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Classics Club Spin #27 Book Will Be….

#ccspin 

Number 6 is the lucky draw!

The book I must read by August 22nd is….

Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson-Burnett

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Frances Hodgson Burnett published The Making of a Marchioness in 1901. She had written Little Lord Fauntleroy 15 years before and would write The Secret Garden in 10 years’ time; it is these two books for which she is best known. Yet Marchioness was one of Nancy Mitford’s favourite books, was considered ‘the best novel Mrs Hodgson Burnett wrote’ by Marghanita Laski, and is taught on a university course in America together with novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Daisy Miller.ness by Frances Hodgson-Burnett

I bought this on sale on audio recently, so now I”ll enjoy it on my commute some week.

You can see my entire list for this spin HERE.

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Classics Club Spin #27–REVISED

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I’m LATE for another Classics Club Spin. By tomorrow, Sunday July 18, 2021, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period. Tomorrow, Sunday July 18th, the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by August 22, 2021. #ccspin 

Note: I revised this after realizing I’d given away one book and forgot some recent Kindle purchases. She what happens when you are running late?

My List

  1. Loving Spirit by Daphne DuMaurier
  2. Finishing School by Muriel Spark
  3. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  4. A Far Country by Neville Shute
  5. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  6. Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson-Burnett
  7. Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
  8. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  11. The Headmistress by Angela Thirkell
  12. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  13. O, Pioneers by Willa Cather
  14. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
  15. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurier
  16. Burmese Days by George Orwell
  17. Working by Studs Terkel
  18. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  19. Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki
  20. I, Claudius by  Robert Graves

You can see some of my former Spin Book Review posts here. The Spin Lists posts are linked within the review post:

Spin 26 Review: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Spin 25 Review: Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Spin 24 I DNF-ed Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck so no review. *(The link is to Amazon).

Spin 23 Review: Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy

Spin 22 Review: Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

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Classics Club Spin #26 Review: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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The Classics Club does periodic “spins”–a fun way to get through our classics TBR lists.  It’s a fun way to tackle a book you want to read, but may never find the “right” time to do so. You make your list of classics TBR and then, on the assigned day, a number is announced. You read the book in that number/place on your list. Fun! Here’s the list I used last time that resulted in Wide Sargasso Sea. Link to Classics Spin #26.

The Club’s deadline was May 31st, but I’ve been struggling with print reading for a while, so I’m late.

My Interest in This Book

Jane Eyre was one of the first “grown-up” classics I read. I loved it. I’ve re-read it, but only once. My interest was renewed several years ago when Downton Abbey threw the “crazy wife in the attic” story line (is this a “trope”??) at poor Edith. I knew I owned a copy so I found it and added it to my list. Finally, in Spin #26 it was time to read it.

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The Story

“There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about.”

Wide Sargasso Sea tells the early life story of Rochester’s mad-in-the-attic-wife. From the down-at-the-heels family and estate, the now-free enslaved servants, the mysterious religious practices of the Caribbean islands, we get an interesting picture of this young woman. Married off by her step-father to a man too new to to the islands to know what to question, her life never gets better–in fact [no spoilers] in some ways comes full circle.

My Thoughts

Much has been made of this book as a feminist and post-colonial “classic.” Identity is a central theme. Rochester stats calling Antoinette “Bertha” supposedly as a way to break her spirit and make her into a woman he can understand. His identity as a man in charge of his destiny is rocked by the culture of the Islands. He no longer knows whom to believe or trust. The tales he is told about his new wife leave him confused. The newness of his life in the Islands leaves him vulnerable. Antoinette–does she love another? Was she forced into this marriage? What is the truth?

It reminded me most of all of a very hotly debated celebrity couple much in the news lately. From different countries and backgrounds the wife of the couple is either seen as a narcissistic sociopath or at least a liar, or is seen as the second coming of an imagined Saint. That is about how this book read to me!

Till she’s drunk so deep, played her games so often that the lowest shrug and jeer at her….I tell you she loves no one….” (p. 165)

She said she loved this place. This is the last she’ll see of it. I’ll watch for one tear, one human tear.” (p. 165)

They bought me….You deceived me, betrayed me, and you’ll do worse if you get the chance…(That girl she look you straight in the eye and talk sweet talk-and it’s lies she tell you. Lies. Her mother was so. They say she worse than her mother).” (p. 170).

And  then…. “I was exhausted.…(p. 170). “He has grey in his hair and misery in his eyes” (p. 178). Pretty much how the other marriage will end.

Rochester and Antoinette come to hate and loathe each other. Both have been used. Both become angry. Both wish to return to life without each other, but that is not possible.

