Review: Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

61816951With her satire on Anglo-Irish landlords in Castle Rackrent (1800), Maria Edgeworth pioneered the regional novel and inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814). Politically risky, stylistically innovative, and wonderfully entertaining, the novel changes the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class, and boldly predicts the rise of the Irish Catholic bourgeoisie.

I can see why this book is so important in the history of women writers and political satire, however, I just found it quite a boring book. At least it’s a short boring book. There was little to interest the modern reader, and Thady Quirk was really not the most interesting of unreliable narrators.

Maria Edgeworth herself is a very interesting woman, and one whose works I would like to explore with more detail, in the vague hopes that it will be more interesting than this novella. Her writing really hasn’t translated well to modern life, and I think someone who was not familiar with the practice of rack renting and the absentee landlord system in place in Ireland during the 18th and 19th centuries would find this book completely boggling without further context.

Thady tells his story with quite a dull narrative voice, though there are parts where he is comically thick. The story of his son’s rise to riches is pretty implausible, though I kind of felt like he was one of the more reasonable characters, since he didn’t seem like a total idiot… money snatching and devious, but not as thick or cruel as others.

Regardless, I was glad to get this book over with, which didn’t take too long, since it’s only around 100 pages long, with extensive footnotes. I felt like there could have been magic there, but it fell pretty flat in comparison to less heavy handed satires of society at the time.

2/5 stars.

Review: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

18300270Elinor is as prudent as her sister Marianne is impetuous. Each must learn from the other after they are they are forced by their father’s death to leave their home and enter into the contests of polite society. The charms of unsuitable men and the schemes of rival ladies mean that their paths to success are thwart with disappointment but together they attempt to find a way to happiness.

I have been wary of tackling this book for years, because I love the Emma Thompson movie version (Alan Rickman will forever be Snape and Colonel Brandon to me! Bless his soul.) I really didn’t want to be disappointed in the book, and had kind of tiptoed around beginning it at all. At Christmas time, however, I had a craving for Austen and thought that it was the perfect time to take on this book, leaving only Emma and Mansfield Park on my unread Austen pile. I’m frankly not looking forward to those two, because Emma seems like a character who will be really annoying and everyone seems to think Mansfield Park is the worst of the bunch.

This was reaaaaaaally slow for the first third, and I was having major trouble staying focussed on the book, which is so unlike me with an Austen! I was feeling pretty negative about it all, and disappointed in the flow of the book, so I limped along for a few days.

Slowly, I was totally immersed and couldn’t put it down! I was giggling at bits, reading out sections to my poor fiancee, who had no prior knowledge of the plot and the social etiquette being broken by the passage. It was absolutely hilarious at points!

Marianne was a difficult character for me to like, because she could be so rude and cruel to those who were kind to her, simply because she disliked some aspect of their character; mainly, that they offended her romantic view of the world. However, as the novel progressed, she became far more measured in attitude, especially after her climactic illness.

“And Marianne, who had the knack of finding her way in every house to the library, however it might be avoided by the family in general, soon procured herself a book.”

I don’t generally frequent homes with libraries, but I feel I would be the same!

Elinor was a far more relatable character for me, though I really wished in the beginning that she’d grow more of a backbone. She puts up with so much from her mother, sister and other relations, it’s no wonder she really wanted to get married and away from it all!

Austen has left the prolonged felicity of the couples in doubt, ending the book at a point that implies that the future is not necessarily stable. I like this about Austen, as she manages to combine the fairytale endings with stark reality, leaving there enough mystery for the future to get the reader thinking. I’d love to know how Marianne and Brandon got on, and whether Willoughby’s wife’s behaviour improved.

Overall, because of the slow start, i’d rate this book at the 3.5 star point. It’s far better than Northanger Abbey, but not as good as Pride and Prejudice. I felt like it was about on par with Persuasion, which I also very much enjoyed. Now I’ll have to go on to read the last two relatively soon, as I’m reading my way through the important classics from the 18th Century onwards!

