Posted in The Classic Club

The Classic Club Spin #19 – The Result!

The Classics Club has decided to spin its wheel for the 19th time, the 3rd for Cleopatra Loves books and so I hesitantly checked out the result. Not because I have any books on the list I created that I’m really dreading but I have included some heftier books and it must be read, and reviewed by 31 January 2019.

The result came through and it is number 1 which for me means that I am to read Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote.

I’m going to do a little Q&A about the book so first things first and most importantly:

How many pages long is Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

Well I’ve done well since this was supposed to be a chunkster… Breakfast at Tiffany’s is only 160 pages long and technically a novella – whoops! 

Why did you choose to add this book to your The Classics Club list of 50 books?

Last year I finally got around to reading what is supposed to be the book that led the way in true crime writing; In Cold Blood and so I was already motivated to read something else by this author and let’s face it, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is iconic! 

Do you own a copy of the book?

Ah, that seems to be a no! I will do very soon though! 

What other books by this author have you read?

Just the one In Cold Blood which I suspect is an entirely different kind of read.

What is Breakfast at Tiffany’s  about?

Holly Golightly. Oh you want more? Well it’s about Holly Golightly who is a young woman who spends her days/nights being entertained by the wealthier inhabitants of  Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  She is hoping one of these men will marry her.

We hear her story through an unknown narrator who through the course of the book she reveals what is underneath her outspoken views that she’s not afraid to share and we learn more about  the girl, and her lifestyle.

When was Breakfast at Tiffany’s  first published?

It was first published in 1958 making it one of my newer classic reads for The Classics Club but before In True Blood which wasn’t published until 1966.

Tell me a bit about Truman Capote?

Truman Capote was an American novelist, short story writer, screenwriter playwright, and actor. He was born in 1924, had divorced parents and apparently decided he was a writer at the tender age of 8. He is also probably the only one of my Classic Club authors who elongated his fame by appearing on television shows.

Truman Capote by Jack Mitchell

What did you get fellow Classic Club Spinners?

Looking forward to everyone’s views on whether I should be celebrating my success or perhaps this book missed the mark where you’re concerned?

Posted in The Classic Club

Classic Club Spin #19


The Classics Club is holding its 19th Spin.

The idea is to list 20 of the books on your Classics Club list before 27 November 2018 when the wheel will turn and reveal the winning number. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 31 January 2019.

With that extra reading time the organisers strongly suggest we put all our chunksters on this list but since I didn’t fill my list with fat books to begin with I don’t think I have twenty to add here..

So here we go, this is my list!

1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
2. The Hireling by L.P. Hartley
3. Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
5. A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor

6. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
7. The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard
8. Barsetshire Chronicles (The Warden) by Anthony Trollope
9. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
10. The Lark by E Nesbit

11. East Lynne by Henry James
12. The Dubliners – James Joyce
13. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
14. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
15. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

16. Chocky by John Wyndham
17. The Gowk Storm by Nancy Brysson Morrison
18. Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude
19. Saplings by Noel Streatfeild
20. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolfe

I still have a sufficient mix on the outstanding reads to mean that these spins don’t hold too much terror.

What book do you recommend from this latest list?

Tune in next week to see what the result was.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018, The Classic Club

The Shuttle – Frances Hodgeson Burnett

Classic
3*s

The Classic Club Spin number 18 picked The Shuttle by Frances Hodgeson Burnett for me which was one of my choices of children’s authors who had written books for adults too. Once it was picked I then decided to investigate a little more – you can read my full post here.

So I was a little concerned about the length of the book and with good reason given that I only finished the last page shortly before leaving for work this morning! But I was very impressed to find out that the garden at Great Maytham Hall near Rolvenden, Kent, as inspiration for the setting of this book, and The Secret Garden – more of that later.

Great Maytham Hall Garden by Stephen Nunnery

So what did I think of the book. Well although it was long at well over 500 pages most of the time the story flowed along although I have to confess there were times when the lengthy descriptions so common at this time wore me down but there were plenty of surprises, maybe not so much plot wise but I found the attitudes given the time that this was written in 1907 far more forward thinking than I expected.

The story opens in New York with Sir Nigel Anstruthers meeting the young and fairly insubstantial, in build and character, Rosalie Vanderpoel. Rosalie is an heiress of magnitude and Nigel Anstruthers was seeking just such a young woman to marry with the aim of using her wealth for the upkeep of Stornham Court. Nigel meets the parents, the younger sister Bettina and the couple soon tie the knot. As Sir and Lady Anstruthers they set sail for the UK and then by train to Kent where Stornham Court is far more dilapidated than Rosalie expected. But since by that time her husband has failed to keep his brutish nature under wraps she is already on edge. Meeting the dowager does nothing to improve her feelings and it soon becomes apparent that she is trapped.

