KeskusteluClub Read 2023

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joulukuu 21, 2022, 3:42 pm

Welcome to another season in the Victorian Tavern. Oh, wait - that would be a suitable line for an opening night at a theatre, not at a pub. But then, all the world's a stage. Now that's the wrong period but then the Victorians were influenced by that previous one and it is not uncommon to find references to Shakespeare's works (and not only) in the works of the era.

Last year, in Club 2022, we worked through some of the Victorian authors. This year (and in 2024 if anyone is still interested), we are leaving the British Empire and checking what everyone else was writing while Victoria was reigning over half the world (or thereabouts): 1837-1901. For a big chunk of the world, this is the period of self-determination and the current political map of the world was slowly emerging. For other parts of the world, things were just going as usual.

Just like last year, we will have quarterly reads (voting for the following period will happen in February, May, August and November so don't forget to vote). This topic is our tavern - pull up a chair and join us talking about anything written and/or published during that period. While the quarters will be somewhat dedicated to the areas we are covering in them, any and all discussions are welcome here - from within or outside the empire headed by Victoria. And if you are reading a book set in the period or about the period, you are also welcome - if it has any connection to the timeframe, we will love to hear about it.

The second post below will be for some housekeeping (links to all quarterly threads, the periods lists, useful links including other places in LT where Victorian topics are being discussed - that sort of thing).

So welcome to the Tavern!

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 21, 2022, 4:53 pm

The periods per quarter (tentative beyond Q2 in 2023 for now: Feedback accepted if someone has some) with links to the quarterly threads when I post them):

Q1: USA and Canada
Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie (Canada):
The Bostonians by Henry James (USA and Great Britain):
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (USA):

Q2: France, Spain, Portugal, Italy
Q3: Far East: Japan, China, Korea (maybe throw a few more in here)
Q4: Northern and Central Europe: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland (and I am sure I am missing someone)

Q1: Latin America (everything south from USA)
Q2: Africa
Q3: Eastern Europe - from Czechia to Russia and from the Baltic States to Greece and Albania
Q4: Asia (minus the Far East but including the Ottoman Empire and the countries it left behind starting with Turkey)

You feel like reading some actual Victorians in 2023? Anthony Trollope is our author of the month in January 2023 so if you feel like staying with the British for a bit longer, come join us over in "Monthly Author Reads":

tammikuu 7, 8:40 am

Without thinking about them fitting into our Victorian theme, I have two books planned for January.

I just started Anne by Constance Fenimore Woolson (I'm having trouble finding a touchstone for this novel) I learned about Constance Fenimore Woolson through her relationship with Henry James and also through a vacation to Mackinac Island in Michigan. Woolson spent a lot of time on the island and has a memorial there. "Anne" is her breakout book and the most conventional writing that she did. It takes place partially on Mackinac Island, which is one of the reasons I wanted to read it. I've only just begun, but I will post a review once I've finished.

I'm also going to participate in Liz's tutored read of The Belton Estate by Trollope. Trollope is one of my favorite authors and I've enjoyed dipping into his extensive backlist of less popular novels with Liz. Here is the link if anyone is interested.

My copy is traveling slowing from the used bookstore where I bought it, so I'll will be joining in the discussion a bit late.

tammikuu 7, 1:31 pm

>3 japaul22: That reminds me that I was looking for something by Woolson after I read The Master. It was hard to find books by her at that time, some ten years ago, but I'll try again.

Will see how quickly a copy of The Belton Estate can get here. Thanks for the link.

tammikuu 7, 2:24 pm

>4 SassyLassy: I got Anne for my kindle. I haven’t looked for her other books yet.

tammikuu 10, 6:25 am

I think I will stick with some of the actual Victorians of last year, but I will be very happy to read about your explorations and suggestions for other 19th century writers.

Last year, I had already started reading Walt Whitman. I will continue reading Leaves of Grass and other poetry. I have also started re-reading Specimen Days, which I started in an abridged version last year. I may do some reading around Whitman.

tammikuu 10, 8:25 am

I'm reading all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes short stories this year as part of an online group read. With the exception of those stories in His Last Bow and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, I believe that most of them were written and published during the Victorian era/period.

So far I've read "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" and started "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual," both from 1893.

tammikuu 14, 10:09 am

I finished Anne and really enjoyed it! Here's my review.