 

Review: Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson

5290266The storyline of Miss Buncle’s Book (1934) is a simple one: Barbara Buncle, who is unmarried and perhaps in her late 30s, lives in a small village and writes a novel about it in order to try and supplement her meagre income.

 

For the first third of the book, I enjoyed it and found it charming, but easily forgettable. I dropped it for many weeks, almost forgetting that I hadn’t finished it, until on Christmas night I found myself lacking a book to read. Kindle at the ready, I took myself off to bed to read for a while. That “while” ended up being several hours, at which point the party I was avoiding ended, and I finally went to sleep. The next night, I again found myself up until 4 o’clock in the depths of finishing this book!

It was the perfect book for a laid back, Christmassy mood. No one wants to be slogging through the Russian greats when all your belly can do is grumble for another serving of ham and you’re pouring yourself your third Baileys (which for me is about 2.5 too many!) The premise is simple, the characters are funny and the story charming.

Miss Buncle is a rather quiet heroine, whom nobody suspects could possibly be clever enough to write a novel, let alone one so astute that could rock a little town to its core. She’s a smart cookie, and watches the townspeople with a keen eye. They have absolutely no idea that what they’re doing is feeding her content for her next book by acting like complete fools in regard to the first one, the aptly named Disturber of the Peace.

The leader of the band of naysayers is Mrs Featherstone-Hogg, a woman so caricatured that she manages to be exactly relatable to someone you know. She’s in the realm of the perpetually outraged. She literally wants the author of Disturber of the Peace to be horse whipped once she gets her hands on them. Obviously, this is the main antagonist of the novel, though she has her willing sidekicks ready to leap on the person who so truthfully depicted them in all their glory… or in some cases, evil.

Stevenson manages to touch on three rather interesting and important themes; domestic abuse, lesbianism, education and spinsterhood. There is a lesbian couple in this book, skirted around and never stated outright, but they are there, and they are sympathetically rendered by all. Women’s education is touched upon, as several women who could have been intensely clever are left without an education because of their father, or family’s, patriarchal opinion that smart women are an abhorration. There is a woman who is pitied by the more sensitive women in the community, who is married to a man who treats her and her children with disdain at best. She literally goes to ask a friend what to do because he was nice to her at breakfast. Her children are described as “mice”, who are timid and tiptoe around their house, and are unable to relate to other children. She also deals with the perils of spinsterhood, the lack of money that it can entail, and how women feel it is better to have a mediocre husband than none at all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a light read that touches on some heavy topics with grace. It was laugh out loud funny at several points, and I’m definitely going to be keeping it for future comfort reading!

 

4/5 stars

#CCWomensClassics Review: Bush Studies by Barbara Baynton

15832465Barbara Baynton’s short-story collection Bush Studies is famous for its stark realism—for not romanticising bush life, instead showing all its bleakness and harshness.

Economic of style, influenced by the great nineteenth-century Russian novelists, Baynton presents the Australian bush as dangerous and isolating for the women who inhabit it.

‘The terror Baynton evokes,’ Helen Garner writes in her introduction to the book, ‘is elemental, sexual, unabashedly female.’

Oh, dear. What a disappointing collection. It had so much promise, so much potential to be wonderful, but it failed. I have had a run of bad luck with Text Classics books, which I’m sure is not indicative of their value, but of my hopes and desires. They are all great examples of Australian Gothic literature, but are deeply flawed and uneven in quality.

If all the stories in this collection were as good as the last one, I would have enjoyed the experience and recommended it. “The Chosen Vessel” was gripping and frightening, and had me well within its clutches. Swagmen are an essential part of Australian colonial culture, and are almost always depicted as a jolly nuisance that one must feed, give work and tolerate. Baynton flips this on it’s head and turns him into a figure of terror. The “heroic” stockman is a figure of idiocy and religious fervour, not the lighthearted saviour of the usual kind. The villainy of the patriarchy is on show, from the husband who sneers at his wife’s fear to the swagman who feels he has the right to not only take her body, but her life.

