Tag Archive for England

Book Review: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House by Charles Dickens Phew! I managed to finish the whole thing! I think this was the first Dickens novel I read in full, at least that I can recall, and it was quite an experience.

It’s a hefty tome, especially in terms of the often weighty language and cast of characters. (I wish I’d taken notes or had a list of who’s who to refer to as I read along. Though sometimes it seemed like there were only 30 people in England at this time, and they all knew each other.) I often had to reread passages to grasp was what going on, or go back to a previous chapter to remember if I’d seen a certain character before, and I’m sure I missed some clever coincidences or small events that played into the bigger story.

Despite all this, I did enjoy reading it, though I feel I’d need to reread the whole book to really see all that was going on, and to appreciate the writing more fully. Maybe someday.

Book Review: The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon

The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon I didn’t realize this was by an author I’d tried to read before, but I figured I’d give it a try. The first chapter seemed really good, so I thought I’d keep going. It wasn’t as strong after that, but I thought it was ok, though I credit that to having been sleep-deprived. I got a good night’s sleep, and then I realized that this wasn’t the book for me. I didn’t like the characters, and the writing was so sappy and overly wordy. Just too annoying in so many ways.

Book Review: Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson A woman in a small English village writes a novel about the people living there, and trouble ensues. A decent little read.

Book Review: She Rises by Kate Worsley

She Rises by Kate Worsley Ugh. Not at all what I thought it would be, and not really in a good way. The writing started off really well, but eventually it started to deteriorate, along with the quality of the whole storyline. I really don’t have any interest in the whole “maid with humble beginnings fawns over snotty, spoiled brat of a mistress” thing. Just a silly historical soap opera, with a plot twist that was pretty easy to predict at less than 100 pages in.

Book Review: A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe I’m not really sure why this book caught my eye at the library, given its somber subject, the horrific plague that struck London in 1665. I was browsing nearby and decided to pull it out and take a look. I think I had 1600s England in mind, having just watched part of The Tudors on New Year’s Day, and wanting to read something from around that time period, so it seemed of interest.

Now, this book is categorized as fiction, but it certainly doesn’t read like a typical novel. It does read like someone’s journal, and does include a mixture of personal experiences, charts of numbers (mostly of how many died when and where), and occasional stories passed on from others. It does get a bit dry in parts, especially with the charts, and it’s also somewhat repetitive, with multiple mentions on certain topics, either to reintroduce them or add further detail.

That said, I thought it was also fascinating, considering this was written by someone who lived in London and actually survived the plague (and went on to write several famous novels as well!). I found some of the theories about how the plague spread really interesting, because some of them weren’t entirely off. Although some physicians thought the disease was passed by smell or breath, others theorized that it must have gotten into people’s blood, due to cases where some people may have passed it on to others, while not appearing sick themselves. They just didn’t understand fully how this worked, but they were right in some ways.

It did take me awhile to read this book, and I admit to skimming a bit at the end, but it was still interesting. Don’t expect it to be a typical work of fiction though, or you’ll be pretty disappointed.

Book Review: Elizabeth I by Margaret George

Elizabeth I by Margaret George Rather tedious writing, with an overabundance of facts presented as character’s thoughts, and not very well.

Book Review: The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue I came across The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue while browsing through my local library’s online catalog, and then I happened to find a copy at the used bookstore the library runs nearby, so I bought it and dug right in. The story sounded interesting, about two women in Victorian England, good friends reunited after many years, but who are accused of having a romantic affair, the details of which are written in a sealed letter.

However, this description — which I’d read online somewhere — wasn’t actually what the book was about, which was confusing. The letter in question was actually only a minor element later on in the book, and the scandal was actually about one of the women — who is married — having an affair with a colleague of her husband’s, not about her and the other woman. There was a tiny detail about the latter possibility thrown in at the very end, but by then, it just frustrated me.

I really hate when a book is described — by others or the author — as something it ends up not becoming, or when a big emphasis is put on something that is actually not that significant in the book. Meet the expectations you’ve set up, or just get your story straight to begin with!

Book Review: The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham I’ve only read one other book by W. Somerset Maugham — Cakes and Ale — and I didn’t realize that some of his other works were slightly more contemporary, including The Painted Veil. The story follows a young English couple who get married, despite their not really being a loving couple, and then relocating to part of China, where the husband is going to work for the British government. The wife is the main focus though, and so we see her struggling with her marriage and this new life, and she eventually realizes just how selfish and uncaring she is.

The story was all right, but I had a hard time reading on, because I hated the main character so much. She was really quite a despicable character, very selfish and spoiled, and without any consideration for other people, especially her husband. I’d say it was an all right read, but I don’t really feel any urge to read other works by Maugham.

Book Review: Henrietta’s War: News from the Home Front, 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys

Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front, 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys I read the first Henrietta’s War book earlier this year, and I liked it well enough. Though it was a sequel, I didn’t feel like I missed a lot, but I did want to read the first book, just in case.

Henrietta’s War: News from the Home Front, 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys is a series of letters written by Henrietta, a housewife in England, to her childhood friend who is fighting in WWII. Henrietta writes about everyday things, per her friend’s request, and it shows a different side of the war, especially in a smaller town. Rationing and other preparations are becoming common, and Henrietta writes about how the people in town react to this new way of life.

Oddly, I almost didn’t like this volume as much as the second one, and I ended up wondering about characters not mentioned until the latter book. It’s still a nice book though.

Book Review: A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz

A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz I decided to read through some of the newest books published by Bloomsbury Group, and A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz was one I was able to get from the library firsts. Unfortunately, it was probably the one I liked least, but so it goes.

The story focuses on a kid growing up in a rough part of London, where he makes friends with a tailor and other businesspeople in the neighborhood. His father is posted to Africa, and he wants to find a way to bring him home. When the tailor tells him stories about unicorns making wishes comes true, he figures this is his chance, and when he finds a one-horned goat in the market, he thinks he’s found a real unicorn.

There’s a sub-plot about the tailor’s assistant boxing to win some money, and between the two, I just sort of got bored with the story. I finished the book, but I sort of wish I’d quit earlier. Ok, but not really a book I’d recommend.