As I mentioned earlier, I am reading from 00:01 today (UK time) till 23:59. I’ll be updating this post throughout the day and occasionally tweeting updates using #ccreadathon.
I’m starting off with The Road To Wigan Pier by George Orwell, a book I’ve read once before, about eight years ago. Since then I have actually visited Wigan Pier (hey, remember when I walked 100 miles in a week alongside the Leeds-Liverpool Canal? I walked past Wigan Pier then and took photos, it was rather creepy and deserted.) and have now read J B Priestley’s English Journey which offers a very different perspective of the same issues, so I think I’ll get a lot more out of this re-read than I did the first time I approached it.
Hmmm. I just finished The Road To Wigan Pier and in need of a little thinking time to reflect on it as it’s left me feeling rather conflicted. Orwell is at times some solidly decent and careful in his descriptions of poverty and the day to day horrors of slum living, working in mines etc and then at others he’s a snob, arrogant and patronising and really rather unpleasant. I think I’m going to take a break to get a cup of green tea and a leisurely shower before picking up my next book. I think the Mitford book will probably have to wait for another day as I don’t really want to read any more snobbery today. At least I am presuming there is some snobbery in The Pursuit of Love? I always think of Mitford as rather defined by her class but perhaps I’m wrong.
In fact I am debating breaking out my emergency book – it’s a non-fiction collection of essays by John Sutherland about literary mysteries and digging deeper into classic texts to solve them called Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet? (You might know the first collection in this series better, Is Heathcliff a Murderer?). The title essay is about figuring out who tells Lady Catherine de Bourgh that Elizabeth might be about to marry Darcy which leads to their showdown at the end of Pride and Prejudice, others figure out why Pip isn’t invited to Joe’s wedding in Great Expectations and why in Moll Flanders Moll’s younger brother is older than she is. It’s not on my Classics Club list obviously but it’s useful every now and then to be reminded to pick classic novels apart for the, often very rich, back stories and take a look at the machinery behind the scenes. Also, Is Heathcliff a Murderer? was very enjoyable and I think I need a bit of a palate cleanser…
After tea and the shower I did settle down with the literary puzzle book and found it rather counter-productive – I’ve just resolved to re-read seven of the books that the problems came from and pick up three I have never read. So I have knocked one book off my TBR and added ten to my wishlist (though four are here on the shelves). Oh well.
Still, it was fun trying to remember the specifics of each book and see if I could suggest a solution before reading on to find out Sutherland’s theories. I really do recommend this series of books for stretching your reading muscles.
I’m now in desperate need of food and caffeine as it is very, very dark here in Leeds and I’m find that reading so much by artificial light is rather tiring. To get some fresh air and revive myself I’m going to take another quick break to go out to my favourite local coffee shop. My scheduled review of Bricks and Mortar is
due to go up just after 10:00 (has just gone up so I’ve added a link to it) and I think I’m going to settle down with Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year when I come back. I’ll try to be a bit more active on Twitter and here after the much needed caffeine. :)
Oops. Got a bit sidetracked there. I am rather enjoying my (admittedly grim) tour of plague-stricken London. One thing I’d forgotten was just how shockingly ‘modern’ Defoe sounds at times and how it must have been rather astonishing for his contemporaries. I’ve also been occasionally dipping into wikipedia, looking at maps and statistics and reading the book’s Introduction to get a better understanding of the text’s accuracies and inaccuracies. It’s been genuinely absorbing to spend so much time with a text this way, normally I’d be lucky to spend an hour or so devoted to this kind of reading and checking at a time and I normally do it based on my reading notebook’s list of page numbers, quotes and things to query. Doing it as I read, in between chunks of the text, has worked perfectly for Defoe as I love his style enough not to feel disorientated when I step back from the online digging and return to the book again. I’m not sure this method would work for any book not primarily biography or travel in topic though.
Anyway, I’m likely to finish this in the next hour. Judging by previous readathons 3 (relatively slim) books in 14 hours seems rather slow going but I’ve enjoyed the way the readathon has given me the space to read Defoe’s work slower than I might have done if I was reading it across several evenings.
My next read will be Hester by Margaret Oliphant:
It’s a less well-known novel from 1883 and the blurb describes it as:
Catherine Vernon, jilted in her youth, has risen to power in a man’s world as head of the family bank. She thinks she sees through everyone and rules over a family of dependents with knowing cynicism. But there are two people in Redborough who resist her. One is Hester, a young relation with a personality as strong as Catherine’s, and as determined to find a role for herself. The other is Edward, who Catherine treats like a son. Conflict between the young and the old is inevitable, and in its depiction of the complex relationships that develop between the three principal characters, Hester is a masterpiece of psychological realism. In exploring the difficulty of understanding human nature, it is also a compulsive story of financial and sexual risk-taking that inevitably results in a searing climax.
Sounds like a good read for a weekend afternoon, yes?
Hester is proving to be a rather good (and very gossipy) read – I had to be dragged away from it for dinner. I’m going to have fun reviewing it in a day or two and I can see now why someone referred to her as Trollope-like when I reviewed The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow earlier in the week.
Having eaten and made yet more coffee to combat the outbreak of yawning I do think it’s time to go and see how other readers are getting on though. I’m very curious to see what everyone else is reading today…
I’m coming to the end of today’s event and I am about halfway through Hester. I stopped reading about an hour ago because I just wasn’t taking any more information in and don’t really want to have to skip back tomorrow to see what I missed.
In the end I read far, far more this morning than in the afternoon or in the evening and there was definite burnout at the end. I finished two of my Classics Club titles, got halfway through another and also read a semi-connected non-fiction book. Not bad going.
I definitely need to think about pacing/burnout next time there’s a classics-themed readathon though.
I’ve enjoyed today, of course I have, because a whole day spent reading is after all a whole day spent reading… But I feel like I’ve done the books a bit of a disservice despite the swathes of notes I’ve made. It feels like I gorged on too much brain candy in one sitting. I do have a few thoughts about possible solutions but I’ll put them in tomorrow’s wrap-up post because right now I am definitely in need of my bed.
Good luck to anyone who’s currently halfway through their own readathon and good night to anyone who’s not. Zzzzzz. :)