Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy (Review)

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy 

Blurb

Under the Greenwood Tree is Hardy’s most bright, confident and optimistic novel. This delightful portrayal of a picturesque rural society, tinged with gentle humour and quiet irony, established Hardy as a writer.

However, the novel is not merely a charming rural idyll. The double-plot, in which the love story of Dick Dewey and Fancy Day is inter-related with a tragic chapter in the history of Mellstock Choir, hints at the poignant disappearance of a long-lived and highly-valued traditional way of life.

Review

Thomas Hardy is one of my favourite authors and I am hoping to one day manage to read all of his novels. This book had been sat on my TBR pile for way too long so I decided it was high time to read this book. 

To start with I absolutely loved this book and could not put it down. I think what drew me into this book so much was the church musicians. As a church organist and a musician myself I found the church musicians fascinating and I also found it sad as the church traditions were slowly being eroded away by a forward thinking vicar who is not quite so considerate of his congregation but is very happy to blame the church wardens for his decisions. Having recently read Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot I found quite a few parallels between the two books. 

I also loved how the church band are very anti clarinets and clarinet players. As a reluctant clarinet player myself I found this hilarious! I also loved how they use Dumbledore as an insult, turns out Dumbledore doesn’t just mean bumblebee. 

The other plot in this book is the love story of Dick and Fancy. Dick is a hard working lad who falls instantly head over heels for Fancy and in that moment decides to make himself worthy of her. In all honesty Fancy is not worthy of Dick, she is clearly very spoiled and quite frankly vain and shallow. Dick on the other hand will walk for miles in the rain to be a pallbearer for a friend’s funeral, Dick will go out of his way to help people and is honest and kind hearted. 

I struggled after a while with this book. I disliked Fancy’s character which didn’t help because I really wanted people to see her true character. I also struggled with the local dialect. Having to constantly read the local dialect slowed things down for me and made reading a bit of a hard slog. Overall, I liked the plot line of the church musicians, although I did find it sad but the storyline of Dick and Fancy I could have happily done without. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

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About the author

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot. He was highly critical of much in Victorian society, especially on the declining status of rural people in Britain.

Etsy

The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker (Review)

The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker

Blurb

This complete collection of Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies features a brand-new enchanting cover.

Perfect for fans of all ages, this wonderful collection includes all the original Flower Fairy poems and illustrations by Cicely Mary Barker from the classic books.

Since the publication of Cicely Mary Barker’s first book in 1923, the Flower Fairies have been ethereal companions to generations of readers around the world. Her charming poetry and delicate illustrations have sparked the imaginations of children for over ninety years and continue to inspire a life-long love for fairies and all things magical.

Review

This beautiful book was my birthday present off my parents and a book that has been on my wishlist for ages. I was so excited I started reading it straight away.

This fantastic book is just stunning as the illustrations are beautiful. Each fairy is unique and all match the flower or plant that they are with perfectly matched with. Barker was clearly a very talented artist because the flowers and plants are so well drawn I could easily recognise all the plants (well the ones I am familiar with). I can imagine Barker studying each plant in detail to get the very best illustration. 

Each fairy is accompanied by a beautifully written poem by Barker which is also associated with each plant and clearly shows that Barker really knew her plants. I also loved how certain poems had little facts attached to them about the plants, for example whether the plant was poisonous or known by another name. I really learned a lot from these attached facts and discovered that plants I know are also known by other names. 

I had so many favourite illustrations and poems but my absolute favourite was the Christmas Tree fairy and I plan on rereading this poem when it is closer to Christmas. I would also love some prints of certain illustrations because they would look stunning on display rather than hidden in a book. 

Barker in my opinion was an extremely talented artist and really knowledgable about plants. I loved this book and fully intend to dip into this book from time to time and remind myself of these beautiful illustrations and poems throughout the year. I give this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Bookshop.org | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Cicely Mary Barker (1895-1973) was the illustrator who created the famous Flower Fairies; those ethereal smiling children with butterfly wings. As a child she was influenced by the works of the illustrator Kate Greenaway, whom she assiduously copied in her formative years. Her principal influence, however, was the artwork of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Etsy

Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot (Review)

Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot

Blurb

George Eliot’s first published work consisted of three short novellas: ‘The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton’, ‘Mr Gilfil’s Love-Story’, and ‘Janet’s Repentance’. Their depiction of the lives of ordinary men and women in a provincial Midlands town initiated a new era of nineteenth-century literary realism. The tales concern rural members of the clergy and the gossip and factions that a small town generates around them. Amos Barton only realizes how much he depends upon his wife’s selfless love when she dies prematurely; Mr Gilfil’s devotion to a girl who loves another is only fleetingly rewarded; and Janet Dempster suffers years of domestic abuse before the influence of an Evangelical minister turns her life around. 

