helenliz does the list

Discussão1001 Books to read before you die

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helenliz does the list

1Helenliz
Editado: Nov 26, 2019, 1:42am

Hello. I'm Helen. I've lurked for a while, and now that I realise I have read over 100 of the books on the combined list, I think it's time to come out of the closet and admit that tackling the 1001 (although I have a combined list at nearer 1300) is something I do want to try and do.

I'm not going to necessarily read all of them, life is too short to read multiple books by an author you can't stand. And getting hold of some of them might be less than trivial at times. Also there are always so many other shiny books that aren't on the list to grab your attention, as well as all those other lists... I like lists. I make them and I like ticking stuff off them; it's a character flaw, I know.

I like the idea of the group reads, talking about the same book at the same time always appeals to me, so I hope to participate in some of those. I'm not going to read loads off the list each year, but let's see how it goes.

Edited to update against the complete list.

Read so far: 110

1. Don Quixote
2. Robinson Crusoe
3. Roxana
4. Fanny Hill
5. The Castle of Otranto
6. Tristram Shandy
7. Confessions
8. Sense and Sensibility
9. Pride and Prejudice
10. Mansfield Park
11. Emma
12. Rob Roy
13. Persuasion
14. Northanger Abbey
15. Frankenstein
16. Ivanhoe
17. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
18. A Christmas Carol
19. The Three Musketeers
20. Jane Eyre
21. Agnes Grey
22. Wuthering Heights
23. Shirley
24. Moby-Dick
25. Bleak House

26. Hard Times
27. Madame Bovary
28. The Woman in White
29. Great Expectations
30. Les Misérables
31. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
32. The Moonstone
33. Little Women
34. Through the Looking Glass
35. Around the World in Eighty Days
36. Anna Karenina
37. Return of the Native
38. The Brothers Karamazov
39. Treasure Island
40. The Picture of Dorian Gray
41. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
42. Dracula
43. What Maisie Knew
44. The War of the Worlds
45. Dom Casmurro
46. Kim
47. The Hound of the Baskervilles
48. The Forsyte Saga
49. A Room With a View
50. The Thirty-Nine Steps

51. The Age of Innocence
52. The Great Gatsby
53. Mrs. Dalloway
54. The Castle
55. Decline and Fall
56. Lady Chatterley's Lover
57. Orlando
58. All Quiet on the Western Front
59. A Farewell to Arms
60. Brave New World
61. Testament of Youth
62. Murder Must Advertise
63. The Nine Tailors
64. Rebecca
65. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
66. The Little Prince
67. Cannery Row
68. Animal Farm
69. Brideshead Revisited
70. The Plague
71. Nineteen Eighty-Four
72. A Town Like Alice
73. Gormenghast
74. Foundation
75. Casino Royale

76. The Story of O
77. The Quiet American
78. Lolita
79. Breakfast at Tiffany's
80. Cider With Rosie
81. To Kill a Mockingbird
82. One Hundred Years of Solitude
83. 2001: A Space Odyssey
84. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
85. If On a Winter's Night a Traveler
86. The Name of the Rose
87. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
88. Oscar and Lucinda
89. Remains of the Day
90. American Psycho
91. Wild Swans
92. The English Patient
93. A Suitable Boy
94. Captain Corelli's Mandolin
95. Memoirs of a Geisha
96. The Blind Assassin
97. The Devil and Miss Prym
98. Life of Pi
99. Fingersmith
100. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

101. Cloud Atlas
102. Small Island
103. Never Let Me Go
104. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
105. Half of a Yellow Sun
106. The Children's Book
107. The Marriage Plot
108. The Goldfinch
109. Americanah
110. H is for Hawk

111. The Buddah of Suburbia
112. The Mysteries of Udolpho
113. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
114. A Handful of Dust
115. The Man Who Loved Children
116. The Scarlet Letter
117. Atonement
118. The Absentee
119. The End of the Affair
120. The Monk

121. Bonjour Tristesse
122. Fictiones
123. Wide Sargasso Sea
124. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

2DeltaQueen50
Set 8, 2018, 1:59pm

Hi Helen, welcome! I am quite new to this myself so we can encourage each other along. :)

3puckers
Set 8, 2018, 4:04pm

Welcome to the group and enjoy ticking off the list!

