The Master of Ballantrae

 

bookshelves: adventure, classic, historical-fiction, revenge, britain-scotland, victorian, seven-seas, war, published-1889, hardback

Read in June, 2009, read count: 2

 

Description: Set in Scotland during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, in the exotic French Indies, and in the North American wilderness, the story has as its hero one of the most compelling yet horrifying studies of evil in nineteenth-century fiction—James Durie, Master of Ballantrae. The Master is about his infective influence—on his younger, less attractive brother Henry; on Henry’s wife Alison; and on those narrators whom Stevenson so skilfully employs to present their experiences of this charming, ruthless, and evil man.

A very fragile copy of my mothers – faded red cloth, inscribed Gillian R Tanner(1956) and the price? 4/-, that’s four shillings to us who remember the ol’ conundrums. I think this is my favourite RLS; it is so dark.

At that time [1745:] there dwelt a family of four persons in the house of Durrisdeer, near St Brides, on the Solway shore; a chief hold of their race since the Reformation.

The Rising(from Wiki)

The novel is presented as the memoir of one Ephraim Mackellar, steward of the Durrisdeer estate in Scotland. The novel opens in 1745, the year of the Jacobite Rising. When Bonnie Prince Charlie raises the banner of the Stewarts the Durie family–the Laird of Durrisdeer, his older son James Durie (the Master of Ballantrae) and his younger son Henry Durie–decide on a common strategy: one son will join the uprising while the other will join the loyalists. That way, whichever side wins the family’s noble status and estate will be preserved. Logically, the younger son should join the rebels, but the Master insists on being the rebel (a more exciting choice) and contemptuously accuses Henry of trying to usurp his place, comparing him to Jacob. The two sons agree to toss a coin to determine who goes. The Master wins and departs to join the Rising, while Henry remains in support of King George II.

Ailean Breic Stuibhairt was an 18th-century soldier and Scottish Jacobite resistance figure. He was the centre of a murder case that inspired novels by Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Notorious as the Appin Murderer.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

bookshelves: victorian, summer-2014, tbr-busting-2014, published-1899, women, lit-richer, classic, fradio, play-dramatisation, shortstory-shortstories-novellas

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from August 16 to 21, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dk864

Description: Holidaying on Grand Isle in 1899, Edna Pontellier feels she is living in a dream, so the attentions of the dashing young Robert Lebrun serve merely to amuse her.

When it was published in 1899, Kate Chopin’s novel shocked society and divided critics. Respectable, married Edna Pontellier, 28, is away from her home in New Orleans, holidaying on Grand Isle in the Gulf of Mexico with her husband and children. Teaching her to swim is the debonair young Robert Lebrun, known for forming an attachment with a different woman every summer. Despite warnings from her more conventional friend, Adele, Edna falls incontrovertibly for Robert. When he leaves Louisiana for Mexico, Edna realises she’s been “awakened” and questions everything: her marriage, her position, the society she lives in. But what is left for her? The novel is regarded by many as the first in a new wave of modern American literature.
Produced and directed by Marion Nancarrow
Dramatised by Janice Okoh

1/5 Holidaying on Grand Isle in 1899, Edna Pontellier feels she is living in a dream.

2/5 After a disagreement with her husband, Edna plans a trip alone with Robert.

3/5 Edna continues to be enraptured by Robert’s company, but there is a shock in store for her

4/5 Leonce hopes a visit from her father will stop Edna’s unconventional behaviour.

5/5 Edna thinks Robert’s return will make her happy, but events are to overtake them both.

How kind of BBC to help me shift a long-term TBR item. I’m sure this was a pearl-clasping tale back then and opened many a young lady’s eyes.

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

bookshelves: currently-reading, vienna, victorian, gothic, e-book, net-galley, newtome-author, fantasy, anti-semitic, eugenics, historical-fiction, cults-societies-brotherhoods, austria, eye-scorcher, witches-and-wizards, superstitions, published-2014, psychology, lifestyles-deathstyles, gardening, food-glorious-food, doo-lally, cover-love, adventure, a-questing-we-shall-go, austro-hungarian-empire

Read from July 10 to 13, 2014


** spoiler alert **

**WARNING: there are spoilers galore in the reviews of this book, so don’t check down through the community book page.**

Description: Gretel and the Dark is Eliza Granville’s dazzling novel of darkness, evil – and hope. Vienna, 1899.

Josef Breuer – celebrated psychoanalyst – is about to encounter his strangest case yet. Found by the lunatic asylum, thin, head shaved, she claims to have no name, no feelings – to be, in fact, not even human. Intrigued, Breuer determines to fathom the roots of her disturbance.

Years later, in Germany, we meet Krysta. Krysta’s Papa is busy working in the infirmary with the ‘animal people’, so little Krysta plays alone, lost in the stories of Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, and more. And when everything changes and the real world around her becomes as frightening as any fairy tale, Krysta finds that her imagination holds powers beyond what she could have ever guessed . . .

