olde_fashioned: (write)

I finished The Great Gatsby last night, having started it on Monday and staying up a little late to get to the last page. Having seen the Robert Redford miniseries a few years ago, I already knew the story. Evidently this was a good adaptation, because there was scarcely a plot element from the book that the movie didn't cover; therefore I wasn't "surprised" by anything "new" in the book.

As I'm wont to do, I prefer to record something of my own initial impressions before I read anything "critical" or "professional" on the subject which might influence me. Therefore, if you haven't read the book and wish to avoid spoilers, please stop reading now! Otherwise, proceed. ;)

''Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.'' )
olde_fashioned: (18th C. -- Reynolds -- Georgiana blue)

I think my fondness for the 18th century is no secret to any of my regular readers. ;-) So you may imagine my surprise and delight upon discovering a copy of Amanda Foreman’s Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire biography at a used bookstore entirely by accident! Having already seen the movie The Duchess, which was inspired by this biography, previously read about the author during production of said film, and recalling recommendations of a trusted friend, I went ahead and bought the book even though I’m not generally one to tackle biographies. (I know, I know; that’s a fault on my part which I’m working at remedying!) Considering my love of history, this is somewhat strange, but most of the biographies (or possibly the authors?) I’ve encountered previously have been dull, dry, and even pretentious, but thankfully Amanda Foreman and her work both proved to be quite the opposite.

As this is only my first real foray into studying the life of Georgiana Cavendish, famous 18th century socialite, aristocrat, figure of fashion and leader of the ton, authoress, political heavyweight and Whig doyenne, I am by no means the best person to judge Foreman’s adherence to historical truths, but since this is one of my very favourite periods in history (if not the favourite, hee hee), I’m already somewhat familiar with the era and therefore (hopefully!), not entirely ignorant. ;-)

Biographical (duh), historical, movie spoilers abound! )
olde_fashioned: (Read -- Fragonard)
I know I'm posting twice in one day, but I figure you all will forgive me since I never do it and I don't intend to make a habit of it. ;-) (I also am really in the mood for Wuthering Heights-esque graphics, but I can't seem to find any images! *wails*) This has also grown from what was at first a quick list of things I found interesting, not worthy of my "!book reviews" tag, but I've gone on so much that I've changed my mind.

Having just finished Wuthering Heights, after a month or so of a hiatus, and I have mixed emotions about it. That's not to say that I didn't like it - it was very enjoyable - but I'm just not quite sure what the point was. I have a few thoughts and theories of my own, but after reading some critical opinions I'm not sure if I've "missed the boat" or not. (I never read introductions until after I've finished the novel anymore - I did that only once, and it ruined the plot for me. I find it incredibly rude and ill-mannered of an editor to spoil the story for the reader before they even have the chance! Thus I only read them afterwards.) ;-)

Forgive and bear with me while I try to collect my unorganized thoughts here...this is by no means exhaustive, but it is long, and for the record very spoilery for WH, so if you haven't read it, consider yourself warned!

''Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.'' )
olde_fashioned: (Cranford -- Sophy)
cranford header

Title: Cranford
by: Elizabeth Gaskell
Genre: British Literature, Fiction, Classics

I have heard Cranford called Gaskell's most famous novel. I am not exactly sure why anyone would consider it so, unless it's because she wrote her stories about the rural village of Cranford in order to preserve the quaint country ways of life? According to the notes, Cranford is an alias for Gaskell's hometown of Knutsford, and most of the anecdotes and events related by various characters really happened, such as the cat eating the lace. That knowledge lends an extra element of interest to this heartwarming story with a home-y, cozy setting.

Naturally after reading North & South and Wives & Daughters I promptly put everything Gaskell wrote on my reading list, but I moved Cranford up to the top because it's a rule of mine to read the novels before I watch the movies. So, in anticipation of the impending airing in May of the Judi Dench mini-series, I ordered a copy from the library.