Overall I was not very emotionally invested in this book. Parts of it brought up the time I was used/duped in another culture when I was fairly newly arrived. That didn’t make me on “Team Rochester” but I understood his confusion over who to believe. I also understood the resulting anger he felt. But, I also felt for Antoinette who, like women throughout the centuries, had no [GAG!] “agency” as I must say today!! My pet peeve of overly-woke word choice is meant only to belittle political correctness run amuck, not to ever to punish women over how little CONTROL or CHOICE [often the better word than “agency”] women have had over their life’s situation. She had far less say in her life than he had in his. That is the one difference I see with that well-known celebrity couple of today. That wife was no innocent like Antoinette. That wife had “agency” as she would undoubtedly say.

If my comparison of the two couples makes me seem foolish–fine, I can live with that. I am only being truthful (but not giving “my truth”) about what I thought of while reading the book.

My Verdict

3.0

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

#ccwhatimreading #ccspin

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Classics Club Spin Winner is…..#11

Lucy Number ….

  1. Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier
  2. Finishing School by Muriel Spark
  3. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  5. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  6. Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway
  7. Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
  8. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  11. The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

  12. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  13. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  14. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
  15. Jamaica Inn by Daphnew Du Maurier
  16. Burmese Days by George Orwell
  17. Working by Studs Terkel
  18. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  19. Bostonians by Henry James
  20. I, Claudius by  Robert Graves

A Modern Classic

Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.  (Amazon)

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Classics Club Spin #26

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin. Before next Sunday 18th April, 2021, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period. On Sunday 18th April the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 31st May, 2021. #ccspin 

  1. Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier
  2. Finishing School by Muriel Spark
  3. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  5. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  6. Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway
  7. Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
  8. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  11. The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  12. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  13. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  14. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
  15. Jamacia Inn by Daphnew Du Maurier
  16. Burmese Days by George Orwell
  17. Working by Studs Terkel
  18. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  19. Bostonians by Henry James
  20. I, Claudius by  Robert Graves
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Classics Club Spin #25 Review: Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

#ccspin

What’s a Spin?

A Classics Club Spin is a game where you make a list of the 20 classics you want to read. Then, on the announced date, the Classics Club [blog] randomly draws a number. You read the book on your list that corresponds to the number drawn. It’s fun! You can read my List for Spin 25 here.

 

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My Interest in Tortilla Flat

I needed short choices from the classics for this challenge. I also wanted to try more Steinbeck even though East of Eden gave me real world nightmares. To date I’d read East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl Of Mice and Men (all three in high school in the 70s). I wanted a Steinbeck that wouldn’t depress me too much, too.

The Story

In a run-down part of town, Danny and his friends do their best to avoid working, yet still acquire wine. One day, Danny’s luck changes and he inherits his Grandfather’s two run-down houses. He agrees to ‘rent’ one to his friends who never actually pay rent. Danny begins to see the other side of owning something worth having. The friends start to resent his wealth. Then they are all friends again. A woman gets involved. A terrible accident sets the stage for conflict…that does….not…happen. In fact nothing much happens.

The chapter titles tell the story, for example:

“How Danny’s Friends sought mystic treasure on St. Andrew’s Eve. How Pilon found it and later how a pair of serge pants changed ownership twice.”

On and on nothing really happens. They talk. The find or beg or have gifted their wine. They steal chickens to eat. They have run-ins with others in the Monterey neighborhood of the title. They accomplish nothing.

Supposedly the story mirrors Arthurian legends with Danny as Arthur. Sure, John, if you say so. Whatever. Maybe I am too stupid to “get it” again–like with many Japanese books? To me, Arthur had class, style, manners, and did stuff. These guys are what used to be called “bums.” Not “hobos” because they (usually) have a home of some sort somewhere.

They reminded me of the guys in Last of the Summer Wine (a British sitcom in which little happens while the men avoid their wives) but dirtier and with coarser manners and different accents. And not enjoyable like LOTSW was.

My verdict

4.0 For the actual writing. 

2.0 For how it held my interest.

I’ll be honest–I’m done with Steinbeck except for Travels With Charley–I do still plan to read it and possibly Harvest Gypsies.

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Random episode of the random antics of Last of the Summer Wine

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Classics Club Spin #23: Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy

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#ccspin

The Classics Club helps make reading the classics more fun! What is a Spin? Read all the fun details here. In April we made our lists, the wheel was spun, and we were told to read number 6 by June 1st. You can read my list here. Number 6 was a kindle bargain book I got a while back–The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy, whose Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, I read too early in my life, in the literature of self-discovery–my freshman lit/writing class first semester in the Fall of 1980. The world was very different then–Ronald Regan was about to become president. Fast-forward more years than I like to say and I read and loved her novel, The Group. I’ve always planned to read her backlist, so this is my start at that goal.

