Thursday, June 30, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 11

We're at Thornfield Hall!  We're at Thornfield Hall!  ::Cue lots of excited bouncing::

Um.  Yes.  I have been known to just start the book here.  When I'm pressed for time and need a dose of Jane + Rochester.  I've read the middle section and the very end probably half a dozen times more often than I've read the whole book.

Ahem.

Anyway!  This is a longer chapter, but I figure lots of people will have a long weekend coming up if they need to catch up.  SO much happening here!  Jane arrives at Thornfield, Jane meets Mrs. Fairfax, Jane thinks Mrs. Fairfax is awfully nice for an employer, Jane realizes Mrs. Fairfax is not really her employer, Jane meets her new pupil and they chatter away in French, Jane asks a lot of questions about the as-yet-unmet Mr. Rochester and is unsatisfied by Mrs. Fairfax's answers, Jane explores the house, Jane hears weird and creepy laughter, Jane meets Grace Poole... busy times!

What is up with the guy at the inn in Millcote not knowing there's a place called Thornfield nearby?  Dude, it's huge, full of Gothic Foreboding, very gloomy and atmospheric... that ringing any bells?  Huh.  Maybe he's new.

I love that Mrs. Fairfax right away distinguishes Jane as not being one of the servants.  I know that governesses in that time occupied a sort of weird middle-world, not servants, but also not equals with their employers.  How lovely for Jane to have another person in that middle realm whom she can confide in!  And isn't Mrs. Fairfax a dear?  Prone to chatter, but still, so kind.

And Adele is reasonably cute.  I've always liked her line, "Aire!  Bah!  I cannot say it" (p. 120).  That's always struck me as something a spoiled little girl would say, somehow.  Though then she sings that song about a forsaken lady with a perfidious lover -- do you think her mother taught it to her in hopes that some day she would happen to sing it around Mr. Rochester and wound him?

But Thornfield -- wow, Bronte pours on the Gothic atmosphere, doesn't she?  Right from the first, we hear about "the eerie impression made by that wide hall, that dark and spacious stair-case, and that long, cold gallery" (p. 116).  Then the outside has those "mighty old thorn trees strong, knotty, and broad as oaks" (p. 118) -- don't they remind you of Mr. Rochester himself?  Yet Jane's own room, and Mrs. Fairfax's little sitting room, are cozy and homey enough.  And I would love to curl up in that library!  Especially if I could coax a certain lord of the manor to give me the keys to all the book cases.

Mrs. Fairfax does tell us a few things about Mr. Rochester by what she doesn't say.  Jane asks if she likes him, and she replies that she does because "the family have always been respected here" (p. 124).  She says "his character is unimpeachable, I suppose (p. 124 -- emphasis mine), and that he is "rather peculiar" (p. 124).  But why is Jane so very curious about him?  She isn't satisfied with Mrs. Fairfax's account of him, and she ponders it -- but Mrs. Fairfax has already said he's rarely at Thornfield, so why should it matter to Jane what he's like?  Unless she's worried about him showing up and making untoward advances or something, but she seems too sheltered to really have that on her mind.

Several bits of foreshadowing going on here too.  Jane feels she's looking forward to "something pleasant; not perhaps that day or that month, but at an indefinite future period" (p. 117).  And then when Jane sees all the old furniture in some of the bedrooms on the third story, she says they make Thornfield Hall seem like "a shrine of memory" (p. 125).  Or perhaps a place to contain and lock away memories?  And then, most blatant of all, is Jane's reference to Bluebeard, that fairy tale guy who locked up his dead wives in one room of his castle.

And here comes the Gothic Creepiness again -- Jane asking about ghosts, Mrs. Fairfax admitting the Rochesters "have been rather a violent than a quiet race" (p. 126), and then that "distinct, formal, mirthless" laugh that Jane says was "as tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard" (p. 127).  But the laugh gets attributed to Grace Poole, as unromantic and unghostly a person as Jane can imagine.  Still, Mrs. Fairfax cryptically rebukes her with "Remember directions!" (p. 127).  Ahhhh, something weird is going on here.

