Anne Brontë: Agnes Grey (1847)

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Last year I read all the Jane Austen novels I hadn’t read yet. This year I wanted to do the same with the Brontë novels. Agnes Grey was one of those I hadn’t read yet. Unfortunately starting my project with this book wasn’t a good choice. I found it so dark, I don’t think I’ll pick up The Tenant of Wildfell Hall any day soon, nor Villette or Shirley. Don’t get me wrong, I did expect a bleak story as I knew the book was based on Anne Brontës experience as a governess; an experience that was so negative that it led to her writing of Agnes Grey, hoping it would raise awareness and maybe help change a few things for future governesses. The description of the loneliness and social isolation of a governess were bound to be depressing but what really got to me are the many instances of cruelty against animals. I didn’t see that coming and really struggled through this novel. All the negative characters in this book—children and grownups alike— share a common trait— they see themselves as superior. If they think they are superior to other human beings, how much more must they feel superior to animals? Descriptions of torturing birds, hitting and kicking cats and dogs abound, and turned reading this novel into a nightmare. There’s even an instance in which Agnes, who loves animals, crushes a bird’s nest, to save the small birds from being tortured. Awful!

The book begins with the description of Agnes Grey’s childhood. Unlike most other Brontë heroines, she has a happy childhood and loving parents. They are not very rich but live comfortably until the day when her father loses everything due to an unfortunate investment. There is no urgent need for the two Grey girls to work, but Agnes would like to help her parents financially and decides to become a governess. Thanks to a reference from an acquaintance, she soon finds employment, although she’s only 19 years old and doesn’t have a lot of qualifications.

Her first employment is with the Bloomfields. Agnes knows it will be hard to live far away from her family and that she won’t be able to see them more than once a year. She is sure that her time away will not be easy but she didn’t expect she would be so miserable. Not only is she treated like a servant, but the children of the family are monstrous. They kick and scream and rebel. They are so badly behaved, only a very strong hand would be able to tame them. At the same time they are spoilt and Agnes isn’t even allowed to raise her voice, let alone punish them. She is shocked. She didn’t even knew that children could be like this. One boy in particular is very nasty and enjoys torturing small animals.

After a year she leaves the Bloomfield family and finds new employment with the Murrays. The children are slightly better behaved. There are four of them, two boys and two girls. Luckily the boys are sent away and Agnes does only have to teach the two girls. They are not interested in learning anything and treat Agnes just like their parents: condescending and as if she was a slave. One of the girls is a nasty piece of work. She’s very beautiful and uses her looks to manipulate and flirt. It’s her biggest joy to refuse and humiliate the men who fall in love with her. When she becomes aware that Agnes is interested in the curate Mr Weston, she tries to seduce him as well.

I can understand that people at the time were shocked when they read the book. I wasn’t shocked about Agnes’ treatment, because I knew that governesses had a hard life, due to their awkward situation. They come from the same class as their employers but they have no money and are forced to work. Because they have to work they are seen as inferior, at the same time they are not accepted by the servants because their social class and education places them above. It’s hard to imagine how lonely and helpless these women must have felt.

What shocked me as a modern reader is not so much that they didn’t accept Agnes as one of their own, but how mean and nasty those children were. How spoilt and misbehaved. They were as cruel and mean to Agnes as they were to their animals. They made her suffer on purpose, played tricks on her, disobeyed constantly, had no interest in anything.

If this was what poor Anne Brontë had to endure it’s quite appalling. I don’t know why any parents would have put up with such behaviour. These children have not the tiniest feeling for good and bad, no morals at all. They know what’s socially acceptable, and act accordingly, but only as long as it brings them some benefit or other.

What I found  most disturbing are the scenes among the destitute and the poor. Many rich girls and women did (and still do) charity work. The Murray girls are no exception. They visit the poor, bring things and money but they are never good or kind. They have been taught to give but they do so condescendingly, while Agnes spends time with them, reads for them or just sits and chats with them.

The end felt a bit like wish fulfilment. In a way you could say that the good are rewarded and the bad are punished.

