The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

by Anne Bronte

This was the book chosen for me by the most recent Classics Club Spin. I was not especially looking forward to it, but was very pleasantly surprised. I found it a very enjoyable read, and was particularly impressed by the heartfelt and devastating descriptions of dealing with a loved one suffering a self-destructive addiction. Having read much about the Brontes over the years, it was clear that Anne was writing about the experiences her family had dealing with their brother Branwell’s alcoholism. It felt like a very modern story to me, with the oafish male friendship group, and the one deciding to grow up and behave like an adult, and his subsequent bullying by the rest of the group. Anne clearly had very good insight into social pressures on both men and women of her time, and was also very angry about it!

The book is written as a series of letters and diary entries, a construction I didn’t really like, but overall I really enjoyed this book and wondered why Anne is not as well known as her sisters. I read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in my teens and at least twice more over the years, as well as Villette, but had never read anything by Anne until I picked this one up at a charity shop. It was a great pick.

There are plenty of excellent reviews of this book, which is why I don’t bother to do more than give a brief description of my impressions of it – look them up on the Classics Club page!

Classics Club Spin #31

So, here we go again. I was unable to blog for the last spin (#30) because I was away and out of internet and/or phone range most of the time, but I did participate, and did finish my book, which was The Last of the Mohicans by J Fenimore Cooper. I had attempted this book previously but got bogged down and gave up, so this time was determined to finish it, and I did. It was very bloodthirsty but I did learn quite a lot, and am glad to have read it.

Anyway, on to this one. I have made my list of 20 books, and look forward to the spin happening on Sunday (tomorrow!), when I will find out which of my books I need to read by 30 October. Here is my list:

1Blackmore, RDLorna Doone 
2Bronte, AnneThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall
3Burns, RobertThe Poetical Works of Robert Burns
4Cao, XueqinThe Story of the Stone V2 – The Crab-Flower Club
5Di Lampedusa, TomasiThe Leopard
6Dickens, CharlesBarnaby Rudge
7Dumas, AlexandreThe Three Musketeers
8Eliot, GeorgeAdam Bede
9Fortescue, WinifredMountain Madness
10Gorky, MaximMy Apprenticeship
11Harrower, ElizabethThe Watchtower
12Huxley, AldousThe Art of Seeing
13Langley, EveThe Pea-Pickers
14Lawrence, TESeven Pillars of Wisdom
15Prichard, Katharine SusannahIntimate Strangers
16Scott, WalterOld Mortality
17Tennant, KylieThe Honey Flow
18Trollope, AnthonyThe Warden
19Trollope, AnthonyMiss Mackenzie
20Wyss, Johann DavidThe Swiss Family Robinson

Classics Club Spin #29

(#9 for me)

Gosh these spins seem to come around quickly, but I always enjoy them. Since the last spin I have read two more from my Classics Club list, but never seem to get around to blogging about them. Anyway, for this spin I have chosen 20 books from my list, and when the random number spin happens on Sunday 20 March (tomorrow), I find that number on my list and will need to read that book by April 30. There are some very long ones on this list, so I post it with some trepidation! Here is my list:

1Blackmore, RDLorna Doone 
2Bronte, AnneThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall
3Burns, RobertThe Poetical Works of Robert Burns
4Cao, XueqinThe Story of the Stone V2 – The Crab-Flower Club
5Cooper, FenimoreThe Last of the Mohicans
6Di Lampedusa, TomasiThe Leopard
7Dickens, CharlesBarnaby Rudge
8Dumas, AlexandreThe Three Musketeers
9Eliot, GeorgeAdam Bede
10Fortescue, WinifredMountain Madness
11Gaskell, ElizabethNorth and South
12Graves, RobertI, Claudius
13Harrower, ElizabethThe Watchtower
14Langley, EveThe Pea-Pickers
15Lawrence, TESeven Pillars of Wisdom
16Prichard, Katharine SusannahIntimate Strangers
17Prichard, Katharine SusannahCoonardoo
18Trollope, AnthonyThe Warden
19Trollope, AnthonyMiss Mackenzie
20Wyss, Johann DavidThe Swiss Family Robinson

The Trumpet-Major

by Thomas Hardy

This was the book chosen for me to read for the Classics Club Spin #28, and I really enjoyed it. I read all the best-known Thomas Hardy books in my teens, and it is many years since I have reread any, so I was delighted to find this one at a charity shop, and to add it to my Classics Club list. I have managed to read quite a few from my list this year, and this book represents #32 of the 50 I have pledged to read before August 2024, so I am well on track!

The Trumpet-Major is one of several main characters in this novel, set during the Napoleonic period, when the locals of a small coastal village are worried about invasion. The story revolves around a young woman who is the love interest of 3 young men, only one of whom actually deserves her, but of course she falls for the charmer. One of the men is completely odious, but the girl’s mother prefers him because he is likely to come into money, whereas the other two (brothers) are poor miller’s sons. As always with classics, it is interesting (though depressing) to read about social behaviour that was apparently acceptable at that time – in this case stalking and assault that the man apparently thought would win him the love of a girl who was clearly unwilling.

The thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the humour – Hardy is such a clever writer and his descriptions of the characters and their behaviours were so relatable to people we might know today, despite the very different social climate, and I often found myself smiling. Hardy is not known for his humour – in fact I think of his books as generally depressing – so I am keen to reread some as I am sure I was not as aware of the quality of his writing when I read the books many years ago. This was a good find.

Classics Club Spin #28

This will be my 8th Classics Club Spin, and I have been successful with all except the very first. It is a great way to motivate yourself to read some of those classics that have sat on the shelf for far too long.

The idea is to list 20 classics still on the TBR, and then wait – on On Sunday 17th, October, a number from 1 through 20 will be posted, and the challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on my Spin List by the 12th December, 2021. That’s an eight week reading window for this spin. A couple of times I have had to read the very longest book on my list (War & Peace and Tom Jones), so I am leaving the really long ones off this list as I know I will be very busy over the lead-up to the end of the year. Here is my list…

1AnonymousBeowulf
2Blackmore, RDLorna Doone 
3Buchan, JohnThe Thirty-Nine Steps
4Burns, RobertThe Poetical Works of Robert Burns
5Di Lampedusa, TomasiThe Leopard
6Dickens, CharlesBarnaby Rudge
7Dumas, AlexandreThe Three Musketeers
8Eliot, GeorgeAdam Bede
9Forster, EMA Passage to India
10Gaskell, ElizabethNorth and South
11Graves, RobertI, Claudius
12Hardy, ThomasThe Trumpet-Major
13Harrower, ElizabethThe Watchtower
14Hugo, VictorNotre-Dame of Paris
15Maugham, W SomersetOf Human Bondage
16Stark, FreyaAlexander’s Path
17Sun TzuThe Art of War
18Trollope, AnthonyThe Warden
19Trollope, AnthonyMiss Mackenzie
20Wyss, Johann DavidThe Swiss Family Robinson

Robinson Crusoe

by Daniel Defoe

This was the book I was challenged to read as a result of the Classics Club Spin #27. I was slightly nervous about it as there are so many bad reviews on Goodreads, and several ‘ho-hum’ reviews in the Classics Club archives. Some complaints are about the archaic language, but as I read lots of classics I quite enjoyed this aspect, and it was originally published in 1719 after all – more than 300 years ago! Though quite slow to start, I did enjoy the book overall. Once Robinson is shipwrecked on the island (which takes quite a while to happen), it is absorbing to read of his inventive and dogged attempts to make a safe home and devise sustainable sources of food, which followed very quickly from his initial despair and hopelessness. I was surprised at the many, many years he stayed alone on the island, and I felt that his paranoia about the possibility of encountering other people was interesting, as most stories about shipwrecked people show them as desperate to attract attention. It was many years before he saw anyone at all, and I did enjoy the section after he first sees a footprint, leading him to further anxiety and manic building of further defences. Once Man Friday becomes part of his life, things move fairly quickly and he moves from being terrified and defensive, to becoming a strong and confident leader. One of the best aspects of the book is Defoe’s ability to demonstrate Crusoe’s character, though this book really only has one character – all the others are very incidental and not really developed at all. As many have mentioned, the end is rather an anticlimax, but overall I enjoyed the book and am glad to have read it.

CC Spin #27

Well, I have been rather slow lately – I did complete the last spin, but a couple of weeks after I was supposed to, and am still to write my review. The book assigned was the longest on my list: The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling – 877 pages long. It was an effort but I did enjoy it. Now to the next spin, which will be posted on Sunday 18 July, and the book selected will need to be read by August 22.

Here is my list:

1AnonymousBeowulf
2Blackmore, RDLorna Doone 
3Buchan, JohnThe Thirty-Nine Steps
4Cather, WillaO Pioneers
5Cao, XueqinThe Story of the Stone V2 – The Crab-Flower Club
6Defoe, DanielRobinson Crusoe
7Dickens, CharlesBarnaby Rudge
8Dumas, AlexandreThe Three Musketeers
9Eliot, GeorgeAdam Bede
10Forster, EMA Passage to India
11Gaskell, ElizabethNorth and South
12Graves, RobertI, Claudius
13Hardy, ThomasThe Trumpet-Major
14Harrower, ElizabethThe Watchtower
15Hugo, VictorNotre-Dame of Paris
16Maugham, W SomersetOf Human Bondage
17Stark, FreyaAlexander’s Path
18Trollope, AnthonyThe Warden
19Trollope, AnthonyMiss Mackenzie
20Wyss, Johann DavidThe Swiss Family Robinson

CC Spin #26

Classic Club spins are a great incentive to continue reading the classics, especially the ones that are rather long and/or intimidating. I made my first list of 50 books back in August 2019, with a commitment to read them all within 5 years, however I have kept adding to my list as I collect more and more classics from my charity shop habit. Here is my list of 20 books for this spin – whichever number comes up from the spin on Sunday will be the book I read.

