Rudin (The Russians) ★★★★☆

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Title: Rudin
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 183
Words: 49K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Rudin’s Arrival

The novel begins with the introduction of three of the characters – Aleksandra, Lezhnev, and Pandalevskii. Pandalevskii relates to Aleksandra Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s invitation to come and meet a Baron Muffel’. Instead of the Baron, Rudin arrives and captivates everyone immediately with his intelligent and witty speeches during the argument with Pigasov. Rudin’s arrival is delayed until Chapter Three. After his success at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s, he stays the night and the next morning meets Lezhnev who arrives to discuss some business affairs with Dar’ya Mikhailovna. This is the first time the reader finds out that Rudin and Lezhnev are acquainted, and studied together at university. During the day that follows Rudin has his first conversation with Natasha; as she speaks of him highly and says he “ought to work”, he replies with a lengthy speech. What follows is a description quite typical of Turgenev, where the character of Rudin is shown not through his own words, but through the text which underlines Rudin’s contradictory statements:

“Yes, I must act. I must not bury my talent, if I have any; I must not squander my powers on talk alone — empty, profitless talk — on mere words,’ and his words flowed in a stream. He spoke nobly, ardently, convincingly, of the sin of cowardice and indolence, of the necessity of action.”[5]

On the same day, Sergei leaves Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s early and arrives to see that Lezhnev is visiting. Lezhnev then gives his first description of Rudin.

Rudin and Natasha

In two months, we are told, Rudin is still staying at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s, living off borrowed money. He spends a lot of time with Natasha; in a conversation with her he speaks of how an old love can only be replaced by a new one. At the same time, Lezhnev gives the account of his youth and his friendship with Rudin, making for the first time the point that Rudin is “too cold” and inactive. On the next day, Natasha quizzes Rudin over his words about old and new love. Neither she, nor he confess their love for each other but in the evening, Rudin and Natasha meet again, and this time Rudin confesses his love for her; Natasha replies that she, too, loves him. Unfortunately, their conversation is overheard by Pandalevskii, who reports it to Dar’ya Mikhailovna, and she strongly disapproves of this romance, making her feelings known to Natasha. The next time Natasha and Rudin meet, she tells him that Dar’ya Mikhailovna knows of their love and disapproves of it. Natasha wants to know what plan of action is Rudin going to propose, but he does not fulfil her expectations when he says that one must “submit to destiny”. She leaves him, disappointed and sad:

“I am sad because I have been deceived in you… What! I come to you for counsel, and at such a moment! — and your first word is, submit! submit! So this is how you translate your talk of independence, of sacrifice, which …”

Rudin then leaves Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s estate. Before his departure he writes two letters: one to Natasha and one to Sergei. The letter to Natasha is particularly notable in its confession of the vices of inactivity, inability to act and to take responsibility for one’s actions – all the traits of a Hamlet which Turgenev later detailed in his 1860 speech. Lezhnev, meanwhile, asks Aleksandra to marry him and is accepted in a particularly fine scene.

The Aftermath

Chapter Twelve and the Epilogue detail events of over two years past Rudin’s arrival at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s estate. Lezhnev is happily married to Aleksandra. He arrives to give her news of Sergei’s engagement to Natasha, who is said to “seem contented”. Pigasov lives with Lezhnevs, and amuses Aleksandra as he used to amuse Dar’ya Mikhailovna. A conversation which follows happens to touch on Rudin, and as Pigasov begins to make fun of him, Lezhnev stops him. He then defends Rudin’s “genius” while saying that his problem is that he had no “character” in him. This, again, refers to the superfluous man’s inability to act. He then toasts Rudin. The chapter ends with the description of Rudin travelling aimlessly around Russia. In the Epilogue, Lezhnev happens by chance to meet Rudin at a hotel in a provincial town. Lezhnev invites Rudin to dine with him, and over the dinner Rudin relates to Lezhnev his attempts to “act” – to improve an estate belonging to his friend, to make a river navigable, to become a teacher. In all three of this attempts Rudin demonstrated inability to adapt to the circumstances of Nicholas I’s Russia, and subsequently failed, and was in the end banished to his estate. Lezhnev then appears to change his opinion of Rudin as inherently inactive, and says that Rudin failed exactly because he could never stop striving for truth. The Epilogue ends with Rudin’s death at the barricades during the French Revolution of 1848; even at death he is mistaken by two fleeing revolutionaries for a Pole.

My Thoughts:

After Anna Karenina and it’s almost 1300 pages, every other Russian novel that’s under 500 pages suddenly makes me feel like somehow I’m cheating and having an easy time of it. Russian literature is bleak and grim and depressing and your very soul is supposed to suffer while reading it. And here I am, breezing along like I’m on a circus ride or something.

It’s just not right. Or maybe I’m just not right. OR (prepare for Conspiracy Theory Numero Uno)…..

….. The WP4 have brainwashed me into somehow liking Russian Literature. I can totally see Dix trying to brainwash me, so I’m going with the Conspiracy Theory option.

Thankfully the titular character is not the main character. He’s an arrogant jackass who won’t stick to anything unless it is done exactly his way. Since he pretty much sponges off of other people, well, you can see the friction there. What got to me was near the end of the novel, Lezhnev (I’d call him a main character) meets Rudin (who is now practically homeless and barely surviving) and is very charitable to him. That was fine and showed what a good man Lezhnez was. What I really disliked was how Lezhnev starts praising Rudin for everything that I abominated in him. His inability to get along with others. His laziness. His excuses for not finishing things. His playing with people’s lives as if they exist for his use alone. I was actually waiting for him to starve to death all alone but I think how Turgenev portrayed him dying, getting shot at the barricades during the French Revolution of 1848 (I had to go look on wikipedia, but this Revolution was just another one by the Frenchies, not the one portrayed in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities). It was very fitting for Rudin to die while sticking his nose into a completely different country’s business.

I have to admit, I am not skilled enough to be able to tell the differences in writing style of Turgenev from either Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. Part of that might be that a good bit of Russian literature was translated by Constance Garnett and if she wasn’t careful, her own style would overpower theirs. While no translator is listed for this book, the public domain version is translated by Garnett so I’m going to assume this is her translation.

And yet, with everything, I still enjoyed this quite a bit. Turgenev sees people and does an excellent job of putting that down in words. I get all the benefit of a varied circle of acquaintences without actually having to deal with people. That is a Win-Win situation as far as I’m concerned!

The only other Turgenev that I’ve read is Fathers and Sons. I definitely preferred that to Rudin. However, I do look forward to more Turgenev as I continue this Russian journey.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry ★★★★✬

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry
Author: Charles Dickens
Narrator: Tim Curry
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Length: 3hrs, 31minutes
(Pages: 98)
(Words: 28K)



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The book is divided into five chapters, which Dickens titled “staves”.

Stave one

A Christmas Carol opens on a bleak, cold Christmas Eve in London, seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley. Scrooge, an ageing miser, dislikes Christmas and refuses a dinner invitation from his nephew Fred—the son of Fan, Scrooge’s dead sister. He turns away two men who seek a donation from him to provide food and heating for the poor and only grudgingly allows his overworked, underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, Christmas Day off with pay to conform to the social custom.

That night Scrooge is visited at home by Marley’s ghost, who wanders the Earth entwined by heavy chains and money boxes forged during a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Marley tells Scrooge that he has a single chance to avoid the same fate: he will be visited by three spirits and must listen or be cursed to carry much heavier chains of his own.

