Disney Song Book Tag

Y’all. This tag. The Disney Song Book Tag was created by Aria’s Books, and I picked it up from Rachel at Life of a Female Bibliophile.

1. “A Whole New World” – Pick a book that made you see the world differently.

A Whole New World

This may not count, because I barely saw the world at all prior to reading these books. However, I’m still choosing the Chronicles of Narnia. My mother read these books to me and my sister starting when I was three, so there’s not much in my life that didn’t get put through the Chronicles of Narnia goggles. I still experience quite the frisson when I see a lamp-post. Esp in the snow.

2. “Cruella De Vil” – Pick your favorite villain.

Gotta be the other mother from Coraline. In case she’s been missing from your nightmares lately, permit me to refresh your memory: SHE HAS BUTTONS FOR EYES.

Coraline

3. “I Won’t Say I’m in Love – Pick a book you didn’t want to admit you loved.

Honestly, as I get older and older, I am less and less closety about reading non-prestigious things. I’m going to say P. C. Wren’s Beau Geste and its sequels. They are those Edwardian-era adventure novels that are ideologically troubling on, like, a lot of levels? My fave is problematic.

4. “Gaston” – Pick a character that you couldn’t stand.

The thing is that I love Gaston. Instead of picking a character I couldn’t stand, I shall pick a character who I would hate in real life, but because they’re fictional, I get a huge kick out of spending time with them. And I choose Henry Winter from The Secret History. That dude is creepy? Yet so plausible that he’s capable of convincing people to commit legit murder.

5. “Part of Your World” – Pick a book set in a universe you wish you could live in.

actual footage of me reading Harry Potter

OBVIOUSLY HARRY POTTER.

6. “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” – Describe what the book of your dreams would be like.

Gosh. What would it be like. It would probably have a boarding school. Maybe there would be a dystopian situation? Like a boarding school in a dystopian universe? Plus with lady characters forming bonds and showing up for each other?

7. “Someday My Prince Will Come” – What book character would you marry if you could.

This gif does not match this song. I don’t care. Snow White sucks and Ariel is amazing.

Sherry from Greensleeves. Greensleeves is an amazing book by Eloise Jarvis McGraw that people do not appreciate enough even though it is now available for purchase through your favorite online retailer. Sherry from Greensleeves is curious about everything, reads constantly, and pays attention to other people. Best.

8. “I See the Light” – Pick a book that changed your life.

Oo tough one! Let’s say, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. They at least changed my reading life. Prior to reading Sandman, I was not a comics gal. If you’re not a comics gal, I do not recommend making Sandman your gateway drug. It has kind of a challenging panel structure. However, if you do make it through ten volumes of Sandman, you will come out the other end a legit comics gal. So it was with me.

9. “When You Wish upon a Star” – Pick a book you wish you could reread for the first time.

Jane Eyre. Of course, Jane Eyre. No, it’s not my favorite book of all time, but it’s not not my favorite book of all time, and reading it for the first time was, and would always be, an incredible experience.

10. “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – Pick a book with some kind of monarchy in it.

How about Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall? I read this last year and was surprised to find that it’s wonderful! Mantel is brilliant at bringing historical figures to life, even ones who are larger than life in the first place like Henry VIII. WHY MUST ANNE BOLEYN DIE IN THE SECOND BOOK WHY OH GOD.

11. “Colors of the Wind” – Pick a book with a beautiful colorful cover.

Maggie Stiefvater’s Blue Lily Lily Blue. All of the books in this series actually! But Blue Lily Lily Blue has to be the most beautifulest one of all!

Blue Lily Lily Blue

GLORIOUS. DISNEY SONGS.

The Five Bronte-est Things That Happened in Claire Harman’s Biography of Charlotte Brontë

Note: I received an electronic galley of Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart from the publisher for review consideration.

Sometimes when you read books about the olden days, you feel nostalgic and affectionate like maybe you would have liked to live back in those days and make your own butter and play whist with the other families in the neighborhood. Books by and about the Brontës do not have this effect.

