Over the weekend I had the entertaining experience of listening to an audio dramatization of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. This comedic play was first performed in 1895, and it is a hilarious satirical commentary on Victorian social customs, especially regarding love and marriage. I chose this as my 19th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and it also fills the Satire spot in The Literary Life 20 for 2020 challenge. (They will be going through this book on the podcast very soon, so I wanted to get it read before then.)
The version I listened to was done by LA Theater Works, and it was a delightful performance. There is hardly a really serious line in the whole play, but the actors delivered their lines as if all was deadly serious, which made it even more hilarious. I could totally see how Wilde’s work in this play paved the way for P. G. Wodehouse, especially in the opening scene with the banter between Algernon and his butler/valet. It definitely reminded me of Bertie Wooster talking with Jeeves. Then, of course, there is the Shakespearean element of mistaken identities causing problems between lovers, which is always entertaining.
Some people would perhaps find the situation unbelievably over-the-top silly, but I think that is what makes Wilde’s commentary work so well. He makes some serious jabs at social conventions, but it is done in such a ridiculous manner that you can’t help but laugh. Of course, if I were in Wilde’s original Victorian era audience, maybe I wouldn’t have thought it quite so funny as I do as a modern!
After a couple of unexpected weeks away from the blog, I’m back this week with a couple of classic book reviews for you! I will also be continuing my AmblesideOnline Year 4 series very soon, I promise! But first, here is my review of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase.
I chose this classic mystery novel as my “Genre Classic” for the 2020 Back to the Classics Challenge, and I am so glad I did. I have read one other book by this author, Tish, and I hope to read more of her work in the future because her books are just plain fun. Mary Roberts Rinehart was the American predecessor to Agatha Christie, and although she is not as well known today, her detective fiction was quite popular during her lifetime. She had several books adapted for the stage and screen and even wrote a few plays of her own.
The Circular Staircase was Rinehart’s first published novel, and the mystery is told from the perspective of Rachel Innes, spinster aunt and guardian to her young adult niece and nephew Gertrude and Halsey. When a murder takes place in the house they are renting for the summer, Miss Innes and her wards find themselves at the center of an investigation and potential victims, as well. Of course, in the end, all the suspenseful twists and turns of the story are explained, and the truth of the murder and all the other odd occurrences at the residence are laid to rest.
All in all, even if it is not the most literary of detective novels, The Circular Staircase is an enjoyable read, full of the tense moments and curious clues you would expect of a classic mystery. I did have a little trouble at time keeping up with the cast of characters, but that may be in part because I was bouncing back and forth between reading and listening to the book. I also do feel the need to point out that this book is a product of its era, and as such, uses some vocabulary in reference to African Americans that would not be considered appropriate today. With those caveats, I otherwise highly recommend The Circular Staircase for anyone looking for a light classic mystery to wind down with at the end of the day.
Before I get into my thoughts on A Room with a View, I need to apologize to those of you who subscribe to posts via email. The post I published yesterday had a major formatting problem when it transferred to email, and none of the books I was trying to share with you were visible. I’m so sorry for that inconvenience. If you click over to the actual blog website, you can see all the titles and links there, but I should really have been more careful about checking that everything was going to work before hitting publish. Now on to the review…
I fell in love with E. M. Forster’s lovely prose last year when reading Howards End along with the Close Reads Podcast. When I saw a book containing two other of his works at a library sale last year, I snatched it right up. Ever since then I had been waiting for the right time to dive into A Room with a View, and when I saw the Classic (movie) Adaptation category for the Back to the Classics Challenge, I decided this would be my chance. (I also added it to my Literary Fiction list for the Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge.)
A Room with a View opens on young Lucy Honeychurch and her middle-aged cousin Charlotte Bartlett staying in a pension in Florence, Italy. It is quite obvious from the beginning that Lucy is not very self-aware, and the main thread through the book follows her journey to knowing her own mind and heart.
Forster is, like Jane Austen, a master of the novel of manners, and he shows the ways that societal conventions were shifting in Edwardian times, while also painting engaging characters, a satisfying romantic plot and breathtaking views of both Italy and England. He balanced the tension in the relationships with just the right amount of satire and humor, as well. Although not everyone in the story gets what they want in the end, I was pleased that Lucy not only becomes self-aware but also gets her happy ending. I also enjoyed the way Forster wraps up the story back where it all began.
The big question now that I have finished reading the book is this—will I watch one of the film adaptations? I am as yet undecided. If I do, it will probably be the BBC version done in 2007. I tend to like BBC adaptations better than Hollywood productions. The truth is, though, if I do watch the movie at all, it will probably not be for a while because I don’t want to ruin the pictures I have in my mind from the beauty of the book just yet. I am definitely one of those people who rarely likes the film more than the book, at least when I’ve read before I’ve watched. What about you? Do you like to watch film adaptations of books you love? Do tell…
If you have Amazon Prime, and you read Kindle books, then you probably know about the newer perk of Prime Reading deals. But if not, let me tell you, this is one of my favorite ways to add to my (never-ending) to-be-read list! Books available on Prime Reading are free to “check-out” for an indefinite period of time, and you can have up to 10 Kindle books in your Prime Reading library at a time. It’s like having a library card on Amazon! Pretty great, right?
The thing is, the choices in Prime Reading change frequently, and I’m not sure yet what rhyme or reason might be in how often that happens. Today I was scrolling through the options and found some very worthwhile literature on the list, so I wanted to pop over here and share those with you. I have no idea how long any of these will be available on Prime Reading, though, so if you are interested in them, and you have space in your library on Amazon, you’ll probably want to snatch them up (like I did!)
Prime Reading Deals for February 5, 2020
I should probably preface this list by noting that I have not read all these books (obviously, or else I wouldn’t be adding to my TBR!), but I either have read the author’s work before or have had their work recommended to me enough times by people I trust to think they are worth my time reading. So, please don’t blame me if you check one out and hate it! (Additional disclaimer: the following are Amazon Affiliate links, so I will get a small commission if you purchase anything through my links. Thanks!)
So, there you have it! I’ve done the hard work of scrolling through hundreds of titles to find the gems in the current Amazon Prime Reading library! I hope you enjoy a few of these! I would love to hear which ones you’ve added to your TBR, so leave a comment and let me know! Until next time, happy reading!
Somehow as a child, I somehow missed reading any of the “Little House” books. As such, I have enjoyed sharing my first exploration of these stories along with my children. Wilder’s writing style is both delightfully childlike and literary at the same time, and it is easy to see why these books have become classics.
My only problem as I read this book was that I have also been reading a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and a history of her times, as well as the life of Rose Wilder (Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser). It was hard for me to suspend disbelief while reading By the Shores of Silver Lake more than previous books, knowing that not all was as it seemed and that the family faced more difficulties to come than were hinted at in this work. Still, as a children’s classic, this book certainly has its place in the series, and Laura’s enduring love for the wild, open prairie shines through even today.