The Classics Club – Year One

imgpressSo it’s been a year since I joined the Classics Club. I had decided early on that I didn’t want to join the Classics Club since I had so much going on already and a lot of commitments, both connected to which books I wanted to read and the rest of life.
But people kept on writing about the Classics Club and they seemed to enjoy themselves so much that I started to feel left out. I also love making to-do lists (although not necessary doing what they say) so the whole idea of making a list of books I wanted to read, was very appealing to me.
So yeah, I caved and I joined and I made a list of 50 books that I want to read before September 2017.
And now, a year has gone by and where has it left me. I have read 8 books so far which is not quite as much as I would have liked to. But it has been wonderful books – see the list below.

Richard Adams: Watership Down. (5 stars)

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey (4 stars)

Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (4 stars)

Alexander Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo (5 stars)

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby. (5 stars)

Victor Hugo: Les Misérables. (5 stars)

Toni Morrison: Beloved (5 stars)

Virginia Woolf: Orlando (5 stars)

So yeah, it has been amazing books. Only two of them got below 5 stars – and I’m thinking now that I might have been a bit harsh because I remember them both very fondly. It has just been such amazing reads so I’m really looking forth to the next 42 books on my list. I’ll try to get a lot read during this next year so I’ll be on target with my reading of this list.
So while that has been good, what hasn’t been as good is my general participation level in the club. I have participated in one of the monthly memes, just one. And that is a bit shabby. I’ve never really explored all the wonderful reviews I know has been written for the club by it’s members – and I hope to explore that more during the next year too.
So what I can conclude after this my first year is, that I have read some wonderful books but if I’m not participating more in the various club activities, I could just as well have made a list completely on my own and not be in a club. And that’s a shame. So my goal for the next year is to read many, many more wonderful books from my list and to try and be an active member of the club.

Oh and I promise I’ll write the last reviews soon – it’s a bit shameful that I have only written 4 reviews out of 8 when I loved all the books and really want to convince everyone else to read them!!

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Jane Austen: Mansfield Park (review)

jane-austen-mansfield-park-penguin-0140430164-1787-p[ekm]200x300[ekm]I have a serious pet peeve with classics. Well, it’s not really a pet peeve – it’s a huge annoyance that almost ruins the books completely. I’m of course talking about how classics tend to come with introductions. And I don’t mind introductions per se. What I do mind, is when introductions spoils the book. In my edition of this book, the ending is told on the first page of the introduction. First line that talks directly about the book and it’s main character Fanny Price, tells us how it ends. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the ending is further spoiled in the notes to the text. One note not only reveals the ending but even adds details to how that ending is accomplished – and since Jane Austen doesn’t always write the most elaborate endings, this note almost writes as much as she does herself.
All this of course is part of the ongoing discussion about whether a book can be spoiled when it’s 200 years since it was published. And the answer is of course that it can. Now, I’m all for that people should be allowed to discuss these books and I think it’s wonderful when classics come with introductions written by scholars. I just think these introductions should be put at the end of the book – or at least come with a warning about how they are going to talk about specific plot points and that you might want to wait and not read it until you have finished reading the novel itself.
So with all that in mind, I’ll try to explain what this novel is about without spoiling it!
10 years old Fanny Price is taken in by her wealthy aunt and uncle, mister Thomas, and allowed to come live at Mansfield Park along with her cousins, two boys and two girls. From the start It is made clear that Fanny is lucky to have been allowed to live there and that she in no way should feel herself equal to her cousins even though she is raised together with the two girls. And she doesn’t. Fanny is a quiet type, an introvert. She is quite content with being allowed to just live there, helping out anyway she can and otherwise just leading a quiet life, trying not to draw any attention to herself.
But as she grows older, things start to change. A sister and a brother, the Crawfords, moves in and start socializing with the young people at Mansfield Park. The brother is something of a womanizer and quickly manages to get the sisters fighting over him. His sister flirts with the eldest brother, the heir to Mansfield Park who is something of a charlatan. When the master of Mansfield Park goes away on business, he takes his eldest son with him to try to install some sense in him, This leaves his youngest son Edmund and even though miss Crawford has claimed only to be interested in an heir, she still falls in love with Edmund – and he with her.
Which leaves Fanny in a sad position since she has been in love with Edmund for years.
Of course there’s also a rather nasty other aunt who is constantly putting Fanny down as well as putting herself forward as the one making sure everything is in order and that everything is proper. And this being Austen, there’s ill-considered marriages, elopements and just well-written goodness, sarcasm and humor.
This is only a small outline of what the novel is about because of course, since this is Jane Austen, there’s so much more to the plot. This is not just a love story or a tale of unrequited love. This is Austen, baby, and she always has something to say. Something more. Her pen is always sharp and spot on. In this novel, she discusses good and bad marriages, and how to accomplish them – and how not. She talks about the whole issue with having to secure the younger brother a position and an income. Jane Austen knows her time and she shows it to us so we knows it too. Even in one of her not quite as good novels.
So yeah, Mansfield Park, not her best novel, but you know what – I really like Jane Austen no matter what and she’s always recommended!

