Friday, April 30, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 43 & 44

But wait!  There's more!  Now, in the space of only two chapters, you can get a near-deadly illness AND a visit from a self-absorbed ex-lover!  All for the low, low price of learning to understand your actions and the people around you.  Act now, Marianne, before these opportunities are gone for good!

Um, so, yeah.  Exciting times in these two chapters, eh?  First, Marianne almost succumbs to a terrible fever, which Mrs. Jennings suspects is a "putrid" fever.  My annotated copy says that means she thinks she probably thinks it's typhus.  So you can understand why Mrs. Palmer evacuates her baby as swiftly as possible!  They did understand that being near a sick person could spread that disease to you, even if germs weren't quite understood yet at this time.

And once again, hurrah for Mrs. Jennings!  I love how she, "with a kindness of heart which made Elinor really love her, declared her resolution of not stirring from Cleveland as long as Marianne remained ill" (p. 574).  What an absolute wonder she is. 

Oh, quick note about them calling the apothecary for Marianne, since my mom asked me what was up with that.  According to the annotated edition, "The apothecary was the most basic medical practitioner, who would respond to normal illnesses, give advice, and prescribe medicines" (p. 573).  Elsewhere, it explains that when someone got sick, you would first try home remedies, and most women had at least some experience nursing ill people because most illnesses would be treated at home.  And home remedies were generally about as effective as a doctor's for most things, honestly.  

So you would maybe call an apothecary to get some medicines or remedies you didn't have on hand, but you only called a physician in very extreme cases.  Physicians had attended school to learn medicine, and they treated illnesses, but didn't do surgery.  Surgeons did surgery, and they tended to have the most medical training, but they didn't treat illnesses, just did things like stitching up wounds and amputating limbs and other surgical things.  ANYWAY, that's why they called the apothecary, who was kind of like our pharmacists today, but did house calls?  And why they talk about sending for an actual physician when Marianne gets worse.  They probably would have had to send to a large town or even to London to get one of those.

But all within a few pages, the danger is past and Marianne is recovering, whew.  I'm really glad Austen doesn't drag this out for chapter after chapter.  Aren't you?  I think that could be a big temptation for an author to milk the illness for lots of drama, but Austen knows their lives are dramatic enough already without a prolonged illness.

And then she just tosses Willoughby into the very end of the chapter, like *BOOM!* 

And now, yeah, any shred of sympathy I might maybe have been feeling for Willoughby are completely blown out of sight by his absolute self-absorbtion.  Notice that he's not here to check on Marianne and make sure she's okay, or even to ask how she's doing.  He's only here because he can't bear the idea that she might die while thinking badly of him.  Everything he says is focused on himself, his feelings, his desires.  It's a giant pity party he tries to disguise as concern for Marianne, and I am just... done with him.  He even flat out says that the reason he came himself instead of just writing a letter was because it "was necessary to [his] own pride" (p. 604).  So at least he's self-aware enough to realize that, but still.  Ugh.

Elinor is pretty done with him too, I think.  She even scolds him, pointing out, "You have made your own choice.  It was not forced on you.  Your wife has a claim to your politeness, to your respect" (p. 614).  From Elinor, that's a pretty fierce scolding.

And here we are again, with people making Elinor relay news for them.  Prevously, Colonel Brandon asked her to tell Marianne all his revelations about Willoughby's mistreatment of his ward.  Then he asks Elinor to offer the living at Delaford to Edward.  And now Willoughby wants Elinor to tell Marianne he really did love her and never intended to seduce her.  Poor Elinor!  All these hard messages to relate.  Yeesh.

Anyway.  Good-bye, Willoughby, and good riddance.

Discussion Questions: 

1.  Why do people keep making Elinor give other people messages and news?

2.  Do you have any sympathy left for Willoughby by now?  Do you think I'm being too harsh on him?

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll

Well, I've discovered that, like The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, this book is pretty fun to read out loud, even though if I read it silently to myself, it annoys me.  So I did enjoy reading this aloud to my kids over a couple weeks, mostly because I got to do lots of silly voices.  Though, by the end, I was running out of new silly voices for all the characters!  So, yeah, that was an interesting challenge, and did make it fun for me.

