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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’

I managed to read three books during my break – the joys of flying and sunbathing ūüôā – but I’ll only be counting two for the challenge because I’d read one of them before.

Book 50 – Pompeii by Robert Harris. ¬†I borrowed this from my husband when I finished reading my non-numbered book; it wasn’t really my kind of thing but despite that it was an engaging read. ¬†It follows the experiences of a disparate group of characters whose lives overlap in the runup to the eruption of Vesuvius, which buried Pompeii.

To all intents and purposes, this was a historical action story, with significant historical research undertaken.  The main characters were mostly chancers, risk-takers or power-brokers with a few key exceptions who were specialists in aqueducts and water systems. Harris also wrote the very famous, very real, Pliny in to the tale, who was known to have died as he tried to rescue friends by sea. The only woman of consequence in the story is idealised because of her looks, the description of a mother and child dying in childbirth was horrific, and generally the book is about men and their power games.

This one was a mixed bag for me – it was very readable and despite the size only took a few days to get through; it was historically interesting and detailed; it was intelligently written. ¬†The key issues for me were a few unnecessarily unpleasant scenes which did nothing to bring the story along; a vaguely frustrating ending which I won’t spoil but didn’t satisfy me; the ongoing technicalities of the descriptions.

I also feel that, even at the end of the story, I know relatively little about the main character. ¬†I can’t imagine writing a book where the character is so hidden from view and I wonder if that is a male v female writer issue, or simply that I tend to write about the ‘human experience’ rather than big world events…

Or maybe reading in the sunshine, I didn’t give it my full attention, which is more than likely!

Book 51 РNorthanger Abbey, by Jane Austen РI read this one at the same time as Pompeii, depending on the mood I was in!  Having struggled to read Emma I wanted to try an alternative Jane Austen, and this one is very simple, very sweet, and fairly inoffensive.  The story follows Catherine Morland as she experiences her first taste of adulthood on a trip to Bath and then with her new friends on to Northanger Abbey.

It’s fluffy and frivolous in many ways: Catherine is naive, unworldly, foolish and blind but also honest, decent, loyal and loving. ¬†Her first experiences of friendship, with Isabella, open her eyes to a life outside the confines of her own reality, and lead first to meeting Henry Tilney, then his sister, then finally seeing her to Northanger Abbey. ¬†It is clear from the outset what Isabella’s focus is on, and it is also clear that Isabella’s brother is equally mercenary and disinterested in the Morland’s as people with true feelings.

Catherine’s odd behaviour on arrival at Northanger Abbey goes nowhere, and seems ridiculous but as a 17 year old in a strange house at that time in history, it may have been less so; either way it does make her seem a fool and that is unfortunate. ¬†Still, the ending leads to exactly what the reader would expect – albeit suddenly rushed through and unexplored.

I read this one easily, and quickly. ¬†I didn’t enjoy it as much as Pride and Prejudice (but I had no Colin Firth in my mind as I read!), but far more than Emma – so I have decided to try Sense and Sensibility soon to see where that falls on the Jane Austen spectrum!

As I said before there was one more that I’m not counting for the challenge¬†as it doesn’t meet my self-imposed rule of new books only – Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. ¬†I read this before the other two,¬†and having first read it many years ago, I still found it very affecting. ¬†I am not going to do a full review on it but I would suggest for anyone who hasn’t read it, it’s worth a look. ¬†It’s a great example of a book which contains concepts that are so powerful they become part of everyday language – and how many things Orwell imagined in his nightmare future that have come to pass. ¬†I don’t know if that says more about him, or us…

Happy reading,

EJ

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