Showing posts from March, 2015

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan.

The Thirty-Nine Steps is a novella by the Scottish author John Buchan, and was published in 1915. It's the first of the 'Richard Hannay Stories' which also include Greenmantle (1916), Mr Standfast (1919), The Three Hostages (1924), and The Island of Sheep (1936), and it's the first John Buchan I've read: fortunately I liked it!
It's very short, only a hundred pages or so, and it tells the story of Richard Hannay, a Scot in London newly returned from Rhodesia in southern Africa. Mr. Hannay is bored: I returned from the City about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life. I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but there was the fact. The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick, I couldn't get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda-water…

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope.

Can You Forgive Her? is the first of Anthony Trollope's 'Palliser' or 'Parliamentary Novels' and was published in serial form between 1864-5, then in book form in 1865. This series includes: Can You Forgive Her? (1864-5)Phineas Finn (1867-8)The Eustace Diamonds (1871-3)Phineas Redux (1874)The Prime Minister (1875-6)The Duke's Children (1879-80)One of the central characters in Can You Forgive Her? is Alice Vavasor who is unable to decide between her two suitors - John Grey or her cousin George Vavasor, Grey's absolute opposite. Trollope writes of her ponderings in the early part of the novel:
With all her doubts Alice never doubted her love for Mr. Grey. Nor did she doubt his character, nor his temper, nor his means. But she had gone on thinking of the matter till her mind had become filled with some undefined idea of the importance to her of her own life. What should a woman do with her life? There had arisen round her a flock of learned ladies asking that qu…

The Patron and the Crocus by Virginia Woolf.

'The Patron and the Crocus' is a particularly funny essay from Virginia Woolf's The Common Reader: First Series (1925) and probably nothing could sum it up better than this quote from the second paragraph:
Thus the writer who has been moved by the sight of the first crocus in Kensington Gardens has, before he sets pen to paper, to choose from a crowd of competitors the particular patron who suits him best. It is futile to say, “Dismiss them all; think only of your crocus”, because writing is a method of communication; and the crocus is an imperfect crocus until it has been shared. The first man or the last may write for himself alone, but he is an exception and an unenviable one at that, and the gulls are welcome to his works if the gulls can read them.This is Woolf's essay on writing: not how to write, but on the importance of choosing one's patron. She begins,
Young men and women beginning to write are generally given the plausible but utterly impracticable advice …

The Nibelungenlied.

The Nibelungenlied (Das Nibelungenlied), or The Song of the Nibelungs is a medieval epic German poem by an unknown author and composed around 1195 - 1205. I read the prose translation by A. T. Hatto (1965). It was, I found, remarkably difficult and I've been struggling for several days to write something! So I'm going to keep this brief and attempt an outline on the basic plot.

The story can be divided into two parts: Siegfried and Kriemhild, and Kriemhild's revenge. In the first chapter we meet Kriemhild, the sister of King Gunther, who dreams of a falcon killed by two eagles. Her mother Uta interprets this as her, Kriemhild's, future husband being violently murdered, and so Kriemhild resolves to stay unmarried. However Sigfried, the prince of Xanten, arrives to Worms where this part of the tale is set to woo Kriemhild, which is encouraged by King Gunther, who tells her of the various battles Siegfried has won. Gunther, meanwhile, wishes to marry Brünhild of Iceland h…

The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf: The 100 Year Anniversary Read-Along.

"The voyage had begun, and had begun happily with a soft blue sky, and a calm sea. The sense of untapped resources, things to say as yet unsaid, made the hour significant, so that in future years the entire journey perhaps would be represented by this one scene, with the sound of sirens hooting in the river the night before, somehow mixing in." One hundred years ago today, Virginia Woolf's first novel The Voyage Out was published. It tells the story of Rachel Vinrace, who is travelling to South Africa on her father's ship - the Oxford University Press describes Rachel as launching "on a course of self-discovery in a modern version of the mythical voyage".

Woolf is best known for her novels such as Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928), and The Waves (1931), but this, The Voyage Out, is the genesis of her literary odyssey and so is worthy of celebration! So I'm hosting this read-along, which will begin today, but when it will end is…

Trollope by Victoria Glendinning.

Victoria Glendinning's 1992 biography of Anthony Trollope is one of the biographies on my Classics Club list and I'd been looking forward to it, so when I saw Lisa's post on C. P. Snow's Trollope (in which she recommends Glendinning's Trollope) I was moved to read it. I've also read Glendinning's biographies on Vita Sackville West (Vita - The Life of Vita Sackville West, 1983) and Leonard Woolf (Leonard Woolf: A Biography, 2006, which I must re-read and write about some time soon) and I thoroughly enjoyed those, so I had high hopes for Trollope - and I was not disappointed!
Anthony Trollope, one of my favourite authors, was one of the most prolific writers of the 19th Century, writing 47 novels, many short stories and articles, travelogues, biographies (including biographies on William Makepeace Thackerary and Cicero), and two plays (I've included a list at the end of this post). His fans include two Conservative British Prime Ministers - Harold Macmilla…