• Reading

    The Mill on the Floss Review

    Prepare yourselves.

    I remember my sister telling me the synopsis on this story oh, a decade ago, so I knew the siblings died, I couldn’t remember anything much else, just vague things like there was a love interest. I didn’t have any connotation of the author then, and her name didn’t stick. Years later I read Silas Marner and disliked it, and then years after that I read Middlemarch which I liked which inspired me to then read Amos Barton (disliked), Adam Bede (liked), and Daniel Deronda (liked).

    I’m not sure when that I learned she wrote Mill on the Floss as well. I was not inspired with a desire to read it immediately. A few years ago, I got barely into it but didn’t perservere. I’ve had it on my newest Classic Club list (see tab above), and included it on my most recent spin list and it was chosen.

    Once again it was a slow start and then I left oft and it looked like it was going to be another fail, but then I picked it up again and got really absorbed. There was just so much going on and Victorian authors seem to often have a way of showing everyone’s humanity and idiosyncrasies that is just hilarious and unique.

    Eliot does have a way of writing characters I’m ambivalent towards (yet that doesn’t necessarily mean I will dislike the novel), but this novel seemed a bit extreme in that way. The mother seemed to be barely mentally competent, the father a blustering selfish fool he seemed kindly enough at first but later! If he can’t forgive, I can’t forgive what he put his family through. Tom I had more respect for except for how he took up the petty revenge and visited it on innocent people. The aunts’ idiocy and selfishness were interesting but very repetitive (there was a LOT of repetition which is something that I don’t remember from Eliot’s other works and which eventually made this tiring towards then end). I took Maggie to be the main character and the good one.

    Towards the beginning and then end tons of things keep happening and new characters and angles are introduced, but the same character flaws show up in the main family characters with very little variation except maybe to be more extreme, and the same types of mistakes and wrongs are done and no one learns a thing. The father assumes all he does is right and that everything wrong that happens to him is someone else’s fault and puts that fault on an innocent person because that person was connected to someone he saw as wronging him. The mother becomes more mentally feeble. Tom, while he does mature in responsibility becomes even more narrow thinking and blinded and prejudiced and self-righteous and takes up his father’s prejudice and hatred and focuses it more on the innocent person.

    And well, I kept thinking Maggie was the heroine and would eventually act like it, and I also thought that there would be some satisfying love section before the sorrow (despite the fact that nothing was getting resolved and more and more complications added unnecessary by the characters).

    Why I kept thinking this in the face of the evidence is beyond me. Maggie only passively let things happen (nonaction action which drives me insane) and then reacted at the final hour to the supreme hurt of everyone whether they were wrong or right or a mix of both. And submitted for all the wrong reasons to her family and their wrongdoing and sacrificed other people while she called it “right.” I think she had some sort of superficially self-abnegation idolatry complex. With the major climax with Stephen (there are several, it was rather exhausting), I finally lost patience with her and her stupid, twisted woe is me, I must sacrifice myself sermons. Sorry, lady, if you really felt that way, you’d never have let it get to this point. It’s almost like she wanted to have some sort of self victory to let it get this far then break it off . . . and too bad about the other people and their feelings!

    This was about 6 chapters to the end, I lightly skimmed over the rest I couldn’t stand to read anymore, disgusted with everything and everyone and not remotely sad that Maggie died, more like, fine kill off the wretched heroine, sacrifice her brother (she sacrifices everyone she says loves, so it is fitting) and end this monstrosity.

    I thereupon immediately texted my sister telling her my opinions and asked her if she’d liked it (she seemed shocked at the ending from my memory but she was drawn to sorrowful types of books, especially then). She told me, no, why did I think it took her so long to read other Eliot novels?! (She usually led on lots of literature, but I think I was the one that brought up Eliot, guess I know why now). She also said something about the chronological order of the books, s0 I looked up all the Eliot novels.

    Scenes of Clerical Life, 1857 (Amos Barton in this short story collection, I’ve included this with the novels since I’ve read Amos Barton)
    Adam Bede, 1859
    The Mill on the Floss, 1860
    Silas Marner, 1861
    Romola, 1863
    Felix Holt, the Radical, 1866
    Middlemarch, 1871–72
    Daniel Deronda, 1876

    The Mill on the Floss, after Adam Bede (but I did enjoy that one, at least it interested me, I think most of the characters irritated me too). I guess she gave her characters a bit more brains and some of them agency after that, although again, I don’t think all the characters in Adam Bede were like that. I know often her characters infuriated me, but usually I enjoyed the reading experience and didn’t want to throw it against the wall.