Anne is a novel by American author Constance Fenimore Woolson published in 1881. Woolson's works have fallen into obscurity, but I learned about her on a summer vacation to Mackinac Island in northern Michigan. She spent a lot of time on the island, included it in her writings, and has a memorial there. Now she is best known as the niece of James Fenimore Cooper and the good friend of Henry James. I read an excellent biography of Woolson last year, Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist by Anne Boyd Rioux, and wanted to read some of Woolson's novels.

I started with Anne because it was Woolson's first novel and supposed to be her most popular and accessible. I went into it honestly thinking it might be sort of a slog, but I ended up absolutely loving it! When we meet Anne, she is a teenager living on Mackinac Island with a blended family and in near poverty. But she is happy - she loves the island and there is some really excellent nature writing here by Woolson. When Anne's father dies, she becomes engaged to her childhood sweetheart and they both go off into the world to try to make some money. Anne is sponsored by her wealthy and hard-hearted Aunt to attend a finishing school in New York with the idea that this will set her up to teach and that will be the end of her relationship with her aunt. But Anne is a lovely person, and she meets friends in high places and begins developing complicated relationships in this higher society circle.

I was really sad when Anne left the island and worried that losing that setting would make the rest of the book uninteresting, but Woolson sets up a beautiful romance in the middle of the book that includes all the typical drama of the era. There are misunderstandings, hidden feelings, and missed chances between several potential couples. And I was totally enamored. And then the Civil War happens, providing another great background/setting for the action.

I will admit that the last fifth of the book takes a plot turn that is a bit far-fetched, but it is not out of line with many novels of the era.

I'm sad that this book is not in print and isn't more widely read. If I had to compare her writing with someone, I'd say she has the technique and drama of a Charlotte Brontë and the keen observation of Anthony Trollope. I would really like to read more of her books and hope I can find them! Please give her a try if you are a fan of this era of writing!

Original publication date: 1881
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 540 pages
Rating: 5 stars (maybe a bit inflated, but I'd like to bring some attention to the book!)
Format/where I acquired the book: kindle freebie
Publisher: public doman
Why I read this: learned of the author on vacation and wanted to try her novels

helmikuu 2, 1:27 am

I read two 19th century American books this month:

10. A Pair of Silk Stockings and Other Stories, Kate Chopin, 1894 & 1897

Good stories, although I had trouble with the Creole/Acadian dialect in some of the stories. My favorites were "Desiree's Baby", "The Dream of an Hour" and "A Pair of Silk Stockings". Chopin was a master of the surprise (almost shocking) ending.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain (1876).
Although I've read Huck Finn a couple of times, I've never read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It was much funnier and more adventurous than I expected. Our young hero Tom has been greatly influenced by wonderful tales of adventure: pirates, Robin Hood, avengers, and all sorts of rascals he's read about in books. In this excerpt Tom explains to Huck Finn the ways of robbers:

"You don't kill the women. You shut up the women, but you don't kill them. They're always beautiful and rich, and awfully scared. You take their watches and things, but you always take your hat off and talk polite. They ain't anybody as polite as robbers--you'll see that in any book. Well, the women get to loving you, and after they've been in the cave a week or two weeks they stop crying and after that you couldn't get them to leave. If you drove them out they'd turn right around and come back. It's so in all the books."

Ah, the power of books...and the power of Twain.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 2, 1:34 am

I also read 3 "traditional" British Victorian books in January:

The Belton Estate, Anthony Trollope, 1866; re-read with Liz's group read; Trollope can't do much wrong by me.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, 1847; re-read for my RL book club; never liked it, never will.
The Doctor's Wife, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, 1864; Braddon's response to Madame Bovary. A bit long, but I did enjoy her take that not ALL women who read romantic fiction go down a path of lust and greed. (Too bad Madame Bovary didn't have Tom Sawyer to set her straight.)

helmikuu 2, 5:51 am

>9 kac522: Kate Chopin sounds interesting, I'll investigate!
>10 kac522: I did not know about The Doctor's Wife and this response to Madame Bovary, you made me curious.
And your comment on Madame Bovary and Tom Sawyer made me giggle!

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 2, 11:20 am

>11 raton-liseur: Even more interesting is that in the introduction to The Doctor's Wife, apparently there are some critics who theorize that George Eliot wrote Middlemarch in response to both Madame Bovary and The Doctor's Wife. Although similarities do exist, I think the case is pretty weak.

Dr Lydgate in Middlemarch is a smart young doctor, trying to bring advanced medicine to the town, whereas the doctors in Madame Bovary and The Doctor's Wife are average men (in fact Bovary inadvertently maims a man for life). More importantly, Rosamond in Middlemarch was brought up in wealth and expects it; she is not influenced by books or "romanticism" like Emma Bovary and Isabel Gilbert, which is the idea that both Flaubert and Braddon were examining.

