In the High Peaks

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fun with Lizzy and Darcy, or My Take on Pride and Prejudice

Because it was nearly a half-century since the last time I devoured Pride and Prejudice, I must say I had few expectations before reading. I was not surprised that I enjoyed it so much, but I did not expect to become so personally embroiled in the confrontations between characters. My emotions at times were over the top!

When Elizabeth first meets Darcy and she makes very quick judgments about his entire character and being, I longed to take her aside and tell her he's probably just shy. In other words, if people say little, how do you know, really, what they're like? I actually felt angry with her and embarrassed for her, as if I were in the book.

From that early point in the novel, my desire to prevent characters from doing their worst, kept me overly involved. "No, no--Don't say that." And,  oh, how I yearned to stuff a handkerchief into Mrs. Bennett's mouth! How I wanted to make Jane less saintly! (I even desperately desired to know what on earth Mary was studying. We never find out, not really. What are her goals exactly? Where does she see her studies taking her on the path of enlightenment? I'm afraid she's just a stock character, but Austen portrays all the stock characters so well.)

My favorite scene takes place during the time of  Lady Catherine de Bourgh's "visit" to Longbourn, when she arrives in her high-minded  chariot from Kent to lay down the law to Elizabeth. When they go onto the grounds at Longbourn to take a walk and talk, Lady Catherine morphs into the villainess I had been hoping she would become. When Elizabeth does not demur to L.C.'s class and station and holds her ground, Lady Catherine is piqued to exclaim increasingly robust protests of Elizabeth's imagined manipulations. In other words, L.C. goes off her rocker! Oh, I did love that--how rewarding it was to read it.

By the end of the novel, John Collins ("the Reverend") sends his last demeaning missive of chastisement to the Bennetts. And even he, in so doing, looks so much more ridiculously absurd than he did before, and Austen uses the word "obsequious" to describe his actions. All through the novel, this perfect adjective to describe Collins was just out of reach for me, though I searched my brain inside and out. 

I was rather shocked that the very first time Elizabeth entertains less than hostile opinions of Darcy, comes when she is gazing upon the magnificence and beauty of Pemberly. Hmmm. Elizabeth is totally human.


Friday, August 25, 2017

August: Really in the Hum of Reading Again

My decision to shift course and focus on the books I haven't read by favorite authors has been a boon to my otherwise somewhat dismal reading year. Hurrah!

My rereading of Pride and Prejudice was completed yesterday, and I look forward to writing my thoughts about it over this weekend. Very much enjoyed!!

Anita Brookner's Misalliance was excellent, as I noted in one of my previous entries, and I look forward to reading more of her novels soon.

Elizabeth George's A Great Deliverance, introduced her considerable literary powers in her debut novel, which was to my mind, superb. Although in 1988, at the time of the book's publication, the grim subject matter had the power to shock and stun readers, I found that the way the ending unfolded still had the power to shake me up, even though I had guessed what had happened to the killer in her youth. Not simplistic by any means!! I encourage readers to go for this one.

I found the tension, chill, and balletic jetees (I am missing my accent marks) in the ups and downs of Lynley's and Barbara Havers's relationship to be extraordinarily well done. Barbara so shockingly reveals herself to Lynley at the end, and he, stunned, matter-of-factly and, dare I say it, compassionately accepts the force and bluntness of the presentation of her vulnerability, that the scenes are some of the strongest I've read in a number of years. True depths here.

And George creates the powerful scenes, filled with the sharpest dialogue and repartee, yet she also has an uncannily original ability to create and establish settings. Truly original. Can't wait to read her second published novel.

Jacqueline Winspear's Birds of a Feather, the second Maisie Dobbs mystery, was so psychologically astute, reflecting a deep understanding of familial relationships, not only in her client Joseph Waite's family, but touchingly, in Maisie's troubled relationship with her father, and her relationship with Billy Beale, her loyal and esteemed World War I veteran assistant.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Jane Austen Novels for August and September--Join James!

James of "James Reads Books"(see sidebar) is hosting a month-by-month read-a-long of all of Jane Austen's novels. He began the program in July, when he sponsored  Sense and Sensibility. Follow the preceding link to see his introductory post to the read-a-long.

In August, the chosen title is Pride and Prejudice, and I have decided to re-read it. (Yes, still in tune with my goal to return to favorite authors.) My last reading of P and P was junior year in (gasp!) high school, 48 years ago--can it be that long ago? Ouch! A Penguin edition arrived today and I'm already onto reading Chapter 7. I find the films of Austen's novels, as entertaining as they've been, to be very distracting to Austen's intentions, her language, her themes, everything. So Colin Firth and all the rest are absolutely banished from this house until later in 2018! 

In September, James is hosting Mansfield Park,  the Jane Austen novel that I have never read, the book she believed was her best, the most complex thematically, and in honor of that, I cashed in a gift card to order the Harvard University Press hardcover edition of Mansfield Park: The Annotated Edition, edited by Deidre Shauna Lynch, which was published late in 2016. It is a colorful coffee-table book and it arrived today. It's not only a beautiful book, but for a coffee-table book it's extraordinarily readable, unlike some overly florid annotated editions. A regular paperback copy of the novel arrived today as well so I can read it alongside the annotated edition. (Sometimes, at least for me, beautiful annotated editions with gorgeous photographs and sidebar criticisms are apt to distract me from a work of art, so I plan to read several chapters of the paperback and then go over the annotations afterwards.) I'm very enthused about this. 

August is the month of Doldrums or the "Dog Days," so I'm hoping someone out there might enjoy reading along with us.