Fair travelers, journey to the master post if thou art lost.
Don’t call me Fanny
Before we get into Book I, we must address a controversy: Is it Fanny Burney, or Frances? Does it matter? AS A FEMINIST, must I go with Frances? Rick at Read the North weighs in, backed up by Lives of the Novelists, which I must obtain: Continue reading
Fair travelers, journey to the master post if thou art lost.
I trust you’ve all started reading? If not, read on for some more information about where to find the book, and if you have, I’ve started a running list of characters, which is helpful with these big novels.
As I noted in the master post, it’s not easy to get your hands on Cecilia. And it’s only become more complicated since then. Let’s break down the options, and read-alongers, if you post this week, please show off your edition!
- Print: While difficult to find in libraries and physical book stores, you can order online. I believe the Oxford World’s Classics edition I have is a good one; it reproduces the first edition and does not correct “eccentricities of punctuation, spelling, and grammar” which would take all the fun out of reading an 18th century novel. You can order straight from the source.
- Ebook: Earlier, I recommended an ebook because they’re readily available. HOWEVER. My cheapie Harper Collins edition is decidedly not the same text as the first print edition; comparing to Oxford, the ebook is watered down: unnecessary capitalization removed, “everytime” becomes “every time,” and so on. Not sure if this is reproducing a later edition, or is just modernized, or what. Same deal with the Project Gutenberg edition.
- Audio: There is a free audio version on LibriVox and perhaps I’m being snobby here but shouldn’t the narrator be British?
Cecilia’s Squad: Who we’ve met so far
This is only up to about Book I Chapter 7 as of this writing. For those of you just beginning, this may help you get your bearings.
- Our Heroine: Cecilia Beverley: 21, orphan, heiress
- Her guardians:
- Mr. Harrell, husband of childhood friend, chosen simply so Cecilia can live with said friend.
- Mr. Briggs, a business man who will provide “vigilant observance” of Cecilia’s fortune.
- Mr. Delvile, ” a man of high birth and character” who will make sure Cecilia “should in nothing be injured” – i.e. remains a lady in the streets… and the sheets.
- Her suitors:
- Mr. Monckton: married to a 76-year-old crabby pants, he’s probably in his thirties or forties and was real annoyed when, just a few years after marrying this old lady for money, a 17-year-old heiress moved in next door. Timing is everything!
- Mr. Arnott: brother of childhood friend Mrs. Harrell, lays it on pretty thick, likes that Cecilia “isn’t like the other girls,” gag me…
- Sir Robert Floyer: Fashionable, friend of Mr. Harrell, weird horse obsession
- Her friends
- Mrs. Harrell: A childhood friend who moved to the big city some years ago. A very “city and country mouse” reunion so far.
- Mr. Morrice: Her friend whether she wants him or not. This guy cracks me up.
- Her frenemies
- Miss Larolle: “flirting, communicative, restless, and familiar” she is the 18th century equivalent of a basic bitch.
- Miss Leeson: “silent, scornful, languid, and affected,” definitely afflicted with resting bitch face.
Be you VOLUBLE or SUPERCILIOUS (see ch. 5) we’ll meet back here next Monday to discuss Book I.
Happy Canada Day and Happy Cecilia Day! Have you started reading yet? To give you a jump start, I’ve found us a theme song. No, not that one.
“Oh Cecilia” is by Canadian band Born Ruffians, and features Toronto’s dancing crossing guard Kathleen Byers. Incidentally, Born Ruffians are in Edmonton playing two free shows at A Taste of Edmonton on Juy 29 and 30. Cecilia meet-up, perhaps?
Start reading and I’ll meet you back here on Monday!
In 2016, I vow to read fewer books.
Before I tell you why, we need to talk about reading challenges, and resolutions, and manifestos, and such. My issues with them are many, and as follows. Oh, I don’t mean YOUR reading challenge, settle down. OR DO I?