Eliza Granville was born in Worcestershire and currently lives in Bath. She has had a life-long fascination with the enduring quality of fairytales and their symbolism, and the idea for Gretel and the Dark was sparked when she became interested in the emphasis placed on these stories during the Third Reich. Gretel and the Dark is her first novel to be published by a major publisher.

This as change of pace from the huge and delicious dip-in/dip-out read of Der Turm: Geschichte aus einem versunkenen Land

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a young adult read. The main narrative is from the point of view of a young girl who doesn’t quite catch the meaning of all that happens around her, yet you the reader will discern straight away just what is unfolding if you remember your history of the time and the place.

Karl Lueger: The populist and anti-Semitic politics of his Christian Social Party are sometimes viewed as a model for Hitler’s Nazism.

Turn of the century Vienna is a time of blossoming psycho-analysis, uprise in anti-semitism, a rumbling of discontent with the emperor Franz Joseph, and the poor are becoming poorer. This is the backdrop to ‘Gretel and the Dark’, where the deeds are dark, superstitions run rife and most important, the writing superb.

Lambach Abbey: In 1897/98 Adolf Hitler lived in the town of Lambach with his parents. It is often claimed that he attended the secular Volksschule at which Benedictine teachers were employed, but also that he attended the monastery school, where each day he saw swastikas among the carved stones and woodwork, which included the symbol.

Just as Oskar in The Tin Drum is one step removed from the events, so here with Krysta, and her real thoughts sometimes are only revealed when she is conversing to her doll. This is clear at the death of her father where she vocally tells everyone that papa is not dead, then she whispers a query to her doll about what are they going to do now.

Just a smidgeon short of five hitlers

An aside: on NetGALLEY(™) you get a chance to vote whether you do or don’t like the cover. I liked it!

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

bookshelves: spring-2014, gardening, forest, gutenberg-project, e-book, lit-richer, maine, published-1896, victorian, travel, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, period-piece, north-americas, women

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: Wanda
Read from May 16 to 18, 2014



Read for free: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/367/36…

Opening: THERE WAS SOMETHING about the coast town of Dunnet which made it seem more attractive than other maritime villages of eastern Maine. Perhaps it was the simple fact of acquaintance with that neighborhood which made it so attaching, and gave such interest to the rocky shore and dark woods, and the few houses which seemed to be securely wedged and tree-nailed in among the ledges by the Landing. These houses made the most of their seaward view, and there was a gayety and determined floweriness in their bits of garden ground; the small-paned high windows in the peaks of their steep gables were like knowing eyes that watched the harbor and the far sea-line beyond, or looked northward all along the shore and its background of spruces and balsam firs. When one really knows a village like this and its surroundings, it is like becoming acquainted with a single person. The process of falling in love at first sight is as final as it is swift in such a case, but the growth of true friendship may be a lifelong affair.

Brazilliant calls these stories adorable – and that, dear friends, is more than good enough for me.

“A shipmaster was apt to get the habit of reading,” said my companion, brightening still more, and taking on a most touching air of unreserve. “A captain is not expected to be familiar with his crew, and for company’s sake in dull days and nights he turns to his book.” – Captain Littlepage.

Mrs Almiry Todd: ‘There was something lonely and solitary about her great determined shape. She might have been Antigone alone on the Theban plain. How I would love a friend such as this one.

And said of Mrs Todd’s mother: [..]she had that final, that highest gift of heaven, a perfect self-forgetfulness.

Note: SARAH ORNE JEWETT (1849-1909) was born and died in South Berwick, Maine. Her father was the region’s most distinguished doctor and, as a child, Jewett often accompanied him on his round of patient visits. She began writing poetry at an early age and when she was only 19 her short story “Mr. Bruce” was accepted by the Atlantic Monthly. Her association with that magazine continued, and William Dean Howells, who was editor at that time, encouraged her to publish her first book, Deephaven (1877), a collection of sketches published earlier in the Atlantic Monthly. Through her friendship with Howells, Jewett became acquainted with Boston’s literary elite, including Annie Fields, with whom she developed one of the most intimate and lasting relationships of her life.

The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896) is considered Jewett’s finest work, described by Henry James as her “beautiful little quantum of achievement.” Despite James’s diminutives, the novel remains a classic. Because it is loosely structured, many critics view the book not as a novel, but a series of sketches; however, its structure is unified through both setting and theme. Jewett herself felt that her strengths as a writer lay not in plot development or dramatic tension, but in character development. Indeed, she determined early in her career to preserve a disappearing way of life, and her novel can be read as a study of the effects of isolation and hardship on the inhabitants who lived in the decaying fishing villages along the Maine coast.

Jewett died in 1909, eight years after an accident that effectively ended her writing career. Her reputation had grown during her lifetime, extending far beyond the bounds of the New England she loved.

 

Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy

bookshelves: spring-2014, radio-4x, published-1882, victorian

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 10 to 16, 2014

 

Classic Serial

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00m5sr5

“Ah, my heart her eyes and she
Have taught thee new astrology.
Howe’er Love’s native hours were set,
Whatever starry synod met,
‘Tis in the mercy of her eye,
If poor Love shall live or die.”

