Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A few little reviews...

It has come to my notice that it is December, and there are only 27 days left this year.  I have almost 20 reviews to write for A Century of Books... oops, didn't work this out very well, did I?  (Well, I still have 10 books to read - but I have 4 of them on the go already.)  So I'm going to rush through five of them today - books that, for one reason or another, I didn't want to write whole posts about.  But do still free to comment on them!


Daddy Long-Legs (1912) by Jean Webster
An orphaned girl is given a scholarship by a mysterious, anonymous man - she has only seen his back - and one of the conditions is that she must write updates to him, without getting any replies.  She nicknames him Daddy Long-Legs.  Can you guess what happens?  Well, I shan't give away the ending.  I was mostly surprised at how modern this children's book felt, despite being a hundred years old - a lot of it would have been at home in a Jacqueline Wilson story.  I enjoyed it, but did find it a little creepy, and rather repetitive, but these are probably signs of not having read it when I was the target age.

Metamorphosis (1915) by Franz Kafka
Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to discover that he is an enormous bug.  Which is going to make his job as a salesman somewhat difficult.  The reason I'm not giving this novella/short story its own review is that I don't feel I have anything new to say about it.  Kafka is famed for his matter-of-fact approach to the surreality in this story, and rightly so.  What surprised me here was how middlebrow it all felt.  It is definitely comparable to David Garnett's Lady Into Fox - which actually seems to have greater pretensions to literariness.

Married Love (1918) by Marie Stopes
Another one which surprised me - I'd always heard that Marie Stopes started a sexual revolution in the UK, offering knowledge about sex to the everywoman for the first time.  Turns out she is much more conservative, and less revelatory, than a lot of the other guides written around the same time, and earlier.  I read these guides for my current DPhil chapter, by the way - my favourite so far being the person who argued that sexual intercourse and reproduction were acceptable as separate impulses, because protozoa separated them.  Sure, why not?  (I wonder if I've just made all sorts of inappropriate search terms for this blog now...)

Miss Hargreaves: the play (1952) by Frank Hargreaves
This is something of a cheat, since it was never published - but it was performed, with Margaret Rutherford in the lead role.  Tanya tipped me off that copies of all performed plays were in the Lord Chamberlain's archives in the British Library - so I had the great privilege and pleasure of reading the play, with Baker's own penned changes.  It's pretty similar to the novel, only with the action restricted to a few settings.  Such fun!

V. Sackville West (1973) by Michael Stevens
I'm a sucker for a short biography, and I hadn't read one of VSW before, so I gave this one a whirl.  It's a critical biography, so Stevens discusses and analyses the work while giving an outline of VSW's life.  About halfway through I thought, "this feels way too much like a doctoral dissertation."  Turns out it was a doctoral dissertation.  I think I'll be turning to a more charismatic writer for my next biography of Vita, as this one was rather prosaic and charmless, although very thoroughly researched.

Right, well that's five down!  How are the other Century of Bookers getting on?


21 comments:

  1. I thought Daddy Long-Legs was creepy as all get-out.

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  2. I am planning a couple of these multi-book review posts to get through the odds and ends of my Century picks myself. The four or five Heyer books I've read will certainly all be lumped together in one post and I've got a couple of children's books that I don't have a lot to say about. That should give me the time to devote more brain power to writing more thorough reviews for the books I really care about doing justice to, like AAM's Michael and Mary and Ann Thwaite's AAM biography. After all the hours I've spent writing about AAM this year, I could hardly fob those books off with only a paragraph!

    I'm up to 92 books read and 82 reviewed. It is hard to believe it'll all be over by the end of the month!

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    1. Very much looking forward to your post on Ann Thwaite's book, which I love very much! No, you definitely couldn't fob it off with a paragraph - I'd be enraged ;)

      I'm 90, with 86 reviewed... so close, so close!

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  3. I read Daddy Long-Legs when I was the target age and I think the creepiness passed me by - I was more interested in the girl's life at college! It had the charm of foreignness and being in the past. I was a sucker for that sort of thing.

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    1. Aren't we all, still! I do sometimes see creepy where nobody else does (e.g. Emma)

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  4. If you think DLL-the-book is creepy, don't see DLL-the-film, with a charming, but far too old, Fred Astaire!

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    1. Eek! Definitely giving that one a wide berth...
      I thought that a new film had come out, but I couldn't find any info on imdb.

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  5. DLL. Hmmm. Yes, I enjoyed it a lot, at around age 12, so decided to ignore the aspects I didn't like, mainly, the concept of writing all those letters all those years and receiving no replies. Another girl (say, me) would have given up.

    Like the follow-up, Dear Enemy (a friend of Judy's is put in charge of an orphanage and clashes with the institute's doctor). Charming book, except for the parts that make me ask, Did good people really have those values??

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    1. The tantrums she shows at not getting a reply is realistic!
      I don't think I'll be tracking down the sequel just yet...

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  6. You *are* doing well with all the reading, Simon! I was interested in your response to Metamorphosis which I re-read recently and I think you bring out an important point - if a work has been so much studied and discussed, it is sometimes hard to justify writing about it yet again unless there is something new to say. I tried very hard not just to regurgitate, but you don't want to fall into the trap of just saying how great a book is! Quite a difficult line to walk, I think!

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    1. I agree! That's why I'm blessed by mostly reading obscure books :) I also wonder how necessary it is to include plot, with some well known books. Far easier to pick the ones nobody has heard about! If I'd felt passionate either way about Metamorphosis, I imagine I'd have put together a post, but, as it is...

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  7. I think I'm reasonably on track for half-way through, which is what I intended - I've got one of these multi-book reviews partly written at the moment. I've certainly enjoyed the focus on the twentieth century this year, but I didn't want to ignore newer books altogether.
    I find Metamorphosis nausea-inducing and therefore very hard to read - much prefer Lady into Fox!

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    1. Well done!
      I have felt the lack of modern books a bit myself - but I'm definitely looking forward to doing ACOB again one year, maybe 2014.
      I also much prefer Lady Into Fox, largely for the same reason you do!

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  8. Simon, when you're ready for a good biography of VSW, try Victoria Glendinning's.

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    1. Ah, yes - I think I might even have that somewhere...

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  9. Well I saw the movie version of DLL first, so I don't remember finding the book creepy. Love some of the music in the movie, though. I'm still loitering around 41 on my century reading. Hope to finish next year.
    Kudos to you and Claire for being nearly done!

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    1. Did they do it as a musical?
      Well done for being on track!

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  10. And I completely forgot to mention how much I appreciated this drawing! It is worthy of a little framed space on the bookshelf. :)

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  11. I'm almost on track for my short-version century of books- 9 decades read and 8 reviewed. Got a little side-tracked with other reading projects, but am getting back on track.

    I have been wanting to read Daddy-Long-Legs, but I think I would also find it a bit creepy, judging by how I felt about Claudine in Paris.

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