Hello Out There…

I am still here. I have been reading, but not from my project list. Why? Well, because the last 8 months with the twins have been, uh, busy and I didn’t want what happened with Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to happen with other project selections. I read the book, but by the time I had a chance to actually write a blog post I had nothing to say. Too much time had passed. My mind was blank. I keep a reading journal via my blog so that I can record my thoughts while they are fresh and then remember the books in the future by rereading posts. People keep telling me this raising twins thing gets easier, but I am not so sure. In the mean time, I will read when I can, blog when I can and check in when I can. Happy Holidays All!

P.S.

Here is what I have downloaded to my Nook since we last chatted:

1984, George Orwell

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, J Randy Taraborrelli

Walking in the Shade, Doris Lessing

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, Bob Spitz

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan

Bringing Up Bebe, Pamela Druckerman

Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin

Moranthology, Caitlin Moran

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe

The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling

Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan

 

 

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

 * This post may contain spoilers.*

Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, was actually a re-read for me. We read this in my AP English class senior year of high school … almost 20 years ago. I remembered nothing about the book other than I thought I remembered liking it. This time around I have to be honest and say I really wasn’t impressed. The story was rather predictable and frankly I was a bit bored. I am learning that I have to stop making assumptions about a work before I read it. I assumed I would like Emily’s Wuthering Heights. I assumed I wouldn’t like Charlotte’s Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre ended up being a much better novel in my opinion. I am anxious to try Anne next with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Random Thoughts:

* Considering Emily named the novel after the house, I thought perhaps Wuthering Heights would have become more of a character in its own right … sort of like Manderley in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, but I did not find this to be true. It was a sad place, sure, but it didn’t seem to have a presence.

* Emily Bronte’s choice of Ellen Dean, housekeeper, as narrator was interesting. Although I am aware that English servants during the 19th century often had very intimate knowledge of the family for whom they were employed, the narration is still unreliable. I found myself wondering if we, the reader, really knew the characters. Could Heathcliff have really been that much of a monster? Perhaps he was more/less cruel and vengeful than described by Dean. In any event, it is likely that Heathcliff was a shocking character for readers in 1847, but he pales in comparison to the cruel, violent realities paraded before us on the cable news networks today.

* One thing is for sure, this really isn’t a love story. I felt that Heathcliff and Catherine were not so much in love as they were the same soul somehow mistakenly divided into two different bodies. And so, when Catherine passes away her soul cannot be at peace until it becomes whole again through Heathcliff’s death: “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” – Catherine Earnshaw. An interesting premise, but one that didn’t seem as fully developed as it could have been.

* Speaking of Catherine’s death, I am always fascinated by 19th century diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, or lack there of. I sometimes like to make my own contemporary diagnosis. Did Catherine have rheumatic fever that weakened her heart causing pregnancy and childbirth to be too much of a strain?

1818 – 1848

Favorite Quotes:

“I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.” – Catherine Earnshaw … this has happened to me!

“You are one of those things that are ever found when least wanted, and when you are wanted, never!” – Catherine Earnshaw to her husband Edgar Linton

“And I pray one prayer – I repeat it till my tongue stiffens – Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you – haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” – Heathcliff after Catherine’s death … hmm, be careful what you wish for, Heathcliff!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte…Final Thoughts…

*This post may contain spoilers for those who have not read the novel, although, from what I can tell, there does not seem to be many who have never read Jane Eyre. J

Oh Jane Eyre, (first published by Charlotte Bronte in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell) even now I am not sure that I completely understand what all the hype is about. The novel did become much more interesting after the first third. I liked the book. It was certainly better than I had expected it to be, but I am still not sure if I can list it as one of my absolute favorites. However, it goes without saying that Charlotte Bronte was a talented writer.

