Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Recent Reads (October Twitterature)

I love the concept of short book reviews in Modern Mrs Darcy's Twitterature linkup. I just cannot make the reviews tweet-length. 
But here goes October Twitterature, anyway. And for more short reviews, please visit Modern Mrs Darcy!

Hill, Susan: Howard's End Is On The Landing. A Year Of Reading From Home.

One day, Susan Hill was looking for a book in her home, realized what a lot of books they owned, and made a resolution that, for one year, she'd only read books she already owned.

She's not suggesting that anyone else do this, by the way, and it's not one of those "simplify your life" projects. For her, it was more of a journey into her own life, as she writes: "to explore what I had accumulated over a lifetime of reading."

In this book, then, Susan Hill gives us glimpses of her reading history, her literary likes and dislikes, her book-related memories, stories of her meeting other authors, etc. Some of her likes coincide with mine. Some don't. (Say what - she doesn't 'get' Jane Austen?) Her opinions and stories were fascinating to read, nevertheless. And isn't the cover just beautiful?

A book which is left on a shelf is a dead thing but it is also a chrysalis, an inanimate object packed with the potential to burst into new life. Wandering through the house that day looking for one elusive book, my eyes were opened to how much of that life was stored here, neglected or ignored.

Bookworm warning: reading this book may make your reading list longer.

James, Eloisa: Paris In Love

The premise is promising: the author and her family move to Paris for a year to experience la vie parisienne. It's one of my favourite daydream-games: what would it be like and what would we do if we went to live somewhere else for a while. And she actually gets to do it. Wow.

I didn't love the book as much as the premise, though. The book is a collection of Facebook updates with some longer essay-style texts. So, the structure is a bit disjointed and keeps you mostly on the surface level. Nice observations and vignettes - like flicking through a stranger's photo album - but I did long for more of those longer stories and essays - more of getting into a subject in depth.

But I can understand that it's more important to focus on actually experiencing something than to write a lot about it while you're living it.

And because of the format, the book is good if you need something to read that you can just pick up for a little time and then set aside again, as each little bit can be read separately.

This book is a fascinating read for any language geek. But you don't need to be a linguist to understand it - Deutscher has a witty, very readable style.

Deutscher makes the point that our mother tongue does not limit our capacity for learning, understanding and expressing any concepts, whether they exist in our language or not. Instead:

The real effects of the mother tongue are rather the habits that develop through the frequent use of certain ways of expression. The concepts we are trained to treat as distinct, the information our mother tongue continously forces us to specify, the details it requires us to be attentive to, and the repeated associations it imposes on us - all these habits of speech can create habits of mind that that affect more than merely the knowledge of language itself.

This is the third part of Anna Elliott's Pride and Prejudice Chronicles series. The first two were Georgiana Darcy's diaries, and I enjoyed them both, so I succumbed to the temptation to buy the third one, too. And I don't regret it.

Kitty Bennet, sombered by her experiences at Waterloo (see Georgiana Darcy's Diary 2), is staying with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London together with her sister Mary.  Kitty is no longer looking for flirtation nor love for herself, but decides to try to find a husband for Mary - and ends up helping many others, too, as well as getting into scrapes.

I liked what Anna Elliott did with Kitty's character as well as with Mary: it was good to see poor Mary Bennet treated as more than just a hopeless prig to be laughed at. These 'silly' sisters did not have to remain silly. And I enjoyed the plot twists, too - willing suspension of disbelief is in order, but the story was so entertaining that I didn't mind the improbabilities.

Trollope, Joanna: Sense and Sensibility

Let me say I am somewhat prejudiced against the Austen Project. Take six perfectly good novels and have six bestselling authors put the stories into modern times? It could work, of course. And because I, too, am interested enough to read the reworked novels, I have to admit there apparently is a market for them.

But I had my doubts getting into Joanna Trollope's effort, and I'm not convinced even after reading it. Trollope is a good writer. Yet, I don't think many of the essential plot points in Sense and Sensibility make for a very credible story and consistent characters when you put them into contemporary settings. Are the members of the upper class in modern Britain really so set on money and prestige? The secret engagement and all that just didn't make sense to me and made Edward seem even more of a fool than in the original.

If you don't let that doubt and incredulity bother you, it's a good read.

No comments:

Post a Comment