Claire Harman’s Charlotte Brontë

Claire Harman’s Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart primarily made me feel fortunate for living in an age and area that offer me a near-infinitude of life choices. It’s hard to read about the Brontës without feeling irritated with them — they are so exceptionally dogmatic and needy and weird — but, on the other hand, these were three brilliant, angry women who could count the opportunities available to them on the fingers of one hand. As romantic and mysterious as it is to think of them all alone in their moorish parsonage, scribbling away at their Gothic stories, I want to snatch them all up and carry them away to a modern world where they could be socialized with outsiders and, like, go on Tumblr to talk out their feelings.

As it was, of course, they were stuck in a closed loop of weird Brontëishness, feeding on each other’s Brontëhood and becoming ever-more-concentratedly Brontës. I have therefore taken the liberty of reporting to you the five most Brontëish things that happened in this book, in ascending order of Brontëness.

5. The death by tuberculosis of a supermajority of Brontë siblings. Charlotte’s older sisters Maria and Elizabeth died when they were eleven and ten, respectively. Emily and Anne incubated it a while longer, but died within six months of each other when Charlotte was in her early thirties. We don’t, of course, know what Maria and Elizabeth would have done with their lives, but Emily and Anne were both gifted writers.1 Given a greater length of days they might have gone on to write any number of amazing novels. It’s all pretty tragic. Also — if I may be callous — incredibly on brand for the Brontë family. Dying young of tuberculosis was kinda their jam.

And yes, they all four contracted this tuberculosis at a hideous and brutal school for young Victorian ladies. Of course they did. God. Like it wasn’t already at peak Brontë. Will nothing satisfy you?

4. You may have heard rumors that Branwell Brontë was Terrible, and those rumors are accurate. He had all of the bad Brontë qualities, particularly the Brontë entitlement and Brontë sense of exceptionalism, but none of the (sorry, Branwell!) Brontë talent. Because of this, he couldn’t hold down a job, until finally Anne — bless her heart, she sounds like a dear — got him a position as a tutor to the family where she was governessing.

GUESS WHAT BRANWELL DID THEN.

If you guessed “had an affair with the lady of the house that was bound to end in disaster,” you have divined pretty well what Branwell Brontë was like as a person. Anne resigned, and shortly afterward, the gardener walked in on Branwell and Mrs. Robinson (THAT WAS REALLY HER NAME) having sex in the boathouse, so Branwell got fired too.

(Because Brontës were always falling in unrequited love with someone, Branwell kept pining after Mrs. Robinson and hoping they would get back together. They never, ever, ever got back together. Mrs. Robinson tried to get Branwell to be cool about that, and Branwell could absolutely not be cool about it. #Brontës)

3. Charlotte hated everyone in Belgium. Actually, let me emend that: Emily hated everyone in Belgium. Charlotte hated everyone in Belgium minus one: the husband of the woman she worked for, a man called M. Heger with whom she fell in passionate and (you guessed it!) unrequited love. After she and Emily moved back to England (it’s not like they were going to stay in Belgium. They hated everyone in Belgium.), Charlotte wrote a vast quantity of needy letters to M. Heger, reproaching him for not being attentive enough to her, until he had to ask her only to write him once every six months. Eventually they stopped corresponding. I would too. Charlotte Brontë sounds like the most irritating correspondent ever.

This was neither the first nor the last time someone had to ask a Brontë sibling to stop sending them so many letters (see Mrs. Robinson, above, for another example). Because of the aforementioned isolation, the Brontës had very few social outlets and were prone to becoming a strain on those they did have. If they had had access to Tumblr, things might have been different.

2. It was Emily Brontë’s wont to go out walking on the moor every day, even when she was sick unto dying. (That’s not hyperbole — one reason she died so quickly when tuberculosis hit is that she refused to go to bed early or skip her long walks on the moors or see a doctor.) One day she was out on the moors, and she saw a poor dog looking rather forlorn. An animal lover, she went to go give it a drink of water and got bitten for her trouble.

(Poor Emily.)

She was worried that the dog had bitten her because it had rabies maybe, so she went home, said nothing to anyone, took an iron out of the fire, and cauterized her own wound with it. (The second most Brontëish thing about this story is that nobody noticed Emily had a great big burn wound. I mean cause why would they.)

1. The absolute most Brontë-est thing of all, the most Brontë thing to ever Brontë, was done by Papa Brontë (the ur-Brontë) following his wife’s death. As a young man, before he met Maria Branwell, Patrick Brontë had been in sort-of-love with a woman called Mary Burder. He unceremoniously dumped her because of her father’s religious affiliations and did not speak to her again for the next fifteen years.

