I’m so pleased that I picked up my 100 Years of Books project and began again; and that I brought it with me when I moved to this new home on the internet.
I’ve added read and written about ten more books that filled up ten more years since my last update; and so I need to stop and consider how things are going, and present those ten books.
Now that I’m half way through this project, most of the easy years have been filled, but I’m enjoying focusing on particular years that need a book, and digging up books to fit difficult years.
The 19th century years are trickier to full than the 20th century years, but I’m discovering that’s no bad thing. It’s leading me to more works in translation, and to more obscure but very interesting authors. And it’s throwing up some lovely juxtapositions – like Anna Karenina sitting next to a young American telegraph operator ….
I’m pleased that the majority of my latest ten books are from the 19th century; and that I still have a nice selection of books I can read to fill in some of the gaps around them.
I’m beginning to think that I really can do this, and that I won’t have to read any ‘duty books’ along the way.
And that the way to enjoy the project is to take my time; to focus on it when I want to and to put it to one side when I want to read other things.
And so to my latest ten books – here they are:
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1856 – The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton by George Eliot
I loved the voice of the author from the start; she was an omniscient narrator, talking to her reader and wandering wherever she chose to illuminate the people, the places, the events, that she was choosing to share. It reminded me a little of Trollope, but her voice was distinctive and it was full of warmth and intelligence, and her love of writing and everything she wrote about shone.
1864 – Henry Dunbar by Mary Elizabeth Brandon
Two men set off to welcome Henry Dunbar. One who was sent by the bank and one who was determined to call him to account for the downward spiral that his life had taken.
Only one of those two men would meet Henry Dunbar.
Only one of the three would return to London; much later than he had been expected, and not quite freed from his entanglement in a criminal investigation that had baffled police.
1869 – Letters from my Windmill by Alphonse Daudet
This is a book with the power to transport you to 19th century southern France; because Daudet had the ability to make the world around him come alive in his pages. His descriptions of the environment and his surroundings were beautifully rendered; his observations of the people he met and the people he was told about were clear and astute; and I always felt that he was pleased to be in his windmill, writing his sketches to send back to Paris.
1875 – The Usurper by Judith Gautier
I saw echoes of other stories in this one; some older stories and myths and some literature from closer to the authors own era. And though the setting is seventeenth century Japan there is much in her story that is timeless and universal. This is a very human story; a little predictable in places but well thought out and constructed.
1881 – Policy and Passion by Rosa Praed
Honoria was the Premier’s elder daughter, and she was poised between childhood and womanhood. She was beautiful, she was headstrong, and she lacked a mother to guide her. She turned away an a very eligible suitor, a rising politician loyal to her father, when she was charmed by Hardress Barrington, a visiting English aristocrat. She didn’t know that he would never contemplate marrying the colonial daughter of a self-made man, and that he had it in mind to set her up as his mistress in an establishment of her own. She would find out …..
1888 – The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy
Whenever I find four sisters in a novel I’m inclined to draw parallels with Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. In the case of the Lorrimer sisters I saw parallels but I also saw significant points of difference; and I appreciated a nice touch late in the novel that suggested that Amy Levy was acknowledging the influence of the older author.
1904 – The Masquerader – or John Chilcote M. P. – by Katherine Cecil Thurston
This particular story opens on a foggy night in London. Two men nearly collide. When they speak they both notice that they sound alike, and when they see each other each man thinks that they might be looking in a mirror. They really are doppelgangers. As they talk they find that their circumstances are very different. …. a plan – an outrageous plan – began to take shape in Chilcote’s mind ….
1929 – Modesta by G B Stern
Modesta was an Italian peasant girl who dreamed of being an English lady. Her father was a landlord and so she was able to spend time talking to his guests, offering them charm and flattery, subtly pointing out the differences between their situation and hers; admiring their lovely things, especially the dresses, the likes of which she could only dream about; arranging the flowers and make everything nice for them. She was always so, so busy; but she always managed to take the nice jobs and to leave the not-so-nice jobs for her sisters!
She was a minx, but I just had to love her.
1936 – Deborah by Esther Kreitman
When I picked this book up I knew nothing of the title or the author; I took it on trust, to add to my collection, because it was a green Virago Modern Classic.
“All the world has heard of the great Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer and of his brother Israel Joshua. Few have heard of their sister Hinde Esther who lived in obscurity and also wrote novels.”
1943 – Thus Far and No Further – or Rungli-Rungliot – by Rumer Godden
In 1940, when her husband joined the army, Rumer Godden and her two young daughters settled in a rented house in Kashmir; set between tea gardens on the Himalayan slopes below Darjeeling.
This is the journal that she wrote there.
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I’m well on my way to my next 10% already. It may take me a while to get there but that doesn’t matter, I’m enjoying the journey.
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