This was absolutely fascinating. I've always found the writing process and the ways in which different people go about it to be fascinating (though, IThis was absolutely fascinating. I've always found the writing process and the ways in which different people go about it to be fascinating (though, I will admit there are only a few that I'm really interested in, Christie, Blyton, Austen and Tolkien, who ruins my alphabetical sequence). This covers so many of her works, showing different versions in some cases, and all the permutations that led to the eventual published version. And the two unpublished Poirot short stories were fascinating as well....more
This is the best biography of Austen that I've read, to date. All the facts are presented clearly, with the usual amount of speculation and guesswork,This is the best biography of Austen that I've read, to date. All the facts are presented clearly, with the usual amount of speculation and guesswork, given that we know so very little. This was fascinating, depressing and inspiring all at once. I found that the majority of the speculation was based in reality and, most importantly, it was based on research of the period in question. The way things were done during the Georgian and Regency periods contrast rather sharply with the following Victorian era, particularly in the area of 'refinement'. Austen comes alive in this book, as does most of the family. More time is discussing the information that we do have, than lamenting the lost letters,etc.
I thoroughly recommend this to anyone interested in Austen or her work....more
There is so much in this fantastic book that not only would never have occurred to me, but is completely outside of my ability to conclude for myself.There is so much in this fantastic book that not only would never have occurred to me, but is completely outside of my ability to conclude for myself. I have not read the vast majority of Austen's contemporaries and predecessors. I've read some Scott, some poetry, but mostly non-fiction. I've never looked at a conduct-book in my life. Mary Waldron, however, has done exactly that. And as a result she is able to place Austen and her fiction in relation to Austen's reading material in a way that opens up enormous avenues of interpretation that had never even crossed my mind. This is one of those Austen books that all lovers of her fiction should read....more
I cannot understand people who think that Jane Austen had no idea what she was doing. Her plotting is almost perfect and there is always something newI cannot understand people who think that Jane Austen had no idea what she was doing. Her plotting is almost perfect and there is always something new to notice, a new connection to be made, a new detail to appreciate. This book is full of them and is highly recommend to anyone who enjoys (re)reading Austen. I feel as if I want to read this alongside the novels, to get the greatest benefit from the insights offered....more
An excellent look at some of Jane Austen's genius. There are points I very definitely agree on (Mr Woodhouse is insidious and dangerous (for Emma, atAn excellent look at some of Jane Austen's genius. There are points I very definitely agree on (Mr Woodhouse is insidious and dangerous (for Emma, at least), rather than harmless), but others that I'm less inclined to agree with his opinion of (I think Sense and Sensibility is supposed to show that everyone unites most characteristics to some degree and thinking of people in black and white, rather than nuanced grey, is the problem that needs to be overcome). I adored the ways in which he contrasted and compared Emma and Mansfield Park - more similar than different, and in my opinion her two best works. Of course, I find Emma too painful to read and love Mansfield. His description of Sense and Sensibility's second chapter as one of the finest passages in all literature ever, is undeniably correct. I found his analysis of Pride and Prejudice interesting, and it actually revived my opinion of the book (which, to be frank, is my second least favourite). I wish he'd taken the time to deal with Persuasion (I have some ideas about the 'large, fat sighings' myself that are not quite in line with his, but it's hard to tell because he didn't really talk about this one). I didn't miss the neglect of Northanger Abbey, because I like it least of all. All in all, an excellent book....more
This is a fantastic book. I love Tolkien, particularly LotR, and everything I read just makes it clearer and clearer that a truly amazing piece of litThis is a fantastic book. I love Tolkien, particularly LotR, and everything I read just makes it clearer and clearer that a truly amazing piece of literature was created. I could go on about it, but I'm not going to. I enjoy books about his work, almost as much as I enjoy his actual work. I like it because it makes me think about the meanings and nuances that abound and causes me to read it more deeply every time that I do read it (and I read it a lot).
This particular book is about Gandalf's purpose in LotR, about Tolkien's Christianity and the effect that had on LotR (as well as his other writings) and about war. I've always found it interesting that Tolkien considered his work to be fundamentally Catholic. I knew it was Christian, for the simple reason that I know Tolkien was Catholic and I've read the Silmarillion. However, I've never found there to be much in the way of Christian imagery in LotR, despite all the talk about Christ-like figures and so on. This book, however, makes it much clearer to me. I can see why the book is not Christian, as well as what it is about it that made Tolkien consider it to be fundamentally Catholic. The idea that it's a Christian telling of a pre-Christian era is not new to me, but makes far more sense now that I've read this. The themes of salvation and hope that pervade the book are far clearer and far more meaningful now.
