Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for the monthly review round up. Reading wise, it was a mix of champagne and cheap plonk for me this month - all enjoyable in its own way. Read on for my literary confessions.
Charlotte Brontë - Shirley
Following on from reading Jane Eyre last month, I tackled Shirley. I couldn't remember much of this novel, apart from the fact that it had an industrial background and that the eponymous character was a woman who had been given a man's name (yes, Shirley used to be a man's name). I'm going to have to admit that, while the narrative of this story was engaging, there were long sections that were tedious and moralizing. Some of the disjointedness is deliberate, I think. This is a socially aware novel, set during the times of the Luddite riots, and it throws the conflicting claims and assumptions of the British classes into stark, and not always favourable, relief. I am starting to wonder about Charlotte Brontë's flawed heroes, though - neither Edward Rochester, Robert Moore here, nor Paul Emanuel in Villette are actually commendable, when you think about it.
Nancy Warren - Stockings and Spells, Purls and Potions, Fair Isle and Fortunes (The Vampire Knitting Club, Books 4-6)
After two Victorian novels, and a third lockdown, it was time for some brain candy. Budding witch, Lucy, has inherited an Oxford knitting shop, and a lot of trouble, from her newly undead grandmother. Book 4 was pretty entertaining, with a Christmas market murder linked to a decades-old plagiarism case. Book 5 has a good premise, where a love potion gone awry brings rehearsals of A Midsummer Night's Dream to life, but it ended up annoying me for its lack of research into Oxbridge college theatrics. In Book 6, Lucy's cousin steps in as the fortune teller at a local summer fete - but her fortunes come true with deadly accuracy. Warren needs a copy editor, but she writes entertaining plots, and I'd buy more if they came on sale, so I suppose she has a winning formula.
Emily Brontë - Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights comes in second after Jane Eyre in the list of novels that captured my teenage emotions. It's hard to believe the sisters wrote side-by-side, since their style is so different. If you need me to tell you, this is the story-of-all-stories about a couple who cannot live with each other and cannot live without each other, and whose destructive passion brings down the lives of all around them. I think Cathy and Heathcliff top the lists of both the most famous and worst couple in literary history. My most vivid memory of this novel is that I once finished it around midnight in a storm. I won't being doing that again.
If you are my age, and especially if you are British, this probably popped unbidden into your head at this moment:
Balli Kaur Jaswal - Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Nikki takes a job helping widows at her local Sikh temple learn to write in English. However, this marginalised group of women quickly take off in flights of fiction, expressing the passions they are no longer supposed to admit. Soon, suppressed truths emerge that put lives in danger. Be warned: it does contain the erotic stories. I will never think of ghee in the same way again.
Last but definitely not least, award-winning romantic novelist and my valuable critique partner Maggi Andersen released the second novella in her Never series - Never Dance with a Marquess - on May 13. An ideal escape in this unseasonal weather we all seem to be experiencing! Happy reading!