  • Title: Mansfield Park
  • Author: Jane Austen
  • Publisher: The Penguin English Library
  • Year: 1973 (original 1814)
  • Pages: 462 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Related posts:

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey (review)

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Jane Austen is not on my list of favorite authors – or even on my list of potential favorite authors. And maybe that’s wrong. Jane Austen rocks! Yes, she died almost 200 years ago in 1817 but she is one cool lady. She is so sarcastic and irreverent and just such a good writer.
From page 1 of this book, I was in love. At that point it wasn’t with the characters or the story or anything but with the writing, with the sarcasm. Look at how she starts the novel: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.’ And then this quote: ‘Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and what is more remarkable, with a good consitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bring the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on – lived to have six children more – to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads, and arms, and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the world, for they were in general very plain, and Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any.’ These are both from the first page of the book and already, she had me smiling and thoroughly enjoying myself – and reaching for my phone to write down all of these great quotes.
Northanger Abbey is the story of young Catherine Morland who grows up in a loving but plain family. She loves to read, especially gothic literature like The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. So when she gets the chance of going on an adventure of her own, even if it is only to go with her parent’s friends to Bath, she immediately accepts.
However, Bath turns out to be rather dull at first. But soon, she not only means a very nice young man, Henry Tilney, but also makes a new friend in Isabella Thorpe. And when Isabella and Catherine’s brother falls in love, Catherine is ecstatic. That is, until she is introduced to Isabella’s brother and kind of expected to fall in love with him as well.
But Catherine is more interested in Henry Tilney and luckily, he also has a sister she can become friends with. And when Isabella starts acting strange towards Catherine’s brother – and starts flirting with Henry Tilney’s brother, Catherine is very unhappy.
Luckily, she is inviting to go with the Tilneys to their home, Northanger Abbey, a place Catherine is certain is exactly as the abbeys she read about in her favorite books. And if that’s not the case, luckily Catherine has a great imagination and can invent gothic events that might have taken place there…
I really enjoyed this novel. The story was pretty straightforward, young lovers who are twarted etc., but the way Austen wrote it, is exquisite. This one ranks very high on my list of favorite Austens – probably right below Pride and Prejudice. It was just so playful that I could imagine Austen writing it with a smile on her lips all the time. Humorous, ironic, sarcastic, witty, playful – just entertaining in that particular Austen way. Quotes like this ‘A woman, especially if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.’ makes me want to get to read more about Jane Austen, to get to know her better. She really shows herself in this novel – and I enjoyed that.
And it didn’t hurt that she also spent several pages defending the reading of novels. ‘Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom, so common with novel writers, of degrading, by their contemptuous censure, the very performances to the number of which they are themselves adding: joining wiht their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroines, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve it! and a bit later about novels ‘some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of with and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.\ Austen likes her novels and she lets her heroine have many talks about books and authors with the people around her, even makes a bit of fun about one who doesn’t know who the author of his favorite books are. And what also fascinated me was, how she at the same time defended novels and the reading of them while also showing what happens when a vivid imagination fed by books and not constrained by any grasp on what the world is really like, is let loose in a gothic setting. This is probably meant to be more of a critique of the limited options for young women to be acquainted with the world, the people in it and the games they play than it is a critique of books and reading. Or definitely so.
This novel does read as a bit less developed than the most popular Austen books (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma. But whether that’s because it’s one of her first novels or because she plays with the trope of the gothic novel, I’m not sure. What I do know is, that I really enjoyed it and I loved the playfulness of it. Even though the ending is quite as expected, she does write it with a bit of a twist in the writing, not the plot. It could be seen as taking the easy way out but to me, it just worked.
I love Jane Austen!