Some thoughts:
1.      Did anyone else have a hard time picturing Jane as just an 18-19 year old girl? She seemed to resonate in my head as more of a contemporary of Mr. Rochester’s generation and I had to keep reminding myself how young she really was.
2.      I really enjoyed the scene where Mr. Rochester posed as the fortune teller! I also liked how interested Jane seemed to be in “signs” and the meaning of dreams and such. For example: “When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard Bessie Leaven say to Martha Abbott that she had been dreaming about a little child: and that to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to oneself or one’s kin.”
3.      It surprised me that Jane would travel back to see Mrs. Reed on her death bed. I am not sure that I would have been able to turn the other cheek and give the woman any satisfaction.
4.      Beautiful foreshadowing for what is about to happen to Jane and Rochester on their proposed wedding day: “It was not without a certain wild pleasure I ran before the wind, delivering my trouble of mind to the measureless air torrent thundering through space. Descending the laurel-walk, I faced the wreck of the chestnut-tree; it stood up, black and riven: the trunk, split down the centre, gasped ghastly. The cloven halves were not broken from each other, for the firm base and strong roots kept them unsundered below; though community of vitality was destroyed-the sap could flow no more: their great boughs on each side were dead … as yet, however, they might be said to form one tree-a ruin, but an entire ruin.”
5.      If you were Jane, what would you have done upon the discovery of Mrs. Rochester? Would you have escaped in the night to nothing and no one or would you have stayed with Mr. Rochester, your love, although marriage was no longer an option? “What is better?-To have surrendered to temptation; listened to passion … fallen asleep on the flowers covering it; wakened in a southern climate … to have been now living in France, Mr. Rochester’s mistress … or to be a village schoolmistress, free and honest, in the breezy mountain nook in the healthy heart of England?” I would have stayed with Rochester.
6.      Grace Poole…uh, how the heck did this woman retain her own sanity while being cloistered on the third floor providing care for a lunatic such as Mrs. Rochester? Wasn’t she scared out of her mind that she was going to end up dead herself? I don’t blame her for her propensity to drink gin in the evenings!
7.     Did I find any more similarities to Rebecca as I read on? Well, Grace Poole is odd, but she is definitely no Mrs. Danvers. There are many obvious plot differences and the more passionate love story of Jane and Rochester. Thornfield burns to the ground like Manderlay, but ultimately, Daphne du Maurier’s work felt much darker…it was much heavier on the “eerie” factor…much more suspenseful. Some of this was no doubt because Manderlay itself became a character, taking on a life of its own, while Thornfield remained just a setting and because Jane Eyre simply contained a much more hopeful tone than Rebecca.
8.      Did I find that Jane returned to her former feisty glory? Not exactly in the bold way that I had hoped for, but a certain fire laced with grace remained. Actually, I quite liked it.
Charlotte Bronte
1816-1855

Favorite Quotes:

“The waters came into my soul; I sank in deep mire: I felt no standing; I came into deep waters; the floods overflowed me.” – Jane Eyre
“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.” – Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte…Initial Thoughts…

I have read about a third of Jane Eyre, the classic I never intended to read, and so far…so-so. The novel opens with Jane looking back on her life at age 10. Her parents are deceased and she has been living in the home of her Uncle Reed who, on his own death-bed, forced his wife to promise to continue to look after Jane. She is provided with material comforts, but is treated cruelly and starved for affection. She is reminded each and every day just how unwanted she is in the Reed’s world. Ultimately, she is shipped off to a school for orphans. At least here, Jane meets companions and receives an education; however, the girls are often literally starving and there is a typhus outbreak that results in the death of many students. Eventually, the conditions at Lowood are exposed and improved. Jane excels academically and at age 18, she joins the cast of characters at the home of Mr. Rochester as governess.

Initially, I fell in love with Jane’s feisty character (the scene where she stands up to Mrs. Reed!!!), but her time at Lowood appears to have dampened some of her original fire. Perhaps this is just a natural maturing. I became bored by much of the story in this first third. I was struck with a “blah” feeling that reminded me of Jane’s simple, “blah” appearance. Is this where the term “plain Jane” originated from? However, things seem to finally be picking up. Someone has tried to burn Mr. Rochester alive by setting his bed on fire and there is much mystery surrounding one Grace Poole. The mention of Poole brings me to one of the reasons why I decided to read this novel in the first place: I had heard that it held similarities to Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. I found they both start rather slow, involve a mansion shrouded in mystery with an eerie portion of the home that isn’t used and include a whack job character on the house staff. Also, in both cases, the narrators are reflecting on their past. Will the similarities end here? Will Jane return to her former feisty glory? Ok, I am intrigued enough to read on…