4Helenliz
Set 9, 2018, 6:46am

>3 puckers: thank you, I will enjoy the list ticking, for sure.
>2 DeltaQueen50: it was seeing that someone had joined recently that encouraged me to join and post. >:-)

5Jan_1
Set 11, 2018, 3:59am

welcome Helen :)

6Helenliz
Set 11, 2018, 3:25pm

>5 Jan_1: thank you.

A merry time was had filling in the spreadsheet. I note that 110 books is 8.4% of books. This equates to ~ 44600 pages, which is 10.7% of the total number of pages. So I must have read some seriously weighty tomes to have that big a discrepancy between percentage of books and pages. Wonder if that means it gets easier from here on in... (suspect that's a no!).

I'm also on track to complete before I die, which is nice to know. Although that does assume that half of what I read is off the list, and I know I'm not achieving that.

7gypsysmom
Set 11, 2018, 3:55pm

Welcome. I'm never going to complete the list before I die so I try to be selective about what I read. One of the great things about belonging to this group is seeing short reviews of books to get an idea of whether it will be something I want to try to read. On my spreadsheet I put WTR beside titles that I would like to read to remind myself.

8Helenliz
Out 11, 2018, 12:47pm

111. The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi , ***

This is a coming of age tale, and is filled with the usual angst that you might expect of such a tale. Where it differs from the norm is that the main protagonist is of mixed race, Indian father, English mother, and so is an outsider on more counts than usual. Set in the 70s, this has all the excess associated with the decade, the drugs sex and rock & roll that accompany the birth of punk. Rather too much sex, if truth be told.
There are some great characters in here, although Karim is not one of them, he comes across as a sulky, selfish teenage - typical, I suppose, and while by the end he does appear to have learnt something, it seems quite a sudden realisation. His parents are a mixed bunch, with his Dad leaving his Mum, but seeming to expect her to be waiting for him. It appears to come as a nasty shock to the system when he discovers that some decision cannot be reversed. It is the supporting cast that make this. Eva, always on the up; Jamila, a strong minded, driven woman (imagine what she could do if she took on the world); Auntie Jeeta (who comes into her own); and Changez, who finds himself in a very unfamiliar place.

