Passage to India

Forster, E.M. Passage to India. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Janovich, 1924.

Reason read: Forster was born and died in January, the first and seventh, respectively.

Much has been written about Passage to India. Hundreds of writers had offered up their opinion on the classic. I won’t bore you with the plot except to say India is at odds with British rule in every sense. It clouds judgement beyond reason, as most prejudices do. Indian-born Aziz is curious about the English and offers to take two British women to see the infamous caves of Marabar. My comment is Aziz acts oddly enough for me to question what exactly did happen in those isolated and mysterious caves?…which is exactly what Mr. Forster wanted me to do.
Every relationship in Passage to India suffers from the affects of rumor, doubt, ulterior motive, class, and racism. Friends become enemies and back again as stories and perceptions change and change again.

Quotes to quote, “One tip can buy too much as well as too little; indeed the coin that buys the exact truth has not yet been minted” (p 10), “Any man can travel light until he has a wife and children” (p 106), and “The racist problem can take subtle forms” (p 141).

Author fact: E. M. stands for Edward Morgan. Everyone knows that. But, did you know E.M. spent six months in India?

Book trivia: Passage to India was made into a movie starring Alec Guinness in 1984. It won two Oscars. Passage to India was also adapted to the stage twice and to television for the BBC.

Nancy said: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade” (p 176).


January Jinxed

January is a month of great indecision. I can’t decide if I want to say more…
If there is one thing I can say for the January books, it is that most all of the fiction made mention of great music. Some musicians I knew, some I didn’t. Some songs I knew, some I didn’t. I had fun looking it all up though.

Fiction:

  • Sanctuary by Ken Bruen (EB & print). Music: Philip Fogarty, Anne Lardi, Rolling Stones, Snow Patrol, Johnny Duhan.
  • The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (EB & print).
  • Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland (EB & print). Music: Lucinda Williams, Slim Dusty, Nick Cave, The Warumpi Band, Ry Cooder.
  • The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett (EB & print). Music: Charles Tenet.
  • Graced Land by Laura Kalpakian (EB & print). Music: Elvis, Elvis, and more Elvis.
  • The Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel (print). Music: Leonard Cohen, Beethoven, and the fictional heavy metal band, Panda Bear Soup.
  • The Passage to India by E.M. Forster (EB & print).

Nonfiction:

  • Barcardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten (EB & print).

Series continuations:

  • Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset (EB & print).
  • The Persuader by Lee Child (EB & AB).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Fine, Thanks by Mary Dunnewold (EB). Music: Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Mose Allison, Talking Heads, Aaron Copeland (can you tell, Dunnewold really likes music!).

January Jumping

Believe it or not, I’m kind of happy with the way January is shaping up already, five days in. After the disappointments of December I am definitely ready for change. I’m running more these days. I convinced a friend to see sirsy with me. I’m not sure what she thought, but I am still in love with the lyrics. Anyway, enough of that. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett – in honor of Bennett’s birthday being on the 14th of January. (EB)
  • Sanctuary by Ken Bruen – in honor of Bruen’s birthday also being in January. Confessional: I read this book in one day. (EB)
  • The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat – in honor of Danticat’s birthday also being in January. (EB)
  • Graced Land by Laura Kalapakian – in honor of Elvis’s birth month also being in January.
  • Passage to India by E.M. Forster – in honor of Forster’s birth month also being in January. Yes, celebrating a lot of birthdays this month!

Nonfiction:

  • Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten – in honor of a Cuban Read Day held in January.
  • Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel – in honor of China’s spring festival.

Series continuations:

  • Persuader by Lee Child – the last one in the series, read in honor of New York becoming a state in July (and where Child lived at the time I made this whole thing up). (AB)
  • The Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset – this is another series I am wrapping up. I started it in October in honor of a pen pal I used to know in Norway.

Early Review:

  • I am supposed to receive an Early Review from November’s list, but it hasn’t arrived so I can’t mention it. For the first time in a long, long time (perhaps ever, I’ll have to look), I did not request a book for the month of December.