But, on a whole, this book is very silly and nonsensical and I am... not a fan.  There's no actual point to the story, aside from "will Alice ever get to be a normal size again?" and it turns out to all be a dream, so even that isn't an actual point.  And I just don't enjoy pointless stories.

(Mine from my Instagram account.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Nothing unacceptable for kids here.

This is the 19th book I've read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list.

Monday, April 26, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 41 & 42

And now, for something completely different:  Lucy says nice things to and about Elinor!  And then reverts to being conniving and greedy, secretly planning to mooch milk and eggs off Colonel Brandon's estate once she and Edward are married and living near him.  Pardon me while I roll my eyes very far back into my head like a twelve-year-old.

I had to chuckle over John Dashwood saying, "I am convinced that there is a vast deal of inconsistency in almost every human character (p. 548).  Um, yeah, way to describe yourself there, dude.  But at least he's been friendly and polite to Elinor and Marianne all along, not shunning them while Elinor had a chance with Edward, only to try to make friends with them now.  I guess his greatest inconsistency is in not being able to see how unfair his wife and mother-in-law have been, and thinking he's been totally fair and generous himself.

Also, Elinor makes some very icily sarcastic remarks to her half-brother that go way over his head, which makes me laugh too.

Anyway, off we go to Cleveland, as in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, not the city in Ohio.  Where you will probably be shocked to discover that Marianne does not catch a terrible cold by wandering off in a storm to recite poetry while staring at Willoughby's home.  She also does not get carried home in a downpour by a heroic Colonel Brandon.  That's one of the biggest deviations from the book that Emma Thompson did in her screenplay for the 1995 film, but since it makes such a nice parallel to Willoughby's first entrance in the story and gives Brandon something very manly to do, I never mind it at all.  But here, Marianne just gets chilled sitting around in the damp grass while indulging her passion for dead leaves.

I'm struck by Austen's description of Marianne once again insisting on being unhappy.  She writes, "In such moments of precious, of invaluable misery, she rejoiced in tears of agony to be at Cleveland" (p. 564).  Oh, come on, Marianne, stop making yourself miserable on purpose!!!

Discussion Questions:

1. Are you starting to lose patience with Marianne's rejoicing in self-perpetuated agony?

2. Are you like Marianne in that she "had the knack of finding her way in every house to the library" (p. 566)?

3. Are you surprised that Mr. Palmer is "very capable of being a pleasant companion" (p. 568)?

Friday, April 23, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 39 & 40

Well, finally!  Something goes right for somebody!  Isn't Colonel Brandon just the sweetest, most thoughtful man?  Offering this "living" to Edward, whom he barely knows, simply because he sympathizes with the injustice of parents interfering in the love lives of their children.  Of course, Brandon has no way of knowing that he's actually hurting his friend Elinor by this, because now Edward will be able to marry Lucy instead of putting off the marriage because of insufficient money to support a wife.  But Brandon doesn't know Elinor loves Edward, he just knows Edward is a friend of hers, and he thinks this means Elinor will be glad to see her friend have a home and a way to earn a living.

Which, you see, is the trouble with being SO guarded of your feelings as Elinor is -- you may end up getting hurt by people who are trying to be kind to you because they don't know what your feelings and thoughts are.  Better to be a little less reserved, at least with those you can trust, I think.

Here's a little aside from my annotated edition:  although several characters her believe that a clergyman who makes only 200 pounds a year is too poor to marry, that's actually a bit more than Jane Austen's father was making as a clergyman when he married her mother.  So it might not be enough to live well, but it's do-able.  

The whole thing where Mrs. Jennings and Elinor misunderstand each other is pretty funny, isn't it?  And it goes on just long enough, but stops before it becomes tiresome and ceases to be funny.  At least, I think so.