Stave two

The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to Christmas scenes of Scrooge’s boyhood, reminding him of a time when he was more innocent. The scenes reveal Scrooge’s lonely childhood at boarding school, his relationship with his beloved sister Fan, and a Christmas party hosted by his first employer, Mr Fezziwig, who treated him like a son. Scrooge’s neglected fiancée Belle is shown ending their relationship, as she realises that he will never love her as much as he loves money. Finally, they visit a now-married Belle with her large, happy family on the Christmas Eve that Marley died. Scrooge, upset by hearing Belle’s description of the man that he has become, demands that the ghost remove him from the house.

Stave three

The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to a joyous market with people buying the makings of Christmas dinner and to celebrations of Christmas in a miner’s cottage and in a lighthouse. Scrooge and the ghost also visit Fred’s Christmas party. A major part of this stave is taken up with Bob Cratchit’s family feast and introduces his youngest son, Tiny Tim, a happy boy who is seriously ill. The spirit informs Scrooge that Tiny Tim will die unless the course of events changes. Before disappearing, the spirit shows Scrooge two hideous, emaciated children named Ignorance and Want. He tells Scrooge to beware the former above all and mocks Scrooge’s concern for their welfare.

Stave four

The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, shows Scrooge a Christmas Day in the future. The silent ghost reveals scenes involving the death of a disliked man whose funeral is attended by local businessmen only on condition that lunch is provided. His charwoman, laundress and the local undertaker steal his possessions to sell to a fence. When he asks the spirit to show a single person who feels emotion over his death, he is only given the pleasure of a poor couple who rejoice that his death gives them more time to put their finances in order. When Scrooge asks to see tenderness connected with any death, the ghost shows him Bob Cratchit and his family mourning the death of Tiny Tim. The ghost then allows Scrooge to see a neglected grave, with a tombstone bearing Scrooge’s name. Sobbing, Scrooge pledges to change his ways.

Stave five

Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning a changed man. He makes a large donation to the charity he rejected the previous day, anonymously sends a large turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner and spends the afternoon with Fred’s family. The following day he gives Cratchit an increase in pay, and begins to become a father figure to Tiny Tim. From then on Scrooge treats everyone with kindness, generosity and compassion, embodying the spirit of Christmas.

My Thoughts:

Most people know the story of A Christmas Carol already. This review, therefore, is going to be more about the audio side of things, as I listened to this read by Tim Curry. When I did my Currently Reading post about this last month I was very excited to hear this in Curry’s voice.

So how did it turn out? Overall, pretty good.

Listening to this, instead of reading it, allowed me to focus on different aspects that what I’ve concentrated on before and brought to the fore little things. Like the fact that Bob and Tiny Tim attended church services, or that Scrooge began attending church as part of his changed nature. Descriptions of the surroundings or of secondary characters that I’d read over like a steamroller, were allowed a new lease on life due to the magic of Curry’s voice.

I liked Curry’s reading of this. Except for one thing. Scrooge’s voice. It’s a big thing and that’s why I kept this at 4.5stars instead of bumping it up to 5. Curry turns Scrooge into this whining voice that just barely avoided being annoying. While he still conveys the fear, the excitement, the remorse, that is in each of Scrooge’s talks to the various spirits, it is all done in that tone. It is a big enough thing that I suspect I won’t be listening to this version again but will try the one read by Patrick Stewart, or I’ll just read it myself.

I did find out, in the Currently Reading post’s comments section, that Curry had suffered a major stroke and was wheelchair bound. Reading his wiki page, that happened in 2012 and this was produced in 2016. I’d never have guessed it from his voice here though.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

ps,
I am taking part in Anna the Book Critter’s Linkup Party with this review. Feel free to head over to her site and check it out.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Completed) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Completed)
Series: ———-
Authors: Charles Dickens & David Madden
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 483
Words: 181.5K



Synopsis:

This book is divided into two parts, the first being Dicken’s original and unfinished manuscript. The second part is where Madden takes over and finishes up the story.

In his version, the old man, Datchery, is an undercover detective hired by Mr Grewgious, the guardian of Rosa. He figures lots of things out and with the help of Reverend Crisparkle, pins the murder on Jasper, Edwins’s uncle. Helene Landless is at this time secretly engaged to Crisparkle and her brother, Neville, overhears the evidence through that connection. He confronts Jasper, who is in an opium haze and Jasper ends up falling off the steeple in town and impaling himself on an iron fence.

My Thoughts:

I finished up the incomplete Drood back in March and the first thing I noticed upon starting this was just how much I enjoy Dickens’ writing. It felt like putting on a pair of broken in slippers that were warm and fit me perfectly.

As I noted in my Currently Reading post a couple of weeks ago, Madden seemed to be trying to stay within the same literary framework. For the most part, I think he succeeded. I never felt jarred out of the story because of something Madden had written nor was the style radically different. Now, to be clear, he is NO Dickens. He had the mechanical aspect of writing like Dickens down, but that’s what it was. His writing was not inspired like Dickens’ could be. It really felt like Dickens writing on a bad day, perhaps with a head cold and cough that kept interrupting his thoughts. But I was satisfied with the job Madden did.

The completion of the story on the other hand, was even more pat than Dickens. It wasn’t bad by any means or super sappy or anything negative, but it was, mmhhmm, bland. If Dickens had ended things that way, I’d probably be ok with it though. So maybe I’m just looking for things to pick on about Madden.

Whatever the case, whenever I do another Dickens re-read, I’ll make sure to ends thing with this volume, not the incomplete one.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Poor Folk (The Russians) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Poor Folk
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 201
Words: 54K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Varvara Dobroselova and Makar Devushkin are second cousins twice-removed and live across from each other on the same street in terrible apartments. Devushkin’s, for example, is merely a portioned-off section of the kitchen, and he lives with several other tenants, such as the Gorshkovs, whose son groans in agonizing hunger almost the entire story. Devushkin and Dobroselova exchange letters attesting to their terrible living conditions and the former frequently squanders his money on gifts for her.

The reader progressively learns their history. Dobroselova originally lived in the country, but moved to St. Petersburg (which she hates) when her father lost his job. Her father becomes very violent and her mother severely depressed. Her father dies and they move in with Anna Fyodorovna, a landlady who was previously cruel to them but at least pretends to feel sympathy for their situation. Dobroselova is tutored by a poor student named Pokrovsky, whose drunken father occasionally visits. She eventually falls in love with Pokrovsky. She struggles to save a measly amount of money to purchase the complete works of Pushkin at the market for his birthday present, then allows his father to give the books to him instead, claiming that just knowing he received the books will be enough for her happiness. Pokrovsky falls ill soon after, and his dying wish is to see the sun and the world outside. Dobroselova obliges by opening the blinds to reveal grey clouds and dirty rain. In response Pokrovsky only shakes his head and then passes away. Dobroselova’s mother dies shortly afterwards, and Dobroselova is left in the care of Anna for a time, but the abuse becomes too much and she goes to live with Fedora across the street.

Devushkin works as a lowly copyist, frequently belittled and picked on by his colleagues. His clothing is worn and dirty, and his living conditions are perhaps worse than Dobroselova’s. He considers himself a rat in society. He and Dobroselova exchange letters (and occasional visits that are never detailed), and eventually they also begin to exchange books. Devushkin becomes offended when she sends him a copy of “The Overcoat”, because he finds the main character is living a life similar to his own.

Dobroselova considers moving to another part of the city where she can work as a governess. Just as he is out of money and risks being evicted, Devushkin has a stroke of luck: his boss takes pity on him and gives him 100 rubles to buy new clothes. Devushkin pays off his debts and sends some to Dobroselova. She sends him 25 rubles back because she does not need it. The future looks bright for both of them because he can now start to save money and it may be possible for them to move in together.

