Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott

Redgauntlet cover

Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott was first published in 1824. I’ve wanted to read this one for ages, but I can’t say that it is one of my favourites. Scott is of course very wordy, and I usually get used to that very quickly, but this one seemed like an awful long road to reach what the author wanted to say which was that the Jacobite cause was well and truly over and the Hanoverian King George sitting in London had no need to fear any other Jacobite rebellions. Scott was actually very much involved with the British royal family, he masterminded George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822 and even designed the clothes that he wore for it. Yes we have Scott to blame for all that tartanry and fol-de-rol lace and velvet, although thankfully nobody has been keen to emulate that king completely as George IV insisted on wearing pink tights with his kilt!

Anyway, back to the book – young Darsie Latimer is a bit of a harum scarum and while on an adventure on the Solway Firth close to the English border he ends up getting kidnapped by Redgauntlet. His good friend Alan Fairford hears about this and decides to ride to his aid, despite the fact that he is in the middle of his first court case as a lawyer.

Darsie had no idea who his parents were but it turns out that the Border laird Redgauntlet himself is related to Darsie and Redgauntlet has been busy trying to gather together some people that he thinks might be interested in taking part in another Jacobite rebellion. He tells Darsie exactly who he is, and that his father had been executed for his involvement in the 1745 rebellion. Darsie isn’t interested in joining the cause, not even when he knows that Charles Edward Stewart is there. There’s a bit of romance in there as you would expect, and a man dressed up as a woman to avoid detection, a standard Jacobite rouse!

My favourite Scott novel is still The Pirate.

Claudius the God by Robert Graves

Claudius the God cover

Claudius the God by Robert Graves was first published in 1934 and is of course the sequel to I,Claudius. You can read what I thought about that one here.

I think inevitably Claudius the God wasn’t as gripping a read as I, Claudius probably because that one featured so many power crazy emperors, executions, murders and poisonings were constants so it was all go.

The story is of course being told by Claudius and when he reluctantly dons the purple robes of emperor (he wanted to bring back the Roman republic) he tries to put the country on an even keel by melting down all the gold statues that Caligula had had made when he was completely mad. Claudius is very popular amongst soldiers and ordinary people, but the senators aren’t so keen on him and a few of them had already tried to grab power before the army declared him emperor.

This book is Claudius’ account of what he did and why he did it. In some cases he behaved just as badly as previous emperors although he acknowledged his mistakes, the end result was still miscarriages of justice. The worst mistake he made though was to trust his wife Messalina. Despite the fact that he had seen how his grandmother Livia had abused the power given to her by her husband Emperor Augustus, Claudius gave Messalina just as much power as he had, giving her a duplicate of his seal so she could and did do whatever she wanted. As she was just as evil as Livia, she caused mayhem but poor Claudius had no idea of her real character at all.

Herod Agrippa features quite a lot and of course it was Claudius who invaded Britain so that is very interesting although I have no idea how true that account is. Did they use elephants and camels in the invasion terrifying the British who had never seen such animals before?

It seems that Claudius was wise in many ways, or maybe it was just that he was well read and ‘stood on the shoulders of giants’. But in many ways he was completely naive.

This book was one of my 20 Books of Summer and also counts towards my James Tait Black Memorial Prize Challenge as it won that prize in 1934.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Kim Cover

I was in a St Andrews bookshop a few months ago when an American chap was buying an ancient set of Rudyard Kipling books and praising Kipling ‘to the skies’. Well, I had only read the Just So Stories, Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies – way back in nineteen canteen – as my mother used to say for some reason.

So I thought that maybe I was missing something and it was about time I got into Kipling, I have a lovely Folio Books copy of Kim so when I realised that Kafka’s The Castle was not going to be good bedtime reading I decided to givew Kim a go. Unfortunately I soon discovered that Kim and the Castle actually have quite a lot in common. They’re both basically about a quest.

Kim is a young orphaned boy. His father was an Irishman in the British Army and his mother was also white so despite the fact that he has been living as an Indian and speaks English with an Indian lilt, he is in fact a ‘sahib’. He forms a relationship with a wandering holy man from Nepal who is searching for a special river. Kim becomes the holy man’s disciple and helps him with begging for food as they continue on their travels.

But Kim is also looking for something, he had a vision of a red bull and knows that it has a special meaning for him, so he is searching for it. When he finds the red bull on a flag flying in a British Army camp he discovers that his father had been an Irish soldier and when the officers realise that Kim has been living as a native they decide that he must go to school to be trained up possibly as a surveyor.

After three years at school during which time the lama travels around on his own, eventually the two are able to continue their travels again.

I read on to the end but I can’t say that I found Kim to be an entertaining or even informative read, but as always when I read a disappointing classic I’m quite glad that I did read it and now know what it’s about.

I read this for the Classics Club Challenge.

Classics Club Spin

Well the Classics Club spin number is 15 so that means that I have to read Franz Kafka’s The Castle for August 1st.

