North and South Read-A-Long: Week Two

I forced myself to slow down my reading this week and not finish chapter 27 on Wednesday, which I completely wanted to do!  This section just had so much more rising action and climactic events, no?  Also, the reading was bookended by two deaths – well, one was only foretold – Mrs. Hale and Bessy Wiggins.

So Margaret’s mom is going to die and she really doesn’t want anyone but Dixon to know.  But darling daughter won’t be put off and forces the good doctor to explain the truthfulness of her mother’s condition.  All agree not to tell Mr. Hale who eventually finds out anyway – I mean, she only has a few weeks to live.  Does Mrs. Hale truly believe her husband can’t handle the truth or is this some kind of payback for his keeping her in the dark about quitting the Church and moving to Milton?  Either way, Margaret’s always in the middle, playing liaison between her parents.  It’s almost as if she’s the parent and they the children.  I think this role creates a hardness in Margaret that otherwise might not exist and even gives birth or motivation to her lack of tact.  Her parents are so wishy-washy and always want to hide the truth or require Margaret to relate bad news that it’s no wonder she doesn’t have a tactful bone in her body.

The most physically climactic event was the strike and the altercation at the Thornton residence.  The factory workers have left Milton’s mills quiet desiring the wage they were paid two years past.  The factory owners are having hard times due to competition from America and have lowered wages.  When the workers go on strike, Mr. Thornton hires a group of Irish immigrants to replace those on strike.  Obviously, this doesn’t go well and the replaced Englishmen and women show up at his door a bit blood thirsty.  Both sides are villains and victims alike.  The labor dispute is no black and white matter.  Businesses can only exist by turning profits and workers can only survive by putting food on the table.  It’s almost as if there really is no solution to this problem.

And Margaret is once again caught in the middle.  She listens to the plight of dear, upstanding Bessy Higgins who is near death – her factory job literally having killed her due to terrible work conditions.  And yet, she brazenly stands between Mr. Thornton and the angry mob getting a rather nasty head wound to defend his rights as mill owner.  And I love that Margaret totally copped a feel, boldly throwing her arms around Mr. Thornton’s neck so publicly.  I was good and properly scandalized!  I also kind of chuckled at her head wound caused by the ‘pebble’.  Seriously?

Of course, the major result of the angry mob is that Mr. Thornton has now decided that he can no longer live without his precious Margaret who has never offered him a kind word.  But since she thrust her body up against his, it’s only proper that he propose marriage.  Mrs. Thornton’s heart is broken because she will no longer be her son’s number one beloved woman.  Entirely creepy.  Margaret refuses his proposal.  She’s offended by his proposal.  Someone explain this to me please?  What is wrong with this girl?  In a modern day novel, I’d swear she was a lesbian.  She wants Mr. Thornton to believe she would have acted the same way for any poor mongrel when faced with certain bodily harm by way of belligerent factory workers?  Snort.

And lastly, Bessy takes her last breath.  RIP Bessy Wiggins.  Your life was hard, but your faith persisted until the bitter end.  Your last dying wish was only to be buried in something of Margaret’s.  And that’s not disturbing at all.  Who else was offended that Dixon wanted to give the poor, dead girl something shabby?

A few minor observations:

Boucher – is this guy a douche or is it just me?

Frederick – what is so special about him?  Why do Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Thornton have such bias towards their sons?

I felt so much for Mr. Thornton when he takes that basket of fruit to Mrs. Hale.  Loved that he didn’t pay Margaret any attention.

Margaret still annoys me.

Excited to begin next week’s reading!  We’re halfway to the finish line and things are getting exciting.  Will Margaret ever learn how to say yes to a marriage proposal?  Will she find another female companion to call friend?  Does Mrs. Hale die before Frederick finds his way home?

