The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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April 14, 2019

Middlemarch in 2019

The first time that I read Middlemarch, about seven years ago, was not very satsifying.  Not the book -- I loved it -- but the way I read it.  I joined an online reading group where we read one of the eight books every few months, and it was just too drawn out. I found myself losing the thread of the story.

But along with Queen Victoria, 2019 is the bicentennial of George Eliot's birthday, and there's a new readalong, organized  by University of  London Professor Ruth Livesey, where we'll read one of the eight books every month, from April to December.  That seems much better; it's manageable, about 100 pages a month. And we'll be reading the book in the same eight monthly installments that readers received in 1871-1872.  I've always thought it would be so interesting to read one of these long Victorian novels in the way that it was read when it was first published. I won't have the same sense of suspense, because I know how it ends, but I already have the same sense of anticipation. :)

I just finished reading/listening to Book One, 'Miss Brooke.'  {I'm a little disappointed that my Kindle edition doesn't sync up with my audiobook, narrated by Juliet Stevenson, but I can work that out. I wouldn't want to miss her reading.}  I've been reintroduced to our heroine, Dorothea Brooke, her kindly uncle Mr. Brook, her sister Celia, and a lot of inter-related residents of Middlemarch. We've met Edward Casaubon, the much older scholar and clergyman who asks Dorothea to marry him. It was interesting to read their growing professions of love for each other {again having read this before}, and to see their emerging relationship, before we know what will happen later.  Even with so much discouragement from other charactrers, it seems hopeful!

Other characters have also also introduced -- Dorothea's other suitor, Sir James Chettam; Casaubon's nephew, Will Ladislaw; Fred Vincy and his sister Rosamond, the town's new doctor, Tertius Lydagate; and plain, 'steadfast' Mary Garth. 

Wonderful again, so far, and it won't be long before Book Two arrives :)

March 30, 2019

In March, I was reading...

Greenbanks, by Dorothy Whipple

Chelsea Concerto, by Frances Faviell

Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf

Falling in Love, by Donna Leon

Jambusters:  the story of the Women's Institute
in the Second World War
, by Julie Summers

Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Clover Adams:  a gilded and heartbreaking life,
by Natalie Dykstra

What there is to say we have said:  the correspondence of
Eudora Welty and William Maxwell,
edited by Suzanne Marrs

Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger

The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett

Water like a stone, by Deborah Crombie

Jane and the barque of frailty, by Stephanie Barron

Anyone but you, by Jennifer Crusie

Cold service, by Robert B. Parker

Playing with fire, by Peter Robinson

Revenge of the middle-aged woman, by Elizabeth Buchan

Claire Marvel, by John Burnham Schwartz

Hmmm... there's a book on this list that I had noted was wonderful, though now I don't remember anything about it, and another book on this list that might be one of my favorite books of all time. And there's a March when I read two books and a March a year later when I read 21. Twenty-one. How in the world did I manage that?

March 18, 2019

20 years of Persephones

Getting the Persephone Post in my inbox in the middle of a busy afternoon at work feels a little bit like pouring a metaphorical cup of tea as I spend a few minutes daydreaming about books and reading and those endpapers and how happy these things make me.

I just read that Persephone Books is celebrating 20 years of publishing this week.  I wish I could pop into the shop for 'smoked salmon sandwiches, cake, tea, and champagne and a rather special ‘going home’ present' but in lieu of that, I think this calls for a lovely year-long spurt of reading the ones I haven't gotten to yet. {And maybe even repainting a room in Persephone gray, but probably not.} Going to the shop, though, is still on my list. :)

Happy anniversary and congratulations!

March 16, 2019

Anticipation: fiction edition


I would look forward to anything from this writer, but:
The Grammarians are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. They speak a secret “twin” tongue of their own as toddlers; as adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation continues, but this love, which has always bound them together, begins instead to push them apart. Daphne, copy editor and grammar columnist, devotes herself to preserving the dignity and elegance of Standard English. Laurel, who gives up teaching kindergarten to write poetry, is drawn, instead, to the polymorphous, chameleon nature of the written and spoken word. Their fraying twinship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war, absurdly but passionately, over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition.
Is it September yet?