Baynton knew too well the horrors of living alone in the bush, and how frightening it could be for a woman. Each woman in the stories is a different archetype, from the masculine Mary in “Squeaker’s Mate” to the timid governess in “Billy Skywonkie”. All face a myriad of terrors, not only in the stories, but before and after them. Baynton is not optimistic or positive about life in the bush for a woman, setting the role of a bushman’s wife as a hellish experience, contradicting the typical 19th century ideas of life on the land.

However, Baynton’s storytelling technique is at points nigh on impenetrable, her dialogue a complete mess and the narration confusing. I found myself backtracking over and over, having missed what on earth was going on, and jumping back to find my question is inexplicably unanswered. I’m not sure if Baynton actually intended this, or if it’s just me, or her fault as a writer. Action scenes were hard to follow, and I ended up skim reading stories like “Scrammy ‘And” because I simply couldn’t work out who was who and what was happening.

The dialogue is stilted and makes very little sense at times, even with reading it aloud and having a pretty decent knowledge of Australian slang, accents and older terminology. In her attempt to depict language as it sounded, Baynton has completely muddled it and made it far more difficult for the reader than necessary. The better stories are those with little dialogue, namely the first half of “Squeaker’s Mate, “The Chosen Vessel” and “A Dreamer”. The others are dialogue heavy, making them confusing and unenjoyable.

“I know who yer thort ’twas, Warder!” They were sitting side by side, yet he spoke very loudly. “Scrammy ‘and, ehm?” He had guessed correctly. “An’ yer thort yer see ‘im lars’ night!” He was right again. “An’ yer thort ’twas ‘im that ‘ad bin ramsakin’ the place yesterday, when we was shepherdin’. An’ yer thort ‘t must ‘ave bin ‘im shook the tommy!”

(Scrammy ‘And, pg.28)

That’s a pretty standard set of dialogue, which does make sense, but takes a little bit of interpreting. That, set over the length of a story, (and it does get worse) then over several stories, gets old really quickly. I don’t even mind a bit of phonetic dialogue, but Baynton has taken it too far.

Helen Garner, in her introduction, is tough but fair on the collection. She raises many of the points that I have, and critiques Baynton’s attitude towards the bush and humanity. I enjoyed the introduction more than half the stories, which is a first for me!

If you would still like to read them, and I do recommend the three that I mentioned as good earlier, you can find them here for free. I wouldn’t spend too much money on them, though they are published by Text Publishing, so a free pdf is a good idea, and one I wish I’d known about before purchasing the book.

These are a grim set of stories, but unfortunately I will not be recommending more than three of them and regret buying this. But hey, you live and learn and there are plenty more books on the shelf!

2/5 stars

Top Ten Tuesday (on a Wednesday!)- Ten Authors I Discovered in 2015

91e47-toptentuesday

I have been very much off the ball, and didn’t think I’d do this week’s TTT, but I have decided against it and want to discuss some of my favourite new -to-me authors I’ve come across this year!

As usual, this list is in no particular order, because really, they’re all very wonderful and deserve some love.

  1. Amy Sackville  

I first read Orkney in August on a recommendation from Kirsty @ the Literary Sisters, and absolutely adored it. I then read The Still Point in the last few weeks and loved that as well, though I think Orkney still has my heart.

      2. H.D. hdpoet

H.D. has literally changed my life, and changed how I view reading and writing. She has challenged me to the point of tears, but she is rewarding to the point of euphoria. I absolutely adore her as a woman, but her novel Bid Me to Live is one of my favourite books EVER. I also read Asphodel this year, which was an incredibly tough book, but again, rewarding. Her poetry is lovely, and I’ve been pacing myself well, only reading Sea Garden this year, though I have bought beautiful first editions  of The Walls Do Not Fall and Tribute to the Angels. 2015-10-17 17.08.35

3. Deborah Harkness

I’m about to start the second book in the All Souls trilogy, hopefully today, but so far I’ve really enjoyed her style. Yes, it’s not top quality literature, but it’s been an enjoyable ride and I’m glad to have got into her work!

4. Elizabeth Gaskell

Oh, how I loved North and South! I devoured it, and my (already high!) expectations were well and truly surpassed. I also read The Old Nurse’s Storya short ghost story which was also quite fun.