Many years later her younger sister Betty comes to find her. In the intervening years the house has fallen into even more severe disrepair as all the money has been spent on Sir Anstruther’s own entertainment. Rosalie is in just as bad shape, having also fallen into disrepair, her one surviving son who has a deformity being the only meaning in her life. Betty is shocked but a strong-willed and ‘business-like’ young woman who takes the house and her sister in hand.

With echoes of what would become the healing nature of plants and flowers in the Secret Garden within this book as one of Betty’s first actions is to hire a Head Gardener to oversee the many younger men to bring the garden to life. There are walks round the garden, descriptions of various flowers and a sense that this beauty breathes life into her sister’s soul.

There is also the inevitable romance playing out alongside the younger sister’s careful plan to extricate her sister from her awful marriage. This is a very modern woman who while approaching life somewhat differently given the slightly less rigid American lifestyle to that expected in an English village must surely have spoken to the Edwardian women who read this book at the time of publication. That along with a cautionary tale to those in America not to be taken in by a title alone. There is much said about what constitutes a married woman’s property what separating would mean for a woman not only in terms of her standing in society but that she would lose custody of her child. I couldn’t help but wonder what those women who were living under just such a regime took from this story.

There are dramatic scenes before the climax of the book which definitely allude to the particular power a man has over a woman, even a strong and clever woman, which while not in any way explicit was quite unexpected.

So in conclusion this was a good choice as one of  my Classic Club reads as there was much to enjoy within these pages that include travelling salesmen, hop pickers and magic wands aplenty in the form of a seemingly inexhaustible supply of money. I did mark it down by one star because it was a little bit of a slog in places but in all honestly I don’t think I’ll forget the many and varied characters I met during this read.

The Shuttle is number 46 on The Classics Club list and the seventh of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed.

First Published UK: 1907
Publisher: Persephone Books
No of Pages: 536
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Uncategorized

Classic Club Spin #18

The Classics Club is holding its 18th Spin.

The idea is to list 20 of the books on your Classics Club list before 1 August 2018 when the wheel will turn and reveal the winning number. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 31 August 2018.

The rules suggest we pick five books to challenge ourselves but to be honest my main problem is time so I’m hoping for a relatively quick read. The club recommends the following categories.

5 books you are dreading/hesitant to read
5 books you can’t WAIT to read
5 books you are neutral about
5 books which are free choice

I only made my list at the end of January and I wasn’t silly enough to add books I really didn’t think I’d enjoy but I do have some books that I’m more ambivalent about reading for various reasons.

1. Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolfe
2. Chocky – John Wyndham
3. The Dubliners – James Joyce
4. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
5.The Quiet American – Graham Greene

 

A mixed bag of books here Virginia Woolfe made the list as I have just read a nonfiction book about her and her servants, and Chocky is the one and only sci-fi addition to my list but the others have just ended up on this list on a whim.

But I am longing to read the next five so hopefully and none of them have made it off the list yet.

6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
7. The Hireling – L.P. Hartley
8. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Murial Spark
9. The Shuttle -Frances Hodgeston Burnett
10. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson


 

A mixed bag for the next set with nothing to tie them together…

 

11. Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan
12. The Wheel Spins – Ethel Lina White
13. Sunset Song – Lewis Grassic Gibbon
14. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
15. A Wreath of Roses – Elizabeth Taylor

 

And a final list with a couple of adult stories written by authors who were better known for their books for children.

 

 

16. Miss Pettigrow Lives for a Day- Winifred Watson
17. The Greengage Summer – Rumer Godden
18. Saplings – Noel Streatfeild
19. The Long View – Elizabeth Jane Howard
20. Mary Barton – Elizabeth Gaskell

 

So that’s my twenty and as I compiled the list for this post and yet again I’m hoping for The Hireling most of all but The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day aren’t far behind.

Which would you pick?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018, The Classic Club

Lady Audley’s Secret – Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Classic
4*s

I added Lady Audlley’s Secret to my TBR back in 2015 after hearing that it contained echoes of the real crime committed by Constance Kent, a case picked up and written about in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale along with the knowledge that the author set the book at Ingatestone Hall in Essex following a visit there. Back in 1860s my ancestors lived in Ingatestone, not at the Hall I hasten to add, although one or two of them may well have scrubbed the scullery in their time, but this of course meant it was a sure fire in to be added to as part of my Classics Club challenge.