But Adele's hungry, and it's lunchtime, so never mind the creep factor, huh?

Oh!  Does your copy have translations for the French?  If not, try this page for some illumination.

Favorite Lines:


"I will do my best -- it is a pity that doing one's best does not always answer" (p. 112).

"A child makes a house alive all at once" (p. 115).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Does Adele annoy you?  Do you feel sorry for her?  Do you not care about her much one way or the other?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Books I Won't Let My Kids Grow Up Without -- Middle-Grade Fiction


I'm finally continuing my series of posts on books that I feel are essential for my kids to read, or at least try.  My list for Junior Fiction is here, and I intend to do lists of picture books, early readers, and YA in the future, as I have time.

This list is of what I think of as "Middle-Grade Fiction," books aimed at kids around ages 11-14.  Obviously, some kids might be ready for this level before age 11, and continue to enjoy these after they're older than 14.  I've read some of these aloud to my 4-, 6-, and 8-year-olds and they understood them well enough.  But 11-14 is the age group I think of as being ready for these, as regards to both reading level and emotional maturity.

Once again, this is entirely based on my own reading experiences and what I think my kids will be ready for in a few years.  I like most of these enough to own a copy.

Across Five Aprils and Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Anne of Green Gables and the entire series by L. M. Montgomery

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite d'Angeli
The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (I liked several books in the series)

The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

The Hound of the Baskervilles and the other Sherlock Holmes stories by A. Conan Doyle

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (and so many of his books are amazing!)

A Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
The Little House in the Big Woods and the rest of the series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Mother-Daughter Book Club and the rest of the series by Heather Vogel Frederick (though the kids age, so the rest of the series is aimed more at teens)
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (and the sequels are worth a read too)

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (and the whole series is fun)
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Where the Lilies Bloom by Bill and Vera Cleaver
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum 

There are sooooooo many good books for this age range, and I'm probably forgetting some I love.  But these are all such wonderful books, aren't they?

Do you have any recommendations for this age group? I'm always looking for more good books!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 10

We're leaving Lowood!  We're leaving Lowood!  La la la la la la!

I love those "gentlemen of rather more enlarged and sympathizing minds" (p. 99) who put an end to Mr. Brocklehurst's tyrannical, hypocritical rule at Lowood, don't you?  I'm very fond of people who can "combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion with uprightness (p. 99).  Come to think of it, that rather describes the person I'm always striving to be.  

Miss Temple married "a clergyman, an excellent man" (p. 100).  Charlotte Bronte's father was a clergyman, and she eventually married his curate.  But she also declined an offer of marriage from another clergyman, insisting she was unsuited to the role of his wife.  (Read more here.)  I don't actually have any insights to offer here, just the observation of the role of the clergy in Bronte's life and in Jane's.  A clergyman takes away Jane's beloved teacher and friend, and later another clergyman will seek to take Jane away from England and everyone she knows (and loves).  

Once Miss Temple is gone, Jane desires to leave.  First, she prays for liberty, but feels it's out of her reach, so then she prays for change.  That seems too much too, so finally she begs for a new place to be useful.  And that request is granted, though she seems to credit "a kind fairy" (p. 103) for the answer to how she can do that, rather than God answering her prayer.

And before she leaves Lowood, she gets a quick visit from Bessie, a link to the childhood that she is leaving behind.  I find it so sweet that Bessie named her daughter Jane.  She also brings news of Jane's cousins, none of whom seem to be doing very well in life.  And while she doesn't think Jane has turned out to be very pretty, she does think she's genteel and ladylike and accomplished, which is something.  She also brings the news that Jane has an uncle who is in the wine business, looks like a gentleman, and is now in Madeira.  I must admit that I had totally forgotten Bessie brought that news of Jane's Uncle Eyre here -- it's been too long since I read these first ten chapters!

