Tag Archives: Classics

Sanditon, Lady Susan, & The History of England, Jane Austen

Sandition, Lady Susan, etc., Jane AustenSanditon, Lady Susan, & The History of England by Jane Austen

First Published: Posthumously – Writen c.1786-1817

Pages: 504 (Hardback)
Form: Collection of juvenilia, short stories, and unfinished novels

Rating: 3/53/53/53/53/5

This rare collection is a must for all Jane-ites. It represents what Richard Church regarded as Jane Austen’s literary work-basket, and contains some of Austen’s earliest work – her hilariously brief History of England, illustrated by her favourite sister, which is a worthy forerunner to 1066 & All That, to the unfinished Sanditon, the novel of her maturity on which she was working at her death aged 42. Also included are two epistolary novels, Lady Susan and Love and Freindship (sic), The Watsons, Catherine, Lesley Castle, Evelyn, Frederic and Elfrida, Jack and Alice, Edgar and Emma, Henry and Eliza and The Three Sisters.

The History of England is illustrated by Cassandra Austen

While I  thought Lady Susan was absolutely greatI would probably only recommend  Austen’s juvenilia and her later unfinished novel to people who are really interested in Austen and her development as a writer. Personally (and although a fan I’m not an Austen worshiper) I thought the juvenilia was absolutely fascinating and would have loved to see the finished versions of the two abandoned novels. If that sort of thing doesn’t interest you, though, and you want a completed story then just go for Lady Susan or give this book a miss completely and stick with Austen’s published novels. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Filed under Novellas, Reviews, Short Stories

The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G. Wells

The Island of Dr Moreau, H.G. WellsThe Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G.Wells

First Published: 1896
Pages: 143 including afterword (Paperback)
Form: Novel

Rating: 4.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/54.5/5

A terrifying, prescient portrayal of a scientist trying to create a new super-breed, The Island of Doctor Moreau was described by H.G. Wells as an ‘exercise in youthful blasphemy’.

Edward Prendick, the single survivor of a shipwreck, is rescued by a vessel carrying a menagerie of savage animals. Soon he finds himself stranded on an uncharted island in the Pacific with the strange vivisectionist Dr Moreau, whose experiments have led him to break the laws of nature, turning beast into man with horrific results.

A short but absolutely excellent novel. H.G. Wells is one of the founding fathers of science fiction and The Island of Doctor Moreau is one of those early  blends of science-fiction and horror that (like the best of both genres)  also offers an uncomfortable insight into human nature. A bit like Frankenstien but without the tedium, and better paced. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Novels, Reviews

The Code of the Woosters, P.G. Wodehouse

The Code of the Woosters, P.G. WodehouseThe Code of the Woosters, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

First Published: 1938
Pages: 286 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Jeeves and Wooster #6

Rating: 5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it

When Bertie Wooster goes to Totleigh Towers to pour oil on the troubled waters of a lovers’ breach between Madeline Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle, he isn’t expecting to see his Aunt Dahlia there – nor to be instructed by her to steal some silver. But purloining the antique cow creamer from under the baleful nose of Sir Watkyn Bassett is the least of Bertie’s tasks. He has to restore true love to both Madeline and Gussie and to the Revd Stinker Pinker and Stiffy Byng – and confound the insane ambitions of would-be Dictator Roderick Spode and his Black Shorts. It’s a situation only Jeeves can unravel…

It’s summer again! And summer means lying out on the lawn with a cold drink and a Jeeves and Wooster. The UK’s been having somewhat of a heatwave recently so actually the ‘lawn’ was more like ‘straw’ and I missed the company of my beautiful dogdog who passed away last month, but otherwise it’s as close to perfect Jeeves and Wooster conditions as you can get and I was able to spend a very enjoyable day snorting to myself over Bertie’s misadventures.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Novels, Reviews

North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell

North and SouthNorth and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

First Published: 1854-5
Pages: 544 including afterword (Paperback)
Form: Novel

Rating: 3/5 = I liked it3/5 = I liked it3/5 = I liked it3/5 = I liked it3/5 = I liked it

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 northern town, she develops a passionate sense of social justice, and a turbulent relationship with mill-owner John Thornton.

North and South depicts a young woman discovering herself, in a nuanced portrayal of what divides people, and what brings them together.