 

The Story

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The Story

Imagine teaching today at a very liberal Liberal Arts college and proclaiming your affiliation with Donald Trump? But not really–just saying you loved him. There you have the premise of this novel set in progressive Jocelyn College during the McCarthy era. Published in 1952, during the reign of Senator Joseph McCarthy, this novel has stood the test of time fairly well. In a few ways–too well.

The book opens with Henry Mulchay, an instructor who was

“…he was intermittently aware of a quality of personal unattractiveness that emanated from him like a miasma;” [Kindle location 57]

reading a letter telling of his position not being renewed. The book then showcases the machinations of Mulchay and other members of his department in concocting a narrative around the letter, including Henry’s outing himself as the Communist he never was.

McCarthy, described once as

“...earnest, and empty Liberal with no sense of how complicated it is to be human.” (Leslie A.Fiedler)

wrote this book following her own experience at progressive Bard College and another college, so it sparkles with subtle wit, making fun of the academic life and its many trivialities. Like many who have read and reviewed this book, I found the little things to be hilarious. That colleges nearly 70 years on are still debating stuff like:

whether, for example, students in the dining hall, when surrendering their plates to the waiters, should pass them to the right or to the left…at an all-college meeting…compulsory for all...”[ Kindle location 780]

Another superb example was whether it is acceptable to drop the Latin diploma. Honestly, this stuff is still going on!

Many reviewers have loved the poetry conference–the ultimate send-up of academic pretensions. The will of the participants in ignoring the time-table, the egos that must be accommodated, the manners, the utter ridiculousness of the program–it is all there, beautifully written. I’ve helped with academic conferences. She nailed it, believe me.

“He had a style of old-fashioned, elaborate compliment, in which there could be detected the flourishes of an antique penmanship and the scratching for a bookkeeper’s quill.” [Kindle location 3224]

My Thoughts

My first impression was: “Wow! They had it good back then!” Instructor Henry Mulchay (“the only Ph.d in the Literature Department,” but only an “instructor” still) complains:

“How was he expected to take care of forty students if other demands on his attention were continually being put in the way?”

Only forty? What, per class? lol. The golden days of University life!

“Hen” as Mulchay is known, then goes on to speak suggestively, and in private, to a female student to whom he is “tutor” [in the Oxbridge sense of the word]! With that, the story instantly seemed to make sense to my #metoo era academic’s brain!

There were oh, so, many familiar things here! Suggestions of work being done for students to get them a diploma and get them out of someone’s hair–very today. The unforeseen idiotic comment that loses the college a huge donation from a “liberal lady.” The backbiting, in-fighting, turf-protecting, knowledge-siloing–all still there today. And, no tenure either–at least at schools without a union. All for the equivalent of Hen’s precious $3200 a year–and Hen the only Ph.D. in the department yet an instructor–not a professor. How prescient.

My Verdict

I enjoyed this book as you can see. I still think The Group offers more to the general reader. So much of what was funny in Groves of Academe was funny to me because I’ve worked in two Universities. Some of that would not be as funny to someone looking in from outside.

4.0

The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy

 

For other fictional and funny, looks at Academic life read

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Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. My review is here.

 

 

 

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Changing Places by David Lodge.  My mini-review is here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classics Club Spin #23

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It’s time for another Classics Club Spin! Assemble your numbered list of 20 classics to be read. Tomorrow, Sunday, April 19th, the Club will announce which number to read. You go to your list, find that number on the list and read that book! Easy!

 

My List for Spin #23

Here is my list–slightly revised from Spin #22 I’ve had to eliminate any I don’t own or that are not available via ebook from the library, (Our library system is closed due to Cronoa Virus precautions) Kindle Unlimited, or free for kindle.

 

1. Loving Spirit

2. Love for Lydia

3. South Riding

4. The Blue Castle

5. Corelli’s Mandolin

6. Groves of Academe

7. Jamaica Inn

7. Letter from Peking by Pearl S Buck

Age of Innocence Review coming soon for The 1920 Club

8. Tess of the D’Ubervilles

9. The Bostonians

9. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West

10. Burmese Days

11. Dead Souls

12. Wide Sargasso Sea

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym See my review here

13. Cider With Rosie

13. Passage to India

14. The Moonstone

15. I, Claudius

16. Lost Horizon

15. House of Spirits

16. No Surrender

17. How Green Was My Valley

18. Woman in Berlin [modern classic]

19 Death in the Afternoon

20. Madame Bovary

Won’t you join in the fun? You have until June 1 to finish reading!

 

My post for Classic Club Spin #22