9Helenliz
Nov 1, 2018, 5:28pm

112. The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe, ***

Goodness, this is an odd book. And this is a spoiler-rich review.
Starts with Emily being a delicate flower, with sensibilities almost too delicate to function. Poor flower, she can bvarely function as a human being, fainting at the drop of a handkerchief (have you guessed how much she annoyed me?).
On this epic trip in the mountains, Emily and her father come across a young man who aids them while lost in the passes of the mountains, this is Valencourt and he manages to fall head over heels for Emily. Only the pair of them are far too sensitive and repressed to declare themselves (I'm not sure I'd have been much good as a 18th century lady!). St Aubyn approves of Valencourt, and so the pair of them do, start, to come to some understanding of each other's heart. awww. From here, however, things go down hill for Em. Her mother has died prior to the epic trip and during the journey home, her father also succumbs. He does so at a remote abbey near to a deserted chateau and Emily is devestated. He leaves a deathbed request that Emily retrieve some papers from a hiding place in his study and destroy them. This opens a bit of a can of worms that runs as an undercurrent until its resolution at the end of the book. Radcliffe does this a number of times, starts a hare running and then leaves it, not chased down, until it suddenly pops its head up again and a bit more gets revealed. I can't decide if it's a good trick or merely an annoying one.
Emily has been left in the care of her aunt, who turns out not the be the nicest person you've ever met. She blows hot and cold on the romance, initially disapproving of Valencourt, but then, after discovering he is a relation to a society hostess she is trying to impress, turns around and encourages the young lovers. Only then she has another change of heart, and goes as far as to turn him out of the house. At the end of volume 1, there is a declaration and part of me was urging Emily to accpet, purely to end the story there and then, thus saving me several hundred more pages of her company. Alas, it was not to be.
However, for me, this is where the book starts to pick up. The aunt is taken in by and marries an Italian noble (well, we'll see about that bit) Montoni, and so the action moves to Venice, where Emily attracts admirers and declines them, her heat being otherwise engaged. After a bit of an altercation in which a friend of Montoni commits murder (casually, like you do), they all decamp to Montoni's castle in the Appennines, Udolpho. Here things take is distinctly darker turn, with the aunt being subject to pressure to turn over her lands to Montoni who, (colour me not surprised) has turned out to be a bad egg, a spendthrift and gambler. Not only has he come into the ownership of the castle in dodgy circumstances - where is the missing lady who was the heir to the estate prior to Montoni comming into ownership?. He's married her for the money and he wants it. This is in the midst of also turning into a bandit (saying it in Italian makes it no more attractive an occupation) and raiding the countryside for what he can steal. He has a number of friends staying in the castle and it's clear that they have some dark motive in mind for young Emily. During the stay here, there are a number of chills and terrors that shake Emily, but she seems to have grown some backbone, as the fainting distinctly decreases in frequency and it takes a lot more to induce such an episode. Good on ya, girl. One terror involves a veil over something that we undertstand to be a picture, and the significance of this is, again, revealed in book 4. She discovers that there is a prisioner in the castle of her native France and, with little evidence, decides that this is Valencourt. Nope. Turns out of have been a neighbour who has also fallen for her charms andm between him, her servant and her servant's admirer, they escape the castle.
Bizarrely, we then find them back in France and in the vicinty of the same chateau that was deserted in the midst of book 1. We meet the family and hear the tale of the haunted wing. Emily has to deal with her new-found admirer while dealing with some news that Valencourt has gone to rack and ruin in paris while she's been away. And here she is in danger of revertting to type, with what feels like a massive over-reaction to the news and the withdrawl of her affection from Valencourt. Oh deary me.
In the end it all comes out in the wash. There are a number of scares and those hares that had been set running earlier pop up and are caught. It all ties up very neatly, maybe rather too neatly. I still struggle with this idea of sensitivity being a virtue, Emily spends too much of her time fainting to function effectively, although she does seem to rise to the occasion when it is needed. I also struggled with the somewhat overlong and tedious attempts at poetry scattered through the book. I did read them, but it did turn into a skim read at times. I struggle with poetry at the best of times - and this was not poetry at its best. Was it worth all that frustration? Well yes. It's not going to be a book I come back to, but it does form an important point int the development of the novel. This gets referrenced numerous times, Northanger Abbey, for example, so it is a foundation work, if you like. It turned out better than it started, which is no bad thing.

10Yells
Nov 2, 2018, 5:25pm

I needed that laugh today!

11Helenliz
Nov 3, 2018, 10:14am

>10 Yells: happy to oblige!
Although, having read back the review, I realise it is almost as overwrought as the book itself!

12Helenliz
Nov 11, 2018, 11:20am

113. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, ****

I've never read this before, even though it's impossible not to know a lot about it. So while the story arc was not entirely unexpected, the detail was. I'd not reaslised quite how short this story is. It took the form of a series of narratives, some chapetrs were in the form of letters or testimonials while others were narrated by the person investigating this "case" a Laywer called Utterson. He is of his time and class and is at first intent of finding what hold Hyde holds over Jekyll. It has a variety of twists and turns that, vene knowing the outline of the story, still came as a surprise. There's a lot that's left to the imagination, with Hyde's acts left largely in the dark, there's only 2 specific instances that are described. Then there are other things that are left unsaid, what was Danvers doing in a dodgy area of town when he was accosted by Hyde in the first place? It's an intriguing piece of work, for sure.

The edition I read had an introduction which advised that as the introduciotn contained plot details, the reader who was new to the story should go and read the book first, so I did. There was also 2 more short stories, The Body Snatchers and Olalla, as well as an abridged essay form Stevenson on how he came to write Jekyll & Hyde and an essay exploring the possible origins and inputs to the story. All of which were very interesting.