- The assumption that people give a shit what you’re reading. Particularly with respect to TBR challenges. Why on earth do I care if, or for how long, you’ve owned a book? I do not. I give a shit if you have something to say about what you’ve read. (I am participating in a TBR challenge this year, so I guess I kind of care. I still find it odd.)
- Approval-seeking. Particularly with respect to diversity challenges. I actually saw someone tweet about how many days it’d been since they’d read a cis-het white male author. That’s wonderful, but talk to me once you’ve reviewed one of those books. You don’t get a cookie for #readingdiverse. (Yes, I unfollowed.)
- Strict rules. Insisting on strict definitions of what constitutes a classic? Nope. Kicking me out of the challenge if I don’t post an update by whatever date? Nope. Insert “Ain’t nobody got time” or “zero fucks” meme here.
- Quantity over quality. You read 52 books this year? 75? 100? 250? 300? That’s nice. Tracking is fine. But challenges that emphasize how many books you read are just weird. I mean, if you read one book this year, you’re ahead of the majority of the population, so calm down.
- Pigeonholing. Particularly with respect to “reading bingo” type challenges with a bunch of categories to fill in. Now, I know the categories aren’t meant to be mutually exclusive, but, it’s kind of implied. So when one of your sixteen categories is “female author,” I’m gonna give it a side eye. Surely, there are better ways to define a challenge category! Check out this great post from Feminist Texican Reads about a Feminist Read Harder Challenge to see what I mean.
The absolute worst example of all of these things, and the inspiration for this post, appears not on a book blog, but on LitHub, of all places. A Reader’s Manifesto for 2016 is about one guy’s reading resolutions, though the title implies it’s for all readers, and pardon me, these are not mere resolutions, this is a manifesto, which is much fancier. Okay then. We’ve got the “assuming people give a shit” angle covered. Continue reading
Welcome back to the third edition of Novellas in November!
This event is so special to me, I stopped doing all other blog events. This year is super-special, because event creator The Book-A-Week Project is back, and is calling himself The Book-A-Week Project again.
How under appreciated are novellas? Well, how many times have you heard Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire referred to as his (900+ page) debut? Turns out, he wrote a novella back in 2008! No, I am not going to read it, as I already devoted weeks of my life to CoF, but you see: novellas get no respect.
It’s not all bad news. Giller Prize shortlisted Fifteen Dogs qualifies at 171 pages (and it’s freaking awesome,) and there are a couple of short story collections on there too – or baby novellas, as I like to call them.
Novellas are a great way to sample a genre or author you wouldn’t usually read, not to mention they’ll kickstart that Goodreads challenge as we approach year end. Wanna novella with us? See below for inspiration, follow me and #NovNov on Twitter, and let us know what you’re reading.
My 2015 novellas
- Ghosts by Cesar Aira (139 pages) Noted novella connoisseur Michael Hingston recommended this to me. I trust his recommendation so much that I dropped $14 on the ebook, which is a little hard to swallow for the length. It is creepy as hell so far.
- Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas (178 pages) Based on this intriguing review by JacquiWine.
- The Poor Clare by Elizabth Gaskell (60 pages) Because I wanted a super-shorty and because it’s Elizabeth Gaskell.
- The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (96 pages) Is this a novella? I don’t know. But it’s been on my shelf for a year or so.
- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (183) Because novellas are short, not easy.
- Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey (119 pages) So I can watch the adaptation.
- Every Day Is For The Thief by Teju Cole(128 pages) Another one that’s been on the shelf far too long.
More novella TBR inspiration
- Check out my Goodreads Novellas in November shelf
- My 2013 novellas
- My 2014 novellas
- The Wandering Bibliophile’s posts from last year’s event
- The Book-A-Week Project’s intro post
You know what I’m missing? CanLit. Where my Canadian novellas at?
I had this great idea for my TOTC wrap up post. Okay, I stole it from The Afterword Reading Society. I wanted readers to give me a tweet-length review and compile them here. We had a real diverse set of reactions and I wanted to convey that, and it might help those of you who are on the fence about reading this book. Also, what could be better than tweets and books?
