Oscar Wilde - De Profundis
I resolved just to read light books this summer as moving across the globe is stressful enough in its own right, but I caved in to my brain and finally got around to reading this short literary piece by a favourite author. Wilde wrote De Profundis as a letter to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, while serving two years of hard labour for a gross indecency conviction (a sentence which broke him and led to his early death). It is an exploration of sorrow as the only true, wholly integrated experience of life and thus the highest form of art and aesthetics. But this is Oscar Wilde, and one cannot help wondering if it is really a repudiation of his old life as a ˝symbol of [his] age˝ so much as a manifesto for his becoming a symbol for all ages.
|Wilde and Douglas. Wilde was posthumously pardoned in 2017.|
From the blurb, I had thought this was a historical romance/ mystery, so I picked it up for light reading. I was pleasantly surprised to find it more of a literary novel, with strong, quirky characters, emotional intensity, developed subplots and compelling themes. Freed by widowhood from an abusive marriage, Cora takes a holiday in Essex where she can indulge her suppressed love of natural history. But the coastal villages are astir with rumours that the mythical Essex serpent has risen again, to wreak divine judgment. While Cora is eager to find the serpent and prove the existence of a living fossil, the Rev. Will Ambrose is equally determined to prove it does not, and quell the rising superstitious hysteria sweeping his parish. A strong subplot concerns a different evil lurking in the slums of London. But at heart, it is about the serpents in us all. Definitely a page turner for me.
Esther Emery - What Falls From the Sky: How I Disconnected from the Internet and Reconnected with the God Who Made the Clouds
I wanted to really like this book. I was interested in the premise, and the author and I seem to have a lot of character traits in common, but I just couldn´t get deeply into it. The main reason was the style, in the present tense in the form of vignettes, ironically (given the subject) more like a series of blog posts than a seamless narrative. The one thing that caught my attention (and I don´t think this is a spoiler) is that the author turned out to be the youngest child of Carla Emery, guru of the back-to-the-land movement of the 70s and author of the Encyclopedia of Country Living, a well-thumbed copy of which sat on our bookshelf for many years, up until our recent move away from the rural US. The background story of her mother´s pursuit of a dream at all costs was, I´m afraid, more fascinating for me than that of her daughter.
|That tea cup was mine when I was child, and I still get served tea in it when I visit my parents!|
Joseph Loconte - A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War
Written for a general audience, this explores the impact of the First World War on the beliefs, writings and relationship of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Loconte covers some seldom-discussed aspects of the lead up to the conflict, such as the conflicting philosophies of the period, and his descriptions of the battles and trench warfare are emotionally compelling, but the book petered out into a sermon. Interesting, but I would have liked more depth.
Sara George - The Journal of Mrs Pepys: Portrait of a Marriage
Leaning heavily on Samuel Pepys' own diary, this tells the story of the 1660s from his wife Elizabeth's point of view. Definitely more a diary than a novel in format, this was well written and fascinating, especially if you are a history buff. George was pitch perfect in capturing a seventeenth century voice, dealing dispassionately with Pepys' verbal and physical violence towards his household and his #MeToo antics. I swapped this with my mother for Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.
I'm about to get back to Koper and try to get the last administrative problems ironed out before the new term, so reading might be quite thin in the coming month, but wishing you all good novels for the end of summer!