Favorite Lines:

I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse to seek real knowledge of life amid its perils (p. 101).

Possible Discussion Questions:

When Jane's trying to figure out how to find a new place to teach, she sits up in bed "by way of arousing this said brain" (p. 102).  Do you find that physical motion or activity also stimulates your brain?

Jane says that until Miss Temple left, she had believed she was content (p. 100).  But now she isn't.  Is there a difference between believing you're content and actually being so?  How can a person be sure they really are content?  Is contentment something people even strive for much anymore?  Do you?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 9

Holy semicolons, Batman!

Anyway, this starts out cheerfully -- spring is here, Jane isn't frozen half the time, and she gets to roam around pretty flower gardens and the woods!  But then we learn that all is not cheerful -- "forty-five out of the eighty girls lay ill at one time" (p. 91).  Good heavens.  Places like Lowood, with too little food and too many people crammed into unhealthy living quarters, must have been regularly devastated by disease, don't you think?  Poor things.

Still, for Jane, life is looking up.  More food, more freedom, and another new friend.  And while Helen Burns' death obviously makes Jane sad, at the same time, I feel like she's relieved that her friend can be at peace now.

Favorite Lines:

Sometimes, on a sunny day, it began even to be pleasant and genial; and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps (p. 90).


Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all green, all flowery... (p. 91).

My favorite seat was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry from the very middle of the beck, and only to be got at by wading through the water -- a feat I accomplished barefoot (p. 92).

Possible Discussion Questions:

If Helen Burns had lived, if she'd just had typhoid instead of tuberculosis, what do you think her life would be like?

Bronte makes no mention of Christ in the discussion between Helen and Jane about heaven.  Helen's philosophy of "God is my father; God is my friend; I love him; I believe he loves me" (p. 97) strikes me as hollow, I must admit.  How would including the Gospel message of being saved by grace through faith have changed the emphasis of this chapter's ending?  Would it have changed Jane's reaction to Helen's death?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Rose-Covered Cabin: Inkling Explorations for June, 2016


The prompt for this month's Inkling Explorations link-up is "Roses in book or film."  And I'm going to do something very different this month.  I'm going to share an excerpt of my own writing, namely, a passage from "The Man on the Buckskin Horse."  Actually, my original title for my western retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story was "The Rose-Covered Cabin," but it got changed to something more distinctly western-y when it won a spot in the Five Magic Spindles anthology.



Anyway!!!  Here's the excerpt:


I have long considered the Owenses' little place the prettiest this side of the Platte River. The cabin rests at the bottom of a small depression in the land, right along a reliable stream bordered by cottonwoods and such. I remember how poor Juliet brought roses with her from back East, bundle after bundle of dead-looking sticks so far as I could see. But somehow she coaxed them to grow around her new little home. I'm grateful she lived long enough to see the way they flourished, how they climbed up the walls clear to the roof and on over it. When those roses are in bloom, you couldn't paint a nicer picture, and their scent more than masks what you'll smell if the sheep are pastured nearby. I suspect that might be one reason Juliet planted so many of them.

(Source)

I am so excited about this book getting released!  Only a month to wait now -- July 22 is the official date, though you can preorder it (paperback and Kindle editions) from Amazon now.  This is my first time winning a major contest, and the first time my fiction will be for sale in a real book, which makes it all even more thrilling.  The Kindle version was in the top 100 for fantasy anthologies a couple of days ago, and it hasn't even been released yet!

Don't forget to visit Heidi's blog, Sharing the Journey, to find links to all the others who participated this month, and to join in yourself if you so desire!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"The World of Raymond Chandler (In His Own Words)" edited by Barry Day

You most likely know by now that Raymond Chandler is my favorite author.  I go into occasional rhapsodies about his startlingly delightful writing style.  I've reviewed several of his novels here.  I mention him a lot.

But I really didn't know much about him before now.  I knew a few things, like that he grew up in England.  And that he wrote some screenplays.  That was about it.  