5. E.M. Delafield

I can’t wait to read some more of the Provincial Lady next year! I loved Diary of a Provincial Lady, and now have all the rest of the series, so I’ll get cracking on it soon enough!

6. Ray Bradbury

I’ve been recommending Fahrenheit 451 to anyone who will listen since I read it in February. I loved his dystopian future, and the creepily prophetic nature of the story.

7. Marghanita Laskim-laski

The Victorian Chaise-Longue was wonderfully creepy, and I’ve found myself pondering the ending well after I finished. I’m very excited to read more of her work, as I’ve heard even more wonderful things about her other books.

8. Ben Aaronovich

Another series I’ve been recommending EVERYONE is the Peter Grant series, beginning with Rivers of LondonI’ve read the first two books, and both have had me giggling my head off like a crazy lady. For those who are trying to read books with diverse characters, this is one to go for, as Peter is half West African.

9. Allen Ginsberg

Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems was my introduction to the Beat Generation, and one that I do not regret. Having read it has come in handy over the last few months, and I really want to go back and re-read it again… there’s so much more to it. Very dirty, very gritty, but fantastic.

10. P.G. Wodehouse

Ahhhh, Jeeves. Such fun. I will need to read far more of his work, but I’ve had such a good introduction.

 

There are a few more authors that I wish I could have mentioned here, but since I’ve read them before 2015 I couldn’t. However, this year has been the year I’ve really appreciated and fallen in love with their work. These writers are Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, Sarah Waters and Henrik Ibsen. There are so many writers that deserve mentioning, but I just can’t list them all! However, here is the link to my 2015 Goodreads reading list, so if you’d like to pop over there and have a look at what I’ve been up to, and maybe become my friend, that’d be fabulous!

 

#AusReadingMonth Review: The Three Miss Kings By Ada Cambridge 

The Three Miss Kings – Elizabeth, Eleanor and Patty – were brought up in a remote seaside settlement in Victoria, Australia, their father a mysterious man of ‘preposterous eccentricity’, their late mother a dignified, accomplished woman who instilled in the girls an appreciation of ‘spiritual and intellectual aspirations’ which compensates for their lack of worldly experience. Such virtues serve the sisters well when, on the death of their father, they begin a new life in Melbourne. Under the watchful eye of one of society’s more respectable patrons, they learn quickly about ‘life, and love, and trouble, and etiquette among city folks’ – to emerge radiant in their succession to both marriage and gentility. First published in 1891, The Three Miss Kings was one of Ada Cambridge’s most popular novels, a delightful story of young women’s gentrification in a colonial society still tied to the aspirations of its English forebears.

A friend of mine wrote part of her honours thesis on this novel, which is one I’d never come across before, despite having read quite a bit of colonial Australian literature. I was expecting it to have more of a “Little Mother Meg” vibe, but it was quite different.

I didn’t find myself connecting with any of the three sisters until late in the book, when I decided that Patty was by far my favourite. At first, they had very similar personalities, which made them rather difficult to tell apart, but as the novel went on they became more distinctive. I’m not entirely sure if that was deliberate on Cambridge’s part, but it worked well. Elizabeth became more of a doormat, Patty more feisty and Eleanor more insipid. It showed how money and romance can change a person and their outlook on life, which added to what was a great social critique.

I wasn’t overly convinced of the romances, except that of Patty and Paul, who reminded me very much of Margaret and Thornton in North and South. I felt Yelverton and Elizabeth were odd, and Elizabeth became way too much of a doormat, to the point of allowing his exclusion of her sisters from her first childbirth, then saying nothing when he was challenged about it. Come on, lady!

The sisters are pretty much adopted by Major and Mrs. Duff Scott, the latter of the two being the pinnacle of Melbourne Society. I found her to be awful, and sincerely think that she should have backed off a lot earlier, particularly about Patty. She takes two years to decide that an engaged couple should be allowed to see each other, and repeatedly tries to marry Patty off to elderly dukes… Why anyone could want that for a young girl who already has money is beyond me, even if she has a fiancé you disapprove of. However, it is obvious that the girls had no hope of being accepted without her.