Quick note:  I'm so sorry I'm very behind on replying to comments and discussing this book with you!  The last two weeks have been ridiculously busy, and I have had almost no time to do even ordinary internet things like check my email.  I'm trying to fit blogging in, but even that has been tough, as evidenced by my posting this at 10:30 on a Friday night.  Next week should be much calmer!  So I promise I'm not ignoring y'all!  I will reply when life has settled down again!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Did you think the misunderstanding about what Colonel Brandon was asking Elinor was funny?

2.  Do you think it's better to marry sooner and be kind of poor, or put off marrying a few years until you will be more comfortably off?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 37 & 38

And so, the secret is out.  Finally.  Anyone else breathing a huge sigh of relief on behalf of Elinor because she doesn't have this awful secret hanging over her head anymore?  Whew.  Even though it means Edward is firmly and publicly engaged to Lucy Steele now, which is sad for both Elinor and Edward, it's just... got to be a big relief to have it known.

Random note:  the "Nancy" they keep mentioning is the elder Miss Steele, the one with the fixation on some doctor.  Her first name is Anne, but Nancy was a common nickname for Anne at that time.  So if you were reading along and suddenly went, "Who in the world is this Nancy person?" now you know.

I find this line so... illuminating?  Enlightening?  Interesting?  Something:

"But unwelcome as such a task must be, it was necessary to be done, and Elinor therefore hastened to perform it" (p. 482).

Elinor does not avoid necessary tasks just because they're annoying or unwelcome.  She hurries up and does them.  Are you that way?  Because I totally am not, usually.  I will put off an annoying or unwelcome task, like telling someone bad news or sweeping the kitchen or taking out the compost, for as long as I can by coming up with other tasks to do first.  But not Elinor.  Rip off the bandage and get it over with, that's her philosophy, maybe?

Anyway, Elinor here gets to state something that we see over and over again in Jane Austen's books, which I quite agree with:

"And after all, Marianne, after all that is bewitching in the idea of a single and constant attachment, and all that can be said of one's happiness depending entirely on any particular person, it is not meant -- it is not fit -- it is not possible that it should be so (p. 486/88).

I heartily agree.  I think if you're depending on one human being to make you happy, you're in for a lot of disappointment.  I have a loving, affectionate, happy marriage that has lasted nearly 19 years... but I do not depend on my husband to make me happy.  I have friends, he has friends, we both have dearly loved family members -- we are not each others' whole worlds.  And if we had not met, I feel sure God could have led us to other people we could have been very happy with too.  I think happiness in marriage is a blessing, but also largely a choice and a decision that two people make -- we like each other, so we shall be happy together.  And we keep on working to promote each others' happiness, but not insisting that our own happiness must be entirely supplied by them and them alone.  

Anyway.  That got long-winded.  Clearly, I have Many Thoughts on that subject.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Are you like Elinor, and like to get unpleasant, yet needful, tasks over as fast as you can?

2.  Do you agree that it's not possible/healthy for one's happiness to depend entirely upon one particular person?

Sunday, April 18, 2021

"A Girl from Yamhill" by Beverly Cleary

Have you ever wanted to know what Beverly Cleary's own childhood was like?  Was it anything like that of any of the kids she wrote about so vividly, like Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins and Ellen Tebbits?  Well, this book is your chance to find out!

In fact, bits of Cleary's own childhood, as related here, did make it into her books.  Playing "brick factory," getting called a "nuisance" by a teacher, making stilts from tin cans, and other little details like that are here.  But Cleary's own childhood was not so carefree and innocent as the ones she wrote about.  She grew up during the Great Depression, and her family struggled like most in America in those days.  Her mother was something of a cipher, and tried to live vicariously through her teenage daughter.  An uncle tried to molest her.  Cleary made friends her mother didn't approve of, had to move several times, and gradually discovered she had a talent for writing stories other people wanted to read.

