Nick’s 2023 George Eliot Chapter-a-Day Read-along

Good Monday morning after a long holiday weekend. In reading my email this morning, I came across a blog hosting a reading challenge/read along for 2023. If you are interested and want to read about this well-organized project: Nick’s 2023 George Eliot Chapter-a-Day Read along.

The first book that will be read is Adam Bede.

I’ve actually read in the past 3 of the books in this reading schedule (many years ago). I am planning to read them again plus the others. I’m most looking forward to reading Middlemarch. And I believe 2023 is the year to read a biography of George Eliot that has been sitting on my dusty bookshelf for several years. I’m so excited about this read along!

I am posting the link again. In the post, there are additional links to read the books free online, so you do not have to purchase the books.

http://nicksenger.com/onecatholiclife/announcing-the-2023-george-eliot-chapter-a-day-read-along

Happy Reading!

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[Review] Modern Magic: Five Stories by Louisa May Alcott

Publisher and Publication Date: The Modern Library. 1995.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 275.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers with an interest in other stories Alcott wrote.
Rating: Good for A Pair of Eyes. Okay for most of the stories. My Mysterious Mademoiselle is the one I dislike.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Modern Magic is a collection of five short stories.

  1. A Pair of Eyes; or, Modern Magic.
  2. The Fate of the Forrests.
  3. Behind a Mask; or, A Woman’s Power.
  4. Perilous Play.
  5. My Mysterious Mademoiselle.

I’m in the process of reading Little Women for the first time. While at the library a couple of weeks ago, I came across a book of Alcott’s short stories which I’d already heard were vastly different than Little Women.

I cannot say with honesty that I enjoyed reading any of the stories. They are different. They most certainly were different in the 19th century when they were written. I’m not sure what was going on in Alcott’s head to prompt her to write at least one of them. It satisfied a curiosity in me to read this book.

The introduction in this book helps. The introduction in my copy of Little Women published by Penguin Classics certainly helps.

My review will contain spoilers, because if I do not give a little information about one of the stories you will be left wondering what I’m referring too that is so odd about one particular story.

In the first story, A Pair of Eyes. The main character is an artist who lives for his art. He considers that he is married to his work. However, he meets a woman who has these “mysterious eyes” that he must paint. The more time he spends with her the more he is enchanted with her and is overtaken with overwhelming feelings.

I feel this story has excellent dialogue, storyline, mystery, especially in the building up of the story.

A Pair of Eyes is my favorite.

The Fate of the Forrests is a story about a Hindoo curse on a family. I had a hard time becoming apart of the story. I understand the plot and storyline. I just did not care for it.

Behind a Mask is another story in the book about manipulation and control which is a strong theme running through all the stories. At least in this story there is a nice ending.

Perilous Play is about curiosity to use hashish bonbons. I am glad the story is one of the shorter ones because I was ready to move on.

My Mysterious Mademoiselle is the story I dislike, but it too is brief. A middle age unmarried English man meets a kittenish young girl on a train. The description of this girl is feminine with golden curls. This man is smitten. The two share a compartment on the train and exchange a light flirtation. The man takes a nap. When he wakes up, he is seated near a young man-a teenager. This young man is revealed to be the nephew of the man. The young man in female clothes is not what bothers me, it is the young man knew this was his uncle he was flirting with. It’s been a ploy. And at the end, the two leave together as if this “almost escalated” situation is not a big deal.

What I learned from reading Alcott’s short stories:

  1. She can write both long stories and short stories. Not all writers can do this.
  2. She writes excellent dialogue.
  3. She writes unusual and creative stories.
  4. I don’t see the stories as wicked which is what many in the 19th century thought of them. I have 21st century eyes and views, etc. I do believe they are melodramatic, dark, a little sinister and mysterious.
  5. In all the stories there are characters who are untrustworthy because they are manipulative, calculating, and have a ploy.

[Review] Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë 

Publisher and Publication Date: Wordsworth Classics. 1994. First published in 1847.
Genre: Classic literature/fiction.
Pages: Total of 153 written pages.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of Brontë literature, women in literature, Classic literature, and Classic British literature.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Audible. If you are an Audible member, this book is free to listen with your membership.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Free e-book sources:
Free Ebooks.Net
Gutenberg.

For further reading about the Brontë family:
Britannica
Anne Brontë
Brontë Parsonage and Museum

Anne Brontë, 1820-1849.

Summary:

Northern England. Rural. Early 1800s.

Agnes Grey is the youngest sister. Her older sister by 5-6 years is Mary. Their parents are from different socio-economic backgrounds. Her father is a respectable clergyman. Their mother is a squire’s daughter. Her family and friends had advised her to not marry him. They did marry and have a happy marriage. After their marriage, their mother has no contact with her family.

Agnes is the baby and is treated as a baby. She asks to contribute to certain tasks around the home, but it is easier for her family to say no than to teach her how.

Agnes thinks about her current station in life and yearns to do more. She wants to be productive and useful.

