A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

1649385E.M. Forster is an author I’ve always meant to read but never have. I started doing a buddy reads thing with my best friend and co-organizer of my Atlanta book club last year, and our most recent selection was A Room With a View. I quickly downloaded a free copy onto my Kindle and settled in.

Lucy is a young girl on holiday in Italy. She wants to break out of the constricting, conservative mold of proper English society, but constantly finds herself and her means thwarted by older cousin and chaperone, Charlotte. They meet many interesting characters abroad including an older gentleman and his younger son, George Emerson. The Emersons aren’t the right kinds of people, but George and Lucy share a kiss in a field of violets that puts Twilight to shame. After the incident, Lucy and Charlotte flee to Rome and then back to England where we discover Lucy’s become engaged to a colossal douchebag named Cecil. But then the Emersons move into the neighborhood and things get very interesting.

I’m glad I read this around Valentine’s Day. If you were unsatisfied with Twilight, try this! Seriously, a great love story not just between two lovers, but also between a woman and who she wants to be – free to love and live as she chooses. It’s short, sweet, and simple, but poses a lot of questions about English society and the changing of societal norms from the Victorian Era to the Edwardian period. Plot and substance! Plus, you can watch the miniseries that has Daniel Day Lewis. I repeat, Daniel Day Lewis.

Victoria wasn’t as enamored because she couldn’t connect or like any of the characters beyond George Emerson. She wanted to like and love Lucy but wasn’t able to. She thought Lucy did a whole lot of talking about breaking free without a whole lot of actual doing. This is a valid complaint (until the end, at least), but I just think she’s a product of her time. We can’t hold her to the standards we hold women to today, can we? I think that can be one of the hardest parts of reading literature over 100 years old.

Anyway, loved this and will be exploring Forster further. Highly recommended.

SeptembEYRE: Finale!

IMG_20130901_071408It’s all over, folks. Our dear little Jane Eyre has transformed into Jane Rochester. Now that her marriage plot has ended let’s discuss the last fourth of the novel.

St. John Eyre Rivers. That man has some serious issues, no? He’s described as marble – cold and hard. His marriage proposal to Jane was seriously unsettling to me – all 30 or so pages of it. Some of the things he said about Jane’s character were truly horrible. Do we still like St. John? Do we understand where he comes from and his lack of warmth? Do we agree with his decision to need a missionary companion more than an emotional connection?

I think St. John exists solely as the antithesis of Mr. Rochester. We need to see Jane interact with this man of God to not only get Jane back to Rochester, but also to the get the reader back there as well. I know my final impressions of Mr. R were ones of assholery.

What did you think of Jane’s inheritance? I mostly think it just helps bring Jane closer to Mr. R’s equal. Now that she can support herself and doesn’t need a man, she can marry freely and openly a man of her own choosing.

Back in Millcote, Jane learns that Thornfield has gone BANG in a blaze of fire provided by the ever lovely Bertha (could someone else have done it?). Mr. R has lost a hand, an eye, and his vision. Now he’s finally ready for his dear little elf, Jane. Quickly, they marry and live the happily ever after. What about these crippling events (beyond Bertha’s demise) finally set Jane and Mr. R up for marriage? Are they truly now on equal footing? I’m at least glad R has no need to make Jane into a trophy wife.

As for our supporting cast, I’m glad Jane stays close with her cousins. I’m not surprised St. John meets an early end. Pilot!! So happy to see Adele back under Jane’s guidance. But I was a bit miffed not to have Mrs. Fairfax back. I know she was mentioned, but I wanted to talk with her a bit.

This has been such a marvelous read-a-long! Thanks to everyone who has visited and commented. A HUGE thanks to Kerry for hosting. I can’t wait for more group reading in the future!

RATING: starstarstarstarstar

SeptembEYRE: Week Three

IMG_20130901_071408All of the things happened this week, am I right? First, there was the love confession and proposal in the garden plus the creepily split tree. Mr. Rochester then tried to make Jane a trophy wife by adorning her in silk and jewels. Next we had the wedding that wasn’t meant to be and the uncovering of Bertha Mason. These events all led to Jane’s fleeing Thornfield, wandering the countryside in destitution before finally finding solace (sort of) with St. John and his sisters. Who is named St. John?