I must admit that I shy away from biographies of people whose work I really admire.  I'm afraid that I'll learn something about them that will taint the way I view their creative work, be it books or movies or songs or whatever, and then I'll never be able to enjoy those things again.

However, the subtitle here, "In His Own Words," made me feel like this might not shatter my love of his writing.  And happily, I was right!  Editor Barry Day provides a basic framework and the connective explanations needed to make this coherent, but 95% of the words in this book are Chandler's not Day's.  Through them, we begin to see a deeply unhappy man who never found as much acceptance or approval as he craved, but who stubbornly insisted on writing and living his own way anyway.  I can respect him for that.

Particularly Good Bits:

In retrospect one can see that from the outset Marlowe had a dimension that Spade and the others lacked.  He was a realist instead of a cynic, and he was cursed with a brand of idealism that would draw him irresistibly down the meanest of mean streets (p. 48).

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for occasional language, discussion of some of Chandler's less savory story elements, and lots of alcohol use.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 8

Finally, finally, light enters the story.  Whew!

Which is not to say that everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows for the rest of the book.  There will be more unhappiness, I'm afraid -- of such is drama made.  Stories where everything goes well are boring, right?  (I need to remember that more often in my own writing.  My inclination is to make things easy and happy for my characters, but then there's no real story!)  Still, it's nice that the unremittingly awful part of her childhood has passed.

Anyway, chapter eight begins dismally enough, with Jane face-down on the floor, crying, feeling "crushed and trodden on" (p. 82).  But in comes Helen Burns with food and cheer (and coffee).  Jane doesn't want the food, but she is overjoyed to learn that most of the people at Lowood don't like or respect Mr. Brocklehurst and are not inclined to believe him.  What comfort!

And then Miss Temple takes both girls to her own quarters which look, if you can believe it, cheerful!  Something cheerful within Lowood!  There is hope for the future.  In fact, after some nice food and listening to Miss Temple and Helen Burns talk intelligently about things, Jane even gets a hug!  By the end of the chapter, she says, "I would not now have exchanged Lowood, with all its privations, for Gateshead and its daily luxuries" (p. 89).  What a difference some friends, the approval of her teachers, and the discovery of a talent for artwork have made!

Favorite Lines:

Then her soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot tell (p. 87).

...they spoke of books; how many they had read!  What stores of knowledge they possessed! (p. 88).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Jane says, "if others don't love me, I would rather die than live -- I cannot bear to be solitary and hated."  Do you agree with Helen that Jane thinks "too much of the love of human beings" (p. 83)?

Jane feared having Mr. Brocklehurst denounce her as a liar because she thought it would make her classmates and teachers despise her.  Instead, it has the opposite effect.  Does this strike you as being realistic or overly convenient?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 7

I really hate this chapter.  This chapter is why I often skip straight to chapter 11 when I only have time to re-read "the Good Parts Version" of my favorite novel.

I really relate with Jane when she says that "[t]he fear of failure in these points harassed me worse than the physical hardships of my lot" (p. 72).  I fear failure more than just about anything.  I know a lot of people fear public speaking, but I fear it only because I'm afraid I'll fail at it.  

Anyway, yikes, Lowood is horrible.  Cold and hungry children are NOT going to learn patience and hardiness.  They're going to learn to do whatever is necessary to relieve those conditions -- witness the older girls bullying the younger ones in order to get a little more food.  

Then Mr. Brocklehurst pontificates about how awful Jane is, drawing out the revelation of just what her iniquity is in an almost laughable manner.  Once he pronounces her a liar, there "came a pause of ten minutes" (p. 80).  This made me chuckle, because I think Jane means it felt like ten minutes, but surely it didn't really last that long?

