I'm conflicted on this. I loved Penman's previous novels: The sunne in splendour is one of my all-time favourite books, I was so moved by the Welsh str...moreI'm conflicted on this. I loved Penman's previous novels: The sunne in splendour is one of my all-time favourite books, I was so moved by the Welsh struggle in the Welsh trilogy (though I had some problems with Falls the shadow), and I love the Henry & Eleanor trilogy as well. But this is just so boring I want to give up - and I'm sorry because Penman deserves at least that I finish it. I coulnd't stand Richard in the previous novels so I knew this read wasn't going to be a walk in the park at first, but I hoped that I could warm up to him on the long run. I read 300 pages and I hate him, I couldn't care less about his fate, or Berengaria's, or about the Crusade. All the detail about who's who and what they're eating and about trebuchets and the bickering with the King of France... I'm bored out of my wits. I think I'll just have to wait for when Penman writes about something else, because I like her work too much to let Richard taint my opinion of her.(less)
A few days ago, while I was finishing my reread of Mansfield Park and loving it more than I thought I would, I stumbled, here on GR, on a rather heter...moreA few days ago, while I was finishing my reread of Mansfield Park and loving it more than I thought I would, I stumbled, here on GR, on a rather heterosexist (and when I say rather, I mean very) review of Pride and Prejudice that said that women appreciate it because they fall in love with Darcy. I never loved Mr. Darcy, not really. I like him and all, and I can see the appeal of the likes of Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen, but what I always loved were Elizabeth, Kitty's ill timed coughs and Mr Collins's Lady Catherines and probably more than anything else I love the talk of money and of the society rules that influence the thoughts and actions of the characters.
It was refreshing to read a book by a man, who writes a sort of long thank you note to Jane Austen, a memoir in which he explains what he learned from her six novels. For the most part Deresiewicz hardly mentions love at all, and focuses on other aspects of Austen that I think are usually overlooked by people who haven't read her books closely, or at all. The importance of friendship, of knowing one's true self, of community (I loved the chapter on Persuasion, about how Anne creates a family of her own with the friends from the navy and distances herself from her poisonous relatives). The chapter about Sense and Sensibility is the one in which he explores Austen's idea of love, and as I was reading it I thought that people consider her a writer of romance and think that's sort of embarrassing, but then in life almost everybody thinks love and companionship are one the most important things: just, for God's sake, let me not read it in a novel by a woman who writes happy endings. Deresiewicz argues that Austen is so good at writing love stories, and her heroines are successful in marriage (while there are many examples of unhappy ones, like the Bennets') because, instead of falling in love, they grow into it. Anne Elliot at nineteen wasn't mature enough to stand her ground with her family and friend; Marianne Dashwood was convinced that only someone who mirrored her perfectly could make her happy; Elizabeth Bennet thought herself a great judge of character. Her world is not a fantasy world, it's a sometimes very cruel one.
This is a funny and at times moving book, about the power of literature to influence our worldview and our daily life, about how there's more than meets the eye, in people and in books, and it's a love story between the author and "the most perfect artist among women". (less)
I didn't love it, nor did I find it particularly illuminating. She doesn't really say anything new about it: it's interesting as much as it's her own l...moreI didn't love it, nor did I find it particularly illuminating. She doesn't really say anything new about it: it's interesting as much as it's her own life and experience, and it's written by someone who can indeed write, but it is, at the end of the day, about how she suffered a terrible loss, went through a very hard year, and then got better. Don't we all? The thing that struck me the most when I lost someone was that, trivial as it is, life does go on. Everyone is special and everyone is kinda the same. You let go a little bit, and it's more bearable. Maybe it's just that I dont' have the right sensibility to appreciate this sort of thing.(less)
The very short Sanctuary was published in 1903 and, as I thought about it, it struck me how Wharton's oeuvre is of such quality that you can pick anyt...moreThe very short Sanctuary was published in 1903 and, as I thought about it, it struck me how Wharton's oeuvre is of such quality that you can pick anything, from anytime, and you'll still find yourself with something worth reading. Even if it's far from such peaks as The age of innocence o The house of mirth, it will always be an insightful glance at a charachter's inner life and moral struggles. She's probably the only one that could have had a remote hope of replacing Jane Austen as first goddess in my personal Pantheon (maybe if I'd found her earlier...).(less)