Why did I take this long to read this? From Austen's big six, this is the last I got to. I mean, I know what my reasoning was: satire and humour was not what I was looking for when I searched for an Austen volume. But I was wrong to, because this was a great romp.
(On that note, one day I have to write long and hard on how the prominence of Pride and Prejudice in pop-media puts an expectation on what Austen writes about that is a total disservice to her body of work)
If you put this and Persuasion together, it's impossible to ignore that the woman's common thread is not romance, but social critique, and tropes and expectations. In this one she takes Gothic literature ones, and more than run with them, runs them over. Anne Brontë kinda did that in a very understated way. There is nothing understated here, and I was laughing from the opening lines alone... Actually, the overall initial setting is quite similar to Brontë's Agnes Grey's opening, just, you know, absolutely savage. Much like the whole book.
The charming part comes from Catherine being a sincerely good-natured soul, and pretty sensible on the whole, so even where she hypes herself from much sensational reading (and hell, like nobody ever got jumpy in the night after reading or watching some horror), and builds some weird fantasies on it, she never quite finds herself carried away on over-dramatic feelings of angst, be it romantic or otherwise. Even when other characters ask about them on hilariously detailed, over the top descriptions.
I get now why it is the favourite Austen among many. I had lots of fun with it.
Okay, so I had to check my calendar to make sure this was actually Thursday. It's the day before I start a week's vacation, a day before the When Words Collide conference. Tomorrow, the temperature is supposed to reach 36 C (98 F), so I will be glad to spend most of it in an air conditioned hotel. We have a weather inversion holding the hot weather over our city (and its also holding a lot of forest fire smoke, so I'll be glad to be out of that too). Thankfully, we are supposed to get a break from this heat, starting Saturday.
So, I doubt I will get much reading done this weekend. I'll be rubbing shoulders with authors instead. Most of my planned reading now is for the Summer of Spies. Clearing the decks to be ready for Halloween Bingo.
I'm too cheap to pay for internet at home, so I probably won't be posting much over the upcoming week. I wish you all good reading, friends, and a great week.
As the super patriot and war veteran who’s bankrolling Britain’s top-secret Moonraker rocket program, Sir Hugo Drax should be above reproach. But there’s more to this enigmatic millionaire than he lets on. When M suspects Drax of cheating at cards in an exclusive gentleman’s club, he sends Bond in to investigate. But exposing the deception only enrages Drax—and now 007 must outwit an angry man with the power to loose a nuclear warhead on London.
The mysterious death of the head of security at Drax’s missile base gives Bond the perfect opportunity to go undercover to find out the secret agenda of the supposed British war hero. With the help of another agent, the lustrous Gala Brand, 007 learns the truth about Drax’s battle scars, his wartime allegiances—and his murderous plans for the deployment of Moonraker.
***2018 Summer of Spies***
The oddest so far in the James Bond series. I was about two thirds of the way through when I started to wonder when something of significance would happen! The last third, however, held all the action that I’d been asking for.
A very slow start, back to Bond & his card expertise. Having just read Tim Powers’ Last Call, which heavily involves poker and other games of chance, I was maybe a bit worn out with the card games! However, what I did find fascinating in the opening pages of the book was Fleming’s description of James Bond’s schedule:
”It was the beginning of a typical routine day for Bond. It was only two or three times a year that an assignment came along requiring his particular abilities. For the rest of the year he had the duties of an easy-going senior civil servant—elastic office hours from around ten to six; lunch, generally at the canteen; evenings spent playing cards in the company of a few close friends, or at Crockford’s; or making love, with rather cold passion, to one of three similarly disposed married women; weekends playing golf for high stakes at one of the clubs near London.”
This is Fleming, the now-married man, describing his life during his stint in naval intelligence! It could almost have been written by his biographer, Andrew Lycett.
The third book in the Bond series, this is first one in which Bond doesn’t get the girl. I found the last sentence to be a bit sad: “He touched her for the last time and then they turned away from each other and walked off into their different lives.” Fleming drew so much from his personal life for these books that it makes me wonder who he had in mind when he wrote such a melancholy final line.
Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932.
So far she has managed to light a fire and boil an egg... She's gate-crashed a wedding... She's making money by secretly cleaning houses... And she's been asked to spy for Her Majesty the Queen.
Everything seems to be going swimmingly until she finds a body in her bathtub... and someone is definitely trying to kill her.
***2018 Summer of Spies***
What an absolutely charming beginning to a series! Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is a poverty-stricken gentlewoman, 34th in the line of succession to the throne, trying to keep up appearances with little to no income. This author makes the most of the fascination with the Royal family and the deportment of Queen Victoria and her successors. For example:
”The sight of one female person slinking across the forecourt on foot would definitely have my esteemed relative-by-marriage, Her Royal Majesty and Empress of India, Queen Mary, raise an eyebrow. Well, probably not actually raise the eyebrow because personages of royal blood are trained not to react, even to the greatest of improprieties. Were a native in some dark corner of the colonies to strip off his loincloth and dance, waggling his you-know-what with gay abandon, not so much as an eyebrow twitch would be permitted. The only appropriate reaction would be polite clapping when the dance was over.”
A great deal of fun is had with the whole “we are not amused” stereotype, the contrast between Britons and Americans, and the differences between the classes. Don’t be looking for hard-hitting class commentary here, however. Most of the fun derives from the fact that Georgie and her brother are so clueless with regard to the actual running of a household and are so dependent on their servants that they can barely start a fire or boil water for tea.
There is a romantic aspect to the tale as well—Georgie is expected to either find suitable employment for a woman of her rank or find a husband with enough money to keep them in the style that they are accustomed to, money being more important than love in the equation. Georgie, however, has her own ideas on the suitability of husbands and she may have to dodge some of Queen Mary’s ideas on the subject.
Light & fluffy, perfect for summertime reading!