(This story is already pretty Brontëish, no?)

So after Maria died, and Patrick was left with six small children, he wrote to Mary Burder all saying how he needed a “dearly Beloved Friend” to help raise his “small but sweet little family.” Mary Burder wrote back in “a decided negative” (good for you madam), and Patrick Brontë, I guess because he was vying for the Number One Maximum Brontë trophy, got his feelings hurt and wrote back to her all offended like he’s that guy on OKCupid whose message you never answered.

I must candidly tell you that many things in [your] letter surprised and grieved me. . . . You added many keen sarcasms, which I think might well have been spared.

We get it, Patrick. The trophy is yours. Writing entitled, aggrieved letters to people you want something from seems to have been an favorite Brontë pastime, and this is the entitledest and aggrievedest letter of them all.

You may think and write as you please, but I have not the least doubt that if you had been mine you would have been happier than you now are or can be as one in single life.

OKAY SHUT UP NOW PATRICK.

  1. I mean, allegedly. I didn’t like Wuthering Heights, and I haven’t yet read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I hear it’s good.

#BBAW: Introduce Yourself!

The time has come! The time is now! After a few years of lying fallow, Book Blogger Appreciation Week has returned! Huge, huge thanks to my co-hosts Heather, Andi, and Ana, and thanks to everyone who’s participating.

Day 1: Introduce yourself by telling us about five books that represent you as a person or your interests/lifestyle.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

I’m starting with an unoriginal one, I know! But Jane Eyre was the first book where I ever read the end before I read the middle. It gave me a taste for romance, for gothic novels, for crazypants plots where lunatics set things on fire, and for angry-girl heroines.

Fire and Hemlock, Diana Wynne Jones

I mean, come on. I was never going to make this list without at least one Diana Wynne Jones book on it. Although Jenny’s Law states that Diana Wynne Jones is better on a reread, I have chosen one of the only DWJ books that I loved immediately. Fire and Hemlock is, nevertheless, everything I have ever loved about Diana Wynne Jones; in particular, the way that it’s packed full of adult truth bombs that gradually exploded as I’ve gotten older.

Also it left me with a great love of cellists.1

White Is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi is one of a very few writers whose books I will read purely for her writing. White Is for Witching is my favorite of her five so-far books. It is about, I swear, a xenophobic house and the family that lives in it. There are twins and pica and university examinations, and every one of the narrators is unreliable. (I LOVE UNRELIABLE NARRATORS.)

The Charioteer, Mary Renault

“Jenny, are you just including The Charioteer on your list because everyone you’ve ever recommended it to has thought it was super boring?”

Mary Renault has been a super formative author for me in my life, from when I read her Alexander the Great books in late middle school. The Charioteer is slightly atypical for her in that it has a modern (to Mary Renault! World War II!) setting, but it also requires the queer characters to speak to each other in a coded, roundabout, subtexty way. That she manages to make these unspoken relationships urgent is a testament to her powers as an author.2

The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason

The Lost Books of the Odyssey includes extensions of the Homer stories, alternate versions of them, stories that happen around the edges. It is stories, and it’s about stories, and I will read stories about stories every day until the heat death of the sun.

Happy first day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week! Head over to the Estella Society to link up your #BBAW posts.

  1. Jubilee on The Bachelor played the cello, yet Ben insanely sent her home. The other Ben from Kaitlyn’s season would never have done this.
  2. Mumsy, I forgive you for not loving this book. I mean, sort of. I mean, you did just make me cookies the other day.

The Villette Readalong Staggers to Its Inevitably Irritating Conclusion

Yep, I screwed up the reading last weekend. I can only assumed I was blinded by rage when I approached the chapter numbers. Dr. John and Paulina did get engaged last time, and I just didn’t read that far. Whatever, you two. The fact that Dr. John pays court to Paulina by talking about how it felt when six-year-old her touched his cheek is yet another more way in which Victorians in general and Charlotte Bronte in particular are just SO FUCKING WEIRD.

Victorians got better late in the century which is one of many reasons why I’m an Oscar Wilde girl.

