Sunday, February 28, 2010

Becoming Jane Eyre

Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
Penguin Books, 2009; 232 pages

Summary: An examination into the lives of the Brontës as Charlotte embarks on writing her most famous novel, Jane Eyre. Starts in 1846 and continues until her death in 1855.

Why I Read: I saw this reviewed at Laura's Reviews and I put it on hold at the library; I also knew I would count it toward the Brontë challenge. I am a big Janeite but I am trying to learn more about the Brontës.

My thoughts: It's a slight book is my lasting impression. It is also somewhat disconcerting in that it is told in shifting third person; so it starts with Charlotte's point of view but it also shifts to her sisters', her father's and some other people's points of view. I enjoyed finding the connections from her life to Jane Eyre (the only Brontë book I've read all the way through). They also seemed a bit more real to me; I've had trouble with the other Brontë books because they just seem so dour and written by people completely lacking a sense of humor. That idea is not completely dispelled by this book but they do seem a pretty progressive family and I liked seeing them sitting together and reading their work aloud to each other. On the other hand, I am more interested in picking up Agnes Grey and giving that a try now so I think the book is good for that purpose.

Overall: 3.5/5 for encouraging me to read more Brontë but not a book I would necessarily recommend unless it was to a diehard Brontë fan.

First book for Brontë challenge!


So many things to report:

1. I got a new computer! Basically what happened is my old one broke so I took it to Best Buy (where I bought it and had an extended warranty). I was pretty sure it was a hard drive problem because when I tried to reload the software as the Mac instructions say, it didn't recognize a hard drive. But I wasn't entirely sure. A week later, they call and say it was a software problem (which is NOT covered under warranty) so I go back and am told that they can fix (for a substantial price) so I pay. Another week passes and they call saying it is a hard drive problem and they need to ship it out (so that's two weeks for them to figure out something I figured out in a few hours). Five days later, they call me (they had been calling my parents since they had bought the computer in the first place) to confirm that they could ship the computer out. It will still take another five-six weeks meaning all February and March, I would not have a computer for my schoolwork (and blogging!) But my parents came to visit and bought me a new computer (actually it's an upgrade to the MacBook Pro from a regular MacBook). Right now I am hoping that my original computer will be fixed by the end of my semester in May. In happier news, it looks like I saved at least 30% of my music (I had a lot) which means a lot of work to figure out what I lost but I saved some important songs so that's good. (Whew, that was long!)

2. I'm on twitter now! I'm planning to post more frequently about what I'm reading as well as contests on other blogs. Currently I'm reading Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde which is very good! I also have a few review posts to get up here.

3. I also am planning to post more-I have a stack of books I'm really excited about and I hope I will do better in the future.

That's all for now!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


So last night my friends and I had a little Valentine's Day party. We gorged on chocolate, talked a lot, and watched a movie. I lobbied for Pride and Prejudice, 2005, but was outvoted because most people had never seen PS I Love You. So I gracefully acquiesced.

Now I'm not a big fan of Hilary Swank (and she did not win me over in this movie) but her character kinda sucks. First she's neurotic and incapable of keeping a job even when doing so will help her achieve her goal of getting a bigger apartment (although their apartment seemed rather big; maybe they had too much stuff?) and then having a child. She's also a really crappy friend. I know her husband dies and that sucks but her friends can't freeze their lives forever while she mourns.

I think a large part of the success of this film is because women like Gerard Butler (several of my friends admired his accent). I think he's kinda cute but I'm somewhat biased based on Hollywood gossip-he's been presented as somewhat of a whore and that colored my view of him (Sorry!)

My favorite part was making fun of the fact that she is a Yankees fan (Yankees suck!) Toward the end of the film, she is in Yankees stadium with a friend and she says that she can't feel Jerry's presence any more. I reminded her that Jerry's in heaven and would of course stay far away.

Bottom line: I'm glad I've seen this but I think I might have preferred watching Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time.

I also started watching Masterpiece Theater's new Emma. I have only watched about half an hour of the first part (stupid homework! and stupid broken computer!)