Review

One of my all time favourite books is Silas Marner so I hoped that Scenes of Clerical Life would be just as good and thankfully I was not disappointed. I truly loved reading this book and could not put it down. 

The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton

One of the first things I noticed about this short story was how church hasn’t really changed from when Eliot wrote this story to the present day. As a church organist who has regularly attended church for many years I couldn’t believe how close the past and present are. The Rev Barton is almost in constant battle with his congregation because the congregation think they know better and there are always disagreements about the music. 

The Rev Barton always tries to do his best and always tries to help those in need as much as possible even if this means his family suffers because of his generosity and the one who suffers the most is his poor wife. Mrs Barton never complains and spends all her time trying to provide for her ever growing family. Even when she goes to bed she continues with mending the children’s clothes. However, Mrs Barton’s efforts go mainly unnoticed by her husband but when Mrs Barton dies the poor Rev Barton realises just what a treasure he had in his wife.

I loved this little story and it is the shortest out of the three stories in the book. You can tell this is Eliot’s first story but you can see the promise of the amazing author she is going to become. I found the story funny, sad, frustrating and beautiful. 

Mr Gilfil’s Love-Story

This is another sad tale from Eliot but a beautifully written one and one where you can see a more polished author. The story is a romance of unrequited love, of a room preserved through time and rarely opened, a room which holds painful memories for Mr Gilfil. 

I love how this story shows how the parishioners all gossip around the village. How the ladies who were born and bred in the village look down their noses at the newcomers to the village especially if they are from town and not country people. We soon see all the different characters of the parish who Mr Gilfil, the vicar, watches over and they over him. 

In this story we meet Mr Gilfil as an old man living in the vicarage and we learn his sad past by being transported back in time to when Mr Gilfil was a young man with his whole future ahead of him. 

This was another story I couldn’t put down and one I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Janet’s Repentance

This is the longest story in the book and I must admit I did find that it dragged at times but I still really enjoyed the story. 

Janet starts off as a sad character who has a horrible home life but to everyone in the village she is nothing but sweetness and kindness. Janet helps out where she can and always has a smile for people but at home she is a the victim of domestic abuse. Her husband is positively cruel to poor Janet and she lives in fear of him. Her mother in law who lives with them refuses to see any fault with her son and blames everything on poor Janet because she sees her as a bad wife. The only person Janet can confide in is her own mother.

Eventually it all comes to a head and Janet seeks help and she finds it in the form of a dear friend and the Methodist Minister Mr Tryan. Mr Tryan is making waves in the village and because of this there is a divide between the people who follow Mr Tryan and the people who go to the village church. The main supporter of the anti Mr Tryan club is Janet’s husband. 

This story shows the love and support people can show to those in need and how people can rally around to help. However, the story also shows the darker side of humanity where people turn a blind eye to what they can clearly see. Janet has lived as the victim of domestic abuse for many years and people have chosen to not see this fact. 

I really enjoyed this book and found it beautifully written. I also found many similarities with the modern world in it because people have really not changed much. Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She was born in 1819 at a farmstead in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where her father was estate manager. Mary Ann, the youngest child and a favourite of her father’s, received a good education for a young woman of her day. Influenced by a favourite governess, she became a religious evangelical as an adolescent. 

Etsy

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Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (Review)

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Blurb

Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens’s story of a powerful man whose callous neglect of his family triggers his professional and personal downfall, showcases the author’s gift for vivid characterization and unfailingly realistic description. As Jonathan Lethem contends in his Introduction, Dickens’s “genius . . . is at one with the genius of the form of the novel itself: Dickens willed into existence the most capacious and elastic and versatile kind of novel that could be, one big enough for his vast sentimental yearnings and for every impulse and fear and hesitation in him that countervailed those yearnings too. Never parsimonious and frequently contradictory, he always gives us everything he can, everything he’s planned to give, and then more.”

Review

This was my next classic for my Classics Club challenge and I was so happy that I had decided to include it on my list. This isn’t my favourite Dickens novel as that is A Tale of Two Cities but it is definitely a very close second. I could not put the book down. 

There is so much going on within this book which is all linked with Dombey, so many lives all touch even if just briefly. Though the real reason all these lives connect is because of Dombey’s children, Paul and Florence. Paul Dombey is the wanted son whose father has so many big plans for and Florence is the daughter who is not wanted and ignored. But Florence still loves and worships her father and tries to do everything in her power to make him love her. In a way this book is Florence’s story rather than her father’s story. 

This book focuses on the Dombey household mainly which after the death of the mother becomes a very sad household which starts to become dysfunctional. This is put into stark contrast with the other two households we encounter in the book which are so full of love and happiness although they are poorer financially than the Dombey household but they are richer in so many other ways. 