Then I wrote my wrap up post really fast and forgot to do it. So here are a few mini-reviews. Now I’m really done with this book. If you’re jonesing for another read-along, check out Moby-Dick on Roofbeam Reader or The Hobbit on Another Book Blog. Continue reading
We had everything before us, we had nothing before us.
That’s an excerpt from the first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities. The “best of times” bit is the only part that’s ever quoted, but the whole thing’s pretty good. And this bit in particular sums up how I feel upon finishing this book and this read-along. On the one hand, well, that’s done (or as the Habs might say this week, “c’est tout.”) On the other hand, TOTC is like many classics: once you get that first reading out of the way, there’s lots more to discover. Continue reading
Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!
Another late post. Shall I grovel and apologize for my wasted life and lack of morals, a la Sydney? Nah, let’s just get to it! We read to the end this week. Are YOU finished?
Miss Pross, Like a Boss
My favourite character has been Madame Defarge almost the whole way through, UNTIL NOW. I always liked Miss Pross. Her wild exaggerations, her creepy devotion to “ladybird,” her even creepier idolization of her brother, and her complete disdain for the French make her a “character” in the same way that Jerry is. I loved that she and Jerry end up together, abandoned by the main players, and that Miss Pross saves everyone in the end and busts a cap in Therese’s ass – who saw that coming?
First of all: the whole concept of “the friendzone” is gross and sexist. However. Sometimes the term just fits. And Sydney is in the Friend Zone like whoa.
Up until now, the only “friend zoned 19th century French literary character” I knew was Eponine from Les Mis. We all cringed for her as Marius used her to get to Cossette. But Sydney Carton takes it to a whole new level – he never even really confesses his love, and doesn’t even get to die in Lucie’s arms.
We all knew how this was going to end. We all knew the last line. But it still had an impact. I rushed to the end, but slowed down on the last pages, and that last line hit me, big time. I may have cried (I totally cried.) I have to say, though, I don’t know if Clueless was correct in its analysis that Sydney meant “Tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.” Sydney sacrificed himself for Charles, but, it was really all for Lucie, who he was obsessed with. I didn’t think this was really a “friendship” novel, at least, not the way I thought it would be.
The Best of Blogs
I’m catching up on blogs, so if you aren’t here, link in the comments!
Tune in next Monday for: final thoughts and contest winner!
Did you cry at the end?
I enjoyed writing a meta-review of Come Barbarians so much that I thought I’d do another. Sadly, I did not get to drink wine with Ms. Donoghue, but I read her two most recent books, Astray and Frog Music, with others, and with interesting results.
I’m trying to challenge myself a bit this year. Attending an IRL book club with people I don’t know was one of those challenges, and I did it with Astray. Recording a podcast thing wasn’t in the plans, but it worked well with Frog Music, forcing me to be spontaneous where I’m usually heavily edited.
My rating: 4 stars
The Book Club: Write Reads
First, listen to to my thoughts on Write Reads! I guest hosted the May “new release” podcast and chose Frog Music. I haven’t listed yet because I’m scared I’ll hate my voice. No offense to my sister since we have the exact same voice.
I was super nervous about recording the podcast. My review-writing process is usually days, sometimes weeks long, and often begins months after I’ve read a book. Now, I’m supposed to read a book and just… say what I thought about it? What if I say something dumb? Or think of something better to say later? Both those things happened but the unpredictability of the podcast format is what makes it awesome.
It helped that the hosts, Tania and Kirt, are themselves quite awesome. I know Tania from a former life in which I was a (recreational) belly dancer and met Kirt for the first time that same day, and I was afraid it would be awkward – given the book, I knew the conversation would get pretty racy – but it was so great. I want to guest host again just so I have an excuse to hang out with them. I almost wish our after-podcast conversation had been recorded too. There’s nothing like debating what exactly constitutes double penetration with and old friend and a guy you just met. Or discussing the layout for an imagined Boys of Book Blogging calendar. I fear I’ve said too much!
