What a journey! I don’t know what I was thinking waiting this long to read this novel. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for almost 10 months and has been out for over a decade! In the last few months I finally heard enough about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell to pick it up and read the tome that it is. (AKA the boyfriend wants to watch the new TV adaptation and I said I couldn’t until I read the book.)
I am most definitely beating myself up for not reading it sooner. Sure I was a bit scared of the length, hello doorstop clocking in at 846 pages, but I was even more concerned with the comparisons to Dickens! How wrong I was; how wrong I was. For some reason I let this one comparison (I still think Dickens needed an editor) blind me from the wondrousness that was this book.
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).
In a further attempt to get a few more posts up while I’m on vacation I went to my TBR shelf and found I had two more Paulo Coelho novels yet to go so I grabbed them to read. They’re always easily written, well translated and fascinatingly beautiful and The Witch of Portobello (Amazon link), was no exception. I’m actually not sure when I picked up this book as I can’t find a photo of it, so I’m going to assume it was sometime in 2011 right after I read The Alchemist.
Every time I read a book by Coelho, I find myself wondering about and searching for my spirituality. Whether he is talking about the Mother or organized religion (usually not), Coelho has a way of writing incredibly complex ideas and intricate narratives that is so simple and beautiful that it’s almost breath-taking. I do wonder if it is even more beautiful in his native Portuguese, how can it be so incredibly beautiful translated into English and not be beyond beautiful originally. So that being said, some credit must, obviously, be given to Margaret Jull Costa who has translated other works by Coelho including Veronika Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes (my next read) and many works by José Saramago including Seeing.
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.
I would love to say this is the only vampire inspired fan fiction of Jane Austen I have on my shelf, but it’s not. I won this in a blog raffle from the Mount TBR Challenge back in 2013 hosted by Bev of My Reader’s Block. (I also have a copy of Jane and the Damned, and I’ll be damned if I remember where I got that. Get it? HA!) Regardless, I am familiar with this Michael Thomas Ford through his book, Last Summer, and I was excited to start this one! That being said, his humor and ability to write great characters continues through this novel (Amazon link).
This was such a delightful read! As much as I love the original novels and some times shake my head at the spin-offs and fan fiction novels, this might be one of the best I’ve read! Ford takes Austen-mania, the seemingly constant competitiveness of the Janeites and Brontëites and even the book blogger phenomena, to such an extreme that you can’t help but laugh throughout. (Spoilers ahead!)
23 days! 23 DAYS! That is how long it took me to read this book and it really shouldn’t have.
Sure it was over 1,000 pages and it took almost 200 pages to hit the “OMG I have to finish reading this” point, but it definitely shouldn’t have taken this long. It was very well written and the story (Amazon link) was fascinating. Unfortunately due to work and trying to edit my podcast it just took me forever.
You might be wondering why I didn’t just give up? Well, that’s complicated you see. A certain someone, who recommended Last Summer and The Bitterweed Path, also recommended this and I promised I would read at least one book every other month that he recommended. And like I said above, it wasn’t a bad book, it probably just wasn’t the best time for me to read this particular book. I’m definitely glad I read it and will read the sequels to complete the series and find out WTF happened!