I must admit that I had a sharp intake of breath when I realised which book I would be reading.

I turned to Jack and said – I’ve got to read The Castle – and he gave me a big manic grin and said lucky you.

What does he know?!

A Classics Club Group Check-In #18

It’s the Classics Club Group Check-In #18 and I thought I would take the chance to peruse my entire Classics Club list. It has changed quite a lot since I signed up for the Classics Club, mainly because I’ve added in books as I came across them and have removed some books that I wasn’t sure about – can vintage crime books be seen as classics? I’m never sure, so I decided not to include those in the list. Can John Buchan’s books be regarded as classics? I’ve decided to keep those ones on the list anyway.

I joined the Classics Club in March 2012 and I decided to make my list 55 books long as my plan was to complete 55 classics by the time I reached my 55th birthday, but as I will be 57 in the summer I have obviously missed my target. I’m still quite pleased with my progress though. These are all books that I’ve had on my shelves for years. If I’ve counted correctly I’ve completed 38 of the books on my list. My most recent read was Oblomov by Goncharov and I read that for the May spin so I haven’t blogged about that one yet, but I did enjoy it.

1. Deerslayer by J. Fenimore Cooper
2. Linda Tressel
3. Heroes by Thomas Carlyle
4. The Lady of the Camelias by Alexandre Dumas
5. Swan Song by John Galsworthy
6. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
7. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
8. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
9. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
10. The Talisman by Walter Scott
11. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
13. Nana by Emile Zola
14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
15. The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
16. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
17. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
18. The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett
19. Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett
20. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
21. O Pioneer! by Willa Cather
22. Moby Dick by Hermann Melville
23. The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby
24. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
25. An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym
26. The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
27. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
28. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
29. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
30. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
31. Witch Wood by John Buchan
32. The Courts of the Morning by John Buchan
33. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
34. Love by Elizabeth von Arnim
35. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison
36. Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys
37. Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope
38. Poor Caroline by Winifred Holtby
39. The World my Wilderness by Rose Macaulay
40. Salem Chapel by Mrs Oliphant
41. The Republic by Pliny
42. The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West
43. Chatterton Square by E.H. Young
44. Not So Quiet by Hellen Zenna Smith
45. The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola
46. The Ladies Paradise by Emile Zola
47. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
48. Felix Holt the Radical by George Eliot
49. Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope
50. He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
51. The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
52. The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope
53. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
54. Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope
55. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

The Classics Club Spin #12

It’s Classics Club Spin #12 and below is my list of twenty books, one of which I’ll be reading and blogging about by May 2nd, when I should be in Holland again, but I’m sure I’ll manage to make time to take part in the spin.

1. Veranilda by George Gissing
2. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
3. The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott
4. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor
5. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
6. The Trial by Franz Kafka
7. The Dynasts by Thomas Hardy
8. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
9. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
10. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
11. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
13. Nana by Emile Zola
14. Is He Popenjoy by Anthony Trollope
15. The Castle by Franz Kafka
16. Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope
17. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
18. Quentin Durward by Sir Walter Scott
19. The Fair Maid of Perth by Sir Walter Scott
20. Salem Chapel by Mrs Oliphant

There’s nothing in the list that I particularly dread coming up in the spin, but I suspect that I would get most pleasure from reading a Trollope – so numbers 10, 14 and 16 would be particularly welcome.

What about you, are you joining in the spin this time?

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was first published in 1925.

I think this is just the second book by Woolf that I’ve read. I read To the Lighthouse and it wasn’t my cup of tea although I know some bloggers loved it. I wasn’t any more impressed with Mrs Dalloway so I think it’s fair to say that Virginia Woolf and I just don’t get on at all. I just don’t like her writing style.

The book has a short foreword by Jeanette Winterson who is obviously a fan and there is also an introduction by Carol Ann Duffy and as if that isn’t enough there’s another by Valentine Cunningham.

The setting is London a few years after World War 1 and Mrs Dalloway is giving a party later in the day. She’s in her 50s, a perfect hostess well used to throwing regular, fashionable parties.

During the preparations for the party she sees Peter Walsh who has been in India for years, he had proposed marriage to her when she was a youngster but she had turned him down. Her mind wanders off over the years and over everything that has happened since then.

Very early on in the book Woolf has a character who is suffering from depression and is preoccupied with suicide. Given what Woolf did to herself, I find it sad and unnerving to read about it in a book which was written years before she took her own life.

Oh well, each to their own! I still have The Waves to read – sometime, maybe.

An Eye for an Eye by Anthony Trollope

An Eye for an Eye by Anthony Trollope was published in 1879. That was a bit of a surprise to me as it read more like something which he would have written in his earlier years. It seems that it was actually written in 1870 but was held back from publication then. So far this is the Trollope which I’ve found to be the least enjoyable, but at least it is a slim volume.

