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Archive for the ‘The Classics Club’ Category

I had a hard time answering Augusts meme (what is your favorite classic?) because I just couldn’t pick one. I started drafts for Dracula, Anne of Green Gables, Gone With The Wind, and Frankenstein. I then realized I could start drafts for about a million more so I decided to skip that meme for now. I may try to revisit it later, perhaps after I have read more of the titles on my list. Septembers meme is:

Pick a classic someone else in the club has read from our big review list. Link to their review and offer a quote from their post describing their reaction to the book. What about their post makes you excited to read that classic in particular?

I think I can handle Septembers meme and I’m even going to answer it in the first few days of the month. For this post I have selected Charlotte’s review of We Have Always Lived in the Castle from her blog Charlotte Reads Classics.

There is a hint of madness throughout the whole book which Jackson never fully explains, of course making the book all the more terrifying.

I have been very excited to read this book since last fall when I read Jackson’s other terrifying tale, The Haunting of Hill House. I enjoyed Hill House but I was a little more intrigued by the premise of Castle but my local library didn’t have a copy of it. This is one of the books on my R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril list for this year and I was already very eager to read it, but after reading Charlotte’s review, I’m chomping at the bit to get my hands on a copy. Having moved to a new county, I was hoping that this new library might have a copy of it, but they didn’t either, but I did discover that it is for sale as a nook book for $13.

I didn’t know a great deal about the book before reading Charlotte’s review, just that there are two orphaned children who are left on their own and have to fend for themselves and craziness ensues. One act of “craziness” that Charlotte touches on is the fact that one of the sisters attempts to protect the girls and their home by nailing familial possessions to the trees around the home as a kind of charm to ward off evil. Another excellent point that Charlotte brought up is that the story has added spook to me, as an American, because it is set in the woods. Charlotte points out after a conversation with her father that in England they view forest settings in a different way than we as Americans do. When Englanders read a story set in the woods, it’s not deep and dark and creepy, but rather they associate it with a quiet, peaceful country setting.

Charlotte leaves us with the fact that she found both of Jackson’s books to be “disturbing” and that Jackson has a way of leaving the reader feeling that way “because she controls the reader like no other author. Enthralling, mysterious, fatal.” I am so excited to get to this book! Thanks, Charlotte for your great review!

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You did a fine job of hiding that crooked ace up your sleeve -Brandon Flowers

One’s happiness must in some measure be always at the mercy of chance. -Jane Austen from Sense and Sensibility

This is my second book for my Classic’s Club 50 in 5 challenge.
This is my first book for my Austen in August Reading Event.

Classic: Sense & Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Publication Date: 1811
Pages: 846 (nook version, don’t ask me why so many)
Publisher: Smashbooks
Where I got it: Download onto my nook from Nook store
Dates Read: August 3, 2012 to August 12, 2012
# of Stars: 5/5

It took me a lot longer to finish up Sense and Sensibility than it really should have. There are several reasons for this and not one of those reasons is that the book is not very good or engaging- in fact, it is monstrous both. The school year started back up for me on Wednesday which took a lot of wind out of my sails and a lot of reading time out of my days. About a week before I decided to participate in the Austen in August reading even over at Roof Beam Reader’s site I had purchased a copy of the Masterpiece Theatre/BBC version of Sense & Sensibility. I simultaneously watched the episodes while reading the book. I believe that this helped me to get a visual of what was going on as well as assisted in deciphering the prose of the time that the book was written in. I had seen this version a few times on PBS and I loved it very much so there were no spoilers for me, though it would have been nice to not know that Willoughby was such a scoundrel and that Elinor was going to marry Edward after all.

Mmmmm…. Edward Ferrars….

I enjoyed this book immensly, and I am almost ashamed to write this, but it is the truth and I’m striving to be more like Elinor in my life, which in one respect is to say more honest and so I must confess: I prefer the movie version better (the Masterpiece version, as I have not seen the Ang Lee version, yet.).  I truly believe I prefer the screen version over the print because it was my first involvement with the story of the sisters Dashwood. If I had read the book first, I surely would prefer it.

