Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reading England 2015

Reading England 2015 via Behold the Stars

My reading journey is turning out to be a great experience for self-education.  Often I read a book without seriously taking into consideration the setting, but thanks to o at Behold the Stars, this year I will focus on England.  What a great reading challenge!  Check out the suggestions and rules HERE.

As for my possible choices, I am using my current reading challenges.  Some counties may have more than one book listed, though only one will count; I am not sure which ones I will read, yet.  And maybe along the way I will add others, but for now I am working towards level two (4-6 counties):

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners - John Bunyan
Completed:  2/6/15

Persuasion - Jane Austen
Completed: 2/20/15

Howards End - E.M. Forster

A Journal of the Plague Year - Daniel Defoe
Completed 5/5/15
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson

Dracula - Bram Stoker
Completed 10/4/15

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Completed 12/17/15


Jean said...

You are so organized to have a list! And, I'm telling you right now, you will love Persuasion. In my opinion. :)

Ruth said...

Hi, Jean,
I read Persuasion a year ago (Wow! Was it that long ago?) and I did not enjoy it as I expected. However, I sensed that there was something great about it, and I know I need to reread it in order to break myself. I feel like I have to - in a good way - fix whatever it is that prevented me from soaking it in. So I seriously think I need to reread it.

Cleo said...

I haven't read Persuasion and there's a read-along coming up ...... I think you saw mention of it on Hamlette's blog. The beginning of the year is looking quite busy for me, but I may try to fit it in. Of course, I'll be joining you in Bedfordshire, and Bleak House is also another book that I've been planning to read (you may have seen its continuous presence on my blog under "coming soon"). Hmmm ....... It will be interesting to see how this coming year shapes up as far as reading goes. Happy Reading England Challenge!

Ruth said...

Yes, I saw Persuasion read-along on Hamlette's blog beginning Jan. 5. It's such a short story, I may be able to squeeze it in.

I think Fanda said she's doing Bleak House in June, which corresponds with our Lit Movement Challenge. That one is going to be a chunkster. Maybe you can fit it in June, too.

Jean said...

It's a more subtle book than P&P or some of the other Austens. I bet you will get it more on the second try. I love that the heroine is a little older, and that it's a second-chance story.

Jillian said...

(In my opinion) Austen is contrasting the morality & character of the "old way" of the landed gentry (the Eliiots) with the morality & character of the new emerging class: the self-made men of the military (and their wives), who have all the money of the upper classes, but are also wind-blown by experience with life, & are far less ridiculous and shallow. They don't take their money for granted because they made it themselves -- they're not complacent and ridiculous.

The war France is at a brief flux in Persuasionl; after the finish of the novel, Napoleon will reemerge, and the life Austen knew all her life will change by his defeat. (The same defeat we see in War & Peace, and Vanity Fair.)

When you reread Persuasion, compare the way Austen depicts the Crofts and Wentworth against the way she depicts Elizabeth and Walter Eliot. Anne, caught in the middle, is rethinking the Eliot life philosophy. Like all her novels, Persuasion is a love story at the surface, but only at the surface. It's about a woman's self-revelation about life, her place in it, and whether she will stick with the old ways or charge on with the new world rushing in. The world was changing, & Austen could recognize that.

Two of her brothers were self-made men in the military. She is advocating self-reliance over the eldest son inheriting everything, & leaving the younger sons & all the women reliant upon him. She's suggesting that a woman could break out of that cycle. Again, pay close attention to Mrs. Croft. :-) She's suggesting that by breaking out of that cycle -- by becoming active, self-made people rather than idle inheritors, the character of England will vastly improve. It's a strong critique of the landed gentry of her era -- or more likely, of the entire system of inheritance and entail. Which pits a woman against all the voices scolding her for not marrying somebody titles. It's a critique of the system, and a keen critique of the way that system pinched a woman's freedom, happiness, and self-reliance.

Jillian said...

Sorry for typos! I wrote that in a hurry. :P

Ruth said...

Thanks so much for this!!!! When I first read Persuasion, I barely scratched the surface. I need and want to read deeper b/c I know something is there, and I missed it. Now you've given me more to think about and look for. If you have any sources that you use to study Persuasion, let me know. I need prompts to encourage me to think differently about some things.

o said...

Excellent choices! The only one I've not read is the John Bunyan, but I'm going to try and get it for next year.

Good luck and thanks for joining! :)

Jillian said...

I don't have a good source on my remarks above because they come from my brain. :-) I can say that Austen's work becomes clearer and clearer on rereads. She was writing for the very people she critiques in her novels, so she composes her arguments subtly. The nuances of the social structure at the time, & allusions she makes within her works, are often missed in our era, especially by first-time readers. I hated Pride & Prejudice the first time I read it. Because I didn't understand the nuances of the history or the social structure. I didn't understand that when Austen depicts long blocks of seemingly vacuous conversation, she is illustrating the life of a female of the gentry in that era. She was a realist writer before realism was a thing in literature. Everything she does is to a purpose, so if you're reading her work and feel bored, excluded, pinched, etc, consider whose viewpoint you are in, and consider that Austen may be allowing her readers to experience the tedium available to women day to day. She doesn't do this in all her novels, but it's decidedly there. She's also very theatrical in some works -- always to a purpose.

Well, that's how I started making sense of her -- and I can't imagine I have it yet. But I started to ask why she might be depicting a scene this or that way -- what subtle underpinnings are there in society that she might be critiquing. Why does she choose whatever focal character she chooses -- what might the decisions of that character imply about Austen's point in the novel? What illusions to things don't I understand, which readers of her time period would have known about? As I research those things, the nuances I missed on first read begin to emerge.

You might benefit from reading Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin, or trying this edition of Persuasion, or checking out some of the articles on Persuasion at (I haven't done the latter, but I've read the two books. They might help to fill in some of the social and historical nuances.

Hope that helps! :-)

Jean said...

Great comments, Marianne! I think you are spot on with the new vs. old.

Jillian said...

Thanks, Jean! I came back to clarify something for Ruth: You asked for sources, & I said my original comment came from my brain. However, I've been thinking it over, & I believe I read my argument in the Introduction of the Broadview Press edition -- by Linda Bree. I did add to it with my own knowledge, but the impetus is from that source. My apologies for claiming it as my own. I'm taking a course on Austen this semester, & I have read all of the Austen novels plus the two incomplete novels and Lady Susan in about three months. I read the introduction by Linda Bree quite some time ago & apparently assimilated it as my own, but as with everything for us readers, it actually does have a source. :)

Here's the edition, if you're curious to read further. The Broadview editions are my favorite. :-)

Cleo said...

Great! I have had Bleak House staring at me, so I'll make room for it, for sure!

Ruth said...


Ruth said...

Hey, thanks for hosting this. I feel like I should do some geography homework for this reading challenge.

Ruth said...

No problem. Let's just say, you are of the same mind as the editor. And what a great opportunity to take a course on Austen.

I saved that edition to my wish list on Amazon. It has over 300 5-star reviews, though I don't know how many are directly related to the edition. Anyway, I will consider buying it and reading that instead of my copy (a Dover Thrift). I could get a used copy for a penny even. So something to look into.

Jillian said...

Ha ha -- yes, of the same mind. :)

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

(Read Persuasion next month with Heidi's read-along!!! It's going to be so awesome.)

I really like this idea for a reading challenge. It's very unique, not at all like any reading challenge I've seen before. And ahhh, A Room with a View. I've been feeling pulled to reread that lately myself.