Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Protestant Lucy Snowe leaves her traumatic childhood in England behind and takes on a job as a nanny in the French town of Villette. Soon, she gets promoted and becomes an English teacher in the boarding school where she lives. This way, Lucy gets involved in the love affair of Ginevra, one of the pupils, and Dr John. And that doctor turns out to be a childhood friend of Lucy.

Wow, this is such a different book from Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brontë can certainly craft a good novel but this story proved difficult for me. It’s rather uneven in pace and seems to go nowhere at times. Lucy Snowe is a complex main character who doesn’t think very highly of herself and even struggles with a depression at times. So it’s an intense story that doesn’t exactly make you happy.

When she’s working as an English teacher in France, Lucy meets two completely different men and gets involved with both of them, while always keeping her distance to not get too closely attached. I found the story around Dr John interesting to follow. But the character of Mr Paul Emmanuel is one I just couldn’t fathom. I did liken’t reading about him and didn’t understand Lucy’s behaviour towards him at all.

Apart from the personal indulgences of the different characters, the clash between the two religions (protestant and catholic) and countries (England and France) is also a strong theme. Lucy remains a Protestant foreigner and has to fight against prejudices.

Apparently, this book is very autobiographical to Charlotte’s life and I can understand why it has its value and charm. But I’m really glad I finished this one and I’m sure I won’t read it again. I found it lacking of a story that really gripped me.

This is book 14/50 the classics club.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What’s your favourite Charlotte Brontë novel?

CC Spin #29: My result

Don’t know what a classics club spin is? The idea is to list twenty books for your classics club challenge. Last Sunday a random number was chosen and I should read (and review, but my reviews are always a few weeks late :p) the corresponding book before Sunday 30th April.

Here you can find my list for this spin edition. And the lucky number this time was 11!

My result is thus Tender is the night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is certainly a result that I’m happy with as it isn’t the longest book on my list and I’ve enjoyed ‘The great Gatsby’ of the same author a few years ago. I’ve already started this classic as I was looking for a new Kindle book to start on the train. I must admit that after 50 pages I’m not quite sure if I like it or not, but I always need a bit of time to adjust to the setting and the writing, especially with classics.

Have you read this one? Are you happy with your result?

CC Spin #29: my list

Woohoo, time for another Classics Club spin! The rules are simple: list 20 books from your CC list you still need to read in a random order. At the end of this week, a number is chosen and you have to read the book that corresponds to that number on your list.

The last edition was in November 2021 and made me finish Marquez’ ‘Love in time of cholera‘. The result of the 29th edition is announced on Sunday 20th March and you’ve got time to read and review your spin book until Sunday 30th April.

  1. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
  2. The handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood
  3. The prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  5. The Borgias by Alexandre Dumas
  6. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
  7. Great expectations by Charles Dickens
  8. The idiot by Fyodor Dostoeysky
  9. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  10. Utopia by Thomas More
  11. Tender is the night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  12. The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  13. Richard III by William Shakespeare
  14. And then there were none by Agatha Christie
  15. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  16. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  17. North and south by Elizabeth Gaskell
  18. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  19. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  20. The bell jar by Sylvia Plath

Do you participate in this spin edition? Which one do you hope I get?

The trial by Franz Kafka

Josef K is arrested when he walks out of his bedroom with the message that his trial is being prepared. He doesn’t know what he’s charged with and nobody seems to be able to help him out with that.

Pfioew. Kafka is hard. 😅 I admit: I read this book quickly (it’s not that big), because otherwise I would get too depressed. The trial is one of Kafka’s unfinished books with a strong beginning and gripping end. And then something in between. I didn’t really have the courage anymore to also read the fragments that Kafka hadn’t yet given a place within the story.

The story is chaotic and at times claustrophobic. Josef K lives in a kind of totalitarian regime and ends up in a bureaucratic incomprehensible legal system. With corridors and secret attic rooms full of offices. This is the layer I understood, no doubt there is much more symbolism in it, but there is also so much uninteresting dialogue in the book that I didn’t want to dwell on it too long.

The women in the book are only out for sex and often not very intelligent. I have since learned that Kafka wrote this after a break-up and we must of course place it in its time, but I find the perspective on the women somewhat problematic.

I can now use the word Kafkaesque in conversations and that in itself is an achievement :).

This is book 13/50 for the classics club.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Have you read Kafka?

My first year of the classics club

A year ago I had the ambitious – or insane, that depends on your perspective – idea of joining the notorious classics club. The classics club is a book challenge where the goal is to create a list of 50 classics novels and read them in the coming 5 years. And then you win totally nothing :); but you can boast to your friends that you’ve read 50 classics in 5 years and they will mock you.