    Don’t start your Eliot reading with either of those though (Adam Bede is quite the experience, not so near much action as Mill on the Floss, but oh my stars the action, its DARK), unless you like this sort of thing. I’d start with Middlemarch.

    To sum up, I assumed Mill on the Floss was sad, of the type where the characters have all the promise of happiness and suddenly it is cut off (again, not sure why I thought that). Instead, it reminded me of Ethan Frome in that the sorrows were all self-inflicted and piled on in a way that made it ludicrous, not sad.

    And Maggie made me think of making this, I couldn’t get the phrasing to express quite what I meant, but settled on this:

  • Reading

    Classics Club Spin

    I’m joining in the Classics Club spin #26, I put The Idiot on again, maybe if it gets picked this time I will finish since I’m at least 1/3 through.

    1. A Thomas Hardy novel
    2. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
    3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    4. Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
    5. Cymbelline
    6. Henry VI, Part 1
    7. Henry VI, Part 2
    8. Henry VI, Part 3
    9. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
    10. Macbeth
    11. Mill on the Floss by George Elliot
    12. O’ Pioneers and/or Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
    13. 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or another novel by Jules Verne
    14. Richard III
    15. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    16. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
    17. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
    18. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
    19. The Three Musketeers Alexander Dumas
    20. Walden by Henry Thoreau
  • Reading

    Winter Reading Plans 2021

    My General Reading Goals (present to March 20)

    • Try to keep my books borrowed from the library to 12. Try to keep any other borrowed books to far fewer.
    • Join an online book group, I’d like to join The Enchanted Book Club deluxe, maybe in March, depends on what they are reading.
    • Work through important to reads and long held borrowed books:
      • The Idiot
      • War and Peace
      • Dune? Maybe, if the movie is coming out in September, perhaps I could wait to start until Spring, but knowing me, I might not finish it time, and who knows, they could bump up the movie, since clearly its done if it was supposed to be out LAST September.
      • House of Mirth
      • Looking for Transwonderland
      • The Shadow of the Wind
      • Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts
      • Factfulness
      • Hemingway Didn’t Say That
      • Wheel of Time
    • I’d like to read one or two more classics besides those listed above from my Classics club list
    • I’d also like to read one or two more books besides those listed above from another country, perhaps another mentioned on A Strong Sense of Place
    • Fun potentials
      • Ethel Lina White mysteries
      • Mercedes Lackey fairytale retellings and fantasy
      • Circe by Madeleine Miller
    • Books to match my current study schedule (History, Logic, Geography, Civics, Christian Apologetics, World Religions). Genealogical reading should be on Ancestry.com, I don’t really need books for that subjects, its mainly to be building my tree.

     

  • Reading

    Coriolanus: Play and Performance Review

    So, this is very late. I’d definitely skimmed or read the story version of this play as well. I wrote my notes as remarks, so I’m going to have to pull my brief reviews from these somewhat cryptic responses.

    Ugh. There is a reason this one is not one of Shakespeare’s super popular plays. Coriolanus is arrogant, but its not played interestingly. And there are parts where he lies and flatters the people to obtain power I think, I preferred his open contempt. There isn’t much humor period.

    And all things above, HIS MOTHER! Who can respect a man with a mother like that-she unmans him no matter what he does? Everyone is awful, but Mummy and the tribunes are the worst.

    Ok, such was reading the play. Now for the Donmar Playhouse performance. I’d seen almost all the main actors is very different things and some of those roles were ludicrously different (while fitting the actors far better than the ones in this play) for example one tribune is Aunt Marge from Harry Potter and Volumnia is the silly Miss Phoebe Browning.

    This play did great at showing how his relationship with his domineering mother pushed contrasted with his relationship with his weak wife.

    I at least first thought that Tom Hiddleston played Coriolanus less hateful and arrogant and more honest and maybe he was playing Coriolanus somewhat self-deprecatingly, as having as sense of humor? I also thought he made Coriolanus more dignified (or tried), but he could not fully be so because I felt that I could see the flattery and sycophancy from everyone highlighted so much in the performance, and I was heartily sick of hearing of his wounds.

