Throwback Thursday: Villette by Charlotte Bronte

throwbackthursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is:

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

villetteI am a huge fan of all the Brontë sisters and Jane Eyre is actually one of my favourite books of all time. However, I wanted to share one of her lesser known books instead – Villette. Funnily enough when I first picked it up, I reached page 100 and put it down for a while but something kept pulling me back and it ended up being in my Top 20 ever books.

This review is taken from my original review in 2009

What I thought:

Reader, I heart Ms. Brontë! Reading Villette was like reading a huge epic that I was so immersed in that I walked in Lucy Snowe’s shoes, I felt what she felt. How many authors can do that to you?

Lucy Snowe is difficult to get to know at first. In fact, she is difficult to like. This is deliberate; she tells you about other people, what they think, what they feel, but precious little about herself, of whom she appears fiercely private. Only as the story unfolds does she start to let you in – I remember being surprised when she showed such tender, gentle thoughts and actions towards the sick daughter of her employer; that, I believe, was the first glimpse of emotion from Lucy and it really endeared me to her. Lucy Snowe’s name was not an accident – Brontë toyed with Lucy Frost for a while before settling on Snowe. She also allows us to see her as others do: “Crabbed and crusty” said Ginevra, a pupil at the school, and “unfeeling thing that I was” written to her in a letter. The point is, she isn’t unfeeling at all. She is lonely and trying to make her way in an unfamiliar world. Lucy’s past is only hinted at but it appears to have been an unhappy one.

Brontë’s prose is gorgeous, Villette is such a richly embroidered account of a young woman trying to make a life for herself in a foreign country and fighting for independence and friendship. This book isn’t a romance in the same way that Jane Eyre is. I wasn’t sure for a long time who the leading man would be (in fact he doesn’t even appear until the second half of the book). And it isn’t love at first sight, we watch it grow.

I absolutely adored this book and it is now a firm favourtie of mine.  I finally closed the book in a daze. I don’t want to give anything away, but I was not expecting what happened at the end at all. That came completely out of the blue for me.

Go ahead, indulge and enjoy!

Have you read any books by the Brontë’s? Which ones are your favourites?

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Throwback Thursday: The Mayor of Casterbridge

throwbackthursday

Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is:

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

mayorTaken from my review in 2012:

When I began this book I have to admit that I didn’t think the three words I’d be using to describe it would be drama, excitement and intrigue . In fact, I really had no intention of reading this book at all any time soon as a friend of mine had to study it in school as a teenager and told me it’s the worst book she’s ever read and that had stayed with me and filed into the “don’t bother” part of my brain. But then I saw or heard something about this book (I forget where and what) and that it was about a man who sells his wife and baby daughter at a fayre and immediately I thought that sounds intriguing and off I popped to pick up a copy. How glad I am that I did – The Mayor of Casterbridge has turned out to be one of my favourite books! I loved it!

Michael Henchard is a young man of twenty-one and walking the countryside of Dorset with his wife, Susan, and their baby girl, Elizabeth-Jane, looking for work. They decide to rest a while in a small village where there is a fayre and several drinks later, Michael starts loudly asking for bidders to buy his wife. After accepting 5 guineas from a sailor he wakes later to realise that they have actually gone and when he realises what he has done he swears not to drink a drop more of alcohol for another 21 years (as long as he has so far lived). He starts to make inquiries about where the sailor and his family may have gone but nobody knows who he is and Michael is too ashamed of his conduct to search too effectively and he sets off on the road once more, alone.

The story then fast-forwards eighteen years and Michael is now the Mayor of Casterbridge (modeled on Dorchester in Dorset). It’s difficult to say more about what happens next as I really don’t want to give it away – this book is much better read if you know nothing about the characters and what is to come yet as there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. The fuller title for The Mayor of Casterbridge is The Life and Death of a Man of Character, and that is really what this book is based around – Michael Henchard and his fall and rise (and fall again). The main cast of characters is small enough that we really get to know them well and care about them: Susan and Elizabeth-Jane become part of the story again as does a Scottish traveller looking for work, Donald Farfrae and a young lady, Lucetta Templeman, who gets caught up in something that will come back to haunt her in a big way later in the book.