I particularly liked Paul, even though he was a grump. It seems he had the worst run of luck any man could have, poor bugger! As for the mystery that he helps solve, I worked it out very early on, which made the waiting game a tiny bit frustrating, but then satisfying when all was finally revealed.

The rooting of the story deeply into Melbourne in 1880 gave it such a character, which I loved. It specifically mentions events and personalities, such as Ned Kelly, which make it easy to pin the story down. Even the Melbourne Cup is attended, so any Australian would know that it is the first Tuesday of November. I really like that kind of detail in a book, especially when it’s set in a place I’m familiar with. The 1880 Melbourne Exhibition also takes a starring role, opening the girl’s eyes to the wonders the outside world can offer.

I liked the questioning of conventional religious thought, especially after having just read North and South, which also discussed religion as a key theme. They had quite different views, though both show people who do question authority and religion in a positive light. Sexual and gender politics are also explicitly dealt with, and Cambridge shows how jarring and strange those social rules are for a person who never had to adhere to them… It definitely showed the silliness of some of their social norms.

The narrator was quite funny at times, cutting in and embellishing the story. Sometimes I did want the explicit details they said we didn’t need, which was disappointing, but most of the time they were a good narrator to follow. But overall, the narrative intrusions were amusing and stopped the story from being too sickly sweet.

I’d recommend this for anyone who liked Victorian literature (either the state or the era- this book has both!) and those who like Classic women’s literature. It is a really interesting comedy of manners and class distinctions, which I found rather impressing. I’m gong to be keeping an eye out for Cambridge’s other books in the future, and I do hope this novel gets noticed a bit more in the future. It’s definitely up there with the best of Australian men’s writing for it’s era, and does truly deserve the recognition.

4/5 stars.

October In Review

This October was my first month of freedom since beginning Semester 1 of university in February last year, so I’ve gone a bit crazy in the book department. I’ve read a fair few books, and had a fantastic month in general, so I’m a very happy lady right now!

I got engaged!! That was a nice surprise! I’m a very lucky and very happy woman indeed.

This month, I’ve read:

Affinity by Sarah Waters (***1/2)… which has spurred me on to pick up Fingersmith as my next read.2015-10-05 14.30.14

Names for the Sea by Sara Moss (***)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (**1/2) …which I STILL haven’t decided what my opinion really is about it!)

Summer Crossing by Truman Capote (**1/2)

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (*****)

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (*****)

The Lake House by Kate Morton (*****)

The Three Miss Kings by Ada Cambridge (****)

Lots of quite high rated books, with the latter half of the month being packed full of winners for me! I still haven’t quite got my head out of North and South, and The Lake House was so exciting that I feel I have a bit of whiplash going on from it. I did expect to read more books, but with work, medication changes making me sleep a lot, general laziness, plus a holiday AND an engagement to announce (seriously, no one told me that would be so stressful… thank god for The Lake House and the off button on my phone!), it just didn’t happen. In my defence, those were all pretty time consuming, and a few of the books were very lengthy, with several being over 500 pages long.2015-10-18 19.11.21

I’ve also been plodding through Les Miserables, which makes me feel rather miserables myself. I believe I’m at the 300 page mark at present. Whoever designed my copy ought to be taken out and shot, because bible paper and a size 8 font do not bode well for a comfortable reading experience. Generally, I can read in bed without my glasses, but not with that beast, oh no! It’s glasses, a bookmark in my hand to mark my line as I go, and another stuck in the back for the endnotes to help me with my non-existent French knowledge, a pen in my hand and preferably an assistant/slave to fan me as I go.

I did mean to read Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett, but it had a terrible water bottle accident and I fear it will prove to be unreadable in the end, despite my best efforts. I’ll have to find myself a new copy, as the book looks lovely! I did see two real whales, a mother and calf swimming south to Antarctica the day after that accident, so perhaps that will make up for the delay in reading the novel for now. They’re astonishingly big, somehow bigger than I expected, even the baby!