The writer Ratazyayev, who jokes about using Devushkin as a character in one of his stories offends him, but genuinely seems to like him. Eventually Devushkin’s pride is assuaged and their friendship is restored. The Gorshkovs come into money because the father’s case is won in court. With the generous settlement they seem to be destined to be perfectly happy, but the father dies, leaving his family in a shambles despite the money. Soon after this, Dobroselova announces that a rich man, Mr. Bykov who had dealings with Anna Fyodorovna and Pokrovsky’s father, has proposed to her. She decides to leave with him, and the last few letters attest to her slowly becoming accustomed to her new money.

She asks Devushkin to find linen for her and begins to talk about various luxuries, but leaves him alone in the end despite his improving fortunes. In the last correspondence in the story, on September 29, Devushkin begs Dobroselova to write to him. Dobroselova responds saying that “all is over” and to not forget her. The last letter is from Devushkin saying that he loves her and that he will die when he leaves her and Now she will cry.

My Thoughts:

This was a very peculiar read. Not only was I dealing with the change in culture due to time (it was published in 1846) but I was also dealing with a “real” cultural change going from America all the way to Russia. I’ve read enough of the Russians to know that some of that change I can accommodate and that other bits are beyond inscrutable for me.

Basically, we have the letters between 2 distant cousins chronicling their ups and downs of fortune. Being happy or sad is universal, but the WHY of being happy or sad is where things just sailed over my head. Why does the older guy care so much about what random people on the street think about him? He is beyond obsessed, to the point where he’s making stuff up in his own head for goodness sake.

I am thankful this was as short as it was. While not unenjoyable it was strange enough that I couldn’t really get into the flow of things. Something would happen or they’d say something that you could tell had more meaning behind it but it simply lost to me.

This was translated by C.J. Hogarth.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Professor ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Professor
Series: ———-
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Romance, Classic?
Pages: 323
Words: 87K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel is the story of a young man, William Crimsworth, and is a first-person narrative from his perspective. It describes his maturation, his career as a teacher in Brussels, and his personal relationships.

The story starts with a letter William has sent to his friend Charles, detailing his rejection of his uncle’s proposal that he become a clergyman, as well as his first meeting with his rich brother Edward. Seeking work as a tradesman, William is offered the position of a clerk by Edward. However, Edward is jealous of William’s education and intelligence, and treats him terribly. Through the actions of the sympathetic Mr Hunsden, William is relieved of his post, but starts a new job at a boys’ boarding school in Belgium.

The school is run by the friendly Monsieur Pelet, who treats William kindly and politely. Soon William’s merits as a “professor” reach the ears of the headmistress of the neighbouring girls’ school. Mademoiselle Reuter offers him a position at her school, which he accepts. Initially captivated by her, William begins to entertain ideas of falling in love with her, but then he overhears her and Monsieur Pelet talking about their upcoming marriage and their deceitful treatment of him.

William begins to treat Mademoiselle Reuter with cold civility as he sees her underlying nature. She, however, continues to try to draw him back in by pretending to be benevolent and concerned. She asks him to teach one of her young teachers, Frances, who hopes to improve her skill in languages. William sees promising intelligence in this pupil and slowly begins to fall in love with her.

Jealous of the attention Frances is receiving from William, Mademoiselle Reuter takes it upon herself to dismiss Frances from her post and to hide her address from William. After a long search he re-encounters Frances in a graveyard and they renew their acquaintance.

It is revealed that as she was trying to make herself amiable in William’s eyes, Mademoiselle Reuter had accidentally fallen in love with him herself. Not wanting to cause a conflict with Monsieur Pelet, William leaves his establishment.

William gets a new position as a “professor” at a college, allowing him and Frances to marry. The two eventually open a school together and have a child. After achieving financial security the family travels around England and then settles in the countryside, near to Mr Hunsden.

My Thoughts:

Villette was actually next in this omnibus edition of the Bronte’s but since I’ve already read it twice and my second read was not nearly as enjoyable as the first time, I didn’t want to read it, so I simply skipped it.

The Professor is a nice little story about how a woman thinks a man’s life would go. While there ARE such introspective and delicate men as William, it really seemed dialed up past whatever I’ve ever seen in a guy. Maybe I’m not observant enough but it seemed to me that the story would have been served better if William had been Wilhelmina and she had met Frank instead of Frances. Getting inside a guy’s head is not nearly as complicated as Bronte makes the process.

This was quintessential Romance and as such had all of the baggage that goes along with that genre. I can handle old school romance but I was thankful that this was under 400 pages and not a monster like Shirley.

In food terms, this book felt like plain pancakes with a pat of butter on it. If I hadn’t read a book for a month (I can’t think of a situation where that could happen any more, but it technically “could”) I probably would have devoured this and asked for more; just like when you are hungry, pancakes really hit the spot. But as I am a gourmand and nearly a glutton in terms of books I simply eat this one and say “next!”. Po’ little ol’ me! Pity me….

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Anna Karenina (The Russians) ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Anna Karenina
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1287
Words: 350K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Part 1

The novel opens with a scene that introduces Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky (“Stiva”), a Moscow aristocrat and civil servant who has been unfaithful to his wife, Princess Darya Alexandrovna (“Dolly”). Dolly has discovered his affair with the family’s governess, and the household and family are in turmoil. Stiva informs the household that his married sister, Anna Arkadyevna Karenina, is coming to visit from Saint Petersburg in a bid to calm the situation.

Meanwhile, Stiva’s childhood friend, Konstantin Dmitrievich Levin (“Kostya”), arrives in Moscow with the aim of proposing to Dolly’s youngest sister, Princess Katerina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya (“Kitty”). Levin is a passionate, restless, but shy aristocratic landowner who, unlike his Moscow friends, chooses to live in the country on his large estate. He discovers that Kitty is also being pursued by Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky, an army cavalry officer.

Whilst at the railway station to meet Anna, Stiva bumps into Vronsky who is there to meet his mother, the Countess Vronskaya. Anna and Vronskaya have traveled and talked together in the same carriage. As the family members are reunited, and Vronsky sees Anna for the first time, a railway worker accidentally falls in front of a train and is killed. Anna interprets this as an “evil omen”. Vronsky, however, is infatuated with Anna, and donates two hundred roubles to the dead man’s family, which impresses her. Anna is also uneasy about leaving her young son, Sergei (“Seryozha”), alone for the first time.

At the Oblonsky home, Anna talks openly and emotionally to Dolly about Stiva’s affair and convinces her that Stiva still loves her despite the infidelity. Dolly is moved by Anna’s speeches and decides to forgive Stiva.

Kitty, who comes to visit Dolly and Anna, is just eighteen. In her first season as a debutante, she is expected to make an excellent match with a man of her social standing. Vronsky has been paying her considerable attention, and she expects to dance with him at a ball that evening. Kitty is very struck by Anna’s beauty and personality and becomes infatuated with her just as Vronsky. When Levin proposes to Kitty at her home, she clumsily turns him down, believing she is in love with Vronsky and that he will propose to her, and encouraged to do so by her mother, who believes Vronsky would be a better match (in contrast to Kitty’s father, who favors Levin).

At the big ball Kitty expects to hear something definitive from Vronsky, but he dances with Anna instead, choosing her as a partner over a shocked and heartbroken Kitty. Kitty realizes that Vronsky has fallen in love with Anna and has no intention of marrying her, despite his overt flirtations. Vronsky has regarded his interactions with Kitty merely as a source of amusement and assumes that Kitty has acted for the same reasons. Anna, shaken by her emotional and physical response to Vronsky, returns at once to St. Petersburg. Vronsky travels on the same train. During the overnight journey, the two meet and Vronsky confesses his love. Anna refuses him, although she is deeply affected by his attentions to her.

Levin, crushed by Kitty’s refusal, returns to his estate, abandoning any hope of marriage. Anna returns to her husband, Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, a senior government official, and her son, Seryozha, in St. Petersburg. On seeing her husband for the first time since her encounter with Vronsky, Anna realizes that she finds him unattractive, though she tells herself he is a good man.