So M. Paul announces he’s leaving, and Lucy mopes around because he’s been really nice to her lately, but when everyone’s saying goodbye to him, she just lets Mme. Beck shove her to one side so M. Paul doesn’t even see she’s there. Lucy I guess does not know that a person can use her words to make her presence known to someone whose line of vision she’s not currently standing in. There’s two chapters of Lucy wishing she could say goodbye to M. Paul, but not actually taking any steps to give herself a chance to say goodbye to M. Paul, and then off he sails for Australia or something, because he’s gotta something. The details surrounding his departure are fuzzy in my mind because:

Mme. Beck tries to drug Lucy, but it doesn’t work and Lucy heads to the park, where everyone in all Villette has assembled for a party that Lucy wasn’t invited to. Wonder why.

Lucy at a party

Also at the party: M. Paul! Not sailed yet after all! Shocking! Lucy sees him, but again, apparently unaware that you can say “Hi! It’s me, Lucy!”, she just keeps quiet and stares at him.

Lucy doing her best to say goodbye to M. Paul

When Lucy gets back from the parade, having absolutely refused to say anything to M. Paul, I swear to God this girl doesn’t have a firm grasp on the function of speech, she finds GHOST NUN sleeping in her bed. I got so excited for a second before I remembered that Charlotte Bronte hates me and would never have an awesome climactic ghost nun scene for me.

It’s just the costume. No ghost nun showdown.

Apparently, Ginevra’s boyfriend — now husband; they eloped! — was the one dressing up as the ghost nun in order to sneak into the school and see Ginevra. That is such a surprising and hilarious plan that I think he’s going to make an awesome husband for Ginevra. I want them to adopt Lucy, and she can live with them and say bitchy stuff to them every time they try to be nice, and they can giggly merrily and call her adorable nicknames from antiquity.

But, that’s not what happens. Instead M. Paul tells Lucy he loves her, and blah blah blah they’re going to get married after he gets back from his three-year voyage and you know what fucking happens?

His ship sinks.

HIS SHIP SINKS.

Charlotte Bronte, I cannot with you. Don’t try and throw me a bullshit bone being all “oh happy minds can imagine a joyous future for us, I’m not going to say any more.” YOU HAVE JUST MADE IT OBVIOUS THAT HIS SHIP SINKS.

Despite my frustration with this ridiculous fucking book, I am delighted Alice hosted the readalong. Thanks, Alice! Reading along was super fun, all the bloggers are great, and the only tiny thing that could have improved is Charlotte Bronte not being such a FUN-KILLING ZERO-FUCKS-GIVING LUNATIC.

I will just leave you with the following exchange:

“Spartan girl! Proud Lucy!” she would say, smiling at me. “Graham says you are the most peculiar, capricious little woman he knows; but yet you are excellent; we both think so.”

“You both think you know not what,” said I. “Have the goodness to make me as little the subject of your mutual talk and thoughts as possible. I have my sort of life apart from yours. . . . Yes, [solitude] is sadness. Life, however; has worse than that. Deeper than melancholy, lies heart-break.”

“Lucy, I wonder if anybody will ever comprehend you altogether.”

Villette was published 160 years ago, and no luck so far.

The Villette Readalong Insults Paulina

We are nearly done with Villette, and I will go ahead and say right now that it’s not Charlotte Bronte’s best work. And I am not just saying that because I’m mad that Lu Paul turned out to be such a dud! It’s also that Villette lacks both the focus and the craziness that make Jane Eyre such a treat. Luckily this was a short reading section, and I didn’t have that much time to get mad at Lucy.

“Not that much time,” however, does not equal “no time.” Lucy goes out to do some errands for M. Beck but not like, the kind of errands a servant would do. No indeed. Ladylike errands. She has a basket of fresh fruit to deliver, but because Lucy cannot be bothered about other people’s lives, she spends hours wandering around and doing errands before she goes deliver the fruit. Like I dunno, Lucy, maybe deliver fruit first, do errands after? So the fresh fruit stays fresh?

So Lucy gets stranded way out at this old lady’s house. While she’s chilling there, she meets the same priest who helped her out before, but she doesn’t recognize him. Lucy. Seriously? You recognized Dr. John after how many years? But you can’t be bothered remembering the face of the guy who was super nice to you in your time of need?

