The Turn of the Screw/The Aspern Papers

Whoo hoo! I’m finally finished with Henry James! When I read The Iliad as my first “study” book, I thought reading prose would be easier than epic poetry, but I’ll be honest…this really seemed to drag on forever. I know some of you have been wondering about this book sitting in my Currently Reading section of WWW Wednesdays. Trust me, it’s a strugglebus only reading a chapter a day! But, I think I’d exhaust myself trying to read more of these books at a time.

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The Aspern Papers

This story made me really angry at everyone involved. At the narrator for being such a prick and taking advantage of Miss Tina and the old woman. While he is upfront about his intentions and desire for nothing but the Aspern Papers, he still manipulated Miss Tina quite a bit. I hated the old woman for hanging on to these papers with such a fervor, wanting to burn them rather than have anyone else have them. And then there is Miss Tina. Now, I understand how tempting it must have been, being a spinster and having a man come live with her, befriending her, and all that. But come on Miss Tina! You KNEW what he wanted. He TOLD you what he wanted. The entire relationship you were plotting to get those papers away from your aunt. So why in the world did you think he was in love with you, and not those papers? Sigh. Miss Tina made herself ridiculous in the end, and I was so ashamed.

It was well written, I just didn’t like a single character in it. Sometimes that happens. *shrug*

The Turn of the Screw

I’ll be honest–I had to look up the Wiki summary of this one because I was so utterly confused by what the heck was going on. I could tell it was some sort of ghost story–that much I got from the beginning narration. After that, I completely lost my way and I was just ready for it to be OVER…which thanks to the short chapters and my chapter-a-day ration…it took FOREVER. Oh my goodness. Needless to say I did not like it.

The Beast in the Jungle

I quite liked this one, maybe because I can relate to it so much. The main character feels there is going to be something so big in his life that he must put off everything else for waiting. Even when he meets the love of his life–a woman who becomes his best friend and essentially, life partner, he will not marry her, because of this “beast” of an event. And he waits, and he waits. And May, ever patient, waits with him. I’m always waiting for the next big thing to happen, so it struck home to me quite a bit.

The Jolly Corner

My first thought when beginning this one was “Wow, this would make a great name for a bar!” More than that, I don’t have much to say about it. It’s another one of James’ really vague ghost stories.

I think that’s the key thing about James’ writing–and the thing I most dislike. His stories are so vague, probably to seem mysterious, but I never had any idea what was going on. There was never any real definition of what the “mystery” was or what I was supposed to be looking for. Just this whispery hint of discomfort. The protagonist was troubled, but why? I always ended up going to Wikipedia afterwards to see if I understood the story correctly, and more often than not I found out details that I had missed.

So, not a fan of Henry James. Mark another X on the list!

Fulfills Boxall #85

Fulfills PopSugar #25: A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t

Jane Eyre

I keep seeing this post floating around on Tumblr about how Charlotte Bronte fell in love with Jane Fairfax from Emma, and so she wrote a fanfiction about her as a governess. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but that post was enough to get me to read both Emma and Jane Eyre somewhat back to back!

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This is my second read-through (I listened to the audiobook when I was in college), and I love Jane Eyre even more now than I did the first time. Of course I always get more from a book by actually reading than listening.

Jane is such a prim, proper, plain-looking character. If you look up an images search of the way she’s been portrayed over the years, she always looks so delicate. But Jane Eyre is anything but soft. She maybe a woman with very strict ideals–but she fights for those ideals with conviction and a steady conscience. Not much can sway her.

This book is so much more than a love story. Of course, the romance is there, but that really isn’t the important part of the narrative. What else do we have?

  1. Child abuse
  2. Poverty
  3. Epidemic
  4. Feminism
  5. Mental Illness
  6. Importance of family ties and friendship
  7. Hypocrisy
  8. Disability

And the list could go on and on, but this is the major stuff that I noticed. All this from a Victorian/Gothic novel. You don’t see that happen to often.

I did have one question to pose, maybe someone out there can answer it for me.

One thing I am always curious about with 1800s women’s literature is why they never give the names of places (and sometimes dates). It’s always –shire or S(…setting). Is it a lack of creativity regarding places, or was there some unspoken rule about listing where the setting was? London is always mentioned, and Bath, but anywhere else is left to mystery. It’s always so frustrating to me, and I can not help but wonder why this is!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I had no idea that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a novella. My book is a normal sized book, so I was expecting a normal sized novel! However, the actual story is only 82 pages long, and the rest is filled with little penny dreadfuls. Interesting!

My habit is to read a short story every afternoon, so I’ll save those for later. That way I can move on to other books and reviews and such.

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Speaking of reviews, this was another gothic that was just ok for me. The writing was very simple compared to Le Fanu’s, but after hearing about this story all my life, I was expecting way more out of it. It was mostly lawyering and letters. Sure, there was one murder…but we heard about it second hand, and we hardly even saw the monster.

Some stories are best left to the theatrical versions, I suppose.

Uncle Silas

I feel like I haven’t posted much lately, but I have been neck deep in Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. This is one of those All Attention Required books. And unfortunately…I didn’t do a very good job of giving it my full focus. I know that I rushed through it, and even still, it seemed to drag on forever.

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The first 25% of the book was decent. While the author was male, the narrator is a female from the 1800s, so it felt very Brontesque at first. And then…it started to twist and turn into a very dark gothic, almost ghost story. It is going to take a second read for me to understand all of the mysterious plots that are afoot in this tale, but something is so very awry here.

You start by thinking it’s a girl and her dear old father, and they are alone in their rich old manor. Eventually, she’s going to have suitors right? That’s what happens in these types of stories. There’s a spooky, estranged uncle, and a crazy, dear aunt-figure (a cousin, really, but she’s way older than Maud). Oh, and don’t forget the drunk governess.

I’m putting this on my Try Again list. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. Mostly, I just didn’t understand everything that happened. I liked the writing, at least once I got used to some of the accents used. And the characters are sufficiently complicated. Worthy read, just needs another run through.