Jane Austen – “Persuasion”
I was slightly dreading reading this one, as I was leaning towards the more familiar “Pride and Prejudice”, which was celebrating its 200th anniversary in January, too, and it is one of the two Austens I know least well. But it’s not a hard read, and it’s a short one (my normal length volume fooled me by including the memoir of JA by her nephew in the same edition) and very absorbing. As usual, Austen does her timeless thing so well, with her portrayal of ex-lovers meeting, or rather being thrown into one another’s company, years later, having to cope, matchmaking their friends, etc. – situations that can easily be described emotionally in exactly the same way if the cultural trimmings are pulled gently away. Anne Elliott is a little saintly but is fully rounded and I loved her relationships with their beloved neighbour, Lady Russell, and her difficult sister, plus her children. The book is full of attractive and well-drawn characters and the naval details go outside those two inches of ivory Austen is usually portrayed as inhabiting.
I have to say that I don’t remember this one at all from my last reading, which must have been in my teens. I have an urge to re-read all of her other novels now – not sure whether I’ll do one per month or one per Month of Re-Reading.
Susan Cooper – “The Dark is Rising Sequence”
(30 December 2012 – replacement copy)
A wonderful Young Adult sequence I remember reading over and over again in younger years, but not recently. I have managed to persuade Matthew to read these, too – I stayed just one book ahead of him the whole way through, so my reading of these was spread satisfyingly throughout the month.
“Over Sea and Under Stone” – First in the sequence and we meet the delightfully ordinary Drew siblings and their rather mysterious Great Uncle Merry. Barney’s knowledge of King Arthur is put to good use, and there’s nothing too supernatural or scary in this one.
“The Dark is Rising” – Over to Will in the Thames Valley for the explanation of the mythology and some serious supernatural stuff. All, of course, comes together in the end in a satisfying way (although not the best book to be reading during a really heavy snowfall!) and I love the rootedness in real life and “real” myth and the family relationships.
“Greenwitch” – We’re back in Cornwall with the Drew children, joined by Will and with the Captain home. Something important has been stolen, and they need a lost item to save it all. It’s nice that Jane, with her kindness and forbearance, has a central and very positive role in this book – I assume because it was written by a woman, as this is fairly rare, in my experience.
“The Grey King” – Now we’re off to Wales with Will and new mysterious character, Bran, and his beautiful dog. Peril under the mountains contrasts beautifully and effectively with human evil, cruelty, love and protection.
“Silver on the Tree” – The Drew children meet Will and Bran in Wales. there’s a role for each of them, more bravery for Jane, nods to C.S. Lewis, a quest (which still has a bit that REALLY scares me) and a final battle full of myth and wonder, with historical characters woven cleverly into the narrative fabric.
A wonderful set of books with a clear and understandable mythology and a rootedness in human nature and relationships, landscape and myth. I was familiar with the stories but it was odd not reading them in one single volume: I realised I didn’t really know where the breaks between the books came!
Hazel Holt – “A Lot to Ask: A Life of Barbara Pym”
(bought ?? has not appeared in my inputting of my reading journals into an Excel index yet … Started in January, finished in February)
A re-read of a well-done and thorough biography. Full of excerpts from letters to and from BP and diary entries, and written with a clear eye, even though the author and BP were friends and colleagues – and Holt deals well with the potentially tricky part when she herself comes into the story. Philip Larkin is very sweet, and there are three mentions of Iris Murdoch (although not indexed!) plus a very Murdochian hairstyle (close-cropped hair like shiny animal fur). A good background to the books, the people depicted in them and the woman behind them. I had forgotten how much proofreading and editing BP did, and can’t wait to get on to the anthropological novels.
Will add my original review here, as I’m sure I bought and read it after 1997 and it will crop up in my reading journal index in due course …
A Month of Re-Reading in January
So – a good month? Yes, I think so. I read all the books I set out to read, although finishing one in February, and one and a half non-re-reads found their way in to the month, as they always do. I really find this exercise valuable; it’s lovely to revisit old favourites or discover books anew, and I feel like the large book collection I have amassed over the years is earning its keep a bit better these days. I might even venture into one of the larger format non-fiction books I have next time. Read how my fellow re-reader, Ali, summed up her month. And keep reading for more book reviews – I’ve read quite a lot in February already!
Are you taking part in the Month of Re-Reading? Do tell me all about it!