All posts by phinnea

Aurora Leigh-d-along Book 5

I was supposed to finish 5 & 6, but this book was tough going.  Almost nothing happens.  It’s a year and a half later and Aurora is in a bitchy mood — so what else is new?  Not even sure about what she went on about for 25 pages or so.  Writing a play.  Poetry.  How come he doesn’t love her.  What the hell does she want?  Finally she goes to a dinner party where she bitchily turns down a proposal of marriage, I think, and finds out Romney is going to marry Lady Whathaveyou.   She’s all out of bitch juice so Lord Howe has to shut down Lady W.  She decides to move to Florence and so sells her books.

Aurora seems to believe she’s the only person capable of love, though I’m not sure how she came to this conclusion as she seems to be in denial about Romney.  Pretty sure everything that mattered in Book 5 could have been written in about 2 pages.   What a philistine I am.   Sad.   But there it is.

Cannot find a good pic for this entry.   Maybe later.


Aurora Leighdalong II – Books 3 & 4

Spoilerrific Readalong Report

The sad thing is I finished on time, but didn’t write up my impressions yesterday so no points for me.   A small, but intrepid crew are reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh a poem about a young Victorian woman growing up to be a fiery poet.  She is chock full of scorn for most people including her cousin Romney who although completely belittling women poets seems otherwise a stand-up guy.   He even tried to make her independently wealthy after she turned him down in marriage, but she would have none of it.   I’m not saying she’s wrong to turn it down, but it was very nice of him to make the attempt.   He goes off to save the world and she writes poems in a garret.

Three years later she gets a visit and all her prickliness will not put off Lady Whatshername who is trying to get her help to stop Romney from marrying a poor woman.   Aurora Leigh tells Lady W to get stuffed and then goes to meet this fiancee whose name is Marion Erle.   Marion tells her sad story and Aurora welcomes her into the family as a cousin, but neglects to tell her cousin Romney to watch out for Lady W.   Does she do this because as a poetess she’s unaware of the depths to which people will sink or because she subconsciously wants to sink this marriage?   Whichever it is, the marriage is sunk.   Poor Romney is left at the alter with nothing but an incoherent message which really doesn’t explain anything.


EBB looking as prickly as Aurora.   Wondering how much Aurora is based on EBB?   Certainly not the orphan part, but her character and having to deal with people who think women should not do anything except look pretty and make babies.   This section went much faster for me and with a lot less, huh?   She hardly waxed poetic at all, mostly it was all action.   Her descriptions of the poor are absolutely dreadful.   She’s sympathetic to Marian, but all the rest seem to be caricatures who love nothing better than hitting children and drinking.   I can’t help thinking the rich didn’t bathe all that much then either and fluoride was still a thing of the future.   Not sure if she really thought the poor were all horrible people simply incapable of being refined like those of good blood like the Leighs, or she’s painting it this way for political purposes.   It’s really hard to see the point though in

A woman screamed back — ‘I’m a tender soul,

I never banged a child at two years old

And drew blood from him, but I sobbed for it

Next moment

Is she parodying what many thought the poor were like?  I certainly hope so.  It seems pretty clear she’s parodying the rich showing them mostly quite full of themselves so let’s just assume these ghastly portraits of the poor are also parody.  Although it doesn’t read so much like parody to me as pure disgust

What an ugly crest

Of faces rose upon you everywhere

From that crammed mass! you did not usuallly

See faces like them in the open day:

They hide in cellars, not to make you mad

As Romney Leigh is — Faces! O my God,

We call those, faces? men’s and women’s… ay,

And children’s — babies, hanging like a rag

Forgotten on their mother’s neck — poor mouths,

Wiped clean of mother’s milk by mother’s blow

Before they are taught her cursing.  Faces?… phew,

We’ll call them vices, festering to despairs,

Or sorrows, petrifying to vices: not

A finger-touch of God left whole on them

Harsh realm, Miss Aurora Leigh.