The Gatehouse of Ingatestone Hall

Although I wasn’t at all disappointed that it won The Classics Club Spin #17 I was a tad concerned that a Victorian sensation novel might feel a bit dated given my contemporary tastes of recent years. I needn’t have worried, reading this book confirmed that a story told well, makes for great entertainment no matter when it was written. The language was straightforward and easy to read although it did feel longer than many contemporary novels that is probably because it was originally written in instalments for her lover’s magazine in 1861 and even when it was published in 1862, it was split into three parts.

The book starts by taking us to the courtship of the beautiful and childlike blonde Lucy Graham by the somewhat older widower Sir Michael Audley who falls deeply in love with her and hopes she feels the same. She wisely promises nothing but agrees to become his wife which is a major step-up in society since she is currently the governess for a local doctor.

She had been the chief attraction of the race-course, and was wearied out by the exertion of fascinating half the county.

For you see Miss Lucy Graham was blessed with that magic power of fascination by which a woman can charm with a word or intoxicate with a smile.

Soon afterwards we meet up with Sir Audley’s nephew Richard who is meeting his friend George Talboys, who has returned from Australia having made his fortune in the gold rush. Despite his absence of three years he is keen to see his young wife who he left with a mere note following a bit of a row. George and Heleen Talboys had a baby but he doesn’t seem to have the same pull on dear old George’s vision of a happy homecoming. Anyway Richard and George meet up but a notice in the newspaper puts a spanner in the works and they soon have to make a trip to the Isle of Wight on the trail of the missing Helen.

This story is above everything else, fun. I could spend an age explaining that it became popular, if not revered in the way the ‘serious’ novelists of the time were, because it played on the Victorian’s fear that the home wasn’t always the safe haven that they liked to pretend it was. It is here that the parallels with Constance Kent were drawn. A respectable family, a step-mother and murder all play their own part in Mary Elizabeth Bradon’s dramatic tale. But I won’t do that, nor will I add more than a sentence about the breakdown of the old order by pretty young women seducing foolish old men thereby usurping the old order of things.

The characters are all seen through our omnipresent narrator’s eyes and ears, and yes, there is a certain amount of stereotyping some of them. Fortunately, I’m not a snob about such things, after all stereotypes are created for a reason and there is enough drama and subversion of the ‘old order’ to quibble that the rough husband of Lady Audley’s maid, Phoebe Marks is a bit of brute with no redeeming characteristics when at the heart of the novel is a woman whose beauty doesn’t translate to the ideals of the day.

The omnipresent narrator is there from beginning to end but once Richard Audley’s story begins we are also treated to less remote view of the scenes that unfold.

“You seem to have quite a taste for discussing these horrible subjects,” she said, rather scornfully; “you ought to have been a detective police officer.”
“I sometimes think I should have been a good one.”
“Why?”
“Because I am patient.”

But if you are expecting the fair Lady Audley to give you some insight into her secret, you will be disappointed, that is a matter of deduction for the reader and even if you reach the truth before our amateur detective Richard Audley, you will need to continue to find out how it all ends, surely the purpose of a good book. However if you’d like you might like to reflect on the pronouncement made in this sensationalist novel, take note that this was written over one hundred and fifty years ago – what would Mary Elizabeth Braddon make of the modern woman’s opportunities?

To call them the weaker sex is to utter a hideous mockery. They are the stronger sex, the noisier, the more persevering, the most self-assertive sex. They want freedom of opinion, variety of occupation, do they? Let them have it. Let them be lawyers, doctors, preachers, teachers, soldiers, legislators — anything they like — but let them be quiet — if they can.

Once again I’m delighted with my Classic Club read, I meanly knocked a star off because it was a bit long-winded in places and so far I’ve given all my classic reads the full five stars, but in all honesty this has ignited an intent to read more books by this author and more books in this genre.

Lady Audley’s Secret is number 2 on The Classics Club list and the fourth of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed.

 

First Published UK: 1862
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 512
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in The Classic Club

The Class Club Spin #17 – The Result!

The Classics Club has held its 17th Spin, and this was my  first time of playing the book roulette.

The idea is to list 20 of the books on your Classics Club list before Friday 9 March when the wheel will turn and reveal the winning number. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 30 April 2018.