Elegant economy! )
olde_fashioned: (NA2 -- Catherine writing)

Title: Mansfield Park
by: Jane Austen
Genre: British Literature, Fiction, Classics

Mansfield Park is the most sombre of Jane Austen's works, and the one with the most prominent moral conscience. Originally published in 1814, the novel's heroine, Fanny Price, is often considered a polarizing figure. Even though others find her drippy, irritating, and boring, I find she, like Mr. Darcy, rather improve upon closer acquaintance. ;-)

This is only the second time I’ve read MP, and I did like it more this time around. Fanny is considerably more likable the second time around, but alas, Edmund is still his usual self…I confess that while I do see his merits, (taking care of Fanny more than anyone else, etc.) I am still hung up on his flaws and seemingly willful blindness about the Crawfords. Perhaps a third read will make him more palatable. ;-)

''Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery'' )
olde_fashioned: (N&S -- Mrs. Thornton's errand)
hard times review header

Title: Hard Times
Written by: Charles Dickens
Genre: British Literature, Fiction, Classics

Who was the hero of this book? As Thackeray’s Vanity Fair is called the Novel without a Hero, I likewise tried to decide who Charles Dickens intended as the protagonist of this book. Just when I finally decided on Lousia, she met Mr. Harthouse, and then I was a bit flummoxed. Cecilia Jupe, anyone? Only her part was so small...

WARNING! Spoilers follow!
Fact, fact, fact! )
You know, this was the first Dickens I’d ever read, and I admittedly had a bit of difficulty getting used to his style. Not to disparage him any, it took me longer to get used to Jane Austen since Sense & Sensibility was my first exposure to her novels, and the same with G.A. Henty. Dickens certainly has his own “flavour” and as I heard someone else express it so quaintly, he was clearly getting paid by the word. ;-P But several times, when he was more serious, I was downright impressed by the eloquent beauty of his phrases, especially when describing an object. I’d like to know if there are any novels of his that have less of the comedic attempts and more of the serious and realistic. (anyone?)

I suspect that different people could get different “messages” out of this book. I was thinking of what exactly Dickens was trying to convey, and my humble opinion he was trying to illustrate the dangers of depriving human beings of creativity, imagination, love, and affection. All work and no play, if you will. Also, from what little I know about Dickens’ childhood, working in a blacking factory and all that, I couldn’t help but wonder if the underlying theme of “Fact, fact, fact!” was intended to mirror his own experiences. I caught one actual references to blacking bottles, and there were countless mentionings of the importance of a happy and carefree childhood with proper amounts of imagination. I don’t know. I probably tend to read too much into an author’s actual life being inserted into their works, but I can’t help it sometimes. After all, they *do* do it often. But was Dickens doing it?

To be brutally honest, this book is not in my top 10. (*hides* sorry Katherine dear!) But, I will most certainly say that I liked it enough to persevere and I will be reading more Dickens in the future. We own both A Tale of Two Cities and Bleak House (hehehe -- good excuse to rent the mini-series!!!!) and I’d like to read those eventually. So, I guess you could say I’m a Dickens fan now. :-D
olde_fashioned: (N&S -- Margaret with a book)
n&s review banner

Title: North & South
Written by: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
Genre: Classic Literature, Fiction, 19th C. Brit Lit

Despite the somber undertones of hardship, strife, and death, this was quite an enjoyable story, and the characters really seem to jump off the page. Margaret, in particular, is very likeable, and is closely seconded by John Thornton. Both are strangers to the other’s way of life, and consequently many misunderstandings ensue! Add a dash of romance and you have a classic love story, that had me turning pages so fast I managed to finish the book in four and a half days straight. I loved it, and would highly recommend it to anybody!

The copy I read was borrowed from the library, and someone had stuck a small yellow post-it-note on one of the last pages. They wrote a note saying, "watch the movie with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe -- it's wonderful!" I thought that was really cute, and she's right -- watch the movie!! ;-)

Warning! Spoilers for both the book and the mini-series follow!

