The first Sunday of 2010 is typically going to be spent doing all the things which never got ticked off of my to do list, marking, homework, studying and ironing. Possibly some reading will get done if I'm lucky later on. Then tomorrow its back to work, I'm not looking forward to the early mornings but it will be nice to have a routine back in place.
I thought I would kick off the Our Mutual Reads with a few Victorian short stories to set the scene. I'm going to try and read a real mix of authors for the short story mini challenge, hopefully covering a wide range of authors from the period.
An Imaginative Woman by Thomas Hardy (from Life's Little Ironies).
I've read a far bit of Hardy, several novels and poems but this was my first short story. A young family travel on holiday. They stay at a guesthouse, the wife discovers that the room that she is staying in is the bedroom of a local poet. She immediately feels a link with the poet as she once had a poem of hers published alongside one of his. This interest quickly develops into a fascination with the man, she waits day in day out for him to return to the guesthouse, she is anxious to meet this man whi she has built up in her head as a wonderful person.
This was a good little story, I'm sure we have all at some point created a character inside our heads of a person we have never met, imagining that if met an instant friendship would form. I was surprised at how modern the text felt.
For my second Thomas Hardy story I read The Boy's Veto.
This tells the tale of a young wheelchair bound woman. We learn early of her marriage to an elder man, her boss, who has decided he should take her as his second wife after she ended up wheelchair bound after completing a task for him. The pair get along well enough, but it it more a marriage of conveneyance. The husband strives to improve his wifes cultural knowledge so that she fits as part of his sociaty.
After the husband dies she is courted by a man she knows from her past, a "mere gardener". She desperately wants to marry this man yet is banished from doing so by her son who claims it would destroy his chance of being a gentleman.
The son's behaviour angered me, but it is typical of the society of the time, when your birth, parents and education counted far more than the type of person you actually were.
Amy Foster by Joseph Conrad, read online for free here
This story has changed my mind on Conrad, whose Heart of Darkness I despised. Amy Forster is a young simple girl in the story she falls in love with a migrant who found himself ashore after a shipping accident. Arriving in England he was beaten, thrown stones at and locked up, everyone assumed he was simply a lunatic. Amy was the only person who showed him compassion when she feed him. From that moment on they are in love.
The story, although titled Amy Foster, is more about the man and his experiences of living in England. The language is beautiful, showing the sharp conrast between the man's ways and that of the English folks. Well worth a read.
I sat down on New Years Eve to watch the latest BBC adaptation of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. For some reason the BBC had decided to set the story in 1921 rather than in 1898 when the story was written so it cannot count for this challenge. That being said this reminded me what a great novella it was. It would be perfect for this challenge, especially for anyone new to the Victorian period. I'll have to try and dig it out and have a reread this year. The BBC version is well worth checking out, the setting is beautiful and it is well acted throughout. I'm sure the novella doesn't make everything as clear as this version did, but my memory is fairly hazy.
(Just why is it that scary children in films are nearly always blonde?)