I read this novel for The Classics Club and for Austen in August. Two birds with one stone!

  • Title: Northanger Abbey
  • Author: Jane Austen
  • Publisher: Penguin Popular Classics
  • Year: 1994 (original 1818)
  • Pages: 236 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

Related posts (other books read for The Classics Club):

Austen in August

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So all this month, there has been a party over at the Roofbeam Reader blog. A party with a Jane Austen theme. Adam is hosting Austen in August and I’ve been wanting to join in all month. But it’s now August 25 and it’s not until now that I get everything enough together to actually proclaim my interest in the event and show the blogging world that I want to participate.
And I do! Very much so!
And I have already finished one novel by Austen, Northanger Abbey. I bought Mansfield Park earlier this year and when I discovered a read-along of it, I decided to join in. I was actually ready to start it a few days before the official start but then I read the review of Northanger Abbey at Estella’s Revenge and thought that I definitely wanted to read that one. And when I went to add it to my wish list, I discovered that I already owned it…! (Don’t tell anybody that I had forgotten about buying it!) And then I thought that I could easily manage to read that short novel before the read-along of Mansfield Park. Well, I couldn’t. I finished Northanger Abbey last night and am now ready to start Mansfield Park – and even though I really liked Northanger Abbey, I kind of regret the decision of reading two Austen novels right after each other. But too late to change that now.
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After finishing Mansfield Park, I’ll only have one of Austen’s finished novels left, Persuasion. I have liked them all with Pride and Prejudice being my favorite (and not just because of Colin Firth…!) and Sense and Sensibility my least favorite. I am really looking forward to rereading, well actually all of these. I kind of feel like I missed something in Sense and Sensibility since I didn’t like it all that much – and I really want to read about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy again!
Maybe for next year’s Austen in August event.
(Actually I’m a bit confused about whether there are two Austen in August events – one at Roofbeam Reader and another at The Book Rat? Or if they are co-hosting? Whatever the deal, I’m reading Austen in the second half of August and I’m enjoying it. I plan on posting my review of Northanger Abbey tomorrow! Fingers crossed!)

Library Sale (Book Buying 2013 – part 3)

So good thing I don’t have a book buying ban this year because if I did, I would have failed it miserably so many times already that it’s almost unbelievable. But what’s a girl to do when there’s temptations everywhere?

Like this Saturday, we were visiting my mother in my old home town and there was a sale at the local library, the library where I spend a good part of my childhood. So of course, we had to go check out the sales – especially because the books were sold for less than a dollar each (= 5 kroner).

So here’s what my boyfriend carried home for me:

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A couple of years ago my boyfriend and I were in London and watched The Phantom of the Opera. It was an incredible experience so I’m really looking forward to reading this and seeing if it is as good.

The Martin Amis book I really want to read, is Time’s Arrow. But when I saw this one, I thought I might as well give it a try. I really want to like Amis and I’ve only read one book by him, Dead Babies, which I didn’t like so it will be interesting to see what I think about this one.

I have read Pride and PrejudiceSense and Sensibility and Emma and they were all good books. So I’m so looking forward to Mansfield Park!

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I don’t know anything about this Vladimir Nabokov novel but it is by Vladimir Nabokov so I thought it’s probably worth reading.