    I didn’t care for the odd mixture of modern, and modern with historically inspired elements, AT ALL. I don’t think it was creative, I thought it reminded me of a small town community, high school theater that doesn’t have enough money. I found it distracting, and his wife is made to look even sillier with her entirely modern outfit (which granted might be a point but could have been made more creatively). Also, this is a very Roman play, some plays are more timeless and better lent to modernization or modern vs classic juxtaposition, for example, Romeo and Juliet. Coriolanus loses impact when this was done to it.

    I felt that the flattery (oh, it was constant!) highlighted the relationship boundaries crossed, especially the mother-son boundary that Volumnia doesn’t appear to think exists. So the flattery is creeping and the relationships are all creepy (they added another relationship boundary busting bit between the tribunes). And then play takes these things further with T. Aufidius and grossed me out and made Coriolanus looks absolutely ludicrous. I think also that this was one way to make the play have more humor but it wasn’t clever, didn’t fit, and all attempts at humor felt forced. So I quite watching.

    Again, I need to stop having high expectations, that guarantees that they will be dashed down.

  • Reading

    The Idiot Part One

    I’m reading The Idiot by Dostoevsky for my Classics Club spin. I’m using this character list, someone took the Sparknotes version and took out the spoilers (why do these character lists have spoilers in the first place?!!!!). I printed it out, so I could have it handy.

    I’m reading on the Serial Reader app. I did get the paid version, so I can read ahead and have more than one novel going. It’s not a subscriptions, so it’s more than fair for me the excellence of it, I mean I’d give more.

    Marian of Classics Considered is rereading it, so if anyone wants to join us, the more the merrier. I’m going to try to post as I go along so we can discuss, she has posted some already on her Instagram, she’s reading a book of notes about the novel so this is really in depth! I don’t think I can think that deep, but we shall see.

    I’m WAAAY behind, I’m about 22% of the way through, per the app, and on chapter 8. My impressions/emotions thus far have been:

    “oh, this is going to be painful, poor precious baby”

    to “I’m bored out of my mind with his pointless boring stories (why must authors stuff their pages so baldly?)”

    to “ooh, now it’s getting interesting”

    back to “oh, this is going to be painful, poor precious baby”

    to “I think some second-hand embarrassment is coming”

    Someone shared this list of general plots of British, German, and Russian novels on Instagram. Can’t speak to the German novels, but the other two sound about right.

  • Reading

    Classics Club Spin #24 List

    I was thrilled that I actually participated and read a work off my list the last time, and I’m happy to participate in this newest spin.

     

    1. An Anton Chekhov novel
    2. The Wimsey Papers by Dorothy Sayers
    3. A Good Man is Hard to Find or other Flannery O’Connor novel
    4. A Portrait of A Lady and/or Turning of the Screw by Henry James
    5. A Toni Morrison novel
    6. Beowulf (Tolkien’s translation)
    7. Cymbelline
    8. Dracula by Bram Stoker
    9. Henry VI, Part 1
    10. Henry VIII
    11. King John
    12. Macbeth
    13. O’ Pioneers and/or Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
    14. 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea or another novel by Jules Verne
    15. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    16. Richard III
    17. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
    18. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    19. The Scarlet Letter and/or The House with Seven Gables by Nathanial Hawthorne
    20. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • Reading

    Review of Frankenstein

    I read Frankenstein this month for The Classics Club October Dare. I’m a procrastinator, so I’m really lucky that I have a review done at all; I’m actually proud of myself since I did think ahead, takes notes, and make an outline. I just didn’t leave myself enough time for a couple drafts. And I have more words on this book/the background than the close to 1,000 below.

    I’d never really wanted to read Frankenstein; I am not drawn to horror which is what I thought this book was. I procrastinated to start it, and then quickly realized that the book is incredibly dull, predictable rather than suspenseful and frightening. Then I procrastinated because of the tedious verbosity and dull, slow (because of said verbosity) plot. This book requires far too great a suspension of disbelief and not for creativity but for plot holes and devices. I knew some of the circumstances of the writing, written by a teenager during a sort of dare (although undergoing revisions, possibly with her eventually husband’s help). But because it was a classic I was expecting a solid story and prose vs obviously written in Romantic vein by uncontrolled, undisciplined teenager! I think it is famous for the barest plot concept that more recent portrayals have developed and that readers then insert into the story.