But how I do I look back on my first year of participating? And am I still on track? Which means I should have read a fifth of the list by now. By the way: you can find the whole list here.

Well, the good news is that I have already read 11/50 classics and am in the middle of my 12th which I hope to finished around New Year. So I’m on track.

As you can see, I’m more or less aiming at a monthly frequency of reading a classic. For me, that’s a way to structure this project. I also did participate at all the spin editions, which helped me choose my next novel.

I did notice that I hadn’t read a real bumpy classic yet this year, so that’s why I decided to start my first Tolstoj, which are lengthy novels. I’m also aware that it’s easier to read classics for me during the Winter (especially December – January), so I’m just going with the flow at the moment.

Before starting, I thought that reading classics would have an impact on my reading pace. Literature tends to read slower and takes more time, but this wasn’t really the case. I’ve never read more books than in 2021.

I must admit that there were times when asked myself why I started this challenge in the first place. There were some disappointing reads which made me scan the books and look forward to finishing it. I had expected to love these books as they survived for so long and pop up at everyone’s favorites’ list. But I sometimes just didn’t get it, or I could only admit that it was well-written prose but that I just didn’t liked the plot.

But the good news is that there were 4 books that I did enjoy enough and that I can recommend if you want to read a classic during the holidays. These were my favourites of 2021:

Jamaica Inn by Du Maurier is just a great gothic novel. I know by now that I mostly enjoy gothic or Victorian classics, so this one was right up in my alley.

Alexandre Dumas is another author whereof I knew I like his writing and storytelling. The man in the iron mask is full of humor and adventure. Maybe not so good as ‘The three musketeers’ (because it lacked Milady, one of my all-time favourite characters), but still good.

The tenant of Wildfell Hall was my first Anne Brönte. It’s a very readable classic that incorporates modern themes. I’m eager to read ‘Agnes Grey’ now.

And then The color purple! The most recent book on my whole list. This is a great book about the struggle of black American woman in the previous century. It has an unique writing style and I understand now why they say that every woman or girl should read this. I would certainly recommend it to my daughter or sister. If I had one of the two.

I don’t know what 2022 will bring, but it will bring some more classics for me. I’ll not give up on this project yet and I hope I can give you a higher number of recommendations in a year from now.

How many classics have you read in 2021?

CC Spin #28: my list

Just when I had selected my next classic as I’m planning to read ‘The catcher in the rye’ somewhere this month, I saw the announcement of the next classics club spin. The rules of a CC spin are easy:

  • List twenty yet to read books from your classics club list and number them from 1 to 20.
  • On Sunday, the 17th of October a number is randomly drawn
  • You’ve have to read and review the book corresponding the number by 12th December.

So, my spin result will provide some inspiration for my November TBR. I still have lots of books to go, so it wasn’t hard to choose 20 books. This is my list:

  1. Richard III by William Shakespeare
  2. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  3. A clockwork orange by Anthony Burgess
  4. North and south by Elizabeth Gaskell
  5. The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  7. And then there were none by Agatha Christie
  8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj
  9. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  10. Tender is the night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. The bell jar by Sylvia Plath
  12. Love in time of cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  13. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  14. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  15. The prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  16. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
  17. The trial by Franz Kafka
  18. The fifth queen by Ford Madox Ford
  19. The woman in white by Wilkie Collins
  20. Great expectations by Charles Dickens

Come back this Sunday to discover which one will be my result.

Which number do you think I should get?

Treasure island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The young Jim Hawkins gets his hands on a treasure map from the old sailor Billy Bones. The map belonged to the feared pirate captain Flint and indicates the location of riches on Skeleton island. Jim sets sail to the island with a few friends, but the one-legged cook John Silver turns out to be an old shipmate of Flint and the crew turns against them.

This classic novel was my result for the 27th CC spin and I must admit that I was looking forward to reading it as I had just finished the Starz series ‘Black sails’, which can be seen as a prequel to this novel. I also do have a thing with pirate stories and novels that take place on a ship.

The book opens with Billy Bones coming to stay at the pub of Jim and his parents. He offers old tales of his life as a seaman and is scared of a pirate with a wooden leg. When he dies, Jim finds a treasure map in his belongings, just before a pirate crew can get hold of it. Subsequently, Jim and his friends from the town set sail to Skeleton island but mutiny looms around the corner and Jim has to use his wit to make it out the adventure alive.

