Wednesday 24 September 2008

Re-reading Jane

I'm afraid I'm not keen on sequels, prequels, re-imaginings or continuations of any Jane Austen novel by other authors. I'd rather re-read the originals. However many times I return to Pride and Prejudice there is always some new aspect to discover. I do like contemporary novels inspired by Jane Austen, though. Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club is a favourite and there is a great compilation of Austen facts at the end.

Sunday 21 September 2008

Sunday night reading

I do like Victorian novels so I was pleased when my reading group selected Shirley by Charlotte Bronte for October. I'm about fifty pages in and getting absorbed in the story. Industrial, political and male-dominated, this is a very different novel to Jane Eyre and Bronte makes that clear from the start:
Something real, cool, and solid, lies before you; something unromantic as Monday morning, when all who have work wake with the consciousness that they must rise and betake themselves thereto.

Talking of Monday morning, it's getting late now and I must betake myself to work tomorrow so I'll sign off and read a few more pages ...

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Mansfield Park

I'm slowly replacing my battered old Penguins with these handsome Everyman's Library editions of Jane Austen's novels. As well as the six novels there is also an edition of Sanditon and other Stories.

In my twenties, Pride and Prejudice was my favourite Austen. In my thirties it was Persuasion. Now I'm in my forties I'm getting very fond of Mansfield Park. I like the way Austen nails the social and financial status of her characters in the opening lines:

About thirty years ago, Miss Maria Ward of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet's lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income.
I'm fascinated by Lady Bertram. Indolent and selfish she sits on the sofa all day making useless carpet and fringe and allowing her sister, the loathsome Mrs Norris, to criticize and bully Fanny. A complex and rewarding read.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

More Noel Streatfeild

I know Noel Streatfeild fans dislike the fact that her books have been re-issued with new titles. I'm not keen either, but if it means more new readers discover this author then I can live with it. Dancing Shoes, originally published as Wintle's Wonders, is a very entertaining and enjoyable read. The story is about a pushy stage-school mother and her ghastly daughter, Dulcie. I was less keen on Tennis Shoes although it had its moments. It's about a tennis playing family. Nicky, the youngest daughter, is the only one who has true talent. She is also spoilt and unpleasant. A bit like Posy, the youngest one in Ballet Shoes who is also a little spoilt and unpleasant ... Tennis Shoes is a bit formulaic but I certainly want to read more Streatfeild.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Autumn reading

I'm still deeply engrossed in Antonia White novels but that doesn't mean I can't plan my autumn reading. I've bought a new copy of an old favourite, Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle which I always like to re-read at this time of year. My last copy fell victim to a cup of hot tea. I'm not very good at looking after books. Sometimes I spill sun-cream, coffee or (worse) blackcurrant fruit tea on them and sometimes the pages or covers get bent because I carry them around all the time in my bag. But at least that proves I read them, right? I also bought an eco-friendly book bag because it name checks Love in a Cold Climate on the back!

Monday 1 September 2008

Mitford love

This time last year I very much enjoyed reading The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Mosley. Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while. I've been saving it for my big September read. I'm a huge fan of Nancy Mitford and I've read Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love many, many times. In her book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley summarises her talent a lot better than I can:
Reading Nancy Mitford makes me believe that writing comic novels is one of the most purely humanitarian endeavors civilization has ever come up with.