Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Seven Years a Blogging

I am totally dependent on my Outlook calendar to tell me important dates, appointments, tasks, and what-not.

Today's to-do list included a reminder that I launched my blog on May 27, 2008!  That's seven years ago, if counting on my fingers can be relied upon (I'm an English major, you do the math!).

Anyway, I just wanted to take a minute to note the day and say how much I love blogging...mostly about books and reading and writing, but also sharing my travel adventures, quilting projects, gardening aspirations, and general love of life and nature.

I've met a host of wonderful internet friends via my blog, and cannot express enough how much I love chatting about books with you and broadening my world by reading your posts.

I feel truly blessed to have this outlet for my musings--truly a portal to the world.

Monday, May 25, 2015

When Christ and His Saints Slept: Book 1 in Plantagenet series

I absolutely love the historical novels of Sharon Kay Penman.  I read The Sunne in Splendour, with Richard III as the hero, a year or so ago, but then decided to read the Plantagenet series (5 books in all) in chronological order (i.e., when the action takes place, not when Penman wrote them).  First up, was When Christ and His Saints Slept.

Here's the Amazon blurb to set the stage:
A.D. 1135. As church bells tolled for the death of England's King Henry I, his barons faced the unwelcome prospect of being ruled by a woman: Henry's beautiful daughter Maude, Countess of Anjou. But before Maude could claim her throne, her cousin Stephen seized it. In their long and bitter struggle, all of England bled and burned.
The book took me awhile to complete.  At 746 pages, it's not a slender book, and it's fairly dense with lots of characters and battles to keep track of.  That said, it's very readable, engaging, exciting, and interesting.

I confess that I went into the book not knowing much about the time between when Maude and Stephen's grandfather, William the Conqueror (aka the Bastard), invaded England in 1066 and when Henry II unwittingly had Thomas Becket murdered in the cathedral.  This book filled in most of the gaps, and did so in fine historical fiction style.

Here are a few things I particularly enjoyed:

* The story of the sinking of the White Ship--one of biggest tragedies in English history.  The sole surviving male heir of Henry I drowned in the English Channel shortly after his ship set sail from Barfleur.  Henry then named his daughter Maude as his heir, but this was fraught with problems, leading to the civil war which ravaged Britain for 20 years.

* Ranulf, one of the few characters in the novel who is not based on a historical personage.  He was one of Henry I's many illegitimate sons, and a sweet, loyal, fun-loving young man who matures into a wonderful man in the course of the story.

* Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II - I know them mostly from the magnificent movie, The Lion in Winter, which shows them later in life, battling royal and using their sons as pawns in their power play.  But the Eleanor and Henry (aka Harry) of this book are young, passionate, clever, and well-matched.  It was such a treat to read about their early years before things began to sour.

* Geography, castles, and rivers - I kept on looking up place names on my iPad while I read, and I feel like I have a much better feel for how medieval campaigns worked.

* A better understanding of why Henry VIII was so obsessed with siring a legitimate son.  England was literally torn apart by barons who did not want to have a woman as their monarch.  Right or wrong, this book illustrates the reality of what it meant to be a leader in the Middle Ages.

The next book in the series is Time and Chance, which continues the story of Eleanor and Henry II and Thomas Becket.

This book is part of my TBR Pile, Mount TBR, and Historical Fiction challenges.  Three birds, one book!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer...Giveaway...International!

Winner Announcement:

The 10th person to comment, Silver De, is the lucky winner of Young Jane Austen: Becoming an Author.  She has sent me her address and the book will be mailed to her shortly.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by my blog, read the review, and left a comment!

Like the subject of her book, Lisa Pliscou's Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer is short and sweet.  It provides a fictional account of Austen from birth to twelve years old, when Pliscou states that Austen was on the brink of launching herself as an author, having had the luck to be born into a family that nurtured her natural gifts.

The chapters are very short--sometimes little more than a paragraph or two--written from the point-of-view of a child describing her world as it slowly comes into focus and expands and contracts with the flow of life and the life of the family.Not much is known about Austen's early years, and so Pliscou uses modern psychological thinking to thoughtfully speculate on how Austen might have responded to the few known circumstances of her life as a child, given her later works and words.