Possible Discussion Question:

When Jane breaks her slate, Miss Temple seeks to reassure her, and Jane says her teacher's "kind whisper went to my heart like a dagger" (p. 79).  Why do you think that act of kindness hurt Jane, but Helen Burns smiling at her was a comfort?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 6

Yikes!  The water in their water pitchers was frozen in the morning.  Now, when I was a kid, we lived in Michigan, and I slept in the attic.  The nails on the walls would get frost on them overnight during the winter, so it was pretty nippy.  But that's nothing compared to frozen water.

And poor Helen Burns.  I'm afraid I'm much more of Jane Eyre's inclinations.  I want to strike out at injustice, not patiently endure it.  And yet, I know Helen is correct -- "It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you -- and besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil" (p. 67).  Like Jane, I find this unnatural... and yet, I know in my heart and head that Helen's way is more God-pleasing.

I love how Helen is saved from being a goody-two-shoes by having bad habits -- she's untidy and disorganized, which keeps her from being too saintlike.  

Favorite Lines:

"It is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear" (p. 68).

"Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs" (p. 71).

Possible Discussion Question:

Helen Burns says that when Miss Temple teachers her, she is only good "in a passive way; I make no effort; I follow as inclination guides me.  There is no merit in such goodness" (p. 69).  Do you think being good when you want to be good is less moral than being good when you don't want to be?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"A Lantern in Her Hand" by Bess Streeter Aldrich

If you dearly love this book (::cough::EmmaJane::cough::), smile to yourself and say, "Oh, good, Hamlette has read this at last.  I'm so happy for her!"  Then close your browser window, go for a swim or eat a popsicle, and leave it at that.

I'm not even kidding.

Shoo!

Sigh.  I expected to like this book.  I expected to at least enjoy it.  I mean, it's about pioneers, and I'm quite fond of pioneers.  It's about the Midwest, and I'm from the Midwest.  It's about people making do with what they have, which is a theme that tends to draw me.

And I think I could have liked this book a lot if the author hadn't kept getting in the way.  Every time the protagonist, Abbie Deal, would start to be happy, the author would drop another anvil on her, so to speak.  "Oh, Abbie is happily married?  Let's make her miserable.  Oh, she's happy to be a mother?  Time to make her miserable again.  Wait, her new house makes her happy?  Better make her miserable!  She's finally got the chance to fulfill her dream of painting?  No, no, we can't have that -- make her give it up!  She has a chance to rest a little and try her hand at writing?  Throw an obstacle at her!  She tries writing again?  Make her be bad at it!"  And on and on and on.

Once again, I am not kidding.  This author seems to have hated her protagonist.  Because she goes to extreme lengths to slowly, steadily grind this character down until I wanted to scream.  I did slam the book down on the table in disgust a couple of times.  Only the faint, wavering hope of a satisfactory ending (and the desire to figure out why some people love this book so much) kept me reading.  And the ending was okay.  At least Abbie Deal got to be happy in death, for which I am grateful, because otherwise I'd have had to find out where Aldrich is buried and go dance and spit all over her grave.

This book depressed me.  I've been in a bitter, angry mood for two days while I strove to just finish the blasted thing off already.

Sure, my reaction is partly because I'm a mom, I have dreams, I have the desire to write, and seeing someone similar to myself get beaten into the ground made me furious.  I don't have the patience and meekness that Abbie Deal had to simply let go of things she desired -- I'm a fist-shaker and a foot-stomper.  And after awhile, that patience and meekness got irksome too, until she started becoming boringly saint-like.  Sigh.  Oh well, I'm done with it, and that's some comfort.

If This Book was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.


This is my 41st book read and reviewed for the Classics Club and my 10th for the Women's Classic Literature Event.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 5

First, I'm sorry this read-along has gotten off to a slow start.  I was gone most of last week, then hosted a yard sale on Saturday, and spent most of yesterday recovering from that, lol.  Getting back on track now, and should be able to make these posts only have 1 or 2 days between them, not 3 or 4.  But hey, that's summer, right?