Part 2

The Shcherbatskys consult doctors over Kitty’s health, which has been failing since Vronsky’s rejection. A specialist advises that Kitty should go abroad to a health spa to recover. Dolly speaks to Kitty and understands she is suffering because of Vronsky and Levin, whom she cares for and had hurt in vain. Kitty, humiliated by Vronsky and tormented by her rejection of Levin, upsets her sister by referring to Stiva’s infidelity, saying she could never love a man who betrayed her. Meanwhile, Stiva visits Levin on his country estate while selling a nearby plot of land.

In St. Petersburg, Anna begins to spend more time in the inner circle of Princess Elizaveta (“Betsy”), a fashionable socialite and Vronsky’s cousin. Vronsky continues to pursue Anna. Although she initially tries to reject him, she eventually succumbs to his attentions and begins an affair. Meanwhile, Karenin reminds his wife of the impropriety of paying too much attention to Vronsky in public, which is becoming the subject of gossip. He is concerned about the couple’s public image, although he believes mistakenly that Anna is above suspicion.

Vronsky, a keen horseman, takes part in a steeplechase event, during which he rides his mare Frou-Frou too hard—his irresponsibility causing him to fall and break the horse’s back. Anna is unable to hide her distress during the accident. Before this, Anna had told Vronsky that she is pregnant with his child. Karenin is also present at the races and remarks to Anna that her behaviour is improper. Anna, in a state of extreme distress and emotion, confesses her affair to her husband. Karenin asks her to break it off to avoid further gossip, believing that their marriage will be preserved.

Kitty and her mother travel to a German spa to recover from her ill health. There, they meet the wheelchair-bound Pietist Madame Stahl and the saintly Varenka, her adopted daughter. Influenced by Varenka, Kitty becomes extremely pious, but becomes disillusioned by her father’s criticism when she learns Madame Stahl is faking her illness. She then returns to Moscow.

Part 3

Levin continues working on his estate, a setting closely tied to his spiritual thoughts and struggles. He wrestles with the idea of falseness, wondering how he should go about ridding himself of it, and criticising what he feels is falseness in others. He develops ideas relating to agriculture, and the unique relationship between the agricultural labourer and his native land and culture. He comes to believe that the agricultural reforms of Europe will not work in Russia because of the unique culture and personality of the Russian peasant.

When Levin visits Dolly, she attempts to understand what happened between him and Kitty and to explain Kitty’s behaviour. Levin is very agitated by Dolly’s talk about Kitty, and he begins to feel distant from Dolly as he perceives her loving behaviour towards her children as false. Levin resolves to forget Kitty and contemplates the possibility of marriage to a peasant woman. However, a chance sighting of Kitty in her carriage makes Levin realize he still loves her. Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Karenin refuses to separate from Anna, insisting that their relationship will continue. He threatens to take away Seryozha if she persists in her affair with Vronsky.

Part 4

When Anna and Vronsky continue seeing each other, Karenin consults with a lawyer about obtaining a divorce. During the time period, a divorce in Russia could only be requested by the innocent party in an affair and required either that the guilty party confessed—which would ruin Anna’s position in society and bar her from remarrying in the Orthodox Church—or that the guilty party be discovered in the act of adultery. Karenin forces Anna to hand over some of Vronsky’s love letters, which the lawyer deems insufficient as proof of the affair. Stiva and Dolly argue against Karenin’s drive for a divorce.

Karenin changes his plans after hearing that Anna is dying after the difficult birth of her daughter, Annie. At her bedside, Karenin forgives Vronsky. However, Vronsky, embarrassed by Karenin’s magnanimity, unsuccessfully attempts suicide by shooting himself. As Anna recovers, she finds that she cannot bear living with Karenin despite his forgiveness and his attachment to Annie. When she hears that Vronsky is about to leave for a military posting in Tashkent, she becomes desperate. Anna and Vronsky reunite and elope to Europe, leaving Seryozha and Karenin’s offer of divorce.

Meanwhile, Stiva acts as a matchmaker with Levin: he arranges a meeting between him and Kitty, which results in their reconciliation and betrothal.

Part 5

Levin and Kitty marry and start their new life on his country estate. Although the couple are happy, they undergo a bitter and stressful first three months of marriage. Levin feels dissatisfied at the amount of time Kitty wants to spend with him and dwells on his inability to be as productive as he was as a bachelor. When the marriage starts to improve, Levin learns that his brother, Nikolai, is dying of consumption. Kitty offers to accompany Levin on his journey to see Nikolai and proves herself a great help in nursing Nikolai. Seeing his wife take charge of the situation in an infinitely more capable manner than he could have done himself without her, Levin’s love for Kitty grows. Kitty eventually learns that she is pregnant.

In Europe, Vronsky and Anna struggle to find friends who will accept them. Whilst Anna is happy to be finally alone with Vronsky, he feels suffocated. They cannot socialize with Russians of their own class and find it difficult to amuse themselves. Vronsky, who believed that being with Anna was the key to his happiness, finds himself increasingly bored and unsatisfied. He takes up painting and makes an attempt to patronize an émigré Russian artist of genius. However, Vronsky cannot see that his own art lacks talent and passion, and that his conversation about art is extremely pretentious. Increasingly restless, Anna and Vronsky decide to return to Russia.

In St. Petersburg, Anna and Vronsky stay in one of the best hotels, but take separate suites. It becomes clear that whilst Vronsky is still able to move freely in Russian society, Anna is barred from it. Even her old friend, Princess Betsy, who has had affairs herself, evades her company. Anna starts to become anxious that Vronsky no longer loves her. Meanwhile, Karenin is comforted by Countess Lidia Ivanovna, an enthusiast of religious and mystic ideas fashionable with the upper classes. She advises him to keep Seryozha away from Anna and to tell him his mother is dead. However, Seryozha refuses to believe that this is true. Anna visits Seryozha uninvited on his ninth birthday but is discovered by Karenin.

Anna, desperate to regain at least some of her former position in society, attends a show at the theatre at which all of St. Petersburg’s high society are present. Vronsky begs her not to go, but he is unable to bring himself to explain to her why she cannot attend. At the theatre, Anna is openly snubbed by her former friends, one of whom makes a deliberate scene and leaves the theatre. Anna is devastated. Unable to find a place for themselves in St. Petersburg, Anna and Vronsky leave for Vronsky’s own country estate.

Part 6

Dolly, her mother the Princess Scherbatskaya, and Dolly’s children spend the summer with Levin and Kitty. The Levins’ life is simple and unaffected, although Levin is uneasy at the “invasion” of so many Scherbatskys. He becomes extremely jealous when one of the visitors, Veslovsky, flirts openly with the pregnant Kitty. Levin tries to overcome his jealousy, and briefly succeeds during a hunt with Veslovsky and Oblonsky, but eventually succumbs to his feelings and orders Veslovsky to leave in an embarrassing scene. Veslovsky immediately goes to stay with Anna and Vronsky at their nearby estate.

When Dolly visits Anna, she is struck by the difference between the Levins’ aristocratic-yet-simple home life and Vronsky’s overtly luxurious and lavish country estate. She is also unable to keep pace with Anna’s fashionable dresses or Vronsky’s extravagant spending on a hospital he is building. In addition, all is not quite well with Anna and Vronsky. Dolly notices Anna’s anxious behaviour and her uncomfortable flirtations with Veslovsky. Vronsky makes an emotional request to Dolly, asking her to convince Anna to divorce Karenin so that the two might marry and live normally.

Anna has become intensely jealous of Vronsky and cannot bear when he leaves her, even for short excursions. When Vronsky leaves for several days of provincial elections, Anna becomes convinced that she must marry him to prevent him from leaving her. After Anna writes to Karenin, she and Vronsky leave the countryside for Moscow.