But I had to think about it a bit because of the similarity of the set-up in all 3 novels.

helmikuu 2, 1:12 pm

>12 kac522: Middlemarch is on my want-to-read-soon pile and I don't know what to expect, I did not know some parallels could be drawn with the Madame Bovary set up. It makes it even more appealling!
I've just read The Doctor's Wife summary and it's available in French (although expensive). Would you say it's worth reading and it is a good way to start with Mary Elizabeth Braddon's work?

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 2, 1:54 pm

>13 raton-liseur: I would say your time would be better spent reading Middlemarch. It is a masterpiece of the Victorian era in so many different ways.

As to Braddon, her most famous work is Lady Audley's Secret, which I have read, and I think is a better crafted novel than the The Doctor's Wife. The Doctor's Wife is actually quite different from her other works, since it does not have many of the sensationalist elements. Braddon set out specifically to write a more "literary" novel rather than popular sensational fiction. It does carry on a bit and dragged for me in the middle. But if you have read and know Madame Bovary, it provides an interesting comparison on how romanticism can be viewed. I read the Oxford edition, which has a lengthy introduction.

These are the only two works I have read of hers; another popular one that I have not read is Aurora Floyd.

helmikuu 4, 4:58 am

>14 kac522: Thanks for your detailed answer. I will definitely read Middelmarch at some point, and will ponder over reading Braddon.

helmikuu 22, 3:06 pm

Some miscellaneous American 19th century reading completed this month:

The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass (1845); this was a re-read for me and seemed appropriate for Black History month in the U.S. We are fortunate to have such a detailed history of a slave that has survived to today. Should be required reading for every American.

Louisa May Alcott: Short Stories; Five stories ranging from 1863 to 1874; 3 of the stories are based on Alcott's experience in a Washington, D.C. hospital during the Civil War. My favorite was "How I Went Out to Service", followed by "The Contraband."

I have a stack of shorter American works as possibilities for reading in March to round out the quarter:
-The House of Seven Gables, Hawthorne (1851)
-Ruth Hall, Fanny Fern (1855)
-Washington Square, Henry James (1881)
-Selected Short Stories, Henry James, 4 stories pre-1901
-Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy (1888)
-At Fault, Kate Chopin (1890)
and one nonfiction:
-How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis (1890)

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 23, 2:10 pm

I read my first Victorian book of the year, and it was written by an American author, although it is set in London: The Figure in the Carpet by Henry James. It is very short, but I enjoyed it a lot, especially the language and the literary topic. You can find my review here.

maaliskuu 5, 9:51 am

I finished reading Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 5, 4:35 pm

I read Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot, Eliot's first book, published in 1858.

And The Lifted Veil also by George Eliot.

maaliskuu 5, 5:25 pm

Besides Susanna Moodie's book and related works and the American works in >16 kac522:, I read three British Victorian works by Anthony Trollope in February:

Framley Parsonage (1861), a re-read, on audiobook, the 4th book in the Barsetshire series
The Lady of Launay (1878), a novella
Two Heroines of Plumplington, (1882), a novella; set in Barsetshire some 30 years after the original books and one of Trollope's last published works in his lifetime.

I'm currently listening to The Small House at Allington, a re-read, the 5th book in the Barsetshire series.

maaliskuu 27, 4:44 pm

I just realized we never picked books for Q2. Oops.

I can start a thread this week or we can slow down and skip the quarter (the currently running threads don't get too much of readers it seems...). Thoughts?

maaliskuu 27, 8:16 pm

I have just finished one book and have a few others to dabble into for Q1.

I am also ready to move on to Q2 countries, even if we get a late start or don't pick books at all. I'd still like to explore some of the authors, and would welcome ideas for Spain and Portugal. I have France and Italy covered.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 27, 8:30 pm

>22 kac522: Recommending The Crime of Father Amaro by Jose Maria Eca de Queiros for Portugal and The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazan for Spain.