While I was expecting to see young Jane putting pen to paper with her Juvenilia, in ending where she does, Pliscou makes the point that Austen's earliest years put her firmly on the path to literary prowess.

The book is beautifully constructed, with lovely simple drawings of Jane and her family dotting the pages.  It is a quick read, even when you read the annotations and biographical details, and bibliography.  I read it on a short flight between Denver and Phoenix, and found it satisfying.  Covering familiar ground but also providing insights into why and how Austen was able to tap vast reservoirs of creativity to become the Austen we know and love.

The author has graciously provided me with a second copy to give-away on my blog --the first copy will be shared with my JASNA group in Denver/Boulder.  For more info on the book, visit Lisa Pliscou's website.

If you would like to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below and provide your contact info.  The giveaway is open internationally, and I will accept entries through 8 pm MT on Sunday, May 24.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Comparing Framley Parsonage to Pride and Prejudice

A few years ago, my regional JASNA organization had a meeting in which we looked at how Jane Austen influenced other writers.  I tackled Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and blogged about my thoughts in these posts:

A friend of mine and fellow Janeite, Maxene, gave a paper comparing Trollope’s Framely Parsonage with Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  After finishing Framely Parsonage and posting about it, I reread Maxene’s paper and thought it so good that I got her permission to post it on my blog.

So, for your reading pleasure, courtesy of Maxene…
[Spoiler alert - Maxene does summarize the plot in her paper below]


Attributing literary influence is always difficult. We’ve seen that even with all the similarities between North and South and Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Gaskell never did acknowledge being influenced by Jane Austen.

With Anthony Trollope, it’s a far different matter. Trollope’s novelist mother, Fanny Trollope, loved to read Austen’s works and they were widely read in the Trollope household by the entire family.

When Anthony was nineteen, he stated that Pride and Prejudice was the best novel in the English language. He retained his high opinion of Jane Austen throughout his life. So, we may very well ask: was Trollope thinking of Pride and Prejudice when he wrote Framley Parsonage  in 1859-60?

Framley Parsonage, fourth novel in Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles, is typically Victorian with multiple interconnecting plots. I’ll give a summary before turning to an analysis. One plot in the novel involves Mark Robarts, a young vicar living at Framley Parsonage with his wife, Fanny. Mark was given the living by his school friend, Lord Ludovic Lufton, who lives at Framley Park with his mother, Lady Lufton, the reigning social matriarch of the neighborhood. Mark, trying to climb the social ladder, foolishly signs a guarantee for the villainous Mr. Sowerby, the local MP. He eventually faces financial ruin and social scandal when he cannot pay this debt.

The second plot concerns Lucy Robarts, Mark’s sister, a petite, rather plain young woman, who comes to live with Mark and Fanny at the Parsonage. Lord Lufton, after some initial hesitancy,  falls in love with Lucy, seriously displeasing his mother, Lady Lufton, who has already made an arrangement with the Archdeacon’s wife, Mrs. Grantley, whereby Ludovic would marry Griselda Grantley, beautiful, but shallow and insipid.  Lady Lufton tells her son: “She (Lucy) is not of that class from which I would have you choose.” Ludovic, however, proposes to Lucy and she, knowing of his mother’s hostility, refuses him, for his sake, and lies to him about her love for him. Lucy declares that she will marry Ludovic only if his mother asks her to do so.

It isn’t until Lucy has shown her real mettle by caring for the critically-ill Mrs. Crawley, wife of a poverty-stricken curate, thus endangering her own life to save that poor woman’s, that Lady Lufton realizes Lucy’s strength of character and her worthiness to marry Ludovic. Lady Lufton then goes to the Crawley cottage and asks Lucy to marry her son.

Just from this short summary, we can see some similarities with Pride and Prejudice.

When we look further, we can see that there are similarities in the financial positions of the two heroines. Both Lucy and Lizzy are poor, Lucy even poorer than Lizzy and also an orphan. And note the similar names as well. Neither young woman is considered to be a beauty, Lizzy being compared unfavorably to her much prettier sister,  Jane,  and Lucy to the elegant but heartless Griselda Grantley.

Secondly, there is a putative pre-arranged marriage in both novels. Lady Catherine and Lady Anne Darcy supposedly had committed their progeny “while in their cradles” to a life together while Lady Lufton and Mrs. Grantley have decided that their children should wed.

