Review: Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes

DNVX0212[1]I’ve been on a bit of classics hype over the last few weeks, rediscovering some authors I’d previously had a bit of a rockier relationship with, and realising that I do actually enjoy some of their works. If you’ve seen either my Ethan Frome post or my Silas Mariner post then you’ll know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’ t, let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised! Delving back into, not only classics, but also the Victorian period (which is my favourite!) was completely refreshing, and having finished both of the above books I was craving something a bit more focused on the historical aspect. That’s where Kathryn Hughes’s Victorians Undone came into play.

Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum, is actually a non-fiction book, something I’m trying to make more of an effort to read. The premise is fairly straightforward and has an interesting concept; through five different Victorian body parts Kathryn attempts to not only look at what their owners lives were like, but also what it was like to be them, as well as calling into play the society they lived among. I was pretty instantly sold on the entire idea and loved the thought of discovering the Victorian in a slightly different way, so it was a fairly easy decision to pick this as my next read. Continue reading

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Review: Silas Marner by George Eliot

YFBE6659[1]Fairly recently I delved back into the world of classics, giving the much loved author Edith Wharton another go with her novel Ethan Frome. I’d previously read The House of Mirth by her and hadn’t been very impressed, but I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Ethan Frome in comparison. Feeling inspired by this, I decided to revisit another classic author; George Eliot. Middlemarch, arguably her most famous work, was a novel I studied in University, and whilst I appreciated the talent within it, I also found it lengthy and pretty boring. However, I knew that many people loved this author, so I decided to give her another go with the much shorter and therefore much quicker read of Silas Marner.

Silas Marner tells the story of the eponymous titular character. Wrongly accused of theft by those he most trusted, Silas is forced to leave the place he calls home, making his way to the smaller rural village of Raveloe. Here he establishes his usefulness in the community as a weaver, yet despite his skills Silas refuses to integrate himself into Raveloe’s society. He lives on the fringes of the rural village, a man whose strange ways cause the local folk to easily condemn him, whilst the children run in fear. All that Silas cares for is his precious stash of coins, saved meticulously over the many years. Yet when his gold is stolen, Silas is forced to once more face society, a task that becomes all the more urgent when an orphaned child, Eppie, finds her way into Silas home and heart. Through Eppie, can Silas transform his life for ever?

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Review: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

IMG_0142[1]Halloween may be far behind us, but there was still a slightly spooky book that I was dying to get my hands on. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell has received rave reviews both on and offline, with many people stating that it was almost too frightening to finish reading! Hearing this really intrigued me as I love a book that isn’t a horror but which still has the power to unsettle me. Likewise, The Silent Companions is actually historical fiction primarily set in the Victorian era, and I love anything Victorian or historical fiction related.

As if the above selling points weren’t enough, the plot also sounded completely intriguing. The book follows the central character of Elsie, a newly married and newly widowed woman who is sent to her deceased husbands aged estate, The Bridge, to see out her pregnancy. From the moment she arrives Elsie feels uncomfortable, with both superstitious villagers and the somewhat resentful staff who surround her. Even the estate does not welcome her in, with its cold rooms and creaking floorboards which only work to agitate Elsie further. Yet further company is soon to make its way to Elsie after the discovery of a locked room full of ancestral diaries and the mysterious wooden figure of the first silent companion. As time passes, Elsie begins to realise all is not as it seems, and that even a piece of wood may hold far more secrets than she can imagine.

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Review: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

IMG_9646[1]As soon as the weather gets colder I begin to crave everything that is comfy and cosy. Thick woolly jumpers, warm stodgy food, and of course, a truly cosy read. For me personally a cosy read is usually something dark and Gothic (a bit strange I know), or a classic novel that I can get completely lost in. As it’s not quite cold enough yet I wasn’t completely in the mood for a darker read, but I was most definitely eager to tick another classic off my TBR. With the recent TV adaptation of Vanity Fair my choice seemed fairly easy!

Vanity Fair is of course written by the famous William Makepeace Thackeray, and in all honesty it is an absolute beast of a book! I read the Penguin English Library edition which came in at just under 900 pages, so this is definitely not one for the faint hearted!

Set against the backdrop of nineteenth century Europe and the Napoleonic War, Vanity Fair focuses primarily on the character of two school friends as they make their way into society. Firstly we have Amelia Sedley, a friendly if somewhat naive young woman with all of the advantages which her father’s wealth can bring. The novel then contrasts with the figure of Becky Sharp, a cunning and ambitious woman with no wealthy relatives to aid her progression in society. Across the novel we follow both of these women and the friends they make as they work their way through society, with everything from love, betrayal scandal and social climbing to contest with.

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Review: Villette by Charlotte Brontë

IMG_9597[1]When you think of classic Literature there are a few books which might quickly come to mind; Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations and Dracula to name just a few of my favourites. Yet there is another book which is always on these kinds of lists and is pretty synonymous with great classic literature. I’m talking, of course, about Jane Eyre. Undoubtedly Charlotte Brontë’s most iconic novel, it’s one of those books that is loved by many and continually recommended (with good reason!) I’m a massive fan of the book myself, and indeed of all of the Brontë sisters as a whole.

I’ve had Villette, another of Charlotte’s novels, sat on my shelf for a good few years now, and looking at it is always a guilt inducing experience. When I recently found myself massively in the mood to pick up another classic, I decided to bite the bullet and at long last get stuck in. Her third and last novel, Villette follows the protagonist of Lucy Snowe. After an unspecified family disaster which leaves Lucy fending for herself, she leaves her native England to travel to France, looking for a fresh start. It is in the city of Villette that she finds work at a French girl’s school, eventually becoming employed as a teacher there. Across the novel we follows Lucy as she encounters new faces, becoming drawn into potential romances and different circumstances which will test her.

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Review: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

IMG_9374[1]First things first, have you seen how gorgeous the latest Penguin English Library books are? I’m sure they get more and more stunning to behold with each new release! It’s fairly obvious that this is probably my favourite collection of books, and as you might have guessed I’ve amassed a fair collection of them as time has gone by. Pretty as they are (and boy they really really are!), they are also great examples of classic pieces of literature, and I love reading them just as much as I love staring adoringly at the covers! Realising it’ss been a while since I’d read anything from this range I decided to pick up a short little number from Elizabeth Gaskell.

Cranford is of course an extremely well known book with multiple TV adaptations and a firm fan following, but what is it really about? Having now read the book I think the best way to describe it is to say it focuses quite specifically on the inhabitants of Cranford itself and the daily goings of this small community. ‘Dominated by women and governed by old-fashioned ways’, the book looks at several different female characters and the ways in which they interact within this self-contained microcosm of society.

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