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I’ve been thinking about this post for almost two weeks.  And will continue to think about it for two more weeks since our book club discussion isn’t until the end of the month.  There are just too many themes and topics crammed in this epic novel to possibly do all of them justice in one tee-tiny blog post.  Here are just a few:  the Civil War, Reconstruction, the South, the North, civil rights, racism, slavery, the KKK, holding onto the past, women’s rights, motherhood, ideas of femininity and masculinity, life/death, survival, industrialization v. agriculture…See what I’m up against?  And while it bodes really well for a fabulous book discussion, my poor fingers would die from carpel tunnel before I fleshed out all of those ideas.  So let’s just get the review part out of the way quickly, shall we?

Is the novel perfect? No.  Was the racism rampant and often hard to read?  Yes.  Are the characters likable? Yes and No.  Would I consider this a page turner? Very much so.  Did it offend your sensibilities as a Southerner?  No.  Do I believe the South will rise again? Oh dear. Rhett or Ashley?  Melanie. How’s the ending?  Perfectly frustrating.  Is it a novel worth reading?  Without a doubt.

Now that we’ve taken care of business, let’s get personal.  If you’ve never read GWTW, you’re likely to be a bit lost for the rest of this post because I’m just going to harp on a few specifics that personally affected my reading.  Namely:  Scarlett O’Hara.

My first run in with GWTW took place in college about 8 years ago.  I was about 20 years old and my life had mostly been smooth sailing.  That eye-lash fluttering, silly Scarlett at age 16 was closest to my own personal life experiences.  My women in literature class required the book and I read it over spring break – as a page-turning, beach read.  Nothing of substance stuck with me.  Frankly, I only gave a damn about the ‘will they or won’t they’ nature of Scarlett and Rhett.  Fast forward 8 years and a lot has changed.

My family filed bankruptcy (twice), I lived below the poverty line for several years, my toddler niece died in a plane crash, my family fell apart, I became estranged from my father, I got fired from my first big-girl job and have yet to find another, my dad had a massive heart attack – went bat shit insane – and became an even bigger asshole than before.  And that’s just some of the yucky that has made me the 28 year old I am today.

Scarlett O’Hara goes through her own trials and tribulations throughout GWTW that change her into a very different 28 year old as well.  And she makes decisions along the way that appall many readers.  I think Scarlett is at once the most hated and most beloved woman in literary history.  She’s a survivor at heart and will do anything to live on one more day.  She believes wholeheartedly in self-preservation over the ‘Great Cause’ and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about proper womanly behavior or what others think of her.  As you inhale shockingly at her drastic choices, you exhale respect because she gets things done.  And let’s be honest, women’s rights wouldn’t exist without brazen women going against the grain to make a change for the better.  I RESPECT Scarlett even when I find her unbearable.

And now, I better understand her decisions.  I’ve done things and made bold decisions this past decade that haven’t been popular, especially with my family.  And I would do them again with no regrets.  Not everyone likes me and that’s okay.  When life gets tough, you either get tough with it or lay down and die.  I’ve chosen get tough – I’ve vowed to never go hungry again – and I’ve calmly accepted that I’ll never be the most admired or have the most friends or even earn the approval of my family.  Fiddle-dee-dee.

As far as themes go, the exploration of motherhood really stood out to me this time.  I think what separates Scarlett from many of the other female characters is her utter lack of human empathy and maternal instinct.  To me, Scarlett and Melanie have the most in common as far as characters go.  I see you giving me that slanty eye!  But it’s true.  What differs is that motherly role that Melanie so easily falls into – like Ellen or Mammy – something that Scarlet doesn’t know the first thing about, but admires.  If you took that away from Melly and made her a bit louder, you’d end up with Scarlett.  That’s why Melanie is Scarlett’s true soulmate in GWTW.  Scarlett fuzzily recognizes this fact off and on but doesn’t fully appreciate Melly until the bitter end which for me is a far greater tragedy than her doomed love affair with Rhett.  Melly and Scarlett should have grown old together.