Thirdly, unequal marriages play a part in both novels. Lord Lufton is aristocratic and wealthy, and we know that Mr. Darcy has at least 10,00 pounds a year. But here is where there is a great difference between the two novels. Trollope, the Victorian, acceded to his era’s conventional wisdom that an unequal marriage, based on social position and wealth, would lead to misery since the young lady would never be able to fit into an elevated society and to fulfill her social responsibilities. To that conventional wisdom, Austen would say: “Ha!” Austen’s idea of an unequal marriage is inequality of intellect. Conventional wisdom would applaud Lucy’s refusal of Ludovic’s proposal as well as Lizzy’s of Mr. Darcy’s first, but, as we know, Austen did not have Elizabeth refuse Darcy because of any perceived social inequality, but rather because of his treatment of Jane and Wickham.

The real difference between the novels is expressed in the two scenes between Lady Lufton and Lucy  on the one hand and of Lady Catherine and Lizzy on the other.  We recall that Lizzy rejects Lady Catherine’s attempts to paint her as a polluter of the shades of Pemberley.”He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter,” she affirms and she refuses to promise never to enter into a betrothal with Mr. Darcy. Lizzy also says these important words: “And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment’s concern—and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.”

But in Lucy’s scene with Lady Lufton, she says the following: “ I could not endure to come into this house as your son’s wife, and be coldly looked on by your son’s mother. Much as I loved him, much as I do love him, dearly as I prize the generous offer which he came down here to repeat to me, I could not live with him to be made the object of your scorn. I sent him word, therefore, that I would have him when you would ask me, and not before.”   The narrator states that Lady Lufton:  “did sympathize with her, and admire her, and to a certain extent like her….and to feel that but for certain unfortunate concomitant circumstances the girl before her might have made a fitting Lady Lufton.” Lucy acts out of pride, yes, but a different type of pride from Lizzy’s. As the narrator states: “strong as her love was yet her pride was perhaps stronger.” Lucy bows down to social convention—She will not go where she is not welcomed.

Fourthly, both Lizzy  and Lucy underestimate their lovers. When Darcy leaves the inn at Lambton, Lizzy believes she will never see him again.  With Lydia’s situation resolved without scandal, she regrets Darcy’s having known about it since she thinks he would never renew his offer to someone related to Wickham. However, as we know, Darcy has raced to the rescue for Lizzy’s sake and done so altruistically, not wishing her to know what he has done.

In Framley Parsonage, Ludovic, too, acts faithfully and heroically. He, unfortunately, must suffer another rejected proposal by Lucy, but he also rescues a family member. He redeems Mark’s debts, blaming himself for not warning Mark about Sowerby’s machinations, and thus saves Mark from financial ruin.

In both novels, there is a theme of indebtedness, albeit less strong in Pride and Prejudice. Darcy, in trying to keep from Lizzy knowledge of his part in saving Lydia, doesn’t want her to incur any debt to him. When he renews his proposal, he wishes her acceptance to be free and open and not clouded by her gratitude. Lucy, by insisting that Lady Lufton ask her to marry Ludovic, wants to be welcomed into her new family without feeling indebted.

With Ludovic’s paying of Mark’s debts, the two plots of Framley Parsonage—the church-related and the courtship, come together. Pamela Regis, in her History of the Romance Novel, writes that the “Lucy-Ludovic plot reproduces the thematic concerns of the church plot with the elements of the romance novel.” Both plots hinge on the unpayable debt.

In her Persuasions article: Pride and Prejudice and Framley Parsonage: A StructuralResemblance, Barbara Horwitz summarizes the similarities between the two novels: “the lovers’ unequal social and economic situations, their initial disdain for each other, an overbearing and interfering older female relative, a sibling in need of rescue, the initial proposal and refusal, the heroine’s surprise at the moral worth and constancy of the hero, a second, more favorably received proposal, suspicion that the heroine’s motives are mercenary, and the eventual marriage and settling down happily on the family property.”

The basic difference between the two novels is in their respective heroines.  Trollope wrote in the Victorian period. His heroine is more restricted, as is the period in which she was created. Elizabeth Bennet is a product of the  less strait-laced Regency society as well as being the creation of a more socially rebellious author who, in Pride and Prejudice, defies the accepted social conventions.

