Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reading England 2015 Challenge


As usual, I have no business signing up for any challenges since I can't even write a decent blog post for two whole months, but o from Behold the Stars is hosting one that's so intriguing, I can't resist (and yes, I'm still signing up for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge.  More on that later).

Anyway, it's a Reading England Challenge for 2015.  Basically, the idea is to read different books set in the different counties of England.  I have about ninety books on my TBR shelves that I've classified as Brit Lit, so there have to be some I can use, right?  

Details of the challenge are here, but I'm signing up for level 2, four to six counties. Here are some possible selections (and if I have the appropriate counties wrong, please let me know.) I'm also open to suggestions.

I'm trying to limit my choices to classic books.  Here's what I've come up with so far from the TBR shelves and other books on my radar:

Buckinghamshire:  Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson

Cornwall:  Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier
The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier


Cumbria: Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope

Devon:  A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

Dorset: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

Kent: Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham

Lancashire:  Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
London:   New Grub Street by George Gissing
Liza of Lambeth by W. Somerset Maugham

Norfolk:  Armadale by Wilkie Collins

Somerset:  No Name by Wilkie Collins
The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse

Yorkshire:  Sylvia’s Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
Of course I have lots more books by Trollope on the TBR shelves, but a bunch of them are the Palliser novels which I think take place mostly in London, plus some Irish novels.  One could do an entire challenge of novels set in London, and I think the idea is to spread the reads out amongst various counties.  

Any other suggestions?  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West

I'm terribly, terribly behind with book reviews -- I actually read this book over the summer, and finally got around to finishing this, though I have little chance of completing this years TBR Pile Challenge. But anyway:  

The Edwardians begins with this author's note: 

 No character in this book is wholly fictitious.


Written in 1930, this is a book about the end of an era.  It begins in 1905 at a house party at Chevron, a massive estate owned by a fictional young Duke named, Sebastian, who is 19.  It ends six years later, on Coronation Day, June 22, 1911, after the death of Edward VII.  

Sebastian's mother, Lucy, has invited a variety of guests, including a famous explorer, Leonard Anquetil.  He observes the society matrons and other upper-crusties from an anthropological viewpoint.   Late at night, he and Sebastain scale the roof of the great house and Anquetil predicts what Sebastian's future will hold.  It's more than a page, but here's a small chunk of it:

My dear boy, your life was mapped out for you from the moment you were born.  You went to a preparatory school; you went to Eton; you are now at Oxford; you will go into the Guards, you will have various love-affairs, mostly with fashionable married women; you will frequent wealthy and fashionable houses; you will attend Court functions; you will wear a white-and-scarlet uniform -- and look very handsome in it too -- you will be flattered and persecuted by every mother in London . . . . 


Naturally, Anquetil is mostly correct.  There's a long digression into one of Sebastian's affairs, though interestingly told from the point of view of the lady in question.  Sebastian then gets involved with a very unexpected young lady.  Will Sebastian fulfill the destiny predicted by his friend Anquetil? 

Though I found some parts a bit slow, I enjoyed The Edwardians.  However, as I read it, I couldn't help thinking shortly, Europe would explode into the Great War and that Sebastian, then aged about 29, would surely go off to fight in the war.  Based on my recent reading of Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson, I know that there's a very high chance that a young many of Sebastian's era and social standing would die in battle, or be wounded or shell-shocked, thus ending the male line or rerouting it significantly (as was feared in Downton Abbey).  Of course, after the War many estates fell apart due to lack of funds, servants, and heirs, but that's a different story.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Long Absence


Wow.  I can't believe it's been more than two months since I last posted anything.  If anyone at all is still following this blog, I apologize for my absence.  Work and life have just gotten really intense in the past couple of months, and lately, the thought of blogging has just felt like homework.

I spend most of my day at work in front of a computer, and I work so many hours that when I get home, the last thing I feel like doing is sitting at a laptop and writing something clever that nobody's ever said before.  I'm still reading, but I feel like I can't think of anything clever and insightful that is worth sharing.  Plus, I feel like I need to spend more time with my family.  I have two daughters, and in less than a year, my oldest will be leaving for college, so I need to spend more time with her (not to mention the stress of the college application process -- and she's also learning how to drive!)

Anyway, I'm not giving up this blog altogether, but I just wanted to let everyone know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

If you're still participating in the Back to the Classics Challenge, don't worry -- I'm still giving out a prize at the end of the year, so don't forget to post if you're still reading the classics!!  I'm not sure if I'll be hosting it again next year, but I am definitely committed to choosing a winner and awarding the prize!!  I'll be posting reminders through the end of the year.

Thanks again for not giving up on me!