Sunday, 16 January 2011

First post (featuring much use of parentheses)

I've created this blog both so I can respond non-anonymously to posts on other literary blogs, and also to post some reviews of my own. My reading tastes are rather eclectic, although I do tend to focus on Victorian fiction, modern (published-in-the-last-ten-years) fiction or historical novels... sadly, due to researching during the day I read very little non-fiction that's not for my PhD in modern history, though hopefully one day this will change. To give an idea...

My top three contemporary novels currently are:

1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (And I was unexpectedly impressed by the upcoming
film trailer, although I'm reserving judgement until I actually get to see it on 10th February - v. excited as my local cinema are running a Q & A session with Ishiguro after the film, so I can finally try once again to ask him the question I've been waiting to ask since last seeing him speak at the Bath Literature Festival in 2005! Nothing terribly exciting unless you're deeply interested in the workings of historical fiction...)

2. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. (cf. 1 below - I think this would be a fascinating comparison to explore fully)

3. Sunshine by Robin McKinley. (For reasons of complete besottedness and obsession with this novel, I am probably totally unqualified to give any sort of value judgement on it, but the narrative voice is wonderful, and I'm a big fan of RMK's work in general)

(And a honourable mention for The Night Watch by Sarah Waters - a great historical novelist and this is her best so far, IMO)

And my top three classic novels at the moment:

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot. (In a way I love Adam Bede more, but I can see objectively that this is by far the better novel).

2. Villette by Charlotte Bronte. (Not much love for Jane Eyre, I'm afraid).

3. Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope. (I found this tremendous fun and am reading my way through the Palliser novels. Trollope has been described as 'the poor man's Dickens' - I sometimes feel that he is what Dickens might be if Dickens was any good. Possibly the most controversial literary opinion I hold, but I have a deep loathing for Dickens that may as well be revealed upfront if I'm going to talk about nineteenth-century fiction at all. I don't pretend it is entirely rational...)

If anyone does find this blog, I would of course love to hear your thoughts on any of this. Hopefully, some actual book reviews will follow.


  1. "Trollope has been described as 'the poor man's Dickens' - I sometimes feel that he is what Dickens might be if Dickens was any good." - oh, how I snorted at that line! I'm a fellow Dickens sceptic, and get very cross when Trollope is compared unfavourably with Boz. I'm prepared to accept that Dickens has a superior imagination, but Trollope is a much better delineator of character.

    Thank you for cheering me up.

  2. Only just noticed that someone had actually commented here - thank you! I've been really enjoying your Trollope reviews on your blog, especially as I only really know the Palliser novels and am glad of suggestions for where to go next with his vast number of works!

  3. Have you read Water's The Little Stranger? I agree that The Night Watch was her best book until that came out, but now I've switched allegiance. The Little Stranger is an absolute achievement - by which I mean it does everything, absolutely everything, it sets out to do. Which I think is so rare in fiction. It has no failure about it.

  4. Yes, I have read 'The Little Stranger' and loved it - I very much need to re-read it, though. On first impressions, you are quite right about it doing everything it sets out to do; it's technically perfect, and perfectly complete. Ironically I think this might be why I prefer (for the moment, pre re-read, at least) the much more obviously flawed 'Night Watch' - I sometimes like books to be a little messier, to get things wrong. This is difficult to explain - I suppose I'm trying to get at the way 'Night Watch' feels unfinished at the edges, partly due to the backwards structure but also because there seems to be so much more to be said: what happens to Kay? Viv? Helen? Whereas I guess 'Little Stranger' has more of what Cassandra from I Capture the Castle would describe as a 'brick wall [un]happy ending' and I've thought far less about it since finishing it. Which is not to say I didn't think it was a fantastic novel, because it is.

  5. Any blogger who has listed Eliot, Bronte and Trollope amongst her reading is a kindred spirit and I shall be keeping an eye out for your posts. My daughter graduated from Gonville and Cius (never could spell it) in History and now lectures in modern british history at St Mary's in London. I adore cambridge!

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  7. (Apologies for post above, posted before I meant to) Hi Elaine, lovely to hear from you, and hopefully I will be posting (and checking my comments!) more regularly in future. I was at Gonville and Caius just the other day for a conference - it is a lovely college, especially the entrance with the tree-lined walk...