I liked the book more than either Kirt or Tania. The balance between love and revulsion is what Donoghue does best, and she gets it so right: mother and child, prostitute and customer, friend and lover. If the podcast had been longer, I would have talked more about:
- Arthur and Ernest. Former partners on the trapeze, they are definitely more than friends, and the dynamic is fascinating. Each has their own female partner, but when Arthur nearly dies of smallpox, Ernest cares for him. I wanted to know more about these two.
- “Nursing out.” This concept of sending children away, to a “farm” or to a peasant woman, for the first months or even years of life, seems to be a fairly normal concept in 19th century France. It flies in the face of attachment theory that guides much of parenting trends today, and left Blanche woefully unprepared for motherhood – having been nursed out herself, and in a new country away from any female relatives or friends, how was she to know how to take take of P’tit?
- Blanche as the anti-fallen woman. I read a lot of classics, and a lot of female characters are either put on a pedestal, perfect wives and mothers, or, are cast out as fallen women. Blanch is neither. It’s telling that she may be the most confident female character I’ve ever read, and she exists in the 19th century. I hate the cliche of a “strong female lead” but she is, despite being, at times, a terrible wife, mother, friend, and lover, she overcomes. She keeps going. She learns and gets better.
- The end. I found the ending too happy, despite the death and mayhem. It was very hopeful. Then, of course, I read the afterword about what really happened to the model for Blanche and it was too sad. I’m hard to please.
I’ve read four of Donoghue’s books so far, and rate them all a solid four stars. Frog Music is probably my least favourite of the four, but that’s not to say it’s bad. The murder mystery stuff didn’t work that well for me. I wanted more character, more backstory, and yep, more sex scenes. She does them so well. I mean, here, from the disputed DP scene:
Blanche is the conduit, the river, the rope, the electrical current…she’s going to drink down every drop they’ve got, their spill one unbroken seam of gold through the shattering rock.
I recommend this to lovers of historical fiction, “strong” female leads (even if that phrase makes you cringe,) visceral writing, and the earlier Donoghue novel, Slammerkin.
Further reading on Frog Music:
- A review at Editorial Eyes, which says a lot of what I wanted to say in the podcast, more coherently!
- Donoghue’s soundtrack. Essential. I wish I found it while I was reading so I could really immerse myself in the sounds.
My rating: 4 stars
The Book Club: CanLit Book Club at Jasper Place Library
This book club is what it is thanks to its leader, librarian Lindy Pratch. Once I figured out that Lindy is a book blogger, it all made sense! She reads widely and prolifically, with a focus on CanLit.
The CanLit book club was born a couple of years ago, to relieve the pressure on an over-subscribed general book club over at Woodcroft Library. Lindy chooses all the books, which must be CanLit, and must have enough library copies for the 20ish members. The reading list is so diverse, with YA, mystery, historical fiction, short story collections, graphic novels, and more. Check out the full list of titles here, which includes Reading in Bed favs like The Cat’s Table and really-wanna-read books like The Sisters Brothers and Galore.
I was afraid that the people who attend a library book club would either be super cliquey, or that maybe they’d all have similar opinions, or, even worse, that they wouldn’t talk about the book, as I keep hearing is the case at book clubs. None of these were true. What they lack in demographic diversity (almost exclusively white women age 60+) they make up for in life experience, reading experience, and curiosity. Each meeting is an hour long and there’s always so much more I want to talk about!
If you’re in Edmonton, check it out on the fourth Wednesday of the month. The next book is Karma by Cathy Ostlere, which is just great, and we meet on May 28th at 7:00 p.m.
I loved Astray. I’m reading more short story collections that I ever have, and this one is at once so different from the typical Canadian short story, but so obviously Canadian.