This book follows Cleary from toddlerhood through the end of high school.  She published a second volume of memoirs that I suppose picked up where this left off.  I might try to read that one, but I didn't particularly love this book, even though it was a fast, engrossing read.  I mean, I did enjoy it, but not enough to want to reread it, you know?  I'd rather reread one of her fiction books for kids.  Though maybe her weird mom would not be in the other memoir so much?  She bothered me, to be honest.

Particularly Good Bits:

To this day, I cannot outline fiction.  I find that an outline limits the flights of imagination which are the joy of writing.  I write and then rewrite, bringing order to the second draft (p. 263).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16.  Cleary talks about things like never having sex explained to her, dating a man in his twenties when she was in high school, and her uncle's attempts to molest her -- things that are NOT something I would read to kids, tweens, or younger teens.  Don't think this is a book you can read aloud to your kids. 

This is the 18th book I've read off my TBR shelves this year for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 35 & 36

Okay, not only is Lucy a poisonous little viper, she's entirely delusional.  She's completely convinced herself that Mrs. Ferrars and Fanny Dashwood truly like her for who she is, and absolutely oblivious to the fact that they were only being nice to her to spite Elinor.  Which, honestly, is hilarious.  Oh. My. Word.

Of course, Fanny inviting Lucy and her sister to stay with them is only going to encourage Lucy in this notion.  Which is understandable.  And I have to say, Fanny and Lucy are a fun pair to watch because they're both so determinedly insincere, both saying nice things and not meaning them at all.

But I really can't stand either of them.

Also, so, is it terribly mean of me to absolutely love the scene where Edward walks in on Fanny and Elinor chatting and we have The Most Awkward Five Minutes in British Literary History ever?  It's really horrible for all of them... and yet it makes me laugh.  Especially the bit where "Edward seemed to have as great an inclination to walk out of the room again, as to advance farther into it" (p. 448).  It's horribly embarrassing for everyone except Lucy Steele... but honestly, I end up just feeling really proud of Elinor through the whole ordeal, and laugh at Lucy for being such a prim little minx and behaving rather badly by being "determined to make no contribution to the comfort of others" (p. 450) and not participating in the conversation.  That's terribly rude, and I know Edward sees her that way.

By the time I got to the bit where "Edward muttered something, but what it was, nobody knew, not even himself" (p. 452), I couldn't help laughing aloud.  I'm grinning at it even now.  Wow.  How does Austen make a scene that's so ridiculously awkward also be so funny and even enjoyable?

Chapter 36 is dull by comparison, but has some funny bits, mostly at Robert Ferrars' expense.  And Mr. Palmer's refusal to say his baby is the most beautiful baby ever made me chuckle.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you think Lucy Steele and Fanny Dashwood realize at all that they're both just using each other for very selfish reasons?  Or does Lucy think Fanny is actually being kind, and Fanny think Lucy actually likes her little boy and so on?

Friday, April 16, 2021

"The Canary Trainer" by Nicholas Meyer

For years, I have wanted to read a book that inserts Sherlock Holmes into The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.  Why?  Because the edition of that book I first read, way back in 1999, mentioned that some people suggest that the "Rat Catcher" character might actually be Sherlock Holmes in disguise.  I have since learned that Leroux was actually a HUGE fan of Sherlock Holmes, and it's very possible that he meant the Rat Catcher to be Holmes in disguise.  

Well, what Holmesian wouldn't want to read a version of it where that's really Holmes?

So, I was excited to learn that Nicholas Meyer had written a book that mashed the two together.  I've long been a fan of Meyer's book The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and hoped he would do the story justice.  And, for the most part, he did.  Holmes was very Holmes-esque, I like that Irene Adler got to play a part that didn't involve her trying to seduce Holmes (because I'm tired of pastiches that use her that way), and I liked seeing the events of The Phantom of the Opera from a different perspective.