A bad investment creates tension and insecurity in the family. Agnes poses her thoughts about being a governess to her family. At first, her family said no, but later they agreed.

In Agnes Grey, Agnes’s first job is a governess with the Bloomfield family. Later, Agnes has a governess job at Horton Lodge with the Murray family.

My Thoughts:

It’s been several years ago that I read Agnes Grey. I love to reread books because I always pick up on things I did not before.

What I love about Agnes Grey:

1. Agnes is a mature, down to earth 18-year-old young woman when the story begins. She only grows more mature through life experiences that don’t always turn out the way she’d hoped. I love it that she does not sulk, pout, or think highly of herself. She is humble. She is teachable. She is patient and kind. She is resourceful. She is observant about her living conditions and the kind of people she meets. She is a thinking person. She analyzes people and is wise in her judgements and decisions. She speaks her mind when she feels led to respond. She asks advice from people who are trustworthy and wise. She lives her Christian belief. She does not tell me she is a Christian. She demonstrates her life as a Christian. She is an admirable character.

2. Agnes Grey has secondary characters who are a varied mix of temperaments and traits. They are children, youth, and adults. They are boys and girls, men and women. For the book to be small, it is rich is secondary stories, it is rich in personalities and vivid characters. For example, a young boy who torments and is cruel to animals. When he is questioned about his behavior, he still does not believe he is in the wrong, and he blames others for approving of his act. Another character desires money and title and prestige, but when she achieves her goal, she is disillusioned.

3. Agnes Grey is a perfect story for a person wanting to read a classic work but doesn’t want to read a lengthy story. It is small in pages but it’s an entertaining and moral story. It is a story easy to understand. It is a story that has a strong storyline.

4. Agnes is a character who I know her thoughts and feelings. I don’t merely read her dialogue but know her thoughts and feelings behind the words.

5. I wonder what promising books Anne could have written had she lived longer. She wrote another story, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It is sad her life was cut-short.



[Review] The Divine Comedy, The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, translated by John Ciardi

Publisher and Publication Date: New American Library. 2003. First published 1320.
Genre: Epic poem.
Pages: 928. 295 pages in The Inferno.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of classics.
Rating: Excellentia!

Goodreads author page for Dante Alighieri

This review will be for The Inferno. I have not read The Purgatorio or The Paradiso (yet) in this one volume book.

This book is read for my list in The Classics Club.
This book is also read for the Chunkster Reading Challenge 2021. I will only count this book once as the total book or volume is 928 pages. The Inferno including all the preceding chapters is 295 pages.
This book is also for Back to the Classics 2021-a book written in another language and thus translated to English.

Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321

For further reading or listening:
Britannica
Biography
Catholic Answers, an encyclopedia.
Researchomatic, an essay.


Summary and My Thoughts:

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). At the time of these poems he is 35.

Dante had been expelled from Florence, Italy with the charges of being a grafter. A grafter is a person who has been dishonest or has taken advantage of another for gain or profit. For example, money or power. In addition, Dante believed he was guilty of pride (this will be brought out in The Purgatorio). And, his sin set the poems in motion. It is because of his sin that he is in the “dark wood of Error.” The first Canto is aptly titled, “The Dark Wood of Error.”

I’d be lost without the “How to Read Dante”, “Translator’s Note”, “Introduction”, and explanatory notes. I’d done a little research on who is the best translator for the poems. I settled on John Ciardi. Another benefit to this edition is all three are in one volume.

It is a narrative type poem. It is an allegory.

The Inferno has 34 Cantos.

There are several themes. The theme most recognizable in the poem, The Inferno, is it is a journey. A journey down into The Inferno. The poem begins with the descent. It ends with the climb out of it.

The Inferno has several themes (actually packed with themes), symbols, and lessons.

Some of the themes are sin, death, perseverance, courage, bravery, justice, good and evil, suffering, judgment, temptation, self-control, grief, pride, and greed.

I believe if a reader is a Christian that person will see or understand things that a person who is not a believer will not notice, especially if the reader is Catholic.

A few favorite quotes:

1. “The light was departing. The brown air drew down all the earth’s creatures, calling them to rest from their day-roving, as I, one man alone,

prepared myself to face the double war of the journey and the pity, which memory shall here set down, nor hesitate, nor err.”

From lines 1-6 in the first Canto.

2. “‘No soul in Grace comes ever to this crossing; therefore if Charon rages at your presence you will understand the reason for his cursing.’

When he had spoken, all the twilight country shook so violently, the terror of it bathes me with sweat even in memory:

the tear-soaked ground gave out a sigh of wind that spewed itself in flame on a red sky, and all my shattered senses left me. Blind,

like one whom sleep comes over in a swoon, I stumbled into darkness and went down.”

From lines 124-134 in the third Canto.

3. “He said to me: ‘You will soon see arise what I await, and what you wonder at; soon you will see the thing before your eyes.’