I can see why Agnes Grey isn’t as famous as Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. Nor why it is not as well-known as Villette and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I found it interesting but dry and shocking. It’s not very descriptive and the character’s voice lacked life. I suspect, should I go on with my Brontë project, that this will remain my least favourite of their novels.

Have you read Agnes Grey? What did you think of it?

Anthony Trollope: The Warden (1855)

The Warden

Memory is a funny thing. For years I have been haunted by a sensual impression of a place. I remember being in England and walking along a row of houses. It’s a very peaceful, mild, warm autumn afternoon. The houses are part of a larger compound, overshadowed by a huge cathedral. I remember walking away from the cathedral close and coming to a small river that was flowing through the grassy meadow, on the same level as the soil. There were weeping willows and sheep. Walking around that place was like visiting a time long gone. These haunting images returned periodically. The light outside of my windows sometimes triggered the memory. It was always nice to go back in my mind, the only trouble was – I couldn’t remember where this had been. I’ve been in England many times, stayed there for a couple of months or weeks. I’ve visited many places and many cathedrals, but as much as I thought about it – I had no clue where I’d been on that warm autumn afternoon. Not until reading The Warden. The moment I opened the book and read the description of Barchester I knew – this is where I had been. But how could that be? Barchester doesn’t exist. Although I like to keep the introduction of a book until I’ve finished it, I had to read it to find out more. In the introduction I learned that Trollope based Barchester on Salisbury and Winchester. I immediately went online and looked up photos of Salisbury cathedral, the cathedral close and the meadows around and, yes, indeed, that’s where I’ve been some years ago. I found it pretty uncanny that Trollope was so capable at describing a place. I still don’t know why I forgot that the images were images of Salisbury. I’ve never forgotten a place like that. Maybe because it was so dreamlike?

I’ve meant to read Trollope for a while. Actually ever since I’ve read Guy’s (His Futile Preoccupations) and Brian’s (Babbling Books) reviews of his novels. Most of Trollope’s books are chunky but The Warden, the first in the Chronicles of Barsetshire, is a mere 180 pages.

According to the introduction, Henry James called The Warden “the history of an old man’s conscience”. That’s true, however, it’s only one of at least three major themes Trollope exlpores and which all contribute to make The Warden a highly worthwhile and interesting book and one of those you’d love to discuss with other people.

Septimus Harding is precentor and warden of an almshouse. With these positions come 800£ per year. In order to obtain this money Mr Harding doesn’t have to work a lot. As a precentor he’s in charge of the choir in the cathedral and as warden he’s the moral support of the twelve destitute men who are allowed to spend their last years in the almshouse. Since the almshouse was founded in the 15th century, the warden has received  more money every year because of the revenue of the land. The twelve men’s allowance however would have been still the same as in the 15th Century if Mr Harding hadn’t given them some of his own money.

At the time when this story takes place, numerous reformers are hunting down greedy clergymen, showing how they abuse of their power and enrich themselves at the expense of others. Dr Bold is just such a reformer. When he meets the warden and his daughter, with whom he falls in love, he learns about the founder’s will and instigates an investigation which leads him to the conclusion that Mr Harding receives money that is due to the almsmen. His inquiry quickly gets out of hand when the biggest newspaper publicly accuses the warden of greed and malpractice.

Mr Harding is an excessively private man. He’s weak but kind and good-hearted. Being dragged into the spotlight like this, accused and shamed, is more than he can bear. He never thought that he might be doing something wrong but once he starts to think about it, he’s not so sure that he wasn’t enriching himself at the expense of the twelve poor men. While he doesn’t want to fight the accusation, his son-in-law, archdeacon Dr Grantly and the bishop of Barchester, fight for him and soon both parties involve lawyers. The warden has another strong supporter in his daughter who begs Dr Bold to abandon the cause.

The three themes which are explored each center on another figure. Mr Harding has to examine his conscience. Will he stay warden if it has been proven that he’s legally entitled to his money or will his own conscience tell him to let go?

Mr Bold shows how good intentions at the wrong moment and without thinking about consequences can be fatal. Maybe Mr Harding gets too much money, but why make this a matter of public interest and involve the newspaper? Why does he disregard the peace and quiet that reigns at the almshouse? Neither Mr Harding nor the twelve men are wanting anything. They live together amicably but once Dr Bold tells the twelve men that they should get more money, peace is lost forever.