So I guess the best way to succinctly sum up my feelings on this book is to repeat what I told my mum when she asked how I was enjoying it: ‘the TV adaptation is better than the book, and the story is better than the writing’. Continue reading


Filed under Novels, Reviews

Persuasion, Jane Austen

Persuasion, Jane AustenPersuasion by Jane Austen

First Published: 1818
Pages: 312 (Hardback)
Form: Novel


Jane Austen’s final novel is the story of Anne Elliot, a woman who gets a second chance. As a teenager she becomes engaged to a man who seems perfect for her, Frederick Wentworth. But she is persuaded to break the engagement off by her friend Lady Russel, who believes he is too poor to be a suitable match. The episode plunges Anne into a period of bleak disappointment. Eight years later, Frederick returns from the Napoleonic Wars flushed with success. Anne’s circumstances have also changed; her father’s spendthrift ways means he has been forced to lease the home to a naval family.  Will Anne and Frederick rediscover their love? Can their changed fortunes inhibit their feelings? Persuasion is a story of self-knowledge and personal regeneration, of social change and emotional politics.

I’ve been meaning to reread Persuasion for ages. It’s the last of Austen’s novels and the first time I read it was during a bit of an Austen binge (all her major novels, back to back, in order of publication) and thus was feeling a bit romanced-out by the time I got round to this one and didn’t really ‘click’ with it.  I’ve always suspected that my ambivalence towards it back then was a little unfair and that a reread would improve my opinion, and I’m happy to say that I was right. It’s still not my favourite Austen but I did really really enjoy it and predict at least a couple more rereads in the future (which is a lot more than can be said about Mansfield Park). Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Novels, Reviews

Inferno, Dante Alighieri

Inferno, DanteInferno by Dante Alighieri
Translated by Robin Kirkpatrick

First Published: c.1308-1321
Translation Published:
2006 (this translation)
Pages: 449 including notes and original Italian  – plus introduction (Hardback)
Form: Epic Poetry
Series: The Divine Comedy #1


Dante’s epic in a new, sumptuous and delightful clothbound edition.

Describing Dante’s descent into Hell midway through his life with Virgil as a guide, Inferno depicts a cruel underworld in which desperate figures are condemned to eternal damnation for committing one or more of seven deadly sins. As he descends through nine concentric circles of increasingly agonising torture, Dante encounters doomed souls including the pagan Aeneas, the liar Odysseus, the suicide Cleopatra, and his own political enemies, damned for their deceit. Led by leering demons, the poet must ultimately journey with Virgil to the deepest level of all. For it is only by encountering Satan, in the heart of Hell, that he can truly understand the tragedy of sin.

A belated review for a poem I finished a few weeks ago. And a confession:  somewhere around page LXXV of the CIV length introduction to the poem I gave up (I always read intros after the main book now, been spoiled too often). It wasn’t a bad introduction, it was actually very good – lots of interesting information – but it was all a bit much to absorb for me at the time, I’ll get back to it later, I’m sure – but it’s heavy going. Which, funnily enough, the text of the poem isn’t. It’s lively and funny and very, very vivid. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry, Reviews

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre DumasThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Translated by Robin Buss

First Published: 1844-5
This Translation First Published:
Pages: 1276 including notes  – plus introduction (Hardback)
Form: Novel

Rating: 5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it5/5 = I loved it

A beautiful new clothbound edition of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo of wrongful imprisonment, adventure and revenge. Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of the Château d’If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and becomes determined not only to escape but to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. A huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s, Dumas was inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment when writing his epic tale of suffering and retribution.

From Penguin.com – no blurb on clothbound editions

Eeeeeh! Well it looks like 2013 is shaping up to be a good reading year. Not only have I liked pretty much everything I’ve read so far but I’ve discovered a new favourite. When I say that I loved this book, I really mean it. I can’t say it’s my favourite because picking a single favourite is too hard, but it’s definitely among the books  that I would take to a desert island or save from a fire. It’s got everything; revenge, wrongful imprisonment, murder, duels, bandits, drug-fuelled hallucinations, treachery, buried treasure… you name an adventure trope and it’s probably in there – as well  as one of the most scary anti-heroes/anti-villains in fiction. It’s a book that’s so high on melodrama and absurd plot twists it could easily become ridiculous, but it’s so utterly compelling that it never does. At approximately 1250 pages long, it never felt like a slog, in fact it practically zipped along and I’m actually a bit sad to have finished it. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Novels, Reviews