Book 382: Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - Sense and SensibilityFor our fifth installment of Jane Austen Book Club we read Sense and Sensibility (S&S). Not only is this book the penultimate book of this year’s book group, it is my last Austen re-read for the Classics Club! That makes it my 42 Classics Club book and I’m glad to still be slowly chipping away. Goodreads reminds me I’m 29 books behind schedule from my original Classics Club start date, but I abandoned the five-year plan ages ago. I figured I should enjoy the Classics when I want to enjoy them and not force myself to meet some arbitrary time limit.

Like all of Austen, I’m confused why I haven’t re-read this in so long. Obviously, there are so many other books to read, but it went by so fast and the story is just so great that I really should make an effort to re-read more than just Pride and Prejudice (P&P) every so often!

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Book 362: Mansfield Park – Jane Austen

Mansfield Park - Jane AustenLucky for you I’ve re-read this for our Jane Austen Book Club, so you get to hear about it again, almost exactly three years after I last read it.

Following Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813) this was Austen’s third published novel in 1814 and it is a clear shift away from the whimsy and light previous novels. I talk about this in my last response, but I wonder if this has to do with feedback from the first two novels or if it’s her own personal experience and maturation as an adult. We already know that when Austen published Emma, her fourth work, in 1815 that she was comfortable with sassing her critics. She openly says at the start of Emma that she’s writing a character NO ONE can dislike, because so many people disliked Fanny, or Fanny’s decisions.

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Book 352: Persuasion – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - PersuasionI don’t know how I let myself go so long without re-reading Persuasion, I forgot how much I loved it. I think I last read it in 2008/2009 so almost six years ago! It makes me even happier we’re doing Jane Austen Book Club this year and we chose this as our third installment.

It is difficult to say whether I preferred the unrequited/long-lost love of this story or Austen’s caustic wit more. The story of course revolves around Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, who were in love and were almost engaged, but do to external factors (rude ass relatives and friends) it wasn’t to be. They meet again eight years later and the story picks up from there, so of course, SWOON. And in competition here were so many great one-liners and zingers (none of which I wrote down) about the aristocracy and the landed gentry that I couldn’t help but be torn between laughing and holding my breath! If I were forced to chose…nope, can’t do it.

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Book 339: Emma – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - EmmaFor book two of our Jane Austen Book Club, my friends and I decided to conquer Emma (Amazon Affiliate link). It has always been my least favorite of the six and reading Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education both confirmed that and helped me get around this problem. His talking about Emma and it’s belief in the importance of every day trivialities, as well as Margaret Drabble’s excellent introduction led me to think about the book differently.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still boring as anything in most points, but Austen wrote it this way. According tot Drabble, Austen wrote this novel in such excruciating detail in direct response to the detractors of her previously published novel Mansfield Park, which I love. Drabble says, “This is domestic realism almost with a vengeance.” (xix) AND it is! The hyper focus on every detail, the incredibly limited scope of setting, characters and even conversation topics is overwhelmingly mundane. It is an assault on the senses, and as a fellow JABC member said “i’m diagnosing myself with ’emma-induced narcolepsy.'” (Thanks Dalton!)

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Book 331: Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - Northanger AbbeyContinuing my “Jane-uary” theme, I’ve just finished Northanger Abbey in time for our Jane Austen Book Club (JABC) discussion, which was unfortunately postponed due to a blizzard here in Boston. In addition, this acts as my revitalization of my Classics Club attempt. I apparently only read two books last year. How embarrassing! I’ll read at least six this year with the JABC so that’s a bonus.

Let’s start with I’m ashamed to admit I forgot how absolutely lovable and amazing Henry Tilney is! This is one of the two Austen books I’ve only read once and that is will most definitely change in the future. On the scale of Austen heroes he’s always been lost in the non-Mr. Darcy fray for me. I think he is still behind Darcy, but his bookishness and (what I see as his) disdain for social norms made me laugh on numerous occasions!

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Book 292: The Bridge Over the River Kwai – Pierre Boulle

Boulle, Pierre, - The Bridge Over the River KwaiAnother great selection from my library’s Books into Movies book group. I’m not the biggest fan of war novels and I wasn’t convinced I would enjoy this one, but the writing was simple and easy to read and the juxtaposition/tension between the captured/surrendered British troops and the British commandos was enough to keep me flipping sides about the bridge throughout!

The book centers around the building of the Burma-Siam railway during World War II and specifically around the building of the bridge over the river Kwai, a fictional river in Thailand. I could not remember which modern country was Siam until this past weekend when we walked past a Thai restaurant called House of Siam! I should probably be embarrassed I couldn’t remember that, but let’s blame it on my American-ness and complete lack of knowledge around most Asiatic countries and cultures.

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Book 285: The Grifters – Jim Thompson

Thompson, Jim - The GriftersI hope you never get tired of hearing it, but books like this are why I’m so glad Caroline and I took the chance and joined the random book group at our local library. I know I would never have picked up this book (and most of the books we read). They’re so different and I’ve enjoyed almost all that we’ve read! Sometimes, I’m not so sure about the book or I’m hesitant about the movie, but this book was great and I can’t wait to see how they adapt it to the film!

Like usual going into this month’s book I had no set expectations and knew very little about it. I vaguely knew it was about con artists, but that was about it. When I picked up my copy from the library I was tickled to see the pulp-fiction cover, who wouldn’t be? But that cover definitely made me seriously look forward to reading it, not to mention it was under 200 pages, and I blazed through the book.

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