For contemporary readers it might be interesting to read about the role of the press and the journalist Tom Towers. Trollope was inspired by true stories and what he lets us experience is the beginning of the value of public opinion and the power of the press.

Trollope chose to show us the end of an era. The tone of the book is elegiac throughout. In the introduction Robin Gilmour makes an interesting point. The warden’s garden is a strong symbol of this dying of an era. At the beginning of the novel it’s lush, green and lovely. At the end:

The warden’s garden is a wretched wilderness, the drive and paths are covered with weeds, the flowerbeds are bare, and the unshorn lawn is now a mass of long damp grass and unwholesome moss.

I had a very strong reaction when I read how content Mr Harding was in the beginning and how quickly a lifetime of ease was destroyed. At the same time I had to agree with Bold. Not in this matter, but in general. Why would a clergyman be given so many riches, a huge house with gardens, and a large income without doing any work? Still, I was sad for Mr Harding who was threatened to lose everything he held dear, even though he might not have been entitled to have it.

What annoyed me about Mr Bold’s doing was that the man he attacked was a kind and generous man and – compared to other clergymen – a tiny fish.

Before ending this rather lengthy review, I’d like to say a few things about Trollope’s writing. I enjoyed the descriptions and I had to laugh out loud a few times when he characterized people, notably the archdeacon, using caricature and satire. I found many of his authorial intrusions interesting but there were too many for my taste. I had problems with the parodies of Carlyle and Dickens because they felt glued on and were not a part of the story. I didn’t mind that Trollope spoke to the reader directly but some of the more hidden intrusions were annoying.

I’m glad I read The Warden. It made me remember my stay at Salisbury and I loved the descriptions. I liked his choice of themes and think they are just as important today as they were then. I also think he’s a wonderful satirist. Will I read the next in the series? In all honesty – I’m not so sure. I can’t pretend I fully warmed to Trollope and although I’ve started a small Victorian literature reading project, I think I’ll move on to Elizabeth Gaskell and the Brontës.

If you’d like to read more reviews on Trollope visit Guy’s  (His Futile Preoccupations), Brian’s (Babbling Books) and Tony’s (Tony’s Reading List) blogs. Brian’s reading and reviewing The Barsetshire Chronicles (here’s his review of The Warden). Tony has reviewed both the Barchester and the Palliser novels – and some more and  Guy has written about many of the other novels.

 

Claire Tomalin: Jane Austen – A Life (1997)

Jane Austen

Last year I was in a Jane Austen mood for several months. I read the last of her novels I hadn’t read, watched movie adaptations, and even picked up the one or the other book inspired by her. Finally I also read Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen biography, which I’ve finished a while ago.

Jane Austen – A Life isn’t only an excellent biography, it’s very moving as well. There isn’t all that much we know about Jane Austen but Tomalin wrote about what little we know with so much empathy and compassion that, at times, I couldn’t help but feel deeply for Jane Austen. When you read a biography you’re never sure what you will get. Some biographers are too present in the book or, what is even worse, some seem not to like their chosen subject at all. I’m glad none of this was the case here. I felt Tomalin approached Jane Austen with a lot of admiration and sympathy.

It’s hard to review a biography and do it justice, especially when it’s so carefully done, including every aspect of an author’s life. There were chapters I devoured, others, like those on the Austen neighbours, were a bit dragging. Overall however this is a wonderful biography and I could feel on every page how much passion and dedication Tomalin put into the book.

Since the book is so comprehensive, I’d like to pick just a few elements and write about those.

Tomalin, as I just wrote, is a very compassionate biographer, which made her detect things that are never explicitly stated in the testimonies or letters. She writes that seen from outside one might think that Jane Austen had a happy childhood and an unproblematic life, but when you look more closely, it becomes apparent, that there was a lot of heartache and sorrow. Tomalin mentions for example that all the Austen children were given away for up to 18 months when they were just a few months old. They grew up in the village with a wet-nurse. This means that by the age of three, they had experienced two traumatic events. First they had to leave the mother and later they were ripped from the family they hade come to see as their own.