I must start with admitting that this was not an easy read for me. I struggled with the language (I read it in English). A lot of words were unfamiliar to me and I had difficulties with understanding what was going on at times and who was speaking. This is a common critic on this novel apparently. Maybe, next time I should read it in Dutch.

But it is a classic adventure novel with a lot of imagination. It highly influenced how we think of pirates and it has a lasting impact on popular culture (Black Sails is a great example of that of course). The story did feel a bit outdated at times, and I expected more action. But still, I believe I enjoyed this one enough.

I in particular loved the opening chapters, where Jim and his mother try to outwit the pirates. John Silver proves the ideal villain, although I can’t help but love him too. It was a short and entertaining read but I had expected to love it even more.

This is book 7/50 for the classics club. And book 10 for #20booksofsummer.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Have you read this? Did you enjoy it?

CC Spin #27: my result

Last week, I made a list of 20 classics still remaining on my Classics Club list in random order. At Sunday, the spin result was announced. And the lucky number is 6!

This means I’ll have to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island by August 22nd.

I must admit I made a list of 20 books I was looking forward to read. So of course I’m happy with the result. I would have picked up Treasure island soon anyway. We’ve just finished watching Black Sails and now I’m curious to see what happens next. It also seems a perfect summer book and a lighter read than my previous ones.

Are you happy with your result? Have you read Treasure island?

CC Spin #27: my list

Woohoo, time for another Classics Club spin! The rules are simple: list 20 books from your CC list you still need to read in a random order. At the end of this week, a number is chosen and you have to read the book that corresponds to that number on your list.

The result of the 27th edition is announced on Sunday 18th July and you’ve got time to read and review your spin book until Sunday 22nd August (and that is during my summer holidays, so this should work!).

Last time, I read Lady Chatterley’s lover which was ok but not so much fun. In the meantime, I’ve only read Hardy’s Far from the madding crowd from my classics club list and I didn’t enjoy it at all. So I could use a good spin book!

  1. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  4. The fifth queen by Ford Madox Ford
  5. North and south by Elizabeth Gaskell
  6. Treasure island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. The bell jar by Sylvia Plath
  8. The woman in white by Wilkie Collins
  9. Love in time of cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  10. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  11. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
  12. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  13. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  14. Tender is the night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  15. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  16. The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  17. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  18. And then there were none by Agatha Christie
  19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj
  20. I, Claudius by Robert Graves

I’m not hoping on a particular result, as I still have more than enough books to go on my list. Except for Du Maurier and Fitzgerald these are also all new authors to me. Let’s see what we get on Sunday!

Do you participate? What’s your favourite classic from this list?

Lady Chatterley’s lover by D.H. Lawrence

Middleclass woman Connie Read marries Clifford Chatterley of the Wragby estate, who got paralysed during WOI and is now bound to a wheelchair. This also means he isn’t able to give Connie any children of his own. The monotonous life at Wragby starts to bore Connie. When she meets her husband’s gamekeeper, the troubled Oliver Mellors, she loathes him at first. But in time, she visits him more and more in the woods and the two of them start an affair.

This is the winning novel of my first classics club spin. I added this book to the list because I saw the excellent BBC movie with Richard Madden and Holiday Grainger a few years ago. I didn’t remember anything from the plot so I was curious to start reading Lady Chatterley’s lover, expecting a romance novel with a lot of sex and drama.

But this didn’t turn out as expected. It’s written during the interwar period and has that typical early 20th century atmosphere. There were a lot of philosophical discussions that I wasn’t prepared for. About themes as social class, communism, women’s rights, industrialization… And that’s why I felt the story dragged on at times.

This book has a lot of sex, but compared to 21st century standards (I mean, we have 50 shades) it isn’t big deal. I can assume that in the 1920’s this was not done and the book has been banned in a lot of countries. But I also believe this was the cause because the book is about an affair between two people of a different social class. A respectable lady who mingles with a gamekeeper, who is far below her status… It would have caused quite a scandal in real life.

I didn’t feel the romance. Connie hates Mellors at first and slowly they grow towards each other, but I couldn’t understand why. The first times they have sex, it’s all about the sex and Connie is even thinking about other things while having intercourse. Her feelings towards Oliver change suddenly, but it’s never explained why. Mellors is a character that I couldn’t relate with. He speaks a certain dialect that I couldn’t understand (I read this book in English so that made these parts unreadable to me). I didn’t root for them, but I couldn’t also stand Clifford, who has little thought and affection for his wife.

The second part of the book got better (more action and dialogue, less philosophical themes), but all together I believe this story is better suited for a 2-hour movie than a 6-hour book.

This is book 5/50 for the classics club.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Have you read anything by D.H. Lawrence?