There are so many interesting characters within this novel. The forever smiling James Carker who is always compared to a grinning cat. The adorable Captain Cuttle who is terrified of his landlady but will do anything and give anything to those he loves. The wonderfully strong Susan Nipper who protects Florence and loves Florence with every fibre of her being. The faithful Walter whose faith never wavers. The loving Uncle Sol who will do anything for his nephew. Then there is one of my favourite characters the devoted Mr Toots, who is funny without meaning to be and gets into some interesting scrapes and friendships. Then there is Edith, who I felt sorry for but who I also disliked greatly because of the pain she caused. 

Dickens addresses so many things in this novel; pride, deceit, the value of love, child and parent relationships, unrequited love, revenge and much more. Dickens is such an expert in exploring and writing about the human condition and even though he was writing in the Victorian times so many of his themes are as relevant today as they were today. I laughed out loud whilst reading this book, I cried, I got angry, I went through so many emotions whilst reading this book. I loved this book so much and easily give it 5 out of 5 Dragons and it is definitely one of my favourite books this year. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Bookshop.orgFoyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) was a writer and social critic who created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.

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SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Professor Mary Beard (Review)

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Professor Mary Beard

Blurb

By 63 BCE the city of Rome was a sprawling, imperial metropolis of more than a million inhabitants. But how did this massive city—the seat of power for an empire that spanned from Spain to Syria—emerge from what was once an insignificant village in central Italy? 

In S.P.Q.R., Beard changes our historical perspective, exploring how the Romans themselves challenged the idea of imperial rule, how they responded to terrorism and revolution, and how they invented a new idea of citizenship and nation, while also keeping her eye open for those overlooked in traditional histories: women, slaves and ex-slaves, conspirators, and losers. 

Like the best detectives, Beard separates fact from fiction, myth and propaganda from historical record. She introduces the familiar characters of Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Nero as well as the untold, the loud women, the shrewd bakers, and the brave 

jokers. 

S.P.Q.R. promises to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come. 

100 illustrations; 16 pages of colour; 5 maps

Review

I will be honest I did not read this very quickly but I still absolutely loved it. I love how Beard explains things and could easily read her books all the time. I don’t find her writing too in depth or complicated to read but find it informative, interesting and rather funny at times. 

Beard’s focus in this book is how Rome grew not how Rome fell. The book begins at around 63BCE with Cicero uncovering the plot of Catiline. By uncovering this plot by Catiline, Cicero basically saves the state. Although Beard is explaining about the beginnings of Rome she starts in 63BCE because there are more historical records that exist from that period. The Romans very kindly left us a lot of written material.

I found this book a refreshing take on the Roman history because it focuses on Rome’s advancement, how it grew and developed rather than its decline which a lot of books focus on. Beard talks about consuls, senators, generals, emperors and even the middle classes, the poor and slaves. Having studied Classics I know that there is very little written about the lower classes in Rome or in fact women because the people who were writing in Ancient Rome were mainly rich men and that is what they focused on in their writing, they didn’t really bother with the lower classes or women. The fact that Beard has bothered to include the lower classes and women in her book is brilliant and very enjoyable to read about. 

The maps and illustrations both colour and black and white work brilliantly within the book and I found them very helpful with the text. I found the maps particularly useful and the colour illustrations very beautiful. 

I know that some people take issue with this book and I know it is nowhere near a definitive history of Ancient Rome but I found it a highly enjoyable read and not a stale read like some books I have read on Ancient Rome or Greece. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Mary Beard is a Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Newman College and Classics editor of the TLS. She has world-wide academic acclaim, and is a fellow of the British Academy and a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

The Classics Club: Spin #30 – Results

Hello!

So the results of the latest spin are in and the number is 5. For my list for Spin #30 the post is here. Number 5 on my list is Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot.

A collection of three stories. The Stories take place in and around the fictional town of Milby in the English Midlands. Each of the Scenes concerns a different Anglican clergyman, but is not necessarily centred upon him. Eliot examines, among other things, the effects of religious reform and the tension between the Established and the Dissenting Churches on the clergymen and their congregations, and draws attention to various social issues, such as poverty, alcoholism, and domestic violence.

I haven’t read much George Eliot so I am looking forward to reading this book. Hopefully I can finish it by August 7th.

Now I have started reading classics again my TBR pile is growing as there are so many I want to read.

Please drop me a comment if you are doing the Classics Club challenge or if you have taken part in the Spin Challenge.

Happy Reading

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The Classics Club: Spin #30

Hello!

It is time for another spin event from The Classics Club. I really enjoyed the last one I did, because it chose me an absolutely brilliant book that I think I would have left to the end of the challenge. So here are my 20 books, whichever number gets picked on the 12th June I will read and review the book before the set date of 7th August 2022.