The movie Becoming Jane, gives the wrong impression with regard to Jane Austen’s siblings. She had only one sister, but more than one brother, and because the parents had a school for boys, she and her sister grew up among many other boys. Unfortunately, because  it was a boy’s school, the two sisters had to leave the family again and go to boarding school. This, it seems, was another traumatic event as the school was quite terrible.

When I watched Becoming Jane, I wondered, like so many others, how much of the love story was true. Why did Jane Austen never get married? Was she too heartbroken and could never get over Tom Lefroy? After reading Tomalin, I have the impression that the love story which is told in the movie, is quite close to reality. There was no elopement and, as I already mentioned, Jane had more than one brother, but the depiction of the unhappy love story between her and the Irishman Tom Lefroy is pretty accurate. She had more opportunities later in life but she turned all her suitors down. She didn’t have any feelings for them.

Jane and her sister Cassandra were very close and spent their whole lives together. Seeing how many of the women around them were either constantly pregnant or died in childbed, staying single must have been some consolation to them.

I wasn’t aware that Jane Austen stopped writing for almost ten years. The chapters on this silence are by far the most tragic and interesting. One could think that the cause for her silence was small, but for Jane Austen it was a catastrophe. She loved the house in the country in which she grew up and when her parents decided to sell it – without telling Jane or her sister anything about the decision, until it was executed – she was devastated. She didn’t want to move to Bath. She didn’t like it and the house would be much smaller. There would be no garden, and no possibility to be close to nature. The impact of this move was so intense that she became depressed, shut down and didn’t write anymore. I guess it was more than just the loss of the garden though. She had a certain routine, and lack of space would prevent that she could withdraw herself from company as easily as before.

Jane Austen died quite young and, according to Tomalin, it’s not entirely clear what illness she had. Some attempts at a retrospective diagnosis have been made. She might have died from Addison’s disease, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or bovine tuberculosis. In any case, the deterioration was slow and she suffered for more than a year before she died.

The biography contains a lot more, of course. I focussed on the tragedies of her life, but Tomalin writes extensively about the books and the influence Jane Austen’s reading had on her writing. Dr Johnson is mentioned for example and that many of Austen’s famous sentences have been inspired by him.

At the end of her biography Tomalin writes about Jane Austen:

“She is as elusive as a cloud in the night sky.” (287)

That’s exactly how I felt when I closed the book. As if I’d been watching a shadow theater. It’s the first time, I close a biography and it leaves me this sad.

Jane Austen: Persuasion (1818)

Persuasion

After having read Mansfield Park and liking it so much (as you can see here) I decided to read Persuasion, which has been mentioned by so many in the comments as their favorite Jane Austen novel. The two books couldn’t be more different. I found Persuasion much more mature, more subtle, less witty, more elegant and a bit melancholic. It’s a perfect novel, there is nothing superfluous in it; the story and the characters are rounded and the way their emotions are shown is believable and very touching. There is a lot of sadness and heartache in this novel, but, since it’s an Austen novel, the good characters are rewarded. Despite of all of this, I’m not sure I prefer it to Pride and Prejudice or Mansfield Park. The earlier novels have some imperfections, but they also show an exuberance and wit, which I enjoy. From the point of view of the love story, I think Persuasion is my favourite and I like Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth as much or even more as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, but I missed some of the irony and playfulness of the earlier novels. On the other hand Persuasion is very subtle and I love the more urban settings, Lyme Regis and Bath, which add to its appeal.

Anne Elliot is one of three sisters who lost their mother at an early age and grew up with a silly and vain father who, on top of that, is a spendthrift. The most important things to him and his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who is his female counterpart, are looks and titles. Being a baronet is of the utmost importance to him. The gentle and sensible Anne suffers a great deal through their coldness and superficiality and if it wasn’t for her mother’s old friend Lady Russell, who has become her mentor, she’d be bad off in a family of self-centred, pompous fools. Her younger sister Mary is not much better and at that a hypochondriac. When the novel starts the Elliots are forced to leave Kellynch Hall and find cheaper lodgings in Bath because Sir Elliot and Elizabeth have been spending far too much. The estate will be let to Admiral Croft and his wife. Mrs Croft is the sister of Captain Wentworth, the man Anne Elliot once loved and – persuaded by Lady Russell – refused to marry because he had no money and no status yet.