After Trollope’s death, an article in the Spectator linked the two authors: “The loss of Mr. A. Trollope makes us turn back from his long series of elaborate pictures of English society…to those in which Miss Austen painted the rural society of England during the end of the last and beginning of the present century.” In a Persuasions article by Pamela Neville-Sington: Jane Austen and the Trollopes, the author concludes: “Anthony Trollope was his mother’s son, but he preferred to be thought of as Jane Austen’s literary successor.”


Thank you, Maxene, for that terrific article.  Now let's go back to reading Austen!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Framley Parsonage

Well, I finally finished Framley Parsonage, fourth novel in the Anthony Trollope Barsetshire series.  I've been reading it all month, and I chose April to read it in because April 24 was the bicentennial of Trollope's birth.  I actually liked it very much until the ending.  My problem is that I found the final 20 pages to be unrelentingly tedious.

Trollope resolved the main story thread, that of Mark Robarts' financial difficulties and the romance between Lucy Robarts and Lord Ludovic, very nicely in chapter 46, "Lady Lofton's Request," but then he went on with two more seemingly endless chapters, neatly tying off and tucking in all the other loose story threads.  I think the other threads could've been dealt with in two pages, and if so, I would have come away from the book satisfied and happy.  As it is, all I can remember is how desperately boring I found the final stage of the book.

Perhaps I am more of a modern reader than I think I am, but I tend to like stories that aren't totally put to bed at the end.  And, in a series like this, the stories don't need to be completely resolved because we're presumably going to encounter some of the characters again in the subsequent novels.

Anyway, enough grousing.

I've blogged twice about the book before.
Characters you can relate to
First impressions

I found myself thinking about George Eliot's Middlemarch a good deal whilst reading Framley Parsonage.   Mark Robarts finds himself head over heels in debt, just as Dr. Lydgate does in Middlemarch.  The way they get into debt is much different and how their wives react couldn't be more different, but the moral and ethical dilemmas that both men face were similar.

I also couldn't help thinking about Gaskell's My Lady Ludlow when I read about Lady Lofton, and I kept on picturing Francesca Annis as she appeared as Lady Ludlow in the Cranford BBC series.

I recently heard that Julian Fellowes, who has blessed us with Downton Abbey, is going to be doing an adaptation of Dr. Thorne--the third novel in the series--and I hope that he makes it a double feature, and continues Dr. Thorne's story through to its logical conclusion in Framley Parsonage. My dear Dr. Thorne doesn't shown up in Framley Parsonage until the last third, but I enjoy his character so much that I did a little happy dance when he did make it on the scene.  I think there's quite enough material in these two books for at least a good six episodes of a mini-series.  And I don't think Fellowes could resist bringing Lucy Robarts to the screen--the only problem would be that she would steal the show from Mary Thorne, Dr. Thorne's niece, and the heroine of Dr. Thorne.

My prediction for who could play Miss Dunstable, one of my favorite characters in both books, is the incomparable Emma Thompson.

Framley Parsonage is part of my 2015 Back to the Classics challenge, filling the 19th century category.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors

I love the Top Ten meme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish, especially when I'm currently mired in long books, making topics for posts slim pickings.

This week's topic is everyone's favorite...all time favorite authors.  I have a lot of favorite authors, so my criteria became who do I like to reread.  After all, it's one thing to read everything by an author, but it's real commitment to reread everything two or more times!

Austen - I've seriously stopped counting how many times I've read all of Austen's novels.  
Gaskell - I have read all of Gaskell, and a few (N&S, W&D) more than once and I plan to revisit others as well.  
Gabaldon - I have read the Outlander series, and have reread the series at least once, and the first book three times.
Dickens - I'm still working on reading all his works, but have read more than half, and several novels multiple times.  We have a complicated relationship, but we're good friends right now!
Shakespeare - Read/watched the entire set of plays, except the ones with dubious authorship towards the end, and never tire of revisiting the plays.
Steinbeck - I started reading Steinbeck early and while I haven't read everything he wrote yet, I regularly revisit old favorites (Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, Cannery Row).
Jude Morgan - I actually haven't yet reread any of his fabulous novels, but I know I will.  He fictionalizes literary types better than anyone else.
Edward Rutherford - I absolutely love his novels about places and regularly reread my favorites (London, Sarum, The Forest, New York); Paris is on my reading list for this year.
Tracy Chevalier - there is something about her subjects and writing that just click for me; I have yet to read one of her novels that doesn't do it for me.  From Girl With the Pearl Earring, to The Lady and the Unicorn, to Remarkable Creatures, to The Last Runaway, they're all great.
Daphne duMaurier - the grand dame of the psychological thriller, a genre that I love, she is superb and her stories, even the spooky ones like Don't Look Now, are always satisfying.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Classics Salon - Character You Relate To

