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review 2015-11-28 00:00
The Vile Victorians
The Vile Victorians - Terry Deary,Neil Tonge,Martin Brown What adults certainly miss is childhood credulity and curiosity. One without the other is like putting a bag on a plastic mind, although adults would seem to be in the credulity line.

So...this book contains a few unbelievable "facts", which plausibly gain something by being controvertible. I have already found several contradictions to the idea that Queen Victoria killed her husband (although the fact that he had stomach trouble for years now sounds suspicious), but I will list a few of the more outrageous "facts", which I may or may not have confirmed by the time you've read this, in order to jog your senescence, if you have it.

Unfortunately, as a child or adult, most readers are likely to be bored by 4 pages illustrating the typical day of a maid, etc. Not even sure how exciting the pages about Victorian school life would be for students who mostly still recognize same. For such a short book, for such a astonishingly rich literary era, the excerpts and "facts" seem mostly like desiccated lists and filler for a few Victorian poems and songs referred to as "vile".

-- Education in UK only became free for every child in 1891.
-- London's last great medieval fair ended in 1854 because "people enjoyed it too much."
-- Second Baron Rothschild had zebra-drawn carriages, snakes wrapped around his bannisters, and 12 monkeys who attended dinner parties.
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson's most popular poem was "In Memoriam"
-- "The Great Unwashed" referred to the poor who didn't have enough water to both cook and wash.
-- Victorian burials still featured a shroud?

"In poverty hunger and dirt
Sewing at once with double thread
A shroud as well as a shirt" ("The Song of the Shirt" by Thomas Hood)

-- The Bucklands, father and son, would try any meal concocted of strange (animal) parts, including "The mummified heart of Louis XIV"
-- Sir Francis Galton wrote a mildly insane travel guide where he recommended keeping your clothes dry in rain by taking them off and sitting on them.
-- Contains an excellent, stanza-by-stanza explication of the facts behind the poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade"
-- The Victorian literary monsters -- Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. -- matched the Jack the Rippers and violent times.
-- The amazing story of "The Man They Couldn't Hang", whose hanging failed three times, until he was eventually reprieved and set free.
-- Sir Robert Peel invented the police in London in 1829
-- "It wasn't until 1856 that the rest of the country had paid policemen."
-- Because of very high infant mortality, the average lifespan for men in Manchester, 1842, was 38 years old.
-- The police had Queen Victoria drive in the same place there'd been an assassination attempt the previous day, so they could catch the assassin making a second attempt the next day.
-- In 1820, in Scotland, a weaver named Wilson was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but was hanged, then beheaded "for leading a march in protest against unemployment."
-- Queen Victoria and her husband preferred portraits where the people didn't have their clothes on.

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text 2015-04-09 22:57
Miss Marjoribanks - Margaret Oliphant

I have entered the land of female tyrants - Lucilla is like a conglomeration of precocious Anne Shirley, self confident Mary Poppins,  and some ancient Pharoah King who expects hand fed grapes, stat.


But I'm starting to see that her 'ultimate aim in life' as a joke rather than an annoyance. ;)


 Reading with the Reading the Victorians Book Club

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review 2015-03-20 15:33
The one where I reference R&B and the Bible in a Thomas Hardy review...
Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy,Shannon Russell,Rosemarie Morgan

First, a little theme music courtesy of American R & B singer, Doris Troy:

Just one look and I fell so hard
In love with you, oh-oh, oh-oh
I found out how good it feels
To have your love, oh-oh, oh-oh
Say you will, will be mine
Forever and always, oh-oh, oh-oh
Just one look and I knew
That you were my only one
Oh oh-oh oh!

I thought I was dreamin' but I was wrong, yeah, yeah, yeah
Oh, but-a, I'm gonna keep on schemin'
Till I can a-make you, make you my own!

So you see, I really care
Without you I'm nothin', oh-oh, oh-oh
Just one look and I know
I'll get you someday, oh-oh, oh-oh

Just one look, that's all it took
Just one look, that's all it took
Just one look, that's all it took

Of course, you might also know that song as it was covered by The Hollies & Linda Ronstadt, among others...but I digress. This theme song is appropriate for this tale.


