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review 2017-10-04 11:00
The Longing for Love: Marie Grubbe by Jens Peter Jacobsen
Marie Grubbe: Seventeenth Century Interi... Marie Grubbe: Seventeenth Century Interiors (Dedalus European Classics) - Jens Peter Jacobsen,Mikka Haugaard

In the nineteenth century the discoveries of Charles Darwin not only revolutionised science and introduced the idea of evolution into human thinking, they also changed literature inspiring authors to a new approach to fiction writing. One of the first in Northern Europe to break with Romantic narrative tradition and to begin telling stories in a naturalistic style that showed man as a beast driven by instincts and urges was Danish botanist and writer Jens Peter Jacobsen (»»» read my author’s portrait). After his successful literary debut with a short story, he published in 1876 the historical novel Marie Grubbe. A Lady of the Seventeenth Century (Fru Marie Grubbe. Interieurer fra det syttende Aarhundrede). It is loosely based on the true story of a Danish noblewoman who died in 1718.

 

Jens Peter Jacobsen introduces Marie Grubbe as a slim and delicate girl with luxuriant hair of dull gold strolling in the gardens of her father’s estate in Tjele in Jutland. She is fourteen years old, motherless and according to the housekeeper, who is also the mother of her illegitmate baby half-sister, she is stubborn and bad. When war with Sweden breaks out, her father takes Marie with him to Copenhagen wishing her to stay with her wealthy aunt there. In fact, the widowed aunt is well-connected with the Royal Court and men like Ulrik Frederik, the favourite illegitimate son of the King, frenquent her house. Marie, however, is a romanitc child and has a crush on the King’s brave half-brother who successfully defended the city against Swedish attack. By the age of seventeen Marie has turned into a pretty young woman with many courtiers and Ulrik Frederik is one of them. Since he is a handsome and very promising young man, Marie agrees to marry him although she loves him only “after a fashion”. After a quiet wedding they pass passably happy months together until the King calls Ulrik Frederik to arms against Spain and he gladly departs to prove himself in combat. Upon his return he is a different man. His violent behaviour, his heavy drinking and philandering repulse her, so she refuses herself to him. What follows are nearly ten years of constant fight that after many tribulations and interference of their families end in divorce after all. And Marie sets out on a journey to Paris with her brother-in-law and lover who leaves her as soon as he realises that she has used up all her money. Grudgingly she returns to live with her father on his estate in Tjele in 1773. After six years her father persuades her through different threats to marry Palle Dyre, a counsellor of justice to the King whom she despises. For ten years their lives are eventless except for “endless quarrelling and bickering, mutual sullenness and fault-finding”. Then the coachman Soren Sorensen Moller commonly known as Soren Overseer enters into her life. She is forty-six and he twenty-two years old…

 

The wild and headstrong Marie Grubbe who isn’t willing to content herself with being well provided for by just any suitable husband higher or equal in social status as her surroundings expect is sometimes called the Danish Madame Bovary, but having read both novels, I can make out only one similarity, namely the fact that the protagonists are women who driven by their longing for romantic love and happiness break social conventions. The plot isn’t particularly complex, the psychological depth, on the other hand, that Jens Peter Jacobsen lends his leading character is remarkable and outdoes even Gustave Flaubert in my opinion. In fact, much of the book’s charm lies in the skilful and meticulous depiction of the thoughts, emotions and unconscious urges of Marie Grubbe. Together with the precise and detailed illustration of scene, society and history it makes a gorgeous novel. To my great relief, Jens Peter Jacobsen’s writing style isn’t longwinded and flowery as that of many of his precursors and contemporaries which made the read very pleasant for me and amazingly modern too considering that the novel first appeared in 1876.

 

It goes without saying that the works of Jens Peter Jacobsen are all in the public domain by now although there may be newer translations that aren’t. Nonetheless, an English edition of Marie Grubbe can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg for instance.

 

Marie Grubbe: Seventeenth Century Interiors (Dedalus European Classics) - Jens Peter Jacobsen,Mikka Haugaard 

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review 2016-06-02 20:22
Michelle Butler Hallett's This Marlowe (2016)
This Marlowe - Michelle Butler Hallett

Christopher Marlowe's story begins and ends with a brawl, in the hands of Michelle Butler Hallett.

This Marlowe focuses on the final months of the playwright's life, with his death registered as May 30, 1593.

 

His patron, Thomas Walsingham, openly supported his plays and verses, but they were indeed controversial, in an age characterized by tensions between church and state.

"--Violence, degradation, deceit: thou dost write them well. Doth this cause thee no shame?"

 

While accusations and suspicions simmered beneath the surface, violence and conflict erupted on- and off-stage, even though the theatres were closed in the wake of the plague.

 

"--I write what I see. History is no window but a mirror."

 

Snippets of lines which Marlowe penned are scattered throughout This Marlowe, along with references to the works of Thomas Kyd, a scrivener whose bed Marlowe shares in Michelle Butler Hallett's novel.

 

Because few records exist, the author has room to play in her depiction of these Elizabethan writers. Whether or not there is evidence of an intimate relationship historically, between Kyd and Marlowe, it is at the heart of this contemporary work.

