Archive for the Authors I’ve read Category

Happy Birthday Thomas Hardy!

Posted in Authors Birthdays, Authors I've read with tags , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2013 by echostains

tess_oxford220px-Thomashardy_restored

English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (2nd June 1840 – 11th January 1928) Dorset, England focused his work on the decline of rural society. He was a great fan of Charles Dickens and George Elliot. His romantic poetry was influenced by William Wordsworth. Hardy regarded himself foremost as a poet. His first poetry collection was published in 1898.   ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’  was published in 1874, – his first literary success  through his writing.

His novels, which include ‘Far from the Madding crowd ‘ (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895) were set in his semi fictional region of Wessex, based on an old medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the South West of England.

Hardy’s father Thomas was a stonemason and builder. His mother Jemima was a well read woman.  She educated young Thomas at home before he went to school aged eight years old in Bockhampton. He learned Latin and acquired academic potential at Mr Last’s Academy for Young Gentlemen in Dorchester. When his  formal education ended at age 16 when he was then apprenticed to a local architect James Hicks in Dorchester where he trained as an architect before moving to London in 1862 and enrolling as a student in Kings College London.

Hardy, aware of class divisions and his own social inferiority, was never comfortable in London society and returned to Dorset five years later.

He met his future wife Emma Lavinia Gifford in 1870 whilst engaged in the restoration of the parish church of St Juliot in Cornwall and he married her in 1874. She died in 1912, and although he became estranged in life, he revisited Cornwall after her death visiting places they went to during their courtship.   Poems 1912-13 reflect upon her death. He married Florence Emily Dugdale (his secretary, nearly 40 years his senior) in 1914.

Hardy died at Max Gate on 11th January 1928 after becoming ill with pleurisy the year before and his funeral was held at Westminster Abbey. This proved to be controversia,l as Hardy and his friends and family wished him to be buried with his first wife Emma in Stinsford Dorset. It was insisted upon by his executor Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell that he be buried in the famous Poets Corner in the abbey.  A compromise was reached:  Hardy’s heart was buried with his first wife in Dorset and his ashes in Poet’s Corner Westminster Abbey.

Hardy has many admirers, among them were Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, John Cowper Powys and Robert Graves. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1910.

Although I have not read all Hardy’s novels, I have enjoyed the ones I have read ( Under the Greenwood tree (1872) Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), Jude the Obscure (1895),- I have not enjoyed them equally. The Woodlanders, left me somewhat unsatisfied with the ending which resulted in  the heroine Grace Melbury returning to her unfaithful husband.

But a happy ending does does always result in a good story.  Jude the Obscure, in my consideration – a masterpiece, left me with such an uncomfortable feeling that I have only been able to read the novel once and watch the well acted 196 film.  The story is about humble village stonemason Jude Fawley whose dream is to be educated., He studies Latin and Greek in his spare time whilst dreaming of going to university. Jude_PosterManipulated into a loveless marriage with a coarse and nasty local girl, who soon leaves him, Jude still dreams of entering the local University. He falls in love with his cousin Sue Brideshead. But although she is in love with the married Jude, she marries his former teacher and is very unhappy. Jude and Sue eventually set up house together and have children. Their life together is dire: ostracised by the villagers for not being married and having children out of wedlock, Jude loses his job and the poor family  travel from town to town seeking employment. The end of the story is really disturbing. there are no happy ending here. It is a fantastic novel, but is really emotionally heavy going.

Hardy is considered a Victorian Realist writer and his writing reflects the social restraints and limitations which ultimately lead to unhappiness (in his novels). My favorite novel is ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ which tells the story of shepherd Gabriel Oak and Bethsheba Everdean. Fate and bad choices interweave to construct a story of pride, betrayal and tragedy. Far-From-The-Madding-Crowd-Thomas-HardyLove wins out though and there is a happy ending, but that is not arrived at until Bethsheba herself has changed her attitude and her outlook.  Oak remains as steadfast to the end as from the beginning of the novel. The dastardly character is Sergeant Francis “Frank” Troy who is a flamboyant gambling show off with a cruel streak towards his wife Bethsheba. He loves another – the hapless and sweet Fanny Robin whose death is heartbreaking. In the middle of the storyline stands middle-aged Mr Boldwood, a rich farmer whose obsession with Bethsheba also leads to tragedy. Fate plays a massive part in this novel; throwaway gestures like the sending of a valentine fire up a strait laced bachelor to behave with passion and abandonment of reason. A flattering remark and a wild display of dashing swordsmanship persuade a young vain Bethsheba that she is in love. Situations and accidents all contrive to elevate Gabriel Oak into hero of the hour and prove his quiet devotion and steadfastness.

More information on the Poet/Novelist from here and The Thomas Hardy Society Thomas Hardy portrait from here Far from the Madding Crowd image from here  Jude the Obscure image from here Tess of the d’Urbervilles image here

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Normal service shall be resumed -very soon

Posted in Authors I've read, Watched it on September 17, 2012 by echostains

This blog has been rather neglected  for the last couple of months.  I’ve not given it up – and I’ve plenty of material to add.  So watch this space…………..

test card image is from here

Happy Burns night!

