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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 2015-12-13 17:55
The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell
The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale - Christine Bell

The year is 1836. After her younger brother, Bacon, loses his time travel mechanism to the Loony Duke of Leister in a drunken card game, Stormy comes up with a plan to get it back. Although the mechanism has been disassembled just enough so that there's little chance of anyone accidentally activating it, it's too risky to go back to the 21st century and leave it behind.

Stormy's plan involves dressing as a gypsy fortuneteller, somehow luring the Duke into her tent (assuming he even walks by, and that she can recognize him despite never having met him), and then drugging him and robbing him blind. Unfortunately, things don't go quite the way she expected.

I'll start off by saying this was written in first person POV, and Stormy's “voice” was very much that of a modern American woman, even though she spent the first 13 years of her life as a grubby street urchin in 19th century London.

This was a fun and largely fluffy read that could have been so much better if it had been fleshed out more. The thing that bugged me the most was how quickly Stormy and Devlin ended up in bed together. Okay, so they had some history together, but that was years ago. They'd both been teens, and they'd both gone through a lot since then. And yes, they were both attracted to each other, but they'd only known each other as adults for a few hours. The sex happened way too quickly.

Too many events were quickly summed up, rather than shown, or briefly covered in diary entries. I'd have liked to see more of Stormy and Bacon's childhood, after they were adopted by Gilly. I'd have liked to see more of the "time pirate" aspect. I'd also have liked to see more of Devlin, who spent much of the story as a mysterious and possibly dangerous figure.

I mostly enjoyed this, although I don't know that I'll be buying the sequel.

 

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-03-26 16:19
What Happened at Midnight - Courtney Milan

Summary:

When John Mason discovers that his fiancée's father has embezzled thousands of pounds from their mutual business, he's furious. When his betrothed, Miss Mary Chartley, flees, taking the money and all the evidence with her, he's outraged. He plans to bring the woman he once loved to account--and he’ll shed no tears when he does.

But when he finds Mary, she's not living a life of luxury. Instead, she's serving as a companion in exchange for a pittance. The more he attempts to untangle the truth, the more he remembers why he first loved Mary...and how much he wishes he could do so again.

What Happened at Midnight was previously published in the anthology Midnight Scandals. It is a novella of about 35,000 words.

 

Review:

This novella (about 250 pages) felt like a fully fleshed out story and I could not put it down. It took me about four hours to knock this one out. The h/H, Marry and John were so wonderful both as individuals and as a couple. And the plot was engrossing without being overly complicated. (virtual) Keeper shelf material. My only issue is that nothing "happened at midnight" - the clandestine meetings between Marry and John happened at 10pm and lasted about 30-45 minutes. 5 stars.

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review 2015-03-26 02:28
A year after I started this book, I am finally finished.
Possessed by the Devil: The Real History of the Islandmagee Witches & Ireland's Only Mass Witchcraft Trial - Andrew Sneddon

This is not a review, but I am giving it 4 solid stars. My review of the book and the topic will be posted on my history blog sometime this summer. It is quite an easy read, but I was never in the mood to pick it up after we moved. Finally chose today to just knock out the last 40 pages and get it off my currently reading shelf.

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review 2015-02-02 05:22
To Catch a Spinster - Megan Bryce

Summary:

To Catch A Spinster
Olivia Blakesley, self-proclaimed spinster extraordinaire, is quite happy with her life. She has her studies and her duties, what need does she have of a husband? With five sisters married she knows the reality does not live up to the promise, and does not need to personally experiment with the state to know she would be ill-suited to it. However, she finds herself envious of at least one aspect of marriage. But to experience the physical side of marriage, one doesn't need a husband, all one needs is the right man...

Nathaniel Jenkins knows his duty. Marry a young girl from a respectable family and father an heir, no matter how cold the endless parade of suitable girls leaves him. But a shocking proposal from a scholarly spinster leaves him wondering if unsuitable is just what he's looking for. Can he convince his spinster that marriage is the greatest experiment of all?

 

Review:

I really enjoyed Nathaniel and Olivia's story. The writing was technically sound and the dialogue was witty. However, the premise of the book and the way the characters act/think is very 21st century while the setting of the book is Regency England. It does not have any authentic historical details that make a historical romance. I still liked the story and the writing and plan on hitting the next two books in the series this week; but I will be going into those stories knowing I am going to get a contemporary romance with historical wall paper. 3 stars.

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