After a minute or two, he gently disengaged her hands from her face, and laid her arms as they had once before been placed to protect him from the rioters. // 'Do you remember, love?' he murmured. 'And how I requited you with my insolence the next day?' )
olde_fashioned: (W&D -- happily ever after)

Title: Wives and Daughters
Written by: Elizabeth Gaskell
Genre: Fiction, Classic Literature

Wives & Daughters is something I’d never even heard of until I caught the end of the mini-series on PBS once. While Elizabeth Gaskell appears to have somewhat of a following (at least in Japan and amongst N&S fans), when I tried to locate a copy in my local library branch there wasn’t a single book written by her on the shelves. (and no, I do not live in a one-horse town with a teeny tiny library.)

The edition I read was a wonderful Penguin paperback with tons of footnotes, (oddly enough purchased in the Library’s friend’s used bookstore!) and I was grateful for them, especially with Gaskell’s seemingly frequent habit of alluding to other literary works.

Unfortunately, Gaskell died suddenly before finishing W&D, which was being published as a serial in Charles Dicken’s publication in the 1860s.

Overall, I really enjoyed it, and I'd read it again and recommend it to anyone, especially those who are fond of Jane Austen. :-)

Now it's off to Netflix the mini-series...

(ETA: Would you believe it's got a long wait?!? Arg!!)

(Edit: Netflix finally delivered, and so I've seen all the mini-series now. Of course I loved it, and it's definitely something I recommend. Not that I didn't know that before, however!)

Read more... )
olde_fashioned: (Leighton EB -- Accolade)

Title: Beowulf
Translated by: Seamus Heaney

Beowulf is an ancient poem, written by an unknown author in old English, which is now unreadable by modern speakers of the language. The version I read was translated by Seamus Heaney, and on the even pages the original spellings and words have been preserved, while the translation was featured on the odd pages, side by side with the original.

It would be very difficult, for me at least, to try to give a summary of this, without a) spoiling the plot for those who haven’t read it, b) wasting my time and energy, and c) confusing everyone in the process!! ;-) Therefore I shall just stick to telling what I like best about it.

Postitive Elements:

~ Let me first say, that I thought this was wonderful. It gives the reader a rare glimpse into the world and customs of the Anglo-Saxons, or if you prefer, the inhabitants of ancient Scandinavia, since the poem is about the Danes, Geats, and Shieldings, but it has been generally attributed to a Saxon author, who in my opinion, must have been a genius! ;-)

~ Beowulf, the hero, (duh!) is a wonderful man. He is strong, heroic, brave, but he is also kind, generous, and compassionate. (It actually says “he was a compassionate man.”) One of the best references of this is when someone named Unferth (a jerk who has previously insulted Beowulf, while drunk and jealous) lends him his ancestral sword right before Beowulf is going off to fight. (Unferth himself is too much of a coward to join Beowulf) Eventually the sword fails Beowulf in his moment of need, but later, after the battle, he returns the sword to its owner, Unferth, and tells him kindly how helpful it was for him, and what a wonderful weapon it was. I don’t think Beowulf had the heart to dissapoint Unferth, even though he had no reason to be kind to him.

~ Once again, the author must have been a devout Christian, for there are many excellent quotes, some of which I have put at the end of this entry.

~ This is a must-read for any Medieval enthusiasts, reenactors, or for anyone just wishing to educate themselves on the time period.

Negative Elements:

~ I had to think hard to find something wrong with this, because there really isn’t. The only think I could think of, was that it was originally written as a poem, in the Anglo-Saxon form, which is rather complicated and very different from our ideas of what a poem should sound like. Therefore, the whole poetic nature of the wording is lost in translation, but SH has done a very good job at trying to preserve it, and he comes pretty close to the Saxon structure of groups of four words/syllables, at least in my ignorant opinion!!

~ This poem is about a warrior, and warriors fight battles. Battles mean blood, and blood means ‘delicate‘ people get light-headed and puke. (haha) While this is in no way gory or even remotely stomach-turning. It didn’t bother me at all, some squeamish readers might object to certain elements, such as (consider yourself warned!!) Beowulf ripping off Grendel’s arm, or a thane being beheaded.

