I've been doing a lot of the preparatory reading for the MA so not as many novels as I would like but here is a quick update on what I have been reading:
I have to confess that Charlotte Bronte is my least favourite of the sisters. Whilst I appreciate that she wrote this book under extremely trying circumstances: Shirley had not been a success and more importantly she had recently watched Anne, Emily & Branwell die, I found Villette to be depressing and boring in the main. I thought the characters were OK but I never really warmed to any of them. Lucy Snowe is admirable for making her own living and being willing to find her fortune in another country but I didn't ever warm to her or care enough about whether she & M. Paul lived happily ever after or not. One of the things I really dislike in Jane Eyre is the co-incidences and here they also play a part. They are just not believable!! On the whole the book is OK but I would definitely steer someone towards Anne or Emily if they want to read something of the Brontes.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect with The Picture of Dorian Gray. I knew it was about decadence & possibly evil but wasn't sure if it would be comic or horror. It wasn't, infact, either of those things. I would have said that it was a moral tale because of the ending but the introduction states that Wilde didn't want it to be read that way. I'm sure you know the basis of the story. A man sells his soul so that a portrait of him grows old whilst he retains his beauty. You can argue that this is a tract that supports the aesthetic movement in which Wilde was a big player ('Art for Art's Sake/Money for God's sake' as the 10CC lyric goes - I think) but I have huge problems with the idea that anything is produced purely for art's sake when it's then published to make money for the author. Anyway, I found the book interesting - it's certainly amoral and I hope, like me, you want to give Dorian a good shake by the end of it but it's worth a read.
I also read a much lighter book: The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld but I will be writing a review of that for Goodreads.com (they did give me the book to review). It should be there in the next few days if you want to take a look - & yes, I enjoyed the novel.
I have just started reading The Ladies' Paradise by Zola. I read Germinal as part of the Nineteenth Century Novel module I studied with the OU. I was absolutely dreading reading it as it's about mining, and a miners' strike, in Northern France but it was actually one of my favourite novels on the course. I think Zola writes incredibly realistic characters and interesting story lines. The Ladies' Paradise is about a department store in Paris and one of the shop assistants' attempts to evade seduction by the owner. As I'm reading about the Great Exhibition of 1851 on and off with my general prep books it fits nicely into the ideas of conspicuous consumption in the second half of the 19th Century.
In the original listing for the core MA course Mary Poppins was one of the texts and as, like many of you I'm sure, I'd only ever seen the film I was looking forward to reading the book. It's almost a selection of short stories and whilst Mary is very similar to the Julie Andrews version in that she is vain and very strong-willed there is a level of surrealism that is definitely missing from from Disney (there's a surprise). A couple of things come immediately to mind: a night at the zoo in which the animals are the visitors and humans in cages are the exhibits for feeding time and a 'lady' who runs a sweet shop who tends to chew on her own peppermint flavoured fingers occassionally. The back of the book suggests this is suitable for 8+ and, the above withstanding, I think it is. I enjoyed it and was sorry it has been taken off the reading list. Did you know this is just the first in a series of Mary Poppins books? I'd like to read more but need to persuade T that it isn't quite as weird as I had suggested to him. If you have 8 year olds, you have the perfect excuse!
Next time I update I'll try to have some newer books to talk about.
Right back to T.S. Eliot now, I have 'Rhapsody on a Windy Night' open at the moment. 'Every street lamp that I pass/Beats like a fatalistic drum' - ring any bells? Who says that Eliot is elitist?
Thanks for reading.