Weekly reading meme: w/c 1 April 2013

I must start to have some system for titling these posts — they can’t all be “Weekly reading meme! :D” or “Books books books”.

What are you reading now?

Jane Austen’s letters (the set edited by Deirdre Le Faye – she ought to write romance novels with such a name). I was meant to finish these a couple of posts ago, but … I didn’t …. To be fair, the book and I were in different countries for about ten days since I last mentioned it! It’s a wee bit of a slog despite Jane’s delightful style, because it is, of course, all about people you don’t know and incidents you haven’t been told about. (And the juiciest letters have been destroyed! Cassandra >:( ) There are footnotes, but sometimes you flip to the back of the book and it obligingly tells you about how the reference to Capt H and Mrs S is about a scandalous elopement gossiped about in the papers, but sometimes you flip back and it’s just like “Mrs D D probably stands for Mrs Dean Dundas”. Yeah. Thanks, footnotes.

I am also rereading Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. My ostensible reason is that it’s prep for my space minuet, but my real reason is that I love it. Lucy Snowe is so creepy and judgmental! (She has good reasons for the former, but not really for the latter.) I can’t work out what her feelings for Dr John are. I dislike Dr John but am impressed by how Bronte pulls out a romantic dark horse from apparently nowhere. But he’s been lurking in the background all along.

The problem of M Paul is that one struggles to envision a retelling of him that doesn’t have creepy racist overtones. Because his portrayal is so racialised!

I had forgotten how everyone in the novel is connected to everyone in some way. It’s like there’s only three families in total in England and fake-Belgium combined. I mean, I know in expat communities you do tend to know everyone, and that guy you see at karaoke sessions always does turn out to be dating your colleague’s roommate, but still, Villette takes it a bit far.

What did you just finish reading?

The Third Miss Symons by F. M. Mayor, because I read this list in the Guardian of best books set in East Anglia and the description of Mayor’s book The Rector’s Daughter (“heartbreaking and acute 1924 tale of Mary Jocelyn, high-minded daughter of the rector of Dedmayne”) made me think it would be right up my alley, but I couldn’t find that novel on Gutenberg. But I was right, because The Third Miss Symons totally is right up my alley. It’s about the problem of being unhappy and not really having anything in your life that makes it worth living – the problem of not being significant to yourself. (Spoiler: it’s kind of depressing.) It made me think of this recent letter to Captain Awkward, Help me stop being mean, where the letter-writer talks about being mean because of their jerkbrain.

The opposite of The Third Miss Symons is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. There is no such escape for Miss Symons as is granted to Miss Pettigrew. I’m glad Miss S gets a kind of happy ending, and it works in the context of the book and the characters’ and author’s likely beliefs. But because it’s not really a happy ending unless you are Christian and/or believe in that sort of thing, I don’t feel it is copping out, and respect Mayor for taking the story to its logical conclusion and not giving Miss S some unexpected windfall of love and happiness.

Oh, and I finished Tales of Ogonshoto (the English translation of Naratif Ogonshoto) by Anwar Ridhwan before I left Malaysia. It was OK, not bad — some it very clever. I think the translation would have benefited from some copyediting — the translation was on the whole serviceable, and I think gave a flavour of what the original text must be like, but there was a lot of tense confusion which unfortunately detracted from the polish of the prose.

What do you expect to read next?

Hmm, dunno wor! Oh, I guess I will read Harriette Wilson’s Memoirs, which I’ve had out from the library for a good while. I’ve already read a bit of the beginning, and it is both funny and really sad. (Harriette Wilson was a well-known Regency courtesan – and she was kind of sold to her first dude at age 15.)

It is no good that my reading is so white at the moment, but it is a side-effect of the fact that I am trying to read things that will be helpful for my current and future writing projects. Though ooh ooh ooh – I got Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds for £1.19 on the Kindle (alas, the sale is now over). So I will get to reward myself with that at some point! \o/

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