My favorite thing about this story is the fact that I could have easily been Marianne (or to a lesser degree, Elinor). Even in the 1800’s in England, girls still fancied boys who are jerks and girls still had a tendency to slight the good guys! When it comes to the opposite sex I have made numerous mistakes in my years of dating. I tend to choose the Willoughby over the Colonel Brandon and then rue the wasted time and the heartbreak caused by my own dumb choice. So, I didn’t feel as embarassed and I didn’t cringe as much regarding my past mistakes in dudes since Marianne was doing the exact same thing I did at her age: impulsively falling in love, flaunting it all over town, ignoring common sense, getting the short end of the gossip stick, you know, just basically acting in love and then getting dumped for the rich (in modern language: popular) girl and mooning over it for months. However, one part made me feel a little old maid-ish and a little pissed off-ish at Marianne:

” ‘A woman of seven and twenty’ “ (Egads, I am 27 years old!) “said Marianne, after pausing a moment, ‘can never hope to feel or inspire affection again, and if her home be uncomfortable, or her fortune small” (very small, I work in public education), “I can suppose that she might bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse, for the sake of the provision and security of a wife.'” Gulp!

I love Marianne because she is me, but my favorite characters were definitely Elinor and Mrs. Jennings. These two women are as opposite as night and day but I love them both for who they are. Elinor is so reserved and calm and cool and collected and everything that I just am not but that I strive to be. I love her for always keeping her cool and never going nuts and silently suffering heartbreak for MONTHS just to spare her sister and her mother from feeling heartbreak for her. If I’m heartbroken, I’m taking out a billboard and begging for sympathy and pity. Now, Mrs. Jennings, she is a hoot and a holler!! This is a sassy, brash little old lady that I pictured as Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls!

The brashness, the sauciness, the rudeness, the likability of these two ladies is what makes them the bitchin’ characters that they are. Neither of these ladies is afraid to lay on the innuendo and offend those around them, especially when it comes to relations! In addition to the talent of genuinely writing two such different characters that both become so love-able and appreciated and necessary to the rest of the story and the other characters, Austen also portrayed my favorite kind of character: the strong female. In an age of weaklings (see Bella Swan in Twilight) I am of the opinion that showing female characters, especially in this time when so much of their worth was dependent on the men in their lives. Austen blows that out of the water, and as the case with Willoughby shows, the MEN sometimes must be dependent on the WOMEN for money and status! Hu-zahhh Ms. Austen, Huzzah! Though each of her female characters are bad-ass women (even the deplorable Fanny- she knows how to turn John Dashwoods head and get EXACTLY what she wants, when she wants it, and how she wants it) they still find classy ways to tell each other to get bent, especially Elinor when dealing with that despicable Lucy Steele. This is what all women in every country and in all times should aim to be like and I am so thankful when I see these types of characters in books. So, thank you Jane for writing these characters into your works, and like Sophia would say, thank you for being a friend!

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For today’s daily photo, I had to re-learn how to make a screenshot. The link to this here blog is listed under the members for the BRAND SPANKING NEW Classic’s Club site that is now up and running. Notice from my previous posts and the tab at the top of the blog that I am a new member to the club and I have one classic down and 49 to go! Please visit the site and check out (and join!) this totally awesome group of folks.

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Confession: Never on my own have I completed a reading of a classic just for fun. Actually, never have I even read many classics at all. I’ve only read a select few and they were all for school. I have felt intimidated by the classics ere now. When I did read them for school, it was different because we met two to three days each week to discuss what was happening in the book, so any parts I did a “huwahhaa?” face at were explained to me a day or two later.