    This book features absolutely atrocious prose. I was gagging over the stock Romantic language and expression; the flowery verbosity and excessive, sanctimonious and fawning emotionalism and sentimentality. The author is tedious and repetitiveness with details that take away from the story rather than add to it. These fountains of extraneous detail fill in most of the story which would have little substance else because concepts pertinent to the plot are vague and general. And I didn’t find a hint of irony in all this language either.

    In amidst all this fluff, some scatter trails of a plot float. With much unrelated verbosity we are get the story from various narrators in a general and literal way (and Frankenstein continually drops spoilers). Everything has told us by the author via her narrators rather than displayed via art; she gives no detail (regarding the actual plot), not from mystery, but from ignorance and lack of creativity. In addition to having a spare plot delivered literally, the plot has so many devices, holes, and implausible points. Shelley exhibits total unawareness of any other class than her own (and any other point of view than her coterie) and this leads to so many of the issues.

    Let’s start with Victor Frankenstein, who by the by is no doctor but a pedantic, spoiled, sheltered, young fool. Because of these things, I don’t see how he had: 1) the ability to pursue this creation; he very obviously isn’t the brightest, 2) the interest/passion to pursue such a thing (so little reason had he that I assumed his friend would die and he would revive him, nope, he is just playing around, and he didn’t seem to have passion for anything except whining and protestations, 3) the stomach for such a task; he was such a hypochondriac and always talking about his delicate sensibilities, and 4) the will for such a task; he is indecisive, passive, and lazy elsewhere in the story, dragging his feet at every turn.

    Now onto his implausibly created monster. He isn’t described and since the author doesn’t forget any other descriptions (however poor they are and however little they apply to the story), this doesn’t come across as mysterious but rather a lack of creativity. Everything about Frankenstein’s creation is implausible; he has a fully developed mind with the elasticity of a child’s brain with the thought processes of adults. His mind is full of Romantic sensibilities which he quickly taps into thanks to the improbably (and highly Romantic) circumstances of finding himself by educated people who coincidentally aid his learning. All of this is too convenient. He could have had the soul of a demon or another dead person or the mind of the person whose brain Frankenstein gave him. He could have truly come from nothing, truly a blank slate in which case he would have had the mind of an infant or an animal.

    In the same vein, a double-minded author doesn’t equal a truly conflicted villain; that requires insight and talent. He comes across as a psychopath; only when he gets what he wants does he act anything like appropriately, his manipulations and revenge, his complaints and reviling, his vicious triple murders (two of which were in cold-blood, the other a child murder) of innocent people to wreak personal revenge all point to psychopathy. His rage isn’t the bewildered, blind lashing out of the abused and abandoned by humanity (that is also implausible, no one gives him any aid at all?), it is very specific, clever revenge. He goes from zero to one hundred in this quite fast. Of course, there are inconsistencies here, sometimes he does rage against humanity (from his tiny experience).

    Overall the moral issues are grossly and falsely simplistic expressions of false choice moral “dilemmas”—more from inconsistent plot and lazy thinking, ignorant/irresponsible idle upper-class perspectives than from any understanding of the complexities of human nature and circumstances. All sorts of misunderstandings of duty and virtue. Virtue doesn’t turn to evil; doing good in good times doesn’t make one virtuous; the monster wasn’t ever virtuous, nor did he try. As to the idea that Frankenstein is the villain, I don’t think the story has the depth and irony; I don’t see any irony at all in Victor Frankenstein’s portrayal; I don’t think Romantics understood or appreciated in since they enacted in their own lives as well as in their stories such drama that is ludicrously ripe for satire). I think we can get deep discussion out of the plot and morals (or lack thereof) in the book, but that fact doesn’t make the novel itself deep.

    After reading, I immediately had to look and see what other reviewers thought on Goodreads. This review expresses my opinions (and I’m sure others) in a hysterical way.

  • Reading

    My Classics Club Spin Book Is . . .

    The Classics Club spin number for this spin is 12 so my book is Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell. Phooey. This is not one I particularly wanted to read nor do I think it particularly important to read. I was 22 when I first started this list; I’ve learned to be a bit more realistic and mature about deciding on books to read and about finishing books. I still want to finish my list though, and I am going to try to do this spin.