And here Jane is at Lowood School.  She makes her first solitary journey to get there, fifty miles by herself.  Don't you get the feeling that Mrs. Reed almost hopes or wishes that something would befall Jane on that trip?  Then she wouldn't have to be bothered by Jane's existence anymore.  Because surely, even waaaaaay back then, sending a little kid on a long journey alone was dangerous.  Think about Northanger Abbey when Catherine Morland had to travel home by post alone -- people freaked out, and she was way older than ten.  Just another example of Mrs. Reed's malicious neglect for Jane, I guess.

I don't know if the edition you're reading does footnotes or not.  I'm using the Barnes and Noble Classics, which has both end notes and footnotes -- the end notes explain things in a sentence or two, and the footnotes mostly just define archaic language, though later on they also translate the French passages, which I find invaluable.  Anyway, one of the end notes for this chapter explains that when Bronte writes, "...and away we rattled over the 'stony street'," she's quoting Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which I'm mentioning because we're going to talk quite a bit about how Mr. Rochester is a "Byronic hero" pretty soon.  And Harold is the original Byronic hero, so um... I guess I'm just saying, hey look, Bronte deliberately referenced Byron, so we know her creation of a hero patterned after his is no accident -- she was inviting that comparison.

Anyway, Lowood Institution.  It's like if you mixed Oliver Twist with Madeline, isn't it?  Terrible food, eighty little girls in two straight lines, etc.  So many of the words in this chapter are disagreeable:  dreary, gloomy, morose, blight, decay.  The very name of the school has "low" in it, which is never good.  But Miss Temple is there to cheer things a bit -- another name with some major connotations, huh?  Already, Jane worships her a bit.

I'm amused by the initial conversation between Jane and Helen Burns.  It's so like conversations I've had when I'm reading something and people ask me about it.  If my book wasn't interesting, would I be reading it?  Unless it was a textbook required of me, I mean.  When I worked 3rd shift for four years after I got married, I had a whole hour for lunch, and I would read and read and read.  And after a while, most of my coworkers knew not to bug me.  But there was this one guy who, every time he saw I had a different book from before, would come over and sit down and ask me questions about it.  Ohhh, the frigidity of my politeness.  Helen Burns is positively welcoming compared to me after the first few such incidents with that guy.

But I find Helen's response later very telling.  Jane asks, "Are you happy here?"  Helen doesn't say she is or isn't.  She just says, "You ask rather too many questions" (p. 62).  Tells us a lot about her AND about Lowood, doesn't it?

Favorite Lines:  I stood lonely enough; but to that feeling of isolation I was accustomed; it did not oppress me much (p. 59).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Helen Burns says that Miss Temple "is above the rest, because she knows far more than they do" (p. 62).  What does that assessment say about life at Lowood?  About Helen herself?  And about Charlotte Bronte?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 4

Mr. Brocklehurst is creepy, and that's all there is to it.  I mean, come on, dude -- that's how you speak to a child?  Try to scare her into obedience, give her tracts about children you identify with her getting sent to Hell, and then tell her stories about unctuous little yes-men who know how to weasel two treats out of you by telling you what you want to hear?  Bleah.

I'm sure Mr. Brocklehurst thinks he's helping.  But he makes Austen's Mr. Collins look positively charming and intelligent, doesn't he?

Okay, anyway, what I like best about this chapter is that Jane finds the courage to stand up to her aunt.  Twice.  Yes, her aunt is in authority over her, and we should respect our parents or others God has placed over us.  But I don't think Jane is being disrespectful in this chapter so much as trying to defend herself the best she can.  She appeals to her aunt's conscience first, asking her what Uncle Reed would say if he were alive.  But after hearing Aunt Reed denounce her to Mr. Brocklehurst most maliciously, ten-year-old Jane feels she must defend herself.  Is she more passionate than strictly necessary?  Yes.  But she's ten, and about to be sent to her doom at Mr. Brocklehurst's school.  If not excusable, I think her passion is at least understandable. 

(Incidentally, Mrs. Reed is my age.  I now loathe her even more.)