I understand Scarlett in this aspect as well.  Motherhood has never held any kind of charm for me.  But at the same time, this is also where Scarlett and I part ways.  I may not want to be a mother, but would be a fairly decent one if I had kids – namely because I do like children and Scarlett really doesn’t.  So despite understanding Scarlett’s position, I side more with Melly which made me think about these two characters in a deeper way.  I think all women (maybe all men, I mean Rhett’s a far better mother-figure than Scarlett) have Melanie and Scarlett within them somewhere.  Together, Melanie and Scarlett almost complete the role of Woman.  Just imagine combining their best and worst qualities and then writing a new book.  Let’s name our new heroine Marlett.  She would be FIERCE.  I mean, she’d have won the war all on her own.

And as for all those other big issues raised by Mitchell, we’ll have to think on them tomorrow…

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I promise I’ll get back to posting proper Litwit meetup summaries soon, but for now I’ll just add a bit of an addendum to my personal review post.

Our group discussion was a bit of a let down because we only have 5 members in attendance – just a busy time for everyone with back-to-school and all.  But those who did attend LOVED the book.  Some read it every year, others were just discovering the story for the first time.  No matter, the novel was a winner.

We talked a great deal about the women in the novel and how the book is a great counterpart to women’s rights and social/civil rights in general.  Everyone really seemed to loved the historical context of the novel and reading about places that we now live (since we all live in the Atlanta area).  It was fun to read about the history and re-birth of our city – the good and the bad.

Of course there was much conversation about the movie, particularly the casting.  Clark Gable is adored!  We all chose our favorite Scarlett dress (even though they were all gorgeous) and shared our shock at how much of the novel is left out.  Next we concentrated on sequels — some had read the sequel, Scarlett, but most hadn’t.  We discussed some of the other spin-off novels before moving on to Margaret Mitchell and the circumstances surrounding her death.

Overall, a great discussion.  Honestly, we could have several more meetups on GWtW and still not cover all the discussion points raised within the story.  But GWtW gets super high praise from the Litwits who read the book and we encourage you to give it a shot if you haven’t yet!

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Classics Club #2 finished!

One Year Blogiversary!

A year ago today I made my first post over here at the The Blog of Litwits!  It was my first foray into blogging outside of LiveJournal which had been my home for almost 10 years.  I’ve met some wonderful bloggers and read some amazing books this past year.  Looking forward to many, many more!

A special thank you to anyone who’s ever read a post, commented, liked a post, followed me on twitter, or just been genuinely awesome!

A Storm of Swords Journal – Part 7 (SPOILERS)

Pages 342 – 403

Jaime:

So…they sliced off Jaime’s sword hand.  He feels like that might have been all he was…that one hand.  The Brave Companions treat Jaime and Brienne like complete shit – tied up together at all times with Jaime’s rotten hand hanging around his neck.  Lovely.

When they come to rape Brienne, Jaime saves her.  He does shit like that and then I sort of like him, but he’s evil.  Right? RIGHT?  They arrive at Harrenhal where Roose Bolton and his men are stationed.  Bolton is disgusted at how the prisoners have been treated.  Since Brienne pledges her allegiances to House Stark he releases her from her shackles and sends her off to bathe and get new clothes.  Jaime is sent off to the fallen Maester to see about his hand.  He refuses to let them cut off his arm, even if the infection means death.  The Maester cleans Jaime’s stump the best he can.  Meanwhile, Jaime learns about what happened with the  Battle of Blackwater Bay and some of the aftermath, including Joff’s new bride-to-be.

I think I like Jaime and now I feel dirty.

Tyrion:

Tyrion is out on Tywin’s orders inspecting the damage done to Kings Landing and estimating that there isn’t enough money in the realm to fix it.  Then he heads over to that singer’s house to threaten him all the while planning on having Bronn kill him.  Things are not going well with Sansa.

Tywin requests his presence and shows him the two Valyrian swords he had made – one for Joffrey as a wedding gift and the other for his son.  For just a moment, I thought Tywin might mean Tyrion, but no.  He demands Tyrion find a way to pay for the repairs and a way to bed Sansa Stark.  Cheery times.