…about Catholic people’s faces.

Anyway. Pere Silas tells her the story of a beautiful and virginal girl called Justine Marie who was forbidden to be with her lover, so she went straight into a convent and died of sadness. Her family thereafter fell upon hard times, and when her father died, and her mother and grandmother were left penniless, Justine Marie’s former lover swooped in and helped them out.

And that lover.

Was.

M. Paul!

Lucy is touched by this — I mean, as you would be. That’s actually really nice. She decides she’s not threatened by Justine Marie because she figures Justine Marie was probably insipid and terrible. I figure Justine Marie is the ghost nun and that there will be an insane supernatural showdown in the last few chapters. Except, like, that would be an outcome I would enjoy, and Charlotte Bronte has been pretty resistant to those so far in this book.

But here’s something Charlotte Bronte can never take away from me:

[M. Paul’s dog] was very tiny, and had the prettiest little innocent face, the silkiest long ears, the finest dark eyes in the world. I never saw her, but I thought of Paulina de Bassompierre: forgive the association, reader, it would occur.

Bahahahahahahah. Lucy, you’re a garbage friend.

Tune in next time for the disappointing conclusion to Lucy’s romance with M. Paul and probably NO GHOST NUN SHOWDOWNS AT ALL, even though that would be amazing.

The Villette Readalong Crushes My Dreams

So this is how the fourth section of the readalong begins: Lucy gets back from vacay and has an extended conversation with Reason. That is not a person. She has an imaginary conversation with her own personified faculty of Reason, who has blue lips and is kind of a dick.

“But I have talked to Graham and you did not chide,” I pleaded.

“No,” said she, “I needed not. Talk for you is good discipline. You converse imperfectly. While you speak, there can be no oblivion of inferiority—no encouragement to delusion: pain, privation, penury stamp your language.”

Reason

Hey, Lucy, I’m on your side right now, but: People might like you more if you talked to yourself less.

Anyway, the people who do like Lucy thus far are Ginevra Fanshawe and, despite his completely insane-person behavior, M. Paul. Ginevra trades her coffee for Lucy’s rolls every morning at breakfast (that’s adorable), and M. Paul minds about it when Lucy sits crying, and gets upset when he thinks she has a boyfriend. But Ginevra is a flirty shallow jerk, and M. Paul beats up stoves when he’s in a bad mood and sneaks into Lucy’s room and reads her letters to see if she and Dr. John have a Thing.

I’m pretty close to done with M. Paul. My early positive impression of him has not been borne out by subsequent events. He’s going to have to be really really awesome throughout the next few sections to make up for what a d-bag he’s been on the majority of occasions we’ve had to hang out with him. Remember that first time they met? And he was hilarious and the best thing in the whole book? I want that guy back!

Meanwhile, Dr. John’s just looking like a champ in this section, damn his boring face, but it’s okay, because Polly shows back up finally, and I am pretty sure they are destined to be together. Dr. John asks Lucy out to the theater, which is somehow not a date, and while they’re there, the theater burns down. Dr. John heroically rescues a girl, and lo and behold, the girl is Polly!

Polly’s father is now a count (or was he already one? I dunno), and she’s Ginevra’s cousin, because of course there couldn’t be two blonde twits in one book without them turning out to be related. Polly asks Lucy if Dr. John is into Ginevra, and in keeping with her policy of not doing the super obvious thing that would put people at ease straightaway, Lucy does not say “Oh, he used to have a thing for her, but she disrespected his mother and he was OUT.” Instead, she’s like this:

What is Lucy’s plan? Yeah, we’ll have to wait until next time to find out. Knowing Lucy, it will make absolutely no sense and infuriate everyone involved.

The other thing that happens in this section is that Lucy starts seeing ghosts. Well, one ghost. A nun.

Lucy’s response to GHOST NUN
My response to GHOST NUN

Oh, and Dr. John tells Lucy she’s only seeing visions because she’s so depressing all the time, and if she’d try to be happier, she wouldn’t have visions; and she bitch-slaps him with the following truth bomb: “Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure.”

GREAT POINT.

The Villette Readalong Returns!