To the truth which will seem falsehood every man who would not be called a liar while speaking fact should learn to seal his lips as best he can.”

From lines 121-126 in Canto 16.

Final Thoughts:

1. Dante is joined by other famous poets.

2. Dante sees interesting souls of those he knew and some he didn’t know but were infamous. For example, a few popes.

3. Those he saw are known by their sin.

4. Beasts or monsters are met on the journey.

5. There is a listing of sins and their level as to which ones are worse, etc.

6. I can understand why people do not read Dante’s works. They are daunting and intimidating. However, they are not impossible to read but only a challenge.

7. Gruesome scenes are described in several Cantos of biting, chewing, and the devouring of bodies.

8. There is a sinister feel to some of the souls and those Dante encounters.

9. The Inferno is not a feel-good happy story. It is not a romantic type story. It is serious, powerful, and memorable.

I have a question: Explain how there is a frozen lake in hell?

[Review] North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Publisher and Publication Date: Oxford University Press. 1854-55. My edition was published 1998.
Genre: Fiction. Classic literature.
Pages: 496.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of classic literature.
Rating: Excellent.

North and South is a read for these challenges: Victorian Reading Challenge, The Classics Club, Chunkster Reading Challenge, and Back to the Classics Challenge 2021.

For further information:
Oxford World’s Classics
The Gaskell Society
American Literature

Elizabeth Gaskell Goodreads author page

Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson Gaskell, 1810-1865

Other books by Elizabeth Gaskell:

Mary Barton 1848
Cranford 1853
Ruth 1853
The Life of Charlotte Bronte 1857
Sylvia’s Lovers 1863
Cousin Phillis and Other Tales 1865
The Grey Tales and Other Tales 1865
Wives and Daughters 1866
Gothic Tales is an assortment of her writings from 1851-1861. The Old Nurse’s Story is one of these stories. The e-book is currently .99 cents at Amazon.

Summary:

Margaret Hale is the heroine of North and South. Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Hale. Margaret has one brother, Frederick, who was in the Navy but brought about a mutiny. He is now living on the European continent and in hiding for fear of court-martial. Her father is a minister in the Church of England. She has a cousin named Edith. Edith is Margaret’s age and early in the book she marries.

Margaret is from the south of England. She is a young woman of middle class.

The Hale family’s lives change when Mr. Hale resigns his position as a minister. The family relocates to a northern town in England. It is an industrial town. The mill owner is Mr. John Thornton.

My Thoughts:

This is the second time to read North and South. I’ve seen the film several times. It is a film produced by the BBC.
When I re-read a book I try and focus on something new. I usually pick a different character than when I read the book the first time. Focusing on someone new helps me learn something new about the book. This time I focused on Margaret’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hale.

There are several reasons why I love this story:

1. Margaret is one of my favorite book heroines. She is steady and reliable. She is observant and cautious. She has a heart of gold. She is not a woman who can be persuaded to become involved with a person or an idea without time to think and weigh the decision. She is beautiful in appearance and character.
2. The romantic element has time to develop and mature.
3. Margaret’s parents come across to me as acting much older than their probable age. Margaret is about 18 or 19 when the story begins. Her parents would be in their 40s or early 50s. But they come across as being much older, 60s to 70s. Mr. and Mrs. Hale are insecure, frail, fragile people. Margaret shows remarkable strength in comparison to her parents. Margaret shows remarkable beauty in her character opposite her cousin Edith. North and South is a story of several comparisons: Margaret and her parents. Margaret and her cousin Edith. The industrial town of the north compared to the towns of the south. The industrial workers compared to the owners. There is also a comparison between Protestant and Catholic.
4. Mr. and Mrs. Hale are not a good match. They are a married couple who are not close. They do not bring out the best in one another. They are not a source of strength for one another. They are not a couple who are transparent and honest. Their strength seems to come from Margaret. She is more like a parent than they are. This is intriguing for a story.
5. Mr. John Thornton is a bit of a brooding, serious type character. It is never voiced, but I believe he is lonely for a wife. He is at an age when he no longer wants to share a home with mother, but have a wife and help-mate. I felt empathy for him in the story.
6. Mrs. Thornton who is John’s mother. She comes across as a sour tart. However, there is something I immediately like, she is a person who states how she feels and this is a breath of fresh air. Whether I like what she always says is another matter. She too is a comparison against Mr. and Mrs. Hale.
7. A good, solid, satisfying closure for the story.

I don’t understand exactly why Mr. Hale wanted to leave the church. This is skimmed over. It is vague. However, through their demeanor and behavior I understand how in this type of situation people feel ashamed, disgraced, embarrassed, and humiliated. His career as a minister placed him in a distinct class station. When he left there would be gossip. Those people would treat the minister and his family differently. Add to this is the situation of their son and what happened to him. Both of these issues are too much and the Hale family would need to relocate.

Themes in the story: family honor, romance, suffering, judgment, conformity, beauty, greed, charity, tolerance, grief, kindness, death and dying, courage, and compassion.