Gandalf, and the other maiar present (pretty much Saruman and Sauron, despite Radagast's brief appearance) have always interested me. Sauron was a servant of Morgoth's from quite early on. Saruman, however, fell from being an agent of the angelic Valar to a servant of Sauron's and hence Morgoth's (and hence evil). Gandalf, however, does not actively fight them. This is not to say that he's passive, Gandalf is extremely active. However, both he and Saruman have had their powers curtailed by the Valar when they were sent to Middle Earth to aid the Children of Iluvatar, which is why they do not appear to have as much power as Sauron. Perhaps together they could have vanquished him (especially if the other 3 istari had helped). But Gandalf would never have agreed to do that. Gandalf is not there to fight, he's there to help. He's not there to be a great general and lead the armies of the world, whatever Saruman may have decided to do. Gandalf is there to help the humans and elves to make the right choices - to fight the far more important moral battles. And he does it extremely well. I had never noticed that Gandalf does not appear to actually fight any of the military battles, though he's clearly capable of it and, as Dickerson points out, fights the spiritual battles made manifest in the forms of the balrog and the nazgul. I will never look at Gandalf quite the same way again.
The third theme of the book is the matter of war. Dickerson does not consider the book to be about the military battles, though they make up a large part of the narrative. There's been a lot of debate over whether or not Tolkien glorifies war and it's clear to me that he doesn't. How anyone could read the passage after Faramir and his rangers ambush the Easterlings, where the identity of the 'enemy' is concerned, and consider that Tolkien glorifies war is beyond me. How anyone can read Gandalf's reaction to Frodo calling Gollum 'just an enemy', and believe that Tolkien glorifies war is beyond me. And yet, Dickerson convincingly makes the case that this book is about war. Specifically it's about the war between good and evil, hope and despair, the Christian heaven and hell. Because consistently throughout the book it is the moral battles that are emphasised. It is the decision of characters to make the right choices, rather than the easy or obvious choices, that is the underlying framework of the book.
LotR's about objective morality in a way that I've never noticed before and I can't wait to read it again with this perspective....more
This is a great book. Of course there are things I disagree about, there always are. But the vast majority of the book is insightful and raised ideasThis is a great book. Of course there are things I disagree about, there always are. But the vast majority of the book is insightful and raised ideas I'd never thought about. I'd recommend this to anyone who wonders what's so great about Austen, as well as anyone who loves her....more
This is an amazing book. I've never really read much about the First World War. Anyone who's so much as glanced at my non-fiction shelves or GoodReadsThis is an amazing book. I've never really read much about the First World War. Anyone who's so much as glanced at my non-fiction shelves or GoodReads stats will note a decided preponderance of works relating to the Second World War, but nothing on the First. Everything I know about the First World War is due to Sue Harsant, who taught me history in high school (and I shall never forget her complaining after an exam/test/assignment that we should not simply say Ferdinand, because she might think we were referring to Ferdinand the Bull who went traipsing through the daisies. Her very dry sense of humour delighted myself and Tiina Napoleon at the time).
Anyway, the point of that long aside was that this is the first work I've ever read about the First World War and so was my first glimpse into the horrors of trench warfare. I had an intellectual understanding that it was a horrific thing, but I didn't understand. I still don't, thankfully, but now I have a greater idea of what about it was so horrific. Of what it was like to be there, what happened to people on the ground. On the one hand it makes me glad for the 'advances' of mechanised warfare. At the same time, those same supposed advances terrify me. No longer does individual kill individual, now machine destroys machine and life from afar. I know they had machine guns and bombs and so on, but on the whole they could at least see who they were killing. The horror of war, and the facts of war - the facts being that you are killing individuals that are really no different from yourself - were up close and personal. They no longer are.
At the same time as this works as a general introduction (for me) to the First World War (because you can be sure I'm going to be looking for more on the subject now), it also works really well as a biographical work on Tolkien. Specifically with regard to the effect that his experiences in the war and in the Battle of the Somme particularly must have had on his writing. You cannot go through an experience of that sort without undergoing profound changes. There's a fair amount of speculation on the author's part because Tolkien was extremely reticent regarding those experiences. That speculation is backed up by fairly solid reasoning (in my completely uncritical opinion) and while I'm of the opinion that you can never know exactly how things influenced the creative process, you can work out a fair amount, especially when it's something as significant as this.