A quick note before I start reading: My hope for this section is that Monsieur Paul finds Lucy in the midst of her depression and swooning and nurses her back to health. I recognize that it is much more likely that Dr. John will do this, as he is in fact a medical professional, but I don’t care. LU PAUL FOREVER!

Remember last week, when Alice said that Charlotte Bronte was super weird and gave zero fucks about it? I didn’t really see it then, but I am coming around to Alice’s point of view. This is how Lucy Snowe describes waking up from a faint (Dr. John did rescue her, dammit):

I know [my soul] re-entered her prison with pain, with reluctance, with a moan and a long shiver. The divorced mates, Spirit and Substance, were hard to re-unite: they greeted each other, not in an embrace, but a racking sort of struggle. The returning sense of sight came upon me, red, as if it swam in blood; suspended hearing rushed back loud, like thunder; consciousness revived in fear: I sat up appalled, wondering into what region, amongst what strange beings I was waking.

You weirdo, Charlotte Bronte. I am just sad you died so young and did not live to favor us with (I can only imagine) your ever-increasing weirdnesses as you wrote ten more novels before your death at the age of 80.

Anyway, so the big surprise in this section is that Dr. John is actually Graham, remember Graham from before?, and Lucy Snowe knew this all along but just didn’t bother to tell us?

Lucy Snowe you are such a bewilderment to me. Dr. John is accordingly bewildered. But because he is a gentleman (that doesn’t mean I want Lucy to marry him), he doesn’t ask her why the hell she didn’t say “hey bro, we know each other” LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN.

Anyway, he’s very chill about that (but still boring), and they have some chats about whether she is Catholic (God no), how Ginevra is behaving on her travels (unknown, but at a guess, slutty), and if Ginevra will ever return his affections. To the latter Lucy says this:

I declare, where Miss Fanshawe is concerned, you merit no respect; nor have you mine.

Oh, and then she feels bad that his feelings are hurt, so she apologizes, but she does it in the lamest way, which is the way where instead of giving a proper apology and explaining why your behavior was The Worst, you are all like “pleeeeease forgive me, pleeeeease,” which is garbage because then the apology isn’t about them, as it should be, and is instead about you and how sad you will be if they do not forgive you. (Which is lame.)

The whole thing smacks of the kind of behavior one would expect of a woman who wants to get with Dr. John when he finally gets over Ginevra. I am still pulling for M. Paul, but this section is blowing out my candles a little bit.

M. Paul shows up rather briefly to pester Lucy at an art gallery and tell her that as a lady she should have more patience with handicapped children even though, he confesses, she and he both know that handicapped children are the worst (seriously, Charlotte Bronte?) It’s . . . it’s not a great look for him. This has all been fairly discouraging. You should head over to Alice’s blog to see what other people have to say, though just know that if they want Lucy to get with Boring Dr. John, they are WRONG. WRONG.

Me, while reading this section. Sigh.

The Villette Readalong Carries On!

OMG so many chapters in this week’s installment of the Villette Readalong, and it was a busy week, with cleaning and unpacking and houseguests and small road trips. So if you find that I have missed crucial nuance in this section of Villette, please try to forgive me. I spent yesterday gazing sadly at the very small number of dirty dishes in my sink and feeling utterly daunted by them.

I started Chapter Six with very warm feelings toward Lucy Snowe, because she had just come to a new city, and she was comforted in the midst of all the strangeness by realizing that she resides in the shadow of St. Paul’s. That’s some relatable stuff right there. But then she’s gotta go and be a d-bag again immediately.

I like the spirit of this great London which I feel around me. Who but a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets; and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity?

CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE, LUCINDA.

And then, even though she has discovered how marvelous London is (and she is right, London is marvelous), she decides immediately to set sail for France instead of trying to make her way in the city in which she already resides and whose language she speaks.

Apart from being mad at Lucy for ditching the city she has immediately recognized as THE BEST, I kind of liked the whole sequence where she decides to sail off to France. I like how she’s just like, “w/e, maybe things will be fun in France,” and I like how she’s not great at arranging her transportation, and everyone she encounters is like:

Then there is like an eternity of Lucy Snowe knowing nothing and being bounced around from shitty lodging to shitty lodging. By an enormous stroke of good fortunate (or, in retrospect, maybe because the drama teacher had a little crush on her), she randomly gets a job for which she admits openly she has no qualifications, working for a lady named Madame Beck who creeps into her room the first night she comes to stay and stares at her for fifteen minutes.

