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Search tags: DE-Stevenson
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review 2018-11-28 23:26
24 Festive Tasks: Door 8 - Penance Day, Book
The Brimstone Wedding - Barbara Vine
The Brimstone Wedding - Barbara Vine,Juliet Stevenson

Tedious, predictable, and boring beyond belief.  I'd never have thought I'd actually ever say this about a book by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell in her standalone thriller writer incarnation), but there we are -- and not even Juliet Stevenson's lovely narration could do anything about it.  The tedium of unhappy marriage and an ultimately equally unhappy adulterous affair, experienced by two women of different generations and different social classes who tell each other their respective stories ... yawn.  Been there, done that, all probably pretty realistic, especially the present-day story, but by the same token that narrative strain in particular is just utterly predictable.  OK, OK, the "marriage" bit was perhaps foreseeable given this book's title, but in view of the author and since the title also has the word "brimstone" in it, I really was expecting a bit more of the hellfire and demonic machinations that Vine normally so excels in.  But even in the older woman's story, which is marginally more interesting, the "big reveal" at the end had been telegraphed pretty much from the start, and the book ends with a twist intended to tie both stories together even more firmly which (1) also was not exactly a surprise, given the amount of foreshadowing in that particular direction, and (2) is in itself, never mind the foreshadowing, artificial to the nth degree and as unnecessary to the storyline as an extra limb.  Shame, Baroness Rendell; I'd have expected so much better from you!

 

However, since this book is literally brimming (bad pun intended) with people searching their souls, hiding guilty secrets -- not only of the adulterous kind -- and seeking absolution, I'm claiming this as my read for Penance Day so as to at least get something out of it after all.  This is incidentally also the only reason why I finished it.

 

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review 2018-11-20 13:28
24 Festive Tasks: Door 18 - Winter Solstice / Yuletide, Book
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
The Thirteenth Tale - Juliet Stevenson,Diane Setterfield

Somewhat too self-involved for my taste, though in a first novel dealing with identity and the autobiographies we create for ourselves that probably shouldn't have come as a total surprise ... and I'll grant Setterfield that it doesn't exactly have "first novel" written right across its forehead.  The story's central underpinning is one of my absolute no-go tropes, however

(a secret baby)

(spoiler show)

-- and I'm sorry, but the days when I would have found the two (!) generations of Angelfield / March children's upbringing and childhood, or the household as such for that matter, anything even approaching romantic, wild or desirable are long gone. 

 

Far and away the best scene is the one summed up in isanythingopen's 70% mark status update -- a doctor's prescription of Sherlock Holmes as a cure for a cold and for getting overly romantically caught up in an identification with 19th century women's literature.  (Writer, heed thy own words, I'm bound to add.)

 

3 1/2 stars because I'm feeling generous and the writing actually is quite atmospheric whenever it isn't trying too hard.

 

The framework narrative mostly takes place in December, so I'm counting this book towards the Winter Solstice / Yuletide square of 24 Festive Tasks.

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review 2018-10-08 00:34
Katherine Wentworth by D.E. Stevenson
Katherine Wentworth (Katherine, #1) - D.E. Stevenson

I’ve had Dorothy Emily Stevenson on my list of authors to try for at least five years. I already own two of her books: Miss Buncles Book on kindle, and Mrs. Tim of the Regiment in paperback. I can’t really say what made me finally read this Kindle Unlimited offering – probably just because I will be cancelling the service in November, and I figured I might as well get as much out of it as it can before it goes. At this point, I have identified four D.E. Stevenson books that are available in the KU library: this one, the sequel called Katherine’s MarriageAmberwell, and Anna and her Daughters. I have already downloaded Katherine’s Marriage, because I must know what happens next for Katherine, Simon, Den and Daisy, and Alec.

 

Katherine Wentworth, both the book and the character, are simply charming. This is a book where little happens, but it is still such a satisfying read. Katherine is a young widow, raising her stepson, Simon, who is 16 during most of the book, and her 7 year old twins, Denis and Marguerite (Den and Daisy). At the beginning of the book, she runs into an old school friend, Zilla, while having a day on her own, which really starts the book in it’s romantic trajectory.