Henchard really is a man of character, as the title suggests, and he is prone to jealousy, impulsiveness and malice but in turn he can be caring, warm and reflective meaning that the reader never hates him, but actually feels for him as he is his own harshest critic. What astounded me was Hardy’s understanding of human nature: time and time again I was amazed that he had managed to get it so spot on; to really make me feel as the characters did and understand why they behaved the way they did.

What I really loved about this book, though, was the drama. This is why I love all the Victorian books I have read so far – they’re like watching a soap-opera. The Mayor of Casterbridge has it all – love, hate, greed, jealousy, deceit and repentance. And watch out for a scene involving a skimmington-ride (what the Victorians – and those before them – used to do to humiliate people, particularly adulterous women or women who beat their husbands which involved a very rowdy and public parade with effigies of the persons concerned being ridden through town on the back of donkeys) which has extremely tragic consequences.

I just had to share this quote with you too as it made me laugh:

“The present room was much humbler, but what struck him about it was the abundance of books lying everywhere. The number and quality made the meagre furniture that supported them seem absurdly disproportionate.”

Sound familiar? 😉

 

I loved the fact that there were pictures too

 

Verdict:

I heart Thomas Hardy! This is the second book of his that I have read (the first being Tess) and I now fully intend to gorge myself on the rest this year. Forget your preconceptions about dry and dull Victorian literature – this book has it all! A firm favourite now and one I will definitely read again at some point.

Have you read it? If so, what did you think?

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Is this the best cake in the world?

How much do you love this cake?

It was my niece Sophie’s 9th birthday last week and this is the cake that my super-talented sister-in-law made for her. Sophie is  a bookworm too – she loves reading pretty much anything she can get her hands on and for her birthday her mum and dad got her a brand new big bookcase to home her expanding collection (much to her huge delight). That’s my girl! 🙂

Six delicious cakey books

Cover of The Secret Garden which Sophie has just read this year

 

The back of David Walliams' book Mr Stink

 

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

In three words:

Drama, excitement, intruige

What I thought:

When I began this book I have to admit that I didn’t think the three words I’d be using to describe it would be drama, excitement and intrigue . In fact, I really had no intention of reading this book at all any time soon as a friend of mine had to study it in school as a teenager and told me it’s the worst book she’s ever read and that had stayed with me and filed into the “don’t bother” part of my brain. So then, just before Christmas I saw or heard something about this book (I forget where and what) and that it was about a man who sells his wife and baby daughter at a fayre and immediately I thought that sounds intriguing and off I popped to pick up a copy. How glad I am that I did – The Mayor of Casterbridge has turned out to be one of my favourite books! I loved it!

Michael Henchard is a young man of twenty-one and walking the countryside of Dorset with his wife, Susan, and their baby girl, Elizabeth-Jane, looking for work. They decide to rest a while in a small village where there is a fayre and several drinks later, Michael starts loudly asking for bidders to buy his wife. After accepting 5 guineas from a sailor he wakes later to realise that they have actually gone and when he realises what he has done he swears not to drink a drop more of alcohol for another 21 years (as long as he has so far lived). He starts to make enquiries about where the sailor and his family may have gone but nobody knows who he is and Michael is too ashamed of his conduct to search too effectively and he sets off on the road once more, alone.

The story then fast-forwards eighteen years and Michael is now the Mayor of Casterbridge (modelled on Dorchester in Dorset). It’s difficult to say more about what happens next as I really don’t want to give it away – this book is much better read if you know nothing about the characters and what is to come yet as there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. The fuller title for The Mayor of Casterbridge is The Life and Death of a Man of Character, and that is really what this book is based around – Michael Henchard and his fall and rise (and fall again). The main cast of characters is small enough that we really get to know them well and care about them: Susan and Elizabeth-Jane become part of the story again as does a Scottish traveller looking for work, Donald Farfrae and a young lady, Lucetta Templeman, who gets caught up in something that will come back to haunt her in a big way later in the book.

Henchard really is a man of character, as the title suggests, and he is prone to jealousy, impulsiveness and malice but in turn he can be caring, warm and reflective meaning that the reader never hates him, but actually feels for him as he is his own harshest critic. What astounded me was Hardy’s understanding of human nature: time and time again I was amazed that he had managed to get it so spot on; to really make me feel as the characters did and understand why they behaved the way they did.