Shae seems nonplussed by Tyrion’s new wife.

Pycelle brings news of the Wall and suggests placing Janos Slynt as Commander since everyone assumes Mormont is dead.  Tyrion loudly objects, gets overruled, and wishes he had killed Slynt when he had the chance.

Samwell:

The surviving members of the attack have made it back to Crastor’s.  Sam is trying to nurse the near dead back to life, but to no avail.  Men have mockingly started calling him ‘Slayer’.  Crastor wants the men gone.  Mormont decides he’ll leave on the morrow.  Crastor holds a pretty sad feast for their farewell.

At the feast, the Watchmen get pissed at Crastor’s offerings and slay him.  Next they slay Mormont for trying to discipline them.  Basically, hell breaks loose and the men start raping the women and looting the place.  Several more men die.  Sam gives up as the Old Bear lays dying in his lap until Gilly, her new son, and two other women convince him that he must leave as Mormont wishes – back to the Wall to let everyone know what has happened.

Another scene that should film well.  These men are bat shit and it’s time the Realm offered up honorable men to the Wall or everyone is going to die.  Sam must now get the message out that dragonglass and fire is the only way to take out the Others.  I’m sad to see the Old Bear go, especially in this manor.  He wants Sam to tell Jorah that he forgives him.

Arya:

The man the bandits have captured is Sandor Clegane.  I figured it was him.  They all travel to Ser Beric Dondarrion and Thoros the red priest to hold the Hound accountable for his crimes.  Arya can’t wait to see him die in punishment for killing Mycah, the Butcher’s boy.

Clegane is sentenced to trial by combat and will go up against Ser Beric himself.  Beric’s body shows the scars of fatal wounds, yet he still lives.  Beric now serves the Lord of Light so you know magic is involved.  The Hound pretty much slices Beric in half after a tiresome battle and is declared winner, thus innocent of his crimes.  Arya grabs a dagger to take care of him herself, but watches as Clegane cries like a baby over his new burns.  At the end of the chapter, we realize that Beric has returned to the living.  Oh dear at all this magic.

Another fantastic film-worthy scene.  Arya has become quite hungry for revenge and death, has she not?  I worry about her now.  I see her ending up in very dark places.  I wonder what Beric will do with her?

Catelyn:

Lord Hoster, her father, has died.  They hold the funeral services for him.  Some Frey men have come to discuss the betrayal and Lord Frey’s new commands.  Spirits are not high.

The Freys also bring word of a burned and destroyed Winterfell as well as the slaying of the smallfolk and Robb’s men.  Apparently the little Freys who were taken in as wardens of Winterfell managed to escape with Bolton’s bastard along with the women and children of the castle.  The defeat among Robb and his men is palpable.  No one knows what happened to Theon.

Lord Frey has promised to forgive Robb as long as he comes to The Twins to apologize in person as well as having Lord Edmure Tully agree to wed his 16-year-old daughter, Roslin, immediately.  Edmure wants none of this, but what can he do?  He complies.

I miss Robb’s direwolf.  I don’t know what he should do next.  Catelyn wants him to bend the knee and go home to defend his own castle.  Robb refuses.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Y’all know I love Nathaniel Hawthorne.  He’s just so much fun with his creepy, over-the-top, supernatural symbolism.  And The Scarlet Letter is the perfect example of this.  I last joined Hester Prynne on her 7 years journey with the embroidered ‘A’ upon her breast my junior year of high school.  A lot has changed in my life since then – not so much for Hester.

The low-down?  We meet Hester as she’s released from jail and made to stand in all her shame upon the town scaffold as the curious townsfolk stare at her – for three hours.  She stands tall and proud, red ‘A’ blazing brightly in the sun, and her little babe held tightly in her arms.  You see, Hester has been naughty – she’s mothered a child (the elfish Pearl!) out of wedlock.  The Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale begs her to name the man and co-conspirator in her wicked dance between the sheets.  Hester refuses and spends the next seven years bearing her ignominy boldly.  Meanwhile, her husband – the delightfully renamed Roger Chillingworth – has reappeared in time to become the deviously twisted, yet altogether neighborly physician to his newest pal, Rev. Dimmesdale.  All the while Pearl dances devilishly in the sunlight.

