Saturday Poem: ‘Love’s Philosophy’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In another’s being mingle–
Why not I with thine?

See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;–
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?


One From the Archive: ‘The Brandons’ by Angela Thirkell ***

First published in May 2014.

The Brandons is the 598th entry upon the Virago Modern Classics list.  The novel was first published in 1939, and the new reprint has been adorned with another of Mick Wiggins’ lovely cover designs.  The Brandons is part of Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire Chronicles series, which is comprised of twenty nine novels in all.

As the title suggests, The Brandons focuses upon the family of the same, and focuses chiefly upon Lavinia Brandon, who is deemed ‘quite the loveliest widow in Barsetshire’.  She lives with her two ‘handsome’ grown-up children, Francis and Delia, in quiet comfort at Stories, the family home.  The central thread of the story is realised when cousin Hilary Grant comes to stay, and ‘promptly falls for his fragrant hostess’ Lavinia.  She, however, is more interested upon making ‘a match’ between the vicar and ‘gifted village helpmeet’ Miss Morris, whilst ‘elegantly deterring her [own] lovestruck suitors’.

Lavinia Brandon has been widowed for quite some time, and has no qualms about being harsh or unfeeling regarding her late husband.  She frequently refers to how cruel he was, and Thirkell says of him, ‘As for Mr Brandon’s merits, which consisted chiefly in having been an uninterested husband and father for some six or seven years and then dying and leaving his widow quite well off, no one thought of them’.  The novel is not overly plot-driven, really, and involves itself heavily with such things as hosting and attending dinner parties and having to marry off one’s children by a certain age, lest they amount to no more than spinsters.

Thirkell writes wonderfully, and sets out the lives of her characters against backgrounds in which they live.  Her trademark wit can be found throughout The Brandons, and one can see how she always picks up on the very smallest details which immediately set out the temperaments of her protagonists.  Young Francis, for example, who appears to have been rather an exuberant infant, was ‘wearing a green linen suit with a green linen feeder tied round his neck, and was covered with apricot jam from his large smiling mouth to the roots of his yellow hair’.  So many elements are considered with regard to actions, settings and conversations that it often feels that one is watching a play as the scenes unfold so vividly.

Stylistically, The Brandons is similar to the other Barsetshire novels, and it is rather quiet in terms of what happens within its pages, but it is entertaining and droll, and is sure to be a great addition to summer reading lists.

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Disappointing Reads

Of late, I have read several books which disappointed me on many levels.  Some of them I was very much looking forward to, or was intrigued by, and others are by authors I have previously enjoyed.  Have you read any of these?  If so, what did you think of them?  Which books have disappointed you lately?

1. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
I had heard mixed criticism about Carey’s work, and decided to dip into his oeuvre for the first time with this novel.  I found it rather disinteresting and oddly paced, and it never did pick up.  The entirety felt very disconnected, and the relationships forged within the story were nowhere near strong enough to save the book for me.

2. 2am at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino 51yddc2bljql-_sx328_bo1204203200_
I was so looking forward to this one, and found it quite mediocre.  I still gave it three stars overall, as I found the main character rather endearing in places, and liked her story, but felt that those of other characters, whilst important on the whole, were rather disinteresting.  Nothing in Bertino’s writing style sparkled for me either.

3. His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and Other Stories by Poppy Z. Brite
My first taste of Brite’s work left rather a sour taste in my own mouth.  The sexual explicitness was too much at times, and I found that the odd elements of each of the stories were jarring.  It is both gross and gruesome – too much so for this squeamish reader, anyway!

181400474. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Note to self: stop buying books from genres you never read just because BookTube tells you to do it.  Again, I gave this three stars because I liked the general idea and it kept me relatively entertained on part of a long flight to Kuala Lumpur, but it says something when the dead characters in a book feel far more present than the ‘live’ ones.

5. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
I found Olive Kitteridge a very interesting and memorable read.  I was slightly disappointed by The Burgess Boys, but liked it well enough.  In this case, I have no idea what happened with My Name is Lucy Barton.  It is distinctly underwhelming, silly and farcical.


Three Recommendations

I have not had much time to read of late, and my blogging time has been close to zero hours per week; not ideal, but as I am sure you’ll understand, I need to prioritise my studies.  That said, I thought I would take the opportunity to recommend three standout books which I have very much enjoyed reading over the last couple of months.

1. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (1936; one of the first novels to portray homosexuality) 9780571235285
– ‘A masterpiece of modernism’ (The Washington Post Book World)
– ‘To have been madly and disastrously in love is a kind of glory that can only be made intelligible in a sublime poetry―the revelatory and layered poetry of Djuna Barnes’s masterpiece, Nightwood.’ (Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina)

Nightwood is not only a classic of modernist literature, but was also acknowledged by T. S. Eliot as one of the great novels of the 20th century. Eliot admired Djuna Barnes’ rich, evocative language. Barnes told a friend that Nightwood was written with her own blood ‘while it was still running.’ That flowing wound was the breakup of an eight-year relationship with the love of her life. Now recognised as a twentieth-century classic, the influence of Djuna Barnes’s novel has been, and continues to be, exceptional.’

2. Passing by Nella Larsen
– ‘Absolutely absorbing, fascinating, and indispensable’ (Alice Walker)
– ‘A work so fine, sensitive, and distinguished that it rises above race categories and becomes that rare object, a good novel’ (The Saturday Review of Literature)

‘Married to a successful physician and prominently ensconced in Harlem’s vibrant society of the 1920s, Irene Redfield leads a charmed existence-until she is shaken out of it by a chance encounter with a childhood friend who has been “passing for white.” An important figure in the Harlem Renaissance, Nella Larsen was the first African-American woman to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. Her fictional portraits of women seeking their identities through a fog of racial confusion were informed by her own Danish-West Indian parentage, and “Passing” offers fascinating psychological insights into issues of race and gender.’

3. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

‘In “Herland, ” a vision of a feminist utopia, Gilman employs humor to engaging effect in a story about three male explorers who stumble upon an all-female society isolated somewhere in South America. Noting the advanced state of the civilization they’ve encountered, the visitors set out to find some males, assuming that since the country is so civilized, “there must be men.” A delightful fantasy, the story enables Gilman to articulate her then-unconventional views of male-female roles and capabilities, motherhood, individuality, privacy, the sense of community, sexuality, and many other topics. Decades ahead of her time in evolving a humanistic, feminist perspective, Gilman has been rediscovered and warmly embraced by contemporary feminists.’


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