African Queen

Forester, Cecil Scott. The African Queen. New york: The Modern Library, 1940.

Reason read: I needed a classic I’ve always wanted to read for the Portland Public Library 2019 Reading challenge. This one fit the bill. And, and! And, it was short!

Who doesn’t know the movie version of this book? Thanks to Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and a little Academy Award for Best Actor, everyone has seen it. Nearly everyone that is, except me. Fear not, it’s on the list.

To set the stage: Africa, World War I. Rose is high spirited, a spunky woman despite being a strait-laced and virginal missionary’s sister. She is out for revenge for the death of her brother; she wants to torpedo the Germans to strike a blow for England. Enter gin-swilling mechanic Charlie Allnut and his river boat, the African Queen. Rose is only too eager to learn all about the African Queen to determine its full usefulness to exact her revenge – torpedoing the German police boat, the Konigin Luise. Rose’s patriotism and lust for adventure adds up to a woman Allnut has never seen the likes of before. She somehow convinces him to take on her quest and it is her feisty nature that gets her and Allnut through deadly rapids, thick mangroves, choking weeds, malaria infested swarms of mosquitoes and stifling heat down the Bora delta.
Typical and predictable, a relationship blooms between Rose and Charlie, but how could it not when confined on a river boat for days on end? As they say, misery loves company. Despite seeing the relationship a mile away Forester reissued his story so that he had the opportunity to present the end of the story as he originally intended. It’s not what you expect.

Lines I just had to quote, “Allnut tried to keep his amusement out of sight” (p 39), while Rose was described thusly, “A woman sewing has a powerful weapon at her disposal when engaged in a duel with a man” (p 91). He’s bumbling and she’s feisty.
More lines I liked, “Allnut would not have exchanged Rose for all the fried fish shops in the world” (p 165). Aint romance grand?

As an aside, I just love an author who uses the word willynilly.

Author fact: C.S. Forester might be better known for his Horatio Hornblower sea adventures.

Book trivia: The African Queen was made into a movie in 1951 as I mentioned before.

Nancy said: Pearl only mentioned The African Queen because Forester is known for it, above and beyond his Horatio Hornblower series.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Sea Stories” (p 217). As you guessed it, I deleted this from the Challenge list because The African Queen takes place on an African river, not the high seas.


Framley Parsonage

Trollope, Anthony. Framley Parsonage. New York: Penguin, 1993.

Reason read: to continue the series started in April in honor of Trollope’s birth month.

As usual Trollope’s fourth novel in the Barsetshire Chronicle is laden with characters. One of the first people readers meet is Mark Robarts, a vicar with ambitions to further his career. The gist of the story is that Robarts loans Nathaniel Sowerby money even though Robarts realizes Sowerby is an unsavory character, always gambling and up to no good. Of course there is some good old fashioned courting of the ladies going on that complicates the story.
Trollope explores human emotions such as humiliation (Robarts not being able to afford to give a loan but does it anyway), romance (between Mark’s sister, Lucy, and Lord Lufton), greed (inappropriate relationships because of lower class status) and affection (bailing a friend out of a sticky situation). The subplot of Lucy and Lord Lufton is my favorite. Lady Lufton doesn’t think Lucy is good enough for her son (what mother does?).

Author fact: Trollope wanted to be a political figure at one point in his life.

Book trivia: At the end of Framley Parsonage Doctor Thorne gets married. Remember him?

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Framley Parsonage but she did say that Trollope is one of her favorite writers.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).


December Did Not

December did not suck entirely. I was able to run 97 miles out of the 97 promised. The in-law holiday party was a lot of fun and I got to most of the books on my list:
Nonfiction:

  • Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming (DNF)
  • Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John
  • Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes
  • On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman)
  • Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser
  • Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre .
  • River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (AB)

Fiction:

  • Tu by Patricia Grace – I read this in four days because it was due back at a library that didn’t allow renewals.

