Rating: 5/5 stars
Length: 782 pages
Before I begin reviewing, a word first on my lack of updates. I’m posting a lot slower than I thought I would be. I aimed for 2-3 times a week, but I was too optimistic, I think. Of course the issue isn’t how fast I read, because I’m not reading the books I’m reviewing now, I’m just going back and reviewing what I read before, but even that takes some effort. You’d think that five times a week after work I’d be able to squeeze in the time to whip up a couple of paragraphs, but nope. In between trying to feed myself, sleeping and attempting to have some semblance of a social life, I’m tuckered out. Part of me thinks I’m making excuses (there’s always never enough time to do something!) but uhm, yeah I suppose that’s it. There’s really no reason I wouldn’t be able to concentrate to serve up the goods, but I never got the hang of typing on a desk, so I lounge in bed while writing a review and then next thing I know, a few hours have gone by and I still haven’t written anything.
So what’s the point of this? Just that I can’t promise reviews except at the glacial pace that I’m currently on now. There. That sets the bar low enough so that when I do have time to review more than once a week, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Ah-ha, the W is working extra hard to deliver content! as you will say.
Yes. I am. Making every effort!
And now, onwards with the review! Another spoiler warning, I’m going to reveal a good chunk of the book’s story but be assured that they do not interfere with the main plot, only the setup.
The book takes a different angle to how the concept of magic is presented in fantasy novels. The usual offering is that the world is set in an alternative universe where kings and kingdoms rule the Earth (or other worlds of the authors’ making) and there are people gifted with the ability to use magic. Then some type of war is brewing, the characters are easily identifiable as good or evil, and they all gear up for a showdown or two. Well, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange does have all the elements of fantasy except for the first one. She sets her magical place in England and leaves the magicking to only two men, Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Length: 496 pages
I don’t remember how I picked up this book, but I’m glad I did. The House at Riverton is told through the eyes of 98-year-old Grace Bradley, looking back through her memories of being the house servant at Riverton Manor for the Ashbury family in 1914. The book covers the time when society changed from a Victorian perspective, where duty comes before everything else, to the roaring ’20s’ indulgence and excess.
19-year-old Grace enters the Manor grateful for having been given the honor to serve the family, but as she serves, she begins to learn what that means, including keeping the family’s secrets, working without complaints, and giving up independent thoughts. She sees, but not allowed to say; observes, but cannot judge. In this capacity, she is an honest chronicler of what happens with the Ashbury family. What society knows and what she knows differ, and she is bound by the code of servitude to never reveal. She carries their stories until her dying age, when she is forced to revisit the Manor by, but who else could it be, the media.
The media here isn’t portrayed negatively. A filmmaker came to research because she wants to find out the truth for a commemorative movie in-the-making that seeks to uncover Grace’s secrets. Can Grace let go of them after carrying them for so long? The world wants to know what happened to the Ashbury siblings, David, Hannah and Emmeline, especially to the sisters. They were close, up until a tragedy occurred at a society party in 1924, when a poet committed suicide and the sisters never spoke to each other again.
Rating: 5/5 stars. I love this book!
Length: 569 pages
This is exactly the kind of historical fiction I like to read: Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White is a detective story where we uncover the events of the book through the testimonies of different characters. The first page of the book summed up what Collins was trying to achieve perfectly:
Thus, the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness–with the same object, in both cases, to present the truth always in its most direct and most intelligible aspect; and to trace the course of one complete series of events, by making the persons who have been most closely connected with them, at each successive stage, relate their own experience, word for word.
The main characters are Walter Hartright (a drawing master), Laura Fairlie and her sister Miss Halcombe. The woman in white is Anne Catherick, whom Walter meets in the middle of the night in a strange circumstance while on his way to the Limmeridge House to teach drawing to Laura and her sister.