So much plot progression and so many symbols. We’re left without knowing what will become of our dear Jane. I couldn’t help but think she was a tab bit melodramatic in her exit. I know she’s prone to passionate outflows, but she’s also practically minded as well. At least have a place to go for goodness sake.

Anyway, let’s talk Rochester. Do we like him at all? He seems such a bear to me and not in a good way. His trying to make Jane into something shiny really pissed me off, but I’m glad Jane put her foot down. Do we feel sorry for him in regards to Bertha? Do we wholeheartedly believe his story? Do we think he should be free to marry? And what of the first Mrs. Rochester?

A whole paragraph of questions with no answers!! I don’t have much commentary other than I both loved and hated Rochester and Jane at various points. Bertha has always been an intriguing literary character and one I’ve never wholly known what to make of. Rochester makes her out to be this utterly unsympathetic demonic monster whose only happiness is destroying him. How convenient.

Jane’s brief visit to beggar-dom was heartbreaking until it was eye-rollingingly over the top. Two days of begging and she’s ready to keel over and die. Really? I’d think Jane’s spirit would keep her going a bit longer, no? What did y’all think?

Now that St. John has come into Jane’s life, the novel’s end is nigh. What are you hoping happens in the last few chapters?

Sorry for the rambling post – writing this in a flash before dashing off to work. Can’t wait ’til the finale next week.

SeptembERYE: Week Two

IMG_20130901_071408Gypsies, oh my! That’s the scene that particularly stands out to me from this week’s reading. I’ve been thinking about how this particular development changed my views of Rochester – and I must say they are, on the whole, not improved. It just felt so underhanded and sleazy.  I do think Jane had an inkling what was going on though and was a smart cookie not to divulge too much. She’s quite the clever spirit.

Then there are the Ingram women and the rest of the festive party that come to visit Thornfield. Aren’t they a lovely bunch? Assholes. Some part of me thinks that Rochester deserves Ingram as his bride. He makes such fascinating choices in his wives don’t you think? I can’t help but scream internally at Jane to run away from these vapid, horrid people before she gets in too deep. But since she already claims to love Rochester, I suppose I am much too late.

Jane also journeys back to Gateshead to confront her dying aunt. The Reeds are still pretty despicable, but at least Jane knows she has a relative out there looking for her and who wants to give her MONEY. What will Jane do? I’m glad no one shed a tear (Georgiana doesn’t count) over Aunt Reed. Loved seeing Bessie and her happy, healthy family.

As for the happenings on the third floor? What is this Grace Poole up to? Why the secrets? Why am I asking questions I already know the answers to…haha.

Still absolutely loving the story and loving Bronte’s imagery. Have you noticed how much nature tends to follow or augment Jane’s character? She’s constantly described alongside the moon or the wind or the birds.

Okay! Let me know what about this week’s reading you enjoyed most and what you liked least down in the comments.

Join Us for SeptembEYRE!

IMG_20130901_071408I have my Classics Club list organized by year – meaning, I have my 75 books sorted into 14/15 book mini-lists with a year attached to said mini-list. That makes the list feel more manageable. Mind Games. Anyway, this year Jane Eyre is on the list and I couldn’t be happier that there’s also a fabulous readalong happening during September to facilitate my reading.

Super huge thanks to Entomology of a Bookworm for hosting the event! Head over to her page and sign up if you want to participate. The reading schedules look like this:

 

September 2nd: Kick-off post, introductions, why you’re reading, etc.
September 9th: Chapters I-XI
September 16th: Chapters XII-XXI
September 23rd: Chapters XXII-XXIX
September 30th: Chapters XXX-End

This reading will be my second time through Jane’s story. In college, I first read Bronte’s most popular novel for a class on women in literature. I loved it then and can only hope to love it more this time around. Charlotte Bronte is one of my top 5 favorite authors of all time. I love everything the woman wrote.  To honor this most wonderful of readalongs, I purchased a new, lovely copy of Jane Eyre to replace my tattered and torn Norton edition. As you can see in the picture, I’m thrilled to have a shiny, new, and supremely gorgeous Penguin English Library edition. Yay for the pretty!

