but not because the prose is particularly cumbersome or stiff - it is the excruciating detail, detail you can't help but think is often irrelevant. The story itself, though it covers about 15 years, could have easily been condensed into a much slimmer book, especially if you took out all Thackeray's tangents and descriptions. But without these details, these exhausting descriptions, the novel would be barren, insipid, unrevealing, without an omniscient voice even, and we would not understand the characters who drive this story, this history of their ups-and-downs (and there are more "downs" than "ups"), nor the historical setting in which it takes place. If you're looking to research the period, this could very well be your first stop. Having read so much Georgette Heyer, I'm pretty sure she must have read this many times, along with Austen etc. All those Heyer books also helped me understand a great many expressions and words, though "plucked" is a new one, and I'm now confused as to the difference between being "plucked" and "rusticated". I wish there was a dictionary of words used in the classics which have slipped into obscurity - no one was ever able to explain to me what "marry" meant in Shakespeare, for example.
When you finally reach the end of this hefty book, you are left with a bad taste in your mouth, and have to remind yourself that this is just one man's version of the world, of people, and that you do know plenty of good, generous, deserving people. There are only so many Becky Sharps in the world, so many Mr Osbornes, though we've all known one or two; but there is a good lesson to be reminded of from this book: don't judge a person too quickly, or as you would not wish to be judged; and, nothing is simple, or black-and-white, least of all a human being. Well, there are a few politicians I could think of ...(less)