I picked this novel up back in November 2012, and as is usually the case, I’m sad I didn’t read it sooner. I enjoyed Brooks’ March, but apparently not enough to buy and read the rest of her works immediately. Check out the synopsis here (Amazon link).
Zombies may be all the rage these days, but plague has been around and written about for so much longer. Zombies, according to Wikipedia at least, didn’t appear in popular culture until the 1800s, whereas plague has been a stark reality off-and-on since the 1300s.
Now imagine three hundred years after the Black Death ravaged Europe, you live in a small village with fewer than 500 people in central England. In less than a year more than 2/3 of the people were dead and you were one of the survivors to witness this and all of it is because of the plague. What would you do? How would you respond? Well this is that villages tale and the flashback to what happened in this “plague village,” and it is not the only one.
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!
For book two of our Jane Austen Book Club, my friends and I decided to conquer Emma(Amazon 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!)
My friend Nick gave this to me to read ages ago and I’ve finally gotten around to it. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but the further I read the more I enjoyed the story (Amazon link). Coming in at under 200 pages, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Huxley fit into the novel without overwhelming the sense of lackadaisical whimsy of the people.
I am incredibly glad I read the foreword though, because I don’t think I would’ve understood this was a satirical novel of the British upper-class. I probably would’ve happily read it and thought, “wow these people are petty and ridiculous,” and then thought nothing more of it. It reminded me a lot of the various upper-class dioramas I’ve read from Jane Austen to Cécil David-Weill’s The Suitors, which is what Huxley was going for in his social criticism.
The great part about The Austen Project, is I can read them in any order I want! Just like Austen’s original books :-D I decided to read this one as we just read the original Northanger Abbey for Jane Austen Book Club and I loved it. The not so great part is reading this one made me wonder if I would have enjoyed Austen when she was originally published. I say this not as a commentary on the writer, whose skills were amazing and the ending had me in hysterics on the T, but as a commentary on holding up a mirror to young adult society today. The summary of the novel (Amazon link), might not have made me read this if I wasn’t aware of the original, but McDermid drew me in pretty quickly.
The whole premise of the project is around the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s novels contemporary authors are retelling her stories in the modern age. We’ve all seen modern adaptations of classics like “Clueless” (Emma) and “10 Things I Hate About You” (Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew), but this is more along the lines of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Boooo!) or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (YAY!!!!) in that the story is verbatim with minor changes. In this case it’s brought into the 21st century and takes place in Edinburgh instead of Bath.