Happy Birthday Playwright, columnist and novelist Keith Waterhouse  (1929 – 2009)

Dear Reader I read it book review ‘The Blackhouse by Peter May

Posted in Authors I've read, Dear Reader I read it! Book reviews on May 25, 2012 by echostains

The last detective stories I read were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.  I have been known to read the occasional Agatha Christie – oh and there was that Patricia Cornwell book about Walter Sickert being Jack the Ripper (which I didn’t like – and am still a bit furious with), I digress already.  I was drawn to this book by Peter May (a new author to me) as the story is set on the Hebridean isle of Lewis. Having discovered that some of my ancestors came from there and having never visited myself I thought that I may learn something more about the island, its scenery and ‘customs’ by reading The Blackhouse.

The Blackhouse is essentially a murder mystery and features recently bereaved Fin Macleod, a detective who escaped his Hebridean home to work in Edinburgh.  The island murder has similarities with an earlier one which occurred on Macleod’s patch in Edinburgh and it is for this reason that Macleod returns. The story is many stranded and interspersed with Macleod’s childhood flashbacks –  this proves to be a  real page turner.

Central to the story is the ritualistic Guga hunting (an event unique to Lewis) in which men and boys from the island embark on a hazardous journey to cull gannet chicks on a treacherous bleak rock in the North Atlantic sea.  Macleod’s past and present rise up to meet him like the churning waves around the strange rock where his rite of passage began. These chapters are so atmospheric that I felt at times that I was actually out there on that rock.  I was amazed to learn that this ritual is no fiction though.  The uninhabited isle of Sula Sgeir is home to thousands of gannets whose  summer nesting in the guano encrusted cliff face brings the hunters whose quarry are the gannet chicks, which when salted and boiled are considered a delicacy. The men from the Ness area of Lewis are  called ‘Guga Hunters’.   Memories, emotions, childhood friends all converge, flicker. The past and present intertwine, characters shrink and grow and there is senses of unrest as the old traditions start to be challenged by the young.

What begins as a simple murder mystery soon becomes a journey of memories – some very dark, set against a dramatic landscape whose beauty is stark. The author spent four years researching, filming and producing a TV series about the Gaelic language so knows the area well and this really comes across.  The book is wonderfully written and I have read many reviewers praise the authenticity of the islands description having been residents themselves. I am delighted that this book is the first of a trilogy and I look forward to reading the next books.

Book image from here

Guga image Guga hunters information from here

Watched – Enid (Blyton)

Posted in Authors I've read, period drama, Watched it with tags , , , on August 12, 2011 by echostains
Bonham Carter as Enid Blyton

When I was a child, Enid Blyton was my favorite author. She was beloved of most children: a wonderful storyteller whose stories kept you entranced. But what was she like as a person? Helena Bonham Carter was, at first glance, a surprising choice, to play Blyton in this BBC 4 biopic, but – then so was Trevor Eve who played Hughie Green, in the last series and I thought he was absolutely great!

Enid Blyton

The young Enid gets into storytelling to distract her siblings from the furious arguments which are going on between their parents. Her father eventually leaves for another woman (or so her mother says, though all her life Enid won’t believe this). It is easy to see why Enid starts escaping into her own world. She leaves home as soon at the first opportunity (Enid never stops running all through her life). She trains to become a schoolteacher, though her real ambition is to be an author. Rejected many times, she keeps trying, until eventually a door opens. Not one to hang around, she marries her publisher.

the very famous Five books

Their early days seem idyllic. What a blow it must have been to her to be told she couldn’t have children.. But despite these problems, she does have a child (in fact two,) but motherhood does not come easily to her. She seems more work inspired, than nurturing. Time for a nanny. But although she is honest about her failings, she does have some odd ideas about how to handle week old babies….

Enid Blyton bedtime story book

It is strange the way Blyton is different with other children than her own, and a bit baffling really. She seems more relaxed whilst in the company of children she doesn’t know. To an extent, she seems to shun anything that doesn’t fit into her world of fiction, such as the War. It’s as if in her refusal to be distracted, it will just go away. When her husband starts drinking, she banishes him into the spare room!

Noddy a popular Blyton character

 

Blyton is the ultimate escapist, and does not like the banalities of motherhood: writing comes first. When Blyton finally comes to terms that we are at war, she contributes by digging for victory with her children and entertaining officers whilst her husband is away (escapism again). Eventually of course, she takes a lover ‘Uncle’ Kenneth Waters.

the magical land of Enid

The acting was really good and the attention to period detail wonderful. Bonham Carter makes a great Blyton, showing all her contradiction. She is both hardened and yet vulnerable in her reluctance to face reality. The way that Blyton deals with harsh reality is through her children’s tales, where a happy ending is assured and cake is distributed with lashings of Ginger Beer She has such a hard unfeeling edge to her to her personality though and is able to compartmentalise her life skillfully, dismissing her children. Poor Hugh (ex husband) gets the treatment time and time again, and very cruelly. It is incredulous the way that she can turn her back on anything she doesn’t want to deal with, including her mother and her siblings. A very complicated, emotionally damaged but talented person, whose end was indeed tragic.

