Friday, September 30, 2011

Adam Bede

Finished Adam Bede by George Eliot, this summer's pastoral read. Adam is a kind, hard working, god fearing carpenter who is in love with Hetty Sorrel who works in the neighboring buttery. Hetty is uncommonly pretty, young, innocent and vain. She longs for pretty trinkets and fine dresses. Hetty falls in love with the local squire, Arthur Donnithorne, a handsome, kindly, good humored young man, and boyhood friend of Adam. Hetty and Arthur's secret love affair is discovered by Adam, who at first reacts violently, then repents and begs Arthur to renounce Hetty. Arthur does so and leaves the country with his regiment. As time passes Adam and Hetty begin to keep company and decide to marry. When Hetty finally admits to herself that she is pregnant with Arthur's child, she runs away and tries to find him. Enduring much hardship and unhappiness, Hetty has her baby with the help of a kind woman who takes her in. Frightened and unsure what to do, Hetty sneaks away with her baby and leaves it in the woods, hoping someone will find it. The child dies and Hetty is tried for murder. In the midst of all this, Hetty's cousin Dinah, a saintly Methodist preacher, comes to the aid and solace of both Adam and Hetty.

At times Hetty's character reminded me of Hester Prynne, at others Tess Durbeyfield. Hawthorne's novel was published first, in 1850, Eliot's in 1859 and Hardy's in 1891. Hetty wears a red cloak, Tess wears a red woolen cravat and Hester her scarlet A.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Blind Contessa's New Machine

Finished The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace. I loved this book. Carolina, a young woman in 19th century Italy, is slowly going blind. No one believes her accept her friend Turri. He is an eccentric inventor who devises a typewriting machine so that she can write to people once she is blind. This book is like a fairy tale. Carolina is blind in her waking world, but can see is her dreams. In her dreams she can also fly. This is an intricate tale of romance and the development of secondary senses. I often found myself reminded of Chagall's paintings while reading this book.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The House on Salt Hay Road

Finished The House on Salt Hay Road by Carin Clevidence. Like the last book I read, Rules of Civility, this book is set in 1937-38. Set on Long Island, it's the story of a family weathering the storm of changing times as well as the literal storm of the 1938 Hurricane. The characters are intricately drawn, with very credible foibles. One character is forever haunted by his actions as a child. This reminded me of of Ian McEwan's Atonement. I'd recommend this novel to anyone interested in a serious character study and/or nature.

Friday, September 9, 2011

All the Dogs of My Life

Finished All the Dogs of My Life by Elizabeth von Arnim. Another of von Arnim's memoirs, this one focuses on the fourteen different dogs she owned throughout her lifetime. There is of course great humor here, but confessions of ignorance, guilt and failure as a dog owner abound as well. A charming book that you can pick up and put down often, without losing the thread of the narrative.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rules of Civility

Finished Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. This book is STUNNING. It has a Jay Gatsby meets Kitty Foyle feel to it. Rarely have I read an author with such a keen sense of character development. To say more would let the book's nuances begin to seep out of my consciousness, and I am loath to do that.