13Helenliz
Nov 20, 2018, 1:03am

114. A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh, ***

This starts off as a portrait of a marriage in the upper echelons of British society. Tony & Brenda are married and having to economise to keep the family pile, Hetton Abbey, afloat. Tony is fully invested in the place, Brenda less so. Brenda is now bored of her lifestyle, Tony's settled down and she either isn't ready to, or is bored with how their life has established itself. In fact, she's the one who precipitates the action, in some senses. She finds a flat in London and starts an affair with a worthless society sponger. She has friends who she attends parties with, but none of this gets to the root of her meaningless existence. You may guess from this that i didn't have a lot of sympathy for her. After agreeing that they will divorce, things take a turn for the worse when Brenda starts wanting Tony to finance her lifestyle and, in effect, buy her the man she now thinks she loves. Good for him that he does not.
It all takes a turn for the somewhat odd when Tony heads off to Brazil and gets himself stuck in a most unusual situation, from which he will be unable to extricate himself.
The book ends with Hetton being the focus of attention of another branch of the Last family, and it seems to have a life that somehow it lacked with Brenda as lady of the house.
The language is delightful, the portrait of a couple who are falling apart and failing to understand that is poignant. Waugh shows his teeth occasioanlly, and there is certainly a satirical edge, espeically with some of the pointed allusions and comparisons. Throughout the characters remain fairly two dimensional, this is about what happens to them, not how it affects them. An enjoyable short novel.

14Helenliz
Jan 4, 2019, 12:00pm

115. The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead, ***

At first I thought this was going to annoy me very much - and, in places, it did. Sam, the father of the family, is very annoying. He loves his children, he thinks he is great with them, but, in reality, he is self centred, foolish and stifles them. He is the child who has never grown up and so has never learnt to cope with the adult world, and so never shoulders his parental responsibilities. This is reflected in the several conversations he has with Louie, the oldest child, on the cusp of womanhood, he contirnues to call her by her childhood nickname, to belittle her and to make feel worthless in comparison to him. Every conversation they have seems to come round to Sam and what he needs, it is never about meeting Louie's needs. His behaviour is clearly designed to show how much he is in tune with children, but it doesn;t work. The diminutives for the children work to some extent, but they ought to change as they grow older, and these don't. The private language that each family develops itself, immortalising mispronunciations and so on, again OK, that happens in any family, it's the way that the family language that only Sam uses is a mock baby talk that I found grating, it infantalises the children, probably as Sam is unable to deal with them as individuals that have their own needs and wishes - he sees them as an adjunct to him.

Sam's wife if Henny and she is, in some ways, his opposite. Not just dark to his blond, she has an opposite personality, very much more earthbound, practical, more despondant than optomistic. She, however, is the one that gets the family into money troubles and can't get oiut of them, partly as Sam just declines to be involved in any serious conversation about their issues.

It is the children that I felt for the most. The oldest two are the most finely drawn, Louie (Louise) and Ernest. They are of different character and temprament Louie looks destined for the stage or literature, Ernest to be an accountant or financial whizz of some description. Both are subdued by their father and torn between the behaviour of the two parents. Not that Henny is entirely innocent either. The scene when Ernest finfs his money box has been emptied is a dreadful betrayal.

I can;t say I enjoyed this, the two main characters are far to unpleasant for that to be entirely true. However, it was well written. I felt it got into its stride more at ~ page 200, after Sam had returned from his voyage. The final chapters are a rollercoaster of emotion, although you do finsih feeling that at least Louie will be OK.

15Helenliz
Jan 26, 2019, 8:04am

116. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
I came to this with very few ideas of what it would be. The first section is a framing device that felt slightly clumsy, distancing the author and his time from the story by claming to find evidence of Hestor's story in the attic of his Customs House. I'm not sure it works terribly well. It gets rather sidetracked in describing his colleagues in the Customs House which doesn't do anything to advance the story itself.
Once the story begins, the reader is thrown right into the middle of the action, with the scene starting at the gates of the prison, as Hester is released to the pillory, wearing the scarlet A of the title. The story centres around 4 characters, the remainder of the townsfolk are largely cardboard cutouts.
I don't understand the Puritan mind, it is simply something I can't get my head around. Neither of the two male characters is terribly attractive, and Hester herself has nothing much more than her dignity to make her admirable, but not exactly likeable. The ending struck me as almost out of keeping with the rest of the books, almost melodramatic in a book in which much is said and enacted in a very clam and opressive atmosphere. The thing I found hardest to grasp was what exactly it was in Mt Dimmesdale that led him and Hester to commit the crime in the first place. He seemed to have insufficient spunk about him to have ventured so much, she seems to be a cut above him.
If a classic is a book that continues to have relevance after it's time has passed, I'm not sure that, for me, this counts.

