Charlotte Reads Classics

Slowly, slowly, she sipped a sentence.

The City of Heroes

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Happy last days of the year everyone! I hope everyone’s Christmas was special and relaxing. I’ve managed to be ill since Boxing Day, lucky me, but I am on the mend, and it didn’t dampen my spirits one bit.

And now, the Christmas books post. The serious ones first: I got a really nice edition of my favourite ever book – Anna Karenina, and a brand new (to me) classic – La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas.

I had never heard of La Regenta until very recently when my brother mentioned he wanted to read it. It is a Spanish Classic, originally published in 1885, and it caused quite a stir. It is about a wife who becomes stifled by her conservative and routine life and embarks on a quest for fulfilment – cue adultery and religion. I am really excited to read it, especially after opening it and reading the first line:

The city of heroes was having a nap.

I am pleased to report the whole family gasped at this.

The other books I got were all of the Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (yay!) and the ever entertaining Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.
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Last but not least, my lovely boyfriend bought me an iPad mini, which I am currently composing this post on, and it took me all of about four minutes to download my first ebook, so far I have read Gone Girl and The Silent Wife. Neither are my usual reading taste but I loved both.

Here is to new books and more reading in all forms for 2014.

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Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas, lovely book bloggers. Whether you are with family or alone with a book, I hope your day is as wonderful as it should be.

Not a literary post? How about A Christmas Carol?

Seasons greetings!

The Lives of Readers

Scenes which make vital changes in our neighbours’ lot are but the background of our own, yet, like a particular aspect of the fields and trees, they become associated for us with the epochs of our own history, and make a part of that unity which lies in the selection of our keenest consciousness.

 

I came across this, my favourite Middlemarch quotes, and wanted to share it with you today. I think it can say a lot about not just our individual lives, but about our experiences as readers.

Just a little post, as there is cinnamon and orange baking away in the oven. Hope everyone’s Christmas plans are going smoothly.

 

Night Walks

 

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Tis the season, and I am exhausted. But jolly. I love this time of year, even though work is absolute chaos. I’ve wrapped all my presents and turned the heating up. I’m still loving reading Middlemarch, slowly, and am just about to finish book three.

 

Whilst battling the crowds and stealing precious quiet moments away to myself, I fancied something light. You might think Dickens doesn’t quite fit this category, but this is a little book from the Penguin Great Ideas series.

Night Walks describes Dickens’ suffering as an insomniac, instead of sleeping he  goes out walking the streets of London until the small hours.

The restlessness of a great city, and the way in which it tumbles and tosses before it can get to sleep, formed one of the first entertainments offered to the contemplation of us houseless persons.

I love this essay as a document of times been and gone. Anything that lets us glimpse into human life, the unseen every day, is completely fascinating. Must read The Diary of Samuel Pepys next year.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a short story written by James Thurber. I really love that a five-page story could inspire an entire film. Walter Mitty has a spectacular inner life, although in reality his wife thinks he needs a psychiatrist, he has to go shopping for overshoes, and life is a dreary parade of potentially humiliating tasks.

 

I can’t wait to see how the film tackles the difference between fantasy and reality and whether a an adventurous mental life can replace the world outside.

– A dilemma I am sure us readers can identify with!

 

 

Slow Paths, Scenic Route

With just one day off before Christmas Day, things are getting pretty manic. I am still reading Middlemarch, albeit incredibly slowly, but I am enjoying savouring these small dips in and out of the tangled lives of this provincial town. A great touch has been reading Lydgate’s visits to various important members of the community whilst on my own daily journeys. These are quiet moments, away from  busy modern life, a lifeline to a bit of peace.

Not that the lives of the characters in Middlemarch were necessarily peaceful, of course. I had planned to write a beginner’s guide to the reform bill of 1832, although finding the time has been impossible. Ever so briefly, the bill was the turning point in gaining equality in politics and had been a long time coming – ever since the French Revolution. Here are some things that happened because of it:

  • People able to vote almost doubled
  • Power of voting given to those lower in social/economic classes (but still only the rich middle classes)
  • Members of Parliament were redistributed to correspond to the population

Reading very briefly into this means I’ll be keeping an eye out for the rising middle classes in Middlemarch. And hopefully the political part will make more sense. I really enjoyed all your comments about the male/female narrator and George Eliot, they are certainly fuel for thought.

Up tomorrow – a new discovery I’ve very high hopes for…

Hear of Things So High and Strange

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Mrs James Guthrie by Frederic Lord Leighton

There is nothing quite like rediscovering an old favourite. Middlemarch is a book I remember being bowled over by. I was expecting a dry, complicated read (as a teenager I was probably put off by the politics) but was captivated by the world and relationships Eliot created. Now, eight years later, I am returning to see how things have changed.

I finished the first book yesterday evening and am happy to report that though I may be different, Dorothea is as readable as ever. The first book is mainly about the sisters, although other characters are introduced towards the end. Thinking about Eliot writing as a man, I enjoyed finding her both cutting of silly women but supportive of the capabilities of others in turn. I think her world view is very sensible and think she’d probably be quite an inspiring woman to have met in the 1870s.

Seeing as the book covers all aspects of life before the First Reform Bill of 1832, it occurs to me that this is a historical event that I should read up on. Something for tomorrow’s post, perhaps.

All the Charm, All the Beauty of Life is Made Up of Light and Shadow

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As many of you will have already seen, o is reading Russian Literature in 2014.

A plan I had for this year but made no progress with whatsoever, other than writing many many enthusiastic posts about Anna Karenina. At the moment the list I am considering is:

  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, again, always
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  • Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev
  • Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov

There are some re-reads but mostly I’d like to read the fill some of the more obvious gaps in my knowledge. I do love this time of year when it comes to making reading lists, and plans, and lists, and piles of books stacked by the bed, and more lists, and ambition, and learning, and more and more lists of life changing books.

Legends from the Ancient North

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The house is halfway to Christmas. We have a tree standing only in its green glory, the house smells of baked orange slices and I’ve almost finished this year’s wreath. Everything is feeling wonderfully infused with tradition.

The connection between history and tradition is something I have been thinking about a lot recently as I prepared to return to blogging. This time of year makes me want to get on and make things; presents for friends, decorations for the house, food for my family. A big part of it is because it connects us to what people have always done. It is as true today as it was hundreds of years ago.

There was a documentary on last night about folk music and how we are starting to be less satisfied by what is manufactured and looking towards what can be hand crafted. A love of what is genuine and real, an interest in how things used to be made. This made me think about our oldest classic literature. Penguin have released a series of titles (all with beautiful covers) that inspired Tolkein’s Middle Earth. Out of all of the titles it was Beowulf that caught my eye. The oldest surviving work in English, it is definitely one that I am going to read in 2014. It is a work that is partly  a great story, but when read today it’s also about history, ancient customs and heritage.

We are all living on part of a larger timeline, and I can’t think of a better way of connecting to it than by reading the classics and by keeping traditions alive.

Quote for the Day

I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.

Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk to Freedom