Series:

  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright. I listened to this on audio on my lunch breaks. It was a good way to escape for a little while each day. Confessional: I didn’t finish the whole thing but since it is a continuation of the series it doesn’t matter.

Early Review:

  • Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham – this was an October book that took me a little time to review because I was too busy using it to run!
  • Disaster Falls: a family story by Stephane Gerson

September Slipped Away

September was a cool month. On the 10th I ran a half marathon (2:10:16), was able to get to Monhegan (and introduce the island to some new people), and get to a lot of reading:

  1. Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill
  2. Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
  3. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  4. Consul’s Wife by W.T. Tyler
  5. Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry (AB)
  6. Life and Death of Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
  7. Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
  8. Best Game Ever by Mark Bowden
  9. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  10. Which Side Are You On? by Elaine Harger (ER)
  11. Which Side Are You On? by George Ella Lyon (for fun)

AB = Audio book
ER = Early review


The Trial

Kafka, Franz. The Trial. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Reason read: Czech Republic is lovely in September. Some say that is the best time to visit.

Where does Franz Kafka get his ideas? Everyone knows Metamorphosis and The Trial is no different. It has been made into theater productions, television shows and movies. Everything Kafka has ever written has been analyzed within an inch of its life so I will not be able to add anything new with my review of The Trial. In one sentence, The Trial is about a man on trial for an unknown crime. The end. Why Josef K was indicted is a mystery; why he was convicted is even more so. What is so haunting about The Trial is the tone of voice. The frightening subject matter is told in such a robotic, matter of fact manner. The outrage just isn’t there.

As an aside, I can remember reading this in World Lit class in college.

Author fact: Kafka studied law and received a degree in 1906.

Book trivia: The Trial was published posthumously.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Czech It Out” (p 70).


Septembering

I’m not exactly sure what September will bring. The renovations for the library are finally finished (with a crazy punch list, I might add). The backyard is complete minus the hot tub, fire pit and patio furniture (that’s stage II). I have a half mara in ten days so I’m anticipating a good run month. Here are the planned books:

  • Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
  • Edwin Mullhouse: the life and death of an American Writer – to honor kids in September
  • Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng – Mao died of cancer in September.
  • Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Cold War ended in September
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka – September is the best month to visit the Czech Republic.
  • Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – September is Southern Gospel month
  • Which Side are You On? by Elaine Harger – an Early Review from LibraryThing.

December Missed

Woops! December left us without me writing about the reading. Not sure how that happened (other than to say “life”), but anyway – here’s what was accomplished for December:

  • Beth Shaw’s Yoga Fit by Beth Shaw (an Early Review book for LibraryThing)
  • Cod by Mark Kurlansky
  • Flashman and the Angel of the Lord by George MacDonald Fraser
  • How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  • The Man Who Was Taller Than God by Harold Adams
  • Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett

Here’s a belated look at January 2016 (already started, as you will see):

  1. Flashman and the Tiger by George MacDonald Fraser (the LAST book in the series on my list)
  2. Always a Body to Trade by K.C. Constantine (already read in honor of January being National Mystery month. Read this in a day)
  3. Blue Light by Walter Mosley (already read in honor of Mosley’s birth month. Another quick read)
  4. Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett (the LAST book in the Lymond Series). It bears noting I am also consulting The Prophecies by Nostradamus (translated by Richard Sieburth) while reading Checkmate.
  5. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (an audio book in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January)
  6. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (in honor of Nabokov’s wife, Vera. Pale Fire is dedicated to her and her birthday is in January)
  7. Up, into the Singing Mountain by Richard Llewellyn (to continue the series started last month).

I have been chosen to review a book about the photography of Dickey Chapelle but since it hasn’t arrived yet I can’t put it on the list. I was also chosen to review Liar by Rob Roberge, but I don’t expect that one until February.

On a personal note: December ended with writing to 12 complete strangers. I am really hoping one or two of them become pen pals.