But Holmes isn't the Rat Catcher.  In fact, the Rat Catcher never shows up at all.  I mean, I guess you could say Holmes kind of steps in to take his place in a way?  But... it wasn't how I was hoping, so... I will have to reread this sometime without my expectations in the way, and I think I will be even more pleased with it then.  Which doesn't mean I didn't like it now, because I did!  A lot.  Enough to keep it on my shelves.

Particularly Good Bits:

It is often so with human nature; we take for granted and disparage our greatest gifts and years to be accepted in capacities for which others might be better suited.  Clowns long to enact Hamlet, doctors to write novels, and in my case here was a detective determined to play the violin (p. 46).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some mild innuendo, peril to many characters, and several fairly creepy scenes, as befits anything about the Phantom of the Opera.

This is my 17th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 33 & 34

You know, I was perfectly happy living my life without John and Fanny Dashwood on the scene.  How about you?  Ugh, they're just insufferable.  John going on and on about how "poor" he is, just to convince Elinor he can't help out.  Fanny and her mother only being nice to the two Steele girls and barely speaking civilly to Elinor and Marianne... just disgusting!

But wow, Austen's sarcasm is in beast mode here.  She says that Mrs. Ferrars "was not a woman of many words: for, unlike other people in general, she proportioned them to the number of her ideas" (p. 434).  Way to sock it to both Mrs. Ferrars and people in general, eh?  And then she says, of the display of wealth that John and Fanny put on, that "no poverty of any kind, except of conversation, appeared (p. 436).  Wow.  You can almost hear that one sizzle.

Austen's authorial gloves also come off regarding Lucy Steele.  She outright says that Lucy "believed herself to be inflicting a severe disappointment" (432) on Elinor when she tells her that Edward won't be at the dinner party.  And then she says that Lucy "hoped at least to be an object of irrepressible envy to Elinor" (p. 434) over how uncomfortable she is about meeting Edward's mother.  No more conjecturing about whether or not Lucy is a villainess here, eh?

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you think Col. Brandon catches on that John thinks he's interested in Elinor?

2.  Did you laugh aloud when Elinor snarks at her half-brother John that "assisted by [Mrs. Ferrars'] liberality, I hope you may yet live to be in easy circumstances," like I did?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"Yesterday or Long Ago" by Jenni Sauer

This book made me so happy :-)  It is the perfect sort of springtime book, where even when serious things happen, you have the solid sense that everything will work out just fine.  It's basically a gender-flipped Aladdin retelling, but it's also just it's own sweet thing, and I loved it.

My favorite thing about Yesterday or Long Ago is how it revolves around a friendship between two young women, Rinity and Amya, who are completely loyal to each other.  So often, female friendships in fiction get used to set up tension when they both like the same guy, or one of them gets more successful at her job than the other and jealousy breaks up their friendship.  But none of those sorts of clich├ęs happen here -- hooray!  Instead, Rinity and Amya are kind, considerate, and truthful with each other.  Sure, they do disagree at times, but "will they stay friends?" is not a plot point at all, and I loved that.

Another thing I loved was how Rinity used storytelling to calm herself down, to get herself through stressful situations, and even to explain herself to others.  I identify strongly with that habit.  Also, Amya sews, and so do I, so that was a fun connection for me too.

Both girls fall in love with men far above their social station, and trying to figure out how to tell the men the truth about where they come from is the biggest problem they have for a while.  But then Rinity gets tangled up with a shady man who claims to know who her real father was, something she's always longed to know, and everything gets pretty worrisome for a while... but, like I said, you always have a sense that things will end well, which makes the darker parts not too dark.

(My photo from my Instagram account.)

This is not exactly a sequel to Sauer's debut novel Rook di Goo, but instead takes some side characters from that book and has them be love interests, antagonists, and secondary characters here.  The two books take place in a shared universe, but can be read independently.  So it's a little bit like how characters from one of my Once Upon a Western books will pop up in later books and stories too.  I like interrelated stories like that :-)

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher and was in no way obligated to review it.