Make sure you get the Margaret Jull Costa translation of Father Amaro: there's an earlier, unreadable one.

maaliskuu 27, 8:31 pm

>23 pamelad: OK, thank you!

maaliskuu 28, 9:36 am

>21 AnnieMod: I like the idea of a new thread. I have been keeping up with Q1, although not posting. I read The Bostonians, but have yet to review it (next up). I am reading Roughing it in the Bush diligently but slowly, as I have to keep putting it down as her persona is so awful for me. I did read it some years ago for summer job research, but was mostly skimming it at that time, and the focus was different.

maaliskuu 30, 7:11 am

I just finished a book and then realized it was written in the Victorian Era. Irretrievable by Theodor Fontane is a German novel written in 1891. I really enjoyed it. Review on my thread, and definitely recommended.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 1, 4:25 pm

To finish out the quarter, I read 3 19th century American works that were new to me.

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1851) is a classic tale of generations of feuding New England families over contested property (the Pyncheons and the Maules), with many gothic elements: a family history that includes witchcraft, an old decrepit house haunted by a curse, a heroine in peril and mysterious deaths. Hawthorne explores themes of class, wealth & greed, family legacy and progress v. tradition. Although it did drag at times, the second half of the book moved more quickly. I'm glad I finally read this classic.

Crucial Instances (1901) is Edith Wharton's second collection of short stories, which just meets the Victorian era deadline. Most of the stories feature art and/or artists as a theme. My favorite was "Copy: A Dialogue" which is written like a short scene in a play between two famous writers who are ex-lovers.

I've had Washington Square by Henry James (1880) on my TBR for years, and so decided to read this shorter work rather than The Bostonians. Set in 1840s New York, the novel centers around Catherine, a young, simple and shy New York heiress, who is courted by a selfish fortune-hunter, despised by her father, and maneuvered by her meddlesome aunt. The book is relatively short (under 200 pages) and has clear, concise prose (unusual for James!). Slowly but deliberately we watch Catherine's character change over the course of the novel, as she is selfishly used by those around her. James grew up near Washington Square, so the descriptions of the place and the people felt very true.

I then watched The Heiress (1949), starring Olivia de Haviland, Montgomery Clift and Ralph Richardson, directed by William Wyler, with music by Aaron Copland and outstanding costumes by Edith Head. The Heiress was a play based on Washington Square and then adapted to the screen. Although there are some changes, the movie retains the basic plot and character development of the book. All the performances were excellent, especially de Haviland. The movie is worth the viewing just for the costuming and interior designs of 1840s New York; Edith Head won her first Academy Award for costume design for this film.

I'm currently about half-way through Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage (1895) which I read a life-time ago in high school, so it is a completely new book for me.

I've enjoyed my journey through Canadian & American 19th century literature. In particular, I feel the American classics of this era were relegated to required high school reading and because of that, I've steered clear of them. So it was good to re-visit and experience these writers by my elder self.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 1, 5:41 pm

>23 pamelad: I really liked The Crime of Father Amaro but my favorite by de Queiros is The Maias.

Were Spain and Portugal chosen to be the focus for the second quarter? Right now I am torn between trying to finish The Bostonians (only about half-way through), which I am not enjoying at all, or giving up on Henry James. I haven't read many books by him, and haven't enjoyed those I have read (which I admit was many years ago), yet he is an author I feel I should read more of.

>25 SassyLassy: I purchased Roughing It In the Bush, but haven't started it. Sound like maybe that's a good thing.

huhtikuu 1, 5:52 pm

>28 arubabookwoman: Thanks for the recommendation. I'm adding The Maias to my wish list.

The focus is France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. I'm thinking of attempting Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed.

huhtikuu 4, 2:15 am

One more American for Q1:

I finished The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895), which follows Henry Fleming (mostly referred to as "the youth") as a young soldier during the Civil War. He's excited and petrified; he is not always "the devoted soldier", but by the end of the story he puts those failures behind him and concentrates on his successes. There is a lot of sensual imagery of war: sights, sounds, smells, etc. It was a tough one to read; I had to do it in bits. Amazing writing, too, considering that the Civil War ended before Crane was born and at that point had never experienced battle first-hand. He had to rely on testimony from veterans for details for the story.

I then found a short story by Stephen Crane a year later (1896) called "The Veteran." Henry Fleming is again the main character, this time many years later as a grandfather and celebrated humble war hero in his small town. Completely different feel to the story from the earlier novel.

huhtikuu 26, 2:01 am

A British Victorian read this month:

I finished Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her Life by Lucy Worsley (2018). This biography takes 24 individual dates in Queen Victoria's life and provides background and context to the events of that day. Besides the obvious dates (birth, coronation, marriage, death), Worsley describes lesser celebrated but significant dates that pull together various aspects of Victoria's life and personality.