Watch it HERE 

Well Read?

Posted in Authors I've read with tags , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by echostains

It’s the third day of the ‘blog every day for a whole week on bookstains challenge’ and I’ve been wondering which is the worlds most best-selling book..  The answer is surprising.  I would have thought it was the bible –  but it isn’t.  The sales of these  best-selling books are over 1 million copies.  They are-

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens  1859 sold over 200 million

The Lord of the Rings by J RR Tolkien  1854-1855 sold 150 million

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien 1937 sold over 100 million

 (Dream of the Red Chamber) Cao Xuegin  1759 -1791 sold over 100 million

And then there were None by Agatha Christie 1939  sold over 100 million

Heidi

You could say that I have contributed to those sales, having bought and read ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’.  Also rans  (between 50 million and a million) are;-

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’  by C S Lewis

She by H Rider Haggard
Le Petit  Prince (The Little Prince) Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

Steps to Christ by Ellen G White

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Heidi’s years of wandering and learning by Johanna Spyri

The Common Sense book of baby and Childcare by Dr Benjamin Spock

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

SHE is Ursula Andress

Out of those, I’m surprised to find that  I’ve actually read The Lion the Witch and the wardrobe, The Little Prince, Heidi, Catcher in the Rye,  Lolita, Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty and The name of the Rose.    I might add, that most of these books were read years ago  and of my choosing –  not through required reading.  My relationship to Dr Spock is a bit tenuous.  I am a product of his advice 😀 

Well how many of these particular books have your read?  More than me I bet 😀 – and what did you think of that list?

List from here and includes other interesting book lists

Heidi Book image from here
She image and book review here

Dear Reader I read it ‘My Fault’ by Billy Childish’

Posted in Authors I've read, Dear Reader I read it! Book reviews with tags , , , on May 30, 2011 by echostains

I have recently  finished reading  ‘My Fault’ by artist/poet/writer and musician Billy Childish and I am now  half way through his second book Notebooks of a Naked Youth.   My Fault is about growing up – the hard way.  Childish writes forcibly and sometimes brutally as his alter ego Steven Hamperson.   There is so much honesty and at times bitterness (who can blame him) that I can only marvel at the sheer force of his personality and his survival instinct.  Molested by a family member, misunderstood and constantly put down by his mother, father and brother and prey to local bullies, Childish lives in a world of deprivation (his father drinks all the money) and seems to be  blamed and scapegoated for all that goes wrong in his dysfunctional family.

Theres no escape from the bullies even at school where dyslexic Childish takes many a bashing from the teachers with their lack of understanding and some real low lifes.  At times this is a tough book to read.  It’s tinged with sadness but there are some lighter moments which mostly come from Childish’s observations about the strange people he encounters. 

 Childish is known for his poetry, his minimal involvement with Stuckism, his many bands and his Sunday painting and printmaking.  He is actually famous in a non famous kind of way.  He is a chameleon who cannot be really pinned down.  He is all things to all people – yet remains apart, non conformist and highly individual.  His name was even emblazoned on a tent which disappeared into a puff of smoke (Tracey Emin’s)  Childish is relentless in the non pursuit of non fame.  For example, every time one of his bands becomes a bit too popular he disbands and forms another.

One of the most vibrantly drawn characters in the book is his father, who I imagine as a kind of Pat Mustard  (the wayward milkman in ‘Father Ted) with the  controlling grip of perhaps a Phil Spector/ Don Arden (though he has nothing to do with music). The relationship Childish has with his mother (Juney) is another interesting one as is the unfriendly sibling rivalry with his brother who always knows better , has the appearence of doing  better and never hesitates to tell him so.

All in all a jolly good read.  Not exactly light reading but not too heavy either.  Though I expect the pinch of salt you will need to take with regards to the characters will be either minute  – or non existent.

Book images here and here

Woodcut by Childish and website here

Happy Birthday Dear Jane Austen!

Posted in Authors I've read, period drama, Poll with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2010 by echostains

Today is the 235th birthday of British writer Jane Austen b. 1775 -1817.  In her short lifetime Austen completed 6 books.  I have read all of them, and have to say that Pride and Prejudice is my very favorite (followed closely by Emma).  To celebrate her birthday see my Echostains which explores her portraits. Meanwhile over here at Bookstains,  here are two of my favorite clips, (though I have many)  of the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. 

Having turned down Darcy’s marriage proposal, Lizzie and her relatives spend some time in Derbyshire and  in the vicinity of Darcy’s home Pemberley.  Hearing that the Master is away, Lizzie is exploring the home and grounds which she could have been hers, when she encounters – who else but Mr Darcy who has returned home unexpectedly!

Here’s the poll