 

Katherine is neither perfect nor smug – she is a simply wonderful character. She’s sensible, loving, kind, and cheerfully makes do with what must be quite a small income. Her husband, Gerald, died very unexpectedly, leaving her both grief-stricken and impoverished in a genteel fashion. During the course of the book, they discover that Simon has become the heir to the large estate, that Gerald fled from as a youth. Simon is enticed there, where the family attempts to buy his acquiescence with offers of affluence.

 

One of the things I liked about this book is that the main characters are just genuinely nice. Simon is a nice kid – flawed, of course, as boys of 16 are, taken with the trappings of wealth, but his step-mother, Katherine, who is probably only 10 years his elder, is just such a generous and sensible person, and she has done such a fine job caring for him after his father died, that his ethics and integrity are well-grounded enough to withstand the pressure. The love interest, Alec (spoiler alert) is also a lovely man, a wealthy Scottish lawyer, not bothering to be jealous over Katherine’s past and the fact that she loved her husband. His proposal to her is simply touching.

 

‘Oh dear, I’d forgotten you were so rich! Everyone will say I’m marrying you for your money. All your friends will be sorry for you—have you thought of that, Alec?—they’ll say you’ve been caught by a designing widow with three——’

 

‘Let them say! I don’t care a tinker’s curse what anybody says—besides we’ll be married before “they” know anything at all about it. You don’t mind what people say, do you?’

 

‘I think I do—a little.’

 

‘Silly,’ said Alec, giving me a gentle squeeze.

 

‘Not silly,’ I told him. ‘I wish I had a little more money of my own. You’re marrying a beggar-woman, Alec.’

 

‘When we’re married I shall endow you “with all my worldly goods,” so you’ll be reasonably well off.’

 

‘I wish I had money of my own—now. For one thing I should like to be able to give you a really nice wedding present.’

 

‘You can,’ said Alec. ‘I want a half share in the children.’

 

There were tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I couldn’t speak.

 

‘I hope they’ll be pleased,’ continued Alec in doubtful tones. ‘It’s bound to be a bit of a shock to them—we must be prepared for that. You’ll have to watch them carefully; don’t let them brood about it and get all sorts of wrong ideas into their heads. Daisy and Denis will get used to it, if we give them plenty of time, but I’m worried about Simon.’

 

I’m pretty sure that this isn’t one of Stevenson’s better known offerings. It’s a small book, full of small moments, but it was a lovely thing to read on a quiet Saturday in October.

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review 2018-10-07 15:53
Katherine Wentworth by D.E. Stevenson
Katherine Wentworth (Katherine, #1) - D.E. Stevenson

This was the first book by D.E. Stevenson that I've read and it was charming. Full review later.

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review 2018-09-25 07:38
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales - Roger Luckhurst,Robert Louis Stevenson

TITLE:  Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales 

 

AUTHOR:  Robert Louis Stevenson

  

DATE PUBLISHED:  2008 (reissue)

 

PUBLICATION:  Oxford World's Classics

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780199536221

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DESCRIPTION: 

"Stevenson's short novel, published in 1886, became an instant classic.  It was a Gothic horror that originated in a feverish nightmare, whose hallucinatory setting in the murky back streets of London gripped a nation mesmerized by crime and violence.  The respectable doctor's mysterious relationship with his disreputable associate is finally revealed in one of the most original and thrilling endings in English literature.  

 

In addition to Jekyll and Hyde, this edition also includes a number of short stories and essays written by Stevenson in the 1880s, minor masterpieces of fiction and comment:  'The Body Snatcher', 'Markheim',  and 'Olalla' featuring grave-robbing, a sinister double, and degeneracy, while ' A Chapter on Dreams' and 'A Gossip on Romance' discuss artistic creation and the 'romance' form.  Appendices provide extract from contemporary -writings on personality disorder, which set Stevenson's tale in its full historic context."

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It's a bit hard to comment on a classic that has resulted in numerous adaptations.  I found the stories in this book to be creepy and the essays interesting.

 

 

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