Archive for the ‘classic literature’ Tag

Charlotte Bronte and Hard-to-Read Books   Leave a comment


I admit I decided to read Villette by Charlotte Bronte because of the Masterpiece Theatre program “To Walk Invisible The Bronte Sisters.” I knew some background about the women who had to first write under male pseudonyms; the show whetted my appetite for more. I thought I should read something new-to-me.

It was difficult reading for many reasons — primarily the language and perspectives. I wasn’t surprised that reading the story written in 1853 might prove a little formidable, but I expected to eventually find my groove. I didn’t.

Villette is a fictional Belgian village. Consequently, Bronte incorporated a lot of French into the dialogue, as if things weren’t difficult enough. Translations are provided among the notes in the back of the book. But who wants to keep turning pages back and forth all the time?

The novel follows Lucy Snow, a young English woman without means. She leaves England, and finds work as a nanny and then a teacher at a private girls’ school in Villette.

Lucy is an introvert and at times also appears misanthropic. She does allow a few to enter into her world. She’s reconnected with her godmother, whose son is now a doctor. He and Paul Emmanuel, also a teacher at the school, stir Lucy’s interest. The relationships with the two take many twists. Yet, none are particularly captivating. This may be due, in large part, to the era in which the novel was written: relationships moved at an aggravatingly slow pace.

Three bookmarks
First published in 1853; Penguin Books Classic Edition, 2004
611 pages, this edition includes a chronology of the author’s life; a brief history of the Bronte family, an introduction, suggested additional reading, notes and glossary.

A Sequel for Jane Austen   Leave a comment

I imagine it’s entirely possible to enjoy Death Comes to Pemberley even if, heaven for-
bid, you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice; but I especially appreciate P.D. James’s latest
mystery because I do know about the Bennet and Darcy families. The novel begins six years
after Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy are married.

A few new minor characters are introduced, but James, for the most part, extends the lives
of those created by Austen in a completely believable manner: the Darcys have two young
boys; Jane and Bingley are regular visitors to Pemberley, the Darcy estate; and Wickham,
the troublemaker in the original work has a similar role, with his wife Lydia not far behind
in her ability to exasperate.

The story begins on the eve of the annual ball overseen by Elizabeth as she continues a
tradition started by Darcy’s mother. The preparations are interrupted when an uninvited,
hysterical Lydia appears believing Wickham has been shot nearby. The characters’ react-
ion to this news, subsequent discoveries, and a trial in London’s Old Bailey are sheer en-
tertainment. In James’s hands, the story is plausible. The characters react just as one
would expect of proper, early 19th century British gentry. Family obligations and public
perceptions dictate their behavior.

The numerous and recent spinoffs, including combining zombies with Pride and Prejudice,
even if only meant to introduce or reacquaint readers to Jane Austin, have never appealed
to me. However, James has created something completely original from classic literature
without diminishing appreciation for Austen’s writing.
Death Comes to Pemberley”
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
291 Pages