Hester’s a cool, hip-hip lady.  Too hip for Puritan New England.  I love her as a protagonist and a woman you can really put your faith into.  She doesn’t let the symbolic letter upon her chest keep her down.  She almost embraces her punishment – ornately embroidering the ‘A’ to stand in stark contrast to the bleakness of her clothing.  Before long, the ‘A’ sheds its obvious allusion to adultery and instead comes to symbolize the idea of ‘Able’.  She’s the sort of Scarlett O’Hara of her time.

In contrast, I never have much time for old Dimmesy.  He lets his shame and horror of fathering little Pearl cripple him.  He who wears his ‘A’ in secret lets the weight of all its meaning beat him down until he’s knocking on death’s door, literally.  The Reverend is a weak character and not very interesting.  Roger, as his counterpart, is far more intriguing in all his EVIL.

And then there’s little Pearl.  She functions mostly as a symbol of all the SEX.  She’s the personification of Hester and Arthur’s sin.  I prefer to see her as a symbol of freedom and advancement.  She’s also kind of crazy.

But the real question?  Should you read The Scarlet Letter?  Um..yeah.  Of course you should, silly!  Hawthorne’s tale is overwrought with literary devices – mostly symbolism.  Everything is a symbol.  The forest, the ‘A’, Pearl, the scaffold, the town…yada, yada, yada.  Can you see a drinking game forming here?  On top of all the metaphors, there’s an underlying current of magical realism that’s a crowd pleaser and who doesn’t love a good scandal?  If you find yourself pouring over the current tragic happenings between K.Stew and R.Patz, you’ll love this novel!  And yes, you might have to warm up a bit to Hawthorne’s richly layered prose and powerhouse vocab, but you’ll come out a winner who’s read the word ‘ignominy’ more times than anyone else you know!

Kidding aside, The Scarlet Letter is a classic for a reason.  After all these years, you can still find parallels to our societal norms and rules.  Just think of Hester’s time upon the scaffold the same way you think of K.Stew’s million pictures of shame in everyone tabloid right now.  We still grapple with the sourness of infidelity and how to go about punishing such a crime.  Or is it a crime?  Should K.Stew stand with her head held high or shudder in fear?  Do we hee and haw over adultery or still hold it as a serious crime?  Should there be legal ramifications?  What about the undertones of female sexual liberation?  After all, despite the fact that Hawthorne keeps the deets decidedly vague, we can put together that Hester married the artist formerly known as Mr. Prynne, not out of love, but out of a need to secure her ability to eat and have shelter over her head.  Why couldn’t she just wait and marry for love and have all the lovely sexy times she could stand?  And then you have to question, was R.Patz really just not that good in bed?

Go forth and judge for yourself!

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My first Classics Club read is in the bag!  One down, 74 more to go!

North & South Read-A-Long: Week One

First and foremost, thanks again to the lovely Andi and Heather for hosting this awesome read-a-long!

The first 14 chapters were a delight to read, not that I ever had any doubts!  Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters was a favorite from last year so I knew North and South promised to be hours of fun.  And can I just say the Kindle pages turned like magic?  I’d settle down to read one or two chapters and find myself absorbed four chapters later.  Before I knew it, I’d blown past Chapter 14!  Gaskell’s writing is just so immensely readable.  You hardly even believe it’s a Victorian novel or that Gaskell was friends with both Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens (although her and Charlie did fight a bit).  For me, Gaskell just brings a concision and simplicity to her writing that Bronte and Dickens do not.  Did that sentence just feel blasphemous to anyone else?  Please understand that I love me some Charlotte and Charles, but Gaskell’s prose sometimes feels like a breath of fresh air.  She’s the kind of author that Victorian newbs can truly dig and the old weathered lot of us can sit back and enjoy.