Saari at Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms is hosting a weekly Classics Salon wherein participants chat about the classic works of literature we are currently reading.  She posts a discussion prompt, and for this, the 2nd week, her prompt is:

If you could be any character in the current classic you are reading (or in the last classic you read) who would you be and why? In other words, tell us something about any character you find yourself relating to or empathising or sympathising with. 

Since I'm reading two classics at the moment, Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, I'll respond with thoughts on both books. Framley Parsonage - the heroine, Lucy Robards, definitely is the most attractive character of the lot.  She is quietly witty, keeps her own counsel, feels deeply, tries to do what is right and just, is loyal and interesting.  I'm not sure that I empathize with her as much as I admire her, but there's a lot there to like.  By contrast, her sister-in-law, Fanny Robards, has many of the same qualities but indulges in hero worship more than is wise, at least with regards to her relationship to Lady Lufton, her husband's patroness.  I'm finally starting to see the Pride and Prejudice connection with Framley Parsonage, with Mark Robards as Mr. Collins, though without being the writhing buffoon that Collins is, and Fanny as the practical Charlotte Collins, Lady Lufton as the overbearing patroness, Lady Catherine, dear Lucy in the role of Elizabeth Bennet, and Lord Lufton as love-sick Mr. Darcy.

Lord Lufton and Lucy Robards
Now, on to David Copperfield - I can't say I particularly empathize with David, though I enjoy his journey to maturity and root for him heartily.  I'm neither a Clara Copperfield, nor an Agnes Wickfield, nor a Dora Spenlow, and I hope I'm not an Aunt Betsey.  I can't imagine rejecting a nephew because he wasn't a niece, nor do I think donkeys are plagues upon respectable people, but her generosity and embrace of the disenfranchised, both David and Mr. Dick, make her wonderful in my eyes.  I suppose the character to whom I can connect most on a personal level is dear Peggotty, David's nurse and lifelong friend.  All she really wants is a comfortable home and a quiet, purposeful life.  She values her family and is fierce in her protection of them and her friends, whom she makes into family.  

Aunt Betsey and Peggotty

Monday, April 13, 2015

Life After Life

Two covers - I read the one on the left, but prefer the one on the right.

I read Kate Atchison's Life After Life with the GoodReads TuesBookTalk Read Alongs group.  It's not a book that was on my TBR list nor radar, but I am so glad that it was selected and that I found the time to read it.

I am a big fan of time-travel books, and have loved this notion for as long as I can remember. Life After Life is time-travel with what was to me a unique twist.  Actually the premise is really akin to that of the Groundhog Day movie in that the protagonist, Ursula Todd, repeatedly dies and is reborn on the same day in February 1910 and to the same parents in the same place in England.

Sometimes she lives for a number of years, sometimes decades, and sometimes she dies shortly after birth.   Over time she starts to remember previous lives--not completely or mostly even consciously, especially at first, but more in a deja-vu sort of way.  She develops an instinct for avoiding the circumstances that ended her life previously, and so is able to chart the course of her life to some degree, although she cannot control all the variables, and sometimes avoiding one situation either makes no difference or actually causes something else to happen with similar or worse consequences.

Ursula lives through (sometimes) WWI as a young child, the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918, the rise of fascism, and WWII (that's a particularly deadly time for her!).  She has a couple of brothers, a wonderful sister, friends, lovers, parents, and employers.  Some people she encounters in every life, some are only present in certain threads.

This is a terrific premise, and Atchison did a masterful job in creating a narrative arc that incorporated the multiple threads of the same life being lived repeatedly but with variation.  I was fascinated by both Ursula's lives and how Atchison handled this very difficult narrative.