This book will be released on May 12.  If you want to know how and where to pre-order it (and receive some pre-order swag!), please check out the author's blog for that info.  Even though I got to read an ARC, I'm ordering a physical copy myself because I know I'll want to reread it, and I want it on my shelf.

You can add it to your to-read shelf on Goodreads right here.

Particularly Good Bits:

She fought to keep her words a hiss, keenly aware that they were in the Library and the books wouldn't like it if she yelled (ch. 4).

She couldn't just keep reading books and pretend reality didn't exist (ch. 15). 

She pushed that hope away, though she knew that wasn't how hope worked.  It was a pesky thing that had a habit of sticking around far longer than she wished and refused to be killed no matter how hard you tried.  It was tenacious as ivy and twice as stubborn (ch. 27).

She wasn't a girl in a storybook.  People often assumed she didn't, but she did know the difference between reality and stories (ch. 29).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some perilous moments and lots of kissing.  But sweet and innocent kissing, nothing racy.  No bad language; very mild violence and peril.

This is my 16th book read from my TBR for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Monday, April 12, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 31 & 32

Any kindly thoughts you may have had regarding Willoughby can now be kicked to the curb.  A pox upon him!  My goodness.  Well, now you know why he's my most-despised villain in all of Austen's books.  (Not most-hated -- that's John Thorpe from Northanger Abbey.)  I mean, it's bad enough to have jilted Marianne in favor of a rich heiress, but now we learn that he seduced, impregnated, and abandoned another seventeen-year-old girl.  Boy, did Marianne ever dodge a bullet!

And at least she's being nicer to Col. Brandon now that she knows he has the sort of melancholy and Romantic background she always finds the most interesting.  It was very hard for him to relate this painful history of himself, the girl he loved, and her daughter... but at least Marianne talks to him now.  Sometimes.

By the way, a note on the mention of Col. Brandon and Eliza meaning to elope to Scotland.  At this time, underage people could not get married without their parents' consent in England, but they could in Scotland.  And nobody was supposed to get married without going through the proper procedure of getting a license and so on, which took a couple weeks... but you could get married right away in Scotland.  So people who wanted to elope and get married quickly, especially people under the age of 21, often would try to run away together to Scotland and get married.  Such marriages were considered legal in England too, so you can see why it would be popular.  A common destination for eloping couples was a town called Gretna Green that was just over the border into Scotland, which is where the Bennets assume one of their daughters is heading when she runs off with someone in Pride and Prejudice.

Also, uh, did you catch that Col. Brandon challenged Willoughby to a duel over his treatment of Brandon's ward?  That's what he means by "we met by appointment, he to defend, I to punish his conduct.  We returned unwounded..." (p. 390).  Dueling was illegal in England at that time, according to my annotated copy, but still a fairly popular way for gentlemen and soldiers to deal with things like this that couldn't be taken before a court.  As long as you weren't caught in the act by the authorities, it was basically okay.  Also, by this time, it didn't matter if you didn't actually wound or kill your opponent -- to show up and stand up bravely while they fired a pistol at you was still proof of your courage and a way to defend your honor.

Now, Col. Brandon was, obviously, in the military.  He even served a tour in India, where little uprisings all over probably meant that he had at least participated in skirmishes.  The fact that he's a colonel means that he was either the first or second in command of his regiment.  So I feel like him NOT shooting Willoughby at all is a mark of his innate morality, that he's proved his point by calling Willoughby out and facing him, and so he forbears to actually hurt him.  Though MAN, that had to have been hard, not shooting the guy who debauched your ward AND captured the heart of the woman you love.  Wow.

Alas, Marianne sinks into depression. And UGH, Lucy Steele has returned to the narrative.  We're going to turn now away from Marianne's romantic troubles and focus on Elinor's instead.

Last thing:  I laughed aloud over this bit about Mrs. Palmer: "She was determined to drop his acquaintance immediately, and she was very thankful that she had never been acquainted with him at all" (p. 398).  Too funny!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you also think Col. Brandon missed Willoughby on purpose?

