Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Twilight Sleep (Wharton)

Yes, I know, I still haven't got around to reading and writing about The House of Mirth, probably Edith Wharton's most famous novel, which is particularly bad as I was given a copy by Cate from the librarything VMC group. So what was I doing reading Twilight Sleep? Well, as I explained recently, I've not got any spare money to spend on VMCs at the moment, and they are somewhat of a rarity in my local library (or if they are there, they're ones that I've read). So when I DID spot a VMC that I hadn't read, I had to take it out, and somehow library books are always more pressing than the TBR.

Like some of her other books, it's a portrayal of "society"; this time, 1920s New York Society. It tells the story of Pauline Manford, a big hostess on the scene and those close to her. Although it was published in 1927, I felt, and I've seen from other reviews, that it's really quite modern in some of the issues that it deals with - careerism, marriage difficulties, drinking issues, healthy living, spiritualism and psychoanalysis, and I found that that made it quite an interesting book to read. On the other hand, the characters didn't really draw me in, nor the plot, so it wasn't an especially enjoyable read for me (which is a bit frustrating as I don't have much time or concentration for reading at the moment).

There is an awful lot of Edith Wharton published in the VMC list, but FRUSTRATINGLY, the one that I most want to read at the moment "Summer" (because it features a librarian as one of its protagonists) isn't on the list. Edith Wharton isn't one of my favourite VMC authors, so the fact that I have another 12 of her books to go is a little daunting, but as I do have her probably most acclaimed one on my TBR, I hope that may hook me in.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Desert of the heart (Jane Rule)

Another slightly dilatory review - I mentioned a little while ago that I was very excited to have recieved the latest VMC published, direct from Virago, but that it was under embargo. Of course, I couldn't resist reading it straight away, and I should have written down my thoughts on it then, rather than waiting until I was allowed to, by which time I have lost some of the immediacy of reading it.

More akin to Valley of the dolls, or The group, or Peyton Place, than perhaps the cosier VMCs such as the Jane Austens, EH Youngs, Elizabeth Taylors or Rosamund Lehmans, this is one of the first lesbian classics. Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of Evelyn, an English professor in California who travels to Reno in order to obtain a divorce from her husband. She is required to stay for 6 weeks, and finds herself a place in a boarding house. Here, she encounters Ann, the daughter of the boarding house owner, who falls in love with her and sets about seducing her. It's a compelling story, not least because there are a number of threads going on - we learn about the nightclub where Ann works and the intricacies of the girls duties working on the betting games, we find out eventually, the reason why Evelyn wants a divorce, and we gain insight into relationships between women and what will make it work. The ending is surprising, it's difficult to say more without spoilers!

It's only £5.99 on Amazon, - I don't often suggest buying books on this blog, but I would recommend it, not least because I think that the Virago Modern Classic imprint deserves support (which it doesn't get when we collect original green editions from our second hand bookshops!). And I like the collagey cover.

(Apparently there is also a film, not sure if it would translate so well to screen - I think whilst it is the sort of book that filmmakers would enjoy making to the film, I found the book so vivid and immediate, I don't think that that could be matched on screen).

And...there's an introduction to the book on the Virago website here.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Honourable estate (Brittain)

We're in the middle of watching the TV adaption of Testament of Youth (it's getting to the remembrance time of year) and I remembered that I had Honourable Estate on my VMC TBR. It's been there a while, because it's a bit of a chunkster, and what a shame to leave it languishing as I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Owing to personal circumstances, it took me a good week to get through it, but I felt really quite satisfied when I finally put it down.

How to summarise? Well, as I said to my fiance, when he asked me what it is about, it's impossible to relate in short, 584 pages of densely written fiction. It's a book about three different generations of men and women; the women are characterised as desiring more than a traditional female role, leading them to become involved in the suffragette movement. The book culminates with one of them being elected one of the first female members of parliament.
It's not as good as The dark tide, and certainly not as good as Testament of Youth, but I loved it for its depictions of Oxford, for the writing about the First World War, and above all for the love story which develops in the second half of the book. It's a book about feminism, suffragetism and pacifism; if you're interested in any of these things, then do read this book and don't be put off by the size, it will draw you in.

It's a fairly late VMC, and as such has only been published the once with a modern cover.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A gift of Jane Austen

More apologies for being so bad at keeping this blog up to date, which is completely unacceptable when readers are sending me their duplicates! I recieved a couple of weeks ago now, these two lovely Jane Austen Virago Modern Classics from LE at Pots and Pens (a lovely blog linking cooking to books). I was particularly excited, as I wrote about these early on in my VMC challenge as I had read them long ago, in other editions, but I'd never actually seen the green versions. They're a little different to other recognisable VMCs, but how nice to own Jane Austen Virago style.

I shall endeavour to catch up with the two reviews I have to do - I'm struggling a little bit as my work computer where the only up to date copy of my VMC master spreadsheet was saved caught a virus ten days ago, my profile had to be rebuilt and I lost EVERYTHING that was saved to my desktop and not in a network file. Thank goodness I've been tagging the blog posts so when I have a little free time, I may be able to resurrect it. Here's hoping.