Dea Trier Mørch’s novel Vinterbørn (Winter’s Childwas published in 1976 and is a realistic portrait of Denmark in the 70s, told from the point of view of several different women. I watched the movie several times as a child and loved it so I’m looking forward to reading the novel.

Tove Ditlevsen is kind of a Danish Sylvia Plath. A woman, poet and writer, who ended up committing suicide. I have never read any of her works but I know of some of her poems because a Danish pop singer released an album where she sung some of Ditlevsen’s poems. This novel is called Man gjorde et barn fortræd (A child was hurt), about child molestation.

This, Barndommens Gade, is probably the most well-known poem by Tove Ditlevsen (probably only interesting for people understanding Danish):

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Rushdie, Fitzgerald & Austen

So yeah, I’ve been book shopping again. And I really shouldn’t. It’s not like I haven’t got enough books to read. I really haven’t anything to say in my defense – except, well, it’s books and I love books. I was at the university for a job interview and of course, had to visit the book store. Here’s what I got.

Salam Rushdie: Midnight’s Children

Salman Rushdie is a very fascinating man. I follow him on twitter and he always has something interesting to say. He has written a lot of books and I’ve only read one of them so far, The Satanic Verse. This was one of those books where I felt, that I wasn’t clever enough – or at least hadn’t enough knowledge about it’s subject. I’ve been wanting to read Midnight’s Children for several years and I hope to get around to reading it even though I already have one Rushdie novel on my list of books I want to read this year. Rushdie is an author that I really hope I can get into – his books sounds so good. Besides, Midnight’s Children won the Booker of Bookers in 2008 – as well as the Best of Bookers in 1993 after first winning the Man Booker Prize in 1981.

About the book:

Born at the stroke of midnight at the exact moment of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is a special child. However, this coincidence of birth has consequences he is not prepared for: telepathic powers connect him with 1,000 other ‘midnight’s children’ all of whom are endowed with unusual gifts. Inextricably linked to his nation, Saleem’s story is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of modern India at its most impossible and glorious.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

Years ago I watched The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford. I didn’t get it. I don’t remember anything from it except that it was Robert Redford. I think it’s one of those stories that you can’t appreciate before you reach a certain level of maturity. I’ve read some interesting reviews of this recently and I think – or at least hope – that I have reached a high enough level of maturity now to get it. By the way, I noticed that this year there’s new movie version of this story out – of course with Leonardo di Caprio …

About the book:

The parties at Gatsby’s Long Island mansion were legendarily glamorous affairs. Yet amid the throng of guests, starlets and champagne waiters, their host would appear oddly aloof. For there was only one person Jay Gatsby sought to impress. She was Daisy Buchanan: married, elegant, seducing men with a silken charisma and ‘a voice … full of money’. As Gatsby pursues shady deals and his doomed obsession with Daisy, F. Scott Fitzgerald distills the essence of the Jazz Age, and probes to the empty heart of the American Dream.

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey

I’ve read three of Jane Austen’s novels so far – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma. I liked them all three – I preferred Pride and Prejudice (although I think I prefer P & P with Colin Firth). I’m looking forward to reading this one. There’s just something about Austen, I like. Even though this book on the surface doesn’t sound special, I’m sure it is good since it’s Austen.

About the book:

Catherine Morland, an unremarkable tomboy as a child, is thrown amongst all the ‘difficulties and dangers’ of Bath at the ripe age of seventeen. Armed with an unworldly charm and a vivic imagination, she must overcome the caprices of elegant society, encountering along the way such characters as the vacuous Mrs Allen, coquettish Isabella and the brash bully John Thorpe. Catherine’s invitation to Northanger Abbey, in her eyes a haven of coffins, skeletons and other Gothic devices, does lead to an adventure, though one she didn’t expect, and her misjudgement of the ambitious, somewhat villainous General Tilney is not wholly unjustified. However, with the aid of the ‘unromantic’ hero Henry Tilney, Catherine gradually progresses towards maturity and self-knowledge.

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