2.  Do you groan whenever Lucy Steele appears on the page?  Or are you kinder to her than I am?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 29 & 30

And now we enter the sad and wretched part of the book where Marianne Is As Sad As Is Humanly Possible.  All the time.  Poor thing :-(  I mean, yes, she throws herself into "excessive affliction" and "most nervous irritability" with great abandon, but she truly has reason to be heartbroken.  I mean, does anyone else here want to punch Willoughby in the face?  Hard?  Just because Marianne kind of goes overboard with the grieving doesn't mean her grief isn't real and warranted.

Here's something interesting that I learned from my annotated version:  London had its own postal system, separate from the national postal system of Great Britain, called the "two-penny post."  For two pennies, you could get a letter to anywhere in London in an hour or so.  Amazing!!! Anyway, this is how Marianne is able to send a letter to Willoughby early in the morning, probably by the 8:00 mail collection, and Willoughby gets it in time to have his reply delivered to her somewhere around 11:00.  My goodness, how speedy and efficient!  

Anyway, we get to see something very illuminating in chapter 29:  Elinor crying violently.  Which provides us with proof that she is definitely capable of experiencing strong emotions.  She just has learned how to choose when to give way to them and when to hold them inside.  Also, it shows us that she's extremely sympathetic with Marianne's plight.  She agrees that it this terrible.  Which makes Marianne's outburst toward her sister, claiming that Elinor "cannot have an idea of what I suffer" so obviously unjust.  Sigh.

As for Mrs. Jennings, I say, hurrah for her!  She may be fond of gossip and teasing, but she is an absolute brick when it comes to standing by an injured friend.  She does everything she can think of to help ease Marianne's sadness, and it's not her fault that she's so different from Marianne that nothing she can think of actually helps.  I mean, she even offers to let Marianne "name her own supper," which means she'd have to change the pre-arranged menu she'd agreed on (possibly days in advance) with her cook.  Possibly have to send someone to purchase different food.  She's willing to put herself and her staff to the expense and trouble of that, just to cheer up a girl who constantly belittles and avoids her.  Hurrah for Mrs. Jennings!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Does anyone else think that Willoughby has been exceedingly foxy and clever in having managed to never actually tell Marianne he loved her?  (At that time, declaring your romantic love to someone was considered the same as a proposal.)

2.  Do you want to say "hurrah for Mrs. Jennings" too?  Or are you more of Marianne's opinion of her?

Friday, April 9, 2021

"Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome

What a perfectly marvelous book!  I absolutely loved this story and these characters, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.  Read it aloud to my kids, I mean, which is what I did with this one.

Four siblings (John, Susan, Titty, and Roger) visit the Lake District in Great Britain with their mother and baby sister while their father is busy working.  Because this is the early twentieth century, they get permission to sail out to an island and camp there for several weeks, and have many adventures, both on the island and on their boat, the Swallow.  They make friends with two sisters who sail their own boat and call themselves the Amazons, and after having a merry war, they make peace and continue having adventures together.  Believable, jolly, sometimes exciting adventures that I just loved.

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

This is my 18th book read and reviewed for my 3rd Classics Club list, and my 15th read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 27 & 28

Oh, Marianne.  You poor thing.  It's not at all shocking that you're confused by Willoughby's behavior and feeling faint.  It's such a good thing that Elinor came along to London to take care of you!

It strikes me as a little... ironic?  funny? that Colonel Brandon is basically turning into the epitome of a Romantic hero, pining away for an unattainable love and making himself a bit despondent in the process... and Marianne can't see it.  Sigh.

Okay, something I learned from my annotated edition this time around, regarding shaking hands.  It says that men and women would only shake hands with someone of the opposite sex who was closely connected to them by blood or marriage, or impending marriage.  So Marianne wanting to shake hands with Willoughby shows that she basically considers herself to be engaged with him, whereas his refusal to shake hands with her is basically his rejecting any such close connection.  Which people in Austen's day would totally have understood, since this was the common rule of propriety at the time, but we don't really get, so I'm glad the book mentioned it, and I'm passing that along.