That being said, Gaskell’s novels are deeply layered and tackle some of the heaviest themes of her time.  North and South finds itself right in the middle of the Industrial Revolution and all the economic and social changes of that time.  Margaret, our heroine, moves with her mother and father from the affluent South England countryside to the smoky industrialized fictional northern city of Milton.  Obviously, there’s an innate prejudice against these Northern business men.  Margaret grapples with new ideas born from labor rights, social warfare between employee and employer, the age-old class system of poor versus rich, and the complex relationships between each of these groups.  The first 14 chapters have just skirted these issues so far, but we know what side Margaret’s on.  She grew up in a world of old money and agriculture.  This new class of Northerners who come from low birth and make their money through means of manufacturing and commerce are baffling to her and she’s automatically pre-disposed to prejudice and rash judgement.

As for Margaret Hale as our heroine, do y’all like her?  I’m torn and almost see her as two characters – the one that lives in her head and the one she portrays to the world.  Her inner monologues paint her as a thoughtful young woman who is really trying her best to be a great daughter, a helpful hand to the poor, and the type of woman anyone could be proud of.  But outwardly, she tends to come off as haughty, severe, and very outspoken – at times, rude.  Normally, I like a saucy protagonist, but something about her manner puts me off.  I’ve seen lots of discussions comparing her to Elizabeth Bennett and I can see how the comparison is a fair one, but so far, I’m nowhere nearly as enamored of her as I am of dear Lizzy Bennett (of course, I am superbly biased).

And as for Mr. Thornton, I haven’t fully formed my opinion of him just yet.  He represents the hardened Northern mill owner who has risen from the ashes of his wayward youth to find success.  He’s a great antagonist to Margaret’s protagonist and their bickering back and forth is highly entertaining.  I love when opposites attract so I’m fairly giddy about the prospects of their further argumentative romancing.  I do get a kind of villainous feeling from Mr. Thornton, however, especially in the face of the poor Higgins family who has been ruined by manufacturing work.  Does anyone else feel this way?

Before I stop my endless and rather pointless rambling, let me comment on some of the book’s secondary characters.  Papa Hale seems sort of aloof to me and slightly weak.  He never appears to be home, can’t get up enough nerve to tell his wife they are moving, and refuses to accept the realities of his wife’s illness.  Poor Margaret is really the head of this household.  What do you think this characterization lends towards the ideas of a learned and book loving man?  Not a very good one, I’d say.  As for Margaret’s dying mother, she’s silly in her own ways and complains A LOT, but there’s something a bit sturdier about her in the face of her failing health.  But honestly, I don’t think I like either of her parents.  And the brother, Frederick?  He’s confined to South America due to some boating mutiny?  Is this relevant?

Man, I need to shut up!  The first 14 have left me numerous questions and beginnings of several arguments.  I want to know how Margaret will reconcile her relationship with the Higgins family with that of the Thorntons.  Will Frederick make an appearance?  Will the mill workers strike?  Who will lose their life?  Will John and Margaret find peace and happiness?  And will poor, neglected Mr. Lennox find love in the face of Margaret’s rejection of his marriage proposal?

Will I be able to restrain myself from finishing the novel way ahead of schedule?  Questions, questions!

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I forgot to mention something!  Reading North and South has been very interesting alongside Gone With the Wind.  How similar some of the themes are.  And technically, they take place very close historically.  Ok…I’m really going to shut up now.

Don’t forget to check out the other posts over at Andi’s blog!

The Classics Club: Wherein I Cave and Join…

Earlier this year, Jillian from A Room of One’s Own created The Classics Club where bloggers could pledge to read a certain amount of classics over the next 5 years.  It’s a superb idea and a great way to build community among the bookish interwebs.  That being said, I initially hesitated.  Not because I don’t love classics – I do, probably my favorite ‘genre’, but rather I was worried about over-extending myself or forcing myself to read from a list (even if it were of my own creation).  But I’ve caved in and I’m not ashamed to admit it!

