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Search tags: Nineteenth-Century
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review 2016-06-25 14:07
from FictionZeal.com re: Late Harvest by Fiona Buckley
Late Harvest: A nineteenth-century historical saga - Fiona Buckley

The prologue hints that the story will be a flashback.  Peggy is nearly eighty years old in 1860.  She reflects back to 1800 and how she met and fell in love with Ralph Duggan.  Of her memories, she narrates, “There are two nights that I recall especially.  On both of them, the moonlight was so bright that the Bristol Channel could have been made of molten silver.  On one of those nights, a child was conceived.  On the other, a man died.”

 

Her flashback begins when Peggy Shawe, her mother, and their neighbors were walking behind the cart carrying her father’s coffin.  Josiah Duggan and his two sons, Ralph and Philip, were among the mourners, as her father had business dealings with them.  When Peggy met Ralph, they seemed to have instant rapport.  But, he wasn’t the man everyone assumed she would marry.  James Bright, a close neighbor and farmer, was her presumed husband to be.  When James actually asked her to marry him, she put him off.  Instead she accepted a marriage proposal from Ralph.  Ralph’s family were ‘free traders’ (smugglers) and Peggy’s mother was against her daughter marrying him.  However, Peggy would soon be eighteen.  Her mother reluctantly agreed, Ralph bought the ring, and life seemed cheery.  But, Ralph had to leave suddenly, taking his brother away after Philip is accused of murder.  Their futures are no longer certain and cherished plans have a way of refusing to cooperate.

 

Many of these characters made bad decisions, and that’s realistic and part of life.  No matter how many times we as readers stand on the sidelines and try to shake some sense into them, they’re still going to break each other’s heart, and quite possibly break our hearts for them along the way.  The story started out so strongly, I thought it was going to be one of those ‘I don’t want it to end’ books.  However, several chapters prior to the end, it fell into a summary type of writing, presenting many additional characters that had not been given sufficient character depth to make me care about them.  Overall, it was a fascinating look at life in that time period, their way of life, and their hardships.  Rating: 3 out of 5.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-04-07 23:00
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Yellow Wallpaper (MP3 Book) - Charlotte Perkins Gilman,Jo Myddleton

Let me begin by saying that this is a simple story told in a mesmerizing fashion. I loved every minute of it. I found the protagonist relatable and interesting, her preoccupation with the wallpaper pulled me in and then held me in that room with her. At under 100 pages, this story was perfect in a rare way. It never felt like it was dragging on but no aspect of the story was dismissed or glossed over. 

This is actually one of my Read Harder books and would have qualified for a protagonist with mental illness and probably historical fiction as well as with the page count. I don't think I would have found it had I not been looking for books for the challenge, which makes me that much happier to have decided to do it.

I had no idea when I chose it that this was actually a feminist story told by a prominent nineteenth century feminist. When I discovered that, I went ahead and listened to it again. There are some definite feminist moments and admissions. That her husband makes all these decisions without her consent and without even asking her what she wants is indicative of the issues it sought to address. It could be said to have been allegorical to the oppression that women were suffering at the time. Aside from the possible allegory, the protagonist has a real problem. The reason our protagonist is even in that room is particular to women and one that is still often treated in the US today. Fortunately, today's treatments seem to work better than those of Gilman's time. They are at least more humane than being locked up in a sanitarium, which is the likely fate that our protagonist was to endure since she continued to decline from what sounds like post-partum depression from the inadequacy of her treatment. 

Altogether, this was a great little book that tells relays a lot more about the struggles of women in it's time than what the wallpaper looked like. 

Have you read The Yellow Wallpaper? What did you think? 

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review 2015-12-03 14:38
Utopias in nineteenth century America
Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism - Chris Jennings

Deeply held convictions about religion, science, and the industrial revolution converged in mid-nineteenth century America and created a flurry of experimental utopian communities whose enthusiastic members hoped they were building model societies that would change the world. This fascinating, hard to put down, sometimes heartbreaking history profiles five of the hard working, ideal rich groups--the Shakers, New Harmony, the Fourierist phalanxes, Icaria and Oneida. While the utopians held many core ideas in common, some of their beliefs varied widely, from multi-partner free love to celibacy, but unity predominated so the groups supported each other, exchanged members, and saw themselves as fellow travelers.

 

Their results were mixed, with a few of the communities being more viable than the others, but none of them prospered in ways that made them catalysts for a global reorganization of civilization. In spite of that, many of the progressive views the utopians all agreed on were eventually embraced by the population at large, including the right of women to be treated equally, the benefits of strong public education for democracy, the advantages of a diverse society, the need for a social safety net, and the dangers of unchecked markets.

 

Though setting up these prototype paradises involved a lot of arduous labor, the morale and happiness of  participants was boosted by their idealistic mission, common purpose and close community, making it heartbreaking for the utopians when their groups fell apart. At a time when most Americans lived much more isolated lives under social strictures that limited contact between men and women and people of different classes, members of the utopias lived, ate, and worked together during the day, and held dances, lectures, singalongs, assemblies, and/or classes in the evenings--high-times that sound like great fun even to this privacy loving introvert.

 

Because of social changes they helped inspire, utopian communities ultimately did have some impact on the way culture has advanced since the nineteenth century, which is why the author suggests that while we are now obsessed with dystopias and picturing how things could go very wrong, there would be value in following the lead of utopians by imagining what we think an ideal world would look like.

 

Paradise Now is full of poignant, lively, and engagingly written insights into the mid-nineteenth century zeitgeist--mainly the time before the Civil War. It’s detailed without being ponderous, and reflective without being opinionated. I found it utterly riveting.


I read an advanced review copy of this book provided by the publisher at minimal cost to me. Review opinions are mine.

Source: jaylia3.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/utopias-in-nineteenth-century-america
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review 2014-01-01 00:00
Scholars and Rebels: In Nineteenth-Century Ireland
Scholars and Rebels: In Nineteenth-Century Ireland - Terry Eagleton Eagleton manages to take an interesting topic and through postmodern academic masturbatory prose render it lifeless.
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url 2013-10-12 23:51
An invitation to a Louisa May Alcott read-along
Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father - John Matteson
Little Women: (Classics Deluxe Edition) (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editio) - Louisa May Alcott
Eight Cousins (Puffin Classics) - Louisa May Alcott
Rose in Bloom - Louisa May Alcott
Work: A Story of Experience (Penguin Classics) - Louisa May Alcott
Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Norton Critical Editions) - Margaret Fuller

I am part of a private group of friends on GR who read books written by dead authors. A number of us have been planning on reading some of the works of Louisa May Alcott in November. I have created a public group for this event, and thought I would extend the invitation here, as well.

 

I will be reading the books listed above, and discussing them there.

 

Alcott was part of the American transcendentalist movement, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, the Peabody sisters, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bronson Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau. Anything written by or about any of those writers would also be excellent fodder for discussion in the Alcott event!

 

Please join us, even if all you want to do is talk about how much you loathe Ms. Alcott and her books. All opinions are welcome.

 

The title of the post will link you to the GR group.

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