The rules suggested we pick five books from each of the following categories:

5 books you are dreading/hesitant to read
5 books you can’t WAIT to read
5 books you are neutral about
5 books which are free choice

Now I’m one of those people who tend to follow the rules and although I didn’t have any books I was dreading I duly put my five books that I was more hesitant about in the first five on my list, and then the classic club number came up as number 3!

This means that I need to read Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon before 30 April 2018. Fortunately I already have a copy of this book so no purchasing required.

Blurb

‘Lady Audley uttered a long, low, wailing cry, and threw up her arms above her head with a wild gesture of despair’

In this outlandish, outrageous triumph of scandal fiction, a new Lady Audley arrives at the manor: young, beautiful – and very mysterious. Why does she behave so strangely? What, exactly, is the dark secret this seductive outsider carries with her?

A huge success in the nineteenth century, the book’s anti-heroine – with her good looks and hidden past – embodied perfectly the concerns of the Victorian age with morality and madness. Amazon

I’ve never read this book, obviously it didn’t appeal when I did the majority of my classic reading in my late teens and twenties but I do like a bit of scandal!

Lady Audley’s Secret was first published back in 1862 and it was originally added to my bookshelf as elements of Mary Elizabeth Braddon story mirrored the real-life story of the day, that of the Road Hill Murder, in the storyline. I read about this crime in the fabulous The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale.

Lady Audley’s Secret centres on the key concerns of the day, the enemy within the domestic sphere… not so very different to our current diet of domestic noir – it’s funny to think that Victorian women in the early 1860s reading this novel, which was first serialised over three months in 1861 in a magazine before it was published in three volumes. I’m guessing that the readers were in a state of high anticipation for the next of these bite-size chunks. I wonder if they sat all prim and proper in their drawing rooms, gasping over the events in the way more modern women read on their e-Readers about friends, sisters and husbands terrorising lives in a world which seems far away from over hundred years in the past.

The story promises it all; a wicked stepmother, a country-house murder, a dollop of madness and a detective.

So although I put this in my I’m hesitant to read this novel pile, based on the overly dramatic book cover and the time period it was written, as anything else – now I’ve reminded myself why I wanted to read Lady Audley’s Secret, I’m actually very keen to read it indeed.

What did you get fellow Classic Club Spinners?

Looking forward to everyone’s views on whether I should be celebrating my success or perhaps this book missed the mark where you’re concerned?

Posted in The Classic Club

The Classics Spin #17!

The Classics Club is holding its 17th Spin, and this is my very first time of playing the book roulette. The idea is to list 20 of the books on your Classics Club list before Friday 9 March when the wheel will turn and reveal the winning number. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 30 April 2018.

The rules suggest we pick five books from each of the following categories:

5 books you are dreading/hesitant to read
5 books you can’t WAIT to read
5 books you are neutral about
5 books which are free choice

I only made my list at the end of January and I wasn’t silly enough to add books I really didn’t think I’d enjoy but I do have some books that are quite lengthy in this list so I will put them down for the first selection,

1. Barsetshire Chronicles (The Warden) – Anthony Trollope
2. East Lynne – Henry Wood
3. Lady Audley’s Secret – Mary Elizabeth Braddon
4. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins
5. Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens

Looking at these covers, especially the women doesn’t exactly fill me with a longing to read this selection…

But I am longing to read the next five so hopefully the spin will pick up one of these especially number 10!

6. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
7. Miss Pettigrow Lives for a Day- Winifred Watson
8. Saplings – Noel Streatfeild
9. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding – Agatha Christie
10. The Hireling – L.P. Hartley

Now these covers are a wee bit cheerier don’t you think?

A mixed bag for the next set

11. The Shuttle -Frances Hodgeston Burnett
12. The Wheel Spins – Ethel Lina White
13. The Quiet American – Graham Greene
14. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
15. Bonjour Tritesse – Françoise Sagan

I’m not sure about the lady in the hat but the other’s are fairly non-descript.

 

My free choice is entirely made up of the books that nice David from World of Books sent me (along with a discount code you can all use up until the end of March 2018)

16. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Murial Spark
17. Sunset Song – Lewis Grassic Gibbon
18. The Moving Toyshop – Edumund Cripsin
19. The Red House Mystery – A.A. Milne
20. The Greengage Summer – Rumer Godden

A positive riot of colour in this bunch!

So that’s my twenty and as I compiled the list for this post I decided I really don’t have time to read any of the first five this time around so fingers crossed for a short but good read. My number one is The Hireling but The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day aren’t far behind.

Which would you pick?