Description: Dramatisation by Jon Sen of Thomas Hardy’s tragic tale of star-crossed lovers in the West Country.

When Lady Viviette Constantine discovers the handsome young astronomer Swithin St Cleeve on the lonely tower on her estate, a story of passion and sacrifice begins.

Viviette and Swithin have married in secret, but chance and convention conspire against them and painful sacrifices have to be made.

Lady Constantine …… Maggie O’Neill
Swithin St Cleeve …… Blake Ritson
Parson Torkingham …… Conrad Nelson
Tabitha Lark …… Amy Humphreys
Fellows …… Stephen Tomlin
Granny Martin …… Pauline Jefferson
Louis …… Richard Heap
Joshua …… Carter Dowland

Directed by Stefan Escreet.

CR Two on a Tower
4* Tess of the d’Urbervilles
4* Far from the Madding Crowd
5* Jude the Obscure
4* The Mayor of Casterbridge
4* The Return of the Native
4* The Woodlanders
5* Under the Greenwood Tree
5* A Pair of Blue Eyes
4* The Trumpet-Major
WL Wessex Tales
WL Life’s Little Ironies
4* The Darkling Thrush

Ninety Three

bookshelves: winter-20132014, fraudio, published-1874, historical-fiction, france, tbr-busting-2014, revolution, lit-richer, execution, epic-proportions, gr-library, channel-islands, victorian, translation, seven-seas

Read from January 05 to 27, 2014

 

Description: Ninety-three, the last of Victor Hugo’s novels, is regarded by many including such diverse critics as Robert Louis Stevenson and André Maurois as his greatest work.

1793, Year Two of the Republic, saw the establishment of the National Convention, the execution of Louis XVI, the Terror, and the monarchist revolt in the Vendée, brutally suppressed by the Republic. Hugo’s epic follows three protagonists through this tumultuous year: the noble royalist de Lantenac; Gauvain, who embodies a benevolent and romantic vision of the Republic; and Cimourdain, whose principles are altogether more robespierrean.The conflict of values culminates in a dramatic climax on the scaffold.

“Was it a Blue; was it a White?”
“It was a bullet”

Trivia: The former priest who is considered by some to be the novel’s villain, Cimourdain, purportedly “made a deep impression on a young Georgian seminarian named Dzhugashvili, who was confined to his cell for reading Ninety-Three and later changed his name to Stalin”, according to a biographer of Hugo. (wiki sourced)

Daniel Vierge, illus. from “Ninety-three”

Achille-Isidore Gilbert, from Ninety-three vol. 1

Tellmarch. Jules Férat, from Ninety-three vol. 1

Charlotte Corday killing Marat. Frédéric Théodore Lix, from Ninety-three vol. 1

Imânus. A. Lançon, from Ninety-three vol. 2

She walked towards the tower. Édouard Riou, from Ninety-three vol. 2

Wow, this was rich pickings indeed, and delivered in that wry way that Hugo does to great aplomb. A great listen; fully recommended.

5* Les Misérables
3* The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
5* The Man Who Laughs
4* Ninety-Three
TR The Toilers of the Sea

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For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire and the Secret Formula for the World’s Favourite Drink

bookshelves: nonfiction, autumn-2012, history, published-2009, biography, colonial-overlords, victorian, recreational-drugs, war, fraudio, china, india, gardening, pirates-smugglers-wreckers

Read on November 05, 2012

Read by the author herself.

Blurb – A dramatic historical narrative of the man who stole the secret of tea from China.

In 1848, the British East India Company, having lost its monopoly on the tea trade, engaged Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, botanist, and plant hunter, to make a clandestine trip into the interior of China’s territory forbidden to foreigners,to steal the closely guarded secrets of tea horticulture and manufacturing. For All the Tea in China is the remarkable account of Fortune’s journeys into China; a thrilling narrative that combines history, geography, botany, natural science, and old-fashioned adventure.

Disguised in Mandarin robes, Fortune ventured deep into the country, confronting pirates, hostile climate, and his own untrustworthy men as he made his way to the epicenter of tea production, the remote Wu Yi Shan hills. One of the most daring acts of corporate espionage in history, Fortune’s pursuit of China’s ancient secret makes for a classic nineteenth-century adventure tale, one in which the fate of empires hinges on the feats of one extraordinary man.

Camellia sinensis:

Robert Fortune, the tea thief. From wiki: Robert Fortune (16 September 1812 – 13 April 1880) was a Scottish botanist, plant hunter and traveller, best known for introducing tea plants from China to India. Robert Fortune was born in Britain on 16 September 1812, at Kelloe, Berwickshire.

This does have the tang of ‘must publish my dissertation or bust’, feeling; the author delivers this in rather a dramatic and staccato’d fashion.

Can’t fault the historical research and it is enjoyable enough for a solid 3*