Part 7

While visiting Moscow for Kitty’s confinement, Levin quickly gets used to the city’s fast-paced, expensive and frivolous society life. He accompanies Stiva to a gentleman’s club, where the two meet Vronsky. Levin and Stiva pay a visit to Anna, who is occupying her empty days by being a patroness to an orphaned English girl. Levin is initially uneasy about the visit, but Anna easily puts him under her spell. When he admits to Kitty that he has visited Anna, she accuses him of falling in love with her. The couple are later reconciled, realising that Moscow society life has had a negative, corrupting effect on Levin.

Anna cannot understand why she can attract a man like Levin, who has a young and beautiful new wife, but can no longer attract Vronsky. Her relationship with Vronsky is under increasing strain, because he can move freely in Russian society while she remains excluded. Her increasing bitterness, boredom, and jealousy cause the couple to argue. Anna uses morphine to help her sleep, a habit she began while living with Vronsky at his country estate. She has become dependent on it. Meanwhile, after a long and difficult labour, Kitty gives birth to a son, Dmitri, nicknamed “Mitya”. Levin is both horrified and profoundly moved by the sight of the tiny, helpless baby.

Stiva visits Karenin to seek his commendation for a new post. During the visit, Stiva asks Karenin to grant Anna a divorce (which would require him to confess to a non-existent affair), but Karenin’s decisions are now governed by a French “clairvoyant” recommended by Lidia Ivanovna. The clairvoyant apparently had a vision in his sleep during Stiva’s visit and gives Karenin a cryptic message that he interprets in a way such that he must decline the request for divorce.

Anna becomes increasingly jealous and irrational towards Vronsky, whom she suspects of having love affairs with other women. She is also convinced that he will give in to his mother’s plans to marry him off to a rich society woman. They have a bitter row and Anna believes the relationship is over. She starts to think of suicide as an escape from her torments. In her mental and emotional confusion, she sends a telegram to Vronsky asking him to come home to her, and then pays a visit to Dolly and Kitty. Anna’s confusion and anger overcome her and, in conscious symmetry with the railway worker’s death on her first meeting with Vronsky, from ground level at the end of a railway platform, she throws herself with fatal intent between the wagon wheelsets of a passing freight train.

Part 8

Sergei Ivanovich’s (Levin’s brother) latest book is ignored by readers and critics and he participates in the Russian commitment to Pan-Slavism. Stiva gets the post he desired so much, and Karenin takes custody of Vronsky and Anna’s baby, Annie. A group of Russian volunteers, including the suicidal Vronsky, depart from Russia to fight in the Orthodox Bulgarian revolt that has broken out against the Turks, more broadly identified as the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878).

A lightning storm occurs at Levin’s estate while his wife and newborn son are outdoors and, in his fear for their safety, Levin realizes that he does indeed love his son as much as he loves Kitty. Kitty’s family is concerned that a man as altruistic as her husband does not consider himself to be a Christian.

After speaking at length to a peasant, Levin has a true change of heart, concluding that he does believe in the Christian principles taught to him in childhood and no longer questions his faith. He realizes that one must decide for oneself what is acceptable concerning one’s own faith and beliefs. He chooses not to tell Kitty of the change that he has undergone.

Levin is initially displeased that his return to his faith does not bring with it a complete transformation to righteousness. However, at the end of the story, Levin arrives at the conclusion that despite his newly accepted beliefs, he is human and will go on making mistakes. His life can now be meaningfully and truthfully oriented toward righteousness.

My Thoughts:

Before I talk about this book in particular, I want to discuss this “series” in general. In my quest to be more generally well-read I have included “The Complete Works” of several authors like GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, The Bronte Sisters and now, four different Russian authors. Included are Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ivan Turgenev and Nikolai Gogol. I shall be cycling through these four russian authors. Obviously, this particular little literary project, much like my Dickens Project, will take years to complete. Given what I am learning about myself as a long term reader, I suspect there will be breaks to prevent burnout and boredom. But that being said, I have read enough russian classics before to know that I have a russian soul and these stories resonate with me just like Dickens’ stories did.

On to this book in particular.

When I read this for the first time in 2004, I summed it up in one sentence and gave it 3stars. Looking back, I can understand my casual dismissal of this book. Massive (at over 1200 pages this is one big book!), sprawling in scope (over 12 main characters) and chock full to the gills with russian culture, it is easy to think “lets just get through this”. Ahhhh, what a callow youth I was in those days.

Considered by “them” to be one of the greatest novels ever written, Anna Karenina is a study in fallen humanity. Tolstoy was a Christian and while Jesus is never mentioned nor the Bible itself, the church is explicitly talked about. At first it bothered me but I just realized it was one of those “cultural” things. I suspect as I read through these russian authors that I’ll be experiencing a lot of that.

This took me over two weeks to complete. Not because I didn’t pick it up every day (because I did) but because I actually just slowed down and enjoyed reading this instead of consuming like I do so much of my SFF books. I didn’t take any notes but I think when I start the next russian book that I’ll grab some sort of notebook and scribble stuff down as I go along. I don’t do well with taking notes on my kindle and remembering to look them up afterwards just doesn’t happen. I need a physical notebook. Even if I end up not using 99% of the scribblings, at least I will have gotten them out of my head and onto a page. Some books deserve to be thought about and mulled over instead of just inhaled.

Thinking about this book, I’d love to be one of those people who can write pages on the meanings of everything in the book. It is a rich, complex and fulfilling book and I want to do it justice. That being said, I know I simply don’t operate that way. I hardly ever write long reviews, much less even medium reviews.

In regards to the translation. I have one of those 99cent “Complete Works of Tolstoy” that I got from Amazon so I don’ know if the translator was even listed. * heads out to check * Nope, no translator is listed. I noticed nothing egregious though so that shouldn’t b a worry for anyone.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Shirley ★★★✬☆

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Title: Shirley
Series: ———-
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 743
Words: 215K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Robert Moore is a mill owner noted for apparent ruthlessness towards his employees. He has laid off many of them, and is apparently indifferent to their consequent impoverishment. In fact he had no choice, since the mill is deeply in debt. He is determined to restore his family’s honour and fortune.

As the novel opens Robert awaits delivery of new labour-saving machinery for the mill, which will enable him to lay off additional employees. Together with some friends he watches all night, but the machinery is destroyed by “frame-breakers” on the way to the mill. Robert’s business difficulties continue, due in part to continuing labour unrest, but even more to the Napoleonic Wars and the accompanying Orders in Council, which forbid British merchants from trading in American markets.

Robert is very close to his cousin Caroline Helstone, who comes to his house to be taught French by his sister, Hortense. Caroline worships Robert. Caroline’s father is dead and her mother has abandoned her, leaving her to be brought up by her uncle, Rev. Helstone. To keep himself from falling in love with her Robert keeps his distance, since he cannot afford to marry for pleasure or for love.

Caroline realises that Robert is growing increasingly distant and withdraws into herself. Her uncle does not sympathise with her “fancies”. She has no money of her own, so she cannot leave, which is what she longs to do. She suggests that she might take up the role of governess, but her uncle dismisses the idea and assures her that she need not work for a living.

Caroline recovers somewhat when she meets Shirley, an independent heiress whose parents are dead and who lives with Mrs Pryor, her former governess. Shirley is lively, cheerful, full of ideas about how to use her money and how to help people, and very interested in business. Caroline and Shirley soon become close friends. Caroline becomes convinced that Shirley and Robert will marry. Shirley likes Robert, is very interested in his work, and is concerned about him and the threats he receives from laid-off millworkers. Both good and bad former employees are depicted. Some passages show the real suffering of those who were honest workers and can no longer find good employment; other passages show how some people use losing their jobs as an excuse to get drunk, fight with their previous employers, and incite other people to violence. Shirley uses her money to help the poorest, but she is also motivated by the desire to prevent any attack on Robert.

