Friday, March 15, 2013

"Cousin Phillis and Other Tales" by Elizabeth Gaskell -- A Partial Review

Rarely do I stop reading a book halfway through.  I usually either quit after a couple of chapters because it just doesn't appeal to me for whatever reason, or else I finish the book.  But today, I quit reading this book.  Right in the middle of a short story, in fact.

Why?

Because the stories were following an alarming trend.  Bad things kept happening.  And then worse things.  People died, people were mistreated, children died, children were mistreated... it was horribly depressing!  And each story seemed to get darker and sadder.  So I quit.  Because the last two books I read were sad and dark, and I was hoping that this would be an antidote for the gloom left in my imagination by the previous books.  But instead, it deepened the gloom.  So I'm giving it up in favor of a nice, cheerful murder mystery.

The trouble is, these stories are quite well written.  The characters are believable and relatable, especially the titular heroine of "Lois the Witch."  And then all manner of horrid things befall these nice people, and I kept getting sadder and sadder.  Sometimes I'm in the mood for sad.  But this is not that time.

Kara of Flowers of Quiet Happiness did a post today asking her readers if they are "moody readers."  And I am.  If I'm not in the mood for a book, I don't enjoy it much.  So I'll usually set it aside for another time.  Because this is a library book, I'll just return it, and try another of Elizabeth Gaskell's books some other time.  If you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them, as this is the first thing of hers I've read.

15 comments:

  1. Wives and Daughters!!!!!!!!! It's wonderful! Best Gaskell book in my opinion. Tons of people love North and South, but I found N&S rather dismal and... yes, boring. I liked the love story between the two main characters, but the rest of the book was "eh." Wives and Daughters is start to finish lovely.

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  2. I second the Wives and Daughters recommendation. The book is unfinished, but it so obvious what the author intended to happen in the last chapter(s) that it really doesn't feel like anything has been left hanging. I've read a couple of her other books, but Wives and Daughters is definitely my favourite.


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  3. Wish more Gaskell books would be made into BBC productions. Love N&S as well as Wives & Daughters although I've not read either one.

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    1. I've not seen any of the BBC productions -- this was literally my first exposure to any of Gaskell's work! Hoping to remedy that in the future. Thanks!

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  4. I recently discovered the 2004 miniseries of North and South and loved it! I haven't read any of them yet, but I definitely intend to! I'm an emotional reader, too. After reading Life of Pi and parts of A Train in Winter and House of Silk, I just had to take a break and read the whole Sookie Stackhouse series--not exactly happy, but so much more lighthearted! And then I came back to serious and emotional with State of Wonder. Reading is a delicate balance. :)

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    1. I hear great things about that miniseries! I have yet to find it, though.

      Is the Sookie Stackhouse series good? I'm kind of guessing you liked it, if you read all of it. I have a thing for vampires, but haven't gotten into that one.

      But yes, it's a balance, isn't it? And then throw in the movies I watch too, and sometimes I get tipped too far one way or another.

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  5. Hello Hamlette, I found your blog via a detour through the Period Drama challenge at Old-Fashioned Charm. I don't have a blog myself other than my Livejournal, so can't officially follow you, but I will read and sometimes comment to your posts, if I have something usefull to say ;-)

    About Elizabeth Gaskell: I think sad things happening are a part of almost all her books. I'm actually reading Mary Barton by her at the moment and it's also quite dismal. But then the people she writes about often life in dismal circumstances, so. I agree with previous posters that Wives and Daughters is a very nice (less sad) book by Gaskell, I also love North and South for it's characters and love story. The other I would like to recommend is Ruth. I don't think it's talked about a lot (maybe because it hasn't been adapted) and it is quite sad, but it has a beautiful redemptive story and message, for which I love it.

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    1. Hi! I would love to have you comment even if you're not "following," though if you want to be notified of new posts, I do have the thingie in my sidebar on both blogs that lets you follow by email.

      I see from your LJ that you're Dutch -- do you live in Holland? I'm half Dutch myself -- some of my ancestors came from Friesland.

      Anyway, I don't mind a sad story, or even a dismal one now and then. But right when I read this, I needed something happier. And I guess it started to feel like the only ending she wanted to write was a sad one, and knowing things would turn out miserably just got so depressing that I quit smack in the middle of the story "The Crooked Branch" because I couldn't bear to see the heartbreak anymore.

      I'll add "Ruth" to my list of things to read -- thanks!

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    2. Half-Dutch, that's cool! I do live in Holland and I'm actually from Friesland myself, lived there until I was 18, but I live in the middle of The Netherlands now. Have you ever been to The Netherlands?

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    3. Nope, I haven't been to the Netherlands yet, though maybe some day. My grandparents went there to visit when I was a little kid, though -- my grandma could read and understand Dutch, though she couldn't speak it. It was their parents and grandparents who came to the US. But they settled in an area of Iowa that is full of Dutch people, and my Dutch heritage has always been important. As my mom and her relatives like to say, "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much!" :-D

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    4. I hope you'll get to visit The Netherlands someday, it's small, but quite interesting (if I may say so...) That's very interesting to hear you live in an area with lots of Dutch people and that saying is great!! Do you also have place names which sound very Dutch or are similar to Dutch place names?

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    5. The area where my mom grew up (which is not where I live now -- I was born in Iowa, but we moved when I was 3) has a lot of Dutch things. There's Orange City, which of course was named by Dutchmen. And there's Pella -- both of those cities have big tulip festivals every year. My mom's maiden name is Haack, and there are so many Dutch last names that belong to people she knows or that I know a little from visiting her home town: Landhuis and Ten Kley and Renskers and Vander Platz, etc. People there have little windmills in their yards, or tulips, things like that. My mom was in her high school's marching band, and they wore Dutch wooden shoes when they marched!

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  6. That's so nice to hear! Ouch, wooden shoes, I never liked wearing them, they hurt my feet to much.

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    1. Yeah, they were really dedicated, eh? And they won marching band competitions and performed lots of places, so it's not like they wore them once a year or something.

      So, I have a question for you: are almond flavoring and coconut prevalent in traditional Dutch baking, or is that something that got added in the new world?

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