Favorite Lines:  You think I have no feelings, and that I can live without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so (p. 45).

Even for me life had its gleams of sunshine (p. 49).

Possible Discussion Questions:  How do you view Jane's outbursts toward her aunt?

Do you agree with Bessie that if you dread someone, they'll dislike you?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 3

After the fervor of the first two chapters, this one feel a little tame.  It's kind of an interlude, I guess, bridging from Jane's terror in the Red Room to her leaving Gateshead Hall.

I feel so sad for little Jane, that she feels "an inexpressible relief, a soothing conviction of protection and security, when I knew that there was a stranger in th eroom" (p. 25).  Poor thing really is terrified of her aunt and cousins, and with good reason, as we have seen.  I'm glad this apothecary is kind and sensible.  

Do you think that Jane suffers from some sort of PTSD-like affliction?  She says that the Red Room experience "gave my nerves a shock, of which I feel the reverberation to this day," which involve "fearful pangs of mental suffering" (p. 26).  And she seems to be not just in shock, but depressed in this chapter, crying even though she tries to stop, not interested in things that used to fascinate her, and not eating.  That can be our Possible Discussion Question for the day.

And my goodness, how that song she quotes Bessie as singing describes her later experiences, right down to the moors and the gray rocks, the hard-hearted men and weary limbs.

I must admit I did chuckle at one point in this chapter, though, when Jane says she thinks Abbot suspected her of being "a sort of infantine Guy Fawkes" (p. 33).  Maybe I chuckled because the idea of blowing Gateshead Hall up with gunpowder feels like a good idea.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"Anne's House of Dreams" by L.M. Montgomery

I remember not liking this one much when I was a teen.  It was too... mushy, too sentimental, too sad, too sweet, too happy, too boring.  Too grown-up.

This is why I re-read books.  Because this time through, I really liked this book.  Yes, there was a serendipitously happy coincidence that only the Victorians could ever think was a good idea for a plot.  But there was so much genuine feeling in this book -- real sorrow, real joy, deep friendships, abiding love, and so on.  I cried more over this book than I have over any book this year, and I laughed more over it than I have over the last couple of Anne books.

Basically, in this book, Anne and Gilbert get married and rent a house in a seaport, make all new friends, and start a family.  Their friends are quirky and unusual, from good-hearted Captain Jim to sharp-tongued Miss Cornelia, from ethereally beautiful Leslie to shaggy and stubborn Marshall Elliott.  And then there is Susan, Anne and Gilbert's hired maid/cook -- when Susan is at the helm, there is nothing to fear, and that you may tie to.  Also, this whole book made me crave cherry pie.

Particularly Good Bits:

Jane was not brilliant, and had probably never made a remark worth listening to n her life; but she never said anything that would hurt anyone's feelings -- which may be a negative talent but is likewise a rare and enviable one (p. 8-9).

"Ah, there's the rub," sighed Anne.  "There are so many things in life we cannot do because of the fear of what Mrs. Harmon Andrews would say" (p. 13).

Their happiness was in each other's keeping and both were unafraid (p. 21).

"But just think what a dull world it would be if everyone was sensible," pleaded Anne (p. 47).

"Even when I'm alone I have real good company -- dreams and imaginations and pretendings.  I like to be alone now and then, just to think over things and taste them.  But I love friendship -- and nice, jolly little times with people" (p. 67).

"I wonder why people so commonly suppose that if two individuals are both writers they must therefore be hugely congenial," said Anne, rather scornfully.  "Nobody would expect two blacksmiths to be violently attracted toward each other merely because they were both blacksmiths" (p. 135).

"Shirking responsibilities is the curse of our modern life -- the secret of all the unrest and discontent that is seething in the world" (p. 177).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Clean and wholesome and heartfelt.



This is my 40th book read and reviewed for the Classics Club!  My goodness, I might finish 50 books by the end of the year :-o  It's also my 9th book for the Women's Classic Literature Event.


