Sunday 5 February 2012

Tea and oranges on a Sunday morning...

Whenever I have a cup of tea and a bowl of Clementine oranges, as happens often around the Christmas season when Clementines are plentiful, I am reminded of that Leonard Cohen song, "Suzanne".  Remember when he sings, "And she feeds me tea and oranges that come all the way from China"?  What a great song that is.  I haven't listened to Leonard Cohen in ages - maybe I'll do that today.

I decided to write today as this week is going to be very busy and my usual post time, Wednesday morning, is now booked up.  I was going to wait until Thursday evening, but it's probably best to do it now, then I can always write again later in the week if I wish to do so.

My book group met on Friday and we discussed Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  Some members did not show up, but the person for whom this book was selected was there, and of course it was a lively discussion.  In my research before our meeting, I discovered that the first draft of this book, written shortly after Jane herself fell in love with a cousin but they were forbidden to marry for financial reasons, among others, was entitled First Impressions.  I think that would have been a suitable title for the published draft, perhaps even more suitable that the final choice, as Pride and Prejudice sounds so condemning, harsh and judgemental, whereas First Impressions sounds more, hmmm, maybe "innocent" is close to the word I'm looking for.  For this reader, the book seemed more about first impressions, misconceptions, and subsequent misunderstandings among the parties involved in the relationships and their family members.  I understand that Austen's work is often described as "biting social commentary", and perhaps this is true, but to this reader, what stood out most were the unfortunate, often hasty and incorrect, judgements that were formed by some of the characters upon their first meeting with the others. But enough about the choice of title for the book.  In our group, the bulk of our discussion focused on the lack of choice for women at that time, and the fact that their only goal seemed to be finding a husband; for Mrs Bennet, the husband with the largest annual income was the best possible choice.  I remarked that, in the novel, there was no mention of the girls pursuing their own personal interests or hobbies, such as drawing or riding, and it was mentioned that, in the film version(s), they were indeed undertaking these activities.  It was then suggested that, since this was originally written in 1796 and published in I think 1813, Jane's contemporaries would have known that the characters would have been doing these things, that it would not have to be written about in order for it to be understood.  Perhaps that's one difference between a "classic" and "historical fiction", that a classic was written at the time in which it is taking place and for contemporaries of the author and the book's characters, whereas historical fiction is set in some period in the past but written by a current-day writer, and so the settings and lifestyles must be detailed for the reader.  I must say, I'm not a big fan of  historical fiction, but I often enjoy reading popular classics - I now think I understand why.  Anyways, we discussed the foolishness of Mrs Bennet, the potential harshness and cruelty inherent in Mr Bennet's treatment of his wife and some of his daughters, the annoying behaviour and attitude of Mr Collins, and the disbelief we felt in Mr Darcy's abrupt and complete change in attitude towards Elizabeth, her family, and their unfortunate financial situation.  Most of the members, including the person for whom this book was chosen, found it difficult to read for various reasons, such as the sentence and paragraph structure, the unusual ways in which some words and phrases were employed, unusual spellings for some words, and the difficulty in keeping the characters straight, especially the difficulty in being clear about who was speaking (that was my difficulty;  Austen never wrote "Elizabeth said" and "Mrs Bennet replied" - I guess I've been spoiled by contemporary literature!)  Having said that, it was decided that we were all glad to have had the opportunity to read this novel, but that perhaps it was more entertaining to watch the film versions, particularly the 1995 BBC version starring Colin Firth.  I have never seen this, but I have Part I at home now on DVD, borrowed from the library.

To finish up, I wanted to briefly talk about the audiobook I'm listening to right now, Room by Emma Donoghue. I mentioned in an earlier post that I don't usually enjoy reading books written from the point of view of a child or teenager, but that I was really enjoying this listening experience.  I'm somewhere in Part 7 of 9 parts, and I can't wait to get to the end,  it's that interesting.  I have tried reading this book in the past and could not get past the first few pages, but the audiobook is amazing.  I think this is largely due to the narration, particularly the narration done for the child, Jack.  This audiobook, downloaded from the library, uses multiple narrators, something I don't usually like, but the narrator for Jack has the style so down pat that it's almost as if a five-year-old is speaking.  I'm tempted to take out a copy of the book to read through to the end, but it wouldn't be the same in print.  I guess I'll just have to find more opportunities to listen... since it's such a lovely day, maybe I'll go for a long walk and finish "reading" Room.

Bye for now!

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