I found the book clubbers were divided into those who like short stories and those who don’t; and those who liked the premise of Astray, and those who found it frustrating. I didn’t realize that some people are just not open to short stories, like, at all. As for the premise – Donoghue takes snippets of old news stories and imagines the outcomes, revealing the source material at the end of each story – I found it made for a more compelling read than the usual short story collection, which you can dip and and out of. I was so curious about what was real and what was invented that I was racing to the end.
The best comment from a book clubber was “There sure were a lot of gay people. There were just so many,” which you have to imagine delivered completely deadpan, zero indication whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. It’s true, and I guess this reader was not familiar with Donoghue’s previous work! She runs the gamut from cross dressers to women in trouble to a man and his elephant. Not surprising to me, as I know she can write a novel set in present day, mostly in one room, as well as she can write about a cast of characters in 19th century San Francisco.
My only complaint about Astray is I couldn’t tell what makes a snippet of info short story worthy vs. novel worthy. Frog Music was built on a similar premise, and there were some stories that I wish had become novels. “Counting the Days” in particular, a crushingly sad and super honest portrait of a marriage. In the reveal, we find out that the wife, having lost her husband just before her arrival in Canada from Ireland, with a pack of young children and nowhere to go, remarries quickly and has seven more children. I want to know how she meets her new husband, if she is haunted by her first husband, how the children adapt to their new situation – just more.
I recommend Astray to just about anyone. It may not change your mind if you’re anti-short story, but if you’re open to it, you won’t do much better.
So, looks like I need some new bookish/blogging challenges. How are you getting out of your comfort zone?
Having the worst of times figuring our what this is all about? See the master post!
I’m so late with this post, I considered just rolling it into next Monday’s. But, this section was important because it turned things around for me. I was feeling very “I’ve made a huge mistake” (say that in a Job from Arrested Development voice) about this whole thing until after page 200. But I swear, it kept getting better and better. I hope most of you are hanging in there!
Why I got back into #1Tale2Cities in this section:
1. Dr. Mannett & Mr. Lorry
I love the scene where Mr. Lorry talks to Dr. Mannett about this affliction, without actually talking about it. A predecessor of the “I have this friend…” I found these two charming in this scene, and I started to understand the role Mr. Lorry plays in their lives.
2. Madame Defarge and The Vengeance
Still bad-ass. First of all, we learn Mme. D’s first name is Therese, which is also my middle name. Then she acquired a sidekick named “The Vengence.” They also behead a couple people in this section. Madame D. also tells Lucie off, which is all good in my books. Lucie is begging for mercy for her husband and child because sisterhood or whatever and Mme. D is all, cool story, Citoyenne, but I will fully kill your husband in the name of la revolution!
Yes, his constant grovelling is annoying. In this section, though, I realized what his ultimate role was going to be – and having finished the book, I know I was right. And I love that. I love that this book is somewhat predictable. It’s a comfort read in a way. Pretty good for a book in which people are horribly killed and mutilated and what not.
4. The Grindstone
I just love this:
The great grindstone, Earth, had turned when Mr. Lorry looked out again, and the sun was red on the courtyard. But, the lesser grindstone stood alone there in the calm morning air, with a red upon it that the sun had never given, and would never take away.
But it’s not all good news…
She still sucks.
That’s pretty much it. I like everyone else except Lucie. I might like Lucie, if I knew anything about her.
The Best of Blogs
Check out these posts from the #1Tale2Cities readers-along:
- Consumed by Ink pulls some great quotes.
- Reading in Winter is officially done with this book!
- Ebookclassics is pretty cranky too.
If you write an update post this week, link it in the comments and I’ll update here in the main post.
Tales Heard Round the Internet
- Ollie Dickens, great-great-great grandson of you know who, says this of TOTC: “I read A Tale of Two Cities over my gap year, and that’s when I began to realise how a big a thing it was – it hadn’t been blown out of proportion, he really did know how to write.”
Tune in next Monday for: the end!
Did anyone else think it got a lot better in this section?