Spending Time in Victorian England with Mr Dickens, Miss Bronte and Mrs Gaskell

Starting three Victorian works at the same time might seem like madness, but there were three readlongs beginning this month that I really couldn’t resist. And losing myself in Victorian prose at night has been the perfect antidote to difficult days at work.

First there was Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey.

I first read Oliver’s story when I was in my teens, but over the years details slipped away, and I must confess that, until recently, if his name was mentioned I would think of Mr Bart’s musical before I thinking of Mr Dickens’ prose and storytelling.

It was time to take action. I picked up the book and I was soon caught up. I sailed through the pages and I had a lovely time, reaching the end in no time at all.

My final post for the readalong will be arriving bang on schedule next Monday.

And then there was Villette by Charlotte Bronte, hosted by Wallace at Unputdownables.

I had Villette in my sights a while before the readalong was announced. A lovely new Vintage Classics edition, with a striking image of a candle on the cover, called to me from a shelf in the library. I had a different edition at home, but oh what a difference a cover can make.

A cover can speak to you, and what it says may well influence your expectations and your response as you start to read. This cover said to me that it held a warm and approachable book built on classic lines, and that I really should pick it up.

I hesitated only because Villette is a long book, but I hesitated no more when I discovered that I could have reading companions to share the journey and to keep me on track.

I’m a little off the pace, taking my time to enjoy the prose, the story, the characters when my reading mood is right. I might catch up, or I might just finish the journey in my own good time.

And one day I’ll want to write more about Villette, but not today.

Today belongs to another book.

Because finally there’s The Moorland Cottage by Elizabeth Gaskell, hosted by Katherine at Gaskell Blog.

Now this little novella really has captivated me.

The lovely style, the fine prose, the wonderful evocation of the period and the countryside setting. And, most of all, the characters and their stories.

Maggie’s mother is becoming more and more annoying. Her favouring of her son, giving him everything, even withholding Nancy’s wages so her can have more is unforgivable. And Ned himself, spoiled as a child, continues to be a spoilt adult and helps himself, it seems, to even more than he is given.

And Frank’s father still not accepting his son’s engagement to Maggie, Of course he is ambitious for his son, but why can he not see that Maggie’s love and support would help Frank to be a better and happier man?

Yes, Victorian values are getting a good kicking.

It’s fortunate that Maggie has so much wisdom and maturity. That she is prepared to tell Frank that they cannot emigrate to Australia or Canada, to “a newer and purer society” because Frank, as an only child, has a duty to his father. Her sentiments are wonderfully unselfish, but I understand why Frank is so reluctant to give up his dream.

I’m a little irrational tonight I know, but I’ve had a strange day, and this book really has been an emotional journey.

I’ll calm down and right a little more sensibly when the story is over and I can collect my thoughts.

How will it all end? I’m going to find out tonight!

6 responses

  1. I think I’m equally crazy — I signed up for a Three Musketeers readalong in March, I’m probably crazy because I’m still reading Villette. Oliver Twist is one of my favorite Dickens — I’m not technically participating but I’ve read it twice so I’m just leaving comments on everyone’s blogs. And I’m hoping to read North and South this summer, must read more Gaskell!

  2. I envy your ability to have several books on the go at once…knitting projects too I bet! It would have been so nice to join in for Villette but one book at a time seems to work best for me and lately it’s all Virago and Persephone.

    Enjoy some cosy downtime this weekend.

  3. Pingback: Gaskell Chronicle « Gaskell Blog

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