Finnegans Wake

Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. New York: Viking, 1939.

Confessional: I was doomed right from the start. I have been calling this book Finnegan’s Wake. That should tell you something…when I can’t even get the title right. I have read a lot of reviews of Finnegans Wake. Lots of advice on how to even read the thing. When you have more reviews suggesting how to read a book rather than what the book was actually about, that should tell you something. In all honesty, I have no clue what it was about. But, I’m not alone. Tons of other people have been scratching their heads, too. But, but, but that’s not to say they aren’t without advice: I tried reading it aloud, as many suggested. I tried not taking it too seriously, as others promised would help. I tried drinking with each chapter and even that didn’t make the going any easier. Drinking just made me laugh when something wasn’t funny. It’s much like the lyrics to Phish. I don’t understand a jiboo so I don’t “get” the song. End of story.

Reason read: James Joyce was born in February – just like me, myself and moi.

Author fact: Joyce took 17 years to write Finnegans Wake and it shows. I think he randomly forgot where he was in the story and picked up any old place, even in the middle of sentences.

Book trivia: Finnegans Wake was Joyce’s last book. He died two years after its publication. I can see that.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called simply “Irish Fiction” (p 175) but more importantly, from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett, and Synge” (p 110). Technically, I never should have picked Joyce up. As the chapter suggests, I should be reading anything but Joyce, Behan, Beckett or Synge.


Herzog

Bellow, Saul. Herzog. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1964.

Moses Alkanan Herzog is a man experiencing a midlife crisis. His coping mechanism is to write letters in his head; if they make do it to paper, they are letters he most often does not mail. With each letter comes a flashback to a particular monumental time in Herzog’s memory. Most of his reminiscing centers on his two failed marriages and all the relationships to which he cannot commit. He is a well intentioned, extremely intelligent yet sad man. An example: sometime after the divorce from his second wife Herzog visits a friend and her husband on Martha’s Vineyard. Soon after arriving he realizes his friends are way too happy for his state of mind. He decides, moments after arriving, he he must leave immediately. Instead of facing his well-intentioned friends to explain the mistake, Herzog writes a note and slips away unnoticed. There is a singular self-satisfaction in the fact that he makes it back to New York City by 11pm. Herzog has a heart and deeply cares, despite the fact he is so misunderstood. When he suspects his daughter is being abused he travels to his ex-wife’s home to confront the abuser. His motives are good even though the end is not what he intended.

Confessional: I have this friend who passed away over a year ago. I don’t know why, but at times, Herzog reminded me of him. Maybe it was the multiple marriages and all the exotic relationships with women?

Favorite lines, “A person of irregular tendencies, he practiced the art of circling among random facts to swoop down on the essentials” (p 18), and “A free foot on a summer night eases the heart” (p 194). This last line totally made me think of my husband.

Reason read (April 20th – May 4th): Mr. Bellow passed away in April of 2005 and May is National Jewish American month. In this (rare) instance I am reading one book in two different months. It just worked out that way.

Author fact: Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for literature.

Book trivia: Herzog won the National Book Award for fiction and was a New York Times best seller (also named top 100 of all “Time” by Time Magazine).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Jewish American Experience” (p 132).


May Day List

I don’t hold onto many books. Once I have read something I either lend it away, maybe to never see it again or I donate it somewhere, hoping to never see it again. In an effort to clean off my personal shelves I swapped out some of the titles I had been planning to borrow from other libraries for books I already have at home. This practically changes the entire list for May, but oh well. Here are the many, many books that are on the list for this May:

  1. Art Student’s War by Brad Leithauser
  2. Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith
  3. Careless Love by Peter Gurlnink…yes, I am STILL reading this! I can’t seem to finish it! Grrrrr
  4. Inspector Ghote Breaks an Egg by H.R.F. Keating
  5. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. I was going to read Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott, but I have Bury My Heart at home.
  6. Oedipus by Sophocles. Originally I was going to read Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan, but like Bury My Heart, I have Oedipus at home.
  7. Finishing: The Lotus Eaters by Tatjani Soli
  8. ADDED: French Revolutions* by Tim Moore. I needed something on cd.
  9. ADDED: The transcriptionist by Amy Rowland (an Early Review title from LibraryThing)