1AnonymousBeowulf
2Bird, IsabellaThe Englishwoman in America
3Blackmore, RDLorna Doone 
4Buchan, JohnThe Thirty-Nine Steps
5Cather, WillaO Pioneers
6Cao, XueqinThe Story of the Stone V2 – The Crab-Flower Club
7Defoe, DanielRobinson Crusoe
8Dickens, CharlesBarnaby Rudge
9Dumas, AlexandreThe Three Musketeers
10Eliot, GeorgeAdam Bede
11Fielding, HenryThe History of Tom Jones: A Foundling
12Gaskell, ElizabethNorth and South
13Graves, RobertI, Claudius
14Hardy, ThomasThe Trumpet-Major
15Harrower, ElizabethThe Watchtower
16Hugo, VictorNotre-Dame of Paris
17Maugham, W SomersetOf Human Bondage
18Stark, FreyaAlexander’s Path
19Trollope, AnthonyThe Warden
20Wyss, Johann DavidThe Swiss Family Robinson

The Yellow Joss and Other Tales

by Ion L Idriess

This collection of stories with a rather off-putting cover was my chosen classic for Classic Club Spin #25. Ion L. Idriess was purportedly Australia’s most popular author at the time this book was published in 1934. My 6th edition (with the pictured cover) was published in 1944. He was certainly prolific, with more than 50 books published between 1927 and 1969. His travelling life was the basis of all of his books, and the back of the dust cover gives the following description: (He) “obtained honours in chemistry and a certificate in assaying at the Broken Hill School of Mines. He has worked in the Assay Office of the Broken Hill Pty Mine; has been an adventurer, seaman, station hand, drover, track finder, wharf labourer, opal miner, and has served in the Great War (Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine) with the 5th Australian Light Horse. Has wandered in Northern Queensland, Western Austalia, North Australia, the Gulf Country and the Centre, the Torres Strait islands, the Kimberleys, and Papua. Has cruised the Barrier Reef seeking trochus shell, and with a mate was abandoned for seven months on barren Howick Island. Has wandered with native tribes in Cape York Peninsula studying the people, prospecting for gold, tin, and wolfram, seeking sandalwood and collecting material for books.”

In his Author’s Note to this book, Idriess tells us that “The stories in this volume record happenings or incidents in men’s lives which interested me during years of wandering among the bushmen and natives of Cape York Peninsula; the pearlers, trochus and beche-de-mer getters of the Coral Sea; the native islanders of Torres Strait; the ‘beachcombers’ of the Great Barrier Reef; and along the Arafura Sea towards the west. With two exceptions, all are transcripts of fact or largely based on fact, unusual though an occasional one may seem”.

This is useful information, because most of the 28 stories read as fictional short stories and are hardly believable. They give a fascinating insight into life (and death) in remote places in tropical northern Australia around 100 years ago. Idriess is a great writer, using vivid description and humour to reflect an experience of the brutality, tragedy, hilarity and general adventurousness of life off the beaten track. The language/vocabulary used to describe indigenous people in Australia, the Torres Strait Islands and New Guinea would not be acceptable today, but it is clear that Idriess respected and enjoyed his interactions with these characters, so although reading these descriptions is very off-putting, they need to be considered as acceptable for that time.

Overall, this is a highly entertaining and fascinating collection of stories.

Classics Club Spin #25

Time for the Spin again – last time I got the longest book on my list – War and Peace (and I did finish it!) – so although I have several very long books on this current list, I hope to jag a shorter one this time. The luck is in the spin! The idea is to make a list of 20 books from my Classics TBR by this Sunday 22 November, after which a number will be announced, and I need to read the book next to that number by 30 January 2021.

My list for this spin is:

1AnonymousBeowulf
2Blackmore, RDLorna Doone 
3Burns, RobertThe Poetical Works of Robert Burns
4Cather, WillaO Pioneers
5Cao, XueqinThe Story of the Stone V2 – The Crab-Flower Club
6Cooper, FenimoreThe Last of the Mohicans
7Defoe, DanielRobinson Crusoe
8Dickens, CharlesBarnaby Rudge
9Eliot, GeorgeAdam Bede
10Fielding, HenryThe History of Tom Jones: A Foundling
11Graves, RobertI, Claudius
12Harrower, ElizabethThe Watchtower
13Hugo, VictorNotre-Dame of Paris
14Idriess, Ion   LThe Yellow Joss and Other Tales
15James, HenryThe Portrait of a Lady
16Lawrence, TESeven Pillars of Wisdom
17Maugham, W SomersetOf Human Bondage
18Stark, FreyaAlexander’s Path
19Stow, RandolphThe Merry-Go-Round in the Sea
20Wyss, Johann DavidThe Swiss Family Robinson