Why now, you ask?  Because my fears were recently rendered silly when I realized that in the next four weeks I will be completing 4 books I consider classics – for fun!  And this classics reading pace is the norm for me – not the exception.  As long as my list does in fact have an end and isn’t overly long, I’ll reach this goal naturally.  So, I made my list and had a blast.  I mean, who doesn’t love a great list of books?   Plus, Jillian and several other amazing bloggers just launched The Classics Club’s own internet home this week!  Check it out here.

My list consists of books off the top of my head (mostly!) and off my shelves that I am excited about reading.  There are quite a few re-reads, but more than enough new-to-me titles.  My list is 75 books long and I am vowing to finish the list by July 31, 2017 – roughly 5 years from now.  Fifteen books a year is nothing and leaves me plenty of time to read my Litwits books and other pure pleasure reads.  WIN.

Without further ado, please see my lovely list below.  The re-reads are in bold!

And Then There Were None Agatha Christie (10/10/12)
The Stranger Albert Camus
The Color Purple Alice Walker
Black Beauty Anna Sewell (January 2013)
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Anne Bronte
Agnes Grey Anne Bronte (January 2013)
Revolutionary Road Richard Yates
The Hound of the Baskervilles Arthur Conan Doyle (11/12/12)
A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Charles Dickens
The Professor Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
Moll Flanders Daniel Defoe
Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
I Capture the Castle Dodie Smith (10/16/12)
Ethan Frome Edith Wharton (April 2013)
North and South Elizabeth Gaskell (8/23/12)
Cranford Elizabeth Gaskell (April 2013)
The Robber Bridegroom Eudora Welty
Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald (February 2013)
The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett (November 2012)
Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami
The Ambassadors Henry James
Daisy Miller Henry James
Washington Square Henry James
Call It Sleep Henry Roth
The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien (11/22/12)
Mansfield Park Jane Austen (August 2013)
Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen
The French Lieutenant’s Woman John Fowles
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
East of Eden John Steinbeck
Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro
Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut
Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery
Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
Little Women Louisa May Alcott(March 2013)
Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell (8/6/2012)
The Woman Warrior Maxine Hong Kingston(June 2013)
The Hours Michael Cunningham
The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne  (8/6/2012)
The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
The Good Earth Pearl. S. Buck
Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler (May 2013)
Native Son Richard Wright
I, Claudius Robert Graves
Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlein
All the King’s Men Robert Penn Warren
A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry
Henderson the Rain King Saul Bellow
King Lear Shakespeare
Twelfth Night Shakespeare
The Tempest Shakespeare
The Haunting of Hill House Shirley Jackson
The Stand Stephen King
American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser
Sister Carrie Theodore Dreiser
Jude the Obsure Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D’Ubervilles Thomas Hardy
Our Town Thornton Wilder
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Truman Capote
Les Miserables Victor Hugo
Lolita Vladimir Nobokov(July 2013)
O Pioneers! Willa Cather
The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner
Neuromancer William Gibson
The Princess Bride William Goldman
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A Storm of Swords Journal – Part 6 (SPOILERS)

Pages 294-341

Jon:

We’re finally back with Jon and Ygritte!  But first, Jon and the Wildling party are preparing to cross the Wall.  Jon says a sad goodbye to Ghost, who won’t be able to come (hopefully, this is only a temporary parting!).  Jon is forced to share more information about the Watch, all the while feeling guiltier and guiltier about his betrayal.  Yet, he knows if he’s caught lying they will kill him and Ygritte and still attack the Wall.  He thinks about his father a lot during this chapter.

We don’t get to see Jon and Ygritte’s first night together except through flashbacks which are highly guilt ridden from Jon’s perspective.  But what we do know is that Jon likes the lady loving – his body and mind have completely betrayed his vows and he’s beginning to question at least the no-women aspect of them.  Jon and Ygritte get up to much more bedroom acrobatics – in a sex cave no less!!  Love it.  Can’t wait to see how they film the cave scene – and they better film it!

