Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown – Classics Club, Back to the Classics

The Rose Garden cover

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown was first published in the UK way back in 1971 but the copy I read, in a very tightly bound and therefore difficult to read paperback edition was published in 1975 which is when Jack bought it, and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since then, so I put it on my Classics Club list, to encourage me to get on with it. I also read it for Karen’s Back to the Classics Challenge.

What can I say other than I’m really glad that I read this book, but it was so depressing. The American politicians of the day were so duplicitous, cruel and greedy and the First Nation Indians were so trusting, honest, dignified and forgiving – it was only ever going to end in tears for them.

Hunted like animals all over the country, by men who were no better than gangsters, whether in uniform or not and who conveniently didn’t even see the Indians as human beings. It was the Europeans who originally started scalping people, but the Indians who got blamed for it.

With settlers, gold rushers, corrupt government land agents and soldiers seeking glory it was only a matter of time before the First Nation people were either killed fairly quickly, or slowly by starvation as they were corralled in reservations (concentration camps) which had such poor land they couldn’t grow crops and all the animals had been frightened off or killed by hunters for their skins.

I must admit that after reading this book I’ll never see American settlers in quite the same light again, although to be fair they were also at times the victims of corrupt land agents. They must have known that they were usurping the original inhabitants of the land though.

It’s very true to say that history is written by the victors, which is why so many people believe that the American War of Independence was about a tax on tea. It wasn’t, it was about the fact that the British government had promised the First Nation people that they wouldn’t expand westward into their territory. That was something that the American politicians and businessmen were desperate to do – for profit of course. So they had to get rid of the British to get on with their expansion plans. A people with not much more than bows and arrows plus a strong tradition of caring for their land in what we nowadays see as a conservationist fashion just didn’t fit in to the American way.

This is an absolutely heartbreaking read with entire tribes being wiped out, ethnic cleansing is the euphemism now, but I’m very glad that I got around to it at last.

Pinocchio by Carlo/ Charles Collodi

Pinocchio Cover

Pinocchio by Charles Collodi is the children’s classic that I chose for my Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 list. I’ve been meaning to read it for years, but I must admit that I had no idea that Pinocchio was written so long ago. It was in 1880 that Collodi started writing The Adventures of Pinocchio, the stories were published weekly in a children’s magazine. The Disney film was made in 1940.

This was an enjoyable read with Pinocchio getting into all sorts of scrapes because he was being naughty, despite promising to be good. He’s always very sorry and sees the error of his ways, but he really just can’t help himself.

Each chapter is a warning to the young readers not to do what Pinocchio does. He runs away from Geppetto his ‘father’. He’s easily duped out of his money by a couple of con-men in the shape of a cat and a fox. He ends up being hung up from a tree, but rescued by a blue-haired fairy via a crow. There is a talking cricket but it doesn’t feature in the way that Jiminy Cricket in the film does.

The author managed to write stories with morals and warnings, about the best way children should behave to avoid trouble and upsetting other people, but without being preachy or prissy and with plenty of fun. It’s illustrated in line and colour by A.H. Watson, although there’s only one colour illustration.

My copy of the book dates from 1945 and has a foreword by Compton Mackenzie. It is DEDICATED TO THE BOYS AND GIRLS OF EVERY COLOUR, AGE, AND COUNTRY.

Pinocchio End Papers

I really like the endpapers, but as you can see a bookshop has added a sticker to the front ones.
Boans Book Salon, 1st FLOOR, MURRAY ST. END PERTH WA

The word PERTH jumped out at me and I thought, it hasn’t travelled far in its 76 years, then I realised it was Perth in Australia.

The Masterpiece by Emile Zola

 The Masterpiece cover

The Masterpiece by Emile Zola was first published in 1886. My copy was translated by Thomas Walton in 1950 and I must say that I doubt if anyone else could have done a better job. It’s the fouteenth novel in Zola’s Rougon Macquart series, and it’s a great read. I read this one for Back to the Classics Challenge and The Classics Club.

The Masterpiece is Zola’s most autobiographical novel, he based the main characters – a group of artistic friends on some of his own friends and himself. The artist Cezanne was his friend and there must have been plenty of artistic discussions between the two over the years, so Zola would have had plenty of copy to choose from I’m sure. The character Sandoz is based on Zola.

The main character Claude is a serious young artist, his friends think he has great talent and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes his generation’s Delacroix with his art being hung in The Salon and winning prizes. Claude is developing a new style called ‘Open Air’ (Impressionist). However he makes life difficult for himself, painting on enormous canvases and never being happy with his work, never knowing when to stop. His ideas which start off well somehow always go awry and when he does manage to get a painting accepted by The Salon it’s only in the gallery of the ‘refused’ artworks, where everyone laughs at his efforts. However some years later one of his friend’s steals that composition and changes it slightly and the resulting painting and the artist are lauded.

Zola concentrates on Claude’s story and his wife Christine, but his friends are a sculptor, journalist, architect and of course a novelist, and their lives and how they interact with Claude are also a big part of the book.

Germinal has always been my favourite in this series but this one ran it a close thing, although I must warn anyone thinking of reading it – especially in these angst-ridden pandemic times – that it vies with Thomas Hardy for shock and darkness. However there are some lovely descriptions of Paris, especially at night, Claude was in love with the city.

There’s an introduction by the translator Thomas Walton, obviously not to be read until you’ve finished reading the book, but as it happens the one passage that I had marked to quote is in his introduction.

Sandoz (Zola) is speaking to Claude:

“Has it ever struck you that posterity may not be the fair, impartial judge we like to think it is? We console ourselves for being spurned and rejected by relying on getting a fair deal from the future, just as the faithful put up with with the abomination on this earth because they firmly believe in another life where everyone shall have his deserts. Suppose the artist’s paradise turned out to be as non-existent as the Catholic’s, and future generations proved just as misguided as the present one and persisted in liking pretty-pretty dabbling better than honest to goodness painting! …. What a sell for us all, to have lived like slaves, noses to the grindstone all to no purpose!”

Such is life!

I bought my copy of this book in a charity shop in North Berwick one hot summer’s day a few years ago in the glory days of travel. I can’t say that I like the cover though. It’s an Ann Arbor paperback, The University of Michigan Press, and I bought about five other Zola books along with it, all similarly very far from home.

Dolly Dialogues by Anthony Hope

Dolly Dialogues cover

I decided to read Dolly Dialogues by Anthony Hope for the comic novel category in Back to the Classics Challenge 2019 which is hosted by Karen of Books and Chocolate.

This slim book has 144 pages consisting of 20 short chapters which were originally published separately in the Westminster Gazette. The book was first published in 1994 and it is really quite funny with some laugh out loud bits.

Dolly is a young flibbertigibbet who soon changes from Miss Dolly Foster by becoming the wife of Lord Mickleham who is wealthy but rather boring. Her husband’s mother and sisters disapprove of his choice of wife, not that that bothers Dolly.

Dolly has had lots of romances with various young men and Sam Carter is one of them and her marriage doesn’t hold her back from having him as a close friend and according to her mother-in-law – indulging in ‘romping’ with him. This is a fun comedy of Victorian manners.