*Audio book

Here is how the rest of year eight should go:

  1. Andorra by Peter Cameron (November)
  2. Any Four Women Can Rob the Bank of Italy by Ann Cornelisen (November)
  3. Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler (July)
  4. Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman (September)
  5. Beaufort by Ron Leshem* (November)
  6. Beirut Blues by Hanan al-Shaykh (August)
  7. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks* (June)
  8. Black Lamb and Gray Falcon by Rebecca West (July)
  9. Bluebird Canyon by Dan McCall (September)
  10. Captain Sir Richard Burton by Edward Rice (October)
  11. Caroline’s Daughters by Alice Adams (August)
  12. Cradle of Gold by Christopher Heaney (November)
  13. Culture of Disbelief by Stephen Carter (October)
  14. Dancer with Bruised Knees by Lynne McFall (June)
  15. Dark Sun by Richard Rhodes (July)
  16. Earthly Possessions by Anne Tyler (June)
  17. Eye of the World by Robert Jordan* (October)
  18. Faith Fox by Jane Gardam* (July)
  19. First Man by Albert Camus (June)
  20. Fordlandia by Greg Gandin (August)
  21. Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee (August)
  22. Grass Dancer by Susan Power (November)
  23. History Man by Malcolm Bradbury (September)
  24. In a Strange City by Laura Lippman (October)
  25. Inside Passage by Michael Modselewski (June)
  26. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (August)
  27. Long Way From Home by Frederick Busch (August)
  28. Raw Silk by Janet Burroway (September)
  29. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro* (August)
  30. Rose of Martinique by Andrea Stuart (June)
  31. Thousand Ways to Please a Husband by Weaver/LeCron (September)
  32. You Get What You Pay For by Larry Beinhart (November)

*Planned as audio books

FINISHED:

  1. After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat
  2. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow*
  3. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin*
  4. Angels Weep by Wilbur Smith
  5. Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
  6. Benjamin Franklin: an American Life by Walter Isaacson
  7. Bring Me a Unicorn by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  8. Cabin Fever by Elizabeth Jolley
  9. Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
  10. Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan*
  11. ADDED: Dancer and the Thief by Antonio Skarmeta
  12. Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder
  13. Falcon Flies by Wilbur Smith*
  14. Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
  15. Flower and the Nettle by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  16. Georges’ Wife by Elizabeth Jolley – This finishes the Vera Wright Trilogy
  17. Herzog by Saul Bellow. Originally, I was going to read Call It Sleep by Henry Roth in May, but I read Herzog early in honor of Bellow’s passing in April of 2005.
  18. Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  19. House of Morgan by Ron Chernow – attempted
  20. Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman
  21. It Looked Like Forever by Mark Harris
  22. Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralink
  23. Leopard Hunts in the Darkness by Wilbur Smith
  24. Life in the Air Ocean by Sylvia Foley
  25. Men of Men by Wilbur Smith
  26. Now Read This II by Nancy Pearl
  27. Ocean of Words by Ha Jin
  28. Palladian Days by Sally Gable*
  29. Professor and the Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa
  30. Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald
  31. Rose Cafe by John Hanson Mitchell
  32. Run or Die by Kilian Jornet
  33. Running for Mortals by John Bingham
  34. ADDED: Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril by Timothy Ferris
  35. Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff
  36. ADDED: Thrush Green by Miss Read*
  37. War Within and Without by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  38. Winners and Losers by Martin Quigley

Poetry:

  • “Aftermath” ~ a poem by Siegfried Sassoon
  • “Romance” ~ a poem by W.J. Turner
  • “Kubla Khan” ~ a poem by Samuel T. Coleridge

 

 


Scarlet Pimpernel

Orczy, Baroness. The Scarlet Pimpernel. New York: Signet Classic, 1974.