One night Rev. Helstone asks Shirley to stay with Caroline while he is away. Caroline and Shirley realise that an attack on the mill is imminent. They hear the dog barking and realise that a group of rioters has come to a halt outside the rectory. They overhear the rioters talking about entering the house, but are relieved when they decide to go on. The women go to the mill together to warn Robert, but they are too late. They witness the ensuing battle from their hiding place.

The whole neighbourhood becomes convinced that Robert and Shirley will marry. The anticipation of this event causes Caroline to fall ill. Mrs Pryor comes to look after her and learns the cause of Caroline’s sorrow. She continues her vigil even as Caroline worsens daily. Mrs Pryor then reveals to Caroline that she is Caroline’s mother. She had abandoned her because Caroline looked exactly like her father, the husband who tortured Mrs Pryor and made her life miserable. She had little money, so when her brother-in-law offered to bring up the child, she accepted the offer, took up the name of Pryor and went off to become a governess. Caroline now has a reason to live, since she knows that she can go and live with her mother, and begins to recover.

Shirley’s uncle and aunt come to visit her. They bring with them their daughters, their son, and their son’s tutor, Louis Moore. He is Robert’s younger brother and taught Shirley when she was younger. Caroline is puzzled by Shirley’s haughty and formal behaviour towards Louis. Two men fall in love with Shirley and woo her, but she rejects both of them because she does not love them. The relationship between Shirley and Louis, meanwhile, remains ambivalent. There are days when Louis can ask Shirley to come to the schoolroom and recite the French pieces she learned from him when she was younger. On other days Shirley ignores Louis. However, when Shirley is upset the only person she can confide in is Louis. After a supposedly mad dog bites Shirley and makes her think that she is to die early no one except Louis can make her reveal her fears.

Robert returns one dark night, first stopping at the market and then returning to his home with a friend. The friend asks him why he left when it seemed so certain that Shirley loved him and would have married him. Robert replies that he had assumed the same, and that he had proposed to Shirley before he left. Shirley had at first laughed, thinking that he was not serious, and then cried when she discovered that he was. She had told him that she knew that he did not love her, and that he asked for her hand, not for her sake, but for her money. Robert had walked away filled with a sense of humiliation, even as he knew that she was right. This self-disgust had driven Robert away to London, where he realised that restoring the family name was not as important as maintaining his self-respect. He had returned home determined to close the mill if he had to, and go away to Canada to make his fortune. Just as Robert finishes his narration his friend hears a gunshot and Robert falls from his horse.

The friend takes Robert to his own home and looks after him. After a turn for the worse Robert slowly gets better. A visit from Caroline revives him, but she has to come secretly, hiding from her uncle and his friend and his family. Robert soon moves back to his own home and persuades his sister that the very thing their house needs to cheer it up is a visit from Caroline. Robert asks for Caroline’s forgiveness.

Louis proposes to Shirley, despite the difference in their relative situations, and Shirley agrees to marry him. At first Caroline is to be Shirley’s bridesmaid, but Robert proposes to her and she accepts. The novel ends with Caroline marrying Robert and Shirley marrying Louis.

My Thoughts:

I kept going back and forth in my head if this was a 3star or a 3.5star read. There were times that I was really enjoying what I was reading and other times I simply wanted it to be gotten over with. This was very much a romance but with no gothic overtones.

Two women pine away almost to death for love of two brothers and the men manfully overcome their manliness and cultural ideals to marry them anyway. What a heart stopping story!

I can see why this isn’t one of the better known stories by the Bronte’s. At over 700 pages it is just LOOONG and really feels very rambly and voyeuristic into the lives of Shirley and Caroline. Given, that’s what is expected but it just hit me that way.

I can say with some authority that there is no chance I’ll be re-reading this book. I’ve read it and can cross it off the (imaginary) List.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Jane Eyre ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Jane Eyre
Series: ———-
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 503
Words: 190.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Gateshead Hall

Jane Eyre, aged 10, lives at Gateshead Hall with her maternal uncle’s family, the Reeds, as a result of her uncle’s dying wish. Jane was orphaned several years earlier when her parents died of typhus. Mr. Reed, Jane’s uncle, was the only member of the Reed family who was ever kind to Jane. Jane’s aunt, Sarah Reed, dislikes her, abuses her, and treats her as a burden, and Mrs. Reed discourages her three children from associating with Jane. Jane, as a result, becomes defensive against her cruel judgement. The nursemaid, Bessie, proves to be Jane’s only ally in the household, even though Bessie occasionally scolds Jane harshly. Excluded from the family activities, Jane leads an unhappy childhood, with only a doll and books with which to entertain herself.

One day, as punishment for defending herself against her cousin John Reed, Jane is relegated to the red room in which her late uncle had died; there, she faints from panic after she thinks she has seen his ghost. The red room is significant because it lays the grounds for the “ambiguous relationship between parents and children” which plays out in all of Jane’s future relationships with male figures throughout the novel.[7] She is subsequently attended to by the kindly apothecary Mr. Lloyd to whom Jane reveals how unhappy she is living at Gateshead Hall. He recommends to Mrs. Reed that Jane should be sent to school, an idea Mrs. Reed happily supports. Mrs. Reed then enlists the aid of the harsh Mr. Brocklehurst, who is the director of Lowood Institution, a charity school for girls, to enroll Jane. Mrs. Reed cautions Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane has a “tendency for deceit”, which he interprets as Jane being a liar. Before Jane leaves, however, she confronts Mrs. Reed and declares that she’ll never call her “aunt” again. Jane also tells Mrs. Reed and her daughters, Georgiana and Eliza, that they are the ones who are deceitful, and that she will tell everyone at Lowood how cruelly the Reeds treated her. Mrs. Reed is hurt badly by these words, but does not have the courage or tenacity to show this.[8]

Lowood Institution

At Lowood Institution, a school for poor and orphaned girls, Jane soon finds that life is harsh. She attempts to fit in and befriends an older girl, Helen Burns. During a class session, her new friend is criticised for her poor stance and dirty nails, and receives a lashing as a result. Later, Jane tells Helen that she could not have borne such public humiliation, but Helen philosophically tells her that it would be her duty to do so. Jane then tells Helen how badly she has been treated by Mrs. Reed, but Helen tells her that she would be far happier if she did not bear grudges. In due course, Mr. Brocklehurst visits the school. While Jane is trying to make herself look inconspicuous, she accidentally drops her slate, thereby drawing attention to herself. She is then forced to stand on a stool, and is branded a sinner and a liar. Later, Miss Temple, the caring superintendent, facilitates Jane’s self-defence and publicly clears her of any wrongdoing. Helen and Miss Temple are Jane’s two main role models who positively guide her development, despite the harsh treatment she has received from many others.

The 80 pupils at Lowood are subjected to cold rooms, poor meals, and thin clothing. Many students fall ill when a typhus epidemic strikes; Helen dies of consumption in Jane’s arms. When Mr. Brocklehurst’s maltreatment of the students is discovered, several benefactors erect a new building and install a sympathetic management committee to moderate Mr. Brocklehurst’s harsh rule. Conditions at the school then improve dramatically.

Thornfield Hall

After six years as a student and two as a teacher at Lowood, Jane decides to leave in pursuit of a new life, growing bored of her life at Lowood. Her friend and confidante, Miss Temple, also leaves after getting married. Jane advertises her services as a governess in a newspaper. A housekeeper at Thornfield Hall, Alice Fairfax, replies to Jane’s advertisement. Jane takes the position, teaching Adèle Varens, a young French girl.