So very early first impressions:
1. Romola Garai reminds me somewhat of Drew Barrymore in an unpleasant way-like really overemotive and weird facial expressions.
2. Dumbledore lives! That's pretty much all I could think about when seeing Mr Woodhouse and I don't think that would change.
3. Damn you Jonny Lee Miller! When I first heard there would be a new Emma, I (and many others) clamored for the divine Richard Armitage to be Mr. Knightley as it would be nice to see him in a light comedic role (wouldn't it?) Obviously that did not happen. But I was especially mad that they chose JLM as he has ALREADY played an Austen hero (Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park, 1999 which is not a bad film but is a crappy adaptation). Edmund also happens to be my least favorite Austen hero while Mr. Knightley is my absolute favorite (Darcy is a mere fourth). So he went from playing the worst to the best, in my view. But I kept thinking, seriously there were no other eligible men to play this role?! I mean, come on! But he won me over, already! I'm so easy, apparently that it takes only a teeny portion of screentime to get me on his side.
Lastly in honor of Valentine's Day, why don't you go and watch North and South (again)? Here is a picture of the aforementioned Richard Armitage to encourage you. I am not sure if I will be able because I still have a lot of homework but I might try to watch an episode or just a few of my favorite parts.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winter Escapes Widget

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852

I knew this was a very important book;
apocryphally the book written by the little lady who started a big war. I knew it was a response to the (dreadful) Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and that it sparked increased abolitionist feeling in the North. I knew about Eliza crossing the frozen river (The King and I) and about the evil Simon Legree. But there were still some surprises.

Firstly this is a melodramatic novel featuring very cardboard characters who represent specific types of the period. For example there is the evil slave owner (Legree); there is an angelic little girl (who made me think of Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop which I've never read but I've seen an adaptation); there is a slave owner who is conflicted about the system of slavery; there are Northern anti-slavery people who have slavery brought to their doorstep. Nothing that happens is particularly surprising and none of the characters have any depth or growth.

Secondly I just realized a plot might be helpful. Uncle Tom is a slave on a farm where he is about to be sold because his owner is profligate. A little boy named Harry is also about to be sold away from his mother Eliza. She is terrified about this prospect and so runs away, accumulating family and escaping to Canada along the way. Uncle Tom however submits to his fate and is first bought by an ambivalent slave owner who ends up dying before freeing him, leaving him to be sold to the vile Legree which leads to his death.

Some of the major parts of this book are evangelical fervor; pretty much every page has Christianity references and it can be overwhelming because even modern Christian novels I've read are not so steeped in my opinion. The morality of women and their ability to influence their husbands from their proper domestic sphere also occurs. Stowe's solution for post-abolition seems to be colonization of Liberia using ex-slaves as missionaries to spread Christianity which seems impractical to me and obviously did not end up happening. It is also interesting to look at her racial attitudes which are awful in our times but were actually among the most liberal for the 1850s! I read this for class and my professor called it "romantic racism" where Africans are recognized to have a soul but aren't as good as Anglo-Saxons.

It is also interesting how the use of Uncle Tom has changed. Now he is considered a subservient simpleminded slave but here he is actually very responsible and devoted to his Christian faith. When Legree demands Uncle Tom betray his slaves who have escaped, he refuses and is protected by his faith so that he dies secure in the knowledge of his betrayal. Actually the representation of Uncle Tom as bowing and scraping comes from ministrel shows where Stowe's story was twisted to actually promote slavery.

Overall: I'm very pleased that I've read this very important book now. While there are some crazy coincidences a la Dickens, they come together rather well. The only bad thing was the flowery language which meant I usually could only read one chapter at a time with lots of breaks. So I will rate this 4/5 and recommend it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Computer on the Fritz!

So my computer is broken in some way (not really sure) and this will make it extremely inconvenient for me to post. I will post again when it is fixed. (Also pray that it is a problem with the hardware rather than the software so that it is covered by warranty!)

Until then I've read four and a half books in February so far.
I'm hoping to finish Uncle Tom's Cabin soon; I have Cybele's Secret coming in because I read Wildwood Dancing and mostly enjoyed it; and I have more Agatha Christies coming (I'm somewhat obsessed). Plus I have tons of history nonfiction books to read.

When I return I plan to update my challenges as I have started some (!) although there are some I have not (oopsie). Best wishes to everyone!

Monday, February 1, 2010

January Stats

IN total I read 8309 pages in January which isn't bad although my goal had been 10,000. I also read.

Number Read: 25 plus 2 DNF. If I can keep up this pace, I should be able to read 200 books this year!

Best Book: Candide by Voltaire

Longest Book: Nixonland, 748 pages

Least Enjoyed Book: Moral Capital (a school book) or Psych Major Syndrome which started out strong but then went downhill.

I don't have anything else I feel like reviewing yet but I will definitely continue to read and keep track of what I read. I find it very satisfying and wish I had started doing it earlier.

Challenges: 1 for Terry Pratchett; 4 for personal challenge of Agatha Christie
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...