Emma Watson Confused Gif

I just finished reading my very first classic on my own. Perhaps a 573 page tome was not the best choice for me to read first. However, I loved Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I selected this one despite its length because I had enjoyed reading Jane Eyre in college and believed that I would have done well with that one had I read it outside of a classroom.
Having started this blog with the intention of being more well-read and combined with the fact that my five-year life plan includes me going back to school to obtain a second Master’s Degree (this time in literature) I knew that I needed to face my fears and delve into the world of the classics. With the successful completion of this first solo-classic reading and with some group motivation and support from Jillian and the rest of the classic’s readers at The Classics Club I feel very confident that I can reach my goal of reading 50 classics in the next five years.

Classic: Villette
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Publication Date: 1853 -Victorian
Pages: 573
Publisher: Barnes and Noble Classics
Where I got it from: Bought at B&N
Dates Read: July 14, 2012-July 26, 2012

 
“ ‘I live solitary.’ ‘But solitude is sadness.’ ‘Yes; it is sadness. Life, however, has worse than that. Deeper than melancholy, lies heartbreak.”

 
With my first reading of a classic, I did face some of the fears I had about classics readings: lots of big words that caused me to read the book with a dictionary and a pencil in hand, wordy sentences that if written today would be much condensed (“What you do is wrong…it is an act characteristic of men of your unreliable imaginative temperament; a step impulsive, injudicious, inconsistent- a proceeding vexatious, and not estimable in the view of persons of steadier and more resolute character.”), references that I am unfamiliar with (Labassecour), and words in French (the French actually persuaded me to enroll in a beginners French class at the local community college this Fall!). The fears were not unconquerable though and I jumped headfirst into my first classic novel and the result was greater than the fears. I succeeded at something I thought that I could not and now I am no longer apprehensive of taking on the other classics I’ve always wanted to read but been too intimidated to. Now, I am excited to do so.
Villette was just as good as Jane Eyre. I won’t say that it is better than Jane like George Elliot did in his glowing review of the book. Villette tells the story of Lucy Snowe who has survived some childhood trauma that left her orphaned and living with her godmother and godbrother (is there even such a thing?!). Later she gets a whim of courage and decides to move to France where she ends up teaching in a boarding school that is as mysterious as its inhabitants. The characters in this book are greatly fleshed out and you find yourself feeling strongly one way or another about them. Several of the characters appear briefly at the beginning of the book, and just as you are about to forget about them entirely, shazam! they pop back up out of nowhere and are suddenly front and center main characters messing stuff up for “Meese Lucy.” And of course like any good novel there is a small bit of romance sprinkled in. This book is deemed to be pretty auto-biographical. Apparently, Bronte herself was a teacher in a boarding school where she fell for her headmaster. Like Bronte, the heroine of Villette also has the taste of peanut butter taken from her mouth.Two possible suitors are present through most of the story and I found myself wondering which she would eventually end up with (if either! This girl is Miss Independent!) and if I even wanted her to end up with either of them.
Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe is not. She is practical and cold and she holds back from the readers. She never reveals all to us. It took me almost 400 pages to realize that the girl was seriously smitten for M. Paul Emmanuel. While reading Jane Eyre I felt like I could trust Jane and that we were BFFs from Page One. With Lucy, I felt like I was earning her trust and even after 573 pages, I still don’t have all of it. Lucy is guarded (possibly from the traumatic childhood she endured?!). This is a book that I needed several hours of quiet solitude to be able to read. This is not something that you can just whimsically pick up, read a few pages, and put back down. The action, the emotion, the characters, the writing style all demand astute attention at all times. However, that is not to say that it was a chore to read; far from it. It was a delight. The story is engaging and you find yourself yearning for that friendship and trust from Lucy. You seek to know what will become of her, of Ginevra, of Paulina and even fussy old Madame Beck. I dare you to pick this book up and not be pulled into the world- especially if you suffer from Classic-a-phobia like I USED TO! Five out of Five stars.

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