I bought a ton of books, which is pretty much a given, really. Most were second hand, and made me very, very excited. Some of the stand outs were first edition copies of The Walls Do Not Fall  and Tribute to the Angels by H.D. in almost perfect condition, as well 2015-10-17 17.08.35
as a clean copy of Bid Me to Live by H.D. (i.e. not annotated by yours truly… this was an effort and a half to find under $60, but find it I did!). I also found old Penguin paperbacks of a stack of Monica Dickens’ books, Tea With Mr Rochester by Frances Towers (currently published by Persephone) and some Daphne Du Maurier books that I didn’t already have. I also got a few more books by and about Virginia Woolf, and some more of my darling Rebecca West.

I’m looking forward to reading lots in November, and right now I think at least one of the books will be The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, since it’s almost a year since I read The Cuckoo’s Calling and her newest book, Career of Evil was released in October. I won’t be buying it as yet, as I want all my editions to be in the fame format, because I’m picky like that. I’m also looking forward to reading Greenery Street by Dennis Mackail and possibly something by Monica Dickens, with maybe a Du Maurier thrown in for good measure. We shall see.

My blog has been getting a lot of love recently, so thank you to all my new followers for coming on board! It’s recently occurred to me how much I can’t believe that a little thing I started, not really believing it would go anywhere (or that I would stick to it, for that matter) has actually begun to get noticed! I’m so thankful to all of you, especially those who have been with me for the ride- you know who you are!

Hope you all have a lovely month, and I’ll see you in my next post!

Review: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell’s compassionate, richly dramatic novel features one of the most original and fully-rounded female characters in Victorian fiction, Margaret Hale. It shows how, forced to move from the country to an industrial town, she develops a passionate sense of social justice, and a turbulent relationship with mill-owner John Thornton.

I have seen the BBC Mini series several times, but for some reason had not tackled the book yet. I guess that I was slightly worried that it wouldn’t measure up to how much I love the series, and would thus disappoint me. I was entirely wrong. This book made me run the gamut of emotions, including a spell of hysterical sobs which made my partner think I’d had some kind of awful news delivered to me!

I loved Margaret Hale, for all her sass and fortitude. She definitely had balls, and wasn’t afraid to tell people where they were wrong. I did become annoyed with her by the end, as she really did make life far more difficult for herself and others the was strictly necessary… I wanted to shake her and say “Come on! Just TELL them!”

Thornton was far mellower than the Prince Broody McBroodypants that Richard Armitage portrays him as in the screen adaptation, and I can see why they made the change. He obviously has his major flaws, but mostly he makes Margaret look a bit bitchy, when you really think about it. Neither of them gave the other a chance though. I found their romance really quite sweet, and liked how Gaskell gave us both sides of the story.

Mostly, I found the contrasts between the South and Milton to be fascinating, and loved how Gaskell slowly makes Margaret understand that farm life isn’t all haystacks and baby alpacas. It was a tough life for farm labourers in the 19th century, and Margaret shows at first an idyllic wilful blindness to what is placed before her, simply because she finds country life so charming. Watching her development from naïve young girl to a much wiser woman was great.

I wish that I hadn’t left reading this for so long… It’s probably going to be in my top reads of 2015 and has influenced how I have read other 9th century women’s fiction (I read The Three Miss Kings immediately afterwards and saw many parallels) as well as how I look back at other novels I’ve read in the past. I’ve seen several critiques of the novel and disagree with most of the criticisms levelled at it, particularly those that believe the book to be a simple mimicry of other writer’s work. Of course, it is similar to others, but I wouldn’t call it mimicry, as every writer has their influences, and it probably didn’t help that Dickens himself edited the work!

North and South is a wonderful, thought provoking novel that isn’t afraid to tread on a few toes. I did find the preaching sections a bit tiresome, but they are an important part of the novel. The gender and sexual politics running throughout the novel are fascinating and give the novel a good dollop of tension, which is very much needed in a novel like this. It’s also far sexier than it is given credit for, with a healthy streak of sexual tension running through the novel.