It’s not weird if it’s your employer doing it.

Lucy quickly becomes an English teacher at the school, fine fine fine, and then matters pick up when a hot young doctor starts coming around the Beck household to tend to the elder Beck daughter’s imaginary illness. Lucy Snowe pays a lot of attention to him, but not because she’s into him. Not for that reason. Nope. Definitely not.

Dr. John, as it turns out, has a thing for somebody else, who he swears he is not into, but whom he nevertheless describes as spotless and good and unspeakably beautiful. Through a series of ridiculous circumstances, Lucy agrees to help protect the object of Dr. John’s affections from the attention of a crude and lame guy who’s also into her. This is all fairly boring to me.

NOT AT ALL BORING: Lucy makes a new friend, the drama teacher M. Paul, who talks her into helping out on the school play, locks her in a garret room to run lines, and then feeds her a sumptuous feast when she cops to being hungry. I love him. He is my favorite thing about this book so far.

I was irritable, because excited, and I could not help turning upon [the costume mistress] and saying, that if she were not a lady and I a gentleman, I should feel disposed to call her out.

 

“After the play, after the play,” said M. Paul. “I will then divide my pair of pistols between you, and we will settle the dispute according to form: it will only be the old quarrel of France and England.”

Ahahahaha. And then, to add compliment to gift (we really should have a positive version of “add insult to injury”), Lucy Snowe becomes abruptly awesome by spending the whole afterparty receiving confidence after confidence from hen-witted, beautiful little Ginevra and responding to them thus:

Um, and then everyone leaves for vacation, and Lucy gets incredibly depressed. But not depressed enough to ever consider becoming Catholic, because ew.

The Villette Readalong is here at last!

I had a bumpy start with Villette, insofar as I instantly loathed everybody. I’m not trying to get on Lucy Snowe’s case, but her youth seems to have prepared her exceptionally well for becoming the kind of mean governess who hits you with a ruler for saying you think Richard the Lionheart was bad at governing a nation. She is so judgey right off the top. Here are Lucy Snowe’s assessment of all the characters in the first three chapters, in GIF format.

Polly:

Polly’s father:

Graham:

The effect of this is to make me dislike all those characters (well done Lucy Snowe), but also to sort of hate Lucy because if she can’t abide any single person in her life, maybe the problem is her. Plus, she says this when Polly cries (bear in mind, Polly is six):

I had some thoughts of consoling her, and of improving the occasion by inculcating some of those maxims of philosophy whereof I had ever a tolerable stock ready for application.

She sounds like Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice, and that’s not a good look for anybody. Luckily she then heads off to live with somebody she does like, an old invalid lady who hires her as a companion. The old lady one day decides that she’s going to Do Right by Lucy Snowe and organize her will in such a manner that Lucy Snowe will be Taken Care Of.

Except! This is not the end of a Horatio Alger story; it is the start of a Charlotte Bronte story. Nobody has governessed even a little bit so far, so you know Lucy Snowe’s not going to get off that easy. The very night Mrs. Marchmont decides she’s going to help Lucy out, she dies.

Ain’t that a kick in the head.

If it were me, I’d be bitter about this situation, but Lucy Snowe takes it in stride, which makes me like her more. She doesn’t waste any time on recrimination and anxiety. She puts on her big-girl panties and goes off to London to try her fortunes there. Good for you, Lucy Snowe! London is the best! I hope everything goes awesome for you in London just like it did for this dude:

Head over to Reading Rambo where this readalong is being hosted and discover what the other folks have to say about it!

Booking Through Thursday

I like this one:

This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

So here are my fifteen books that will always stick with me, more or less in the order in which they entered my life:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Jane Eyre
, Charlotte Bronte
Emily Climbs, L.M .Montgomery
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Macbeth
, William Shakespeare
The Chosen
, Chaim Potok
The Color Purple
, Alice Walker
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
, J.K. Rowling
Greensleeves
, Eloise Jarvis McGraw
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
The Invention of Love, Tom Stoppard
I Capture the Castle
, Dodie Smith
Showings
, Julian of Norwich
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie

These are all books that left me breathless.  Is that what we were after?