Eight years later Captain Wentworth is still as handsome and likable as he used to be, but he’s also very rich. Anne who has refused every suitor, soon regrets bitterly that she refused him. Captain Wentworth on his side is still hurt and resentful. He hasn’t forgotten Anne but cannot forgive her.

Persuasion is often called a “novel of second chances”, and that’s what the love story is all about, but Austen novels are always about much more than just love and marriage. Money and the criticism of a superficial society which attached too much worth to it are central themes. In Persuasion we find a similar situation as in Pride and Prejudice: a rich man with no male heir. The way this is handled is central to the society and the times in which Jane Austen lived but, thankfully, so different from now. Should Sir Elliot die, the estate would go to a distant male relative and not to one of his daughters. It seems as if the property was tied to the name only and not so much to the family. Someone who may never even have seen a house, may be living in it, while those who spent there all their lives have to move out.This is so incomprehensible for us, feels so incredibly unjust that whole series, like Downton Abbey, illustrating this practice, are sure to generate our interest.

A large part of the second story line in Persuasion focusses on this aspect. There is an heir, but he is proud and arrogant, and it is very painful for everyone to imagine he will be living in Kellynch Hall. However, since Sir Elliot is still a good-looking man, it’s not impossible that he remarries. If a younger wife would give birth to a son, the whole situation would look entirely different. While the love story is central the “hunt” for the estate and the ensuing complications are no less important.

I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s longer novels now and it’s quite fascinating to look back, to compare, find similarities, spot differences. I’m currently reading Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen biography and it adds another layer. So much that is mentioned in Tomalin’s book can be found in the novels. I noticed that Jane Austen never describes London, but I didn’t know she’d never been there.

Nowadays I tend to jump from one author to the next, but it has a special appeal to read everything of one writer because the books are always linked and when you’ve read them all, you can see, that despite the differences, the individual books together form a whole. In Jane Austen’s case, reading all of her books, showed all of her novels are full of vivid portraits and character sketches, full of well-observed behaviour and show the many facets of romantic attachment. But while there are similarities in the themes, there is a huge difference in mood.

Jane Austen: Mansfield Park (1814)

Mansfield Park

I’m nearing the end of my Austen journey. Now that I have read Mansfield Park, I’ve only got Persuasion and her short fiction left. I was surprised to like Mansfield Park so much as I know it’s not a favourite of many. The reason for this is to some extent its heroine Fanny Price. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I liked Mansfield Park better than Pride and Prejudice, but it may come in second, before Emma.

The story can be summarized briefly. Three women make three very different marriages. Mrs Price gets married to a poor man who likes his drink too much. She bears him some 12 children, one of them is Fanny. Lady Bertram marries a very rich man, owner of an impressive country estate, Mansfield Park. The third, Mrs Norris, lives near Mansfield Park with her husband in a small parsonage. The two ladies often speak about their unfortunate third sister who lives in Portsmouth in squalor and one day Mrs Norris urges the Bertrams to send for Fanny, who is about ten years old, and suggests they raise her at Mansfield Park, together with her four older cousins, Tom, Edmund, Maria and Julia.

Fanny is extremely timid but over the years she is doing well. She grows up to be an educated and very pretty young woman. She’s secretly in love with her cousin Edmund who was the only one who was nice to her. Edmund has decided to join the clergy as being the younger brother he will not have a lot of money to live on. A lot of the Bertram’s money comes from the colonies and when the plantations don’t do so well, Sir Bertram travels to Antigua with his older son.

Mrs Norris who is a widow by now had to vacate the cottage for the new pastor, Mr Grant, and while Sir Bertram travels to Antigua, Mary and Henry Crawford, the younger brother and sister of Mrs Grant, arrive and set in motion a series of dramatic events.

If you know Austen well, you know that all of her heroines are tested. Some more, some less, but in the end they are always rewarded and the reward is a happy marriage.

