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review 2018-06-20 16:41
The Nice and the Good
The Nice and the Good (Vintage Classics) - Iris Murdoch,Catherine Bates

This might officially be my last Iris Murdoch novel. 

 

As with Fitzgerald's short stories, there was a time when I loved Murdoch's novels but the last couple of times I've read her books, I didn't enjoy them much at all ... Granted, the messed up relationship games in A Severed Head did nothing to endear the book to me, but even this one here (The Nice and the Good) is struggling to spark any enthusiasm in me. And I'd be happy to skip much of the relationship-babble and stick to finding out why the Whitehall official shot himself (or did he?).

The trouble is, by focusing on the mystery part, I'm going to miss Murdoch's point, which, inevitably, is not going to be about solving the puzzle. 

 

Saying that, will this story about a set of well-off members of a rather homogeneous section of society that is really similar to the sets of characters in Murdoch's other books really reveal any new aspects of Murdoch's writing? Unlikely.  

 

I've dithered for the last 30 pages whether to finish this one or move on to something I am likely to enjoy more, and I don't believe this book will ultimately hold the same magic for me as the novels that introduced Murdoch to me initially.

 

DNF @ 135 out of 350 pages.

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review 2018-06-20 06:40
Difficult
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison

On various fronts. The overarching subject, the sense of hopelessness, helplessness and despair, the long-winded, meandering way the story is told (which is on par with the idea that it is a stream-of-conscience recount), and the purpose way in which this guy's obliviousness is made plain (and cringe-inducing) for the reader (and the teller).

 

Found it brilliant, at points boring and quite maddening.

 

Oh, and I leave it with a feeling akin to what Catcher in the Rye left me.

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text 2018-06-20 04:58
Reading progress update: I've read 62%.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson,Richard Armitage
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-14 14:48
Gaskell Does Austen -- With a Twist
Cousin Phillis - Elizabeth Gaskell,Joe Marsh

Facially, the story is your basic Austen setup with the sole difference apparent at first sight that the narrator is a male observer of the events (which incidentally is unusual for Gaskell, too) and

there is no HEA -- the ending is open.

(spoiler show)

 

However, this wouldn't be Gaskell if she were content with just copying another author's formula and giving it a little spin.  Here, that spin is women's education: Anybody who has read North and South and My Lady Ludlow knows that Gaskell was a proponent of general education, including and in particular the education of those left by the wayside; the urban and rural poor and women of all classes.  Compared to these two books, as well as other Gaskell stories addressing the social ills of her time (e.g. Ruth -- ostracization of single motherhood and Mary Barton -- social and judicial prejudice against the working poor), Cousin Phillis at first blush comes across as somewhat more of a cautionary tale, and might be taken to suggest that there can be too much of a good thing:

 

The heroine is exceptionally well-educated for her time, which, in 19th century rural England, was apt to work against her prospects in marriage: No matter how beautiful the young lady is (and Phillis is, plenty) and no matter how much her future husband would have prospered financially from the union (and he would), most men -- including educated men like the novella's narrator, who is an engineer -- would have expected their wives to look up to them, not be their superior.  Thus, Phillis is vulnerable to the attentions of a charming colleague of the narrator's, who easily matches her in education and knowledge and seems to thoroughly welcome their exchange ... until, that is, he accepts a new position in Canada

(ostensibly on a two-year contract, but notwithstanding his violent protestations of his love for Phillis upon his departure, he marries a French Canadian lady within months of his arrival there).

(spoiler show)

 

The novella reads very much like a straight, nonjudgmental rendition of a tale of first love disappointed and innocence lost; this

and the fact that it ends with Phillis's marital prospects unresolved and her by no means an old maid (the plot covers roughly the span of a year, and Phillis is barely out of adolescence when it begins)

(spoiler show)

might suggest that this was all that Gaskell wanted to say ("sad but true, well-educated women don't have an easy time finding a husband").  But there is no criticism of Phillis's father for "burdening" her with a "too much" of education; indeed, the young narrator is gently scolded by his own father for shying away from Phillis himself on those grounds, and throughout, her education is shown as a perhaps unusual but decidedly admirable thing.  So what remains is the impression of a delicately-woven tale ... which ultimately might perhaps have resolved a bit more than it actually does, but that, apparently, simply was not Elizabeth Gaskell's intention.

 

With this read, I finally get to check off the letter "G" in the Women Writers bingo.

 

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text 2018-06-12 01:34
Reading progress update: I've read 42%.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson,Richard Armitage
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