10% Report: 100 Years of Books

100 Years of Books

I’m so pleased that I picked up my 100 Years of Books project and began again.

I’ve read two and a half books since my last update; I’ve rediscovered the joy of digging up books to fit difficult years; and I already have ten ore books to present to you, because I found a good number of books to match up with years that needed them from my reading in the time between putting down and picking up this project.

Here they are:

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1853 – Bleak House by Charles Dickens

“The stories told by the two narrator overlap and characters move between them. The story of the consequences of the chancery suit and the story of the illegitimate child, a story that had been buried but will be disinterred, work together beautifully, although they are linked only by a small number of characters who are involved in both. I loved the diverse elements, I loved the wealth of detail; and although I can’t sum up the plot and the relationship I had no problem at all understanding all of the implications, and I was always intrigued.”

1878 – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“I might have loved Anna if I had met her when I was younger, but I am afraid that I found her infuriating. I loved her spirit, I loved her vitality, but I could not accept that she was so oblivious to anyone else’s feelings and while it might be wonderful to want everything – to live with your lover, to have your child with you always, to hold a high position in society – it is not always possible to have everything you want; life sometimes demands compromises.”

1884 – Jill by Amy Dillwyn

“Jill was the much loved daughter of a prosperous squire, but her life changed when her mother died and when a gold-digger succeeding in luring her father to the altar. She hated her step-mother’s new regime, especially when she realised she wouldn’t be allowed to come out until her two step-sisters had been found husbands. That was why she decided to run away and to earn her own living in London.”

1887 – The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

“The Canterville Ghost haunted Canterville Chase for more than three hundred years, but things changed when his home was sold to an American family. Lubricating oil was proffered when he clanked his chains, detergents were deployed when he left bloodstains, and young children aimed their peashooters whenever they caught sight of him. He deployed every trick he had in his armoury, but nothing worked. One final, desperate act had unexpected consequences, and led to exactly the right ending. There’s so much here – gentle but knowing satire of English and American attitudes, real pathos in the plight of the ghost, and a lovely thread of romance – it all works together beautifully.”

 1893 – In the Vine Country by Somerville & Ross

“There is much to be enjoyed here: accounts of travel by train and by boat; observations of people, places and so many things that the ladies see long the way;  time spent at vineyards, where they saw the harvest and the treading of the grapes; visits to chateaux, where they were most impressed by the great barrels that lay maturing. Along the way they sketched, and they were very proud of their Kodak wherever they went.”

1895 – The Young Pretenders by Edith Henrietta Fowler

“It’s heart-breaking, watching two grown-ups – three when the governess arrives – getting things so terribly wrong. Thank goodness that the children had each other, that they were resilient, that in their innocence it didn’t occur to them that anyone could ever have anything other than good intentions, however inexplicable their actions might be. I couldn’t help thinking how wonderful their lives might have been in the hands of the right grown-up; somebody with the wisdom to gently guide them, to tactfully explain things, to understand the magic of childish imagination and play.”

1912 – Alexander’s Bridge by Willa Cather

“I must confess that I didn’t really remember ‘Alexander’s Bridge’, Willa Cather’s first novel, from 1912; but I did remember that she hadn’t written a book that she didn’t like. Now that I’ve read it again I have to sat that it isn’t her finest work. The story is a little underdeveloped, a little contrived; the writing, though lovely, is sometimes a little less than subtle. But it is a very accomplished and very readable first novel. Her understanding of character, her skill in evoking places was there; I could see so many signs of the fine novelist she would quickly become.”

1915 – I Pose by Stella Benson

“At the beginning I felt that Stella Bowen was presenting a puppet show; later I felt that she was staging a production at the theatre, but by the end of the story I had been drawn into a very human story. It was a story that explored the relationship between the poses we present to the world and our real concerns in all of its complexity with wit and with such understanding. I don’t know what Stella Benson did, I don’t know how she did it, but she did it quite brilliantly.”

1937 – Enchanter’s Nightshade by Ann Bridge

“The story is of a family that has grown so big that it has become  a community, spending the summer months in the country. Days drift by as they exchange visits, go on picnics, and make trips to places of especial interest. The young are kept busy with lessons in the mornings before that are given their freedom in the afternoons and evenings. One family has a Swiss governess of many years standing who is wise and capable, and who has tactfully and effectively managed the household since the death of its mistress. Another family is awaiting the arrival of a new governess from England.”

 1938 – The Wild Geese by Bridget Boland

“Britain and Ireland were ruled by the House of Hanover, but the throne was contested by Jacobite rebels, supporters of the descendants of the deposed King James II. Catholics were repressed by their Protestant rulers: they could not own land, enter many trades and professions, educate their children in their faith, or worship as they chose. Many could not live with those laws, and this story tells of the implications of those laws for one family. It’s a story told entirely in letters.”

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The full list of what I’ve read is here and my first three 10% reports are here, here and here.

I’m well on my way to my next 10% already. It may take me a while to get there but that doesn’t matter, I’m enjoying the journey.

Victorian Challenge: a conclusion


The Victorian Challenge has been graciously hosted by Alex on a dedicated blog here. Do take a look – there are some wonderful reviews of an inredible array of books.

I was thrilled as soon as I first saw the words “Victorian” and “Challenge” together, and decided to set about reading a few of the big Victorian novels that I hadn’t got around to.

In the end I settled for a walk in Hyde Park (4 books) rather than the tour of the British Museum (5 books) I had planned.

I loved the books I read and I’m happy that I took my time and enjoyed them rather than rushing to hit a target.