There were a few confusing elements--it really helped to have a weekly session in which I could discuss my thoughts and debate certain plot points with others reading the book (i.e., great book club book!)--but overall this book really gave me a lot to think about, such as how much does one specific reaction or event affect the overall course of your life and that of others.  If I had the chance to "do it over," what would I actually try to do differently?

It was interesting to compare this book to Stephen King's 11/22/63, in which the time-travelling protagonist consciously sets out to change the course of history by preventing the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Ursula does not try to repeat her lives--she doesn't have control over the fact that she is reliving her life--but she does try to change things, once she realizes, however vaguely, that she can.

I couldn't help but see a moral or spiritual  lesson in Life After Life.  On the one hand, it seemed to boil down to the notion "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," but I also thought there was a sense of being on the path to nirvana through self-awareness and then self-sacrifice.  My interpretation of Ursula as she matured through living her life multiple times was that initially the changes she made were to make her life better, but later the changes were to make the lives of her family and friends better, and then finally to make the world a better, safer place.  Like just about everything in this book, though, this is open to interpretation.

As you can tell, this is not a cut-and-dry novel.  No real wrapping up of loose ends.  Certainly no closure.  But, a well-written, creative, thought-provoking story that I found very satisfying despite its ambiguity.

I'm eager to read more by this author, and already got a copy of Case Histories, from 2004.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Classics Salon: First impressions of current classic

Saari at Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms is hosting a monthly Classics Salon wherein participants chat about the classic works of literature we are currently reading.  She posts a discussion prompt, and this month (her inaugural month of the Salon) is:

What are your first impressions of the current classic you are reading?

I'm about a third of the way into David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, and three chapters into Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope.

This is my third or possibly fourth time reading DC, but it's been >30 years since I last read it, so while I remember the basic story arc and most of the characters, there are plenty of scenes and situations and descriptions that I certainly don't remember.  I have to say I am falling in love with the book all over again.  Since my last reading of DC, I've read quite a few other Victorian novels, including a fair number of Dickens' other novels, and it's really shining through as a masterpiece.  It is tighter than most, although still long, and it rambles less than the others, with nary an extraneous scene that doesn't relate to David's personal journey.  

I'm reading this on a strict  three chapters a week schedule, and I'm quite amazed at how many memorable scenes are packed into these three chapter segments.  Dickens really moved David along in his journey to manhood at a reasonable pace (okay it did take 300 pages, but still, that's only a third of the book!).  It's like each segment of his life is a novella with its own cast of characters and story arc, and then he moves on.  

On the other hand, I'm not sure what to think about Framley Parsonage yet.  I'm still meeting everyone and trying to remember who's who from the previous Barsetshire novels.  The Bishop and Mrs. Proudie have already made their appearance.  I'm actually not even sure that Mark Robarts, the vicar of Framley, is the protagonist as he marries within the first chapter, and my expectation was that this was a P&P-esque novel, so who are the characters who become couples?

My biggest problem with Trollope is that once I finish reading one of his novels I can never remember the names of his characters or their defining characteristics, with a few exceptions.  I'm really trying to pay attention early on but I've met so many characters in just the first three chapters that I feel I need to resort to a Wikipedia article to review who's who.

I like Trollope's novels when I'm reading them, but they (the characters and their fate) just don't seem to stick.  Not the way the Micawbers, Uriah Heep, Steerforth, Peggotty, Mr. Murdstone, Mr. Dick and Aunt Betsey (all from DC) do.  I'm rereading David Copperfield decades since I last visited them, and I remember all of them pretty clearly.

I think I'm going to enjoy this monthly Classics Salon.  Hey all you classics readers out there, care to join us?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Guns of August

Diane, the Bibliophile By The Sea, hosts one of my favorite memes, First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros. It's a great way to get a taste of a lot of different books by authors you may not have tried yet.

Here is the marvelous opening to Barbara Tuchman's Pulitzer-prize winning book, The Guns of August, which details the first stage of World War I.  This paragraph describes the 1910 funeral of Edward VII, which brought together all the leaders of Europe and beyond who four years later unleashed their dogs of war.
So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens--four dowager and three regnant--and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.
Tuchman is marvelous at describing the political and economic forces as well as the personalities of the leaders and their staffs.  She is opinionated, biased, and makes her subject understandable and compelling.