Excerpts and Quotes:
You have won renown... )
olde_fashioned: (Medieval -- Meeting on the Turret Stairs)
I've just finished reading Medieval Warfare, by Terence Wise, and published by Hastings House. Since I enjoy reading others' reviews, and have always loved writing book reports, I thought that maybe I should have a go at blogging my book reviews. ;-)

First off, let me say that I read this book mainly for three reasons: 1) because I just happen to adore Medieval life during the Middle Ages, 2) my brother wanted me to, and 3) I enjoy discussing books with other people who have read them. ;-)

Overall, I enjoyed it very much, and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in exploring this aspect of Medieval life. Everything was interesting, with separate chapters involving weapons, castles and fortifications, armour, battle tactics, siege weaponry, and heraldry, just to name a few. There are two appendixes dealing with the hobby of figure painting and war-gaming, which is a very strange pastime involving men playing with teeny tiny model soldiers, acting out various battles. Think Risk but with army men. ;-)

Read more )
~ Generally very informative. Lots of information all in one book, and the author certainly knows his stuff.

~ In the chapter on Armour, he just happens to discuss equine armour -- trappings, bardings, chanfrons, yippee!!

~ Chapter on Castles and Fortification discusses and explains the evolution of the castle defense, from it's origin, and the transition from the early square shaped walls, to the later, more efficient circular system.

~ Heraldry, heraldry, heraldry!!! I adore heraldry; can never get enough of it!! It's kind of complicated, so here is a link to explain it to those interested: the SCA's user-friendly heraldry guide

Read more )

~ Lack of comma usage. I don't know if this stems from Terence Wise's personal dislike of commas, or the fact that this book was published during the late 1970s, but I found it distracting. I suppose it could just be me, coming from reading G.A. Henty, who has a definite fondness for the comma.

~ The chapter on Battle Tactics was dull. Very dull. But of course I'm a girl, so that can be excused. ;-) I am told, by my brother, that he enjoyed it very much, so you may choose your own opinion. :-)

~ I've already mentioned that this book was written in the '70s, and I am sure that is why all the illustrations are in black and white. Some of the period manuscripts and contemporary etchings would have been so much more lovely in color, and the portions illustrating the various colors and tinctures of heraldry was somewhat difficult to understand; the use of various degrees of cross-hatching being employed to denote the separate colors instead.

I have typed up an excerpt that particularly struck me as fascinating, about the English longbow. I liked the logic used in calculating the arrow figures, and the bold passage, was, IMVHO, eloquently written.

(Note: don't read the excerpt if you are squeamish about battles!!)
Read more )

Excerpt from Tactics, pp. 115,

The longbow had proved so devastating because, until it was superseded by efficient handguns and cannon in the middle of the fifteenth century, it had a greater penetration power than any other weapon and a rapidity of fire which enabled a skilled bowman to fire a dozen unaimed arrows a minute. Advancing uphill across uneven ground and carrying a heavily armoured knight, a horse might cover aoub a hudnred yards in a minute. Therefore the French cavlary must have been in range of the archers for three minutes before closing to mêlée. Every archer could have fired 36 arrows, although as they only had about 48 arrows each they probably fired about 30, the other being reserved for aimed shots at close range -- capable of piercing mail. At Crécy there were 5,500 archers and during the French advances they must have fired at least thirty volleys of 5,500 arrows - 150,000 arrows, perhaps more since they would have retrieved some arrows between charges. These massive volleys must have darkened the sky and the accompanying howl and drone of arrow and bowstrings must have demoralised an army encountering the weapon for the first time. Certainly the volleys caused havoc amongst the horses and in furture battles occasionally caused even the most experienced warriors to glance fearfully upwards, to receive an arrow in the face, as did Prince Harry, later Henry V, at Shrewsbury.

Well! I think that is enough boredom for one day. ;-) Here is a link to Amazon.com for the book in question, just for the heck of it.


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