Here they are, linked to reviews:

  • Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens
  • Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


    “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrid, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June. If it was only the other way! If it was I who were to be always young, and the picture that were to grow old! For this – for this – I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give!”

    I loved this book. It combines wonderful writing with a striking and engrossing plot and it has contemporary resonances that make it truly worthy of the overused label “classic”.

    Dorian Gray sees his youthful beauty captured in a painting and wishes that he could stay like that for ever and the picture age instead.

    Dorian’s wish is granted and the picture becomes twisted and ugly as a result of his selfish hedonism in his perpetual youth.

    All of this happens after Dorian falls under the influence of Lord Henry Wotton. Lord Henry advocates the pursuit of pleasure at any and all costs and the hazard of a virtuous and peaceful life. Dorian is suggestible and Lord Henry’s influence is profound.

    Painter Basil Hallward expresses more conservative views but his words are not heeded, and Dorian takes steps to evade him because does not want Basil to see what is happening to his painting.

    The story is both horrifying and hypnotic to watch. It was widely believed in the Victorian era that you could see a man’s character on his face and, as Dorian becomes depraved, selfish, and cruel, this is etched upon his portrait until it becomes too much for him to bear.

    The book is filled out with long conversations about conversations covering a multitude of themes. Sometimes they disturb the pace but the characters are psychologically true and that carries the day.

    And best of all, the language used in this book is a joy. Wonderful, flowing, vivid descriptions of characters, places and actions verge on poetry. It may be a bit too flowery for some, but it is the kind of writing I love.

    I am only sorry that “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is Oscar Wilde’s only novel.

    Library Loot


    Library Loot is a new weekly event hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair to share the library books we find each week.

    I have had a fairly quiet week on the library front picking up just three books:





    Behind a Mask by Louisa May Alcott

    A lovely little Hesperus Classics edition for my 17th and 18th Century Women Writers Challenge.




    The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    I actually have taken out a lovely little hardback edition that has library stamps from before I was born. Why have I never read this book?! I am on the first page and already hooked. This one is  for the Victorian Challenge.



    The Finishing School by Muriel Spark

    Taken out for no other reason than wanting to read a bit more Muriel Spark. I’ve already finished it and written about it here.

    The Finishing School by Muriel Spark


    “The Finishing School” is Muriel Spark’s 22nd and final novel, published in 2004 when she was 87.

    Like famous novel, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, it is about a school and about the relationship of a teacher to the students.

    Rowland and Nina Mahler, a married couple in their late twenties, run College Sunrise, a small finishing school.

    Rowland success with a play he wrote some years ago, but his subsequent efforts were rejected out of hand. Now he is writing a novel, but he is struggling and the excerpt quoted make it clear that it is awful.

    The school moves each year – maybe, it is suggested, to escape creditors. It is in Lausanne, Switzerland as this story unfolds.

    Rowland enjoys his role of professorial writer while Nina teaches most of the other classes and administers the school. Nina dreams of being married to a scholar and realizes that her relationship with Rowland is drawing to a close. She is not unhappy about this and has even begun planning the next phase of her life.

    There are nine students at College Sunrise including Princess Tilly, though where she is a Princess nobody knows; Opal, whose father is going through bankruptcy; Pallas Kapelas of Greece, whose father may be a spy and, most significantly, Chris Wiley, who for some reason thought the College would be the perfect place to write his novel.

    Rowland reads the first few chapters of Chris’s novel and is shocked at how good it is. Jealousy takes over he does everything within his power to play down his opinion of the fledgling book and Chris’s chances of success. As the story progress s he advances from subtle editorial criticism of the Novel to out and out sabotage of Chris’s contacts with publishers.

    Chris is completely aware of Rowland’s maneuvers and of the consuming jealousy that Rowland feels towards him. He flaunts his success in front of Rowland at every opportunity. It seems that Chris has the upper hand.

    But is everything as it seems? Is Chris dependent on Rowland’s jealousy? Could the journal that Nina suggests Rowland writes to help cope with his feelings the best bit of writing of all?

    The plot skips along, but it does leave you yearning for a little more knowledge.

    The supporting cast has great potential but, sadly it is not realized and they just seem to drop in and out of the story as required to tell the stories of the main characters.

    As ever though with Muriel Spark, the story exhibits dry wit, is enjoyable to read and believable, in spite of a strange mix of characters.

    “The Finishing School” does not quite rank with Muriel Spark’s best works, but her earlier books set the standard so high that even a little below par she is a wonderfully readable writer.

    Victorian Challenge


    The Victorian Challenge is being hosted by Alex here.

    I was thrilled as soon as I saw the words “Victorian” and “Challenge” together. I have read so many wonderful books from and about the period and there are still lots more out there.

    So I am definitely in!

    Here’s how it works:

    • The challenge runs between 1st January 2009 and 30th June 2009.
    • It is open to everyone who wishes to participate.
    • You can choose one of four reading levels.
    • You can be added to the blog if you want.
    • You can share your reviews or make updates in the blog.

    Books allowed:

    • Books wrote during the Victorian Era
    • Books set during that period
    • Books about that period or biographies

    Reading Levels:

    • A drink at Whitechapel: 3 books
    • A walk in Hyde Park: 4 books
    • A tour of the British Museum: 5 books
    • A visit to Buckingham Palace: 6 books

    I’m opting for a tour of the British museum, and these are my books:

    • Little Dorritt, by Charles Dickens
    • Belinda, by Rhoda Broughton
    • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
    • Miss Cayley’s Adventures, by Grant Allen
    • Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell

    I plan to turn the titles to links once I have read and reviewed and I’ll track progress in my sidebar.