Aurora Leigh Readalong I

[Chock full of spoilers.]   So another of Alice’s readalongs and hoping we’ll have as much fun as the previous ones.  We’ve read the first two books and I can’t tell yet.   I like some of it.   Can’t follow some of it.   It’s too early to tell, I guess.  Aurora Leigh is half-Italian, half-English.   Her mother dies when she is four and her father a few years later.  She is sent to live with an aunt in England who isn’t cruel, but cold and conventional with very set ideas on how young ladies should behave and Aurora grows up a fiercely passionate poet and a beauty.  Her cousin Romney falls in love and proposes, but she rejects him after he scorns women writing poetry.   I don’t blame her.  His speech makes me want to slap him and every man who ever superciliously said anything like

The chances are that…

You write as well… and ill… upon the whole,

As other women.  If as well, what then?

If even a little better… still, what then?

We want the Best in art now, or no art.

Only men can write poetry.   Infuriating.  Then he relents and is like okay, I still want to marry you, you can write your little poems or whatever.   And she is proud and passionately tells him where he gets off.   She’s not sorry because she knows she didn’t love him and doesn’t really think he loved her.   He may have to the extent he was capable, but who knows?

Women of a softer mood,

Surprised by men when scarcely awake to life,

Will sometimes only hear the first word, love,

And catch up with it any kind of work,

Indifferent, so that dear love go with it.

I do not blame such women, though, for love,

They pick much oakum

So, there’s definitely moments I like.  Is that enough to get me through it?  I hope so.

The Body in the Bath

A couple weeks ago I finished Marissa de Luna’s mystery The Body in the Bath featuringDetective Chupplejeep and his assistant, Officer Pankaj.  This is, I think, they’re second mystery.  I bought it because it sounded good, was only $3, and it would connect with the last mystery I read in the chain for Bev The Bath Mysteries.   It’s an entertaining enough mystery with fairly vivid characters.   Pankaj is sweet and naive for a police officer.  Half the hotel staff have something to hide.  The murdered woman was a D-List film star who unbeknownst to everyone in town has come home for the holidays.   How this can simultaneously be a small town in which everyone knows everything about everyone and no one knows this actress has a sister who became a nun is beyond me.   This is the sort of flaw the book possesses.  It’s a bit repetitive.   Pankaj almost fails to solve the blackmailing case he’s been handed through poor police work and the solution I find hard to believe, but I enjoyed reading it and learned something about Goa – a region in what is now India with an unusually high Christian population because they were colonized by Portugal.


I think that these little roughnesses may be worked out the more she writes.  They could also be handled by an editor, but those don’t seem to exist any more.   Not a great mystery, but I’d like to read more Chupplejeep.

This qualifies as my last RIP book and as I mentioned above connects to my earlier reading The Bath Mysteries another good not great, but entertaining enough mystery.


The Durrells in/of Corfu

With the showing of the second season of The Durrells in Corfu on PBS, I pulled up my copy of The Durrells of Corfu by Michael Haag because it was still bugging me that though the source is supposedly Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.  I’m not sure the show and the book have one story in common.  I thought maybe they came from Gerald’s later books, but they aren’t really in the same style.   I also tracked down my copy of My Family and finished it.   I’d come very close, I don’t know why I didn’t finish it.  It’s a charming book, not laugh-out-loud funny to me, though others have declared it so.   Living in Corfu 1935-39 was a magical time and place for all of them it seems.  Haag’s book makes it clear that at least some of the material for the show came from letters, memories of some people still living and snippets of unpublished autobiography Gerald left behind.