When I first saw this on my list as a book to read in honor of love and Valentine’s Day I almost thought there was a mistake. The beginning of the book is mayhem. Taking place during the French Revolution and the Year of Terror people are being sent to the “Madame Guillotine” left and right. To make matters worse, the heroine of the story, Lady Marguerite Blakeney is disgusted by her dull, slow-witted and lazy husband. Death and indifference. What kind of love story is that?
My advice? Keep reading. This is a classic love story wrapped up in an adventure mystery full of intrigue. Lady Marguerite harbors a horrible skeleton in her closet. Out of revenge for her brother (because blood is thicker than water) she sent an entire family to the guillotine. The punishment didn’t fit the crime and Marguerite is ashamed of her prior actions. However, this event taints her marriage to Sir Percy Blakeney and as time goes on their relationship grows colder and colder, falling further and further out of love. Complicating matters is a crafty hero calling himself the Scarlet Pimpernel. He and his “League” are going around and rescuing citizens from the guillotine. His arch enemy,┬áChauvelin, is determined to uncover his real identity and he enlists Marguerite’s help (using her brother as bait). She has already proven that she’ll turn against anyone for the sake of her brother. What Marguerite doesn’t know is that her dull, slow-witted, lazy husband is none other than the Scarlet Pimpernel himself.

I love the opening sentence: “A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and hate” (p 1). Powerful stuff. Another favorite line, “Fate is usually swift when she deals a blow (p 95). And one more, “The weariest nights, the longest days, sooner or later must preforce come to an end” (p 165).

Reason read: In honor of love trumping all. Even though Marguerite and Percy’s marriage is initially on the rocks they come to each other’s rescue in the end.

Author fact: When researching Baroness Orczy I discovered that her full name is a mouthful: Baroness Emmuska Magdolna Rozalia Maria Jozefa Borbala Orczy de Orczi. Really? Craziness.

Book trivia: The Scarlet Pimpernel is laced with real-life individuals. Imaginative nonfiction or historical fiction. You be the judge.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 205).


Vanity Fair

Thackerary, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair: a Novel Without a Hero. New York: The Book League of America, date unknown.

The story opens with two graduating students leaving Miss Pickerton’s academy for young ladies. One graduate, Amelia Sedley, is well loved and receives an enormous send off while her companion, Rebecca Sharp, barely garners a glance. Becky is an orphaned governess, traveling with Amelia as her guest. Once at the Sedley home Rebecca sets out to become betrothed to Amelia’s brother, Joseph. Jos serves as Collector of Boggley Wollah in the East India Company’s Civil Service. Once that attempt fails Rebecca becomes even more amoral and shameless. In today’s terms she would be classified as a psychopath because of her lack of conscience and her inability to feel anything for her fellow man. Amelia is disgustingly sweet and Rebecca is shamelessly indifferent. Neither one makes a satisfying hero in Thackeray’s eyes. I found the story to be plotless and pointless. What made the reading more difficult was Thackeray getting confused and mixing up the characters.

Lines that got me for one reason or another, “Now and then he would make a desperate attempt to get rid of his superabundant fat, but his indolence and love of good living speedily got the better of these endeavors at reform…” (p 13), “Sir Put Crawley was a philosopher with a taste for what is called low life” (p 41), and “…if you are not allowed to touch the heart sometimes in spite of syntax, and are not to be loved until you know the difference between trimeter and tetrameter, may all poetry go to the deuce and every schoolmaster perish miserably!” (p 60).

Reason read: First month, first chapter. Wish I hadn’t.

Author fact: Vanity Fair (published in 1848) was Thackeray’s best known work.

Book trivia: I was astounded to learn (through IMDB) that Vanity Fair was made into a movie for the big screen and television nearly a dozen times. It even had a radio version.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the introduction (p x). Pearl says Vanity Fair is one of the books at her bedside.