One night, while Jane is carrying a letter to the post from Thornfield, a horseman and dog pass her. The horse slips on ice and throws the rider. Despite the rider’s surliness, Jane helps him get back onto his horse. Later, back at Thornfield, she learns that this man is Edward Rochester, master of the house. Adèle was left in his care when her mother abandoned her. It is not immediately apparent whether Adèle is Rochester’s daughter or not.

At Jane’s first meeting with Mr. Rochester, he teases her, accusing her of bewitching his horse to make him fall. Jane stands up to his initially arrogant manner, despite his strange behaviour. Mr. Rochester and Jane soon come to enjoy each other’s company, and they spend many evenings together.

Odd things start to happen at the house, such as a strange laugh being heard, a mysterious fire in Mr. Rochester’s room (from which Jane saves Rochester by rousing him and throwing water on him and the fire), and an attack on a house-guest named Mr. Mason.

After Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire, he thanks her tenderly and emotionally, and that night Jane feels strange emotions of her own towards him. The next day however he leaves unexpectedly for a distant party gathering, and several days later returns with the whole party, including the beautiful and talented Blanche Ingram. Jane sees that Blanche and Mr. Rochester favour each other and starts to feel jealous, particularly because she also sees that Blanche is snobbish and heartless.

Jane then receives word that Mrs. Reed has suffered a stroke and is calling for her. Jane returns to Gateshead and remains there for a month to tend to her dying aunt. Mrs. Reed confesses to Jane that she wronged her, bringing forth a letter from Jane’s paternal uncle, Mr. John Eyre, in which he asks for her to live with him and be his heir. Mrs. Reed admits to telling Mr. Eyre that Jane had died of fever at Lowood. Soon afterward, Mrs. Reed dies, and Jane helps her cousins after the funeral before returning to Thornfield.

Back at Thornfield, Jane broods over Mr. Rochester’s rumoured impending marriage to Blanche Ingram. However, one midsummer evening, Rochester baits Jane by saying how much he will miss her after getting married and how she will soon forget him. The normally self-controlled Jane reveals her feelings for him. Rochester then is sure that Jane is sincerely in love with him, and he proposes marriage. Jane is at first skeptical of his sincerity, before accepting his proposal. She then writes to her Uncle John, telling him of her happy news.

As she prepares for her wedding, Jane’s forebodings arise when a strange woman sneaks into her room one night and rips Jane’s wedding veil in two. As with the previous mysterious events, Mr. Rochester attributes the incident to Grace Poole, one of his servants. During the wedding ceremony, however, Mr. Mason and a lawyer declare that Mr. Rochester cannot marry because he is already married to Mr. Mason’s sister, Bertha. Mr. Rochester admits this is true but explains that his father tricked him into the marriage for her money. Once they were united, he discovered that she was rapidly descending into congenital madness, and so he eventually locked her away in Thornfield, hiring Grace Poole as a nurse to look after her. When Grace gets drunk, Rochester’s wife escapes and causes the strange happenings at Thornfield.

It turns out that Jane’s uncle, Mr. John Eyre, is a friend of Mr. Mason’s and was visited by him soon after Mr. Eyre received Jane’s letter about her impending marriage. After the marriage ceremony is broken off, Mr. Rochester asks Jane to go with him to the south of France and live with him as husband and wife, even though they cannot be married. Jane is tempted but must stay true to her Christian values and beliefs. Refusing to go against her principles, and despite her love for Rochester, Jane leaves Thornfield at dawn before anyone else is up.[9]

Moor House

Jane travels as far from Thornfield as she can using the little money she had previously saved. She accidentally leaves her bundle of possessions on the coach and is forced to sleep on the moor. She unsuccessfully attempts to trade her handkerchief and gloves for food. Exhausted and starving, she eventually makes her way to the home of Diana and Mary Rivers but is turned away by the housekeeper. She collapses on the doorstep, preparing for her death. Clergyman St. John Rivers, Diana and Mary’s brother, rescues her. After Jane regains her health, St. John finds her a teaching position at a nearby village school. Jane becomes good friends with the sisters, but St. John remains aloof.

The sisters leave for governess jobs, and St. John becomes slightly closer to Jane. St. John learns Jane’s true identity and astounds her by telling her that her uncle, John Eyre, has died and left her his entire fortune of 20,000 pounds (equivalent to just over $2 million in 2021[10]). When Jane questions him further, St. John reveals that John Eyre is also his and his sisters’ uncle. They had once hoped for a share of the inheritance but were left virtually nothing. Jane, overjoyed by finding that she has living and friendly family members, insists on sharing the money equally with her cousins, and Diana and Mary come back to live at Moor House.

Proposals

Thinking that the pious and conscientious Jane will make a suitable missionary’s wife, St. John asks her to marry him and to go with him to India, not out of love, but out of duty. Jane initially accepts going to India but rejects the marriage proposal, suggesting they travel as brother and sister. As soon as Jane’s resolve against marriage to St. John begins to weaken, she mystically hears Mr. Rochester’s voice calling her name. Jane then returns to Thornfield to find only blackened ruins. She learns that Mr. Rochester’s wife set the house on fire and died after jumping from the roof. In his rescue attempts, Mr. Rochester lost a hand and his eyesight. Jane reunites with him, but he fears that she will be repulsed by his condition. “Am I hideous, Jane?”, he asks. “Very, sir; you always were, you know”, she replies. When Jane assures him of her love and tells him that she will never leave him, Mr. Rochester proposes again, and they are married. They live together in an old house in the woods called Ferndean Manor. Rochester regains sight in one eye two years after his and Jane’s marriage, and he sees their newborn son.

My Thoughts:

I did not enjoy this nearly as much as I did back in 2009. The majority of that is because the writing style just didn’t work for me this time around. It just felt overwrought and over emotional. Much like Dickens, Charlotte wrote floridly and rather umm, descriptively. Unlike Dickens, it simply didn’t work for me. At all.

As much as I loved Wuthering Heights last year, I suspect this read through of the Bronte sisters is going to be my first, and last, time spent with them. Wuthering caught me in the perfect spot and I doubt circumstances will so align again. At the same time, I can see why these are foundational to Classic literature.

This was a very odd read as I hated the style but still appreciated what Charlotte was doing. Jane Eyre is no saint or milksop. She’s a devil of a child, then an extremely proud young woman who almost starves to death because of her pride. What she isn’t is abrasive, rude or stupid.

While not getting the highest marks, I was overall satisfied with this final read. It is good to go out on a good note.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Innocence of Father Brown (Father Brown #1) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Innocence of Father Brown
Series: Father Brown #1
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 269
Words: 78K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

“The Blue Cross”, The Story-Teller, September 1910; first published as “Valentin Follows a Curious Trail”, The Saturday Evening Post, 23 July 1910

“The Secret Garden”, The Story-Teller, October 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Sep 3, 1910

“The Queer Feet”, The Story-Teller, November 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Oct 1, 1910)

“The Flying Stars”, The Saturday Evening Post, 20 May 1911.

“The Invisible Man”, The Saturday Evening Post, 28 January 1911. (Cassell’s Magazine, Feb 1911)

The Honour of Israel Gow (as “The Strange Justice”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 March 1911.

“The Wrong Shape”, The Saturday Evening Post, 10 December 1910.

“The Sins of Prince Saradine”, The Saturday Evening Post, 22 April 1911.

The Hammer of God (as “The Bolt from the Blue”, The Saturday Evening Post, 5 November 1910.

“The Eye of Apollo”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 February 1911.

“The Sign of the Broken Sword”, The Saturday Evening Post, 7 January 1911.

“The Three Tools of Death”, The Saturday Evening Post, 24 June 1911.

