After a two month hiatus I am back with the 45th book from my Classics Club list. That’s 45% of my list done and I’m only 32 books behind schedule ;-)
Going into Bel Ami I thought I knew what the book was about, but I wasn’t aware it had a subtitle, The History of a Scoundrel, which would’ve told me I was in no way correct!
If I’m honest I chose Bel Ami because it was short and accessible on my phone. (Thank you Kindle iPhone app, this isn’t the first time you’ve saved me from boredom.) I forgot the next book I wanted to read and an hour is a long time for lunch so I started this and read it pretty quickly. You’d think I would use lunch and my commute to catch up on my 10+ hours of back logged podcasts to listen to, but no why would I do that when there are more books to read!?
I’m not sure what it is about Brontë fan-fiction, but they’re just not as whimsical as the Austen fan-fiction. Looking at the subject matters and general ambiance of the works and the author’s lives it is fairly obvious, but when you think about it the options for fan-fiction are limitless. I picked this book (Amazon link) up in late 2012 and have finally gotten around to reading it.
The only other Brontë fan-fiction I’ve read include Solsbury Hill and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë and they were both a bit ho-hum. I did enjoy the vilification of Charlotte in Michael Thomas Ford’s Jane Fairfax trilogy (here, here and here), but that could be the problem. Emily and Anne died so early and Charlotte had so much time to cultivate/purge their images in society that it’s all about Charlotte and not the rest of the family. (“What’s more, she [Charlotte] has become adept at spinning her own legend and constructing her image before the public.” (59) – and I would even argue spinning Emily and Anne’s images, obviously). Even this novel, whose main character, Sara, is in love with Wuthering Heights ends up being predominantly about Charlotte.
As with 99% of the Classics I’ve read, I’m wondering what took me so long to read this one! Not only is it under 200 pages, but it’s quick and fascinating read. Add in that Shelley was only 19 when she wrote it and I’m like WHOA. This is my second Classic’s Club book this month, so yay for finally making progress on that again.
As when I read Dracula, I was surprised at how much of Frankenstein’s story was different from what has become the common perception of Frankenstein and his monster in pop-culture.I am happy to report that my reading of this coincided really well with other books I’ve read that are fan-fiction pieces, like Meghan Shepherd’s A Cold Legacy, and tangentially related books about the authors and their connections like another piece of fan-fiction, like Michael Thomas Ford’s Jane Fairfax Trilogy (Jane Bites Back in particular).
Again, I’m not sure when I picked up this and The Witch of Portobello, but I’m assuming sometime back in 2011 as I mention them in a post as far back as my May 2012 update. I once again ask why I don’t read more of his and why I put it off for so long between reading his works. He said something in the forward, that struck me,
“Some books make us dream, others bring us face to face with reality, but what matters most to the author is the honesty with which a book is written.”
Having now read six of Coelho’s many published works it is easy to see he truly lives by this. His stories make you dream and bring you face-to-face with reality, and every one of them have an honesty that is hard to find in so many authors’ works. I have yet to read a book written by him that didn’t touch me in some way whether it was on a spiritual or inspirational level or on a cognitive level.
Book three of the Jane Fairfax trilogy just didn’t live up to Jane Bites Back or Jane Goes Batty. That being said, there were some great moments, but overall it just wasn’t as light or as fun. As an end to the trilogy, it did a decent job wrapping everything up as it should and leaving enough room to keep going if Ford ever decides he wants to write more, but I doubt I’ll read more.
Rather than keeping the story in Upstate New York, Ford takes the traveling circus that is Jane Austen’s new life on the road. From Jane’s best friend, Lucy, to the future mother in law Miriam, everyone who is important either goes along or is named dropped at some point. Ford again introduces a cast of quirky minor characters, but this time they felt lightweight and fluffy. There wasn’t a lot of substance to many of them and I was left wanting.
Now THIS is how you end a trilogy. I assume this is the end, but I guess it could start-up again. Peaches for Father Francis picks up four years after the events of The Girl With No Shadow and eight years after the original Chocolat. I’m still so happy that I found out this was a series and that I took the time to read the second and third novels, even if it did put me behind on a few other books!
What I enjoyed most about this novel is that the magic once again took a back seat to a larger social conflict. In the middle novel, The Girl With No Shadow, magic took the front seat and that was great because middle novels are always sort of meh, but in having the magic return to less of a focal point the story, I felt, evolved much more naturally.
As I said in my response to Chocolat, I had no idea there were sequels and I’m so glad I decided to read them. I haven’t started the third, Peaches for Father Frances, but I’m excited to start it soon.
Harris takes the story of Vianne and Anouk we followed in Chocolat and expands the age-old battle between good and evil. Instead of the church, this time Vianne and Anouk, now Yanne and Annie, are battling evil itself and magic takes an even more prominent role in this story than in the first. And I was glad she did! She writes about magic in such a way as to make it beautifully common.
“It took me a little longer to recognize these things as magic. Like all children reared on stories, I’d expected fireworks: magic wands and broomstick rides. The real magic of my mother’s books seemed so dull, so fustily academic, with its silly incantations and its pompous old men, that it hardly counted as magic at all.” (67)
Beautifully common, might sound like an oxymoron or an insult, but it’s not. Harris’ writes about it so matter of fact and sets it up that way in this novel, common usage versus evil usage, that you can’t help but appreciate the beauty of the magic she chooses to write about.