I almost didn’t watch the show because most of them are disagreeable, annoying, selfish people.  Gerry isn’t, but one can see how his obsession with bringing home all the wildlife of the island could get on anyone’s nerves.  If you read anything about the Durrells though (which I only just last year learned is not pronounced DurRELL, but DURel) you learn it’s not all how Gerry wrote it.   He’s writing a light, amusing memoir of his boyhood, I suppose that’s why he left out Larry’s wife Nancy.  They don’t seem to have money problems in My Family nor in Haag’s book once the bank sends their funds, but in the show she is improbably trying to pay the rent by making food and poisoning half the island.  There seems to be an emphasis in the show in showing a good deal of unhappiness, which is definitely not Gerald’s emphasis.    Showing reality instead of a boy’s fantasy I suppose, but there’s something to be said for boy’s fantasies.

It was the fact that two of those young men grew up to be famous writers that kept me watching and then buying the books. Haag’s book fills in some of the blanks, but neither his nor My Family has enough of the nitty-gritty I enjoy – what they couldn’t get there, how they had to adapt.   Each of them has a bit of this, but not enough.   And I’m not sure if any of them is true.   Haag’s book makes it clear that all the Durrells would make up stories or appropriate each other’s.   It also seems to be true that the show has not painted Larry or Leslie very accurately as Larry apparently had a great sense of humor and Margo describes Leslie as a ‘lovable rogue.’  In the show, you’re never laughing with Larry, though sometimes at him, he’s pretentious as hell and sense of humor is pretty much absent.   Leslie is grumpy, dour, and despite being obsessed with shooting, stupidly manages to injure poor Roger.


I’m wondering if perhaps the later apparent estrangement colors the time in Corfu.  From early descriptions they seem to be a merry, loving, if rambunctious family.   Nancy fell in love with the whole family.   I think all of these things are worthwhile – My Family and Other Animals probably being the best.  Haag’s book feels a bit slight, and it annoys me that he refers to Louisa as Mother, but makes a useful companion if you want some idea of what really happened.  It’s the only one which acknowledges Nancy’s existence.  I might someday read the other two in Gerald’s trilogy or Larry’s book on Corfu.  They were interesting people and well worth spending some time with.

24 Hour Readathon (er, sort of)

So where the hell are you?  you might well ask.   I went out to a show and dinner and all that took 7 hours.   And, you might say, you didn’t leave until after noon, so what happened to the morning, hmmmm?   Yes, well, er, um, clearly my enthusiasm for getting up early and reading is a thing of the past.  I still intend to read some, maybe I should stick with Sherlock Holmes stories.   I don’t know.   I can’t even make up my mind what to read.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

If I could decide that, I would be reading it.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Hot chocolate.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Old friend from out of town and theater tickets killed much of the day, but I hope to read something.   Or part of something.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Read less?


10 Book Recommendations

2007 – The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett

2008 – I don’t seem to have read many books from this year, but I liked all of this series :

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #2) 

2009 –

2010 – The Big Short – Michael Lewis

2013 – The Goldfinch- Donna Tartt

Okay, this is taking too long.  Maybe I’ll find more later, but I can’t spend all the time trying to find ten to recommend.


5:10 Oct 22 – Well, that didn’t go all that well, but I’ve made up some for it today.   I read a small chunk of The Durrells in Corfu and more of it this afternoon.   Sitting around not doing what should be done.  I have fallen down in the snack department, too.   I did have the hot chocolate, but not much else and fell asleep at 1:30 AM.  ‘Til April then, when maybe I’ll do better.


Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon!

Tomorrow at 8:00 AM Eastern time, Dewey’s Readathon begins.   I never read much, I have an engagement much of tomorrow and I can’t stay up 24 hours, but I always try to do some and have a good time.  Reading all day (and night if you can!) with, at this point, thousands of others around the world is a great idea and the emphasis on snacks makes it even better.   I don’t know what I’ve got in the way of snackage, but I will do my best.   I’m pretty sure there’s a couple around here.  There doesn’t seem to be any new artwork.  Guess I will use some old artwork.  Come join us!  Sign up!  Read tomorrow!   You don’t have to read 24 hours.  And did I mention snacks?   There’s a definite emphasis on snacks.