My Thoughts:

While this series is categorized as a mystery, it’s not Sherlock or Wimsey or even Wolfe. Father Brown doesn’t go around looking at a thread caught on a bush and extrapolate the life story of the perp and then reveal him to the authorities. No, Father Brown studies the nature of fallen humanity, discovers the culprit and tries to get them to do the right thing, whether repentance or turning themselves in.

Chesterton was a converted Catholic and as such, Father Brown is pretty strong on his catholic doctrine. At the same time, it really didn’t come across as Chesterton trying to preach or convert his readers. He was trying to tell a great story first and for me, it worked.

The main thing that worked best for me though was the short story aspect. Chesterton wrote each story for a magazine back in the day and then had them collected later. I didn’t have to power through a whole novel and I could stop between stories without losing anything. I appreciate that simplicity and lack of tangled complexity that a lot of modern books seem to deliberately aim for.

One interesting aspect that stood out to me was that in several of the stories the villain of the piece took poison rather than face public justice. That happened in one of the Lord Peter Wimsey books too and I wonder if it was a “sensibility of the times” thing? I don’t think of the bad guys of today taking poison but either fighting or flight’ing or of readers caring one way or the other. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if it happens in any more stories.

A good addition to my reading rotation. Since I am also reading several other mystery series, I am going to be switch hitting the Complete Works of Chesterton with the Complete Works of the Sisters’ Bronte. That way I don’t Mystery myself out 🙂

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood ★★★★☆

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Title: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 249
Words: 94.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins as John Jasper leaves a London opium den.[4] The next evening, Edwin Drood visits Jasper, who is the choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral and also his uncle. Edwin confides that he has misgivings about his betrothal to Rosa Bud, which had been previously arranged by their respective fathers. The next day, Edwin visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House, the boarding school where she lives. They quarrel good-naturedly, which they apparently do frequently during his visits. Meanwhile, Jasper, having an interest in the cathedral crypt, seeks the company of Durdles, a man who knows more about the crypt than anyone else.

Neville Landless and his twin sister Helena are sent to Cloisterham for their education. Neville will study with the minor canon Rev. Crisparkle; Helena will live at the Nuns’ House with Rosa. Neville confides to Rev. Crisparkle that he had hated his cruel stepfather, while Rosa confides to Helena that she loathes and fears her music-master, Jasper. Neville is immediately smitten with Rosa and is indignant that Edwin prizes his betrothal lightly. Edwin provokes him and he reacts violently, giving Jasper the opportunity to spread rumours about Neville’s having a violent temper. Rev. Crisparkle tries to reconcile Edwin and Neville, who agrees to apologise to Edwin if the former will forgive him. It is arranged that they will dine together for this purpose on Christmas Eve at Jasper’s home.

Rosa’s guardian, Mr. Grewgious, tells her that she has a substantial inheritance from her father. When she asks whether there would be any forfeiture if she did not marry Edwin, he replies that there would be none on either side. Back at his office in London, Mr. Grewgious gives Edwin a ring which Rosa’s father had given to her mother, with the proviso that Edwin must either give the ring to Rosa as a sign of his irrevocable commitment to her or return it to Mr. Grewgious. Mr. Bazzard, Mr. Grewgious’s clerk, witnesses this transaction.

Next day, Rosa and Edwin amicably agree to end their betrothal. They decide to ask Mr. Grewgious to break the news to Jasper, and Edwin intends to return the ring to Mr. Grewgious. Meanwhile, Durdles takes Jasper into the cathedral crypt. On the way there Durdles points out a mound of quicklime. Jasper provides a bottle of wine to Durdles. The wine is mysteriously potent and Durdles soon loses consciousness; while unconscious he dreams that Jasper goes off by himself in the crypt. As they return from the crypt, they encounter a boy called Deputy, and Jasper, thinking he was spying on them, takes him by the throat – but, seeing that this will strangle him, lets him go.

On Christmas Eve, Neville buys himself a heavy walking stick; he plans to spend his Christmas break hiking around the countryside. Meanwhile, Edwin visits a jeweler to repair his pocket watch; it is mentioned that the only pieces of jewelery that he wears are the watch and chain and a shirt pin. By chance he meets a woman who is an opium user from London. She asks Drood’s Christian name and he replies that it is ‘Edwin’; she says he is fortunate it is not ‘Ned,’ for ‘Ned’ is in great danger. He thinks nothing of this, for the only person who calls him ‘Ned’ is Jasper. Meanwhile, Jasper buys himself a black scarf of strong silk, which is not seen again during the course of the novel. The reconciliation dinner is successful and at midnight, Drood and Neville Landless leave together to go down to the river and look at a wind storm that rages that night.

The next morning Edwin is missing and Jasper spreads suspicion that Neville has killed him. Neville leaves early in the morning for his hike; the townspeople overtake him and forcibly bring him back to the city. Rev. Crisparkle keeps Neville out of jail by taking responsibility for him, stating that he will produce Neville anytime his presence is required. That night, Jasper is grief-stricken when Mr. Grewgious informs him that Edwin and Rosa had ended their betrothal; he reacts more strongly to this news than to the prospect that Edwin may be dead. The next morning, Rev. Crisparkle goes to the river weir and finds Edwin’s watch and chain and shirt pin.

A half-year later, Neville is living in London near Mr. Grewgious’s office. Lieutenant Tartar introduces himself and offers to share his garden with Landless; Lt. Tartar’s chambers are adjacent to Neville’s above a common courtyard. A white-haired and -whiskered stranger calling himself Dick Datchery arrives in Cloisterham. He rents a room below Jasper and observes the comings and goings in the area. On his way to the lodging the first time, Mr. Datchery asks directions from Deputy. Deputy will not go near there for fear that Jasper will choke him again.

Jasper visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House and professes his love for her. She rejects him but he persists, telling her that if she gives him no hope he will destroy Neville, the brother of her dear friend Helena. In fear of Jasper, Rosa goes to Mr. Grewgious in London.

The next day Rev. Crisparkle follows Rosa to London. When he is with Mr. Grewgious and Rosa, Lt. Tartar calls and asks if he remembers him. Rev. Crisparkle does remember him as the one who years before saved him from drowning. They do not dare let Rosa contact Neville and Helena directly, for fear that Jasper may be watching Neville, but Mr. Tartar allows Rosa to visit his chambers to contact Helena above the courtyard. Mr. Grewgious arranges for Rosa to rent a place from Mrs. Billickin and for Miss Twinkleton to live with her there so that she can live there respectably.

Jasper visits the London opium den again for the first time since Edwin’s disappearance. When he leaves at dawn, the woman who runs the opium den follows him. She vows to herself that she will not lose his trail again as she did after his last visit. This time, she follows him all the way to his home in Cloisterham; outside she meets Datchery, who tells her Jasper’s name and that he will sing the next morning in the cathedral service. On inquiry, Datchery learns she is called “Princess Puffer.” The next morning she attends the service and shakes her fists at Jasper from behind a pillar.

Dickens’s death leaves the rest of the story unknown.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, the whole time I was reading this all I could think of was how it was unfinished and no matter how much I thought, it would never BE finished. Not a very good mindset to get as much enjoyment from the story, that’s for sure.

This was so on track for being awesome. The characters were everything I wanted in a Dickens novel. The good guys were good, the bad guy was REALLY bad and the girls were brave and fearless. The latecomers were manly and proud and I was really looking forward to seeing them developed.

This had all of the ingredients I could have asked for. Dickens just left them on the counter in the mixing bowl without cooking them. And unfortunately, it wasn’t cookie dough so I couldn’t take a chance and eat it raw.

I will say that this has gotten me interested in other authors who have tried to finish the story. If any of you have a good suggestion, please let me know.

Rating: 4 out of 5.