117. Atonement, Ian McEwan
This is exceptionally good and has a sting in the tale that leaves you entirely uncertain of what to make of what you've just been reading. Starting in an idylic 1935 this is full of mixed messages and confusions about what is seen and what is the truth of that seeing. We see this through the eyes of Briony, the youngest of the three Tallis children. She is 13 in 1935 and just at that difficult juntcure between childish enthusiam and the adult world. She has written a play for her three cousins from the North to perform with her in celebration of her brother Leon's return home. What she sees over the course of the next day and how she badly misinterprets what she sees will mark the lives of the family for the rest of their lives. She observes interactions between her older sister Cecelia and the charlady's son, Robbie and is entirely out of her depth. She also completely puts the wrong impression on how her cousin Lola gets to be in a particular state. What she then thinks she knows has happened (putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with a bushel of potatoes) is not what happened, and yet once it is said there is no drawing back. There are estrangements and marriages formed this day that persist for much longer.
The main part of the book was excelllent, the sting in the tail takes palce in the epilogue. Here we discover that Briony has taken that talent for the inventive and become a novellist and what you have been reading is her novel of the events. And the way this is written makes you doubt a lot of what you've just read, particularly with respect to the relaitonship status of Cecelia and Robbie. Is Briony as unreliable now as she was then? Despite the passing of time? Has she made the relationship one way in the novel but did it end differently in real life? nd did she follow through on the novels seeming offer of retraction (and atonement) for the mistake that led to the rupture in family life? We're not to know, but that seed of doubt has been planted, most particularly by the seeming absence of certain people in the birthday party of the epilogue. It is really very well done, this undermining of everything that has been built up over the last 350 pages. I read this almost in one go, while travelling, and it was engrossing.

16Helenliz
Editado: Abr 19, 2019, 11:58am

118. The Absentee Maria Edgeworth
This was really quite enjoyable. Helped, I think, by the recent tutoured read by Liz of Edgeworth's Belinda and the quite detailed introduction. I'm not sure of those two got me in the right mindset to read this, or put it all into context, but it helped.
It's a story of an heir to an estate in Ireland who is comming of age in London where his parents reside, as absentee landlords to their estate. He has a fondness for his home and so goes on a tour of the country and finds that one part of the esatate has a good overseer and the other does not. One part of the estate has tenants who are hard working, and a credit to themselves and their landlord, the other has bribery, underhand dealings, falling down houses and an oppressed tenantry. He then takes matters into his own hands and makes his social ladder climbing mother see that actually she fits back in Ireland a lot better than in London, and that they should return. It is slightly complicated by his search for a wife. He has a fondness for the woman brought up as his cousin, who in fact is the (believed) illigitimate child of his uncle's first wife, and so not a blood relative at all.
There is a lot going on slightly off stage, for want of a better description. This is set not long after the Union of Ireland with the rest of Britian into the UK, and so there is a fair amount of them & us going on, on both sides of the irish sea. This os not always evident, but in the choice of Grace Nugent as the cousin's name, Edgeworth was tapping into a thread of folk history related to the surname and the name Grace Nugent itself that gives her position within the family and her relationship (or possible relationship) with the heir a different spin. It's all very interesting and quite easy to read. A great social portrait of society at the time, with the poorer tenants featuring as well as the upper classes.