What I really loved about this book, though, was the drama. This is why I love all the Victorian books I have read so far – they’re like watching a soap-opera. The Mayor of Casterbridge has it all – love, hate, greed, jealousy, deceit and repentence. And watch out for a scene involving a skimmington-ride (what the Victorians – and those before them – used to do to humiliate people, particularly adulterous women or women who beat their husbands which involved a very rowdy and public parade with effigies of the persons concerned being ridden through town on the back of donkeys) which has extremely tragic consequences.

I just had to share this quote with you too as it made me laugh:

“The present room was much humbler, but what struck him about it was the abundance of books lying everywhere. The number and quality made the meagre furniture that supported them seem absurdly disproportionate.”

Sound familiar? 😉

 

I loved the fact that there were pictures too

 

Verdict: I heart Thomas Hardy! This is the second book of his that I have read (the first being Tess) and I now fully intend to gorge myself on the rest this year. Forget your pre-conceptions about dry and dull Victorian literature – this book has it all! A firm favourite now and one I will definitely read again at some point.

 

 

  Have you read this book?

  Which Hardy novel should I read next?

This is the first book I have read for the Victorians Challenge 2012

Day 38 – An author crush

Reader, I heart them…

Is it cheating to bundle these into one (especially as only a week or so ago I did a post about not being able to read Wuthering Heights)? If I had to pick only one sister then it would be Charlotte but how can I leave out poor neglected Anne and yes, even Emily? Yep, I have a crush on them all – thoses feisty, weather-worn Yorkshire lasses who like to roam around on moors and pen stories by candlelight.

I am lucky enough to only live about a 45 minute drive from Haworth where the Bronte sisters grew up with the Vicar father, brother Branwell and their Aunt once their mother and other sisters had all passed away in their childhoods. The Parsonage is still there today and is now a museum and I have wandered though their home on several occasions, looking at the chair Charlotte sat on to write or the sofa that Emily died on (determined to the last hour that she was OK and wanted to get up).

 

Wonder why their books had that gothic feel?

 

Bleak, bleak, bleak! Love it!

 

Haworth Village - cute little town with lovely book shops 🙂

 
Charlotte is my main crush, having penned my favourite book of all-time – Jane Eyre – and also the wonderful Villette (which I know some people find a challenging read); both books had me in awe and I didn’t want either of them to end. I still have Shirley and The Proffesor to read (and I also have a lovely copy of The Tales of Angria which she wrote as a child). I have also read Charlotte Bronte’s Letters in which she writtes to her friend, nurse, sisters and even William Thackaray and Elizabeth Gaskell!
 
I have read and loved both of Anne’s books too, and although I did enjoy Agnes Grey it didn’t have the magnitude of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall which was way before its time and I would love to know what sort of a reception it got back then (a woman not towing the line? Pffft!) .
 
I have made my feelings of Wuthering Heights clear before but despite having had 3 attempts at it, I still don’t feel ready to stop trying. Is it because she’s a Bronte? Probably.
 
So, there you have my author crush(es).
 

  Who is yours?

 

The real Jamaica Inn

A smugglers hiatus

A couple of weeks ago Mr Whisperer and I rented a big bad motorhome and spent the week touring round and exploring Cornwall and Devon.

On our way north we stopped on Bodmin Moor for a little refreshment at the famous Jamaica Inn –  inspiration for Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name.

The building itself was built as a coaching house in 1750 and as a post for changing horses during stagecoach runs over the moor and became infamous for hiding and trading contraband that had been smuggled ashore in Cornwall. The place was so remote and had so much history that du Maurier must have thought it was the perfect setting for her bleak and dramatic book.

Of course I was over the moon when I discovered that there was a little museum there with a whole section dedicated to du Maurier herself with some first edition and some signed books.

Some of the books had such lovely dramatic covers that it made me want to pick them right out of the display and tuck in.

A signed copy of Jamaica Inn from du Maurier to the hotel itself

A set up of du Mauriers writing space

Stop a while...

 I have only ever read two Daphne du Maurier books and they are Rebecca and Jamaica Inn (that’s why I wanted to go here on our trip) and I know I should read more.

Have you read any du Maurier? Which are your favourites?