Christmas Gifts and Family Swaps

Or, an updated ‘To Read’ list.

It’s that time of year when I forget everything that has previously been on my TBR list and get distracted by the shiny new books I’ve acquired during my visit home. Some of these have been acquired as Christmas gifts, whilst others have been lent by family members who thought I would enjoy them. Also, at least one I just found on the bookshelf of my childhood bedroom; no idea who it belongs to, but I’m taking it.

Here are the books you can expect to hear more about in the coming few months:

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Villette by Charlotte Brontë

I love Jane Eyre. It’s a book which I’ve loved for a long time and Jane is an important character to me. Objectively, I know that there are issues with it and, controversially, I would much rather Jane ends up happily single, but I still love it. However, I actually had not picked up any other Charlotte Brontë novels (despite having lived with Ruth (onthearmofthesofa) when she was trying to make everyone read Shirley) until a few weeks ago when I remembered that I had stolen my Dad’s copy of Villette. I am so glad that I finally got round to reading this book! I very much enjoyed it, and Lucy Snowe is now definitely one of my favourite female characters. Dad, if you’re reading this, I think your chances of getting the book back have slimmed somewhat. Read more

The Old Nurse’s Story

The Old Nurse’s Story (Penguin Little Black Classics) by Elizabeth Gaskell

If you haven’t had an opportunity to browse the Penguin Little Black Classics collection yet, you should definitely have a look to see if there are any which take your interest. The collection is a series of 80 short books celebrating the 80th anniversary of Penguin Books, ranging from short fiction, to poetry collections, to extracts from important historical texts. It is possible to get all 80 in a box set, but I have been enjoying simply buying the ones I want to read when I see them (although at only 80p a book, it’s easy to get carried away).

The Old Nurse’s Story is a selection of two short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell: The Old Nurse’s Story and Curious, If True. I was excited to see that Gaskell had been included in this collection, especially since it is clear, from glancing down the titles index, that it is very biased towards male writers. I had read Gaskell’s North and South and Cranford but never any of her short fiction and, since I have a particular interest in Victorian female writers, this little book was right up my street. Read more

Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Somehow, I managed to make it all the way through my years studying English Literature without ever studying Doctor Faustus. In fact, until the year before last, I hadn’t studied any Marlowe at all. The Complete Plays of Marlowe has been sat on my bookshelf ever since I finished my essay on Tamburlaine the Great, so recently I decided that it was time to get to grips with Doctor Faustus, if only to better understand its cultural significance. Read more

Storm Desmond Update

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to quickly say that at the earliest this week’s post will be up on Thursday, but most likely it will be the weekend or next week. After Storm Desmond, we’re still on emergency generators here in the North-West of the UK and we’re being advised not to use electricity unnecessarily.

Take care,


The Children of the Jacaranda Tree

The Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

In an interview at the end of The Children of the Jacaranda Tree, Sahar Delijani writes that, through her novel, she wanted to portray a very particular Iranian generation: a generation which she terms ‘the children of the revolution’ (p.283). These are the children who grew up being cared for by their extended family because their parents were in jail; who were born and brought up under the threat of violence; who would see the whole landscape of the world change over the course of their lives. It is a generation which means a lot to Delijani, since it represents her own experience of growing up in Iran under the care of her grandparents. In The Children of the Jacaranda Tree, Delijani uses her experiences to open up a topic which is not regularly explored in fiction: not the immediate trauma of war and tyranny, but the emotional fallout for those who grow up with the shadow of it in their families. Read more