17Helenliz
Abr 19, 2019, 11:58am

119. The End of the Affair Graham Greene
I must have picked this up to read at least 5 times and always been distracted by something else and put it back. I finally got through most of it on a flight and have finished it while trying not to go to sleep too early. It's good, but not great, I think.
Maurice Bendrix is an author and friend of Henry (a civil servant) and his wife Sarah. One night he meets Henry on the common and discoveres that Henry is afraid Sarah is having an affair. Bendrix is then smitten with jealousy, as his affair with Sarah has ended. Bendrix engages a private detective and the story progresses in two timeframes, the current and the story of the affair. It came to an end in unlikely circumstances and the aftermath has very strange consequences.
The writing is lovely, the descriptions are spare but revealing. There are powerful emotions here, expressed in very understated ways by the protagonists, but I'm never sure I ever really felt them. It was a bit like analysing the affair under glass, it didn't really touch me.

18Helenliz
Maio 11, 2019, 3:48pm

120. The Monk, Matthew Lewis
This is not a fusty Victorian novel, not by any means. It is a riot of a plot, with any number of gothic adventures taking place, all centered around an adjoining monestry and convent. Written by an Englishman & set in Spain, it has all those stereotypes of the Catholic church to the fore, and all the strange goings on that the anti-papists would expect to see (and entirely disapprove of). Even Satan has a cameo role in the end, comming to claim his prize. It's a riot, it's completely unbelievable and great fun!

19Helenliz
Jun 7, 2019, 8:38am

121: Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan.
This is on the 1001 books list, and I have completey failed to understand why. It's a short tale of a young girl who is used to her father having mistresses and, thereby, getting her own way as he spoils her. Only this summer, in the South of France, he announces he is going to marry Anne, a woman of his own age who waa a friend of his dead wife. Anne has some quite different views on life, and certainly on young Celine, that differ quite from the usual way things go. Celeine is not happy about this, and so devises a plot where the last mistress and her current boyfriend pretend to be an item in order to make her father jealous. She never quite thinks this through to the end and so what actually happens is not what she wanted to happen - if she ever really knew.
At times she seems very young, the way she doesn;t think this through, for example. At others she seems older, her behaviour and the plot itself seem to be unlikely in a 17 year old.
At one point she muses (and I'm paraphrasing) ...or am I a silly, spolt, selfish girl...? and my answer was a resounding "yes". Maybe that says more about me than the book, I'm more of an age with Anne, and Celine annoyed me in the way teenagers can.
It was a quick read, and not difficult, but not something I will return to any time soon.

20Helenliz
Editado: Out 20, 2019, 7:32am

122: Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges
Maybe this was me starting to get used to his style, but I think this collection improved as it went through. It all feels a bit odd and contrived at times, the early stories particularly. Later they feel to have more flow. The later stories also have sly little connections, the author of the (fictional?) book that's the subject of one story is mentioned in a later story, the character of one appears as a reference in another. This helps tie it together as a colleciton. There's enough here to be interesting, but it's not exactly light bedtime reading, it needed some attention.

21Helenliz
Editado: Out 20, 2019, 7:32am

123. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
This is a brave book to write. It tries to present a possible history to the mad woman in the attic, as presented in Jane Eyre. I has a very different setting and approach. Told by different narrators in the first person, it sometimes took a while before I could identify the narrator. It is a very interesting attempt the provide a backstory that is coherrent and convincing. It presents Rochester (who remains unnamed throughout) as both victim of circumstances and a creator of them. Some of the things he does are inexplicable, calling his wife Bertha when her name is Antionetta, for example, seems to be a curious cruelty with no cause or explanation.
I am not one of those who fell for Jane Eyre as a love story, and neither is this. Love has a walk on part, but ends up shunted to the sidelines. It poses the bigger quesiton of are we trapped by our past and can we change our fate. Based on this, that would seem to be a no. It's not a cheering book, well thought out and executed, but not exactly cheery.

