Still Reading Austen

Most predictably, I’ve missed the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. I had meant to write an article for the newspaper about why she is read and loved by Malaysians and what relevance the books have to our lives, but I was not as organised or awake as I hoped to be.

I mean to re-read Austen’s six novels this year. I finished Emma a  month ago and am currently re-reading Mansfield Park. Sense and Sensibility next. I may write a review of all six books in one post, but no promises. My energy levels and ability to focus are not predictable these days. But this means that I’m reading more slowly and that’s a good thing. It may even be that, at a slower pace, I understand and appreciate Fanny Price more than I did when I was a teenager (which was when I first made her acquaintance and the last time I read the book). It may also be that I am less impatient now.

As for Emma, I liked her both more and less. And I was totally put off by Frank Churchill – oh how my tolerance for silly young men has diminished over the years. Haha.

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Jane Austen (as drawn by Cassandra Austen) (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817)

 

 

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Two hundred years and counting

I didn’t realise til I read this blog post by Calmgrove that 2017 is the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death. Should I re-read her novels? I haven’t read any (apart from my favourite, Persuasion) in years, but I know, from experience, that planning to re-read more than one novel doesn’t work with me. I shall, perhaps choose one title and see how it goes.

I love Persuasion because it’s about second chances and remaining steadfast in love. My favourite quotes:

Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.

and

All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!

Is it stupidly romantic of me to believe in true love? Is it naive to hope that my partner will remain constant?

I may re-read Persuasion again after all.

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Persuasion watercolour illustrations by C. E. Brock

 

Re-read: The Exploits of Moominpappa by Tove Jansson

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The Exploits of Moominpappa, aka Moominpappa’s Memoirs is the fourth book in the Moomin series by Tove Jansson.

In this book, we find out about Moominpappa’s background and past. He is writing a memoir and he reads from it to his son Moomintroll, and Moomintroll’s friends Snufkin and Sniff.

As it turns out, Moominpappa’s early days were spent with Snufkin and Sniff’s fathers — the Joxter and the Muddler from whom, we see, many traits have been inherited by their offspring.

Moominpappa’s origins are quite romantic as he was left, wrapped in newspaper, at an orphanage run by a Hemulen. One day, having had enough of his colourless existence in the orphanage, and the Hemulen’s strict ways, he runs away.Read More »

Re-reads: Scruples by Judith Krantz

scruples.jpgI read this book for the first time in my late teens, one of the many so-called ‘sex & shopping’ novels that were popular at the time, books by people like Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran. Actually, they may still be popular, but I stopped reading them in the 80s.

When I was an ‘innocent’ teenager, the sex in these books might have been the main attraction (there’s one scene in Scruples that has remained with me all these years and, when I re-read it recently, I was surprised to find that I’d lost none of its details), but it was the ‘shopping’ or rather the details of material objects, especially clothes, that was the true draw.Read More »

Re-reads: The Stolen Lake (The Wolves Chronicles) by Joan Aiken

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The cover of the first edition published by Jonathan Cape and illustrated by Pat Marriot.

One of my favourite fantasy series is Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles. There are twelve books, including a prequel (The Whispering Mountain), with  Dido Twite the protagonist in most of the stories.

After I read Calmgrove‘s post about The Stolen Lake, I couldn’t resist re-reading it. It’s the fourth book in the main series and my favourite as I find it has the most thrilling and unusual plot. The ever plucky and pragmatic Dido is also especially endearing in this installment. I like her so much and find her optimism and can-do attitude inspiring and cheering. (I want to be Dido when I grow up.)

In this story, Dido is onboard the HMS Thrush, heading back to England. Dido, having escaped death and worse in the previous two books (Blackhearts in Battersea and Nightbirds on Nantucket), is looking forward to going home and is dismayed when the Thrush is forced to make a detour after the Captain of the ship is summoned by the Queen of New Cumbria (a country in Roman America, Aiken’s alternate history version of South America). Surprisingly, the Queen requests that he bring Dido with him.

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The Houghton Mifflin edition, with cover art by Edward Gorey.

It turns out that Queen Ginevra requires help to get back the country’s ceremonial lake which she claims has been stolen by the King Mabon, ruler of the neighbouring Lyonesse. Even more surprising is that the Queen is apparently more than a thousand years old and is waiting for the return of her husband, King Arthur. Could her longevity be linked to the noticeable absence of female children in New Cumbria?

Dido is soon in the thick of another adventure, this time one involving an imprisoned princess; shape-shifting witches; human sacrifice; cannibalism; and reincarnation.

I’d resolved to re-read less this year in order to make some progress with my TBR list, but I’ve decided to just read whatever I feel like. I will be re-reading Black Hearts in Battersea next.