Emma by Jane Austen

Title:  Emma

Author:  Jane Austen

Paperback:  416 pages

Date Published: 1997

Publisher:  Wordsworth Editions Ltd

ISBN:  1853260282

The very first subject, after being seated, was Maple Grove, ‘My brother, Mr Suckling’s seat’; a comparison of Hartfield to Maple Grove… ‘Very like Maple Grove indeed! She was quite struck by the likeness! That room was the very shape and size of the morning-room at Maple Grove; her sister’s favourite room.’ Mr Elton was appealed to. ‘Was not it astonishingly like? She could really almost fancy herself at Maple Grove.

‘And the staircase. You know, as I came in, I observed how very like the staircase was; placed exactly in the same part of the house. I really could not help exclaiming! I assure you, Miss Woodhouse, it is very delightful to me to be reminded of a place I am so extremely partial to as Maple Grove. I have so many happy months there!’ (with a little sigh of sentiment.) ‘A charming place, undoubtedly. Everybody who sees it is struck by its beauty; but to me it has been quite a home. Whenever you are transplanted, like me, Miss Woodhouse, you will understand how very delightful it is to meet with anything at all like what one has left behind. I always say this is quite one of the evils of matrimony.’

Emma made as slight a reply as she could; but it was fully sufficient for Mrs Elton, who only wanted to be talking herself.

Emma by Jane Austen, pages 217-218

I finished this book almost a week ago after being stuck in it for about six months.  I’ve wanted to give it time to sit and think about it before making an official judgment by way of a review.  And, while I still say it was the hardest Austen book so far and my least favorite, I have to admit a serious amount of respect for the women of the era.  I’m definitely grateful times have changed since then!

Long and short of things, Emma Woodhouse more or less grew up the Miss Woodhouse of her father’s home, meaning she was the society keeper.  The golden daughter, beautiful and clever, she has never been denied anything by her father, who’s a bit of a hypochondriac, nor by her governess Miss Taylor, who has just married Mr. Weston in the beginning of the novel.  Emma believes she is responsible for making this match and decides to aim her powers at the single vicar, Mr. Elton.  Her brother-in-law’s brother, Mr. Knightly, however, admonishes her to leave match-making be, to let love take its course, but she doesn’t listen (OF COURSE!) and this sets a series of events into motion that forces Emma to grow up and re-evaluate her own position and judgments and that of those around her. 

What Austen does in Emma is to recreate the sense of isolation and near-claustrophobic sensations of the life and choices living as an early 19thcentury English woman.  She equates the life of a governess as a polite form of slavery.  She also conveys the sense of captivity and inertial force of the class stratification of the era.  Everyone had a place, and everyone had acceptable and unacceptable pools of “friends” within the system to choose from:  Either their equal or many levels beneaththem so as to help improve them, but no one only a little below them.. lest they degrade themselves.  Those who tried to improve their social standing by latching onto those above them and trying the seem their equal were treated with civil incivility:  Invitations “forgotten,” stories told to remind them where they belong, arguments about things immaterial that vented hostilities and prejudices.

Emma by Jane Austen presents the parlor life of  emotional constipation and gilded-cage existence without choices beyond who to invite for dinner that ran on and on until death was begged for.  In this day and age, when I can tell my neighbor flat-out, he’s an ass, and go on.  He and I live a life of pretending the other doesn’t exist, which works well.

The book also conveys the sense of the inescapable lot assigned to a person because of who one’s family is and what they’ve done.  Harriet is a persona somewhat non grata because her parentage is unknown.  She could never expect to marry a gentleman, because no respectable man would take in the chance of social disaster if her father ever turned out to be a criminal or worse.  You are who your grandparents were, and if you screw up your life, you ruin your grandchildren’s chances for a future, destroy your siblings’ reputation and shame your parents. 

It amounted to a suffocating life where the most seemingly trivial choices could destroy one’s life and reputation.  While Emma by Jane Austen is not one of my favorites, it’s a worthwhile book to read.  I’m glad to have read it, as much as I am glad I’m DONE reading it.  4 out of 5 stars.