22Helenliz
Nov 26, 2019, 1:42am

124. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte
This is an interesting novel, but is not, I think, destined to be one of my favourites. The story itself is fascinating for showing a failing marriage. Helen marries Arthur Huntingdon as she believe she sees something in him and can change him for the better. This is despite the best advice of her aunt, who can see right through Huntingdon's facade from the start. Mind you we can't necessarily blamed Helen for that; which of us has not ignored advice when it does not meet with our own inclination. Thought not.
From the marriage things begin to go downhill. At first slowly, but then with increasing speed. Huntingdon is a drunk, a bully and generally behaves bady, showing a complete lack of care for his wife, who can do nothing right for him, and embarking on an affair with her friend, who has married one of his friends. It's not a pleasant portrait of life, but it is a very real one. It is, however, the behaviour towards her young son, also Arthur, that finally causes Helen to get the hell out of there and so she plots to leave Huntingdon. And this is actually where we see her first, as the new tenant of the house on the fell, calling herself Mrs Graham.
I was not convinced by the manner in which this was told. It is set as a letter from our narrator to his brother in law, and tells of how he meets Mrs Graham and falls for her. She then geives him her diary, which is then related to the letter's recipient. It just doesn;t hang together and leaves everything at third hand. while both the letter and the diary are told in the first person, they are curiously flat and distant, somehow. I never really felt for them in any immediate way.
Helen herself is a bit of an enigma, she leaves Huntingdon primarily for the sake of her son, not herself. She refuses the advances of any suitor while she is married, for the sake of their souls. Then she returns to nurse her husband. It's all very contradictory.
I'm glad that I have finally read it, and I like the way that there is no sugar coating, this is a portrait of a failing marrige, it is not supposed to be nice or much of a romance. It's a warning to others, if you like, to not be taken in by appearances and to seek something stable and satisfyng. There's enough in here to keep the interest and make you want to know where the characters end up, I'm just not entirely conviced that this was the most effective way of telling the story.

23Helenliz
Ago 22, 2020, 5:59am

>125. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
I'd never read this before, not on the sylabus when I did English. I usually read in bed, and this is not a bedtime book. So I finished it in the morning instead. It tells of a group of boys who come to be lost on an island and the way that the thin veneer of civility can so easily be fractured and shattered. Not one for a restful night.
I do wonder how this would differ had the group been mixed - and then I think it might not have been any better.

24Helenliz
Out 15, 2020, 1:52pm

126. Where Angels Fear to Tread EM Forster.
Don't be a Victorian, nothing good will come of it. A morality tale of sorts, with the ultimate decision. It all ends on something that veers on the edge of farce.

25Helenliz
Out 24, 2020, 9:25am

127 The Well of Loneliness Radclyffe Hall

A couple of notes: I understand this book is historically important - that doesn't mean it is very good or has aged very well.
And I have to get this off my chest right away. My edition was 496 pages long and throughout that entire time not one person comments, "Stephen, huh, that's an odd name for a girl". NOT ONE! I understand why she's called Stephen (father convinced the cild was going to be a boy, so she gets the boy's name they'd picked out) but for not one person to even make passing reference to it throughout the remainder of the book is just entirely unrealistic.
So what to make of the book itself. Well it's all very overblown and flowery. At times it disappears into a religious strain that to the modern reader is redundant and self indulgent. It is of its time.
I also thought that this was going to go down the nature vs nurture debate. The first part of the book sets this up: the girl born instead of the wanted son, such that she is given a boy's name and brought up more like a boy - being allowed to ride astride, for instance. But the text itself, at every oportunity, is insistant that inverts (to use the language of the time) are born. That they can't be unnatural, as society would have it, because they are born that way. And then God gets dragged in again and you go round the loop again. It's one I have no intention of revisiting, although I am able to admire its bravery while not having enjoyed it very much at all.

26Helenliz
Nov 30, 2020, 3:14pm

128 The Summer Book

This is quite lovely, in its own quiet little way. Don't expect plot or progression, there isn't any. It is simply a set of incidents that take place on a little island, occuplied by Sophia, Papa and Grandmother. Sophia and Grandmother spend quite a lot of time together over this one summer, exploring the island, exploring what it is to be 6 and old, from two very different perspectives. There are things that happen, there is weather and the plants grow, and nothing much takes place. And yet... As it progresses you come to realise that it is a love song to Grandmother and all she stands for. This is was written after the author's mother, Grandmother, had passed away and it serves as a means of importalising this lovely woman in words that roll around on the page and bring her to life. It turns out to be quite beautiful and life affirming