Showing posts from June, 2014

Russian Literature 2014: Second Check-in.

Incredibly we're almost half-way through the year, which means we're half-way through the Russian Literature 2014 challenge
Here, then, is your second check-in post - let everyone know how you're getting on either by commenting here or writing a post on your own blog and linking it in this comment thread so I can go read :)
As for me: I aimed to read 12 books this year, and so far I've read 6 and reviewed 3. BUT: one of these books was a disaster for me: August 1914 was a book I just could not get into at all so I confess I ended up skimming it. So, in this instance, the definition of "read" is stretched somewhat! I should have just put it down, but it was one of the titles on my Classic Club list so I felt obligated to keep going with it. 
Aside from that, I'm still enjoying this challenge. So far, I've read:  Eugene Onegin, by Aleksandr Pushkin.Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol.Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov.The Village of Stepan…

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

It is difficult to imagine a time when Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 masterpiece Lolita was unheard of, when it's reputation did not proceed it, when the shock and revulsion was not anticipated; when, in short, it wasn't notorious. 
The first paragraph promises a love story; the telling of a passionate, erotic affair: Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.The second paragraph shatters it, expectations (such as they may have been back in 1955 when this book hadn't been banned in numerous countries) are blown apart: She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.She was a child. Lolita was twelve at the beginning of the novel when Humbert Humbert, the narrator and protagonist, first encounte…

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

To The Lighthouse was Virginia Woolf's fifth novel, which she began writing on 6th August 1925 and published in May 1927. It is her most autobiographical. In it, she tells the story of the Ramsays; Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay and their eight children whilst on their summer holiday in their home in the Hebrides, along with their many guests. It is one of Woolf's earlier modernist novels (not the first, though), belonging to the tradition of James Joyce's Ulysses (serialised between 1918 - 1920, published in 1922)and Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time(1913 - 1927)with the experimental stream of conciousness she felt Proust had perfected (it is my belief that Woolf was the one to perfect it). It also contains reflections of Katherine Mansfield's Prelude (1918): Mansfield's was, said Woolf following her death, "the only writing I have ever been jealous of." As you would expect from a modernist novel, the focus is not on events but characters, the inner lives …

The oldest book I own.

This afternoon I went to an antiques shop where I ended up buying what is now, officially, the oldest book I own. It's John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and it was published in 1874 (the first edition was published 200 years earlier in 1678). It's a lovely edition, and I've seen it many times on Pinterest and Tumblr, so I'm very happy to have my own copy! And, remarkably, it was only £2, so I think it was a bargain. Here it is:

And as you can see, I also bought The Old Curiosity Shop and A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens: I got it simply because I don't have A Child's History of England, but I have to admit I do like these gilded editions, they're very pretty.

As for that inscription, it says:
John Edward Grant
from John Bruce
All Saints Sunday School
29th Decm. 1878.So, there it is! My copy of Le Rêve by Zola (1888) is now the second oldest book in my collection. I don't tend to have much luck with books in antique shops, so I'…


“Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words  in the English language.” ~ Henry James
It's the first day of summer! But, really, it's felt like summer for a few weeks now. The weather has been glorious and I've been enjoying sitting out with the hens and reading, focussing at present on my Classics Club list (ten to go!). I love this time of year (I think I say that about every season, but there different and all very good reasons to love each part of the year, although February often pushes its luck). The swallows have been back for a while now, and there's a nest in the archway between our house and our neighbour's, so I'm looking forward to seeing some of the young ones braving the outside world in the next few weeks or so. And a few days ago I saw not one but two woodpeckers sitting next to each other on the fence (I've never seen two at once!). It's such a busy time of year for the animal world, they&…

Wordless Wednesday.


Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR list.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish is:
Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR list...
This list is a bit of a mix of my Classics Club list (Satanic Verses, The Magus, The Rainbow, and Fahrenheit 451), books I've been meaning to re-read (To The Lighthouse and Lolita), a read-along book (The Decameron), one for the Russian Literature Challenge (Notes From a Dead House, perhaps better known as The House of the Dead), and two that have caught my eye recently (Jean Santeuil and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner).

I'm so excited for the summer! I'm aiming to do lots of reading, and my major challenge will be to complete my Classics Club list so I can have a brand new list for the autumn. Hopefully I'll be able to read one or two others along the way...

Is He Popenjoy? by Anthony Trollope.

Is He Popenjoy? is, I believe, Anthony Trollope's 34th novel first published in 1878 (eleven years after The Last Chronicle of Barset). It's an odd one to write about - I can't say I loved it as much as I thought: it was enjoyable, and had all the right ingredients, but somehow I couldn't quite get excited about it.
That said, it doesn't deserve it's status as a minor and obscure Trollope (there's not even a Wikipedia entry for it). Even Trollope himself doesn't have a lot to say about it, from what I've read in his autobiography (An Autobiography, 1883), writing in one sentence the very basic plot (which I won't quote as it may give away the end), then concluding, Nevertheless the story, as a story, is not I think amiss.He goes on to note, in a long list of other novels, that it was published in 1878 and so far brought him £1600 (compared to, for example, Can You Forgive Her? from which he made £3525).

As with the longer Trollopes, there are numer…

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke & The Bookish is -
Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year....
1. The Dream by Émile Zola.

Read in May, one of my many re-reads of the year. The perfect fairy tale, and very untypical of Zola.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Read in March. For the first time I felt I 'got' Austen.

3. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.

Read in January. An absolute masterpiece.
4. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.
Another January read. Woolf hoped to capture "myriad impressions — trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel". And she did.

5. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
Read in March. As A. A. Milne wrote,  One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character.Beware of anyone who c…