Archive for the ‘Classics’ Category

The Diamond Lens and Other Stories by Fitz-James O’Brien

September 13th, 2012    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Classics, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Science Fiction
 

Born in Ireland in 1828, Fitz-James O’Brien moved to the United States in 1852 after running through most of his inherited fortune. Once in the USA, he made a living writing for a variety of publications, like the New Yorker and Harper’s. He also wrote short fiction, and Hesperus Press Limited recently rereleased a collection of his work.

The Diamond Lens and Other Stories contains three creepy gems: the eponymously named Diamond Lens, featuring a scientist’s obsession with a microcosmic world, originally published in 1858; The Wondersmith, a revenge story with soulless mannequins and interesting romantic message, first published 1859; and last of all What Was It, an invisible monster story that predates The Invisible Man and other stories with similar concepts, as it was published in 1859.

If you like Edgar Allen Poe, and macabre stories, this is a collection for you. Early science fiction and fantasy is fascinating both for the sheer creativity but also the worldview it gives to the time period it was published.

On a side note, O’Brien joined the New York National Guard in 1961, after the Civil War broke out. He was wounded in action in February 1962, and died from his wounds later that year.

 

 

Title: The Diamond Lens and Other Stories

Author: Fitz-James O’Brien

Source: Publicist

Read: September 2012

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Holtby Series #2: The Land of Green Ginger

May 15th, 2012    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Classics, Fiction, Kelly, Literary Fiction
 

Following last week’s review of Anderby Wold, here’s the next in our Winifred Holtby series: The Land of Green Ginger.

Joanna dreams of the world beyond Yorkshire, the mystique of faraway places, and is in love with the idea of adventure. At eighteen she meets Teddy Leigh, and he sweeps her off her feet and into a quick marriage before heading to the trenches of World War I.

Teddy returns from the war, but the world isn’t as the magical fairyland Joanna hoped for. Teddy suffers from tuberculosis, and she has to care for him in addition to their two daughters and struggling farm.  She’s overwhelmed by her responsibilities, but she can still dream of the world she wants to see.

When Joanna is asked to take in a lodger it seems like the perfect solution to their financial woes. The lodger, a Hungarian named Paul, has seen the world, and is a healthy man. But Yorkshire in the aftermath of World War I isn’t welcoming to foreign labor, and the neighbors are suspicious of Joanna’s feelings. Will her family survive?

The Land of Green Ginger brings insight into Britain just after World War I while also illuminating the lives of women. Like South Riding and Ander by Wold, the sense of time and place is amazing.

The tuberculosis aspect of the novel is fascinating; it wasn’t until the 1940s that scientists were able to create an antibiotic to cure the disease. (Researchers are still batting TB, as the newer multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis, usually referred to as MDR-TB, has a strong foothold in parts of the world.) During the time period of the novel, patients with TB would go into sanitariums and be exposed to lots of fresh air and proper nutrition. If their immune system could fight the bacterial infection, they might go into remission with the infection dormant, but present. Teddy’s fight and fear of being stuck in a sanitarium is understandable, even if his relationship with his wife is troubling.

Next up: Poor Caroline, the third and final installment in our Holtby Series.

Title: The Land of Green Ginger

Author: Winifred Holtby

Read: March 2012

Source: ARC from Publisher

 

 

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Holtby Series #1: Anderby Wold

May 6th, 2012    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Classics, Fiction, Kelly, Literary Fiction
 

A little over a year ago, Masterpiece Theater introduced me to Winifred Holtby and her best-known novel, South Riding. After watching the mini-series, I read the novel, and adored it. Holtby is a strong voice of her time, and her work deserves a wider audience. So imagine my excitement when I was asked if I’d be interested in reading ARCs of the three novels Holtby wrote before South Riding, as they are being re-released this month.

Anderby Wold is set in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and follows the life of Mary Robson. Married to her old, unromantic cousin, Mary has managed to save her inheritance and get her family farm out of debt. Mary feels old before her time, and represents traditional Yorkshire.

Then David Rossiture, a young radical with dreams of organizing the workers. He brings his ideas of socialism into Mary’s world. His eloquence and energy are appealing to Mary, and show her the youthful life she’s never allowed herself to have. When these two worlds collide, whose life will shatter?

Fans of Holtby will want to pick this up and see her first novel. It’s simpler than South Riding, but Holtby’s insight into her changing world is evident.

Next up in our Holtby series: Land of Green Ginger.

 

Title: Anderby Wold

Author: Winifred Holtby

Source: ARC from Publisher

Read: March 2012

 

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How to combat Downton Abbey withdrawal

February 24th, 2012    Posted in Classics, Fiction, Kelly, Literary Fiction, Popular Fiction
 

Going into Downton Abbey withdrawals? Here are some books to help you while away the time until season three. Since the miniseries is set at a fictional Yorkshire estate, we’ve chosen novels that feature the same region.

 

South Riding by Winifred Holtby

Set between World War I and World War II, South Riding follows a cast of characters as they negotiate the Great Depression. The different social background and ideals of ideals of the characters sets up their conflicts, follies, and greatest strengths. The third season of Downton Abbey will most likely coincide with this time period.

Back room land deals, political and moral intrigues, the lives of the struggling, whether they’re landowners brought to the brink of financial ruin by the depression, or working class families struggling to eat, bring this novel to life. Strong characters, like the salty Alderman Mrs. Beddows, passionate headmistress Sarah Burton, and sympathetic landowner Richard Carne might not exactly be Lady Mary, or Anna-the-maid, but they’re easy to like and care for.

We reviewed South Riding on this site, and there was a PBS mini-series as well. Colby’s other novels are being re-released this spring in the United States, and check back here in May for reviews as we’re proud to be part of the blog tour.

 

 

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison

 

World War II and the evacuation of children from London to a fictional Yorkshire estate create the background for The Very Thought of You. Eight-year old Anna Sands leaves her mother for a good education and careful, but not individual, life on the Ashton estate. Lord Ashton is wheelchair bound due to polio, and his marriage to his high-strung wife is fraying.

 

The Very Thought of You was nominated for an Orange award, and we reviewed it here.

 

 

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Shirley might not be the most popular Yorkshire-based novel by any of the Bronte sisters, but it’s always held a special place it my heart. I originally read it during the long, dark, Finnish winter and Caroline, her beau Robert, and Shirley have always seemed like friends.

 

Shirley is an interesting contrast to South Riding, as it is set  from 1811-12 during the industrial depression sparked by the Napoleonic wars and the War of 1812. Mill owner Robert struggles to run a profitable business, and the workers he lays off react violently. His cousin, Caroline, is a bright spot in his life, and he is everything to her. When a wealthy heiress, Shirley, moves to town, she quickly befriends Caroline and Robert sees Shirley as the answer to his financial woes. Shirley, meanwhile, has her own opinion on the matter of love, responsibility, and how to spend her fortune.

Have other suggestions for novels to read while combating Downton Abbey withdrawal? Please recommend them and we’ll add them to the list!

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