Fanny Price is a unusual heroine because she comes from a very poor family and the way she is treated by the Bertram’s is often quite shocking. Especially the unlikable Mrs Norris lets her feel daily that she is an inferior. Fanny reminded me much more of a Dickens character and when she is sent back to Portsmouth, as a form of punishment, towards the end of the book, it’s even more Dickensian. I don’t think we find such a close up of a poor family in any other of Austen’s novels. But Fanny Price is unusual for other reasons. She is so timid and fearful and very frail as well. I was surprised to find the portrait of a highly sensitive person who even shows some signs of what used to be called neurasthenia. She has to be careful at all times; she catches colds more easily than others, she’s more easily exhausted. Her symptoms are never as pertinent as when she stays in Portsmouth. She suffers from the noise, the dirt and the smells far more than anyone else would. I have seen her called passive by people but I would say she is quiet and withdrawn, she’s not so much a dreamer as a thinker. Sure, to some extent she is passive, but if you are told daily that you are nothing, that you have to be grateful, that you have to stay in the shadow, then it’s hard to be any other way. Even if she is passive, I don’t think she has a weak mind at all. When they want to force her to marry Henry, she opposes this strongly.

I think a lot of the dislike of Fanny Price stems from her opponent Mary Crawford. I saw people mention that they like her far better than Fanny. When the book was written, she was clearly one of the negative people but we, with our 21st Century mentalities, can’t help but like her and find a lot of what she says quite reasonable. I don’t think I spoil the novel if I mention that it is also about adultery. From our point of view Mary’s reaction to this event is understandable, but when the book was written it was quite shocking. I think small elements like this show very well why many people prefer a historical novel set in 1814 than the real thing because a writer of historical novels would take our mindset into consideration.

Mansfield Park has one of my favourite villains Mrs Norris. She’s a self-centered, selfish and cruel person and tries to exclude Fanny from every little bit of joy, denies her a fire in her room and reminds her constantly that she is an outsider. I loved to hate her and the end is so rewarding.

Mansfield Park has a minor flaw. It is Austen’s longest novel but it’s not long enough. I felt the end was rushed. Many of the most important scenes happen offstage and the final emotional developments happen too quickly. I wasn’t surprised when I watched the ITV production right after finishing the book to see, that those elements were shown in the film while the first parts were compressed. I can’t remember if Austen rushes all of her endings like this. I found it a bit disappointing, which doesn’t mean I preferred the movie version. Not at all. It’s OK but not great and it contains a lot of major changes.

I think that when people write unkindly about Fanny Price, they seem to forget that being adopted into a rich family, means that you are leaving your family behind. Being cut off from what you know, not seeing your beloved brother for years, must be a terrible shock, no matter how stately a home you get in exchange. The story of the little girl Fanny Price who became a delicate but strong heroine has moved me. It’s a rags to riches story that I wouldn’t have expected from Austen. Most of her heroines marry well and improve economically through their marriage, but they don’t start out being as destitute as Fanny.

Dickens in December – A Christmas Carol – Readalong

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It didn’t take Delia and me very long to decide which book to choose for our Dickens in December readalong. There really couldn’t be a more fitting book to read just before Christmas than Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Last week we sent out a few questions. Some of you have chosen to answer them for the readalong, others wrote a review. Both is fine and all the links to the different contributions can be found at the end of my post and will help you to find the participants and visit their blogs. It’s updated regularly, so come back and check who else has contributed.

Is this the first time you are reading the story?

I have read A Christmas Carol before, I guess some 5 or 6 years ago and already knew then that I would read it again some day.

Did you like it?

I liked it very much 5 years ago that’s why I knew I would read it again. I still liked it this time around but for very different reasons. I was much more attentive this time to the moral of the story. The first time I was paying more attention to the descriptions.

Which was your favorite scene?

I have two favourite scenes or parts. One is the scene when Marley’s ghost appears. It’s quite spooky and Scrooge’s shock is shown so well. It’s also a very dark passage as there is clearly no redemption for Marley. It’s too late for him to change anything. While the whole story is about the power of change, this first part is a cautionary tale showing us that while Dickens did believe in change that didn’t mean he was an optimist who didn’t see that there were lost souls too.