I wished the ending was a bit more drawn out, ie. I’d have liked to have seen a bit more of the romance. It was cut off very abruptly, which bothered me somewhat… The book is over 500 pages, so surely we should be rewarded for sticking through all that love/hate stuff and get some kisses! I have no idea what Gaskell had to cut out to fit into Dickens’ word limits, but she was suitably annoyed at having to cut her story short, and that is possibly why it is how it is, even with the re-editing to put in missing sections not published in the initial serials.

Overall, this was a 4.5 star read for me, losing half a star only because of the ending feeling so rushed. It takes a very special book to make you truly forget the world around you… Especially when that world involves a noisy television and people trying to talk to you!

4.5/5 stars

Review: Summer Crossing by Truman Capote

‘Summer Crossing’ is the story of a 17-year-old girl who has been left in New York while her parents spend the summer in Europe. It is a coming-of-age story, the heroine of which is very much a proto-Holly Golightly from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.

I was really looking forwards to reading this novella, since I have an enduring adoration of Truman Capote and will not rest until I have read all of his work. I unfortunately found this to be the most disappointing of his novels so far, but this is likely due to the fact that he lost it and never actually finished writing or editing it himself. He was having difficulties in writing it, and moved on to bigger and better things, namely Other Voices, Other RoomsAs for Grady being a proto-Holly, I’m not so sure about that.

Nobody was very likeable in this, which is pretty much the standard for Capote’s writing. I found myself hating one character, before swinging around to hate the other more. He had a great talent for characterisation, making even the smallest dunce of a character seem perfectly drawn. Grady is definitely not my favourite sketch though, and I found her annoying. She was the sort of character I wanted to slap and make her see sense! This is basically “Uptown Girl”, but the girl is kind of a naive sociopath with a rebellious streak, and way more money than sense.

I did thoroughly enjoy the very Capote-ish best friend, Peter. He’s flambouyant as all hell, and very, very sassy. The whole “romance” set up between Peter and Grady by others in the book seemed laughable to me, as he is clearly portrayed as homosexual. Her actual boyfriend, Clyde, was rather repugnant, and I just could not get myself to even consider liking him. 

There’s much backstabbing, drama and EVEN MORE DRAMA that ensues in this teeny novella, and I don’t want to spoil too much of it for anyone who is interested in reading it. Though I felt held back from really enjoying it by my dislike of the characters, it is a truly solid effort for a first or second draft (nobody is entirely sure what stage he was at in writing this). It gives us a great look at Capote’s early work and the beginnings of his moulding of characters that will become his most recognisable trait as a writer. He was a master at observing people and human behaviour, and depicting it perfectly, but he went on to write far better books. Still, it would have been a shame for this to be lost forever.

2.5/5 Stars

#AusReadingMonth Sign Up

I’ve been hunting down some Australian novels by colonial women for the past couple of weeks, because I want to:

a) Read more 19th century fiction from my own country; and,

b) Review more Australian women’s classics for the Classic Club’s woman’s classic event, to counteract the amount of European and North American women who will be reviewed. The Australian ladies need (LOTS!) more love!

In my search, I picked up The Fortunes of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson, aka. Ethel Florence Richardson. I’m dreadful and never realised that she was a woman until very recently, though I’d purchased The Getting of Wisdom earlier this year!

I bought a darling (okay, it’s pretty ugly, but it was the cheaper of two editions. It does smell good though!) copy of Richard Mahony from Lamda Books in the beautiful Blue Mountains, for a very nice price, which includes the three books in the trilogy.

Ada Cambridge

It follows that perhaps I should read and review the book next month, as Brona’s Books is holding a readalong. I may not finish all three, because let’s face it, I want to read other books too, and that thing is a beast. I do intend to review at least one of the three books!

I’m not sure what other books I’ll pick up for this challenge, but I have a good assortment.

I’m also currently reading The Three Miss Kings by Ada Cambridge, who migrated to Australia from England in 1870. I’m really enjoying it thus far, but I’m finding the poor girls’ lack of social knowledge a bit cringeworthy, I must admit! The Bingham sisters would be appalled, though I’d much rather be one of the King girls!