Here are this month's questions from Elyssa at Purple Ink Studios:

Q:  How is Anne’s friendship with Leslie different from Diana’s? What are your thoughts about friendships and different seasons in life?

A:   Although Anne counted Diana a kindred spirit, Diana never quite understood Anne.  She found Anne amusing and fun, and their friendship was a sweet and loving one, to be sure.  But I think that by the end of this book, Anne and Leslie understand each other very well indeed, in a way Anne and Diana never did.

I've had some friendships that were only for a season, which for me is a bittersweet thing.  I hate change, and I love friends, so I tend to want to stay friends with people forever and ever.  But people change, grow, move -- that's part of life.  There are friends I had as a girl that I haven't seen in twenty years, and likely never will again, simply because our lives grew apart.  There are friends I didn't know five years ago that I thoroughly enjoy being with now, but know we won't be friends forever.  And there are a few friendships that I am confident will last and last and last, for the rest of my life, which makes me so happy.

Q:  Leslie’s life is a tragic one. Once you learn her story, you understand why she was so bitter the night Anne and Gil come riding blissfully into Four Winds. How would you have felt if you were developing a friendship with Leslie? 

A:  I don't know if I would have been as open and understanding as Anne.  I wish I would be, but it takes me a really long time to truly open up to people and let them in -- I'm more like Leslie in that regard, minus the tragic lifestory.  I would probably see if she was interested in being friends, get rebuffed, and go find someone else to hang out with instead.

Q:  This is the book where Anne’s whole life changes. She’s a married woman now with a different lifestyle, different dreams, and different goals. But she’s still the same lovable Anne she’s always been. What are 3 things you think should never change when you get married?

A:  Me personally?  Well, my 14th wedding anniversary is this month, and I know that my faith in God, my love of stories, and my ability to get very enthusiastic over things I enjoy have not changed, unless you count their deepening over the years as changing.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Jane Eyre Read-Along: Chapter 2

Well that turned Gothic in a hurry, didn't it?  I'm always disappointed that Mr. Reed's ghost doesn't return to punish his family for maltreating his niece.  He disappoints me, that uncle of Jane's.

But anyway, wow, so much going on in this chapter.  Jane resists her captors as they drag her to the Red Room, which she says is "a new thing for me" (p. 17).  We can tell she's been inwardly resisting people and ideas for a while already, but this is the first time she put up a physical resistance.  Good practice for her future.

It makes me sooooo angry that the maid, Abbot, says, "What shocking conduct, Miss Eyre, to strike a young gentleman" (p. 17).  Shouldn't it be the other way around?  Shouldn't it be shocking for a young gentleman to strike a little girl?  She's bleeding!  Everyone has to know her head wound isn't self-inflicted.  But no one cares.  No one cares.  Oh, it's a good thing I can't slip inside books like Thursday Next, because I'd probably take a shotgun to everyone in the Reed household.  A horsewhip, at the very least.

But, really, why does no one care?  Because Jane Eyre is different from everyone else in the house.  She is other.  Jane, by the end of the chapter says this herself:  "I was like nobody there" (p. 21).  Her differentness in temperament, intellect, emotion, behavior, interests, and bloodline keep the Reeds (and their servants) at a distance.  She simply does not belong.

Be that as it may, I still want to wreak vengeance on them.  I don't understand a lot of people, but that doesn't make me mistreat them, lock them up, or let them be beaten and tormented.  I often say I don't like the beginning of this book, even though I love the book as a whole dearly, and much of that is because it makes me very angry.  With Jane, I yell, "Unjust! unjust!" (p. 21).

Okay, I'll try to move on.  I do like that glimpse Jane catches of herself in the mirror.  "I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie's evening stories represented" (p. 20).  Which is precisely what Mr. Rochester accuses her of being on their first meeting.  Oh, I love that bit of foreshadowing!

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you think Mrs. Reed's attitude toward Jane is understandable?

Do you have any theories as to why Bronte gave Jane such a thoroughly miserable childhood?