14 Favourites of 2014

Out of the 233 books I read in 2014, I tried to narrow down my selection of favourites to a top 5, or even a top 10, but couldn’t do it. So I guess fourteen favourites is an improvement over the 31 I came up with last year—not as far as quality of course, only in terms of paring down the numbers.

In reading order:




The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (review)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (review)
Lady Susan by Jane Austen (review)
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan (review)
The Quick by Lauren Owen (ARC) (review)
Dissolution by C. J. Samson (review)
The Unstrung Harp: Or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel by Edward Gorey
Restoration by Rose Tremain (review)
The Waiting Game by Bernice Reubens (review)
Breakfast With Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist by Geordie Greig (review)
The Ruby in Her Navel by Barry Unsworth (review)
Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
Le joueur d’échecs / Chess Story by Stefan Zweig

I may yet review the few I managed to overlook so far.

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Say What??

It’s a sad day indeed when even my dear books are no consolation to me. I’m slogging through the last part of Pride and Prejudice and am coming to the conclusion that Jane Austen and I don’t see eye to eye. Which of course is not hardly likely since I’d have to understand what she’s talking about to even be able to disagree with her. I can barely make out one out of every two sentences she writes. And everybody agrees about how delightful she is. Makes me feel like a dunce. I’ll force myself to finish this book because I’ve pushed myself on this far, but may I just say that I don’t give a flying fuck what happens to Lydia at this point? (pardon my French) It’s sad to say I know, but Jane Austen makes me feel like giving up reading altogether. There. I’ve said it.

And then Portrait of a Lady, though I do understand Henry James’ English far better and even enjoy it, is just seeming more and more ominous and depressing. Oh dear. Maybe I need to find some lighter fare to get me through this patch.

Reason and Impetuosity

I’m quite behind with my posting here, as have been putting up my reviews on LibraryThing and forgetting all about my blog! So there’ll be a flurry of posts today, which by no means should be taken to mean that I’ve read these books all at once!

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen ★★★

Sisters Elinor Dashwood (the elder and reasonable one) and Marianne Dashwood (the younger and impetuous one) are at the heart of this romantic novel. Their father has passed away, leaving the bulk of his fortune to his son John from a previous marriage, entrusting him with the care of his sisters and step-mother. But John’s wife Fanny, a selfish and wonderfully disagreeable woman, soon convinces him that the best he can do is to give them nothing at all and store away the bulk of his inheritance for their young son’s future prosperity. Money plays a large part in this novel, as does the importance of marrying into it, and the sisters, with their limited fortune must consider marrying well. While taking a walk one day, Marianne trips and falls to be immediately rescued by the dashing young Willoughby, who conveniently happens to be walking by at that moment. With all the ardour of her immaturity and spirit, and with Willoughby’s constant attention, Marianne falls hopelessly in love and it is quickly assumed that the young couple are engaged to be married, but Marianne is soon bitterly disappointed by the young playboy and much drama ensues. Meanwhile, Elinor discretely pines after her Edward only to discover one day that he is secretly engaged, but she suffers in silence as Marianne stomps around pouting and crying bitter tears and falls dangerously ill from a broken heart. Many complications ensue. Then, many sudden convenient plot twists occur, and both ladies find love and eternal wedded bliss and material comfort after all. The End.

This was my fist Jane Austen novel and I was at first immediately charmed by her irony and the witty dialogue, in particular when describing the unpleasant Fanny Dashwood and other secondary characters, such as Edward’s fiancée Lucy Steele. But the drama! The bitter disappointments! The dashed hopes which are magically restored! It was too much like a soap opera for me and I couldn’t help but groan and wish for zombies to come in and bite people’s heads off, even though zombies really aren’t my thing. Will I read more Austen novels? Yes, I plan on reading Pride and Prejudice next. Am I likely to be counted among Austen’s legions of devoted fans? Not likely, if I don’t find a stronger injection of irony thrown into the mix. But one can always hope.

This review can also be found on LibraryThing
Illustration by Richard Wilkinson