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Dune by Frank Herbert

Title:  Dune

Author:  Frank Herbert

Date Published:  January 1977

Publisher:  Berkley Medallion Books

Miscellaneous:  1966 winner of the Hugo Award and was the inagural winner of the Nebula Award in 1965.

His mother was beside him, holding his hands, her face a gray blob peering at him.  “Paul, what’s wrong?”

….”What have you done to me?”  he demanded.

In a burst of clarity, she sensed some of the roots in the question, said:  “I gave birth to you.”

…”Did you know what you were doing when you tranined me?”  he asked.

There’s no more childhood in his voice, she thought.  And she said:  “I hoped the thing any parent hopes – that you’d be … superior, different.”

…”You didn’t want a son!”  he said.  “You wanted a Kwisatz Haderach!  You wanted a male Bene Gesserit!  … Did you ever consult my father in this?”

She spoke gently out of the freshness of her grief:  “Whatever you are, Paul, the heredity is as much your father as me.”

“But not the training,” he said.  “Not the things that awakened… the sleeper…. You wanted the Reverend Mother to hear about my dreams:  You listen in her place now.  I’ve just had a waking dream.  Do you know why?”

“You must calm yourself,” she said.  “If there’s -”

“The spice,” he said.  “It’s in everything here – the air, the soi, the food, the geriatric spice.  It’s like the Truthsayer drug.  It’s a poison!”

She stiffened.

His voice lowered and he repeated:  “A poison – so subtle, so insidious … so irreversible.  It won’t even kill you unless you stop taking it.  We can’t leave Arrakis unless we take part of Arrakis with us.”

The terrifying presence of his voice brooked no dispute.

“You and the spice,” Paul said.  “The spice changes anyone who gets this much of it, but thanks to you, I could bring the change to consciousness.  I don’t get to leave it in the unconscious where its distrubance can be blanked out.  I can see it.”

… She heard madness in his voice, didn’t know what to do…. We’re trapped here, she agreed.

Dune by Frank Herbert, pages 195-196

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I could seriously cry. I just wrote the full review, clicked “publish” and WordPress ATE IT! AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

short version.

Dune is really cool. read it.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Boo! WordPress!

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OKay, trying this again. *deep cleansing breath*

Dune by Frank Herbert is the science fiction/fantasy book of all time, with the exception of Tolkien’s work. It enfolds ecology, feudal lords, space travel, mysticism, and combat and creates an amazing world that is both an advancement of humanity, while at the same time the regression of it. I found the place water plays in the everyday life of the Fremen of the desert planet of Arrakis completely fascinating, it is the beginning and the ending of their existance, as well as the very essence and the centerpiece of their dream: Arrakis as an Eden.

Paul Muad’Dib has been trained in the Bene Gesserit ways by his mother, who disobeyed the command to give birth to a daughter, which has given him a hyper-awareness of the world and those around him. When his family is sent to Arrakis as his father, Duke Leto’s new fiefdom, the sudden supersaturation of melange, a cinnomon-y spice that extends life and allows the user to become more spiritually aware, and the shock of the attack from a rival Great House (“noble” family) forces a change in Paul. He is suddenly able to see all time, past present and future, and all their possibilities, and is troubled by the visions of jihad being mounted across the galaxy in his name and under his banner. He is determined to prevent this, while avenging his father’s death and leading the Fremen (native… sort of.. people of Arrakis) to autonomy and control of their planet and the spice found only on Arrakis.

I found Herbert’s imagination amazing. In Dune, Herbert created a future that was virtually unimaginable at the time. He gave the world its own rules and specific history. And he gave them a religion that has a sense of being the eventual mingling of the major religions. The Orange Catholic Bible is a sacred text, many of the names and terms have a Muslim feel, and the Litany Against Fear is positively Zen-like:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Dune Messiah 🙂

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Title: Wuthering Heights

Author: Emily Brontë

Hardback: 356 pages

Publisher: Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc.

Publish Date: 1942

Miscellaneous: This was a book from the library.

“…I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in Heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as deifferent as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”he remained, Ishould still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I amHeathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being…”

Ere this speech ended, I became sensible of Heathcliff’s presence… He had listened till he heard Catherine say it would degrade her to mayrry him, and then he stayed to hear no further.