The setting is Ireland and an English country estate called Scroope. Fred Neville is the heir to the estate and earldom after his uncle’s only son died prematurely, the son had been a bit of a waster who married a prostitute and broke his aristocratic parents’ hearts.

It’s expected that Fred will do the right thing and marry into the aristocracy, someone from his own class and religion, but Fred has a different idea. Whilst his regiment is in Ireland he starts up a liason with completely the wrong sort of girl. Kate O’Hara lives in a teeny cottage above a cliff, she lives there with her mother and their only friend is a Roman Catholic priest. Fred promises to marry her and on the strength of that promise Kate ends up in big trouble.

Trollope always has something to say in his novels, other than just the story, he was very much for women having equality with men and often wrote about prejudices and unfairness in society. Here are a few excerpts:

There are women, who in regard to such troubles as now existed at Ardkill Cottage, always think that the woman should be punished and that the man should be assisted to escape. The hardness of heart of such women, – who in all other views of life are perhaps tender and soft natured, – is one of the marvels of our social system.

and … in her heart of hearts she approved of a different code of morals for men and women. That which merited instant, and as regarded this world, perpetual condemnation in a woman, might in a man be easily forgiven.

Trollope was obviously aware of the prejudice against Irish people as his uncle and aunt are appalled at the thought of him being mixed up with a poor Irish Catholic. Mind you Trollope’s Irish blood doesn’t seem to have held him back in his very successful Post Office/Civil Service career.

I read this one for the Classics Club.

Mr Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell

I’ve read a lot of Gaskell’s novels including Cranford – way back when… but I don’t remember ever seeing Mr Harrison’s Confessions which is a prequel to Cranford. As soon as I started reading it I realised that when the BBC did their fairly recent dramatisation of Cranford they sensibly used this book too.

It’s an amusing tale of what happens when a young doctor moves to the rural village of Duncombe. He is given a very warm welcome by all but especially those who have daughters to marry off, and in no time he finds himself in a tricky situation – or three, and all because he heeded Mr Morgan, his medical mentor’s advice.

It’s a very quick read at just 106 pages and I’ll be counting it on my Classics Club reading list.

Classics Club Meme

August 2015 Meme: Contributed by BookerTalk, who joined us in August 2012: “Have you made changes to your list since you first created it? If you added any new titles or removed some, why did you make those changes?”

Below is my original list. I decided to make a list of 55 classic books to read, my goal was to get them read by my 55th birthday and I have to admit that I’ve failed completely as I turned 56 recently and I’ve only managed to read 29 of them.

1. Deerslayer by J. Fenimore Cooper
2. Uther and Igraine by Warwick Deeping
3. Heroes by Thomas Carlyle
4. The Lady of the Camelias by Alexandre Dumas
5. Swan Song by John Galsworthy
6. End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
7. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
8. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
9. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
10. The Talisman by Walter Scott
11. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
13. Nana by Emile Zola
14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
15. The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
16. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
17. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
18. The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett
19. Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett
20. The Naulahka by Rudyard Kipling and W. Balestier
21. O Pioneer! by Willa Cather
22. Moby Dick by Hermann Melville
23. The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby
24. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
25. An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym
26. The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
27. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
28. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
29. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
30. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
31. Witch Wood by John Buchan
32. The Courts of the Morning by John Buchan
33. The Gap in the Curtain by John Buchan
34. Love by Elizabeth von Arnim
35. The Corn King and the Spring Queen by Naomi Mitchison
36. Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys
37. Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope
38. Poor Caroline by Winifred Holtby
39. The World my Wilderness by Rose Macaulay
40. Salem Chapel by Mrs Oliphant
41. The Republic by Pliny
42. The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West
43. Chatterton Square by E.H. Young
44. Not So Quiet by Hellen Zenna Smith
45. The Tenth Man by Graham Greene
46. The Third Man by Graham Greene
47. Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
48. Felix Holt the Radical by George Eliot
49. Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope
50. He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
51. The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
52. The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope
53. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
54. Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope
55. Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe

I’ve tinkered with the list from time to time, in fact I’m not at all sure that the one above is the original, I’m sure I had some classic crime books on it in the begining. I’ve had doubts as to whether some of the books would be described as classics. I put a fair few Viragos on the list and I’m not sure about them at all.

My number 2. is Uther and Igraine by Warwick Deeping who was very popular in the 1930s but is it a classic? – I doubt it. I’ve decided to replace that one with The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott. Apart from anything else I can’t find my copy of Uther and Igraine.

Numbers 38, 39, 42, 43, 44 are all Viragos which I’m thinking about swapping for:
An Eye for an Eye by Anthony Trollope
The Way Live Now by Anthony Trollope
Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope
The American Senator by Anthony Trollope
and possibly a Daphne du Maurier, maybe Hungry Hill or The Glass Blowers.

Since starting to write this post I’ve been to the library and borrowed:
Mr Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell and
The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola

So it looks like I’ll be amending the list yet again!