I found Worsley's writing style chatty but not simple, detailed without being tediously exhaustive. The book is full of quotes from Victoria's own journals, as well as journals and letters of relatives and contemporaries. Worsley is especially good with domestic details: the clothes, furnishings, homes, servants and food of Victoria's daily life. There are hundreds of notes and references, so it felt well-researched.

Some people may find this an unsatisfying book because it doesn't try to give a complete history of Victoria's life. And if you're looking for a whirlwind life of passion and scandal, then you'd best find a bit flashier Royal to read about. But if you want a taste of everyday life for Queen Victoria, with a basic look at the most important events in her life (and 19th century Britain), this might be a good book for you. It was perfect for what I was looking for; as they say, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 5, 3:00 pm

A couple of British Victorians in May, both re-reads on audio: Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy and Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. I think Barnaby is under-appreciated; there are some chilling riot scenes in this book, and they come through magnificently when it is read to you by a great reader.

I'm not sure if anyone else is doing the Q2 reading (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy). I have been lax in this, but have started Three Tales by Flaubert (1877). I disliked Madame Bovary which I read last year, but the first Tale in this collection was very good.

I have on my shelves Indiana by George Sand (1832) and The Betrothed by A. Manzoni (1827), but they were published prior to 1837, so I guess they don't count.

Instead I will either read The Lady of the Camellias by Dumas (1848) or Therese Raquin by Zola (1867), and I may sneak in Dickens' Pictures from Italy, just for kicks.

kesäkuu 5, 3:00 pm

>32 kac522: If you feel like reading the Sand and the Manzoni and posting about them, we can give them a corner table - it is not as if we are extremely busy this season ;)

kesäkuu 6, 4:49 pm

>33 AnnieMod: I just took a look at my Penguin copy, and the text is based on Manzoni's heavily revised 1842 version (he added local idioms and dialects), so it fits! Plus there's a new translation that came out last year--I just added myself to the Library Waitlist. I plan to start it later this month.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 6, 4:57 pm

Last night I finished Flaubert's Three Tales (1877), the last of his works published during his lifetime. I enjoyed the first story "A Simple Heart" the most; it looked sympathetically at a woman servant who devotes her life to an unappreciative woman. "St. Julian the Hospitaler" is a mystical tale based on the medieval legend of Julian, a nobleman who is warned in visions that he will kill his parents. It was very atmospheric and tragic. "Herodias" is based on the Christian legend of Salome (the daughter of Herodias) and John the Baptist. I liked this the least; it had a revengeful, austere and dark feeling.

I will say that all 3 tales were well written, with completely different moods to each. And none of them felt like Madame Bovary at all.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 27, 2:12 am

I finished The Betrothed (I promessi sposi) by Alessandro Manzoni (1840 revised edition), translated by Bruce Penman (Penguin). This is a long (720 pages) classic work of Italian historical fiction, set in the Milan/Lombardy area circa 1628-1630. The story follows two fictional characters, Renzo and Lucia, betrothed lovers who encounter various obstacles throughout the book, until they are finally united in marriage at the end.

In the meantime we follow our characters during the 1628 Milan bread riots, the ravaging of villages in 1629 by soldiers in the Thirty Years' War, and finally the 1630 bubonic plague which devastated the region. Manzoni brings in real events and at least a dozen real historical characters from the era, including referencing actual memoirs and documents of the time. The descriptions of the plague were particularly detailed and were eerily familiar.

I found the first half of the book slow-moving, with a heavy emphasis on religion, and I almost gave up. But the last third of the book brings in all the major historical events and flew by. It is said that Manzoni was inspired by the works of Sir Walter Scott to write a novel in this "new" historical fiction genre.

It's important to note that Manzoni original wrote the book in 1821 in an archaic form of Italian, normally used by Italian academics of that time for great works of literature. Additionally, since Italy was not yet unified during the time Manzoni was writing, every region still had its own particular dialect and there was no official standard language of Italy. Dissatisfied with this stilted writing style, over the next 20 years Manzoni gradually revised the entire book into the more common Tuscan dialect and published a completely revised edition in 1840. This would later become the basis for the modern Italian language still in use today.

Besides the Penman translation, I also referenced a new 2022 translation by Michael F. Moore, with Introduction by Jhumpa Lahiri, which had a detailed map of the Northern Italy, a description of the real historical characters and a short description of the historical events referred to in the book. Personally I preferred the older Penman translation, but the additional materials in the new Moore translation were invaluable.

At some point next month, I plan to read Manzoni's long essay On the Historical Novel (1850), in which he (apparently) declares the historical novel dead.