Dany:

I spoke way too soon about her parts being boring.  This last chapter was overflowing with badassery.  She decides to buy ALL the Unsullied army, plus the future boys waiting to become the Unsullied.  Essentially, she’s wiping out most of the slave trade.  Of course, this comes at a cost and she sells her goods, her ships, and Drogon the dragon.  Oh My.

When she goes to make the exchange, she commands her new army telling them they are hers.  The head slaver dude gets all pissy because Drogon doesn’t want to go with him.  Dany is like – well, duh – he’s no effing slave and then has Drogon char the slaver’s head and whatnot.  Dany uses her men and the Unsullied to destroy the remaining slavers.  Wowsy.  Go Dany.  I do wonder how she’ll be received with a slave army though – on Westeros slaving is a big no-no.  Just ask Jorah.  Also, she has a new handmaiden – a former female slave who she freed, but the girl decides to stick around.  I would too.

Will be amazing on television as long as they have the budget for it.

Sansa:

Sansa finally has her new dress and is super excited to try it on for the first time.  Cersei is with her and Sansa feels like a beautiful woman.  Poor dear.  When they bring in the maiden cloak of House Stark to pin it to her shoulders, she realizes something is awfully amiss.  This is wedding garb.  That’s when they break the news to her that this is actually her wedding dress and she is now on her way to the Sept to marry Tyrion.  Que freak out of the century.

Eventually, Sansa bows to her duties, knowing she is trapped and goes peacefully to her wedding.  Tyrion offers to let her marry Lancel instead, but Sansa is nothing if not obedient and marries Tyrion.  He promised to be good to her.  What a mess.

The wedding feast is a gay affair for everyone but the happy couple.  Sansa wants so much to enjoy her wedding, but Tyrion won’t even dance with her.  Instead, she dances with nearly everyone else and Joff promises to make her his whore.  Good times.  Sansa notices how the Tyrells have completely ditched her.  Fickle friends, that lot.

When it comes time for the bedding ceremonies, Tyrion cancels them by pretending to be much drunker than he is and manhandling Sansa back to the wedding quarters.  All for show.  He yet again assures Sansa he’ll be good to her, but they must consummate the marriage whether either one of them wants to or not.  Sansa, like a wounded puppy, disrobes and stands before him shaking.  Despite his best efforts, Tyrion is drowning in desire.  This is one of the hardest scenes I’ve had to read.  Both naked, they climb into bed – Tyrion tries to reassure Sansa, but he knows she detests the way he looks.  Eventually, he sits back and tells her they won’t lie together – that he’ll wait until she desires him.  Sansa pretty much lets him know that will never happen.  Tyrion is very, very wounded.

Heartbreaking.  With the actress who plays Sansa so young, I doubt this scene will involve any nudity on screen.  But it has the potential to be devastatingly amazing.

Arya:

Still nothing happening.  The weird little band find themselves at a sizable town where they stop at the friendly local brothel.  Arya is scrubbed clean again and put in lace.  I find a lot of humor in these moments.  Gendry is acting a bit strange towards her – I think he has a crush, but I’ve been wrong before.

At the end of the chapter, a group of men arrive with a captive they pronounce as a Lannister.  People think it’s Jaime, but when Arya sees him she knows it’s not the Kingslayer, but the man’s identity makes her wickedly happy.  We’ll find out next chapter.

Jon:

Nothing too exciting.  They are trying to go over the wall.  Several men fall to their deaths, but eventually the rest make it to the top, including Jon and Ygritte.  Ygritte cries because they apparently wakened all those white walkers looking for some magical horn to bring down the Wall, never found it, and so now have loosed evil on the world for naught.  She hates the bloody wall.

Should film well.  I miss Ghost.  You know, they’ll probably try to put Jon in some kind of peril for these scenes.  Up the tension factor a bit.