  • Reading

    2017 Reading Challenges and Classics Club Spin 15

    I updated my reading challenges page (adding way too many challenges, but hey, lets have fun), and I also decided to participate a bit more in the Classics Club while I finish up. Perhaps I may do participate with another list after all. A more reasonable list . . . with more reviewable books. Anyway, I’m going to participate in the current spin

    1. A Portrait of A Lady

    2. Brothers Karamazov
    3. Coriolanus 
    4. Cymbelline
    5. Dombey and Sons
    6. Grapes of Wrath
    7. King John
    8. Le Morte d’Arthur
    9. Macbeth
    10. Mere Christianity
    11. Mill on the Floss
    12. Ruth
    13. Sylvia’s Lovers
    14. The Bostonians
    15. The Crucible
    16. The Four Loves
    17.The Great Divorce
    18. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit
    19. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
    20. The Old Curiosity Shop
    .

  • Reading

    Mini Book Review Collection 3

    Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek
    My grandmother clipped an article about this book, the author, and the inspiration book years ago, and I finally ordered the book from the library. I wanted the inspiration book too, but our library does not have it (I guess I could have suggested a purchase; all of my other suggestions worked). I found Maya’s project interesting, and I could personally relate with the fashion side. But whole Border-landia culture intrigued me also even though that is not a main point. There are some few objectionable issues.

    The Black Moth
    Well, I warmed to this story faster than the first one Heyer novel I read. This one had more romance, the other more humor. Again, nothing superb other than the fun and . . . the romance. Scarlet Pimpernel-esque. I did seriously enjoy the romance, especially the epic honor vs. wooing, Jack vs. Diana battle.

    Jip: His Story
    Gorgeous writing. Sensitive, delicate, exquisite. Another brilliant description of a difficult subject. Jip is so precious; this will shred your heartstrings. This is possible better written than Bridge to Terabithia or is at least up there with it above Jacob Have I Loved and Lyddie. I love Paterson’s writing style.

    Dear Mr. Knightley
    I usually scorn, deride, and snub books that try to retell classic novels. I cannot stomach arrogant, talent-less authors leaching off of classic authors or worse finishing said authors manuscripts (!!!). How arrogant can you get? I read Austenland (not well-written or clever or good) and considered trying Lost in Austen because those did not seem to be retellings precisely. Anyway. I saw this mentioned twice, once on a blog from which I have found several books which I like.

    I am glad I read it; it is no silly knock-off. The author is by no means brilliant but compared to Austenland, this book is fairly decently written. I would like to try the other novels.

    Here is my (somewhat) equivocal Goodreads review: Maybe 3.5. This is not what it appears. It is not really an Austen modernization. There is a lot of Austen quoting, but this story is definitely its own. It was fun, not in anyway superb, but definitely tolerably written for a modern, grown-up novel . . . of course my only major adult fiction experience has been with horrifyingly bad Christian fiction so . . .

  • Reading

    Mini Book Review Collection 2

    Pat of Silverbush
    Can I gush again about how beautiful these new L. M. Montgomery book covers are. Covers are SO important.

    Mistress Pat
    One of my little sisters thought these were boring, but I think books that have wonderful descriptions (you know the kind, they do not feel like descriptions, but you just know how things are in the book) are far better written than those that rely almost entirely on action and melodrama (e.g. Georgette Heyer novels). The L. M. Montgomery books are like that. Sweetness, humor, personality, intensity, sensibility. Unfortunately (ruining my positivity), Montgomery rather fails to develop the main male well . . . so many of the other male characters have more personality (e.g. Perry and Davy). Jingle, I feel is a bit better developed than Gilbert* (at least perhaps until he becomes know as “the doctor”) or Teddy. Barney is an exception to the pathetically undeveloped rule.
    *The Gilbert in the movie is somewhat stolen from Laurie from Little Women (I am not kidding, it is not funny; Anne of Avonlea movie literally plagiarized from the Little Women novel; I am going to do a post on the Anne movies and that issue someday).


    A Pocket Full of Murder
    Sweet and fun. And oh, Quiz is darling. Interesting although simplistic concept. Feels rather more juvenile than the author’s other works (still hoping for a third installment to Swift someday, btw), but I am looking forward to the rest of the Uncommon Magic series.

    Cry, the Beloved Country
    Picked for my 2015 challenge. I thought it would be dense, but I thought it easier to read but in no way light or shallow. I found the writing moving and elegant. Definitely recommend for moving out of our safe British/US fiction zone without moving into anything unnecessarily disturbing. Brilliantly written, especially in light of the difficult subjects.