 

Marlowe is not easy company. "He stopped outside another tavern, small and dark, called Cry of the Kite and, recognizing no one, drank alone, drank enough to trick out a sense of confidence and calm, not quite enough to make him obnoxious – a fine line, he knew."

 

Nonetheless, he is as often charismatic as he is obnoxious, and this quality pulls readers into the story, but it is Tom's character who invites readers to invest in the outcome.

 

His love for Marlowe makes him vulnerable, not only on the pages of fiction but of history. The historical record reveals that he was questioned about writings deemed heretical, which were found in his lodgings and attributed to Marlowe.

 

Michelle Butler Hallett is not alone in believing that this statement was elicited under torture, and her depiction of these events is visceral and raw. Elizabethan England in This Marlowe is as bloody as it is tapestried, as fragmented as it is luxurious.

 

Authorship in this time is a slippery concept. Plays were not typically printed, only a few in quarto editions. Playwrights often officially collaborated (partly because writers were paid intermittently and sometimes unpredictably) and sometimes unofficially, by "borrowing" or "elaborating upon" successful and popular works. With few written documents as evidence, scholars in recent years have continued to debate which plays are attributed to individual authors. Echoes abound, even between works currently attributed to different authors

 

Loyalty, too, is complicated, and conversations amongst a large number of secondary characters seem to echo as frequently as the allusions and tributes.

 

At times, the deceptions blur and the distrust swells: readers unfamiliar with the era might temporarily lose their footing on the details, and there is no overarching authorial voice to lean on (which leaves readers free to respond on a personal level).

 

The depiction of the time and place are vibrant and consistent; although the central characters are literary giants, the setting offers readers a broader understanding of sixteenth-century life.

 

Michelle Butler Hallett's use of language allows the contemporary reader to feel the flourishes of the Elizabethan era (just a sprinkling of 'thee's, for instance) without a burdensome, trying-too-hard reproduction. The modern reader feels appropriately displaced but not overwhelmed by the weight of the centuries between.

 

"--Whores in the pillory? Slow patch, is it?
--We all got our quotas. See you Thursday."

 

Ultimately, the overarching questions have endured. The death of one man: is it an assassination or a tragedy at the hands of one misguided assailant? What might a government sanction in the pursuit of truth or in the desire to quell dissent? What power truly exists in the capacity to shape words in the posting of bills and the telling of tales?

 

This Marlowe by Michelle Butler Hallett is a quietly mesmerizing tale, which rewards a patient and attentive reader.

 

This review originally appeared on BuriedInPrint.

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review 2014-01-25 19:01
Spirited life of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny captured in a novel
Under the Wide and Starry Sky - Nancy Horan

Usually I prefer biography to the fictionalization of an historical person’s life. Even--actually especially--in the cases where little is known about a person I prefer a nonfiction portrait using what information there is enriched with details about the daily lives, culture, religious beliefs, and living conditions of the time and place where he or she lived rather than novelized speculations about a real person’s deepest thoughts, emotions and yearnings. I was therefore initially hesitant to try this book.

 

In the case of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny potential novelists or biographers have lots of information about their inner and outer lives, much of which the two of them wrote themselves in journals, letters, and stories. So why read this novel when there are several biographies that made use of the same background materials? Because author Nancy Horan used those sources to breath life into layered characterizations of Fanny, Robert, and their friends and families, creating the kind of deeply moving story that is good fiction’s unique strength.  When nonfiction manages to be this compelling it’s often described as being as gripping  or emotionally rich as fiction.

 

Bohemian vagabonds, Fanny and Robert had a passionate relationship and were devoted to each other, but they were not without problems. Like her husband, Fanny had the soul of an artist. She painted and wrote, and she lived her life in large and creative ways, but she often felt marginalized by her husband’s friends and fans, and sometimes felt devalued even by Robert himself. Several times when tragedies struck Fanny struggled through bouts of madness. Robert spent much of his life as an invalid, but an invalid who embraced the giddy joys of living all the more for his times of illness. He teetered on the brink of death many times, but Fanny’s determined care pulled him through again and again. Robert’s damaged lungs kept them on the move as they searched for a climate that would improve his health until they finally discovered the benefits of the South Pacific and settled in Samoa with their extended family--her two children, a grandchild, and his mother.

 

Because of the letters and journals Horan is able to give a full-bodied picture of their emotional lives as well as their comings and goings and the circumstances of the age they lived in. One of the fascinations of this book for me was reading about the medical treatments of the day. Fanny and Robert lived in the late Victorian era that I can’t seem to get enough of  and were friends with Henry James among other notables of the time, but theirs was more a world of art and adventure than one of heiresses and aristocrats. This is a long book, 466 pages of story, but it made me feel such empathy with and interest in Fanny and Robert that I enjoyed it from start to finish and felt sad when it was over.

 

Source: jaylia3.booklikes.com/post/771175/spirited-life-of-robert-louis-stevenson-and-his-wife-fanny-captured-in-a-novel
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review 2013-04-05 12:00
Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann
Measuring the World - Daniel Kehlmann
Die Vermessung der Welt (Rachuba świata) - Daniel Kehlmann

Here's my latest review from my literature blog that I started past December. I hope that you'll enjoy reading it!

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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