It's so interesting that Elinor feels that her own situation, of never being able to marry Edward, is now better and/or more comfortable than Marianne's, because at least she doesn't have to feel ashamed of him for doing the right thing by standing by his previous promises to Lucy Steele.  Whereas, Willoughby has dropped Marianne like a hot potato, and you just can't think well of a guy who'll do that.  It's a very small bit of comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

Discussion Questions:

1.  How do you think this would have all proceeded if Elinor had stayed home?  Would Marianne have behaved any differently?

2.  Do you think better of Lady Middleton now, because she was willing to abandon her own pursuit of entertainment to take Marianne and Elinor home early from the party?  Was this kindness, or only good manners?

Monday, April 5, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 25 & 26

Hey, check it out!  We're past the halfway mark for this book!

You know, Mrs. Jennings may be a gossipy old busybody, with a tendency to use uncultured language and talk about improper subjects... but she has a good heart, and a good sense of humor too!  She's generous, kind, considerate of the physical comfort of others, and really does look after the young ladies in her care.  She gives Elinor and Marianne full permission to "laugh at my odd ways behind my back" (p. 284) and is generally just... a fun person to be around, as long as you don't have any secret sweethearts to get teased about.

According to my annotated copy, Barton would be about 175 miles from London, and if carriages and such usually traveled at a rate of about 8 miles an hour when on good roads... it would definitely take them several days to get there.  They're not just being lazy and poky.  Can you imagine spending nine or ten hours a day in a jouncing, jostling carriage?  For two and a half days?  Oh man, no wonder Elinor was a little reluctant to go!

But we get to London at last.  And are promptly visited by Colonel Brandon.  The plot proceeds apace. 

Discussion Questions:

1.  I think this is the only Austen book where the heroines get to travel to London.  But London was an exceedingly popular and important place to go.  Jane herself traveled there many times.  Any thoughts on why she didn't set more book scenes there?

2.  Have you ever traveled in a horse-drawn vehicle? 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

"Recipe for Persuasion" by Sonali Dev

Although this takes place following Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev, you can read Recipe for Persuasion on its own and be fine.  Obviously, they both retell Jane Austen novels.

In Recipe for Persuasion, Ashna Raje is slowly losing her late father's restaurant.  Calling her relationship with her mother "strained" would be laughably underestimating their emotionally fraught battles.  A few years earlier, a therapist "diagnosed her with PTSD resulting in acute clinical depression and anxiety" (p. 92), and Ashna battles her way through a lot of resulting issues throughout this story.

Ashna is convinced she can untangle the mess her life has become herself... until the last person in the world she ever wants to see again steps back into her life.  She and Rico Silva, world-famous soccer star, were high school sweethearts, and when they end up paired together on a reality cooking show, everything in Ashna's life unravels faster than she can imagine.

The thing with unraveling a mess is that you can create something new and orderly out of it, once you finish the painful process of untying all the knots.  Which Ashna eventually can appreciate, but it takes her a long time.  

This book was a lot of fun, since I love to cook, but it also kind of left me wrung out for a day or so.  Just so you know.  I liked it better than Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, mostly because I liked Ashna much better than the heroine of that one.  But neither of them are books I'd re-read.

Particularly Good Bits:

The downside of choosing cowardice was that there was only so long you could hide.  Problems were patient.  They always waited you out (p. 22).

"Being who you're not takes too much energy" (p. 270).

In every part of her life, that was all she ever wanted to be, forcefully the same on the inside and the outside.  Able to say what she wanted to say, able to do what she wanted to do, able to think of herself as she wanted to be thought of (p. 387).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R.  Very R.  Discussion of marital rape, lots of suggestive dialog, a love scene that is pretty graphic until it fades to black, lots of thinking about sexual topics, and quite a bit of bad language.  I skimmed several parts that went beyond my comfort level.