Anticipation: mysterious edition


And no covers yet, but I'm also looking forward to A Better Man, from Louise Penny {August} and A Bitter Feast, by Deborah Crombie {October}. 

February 24, 2019

In February, I was reading ...

Greengates, by R.C. Sherriff

Period Piece, by Gwen Raverat

What Maisie Knew, by Henry James

Falling in Love, by Donna Leon

My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead

A Glass of Blessings, by Barbara Pym

The Children, by Edith Wharton

Kitchen Essays, by Gertrude Jekyll

The Three Weissmanns of Westport, by Catherine Schine

Twilight of Splendor:  The court of Queen Victoria
during her Diamond Jubilee
, by Greg King

Old Friends and New Fancies, by Sybil G. Brinton
{This was one of the first Jane Austen 'sequels,'
written in 1913; the characters from different books
all getting entangled with each other}

Messenger of Truth, by Jacqueline Winspear
{I'm listening to the latest-but-one Maisie Dobbs
book now ... I didn't realize how far back this
series went!}

Dear Departed, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
{another long-running series}

102 Minutes:  the untold story of the fight to survive
inside the twin towers
, by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

The Good Wife Strikes Back, by Elizabeth Buchan

Rumpole and the Age of Miracles, by John Mortimer

Callander Square, by Anne Perry
{and another!}

February 19, 2019

Henry on my walk to work

      'Now there is one place where perhaps it would be indelicate to take a Mississipian,' Verena said, after this episode. 'I mean the great place that towers among the others -- that big building with the beautiful pinnacles, which you see from every point.' But Basil Ransom had heard of the great Memorial Hal:  he knew what memories it enshrined, and the worst that he should have to suffer there; and the ornate, overtopping structure, which was the finest piece of architecture he had ever seen, had moreover solicited his enlarged curiosity for the last half-hour. He thought there was rather too much brick about it, but it was buttressed, cloistered, turreted, dedicated, superscribed, as he had never seen anything; though it didn't look old, it looked significant; it covered a large area, and it sprang majestic into the winter air. ... As he approached it with Verena she suddenly stopped, to decline responsibility. 'Now mind, if you don't like what's inside, it isn't my fault.
     He looked at her an instant, smiling. 'Is there anything against Mississippi?'
     'Well, no, I don't think she is mentioned. But there is great praise of our young men in the war.'
     'It says they were brave, I suppose.'
     'Yes, it says so in Latin.'
     'Well, so they were -- I know something about that,' Basil Ransom said. 'I must be brave enough to face them -- it isn't the first time.' And they went up the low steps and passed into the tall doors.
      ... Ransom and his companion wandered from one part of the building to another, and stayed their steps at several impressive points; but they lingered longest in the presence of the white, ranged tablets, each of which, in its proud, sad cleanness, is inscribed with the name of a student-soldier. The effect of the place is singularly noble and solemn, and it is impossible to feel it without a lifting of the heart. ... Most of them were young, all were in their prime, and all of them had fallen ... For Ransom, these things were not a challenge, nor a taunt; they touched him with respect... He was capable of being a generous foeman, and he forgot, now the whole question of sides and parties; the simple emotion of the old fighting-time came back to him, and the monument around him seemed an embodiment of that memory; it arched over friends as well as enemies, the victims of defeat as well as the sons of triumph.
      'It is very beautiful -- but I think it is very dreadful!' This remark, from Verena, called him back to the present. 'It's a real sin to put up such a building, just to glorify a lot of bloodshed. If it wasn't so majestic, I would have it pulled down.'
from The Bostonians, by Henry James

{A footnote in the edition I've been reading reminded me that Memorial Hall was built in the 1870s 'as a memorial to Harvard students and graduates who fought on the Union side in the Civil War; those Harvard men who fought and died for the South (60 or so out of a total of 200 dead) were not included.'}

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