“…My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger; I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being…”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, pages 99-101

I was shocked recently when, while reading Eclipse the third book in The Twilight Series, I had never read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. As often as the book has been discussed, referred to, and mentioned, I had a generally understanding and memory of the book and thought I had read it. But when I read the quotes from it in Eclipse, I became embarrassingly aware I hadn’t ever experienced it first hand. Even worse, I went to grab it out of my home library only to find I had never even bought the book! *shock!*

So I trundled off to our public library and borrowed a nice, well-worn and slightly tattered book from their shelf and started, “I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.” on Sunday evening, and finished with “I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.” earlier today, and loved it!

The story is told by Ellen Dean, who has been a servant all her life between the two houses, beginning at Wuthering Heights with the Earnshaws then at Thrushcross Grange with the Lintons where Mr. Lockwood, reader by proxy, meets Dean and receives her tale. It is a cautionary tale displaying the effects of holding onto wrongs suffered and loves lost and how the bitterness and desire for revenge that can come from them takes over one’s life, leaving no room for love and healthy attachments, and can destroy the lives of people who are innocent of the original offenses.

In Wuthering Heights, the two loves of Catherine Linton nee Earnshaw are juxtaposed and exemplified by the two properties. While Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is passionate, wild and like a force of nature, Catherine’s marriage to Edgar Linton represents all the social respectability and gentility she desires for her life. The uniting of these two loves is foreshadowed when Mrs. Dean finds the lock of Linton’s hair on the floor and a lock of Heathcliff’s in Catherine’s locket and twines the two together before putting the flaxen-and-black twist back into the locket.

While Heathcliff has every right to feel wronged by what is done to him by both Hindley Earnshaw (his foster brother) and by Edgar Linton (the chosen husband of the woman he loves), he could have let go of the past and moved on, experiencing the joys of many neuvo riche have done. However, he refuses to forgive and comes back to Wuthering Heights to set about exacting his revenge on those directly responsible, Hindley and Linton, and on those they love and even on their children, exacting payment from even his own son. In the end, though, he is left with nothing but emptiness, having all the power to finish his plan by destroying the properties, but no longer having the passion to do so.

He tells Ellen Dean:

“With my hard constitution and tempermate mode of living, and unperilous occupations, I ought to, and probably shall, remain above ground till there is scarecely a black hair on my head. And yet I cannot continue in this condition! I have to remind myself to breath – almost to remind my heart to beat! And it is like bending back a stiff spring: it is by compulsion that I do the slightest act not prompted by one thought; and by compulsion that I notice anything alive or dead, which is not associated with one universal idea. I have a single wish, and my whole being and faculties are so unwaveringly, that I’m convinced it will be reached – and soon – because it has devoured my existence: I am swallowed up in the anticipation of its fulfilment… O God! It is a long fight, I wish it were over.”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, pages 342-343

There is an image painted in my mind by Brontë with this book. It is of a sweet, cool brook that babbles through a spring-flower covered countryside. Somewhere along the waterway, the brook’s path has been stopped up by garbage, and the water has spread out and flooded the surround area. The greenery downstream has begun to brown and show wont of regular watering. But as I walk further along the dry brook, I come to a spot where the water has meandered around the ground and come back to its original bed to continue once more as if it had never been seperated. Time, and gravity, often brings sides back together.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is definitely one of my favorite classic books, and would have to be on my top 50 books list. It is fascinating and compelling, and has a universal message that will be applicable as long as people are humans. 5 out of 5 stars 😀

hated it!didn't like itit was okayliked itLoved it!

trailer for the 1992 movie of Wuthering Heights:

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

Title:  Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Author:  Winifred Watson

Paperback:  234 pages

Publisher:  Persephone Books Ltd

Publish Date:  2008

ISBN:  9781906462024

…She must state her errand and go.  She must give up her position of equality as Miss LaFosse’s ally and take her correct one of humble applicant for a job, which she felt in her bones she would never get.

She knew too much about the private affairs of Miss LaFosse.  Miss Pettigrew had endured many hard knocks from human nature and understood how intolerable to a mistress such a situation would be.  She felt a hopeless, bitter unhappiness invade her.  But there was nothing she could do.  She must at last get her presence explained and end this wonderful adventure.

