By: Jane Austen
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy
Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny’s uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry’s attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary’s dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords’ influence and finds herself more isolated than ever.
I took to re-reading Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park some time ago; it’s definitely one of her books that I re-read the least. It’s not because I don’t like it–I love it–but I guess it being the lengthiest of her novels factor in there somewhere. Anyway, one of the reasons why I love this novel is that, while it’s not as flashy as Pride and Prejudice (review) or romantic and melancholic as Persuasion (review) but it is probably the most thought-provoking of her books to me. I don’t often recommend Mansfield Park to new Jane Austen readers (see my So You Want to Read… feature for next month), but I do recommend it overall because it’s just so rich a novel. And re-reading it this time around brought out the questions…as well as the feels 😛
Random note before I proceed: I don’t own the Penguin English Library edition of the book, but isn’t the book cover for it so pretty? <333
SPOILERS if you haven’t read the book!
By: George Eliot
George Eliot’s most ambitious novel is a masterly evocation of diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial community. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfillment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; the charming but tactless Dr Lydgate, whose marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamund and pioneering medical methods threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past. As their stories interweave, George Eliot creates a richly nuanced and moving drama, hailed by Virginia Woolf as ‘one of the few English novels written for adult people’.
Regular readers of my blog and those who’ve known me for a long time know that Middlemarch has been on the to-be-read queue for ages. I’ve been saying for years that I will read it, big classics reader that I am, and yet I never get around to reading it. Is it the size or the things I heard about this book that kept me from it? I don’t know. Well in any case, this is me, several years later, finally getting around to reading it (hurray!) 🙂
The Merchant of Venice
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: Mass bound paperback; my copy
Bassanio, a noble but impoverished Venetian, asks his friend the merchant Antonio for a loan to impress an heiress. Antonio agrees, but is forced to borrow the sum from a cynical Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who forces him into a chilling contract, which stipulates he must honour the debt with a pound of his own flesh. But Bassanio’s beloved is not as demure as she seems, and disguising herself as a lawyer, Portia proves herself one of Shakespeare’s most cunning heroines, in a witty attack on Shylock’s claim.
I first encountered this play in grade 9 English class and it holds a special place in my heart and amongst the Shakespeare titles as it is the first full play by him that I’ve read and studied. I guess in a way it’s fitting then that this is the last of his plays that I’m revisiting 🙂
The Duchess of Malfi
By: John Webster
The evils of greed and ambition overwhelm love, innocence, and the bonds of kinship in this dark tragedy concerning the secret marriage of a noblewoman and a commoner. John Webster’s great Jacobean drama detailing the fiendish schemes of two brothers who desire their wealthy sister’s title and estates ends with a bloody and horrifying climax.
I learned about this play from a production held at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse last year (starring Gemma Arterton!). My pile of Shakespeare plays is growing smaller and as you may have noticed I’m beginning to branch out a bit to other playwrights, his contemporary or otherwise.
Here we are again, another batch of mini-reviews that couldn’t possibly warrant their own review posts. This pbatch is mostly plays/poetry-oriented, as well as one DNF *le sigh*
Without further ado…
By: Percy Bysshe Shelley
One of the most ambitious dramatic poems ever written, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound tells the story of the Titan Prometheus who gave mankind the secret of fire in open defiance to the decrees of Zeus, and who, as punishment for this generosity, was chained to the Caucasus Mountains and exposed to horrible tortures. Inspired by the Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus, Shelley’s play serves as a sort of sequel, matching its Greek predecessor in stature and pure poetic power. It depicts its philanthropist hero’s ultimate triumph over the superstition and bigotry of the gods. As Shelley himself stated in his Defence of Poetry, Prometheus Unbound awakens and enlarges the mind.
I honestly wouldn’t have thought about picking up this dramatic play anytime in the near future except that it was mentioned in Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life (review) and my curiosity was piqued (turns out though that the lines Matthew recited was not from this dramatic poem but from another poem, “The Cloud” (read here), but anyway). It’s an intriguing play following Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and it’s an intriguing look at humanity and nature, good and evil, freedom and enslavement, etc. It’s very lyrical–so much so that it’s very easy to get lost in the plot (pfft, do I even know the plot?). But it’s still very pretty to read with some very poignant passages here and there.
Oh, apparently The Painted Veil (review) got its title from a line in this epic. How did that detail from that novel slip my mind? 😛 Anyway, if you’re looking for some epic poetry to read with some really gorgeous passages, I think this is worth checking out 🙂