The second part I liked a lot was when Scrooge first follows the second spirit. The descriptions are among the most evocative. They show Dickens’s style amazingly well.

Which was your least favorite scene?

I couldn’t think of a scene I didn’t like.
Which spirit and his stories did you find the most interesting?

I found the third spirit and how he was described, his appearance, the most interesting. He was the most ghostly but I liked the stories and what the second spirit showed Scrooge the most. These were the stories, I think, which reached Scrooge’s heart and let it melt.
Was there a character you wish you knew more about?

I would have liked to know more about Marley. Why did he become such an embittered old man?
How did you like the end?

It’s a perfect ending, Scrooge’s joy can be felt in every line and is very contagious. It’s the illustration of the belief that people can always change as long as they are still alive. And it also shows that there are good people in the world. While Scrooge has to make an effort and change, if the others were not ready to forgive him, we wouldn’t have this happy ending.
Did you think it was believable?

I think that someone can change profoundly but maybe not in such a short time.
Do you know anyone like Scrooge?

I know people with Scrooge-like traits but nobody who is as bad as he is.
Did he deserve to be saved?

Scrooge had a heart of stone but he wasn’t treating himself any better than others which I think makes a huge difference. If he had been spending a lot, living in luxury, feasting but depriving others, I would not so easily say yes to this question but given that he didn’t harm others for his own sake or actively inflict pain, I’d say, yes, the change of attitude and sentiment is reason enough for him to be saved.

Other contributions

50 Year Project (TBM)

Dolce Bellezza (Bellezza)

Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings

Polychrome Interest (Novia)

Postcards from Asia (Delia)

The Argumentative Old Git (Himadri)

The Things You Can Read  (Cynthia)Questions and Answers

The Things You Can Read Student Comments

The View From the Palace (Shimona)

Lost in the Covers (Elisa)

Leeswamme’s Blog (Judith)

Lynn’s Book Blog

Love. Laughter and a Touch of Insanity (Trish)

A Work in Progress (Danielle)

Sandra – please see comments section

Tabula Rasa (Pryia)

Slightly Cultural, Most Thoughtful and Inevitably Irrelevant (Arenel)

My Reading Journal (Ann)

Vishy’s Blog (Vishy)

Resistance is Futile (Rachel)

Too Fond of Books

Beauty is a Sleeping Cat (Caroline)

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations (1861)

In Great Expectations the orphan Pip tells the story of his life. He tells us how, after having lost his parents as a small child, he was brought up “by hand” by his mean and quarrelsome sister who hit him and her husband. How his sister’s husband Joe and Biddy the teacher were the only kind people in his life. How he met a convict and helped him. How he was invited to the excentric and melancholy Miss Havisham to play at her house. How he saw the wonderous house for the first time and met the beautiful Estella who would be the love of his life. How being introduced to Miss Havisham and Estella made him long for another life and feel ashamed of his own. How finally he was made rich and hoping for great expectations from an unknown benefactor. And how in the end things turned out in a very different way.

Great Expectations offered everything I expected from Dickens and so much more. The only thing I could criticize is that it was predictable and that there were a lot of coincidences which didn’t seem all that realistic but who cares. There is so much in this novel to like that I can easily forget its flaws. The characters were, as was to be expected, quirky and over-the top, much more caricatures than portraits, but drawn which such a wonderful imagination that I loved each one of them.

I also liked the atmosphere, how with a few words, a few sentences he captures a mood, a season, the weather, a location, a house, a street. All his descriptions are highly evocative and one sees every little detail.

There were many uncanny, witty and captivating scenes and I would have a hard time picking favorites. I liked all the chapters at Miss Havisham’s house. The sorrow and grief which had made the time stand still in that place and entrapped its owner for eternity, gave the book a very gothic feel.

But I also loved all the scenes including Mr Jagger’s clerk Wemmick and his father. They made me chuckle very often. They are such an endearing couple.

To do this book justice and write properly about it, I would need more time which I don’t have. Maybe I will return to it next year and write something a bit more detailed.

For now I would just like to say, I loved it for many reasons but what stood out the most is that Dickens comes across as a writer with a huge heart who can even  make many of his villains endearing.

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