  1. Silas Marner by George Eliot
  2. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
  3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  4. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  5. Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot
  6. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  7. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
  8. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome. K. Jerome
  9. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
  10. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  11. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  12. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  13. Evelina by Frances Burney
  14. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  15. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  16. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  17. Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
  18. The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart
  19. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
  20. Candide by Voltaire

I’m really looking forward to what the random selection will be and I hope I will be able to read the book within the time frame. 

Wish me luck!

Please drop me a comment if you are taking part in the Spin event or if you have read any of the books on my list.

Happy Reading

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Goodreads Monday: 2/05/2022

Goodreads Monday is now hosted by Budget Tales Book Club.  All you have to do is show off a book from your TBR that you’re looking forward to reading.

Hello and welcome to the first Goodreads Monday of May.

My chosen book this week is actually one I have read before but one I have put back on my TBR pile because I absolutely love it and want to reread it this year.

Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe is the third novel by George Eliot, published in 1861. An outwardly simple tale of a linen weaver, it is notable for its strong realism and its sophisticated treatment of a variety of issues ranging from religion to industrialisation to community.

Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

Please drop me a comment if you have taken part in Goodreads Monday and I will head over for a visit.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Goodreads Monday: 25/04/2022

Goodreads Monday is now hosted by Budget Tales Book Club.  All you have to do is show off a book from your TBR that you’re looking forward to reading.

Hello!

I hope everyone is having a good week so far. I have had a thoroughly productive day of teaching and attacking the garden, although it still looks like a wilderness but I hope it looks a bit better.

My chosen book this week is another one off my Classics Club list.

Brought up at Dorlcote Mill, Maggie Tulliver worships her brother Tom and is desperate to win the approval of her parents, but her passionate, wayward nature and her fierce intelligence bring her into constant conflict with her family. As she reaches adulthood, the clash between their expectations and her desires is painfully played out as she finds herself torn between her relationships with three very different men: her proud and stubborn brother, a close friend who is also the son of her family’s worst enemy, and a charismatic but dangerous suitor. With its poignant portrayal of sibling relationships, The Mill on the Floss is considered George Eliot’s most autobiographical novel; it is also one of her most powerful and moving.

Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

Please drop me a comment if you have taken part in Goodreads Monday and I will head over for a visit.

Happy Reading

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The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins (Review)

The New Magdalen by Wilkie Collins

Blurb

Wilkie Collins is rightly regarded as one of the nineteenth century’s most eminent writers. Although many Persephone readers will know The Woman in White and The Moonstone, he in fact published twenty-one other novels. The New Magdalen (1873), Persephone Book No.138, is about a ‘fallen woman’, Mercy Merrick, attempting to rehabilitate her character and her reputation; and the (often reprehensible and unkind) attitude of some of those around her.

Review

I love The Woman in White so I had high hopes for this book and I was not disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will be honest I have never rooted for someone who should be seen as the bad guy so much and disliked the good person so much. 

Mercy Merrick has had a terrible life and in the eyes of society she can’t sink any lower but Mercy has been trying to rebuild her life and make herself respectable again but society won’t let her achieve her dreams and keeps knocking her down. The story begins with Mercy working as a nurse in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. However, during this period Mercy happens to meet Grace Roseberry and they exchange stories. Grace is going to England to become the companion of a rich lady and has all the papers and evidence she needs to achieve this. However, Grace is killed by a shell and Mercy sees her chance at a different life. 

Mercy is a wonderful character, she has had a terrible childhood and adolescence but none of this was her fault. It was the fault of a society that did not look after its poor and vulnerable. Mercy tries to better herself though and refuses to go back to the life she once led. She works hard in whatever job she is in and strives to always do her best. But it isn’t just the fact she works hard it is the fact that she is good and kind and always thinking of others. Other people could have been made bitter and angry by a past like Mercy’s but this is not the case with Mercy and this is why Lady Janet and Julian Gray love her so much. 

Lady Janet is an extremely wealthy woman who is very lonely. She has no children and her marriage we are told was loveless. For all her wealth she has had no love in her life apart from the love of her nephew Julian Gray. Julian Gray is a reverend of some renown, his sermons are legendary and he is known as being rather different from his fellow clergy.  He does not judge people and will try to help anyone in need. 

Grace Roseberry and Horace Holmcroft were my least favourite characters of the book. Grace was pure evil in my eyes, she might appear the perfect lady but she was shallow, unfeeling, selfish and judgemental. Horace Holmcroft spent his life surrounded by his mother and sisters and he was very much a mommy’s boy. His character is also exactly like Grace’s but Collins does not show us his true character until later in the book. 

This book is beautifully written by Collins and so clever that I did not want to put it down. The book really shows that true love can be blinding, it can be all forgiving, it can make you completely change your opinions, true love can really conquer all. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and I can’t wait to read my next Collins novel. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was an English novelist and playwright known especially for The Woman in White and The Moonstone.

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