She couldn’t bear to do it.  She had never in her life before wanted more to stay in any place.  She felt she couldn’t endure to leave this happy, careless atmosphere… where some one was kind to her and thought her wonderful…  She felt the tears of loneliness and exclusion sting her eyes.

… Oh, if only for once the Lord would be good and cause some miracle to happen to keep her here, to see for one day how life could be lived, so that for all the rest of her dull, uneventful days, when things grew bad, she could look back in her mind and dwell on the time when for one perfect day she, Miss Pettigrew lived.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson, pages 52-53

I have not enjoyed reading a book as much as I did reading Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson since my last Stephanie Plum book!  I literally laughed out loud in several spots, and wore a silly grin of delicious pleasure throughout most of the book. 

There was something about Miss Pettigrew, weird as this sounds, that reminded me of Amelia Bedelia.  Perhaps it’s that both characters are domestics, Amelia being a maid and Miss Pettigrew a governess, and both have a charming simplicity about them.  Both characters are not very bright nor skilled in their professions, yet they are greatly cherished by both their employers and readers alike.  Both are unfamiliar with the slang phraseology used (it has never left my memory when Amelia was asked to “draw the curtains” she pulled out paper and pen), and seem to be out of a different era altogether from the rest of the characters in their worlds.

Miss Pettigrew had spent all but the last ten years of her life in the northern, more provincial areas of England before moving to London.  The forty-year-old spinster is the daughter of a clergyman, has lived a virtuous life, has never tasted alcohol nor worn make-up, and has never been flirted with, kissed, or otherwise known the affections of a man.  When she arrives at Miss LaFosse’s door, she is there to apply for a position of governess, painfully aware that if she does not get the job, she will be homeless and will be forced to go to the workhouse.

However, it is quickly apparent that the starlet LaFosse not only doesn’t have any children, but is the antithesis of everything Miss Pettigrew has ever been or known.  In the span of a few hours, she observes her would-be employer physically amorous with three different men and LaFosse tells her of even more men who have professed love for her.

LaFosse invites Pettigrew into her exciting world of glamor, flirtations, vices, night clubs and parties, and all sorts of naughtiness, as her friend and equal.  Miss Pettigrew is led away from her “dowdy, spinster governess” self like a daughter of Hamlin and LaFosse the pied-piper, and decides that if she could just have this life of the other half for just one day, the memories of that day could carry her through all the bad remaining in her life.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is not only a fun little tale the adventures of a woman who finally decides to LIVE, it is also a peak into a past era.  Set in the mid to late 30s, the reader is treated to a fascinating glimpse of the society of women in a time when “talkies” are a new, exciting thing and telegrams are still sent, when Vaudeville acts and stage performers were on equal ground with film stars, and where the “upstairs-downstairs” mentality still abounded along with the old families-versus-new money tiffs, though social mindsets were beginning to change.

I cannot say that this book was profound or changed me, if all books were like that I’d probably stop reading, but it was a treat and a joy to escape in.  The writing isn’t hard, though some of the words are out of date and I had to look a few up (curate, “funked it,”and a Chesterfield are a few that threw me… and “cheroots?”  I divined there were something between a cigar and a cigarette given the context).

For the gift of laughter and rapturous pleasure this book brings the reader, I give Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson 5 out of 5 stars.  It’s  a classic and now one of my favorite books 😀

hated it!didn't like itit was okayliked itLoved it!

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day has been adapted (albeit loosely from the looks of the trailer) into a movie. I’ve added it to my Netflix queue, but I’ll probably wait a bit before getting it. Like most people, I get so frustrated and angry when Hollywood ruins a book I really love. BUT… I thought I’d include the trailer for your viewing pleasure 🙂 It does look like an equally fun movie.

Silas Marner by George Eliot

Title:  Silas Marner

Author:  George Eliot

Paperback:  218 pages

Publisher:  Watermill Press

Publish Date:  1983

ISBN:  0893759961

Miscellaneous:  Mary Ann Evans was born in Warwickshire, England on November 22, 1819.  Under the name of George Eliot, she wrote several novels including Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, and  Middlemarch.  George Eliot died in London on December 22, 1880.