If you're interested in either the First World War or Tolkien, I'd recommend this....more
This is a must for anyone who is interested in the way in which Tolkien wrote LotR, as well as anyone interested in extraneous information. The two auThis is a must for anyone who is interested in the way in which Tolkien wrote LotR, as well as anyone interested in extraneous information. The two authors are two of the best Tolkien scholars, I gather, so it's a very informative read. It's a hefty tome in and of itself, so trying to manage it and my enormous copy of LotR together is a bit difficult (I've never tried it with Panda in the house, I suspect it would be a complete failure). It's a fascinating read. Information varies from explanations of the text to suppositions of inspiration and influence to discussions on Tolkien's writing process. Probably not a book that everyone needs to own (though I keep seeing it at every book sale, so theoretically everyone could own it) but it's one I'm very pleased to have on my shelf....more
Absolutely fascinating. There was a large amount which I knew already (not the least due to many other works referencing this one), but so much that IAbsolutely fascinating. There was a large amount which I knew already (not the least due to many other works referencing this one), but so much that I never realised I did not understand (Kitty's ten year review, for a start). Highly recommended to all Janeites....more
For the first time in my life I have a desire to read the Bronte novels. I've read Jane Eyre, and it was okay. I started Wuthering Heights and got noFor the first time in my life I have a desire to read the Bronte novels. I've read Jane Eyre, and it was okay. I started Wuthering Heights and got no further than the first chapter. I've been intending to read them because my grandmother gave me the extremely precious leatherbound set that belonged to her father (which includes Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte). It has always been more of a duty, something that I must do as someone who enjoys reading and classics, rather than something I actively wanted to do. Thanks to this biography I now wish to read those books. I would have loved to have known these women - I think I would have responded more easily to Emily and Anne than Charlotte, as my ability to conform to socially accepted norms is lacking.
I suspect that part of my antipathy towards the Bronte's comes from my love of Austen. Particularly, one presumes, from Charlotte's comment that Austen could have known no passion. In the case of Austen, knowing about her and her life has increased my enjoyment of the novels immensely. I think that my newfound understanding of the lives of the Bronte women will enhance my understanding of their work, if not my enjoyment of it. This is the highest commendation that I can give to the biography of an author....more
This book was very interesting. I picked it up at the Hout Bay Library sale for the excessive amount of R5 (it was the most expensive book I bought thThis book was very interesting. I picked it up at the Hout Bay Library sale for the excessive amount of R5 (it was the most expensive book I bought that day, that sale was incredible!). I'm not really sure what I expected, but this was fascinating.
Essentially it looks at a bunch of Shakespeare's plays (not all of them) and talks about the language that he used, what it meant and what patterns there are. There's a lot of talk about the frequency of words in certain plays and how what he touches on in one play is developed fully in another. It was very interesting to read about the concepts that seem to underline particular plays and the ways that Shakespeare used language in order to get the ideas across in various ways.
If you have any interest in the way people use language, you should read this book....more
This book was originally meant to be part of Dad's birthday present. Then I read it. I like to give Dad books because he enjoys reading. In my opinionThis book was originally meant to be part of Dad's birthday present. Then I read it. I like to give Dad books because he enjoys reading. In my opinion he suffers from the same malady of most of the rest of the population - he reads too slowly (I've heard it argued I read too fast, but I'm not buying it). What this means is that I like to give him books that he'll enjoy but that he wouldn't necessarily have thought to buy himself.
This, however, is a book he'd have bought himself. Like many of the other books I (and he) enjoy, this is a fairly standard murder mystery. Well, it's not a terribly standard murder mystery at all, given that generally when dealing with skeletons that were murdered 25 years ago the lead character is a forensic or physical anthropologist not a lawyer. Anyway, the point is that it's a fairly standard form of mystery writing and so not what I want to give him for his birthday (though I do think he should consider adding Linda Fairstein to his collection).
The protagonist is Alexandra Cooper, who is a lawyer for the New York District Attorney (or the Manhattan one, if they're separated like that). She works with Mercer, who seems to be an African American cop who moved from homicide to dealing with rape or vice or the special victims unit (this is number seven in the series, okay, the details are a little fuzzy) because he's good at giving victims (and surviving relatives for that matter) compassion and comfort. Her other sidekick is Mike, who is a homicide detective. They wander about New York (City, mostly, as far as I can tell) solving crimes and saving the world, or something ... I'm trying very hard not to give out more about the plot than I can help but if you like murder mysteries and Poe (who's generally credited with inventing the first detective for Murders in the Rue Morgue) then you should read this book....more
I love Godden's novels and remember the enjoyment I had from her children's stories as a child. Sadly I've not yet been able to locate any of her chilI love Godden's novels and remember the enjoyment I had from her children's stories as a child. Sadly I've not yet been able to locate any of her children's books except the Mousewife, but I am still in hopes of doing so. I knew nothing about Godden except that she'd grown up in India and wrote wonderful stories. I found this fascinating and informative. There's just something about knowing about the mind behind the stories that I enjoy. For some reason it makes me enjoy the work even more....more