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 (Amazon link) 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).
I did it! I finally finished! After almost exactly a month to the day that I started the infamous Don Quixote I finished it. I recapped Part 1 last week because I knew I would struggle to remember everything in it due to how long it took to just read that part but now I’m ready to recap Part 2!
I thoroughly enjoyed Part 2 of Don Quixote. I didn’t enjoy it for the same reasons as I enjoyed Part 1, but it was as great. I think the biggest difference is Cervantes, if possible, was even MORE aware of his works impact on culture and literature. He took the jibes and teasing in Part 1 and turned them into full-blown sarcasm and satire in Part 2. I think a lot of this is in direct response to the “fake Don Quixote,” published before he could release Part 2 and I talk about that in my Reading Spain, AKA an Homage to Miguel de Cervantes post (about half way through under the Biblioteca Nacional Museo section).
After slogging my way through the first half of this infamous book (Amazon link) I decided to break my response into two parts. (Click here for Part 2.) This wasn’t planned, obviously, but coming in at 982 pages it may as well be two books, so I figured why not. (I’m still only going to count it as one book though.) I’ve split this for two reasons: I doubt I’ll remember the first half by time I finish the second and I have so much to talk about related to Miguel Cervantes and Spain, Madrid in particular, it just makes sense.
I first read portions of Don Quixote in my high school Spanish class. It was one of the only works that we read in English and in Spanish. I don’t remember the overwhelming majority of it. The only part I do remember is what has become so much a part of the modern psyche, “tilting at windmills” (Wikipedia link) that I can’t even say for sure it’s from reading the book or just from hearing it so often. It’s sad, but that’s all I remember. What’s interesting is how much more of an analytical reader I’ve become and how I took so much more appreciation from the novel’s absurdity and Cervantes’ critiques on novels and literature in general.
Book three (Amazon link) 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.
When I finished this I did a little wiggle in my seat and clapped my hands. Some times I really do wonder about my sanity.
Having finished Jane Bites Back I immediately got a copy of the next two, this book (Amazon link) and Jane Vows Vengeance from the library – YAY Kindle! I didn’t read this one quite as fast as the last one even though I was working from home, but it was just as well written and hilariously fun!
What I took out of this novel was how great Ford is at caricatures, not only of characters but of ideas and fads. I spoke about the Janeites and Brontëites in the last novel and how he brought those together, but he does it even better in this novel. There’s a giant love festival, don’t ask, and the culmination is a game between the two. Originally a softball match, it ultimately is a croquet match, fitting right, and the descriptions and tension are hilarious.
And done. I’m not sure why so many people had such negative responses to the books. I thought this was an interesting follow-up, almost 15 years later, to Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Edge of Reason. The characters are 15-ish years older and so is everything else: technology, their worries and their troubles. I wasn’t sure how the frazzled frankness of the first two would translate into a different world completely, but I thought it worked.
Unfortunately, I did find out ahead of time what happened in the novel (Amazon link) before I read it so it wasn’t as much of a draw dropping moment as it could have been. In all honesty though, it wasn’t that much of a plot twist when you think of everything that could happen in the span of 15 years! All of this being said, there will be spoilers after the cut so don’t read past the break if you don’t want to know what happens!
The only other Hornby I’ve read is High Fidelity (the film adaptation was meh). And I loved the film adaptation of About A Boy, so I wasn’t sure where this novel would go. I hadn’t planned on reading it, but one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, announced they were going to do an episode a few months ago so I put it on hold and timed it almost perfectly to listen! (I missed the exact episode by a little less than week.)
I think the podcast hit the nail on the head when they talked about the story (Amazon link) being more focused on “the show [Barabara (and Jim)] rather than the funny girl of the title, Barbara/Sophie. But what Hornby didn’t do, was show us the show; he only ever referred to specific gags, situations or dialogue. Someone on PCHH said it should’ve been called “The Show” and I can’t agree more. It would be a better title and I would definitely have chosen to read it if that were the title too!