Unlike the gold which needed nothing and must be worshiped in close-locked solitude – which was hidden away from the daylight, was deaf to the song of birds, and started to no human tones – Eppie was a creature of endless claims and ever-growing desires, seeking and loving sunshine, and living sounds, and living movements; making trial of everything, with trust in new joy, and stirring the human kindness in all eyes that looked on her.  The gold had kept his thoughts in an ever-repeated circle, leading to nothing beyond itself, but Eppie was an object compacted of changes and hopes that forced his thoughts onward, and carried them far away from their old eager pacing towards the same blank limit…  The gold had asked that he should sit weaving longer and longer, deafened and blinded more and more to all things except the monotony of his loom and the repetition of his web; but Eppie called him away from his weaving, and made him think all its pauses a holiday, reawakening his senses with her fresh life, even to the old winterflies that came crawling forth in the early spring sunshine, and warming him into joy because she had joy.

And when the sunshine grew strong and lasting, so that the buttercups were thick in the meadows, Silas might be seen in the sunny mid-day, or in the later afternoon when the shadows were lengthening under the hedgerows, strolling out with uncovered head to carry Eppie beyond the Stone Pits to where the flowers grew, till they reached some favorite  bank where he could sit down, while Eppie toddled to pluck the flowers, and make remarks to the winged things that murmured happily above the bright petals, calling “Dad-dad’s” attention continually by bringing him the flowers.  Then she would turn her ear to some sudden bird-note, and Silas learned to please her by making signs of hushed stillness, that they might listen for the note to come again:  so that when it came, she set up her small back and laughed with gurgling triumph.  Sitting on the banks in this way, Silas began to look for the once familiar herbs again; and as the leaves, with their unchanged outline and markings, lay on his palm, there was a sense of crowding remembrances from which he turned away timidly, taking refuge in Eppie’s little world that lay lightly on his enfeebled spirit.

As the child’s mind was growing into knowledge, his mind was growing into memory:  as her life unfolded, his soul, long stupefied in a cold narrow prison, was unfolding too, and trembling gradually into full consciousness.

Silas Marner by George Eliot, pages 149-151

Silas Marner by George Eliot tells the story of the socially withdrawn weaver.  Once in love and a vibrantmember of society, Silas was betrayed by his best friend, who framed him as a thief who stole church money in order to steal Marner’s fiance.  Silas leaves the land where he has always lived and moves to the southern English country communtity of Raveloe, a town that is far out of the way of the main roads and therefore has retained its simpler, pastoral beliefs and ways.

For fifteen years Silas works at his loom, usually sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, in pursuit of his only companion,  the gold guineas he receives as pay for his work, and shuns all society.  However, when he falls victim to a robbery that separates him from his 270 pounds that he had hoarded over the years, he begins a journey of reclamation and healing.  The arrival of Eppie, the gold-haired girl he, at first, mistakes as his returned gold, slowly reawakens feelings of faith, trust and love within him.

 But… can it be meant to last?

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I vaguely remember reading Silas Marner in high school as part of the advanced English Honors program.  As I read through this a second time, I remembered why.  Eliot’s language is slow and thick, at times mind-numbingly so, and some of the descriptions of the society of a bygone era drug on and on with the inane details of gowns and cows and ghosts and blah blah blah.  I found myself wishing for a good Austen novel.  And now I’m not nearly as convinced I want to crack open Middlemarch, a book at least three times the length also by Eliot.

I did, however, love the story itself.  I felt such sympathy and excitement for Silas as I followed him through all his heartaches and then as rejoiced with him as Eppie, the orphaned child who came into his life by chance, becomes the salvation of his humanity and restores all that he once lost.

A few years ago, Hollywood modernized this story in a movie starring Steve Martin as Silas.  The movie is “A Simple Twist of Fate,” and I recommend it to anyone interested in the story (don’t post hate comments for this, but I’d rather watch the movie than read the book any day!).  Of course, the movie is not a substitute for the book as an assignment for school, but could be watched AFTER you’ve read it. 😉

Obviously, Silas Marner by George Eliot is a literary classic and therefore has merit, but it’s definitely not my favorite classic.  I give Silas Marner 3 out of 5 stars.