Enough writing – time for reading!! Follow me on twitter for all my incoherent ramblings: @wickedinnuendo

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (Audio)

imagesThe End of the Affair was a random audiobook buy. I had credits to spare and saw Colin Firth’s name as narrator and clicked purchase without thinking. Because Colin Firth. Obviously. Mr. Darcy aside, Graham Greene is one of those author’s I’ve been meaning to read but just haven’t found the time until Colin Firth pushed him in my direction.

Greene’s novel is about the end of an affair. How’s that for a summary? Maurice Bendricks is a bitter ex-lover to a woman named Sarah. Their affair took place during WWII until it abruptly ended after a particularly deadly air raid in London. Sarah ends their relationship and Maurice is left with what he describes as ‘hate’ rather than love. God, faith, and Catholicism now enter the picture.

Honestly, I should have read this one in print. Not because Colin wasn’t great – he was terrific and had such nuanced character changes in his voice that amazed me – but because Graham’s writing really deserves to be read. Each and every word seems so precisely chosen and his turns of phrase are so powerful. I can’t wait to reread this one day.

The story itself is rather hit and miss with me. Bendricks is hardly a lovable character and the religious undertones of the novel are not of any particular interest to me. However, the actual unraveling of the love affair between Bendricks and Sarah feels very visceral and poignant. And in contrast, his growing friendship and connection with cuckolded husband, Henry, is endearing. The humanity of this short novel is what truly wins me over.

Going back to the Catholicism, while I’m not particularly religious, I did appreciate that Bendricks’s final relationship with God is strained, troubled, and filled with questions you’re not sure will ever be answered. I like that he’s not just some enchanted new believer and still struggles in spite of, perhaps because of, his new beliefs.

Oddly, I can’t say I would recommend this story to most readers. To Graham Greene fans, yes. To those who just want to listen to Colin Firth’s yummy voice, yes. Or to those readers who will read anything as long as the writing is beyond gorgeous.

Have you read anything by Graham Greene? Does his overt Catholicism bother or enhance your reading?

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

6534328Another Classics Club choice moved over to the read column! As always, I enjoyed my time spent with Gaskell and her characters. My edition is the Penguin Clothbound and I’m in love with the green end papers. I now want something in my house that is exactly that shade of green.

Cranford is the story of Cranford. Ha! Cranford is a small town in England with a mostly female population. And as with most Victorian literature, there is a lot of society gossip, money, and class discussions. Each chapter relays a town anecdote, particularly those events which surround Miss Mattie – an old maid and a delightfully endearing lady. Our narrator, Miss Smith, is reliable, witty, and someone who adores Miss Mattie just as much as her readers.

Being that this was my third Gaskell, I was immediately comfortable with her writing style and still think she writes some of the most accessible Victorian literature. Cranford’s story isn’t deep with any symbolic meaning and is often light, funny, and just plain enjoyable to read. The tribe of female characters we get to know range from catty to completely selfless and realistically reflect the many kinds of women who exist in any town in all the world. At roughly 190 pages, Cranford is a novel you visit briefly and hope to one day return to.

What was most appealing to me was Gaskell’s humor. I smirked often at some little bit of hilarity and laughed out loud more than once at some biting turn of phrase. Gaskell is such a keen observationist (not a word, apparently) and gifted storyteller. You often believe you are looking directly through her eyes at the goings on. Her talent makes her humor all the more effortless and genuine. Plus, it never hurts to root for the happiness of a book’s main characters and to laugh alongside them in their many trials, tribulations, and joys.

I don’t think Cranford will ever be my favorite Gaskell novel, but I still enjoyed my time and reading experience. And I’m sure I’ll find myself deep within its pages in another few years when I’m feeling an itch for lighter Victorian fare. Wives and Daughters might always remain my favorite – most likely due to its luckiness at being my first Gaskell. If you haven’t read anything by Gaskell, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. Add something of hers to your classics list today!

Bonus:

Gaskell is often compared to Austen and with Cranford the comparisons ring very true.