After reading Far from the Madding Crowd, I thought to write a semi-serious review. It is a classic, after all, and all classics require seriousness. Right? That's what I was taught in school anyway, when they forced me to read such wonderful stories as The Scarlet Letter, The Jungle, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, (the list goes on...), thus showing me that classics should all be avoided if you don't want to fall into a pit of depression.




I'm sorry to say that I just don't have it in me.


On the onset, I drew a very obvious parallel between Bathsheba Everdene and King David's Bathsheba, where just one look was all it took for the good king to succumb to temptation and lust and desire. And we all know that story and how it ended for Bathsheba's husband.


Not good, my friends.


So, for most of the book, I just had to accept that Bathsheba's beauty caused men to lose their minds. Which, honestly, is a poor way to paint a love story.


To be fair, there was an effort on Hardy's part to show Bathsheba as an intelligent and independent woman, and I suppose that at the heart of it, any woman who would take over a farm and act as her own bailiff during this time period is, undoubtedly, intelligent and independent. But I also found her to be silly, impulsive and thoughtless - hardly stunning qualities.


Even with this picture of Bathsheba, I did enjoy the story. There were some very amusing chapters (The Malthouse being a favorite of mine), intermingled with some dull-as-spoons chapters (The Sheep Fair), but overall I wanted to turn the pages and see what would happen with these men and their unbridled love of a single woman.


After finishing, my gut was to go with three stars for this one. I labored through so many descriptions of leaves and barns and fairs that it dampened my enthusiasm, but upon reflection, I really did see some spectacularly nuanced writing - particularly around Boldwood's character, which made me reconsider.


Now, for some spoiler-y thoughts and reflections...


When Bathsheba's sheep where laying dying in the field after eating the clover, I cheered aloud when Oak sent back a message to Bathsheba to ask him nicely to come help her.


And while on that subject, I had no idea why her sheep were dying. I live in the mid-west where cattle reign on high (not to mention I live in the suburbs), and know nothing about sheep. My assumption was that they overate - or gorged on young clover that gave them deadly gas? As horrible as it was intended, it was nearly comical truth be told.


Bathsheba's beauty even drove her a bit crazy I think. When she rails at Liddy and Liddy tells her that she'll not be railed at, I also cheered.


I basically cheered anytime someone gave Bathsheba the finger.


Oh, and why, oh why, could we not get an additional chapter of Oak and Bathsheba's courtship? Some of that banter? I really wanted Oak to say, at the end when Bathsheba came to his home, that he was waiting on her to come to him as it was HER TURN to give in a little. It opened with Oak, I knew it would close with Oak, I just wanted more of it.



(spoiler show)



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review 2015-03-16 00:00
The Victorians
The Victorians - A.N. Wilson I didn’t finish this book although I did think it was decent. There is some really good information in here, but it was kind of slow going and I had a lot of other stuff going on. My main complaint is that Wilson assumes the reader already know a lot of the figures he’s talking about. This would probably be the case if I was raised and went to school in England, but as an ignorant US citizen, I kept going, “Who? What’s that??” And then I would have to consult Google and it was very disruptive to the reading experience. If he’d just inserted little dependent clauses, like “John Potatohands, the Queen’s royal potato planter, was a man of letters,” instead of just being like “John Potatohands was a man of letters,” it would have helped me out a lot. It was a library book that I put down a while back, but soon after I picked it up again and started reading a chapter a day I ran out of renewals. I get the feeling that it is quite informative—I learned a lot in just the bit I read—and I would like to come back to it when I have more time/patience for its format and style.
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review 2014-11-09 01:28
Mr. W. Collins says to read it.
The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime - Judith Flanders

This is one of those books that you read that gives you lists of more books to read.


                Flanders’ book is an analysis of how Victorian Society viewed murdered, as mostly seen in the literature (both high and low) of the time as well as in the media. She traces not only the rimes but the impact.


                It’s a pretty compelling read not only for the information it contains about the books of the time. Among other things she traces the development of infanticide as a crime, linking the change in law to the changing view of women. She raises some interesting points about class and gender as well as the purpose of confession.


                It’s the type of book where you keep taking notes.

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