Saturday, 29 June 2013

Vic Lit and summer reading

As the debate continues regarding notable females on banknotes I would like to see one of our eminent Victorian novelists represented.  Elizabeth Gaskell or George Eliot or a Bronte, maybe.

I read the two contemporary novels on my 'summer' reading list as the rain beat against the window and the wind howled around the house!  I know some of my fellow bloggers loved Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs but I had some reservations.  I kept turning the pages and Messud writes very well, but I just didn't buy the premise that a mature woman would become besotted with a whole family.  Nor was I convinced that the work produced by the artist Sirena would attract the attention it did.  However the ending is good.  What you can see coming a mile off doesn't happen quite the way you think it will. 

Maria Semple's Where'd You Go Bernadette was much more my cup of tea.  I loved it.  It's the story of Bernadette Fox, former brilliant architect married to Elgie who is doing very well at Microsoft and mother to teenager Bee. Impressions of Bernadette are relayed via emails between her neighbour Audrey and her friend Soo-Lin who think she is aloof and anti-social. We know that all is not well with Bernadette from the secret emails she sends to a PA in India who organises her life so that she doesn't have to socialise. We learn that her architectural career came to an abrupt end and she spent many months in hospital with Bee as a baby.  A spectacular row with Audrey over some overgrown blackberry bushes precipitates a crisis for Bernadette.    There is also first person narration from the sweet-natured and academically gifted Bee.

I do like novels relayed via emails/letters/diary entries and the epistolary form works very well with humour (I'm thinking Diary of a Provincial Lady, obv!)  Both the Messud and the Semple are about what happens when a creative artist is stifled.  For me, the Semple was by far the best.

George Eliot's Adam Bede is next on my list - I feel a Vic Lit reading project coming on.

14 comments:

Sunday Taylor said...

The Semple book sounds wonderful. I will have to get it. I have been resisting the other one because of mixed reviews. I do enjoy epistolary novels, in the form of letters, or diary entries. And I LOVED "Diary of a Provincial Lady"! Have you read "Any Human Heart" by William Boyd. It is also written in diary or journal form.

Cath said...

I do like your Cath Kidston bag. I have one I love, partly because it's big enough to put a book or my Kindle in. As it yours I see.

Mystica said...

I liked the Semple book but I loved the Diary of a Provincial Lady.

Ellen said...

I think the Semple book is out in paperback tomorrow so I will be reading that soon. It seems that it will be Jane Austin on the new banknotes, whilst I'm a big fan of her writing, I would have LOVED the whole Bronte clan on there!

cathy at potterjotter said...

I often think that if I wrote a book I would do it as a kind of diary-type thing - just jotting thoughts/opinions down. And it IS a form that lends itself to humour, as you say. xCathy

Nadia said...

The Semple book is next on my TBR list. I'm excited to read it now ;) As for the Messud, I didn't care for her other book, so I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like her new one. And, I love your Kidston bag :)

Anbolyn said...

I liked the Messud and the Semple very much, but I think the Semple is more endearing because of the humor. The Messud is darker and harder love.

I really like your Cath Kidston!

Arti said...

If I'd my say, I'll choose Jane Austen to be on the £10 note. And you know what, it's on our news here that it's a Canadian who has the final say. ;) Mark Carney is the former Governor of the Bank of Canada, now Governor of the Bank of England.

LizF said...

I might try the Claire Messud book if it crosses my path i.e if it is on a shelf in the library, but since I didn't particularly enjoy The Emperor's Children, I won't go looking for it.
I really did enjoy the Semple when I read it last year, although I wasn't expecting to and just picked it up on a whim.
I'm now very tempted to go and find my copy of Diary of a Provincial Lady as it has been years since I last read it!

Lilac In May said...

I heard some of the Semple book on R4, but missed some crucial bits, will add it to my tbr pile.

mary said...

I'm galloping through the Semple book. Picked it up on a whim in the library yesterday and already I'm half way through. Perfect summer read.

Grad said...

I want to read Diary Of A Provincial Lady and hope to do that this summer. Have you read Ella Minnow Pea? That is such a delightful epistolary little novel.

Vintage Reading said...

Sunday, I will look out for the Boyd. I adore the Prov Lady, just re-reading all four volumes!

Cath, bought it in the John Lewis sale - can only afford CK when it's on sale!

Mystica, adore Prov Lady, too. Just re-reading.

Ellen, I'd like to see Brontes on banknotes, too. Especially Anne who is always overlooked but was a pretty good writer, too!

Cathy, yes, done well, a diary is an excellent literary form, lends itself to humour particularly.

Nadia, hope you like the Semple, bag is big enough to hold books which is a bonus!

Anbolyn, do have a bit of a weakness for Cath Kidston, something about florals I really like yet my teenager daughters just don't get it.

Arti, Jane Austen will be on a bank note. Hurrah for Canadians!!

Oh LizF I've just been re-reading all the Prov Lady diaries. She really is wonderful.

Lilac, darn must have missed Semple on Radio 4. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to go to work so I could listen more!

Mary, it's fun isn't it? Totally unexpected pleasure for me.

Grad, no it's on my tbr list. Keep seeing blog posts about it and think I will like it.

Arti said...

I love your book selections, albeit I have to confess, for some reasons, I couldn't finish Messud's first book. Don't know why. As for the new banknote, I'd say 'jolly good!'