Archive | December 2017

2017 Book 13: Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life, by Dorothy Cummings

seraphic-singles-083777079I fully appreciate that being single around multiple married and engaged friends can be disheartening. I’m typically not one for being sad or miserable, I can always find the pleasure and good things in any situation and enjoy it for what it is. Not everyone can flex this ability at will. But I believe if one tries hard enough and often enough (in other words, if one practises), one has this ability, and need only do just that – practise it. With time and prayer, it will become easier. It has become easier for me as well, even if it is inherent in my nature.

I recently ordered a copy of “Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Love the Single Life”, by Dorothy Cummings McLean. I began reading the blog “Seraphic Singles” a number of years ago and enjoyed it very much. I still read the bloggers new blog (though I’ll admit I do miss reading her posts about the single life). I read the first couple chapters a number of years ago, and have wanted to read the rest of the book ever since. I ordered it on Amazon (inexpensive and quick shipping – ah Amazon!) and zipped through it quickly, with lots of laughs along the way! Many passages I read out to Library, even though she had already read the book. We laughed-out-loud over various circumstances and tales, I even read some to Capital D&M and the rest of the pack while lounging on their couch one Sunday.

In short, it’s an hilarious read, even for non-singles. But for singles, Dorothy has a spunky, positive, balanced, and full-of-life approach to living life as a single twenty or thirty something, whether “searching” or “seraphic”. I highly recommend reading this book if you’re feeling the “singles blues” over this Christmas season, or any time of the year! Even if you’re content with where you are, this book is a barrel of laughs, and a reminder to remain happy and positive, no matter where God has you right now in life.

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2017 Book 12: Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

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It had been such a very long time since I’d read this book, I thought it should count as part of my book reviews for 2017. It was such a good time reading this one again, I wonder I haven’t picked it up in so long. I had forgotten how I like Lizzy. (Warning: Austen man-loving about to ensue…) I had also forgotten how well I like Mr. Darcy. Although, let’s talk real here, Mr. Knightly will always be my favourite. Now that that Darcy-Knightly proclamation has been made, let’s appreciate a few character traits in the heroine & hero.

Lizzy’s humourous and positive approach. She is able to see most everything from a lighter perspective, not taking anything so seriously that it affects her in a negative way. I would actually go so far as to say she isn’t actually “offended” by Darcy’s insult at the Meryton assembly, but rather she is so taken aback by such a negative and self-important pride that she decides Mr. Darcy’s opinion is meaningless to her, and she would rather avoid his company then be exposed to such negative arrogance. She is a person who finds joy wherever possible, and these types of people are repelled by anything seeming like a negative vortex. I can fully appreciate this trait. She is strong-willed, but not stubborn, since she will listen to another side of a story (ie. Darcy’s side of the Darcy-Wickham story, as well as Charlotte’s reasoning for marrying the ridiculous Mr.Collins) openly, despite thinking she already knew all that was necessary. She knows herself and her own mind well, and isn’t afraid to speak it when prompted. Lizzy also fosters good and healthy relationships with those she trusts and admires, namely her sister Jane, her Father, aunt & uncle Gardiner, as well as her aunt Phillips. She is patient with her trying mother, despite often being the bud of said mother’s vexation. She is far from perfect – she can get haughty in her sass, her second chances only come to those who first prove they deserve it, and her wit is occasionally uncharitable in it’s sarcasm and pointedness. But she is also very real, she doesn’t mince words (and yet she isn’t abrupt or rude) and what you see is what she is. She isn’t manipulative or over-sensitive. And I especially love her relationship with her father.

Mr. Darcy’s genuine masculinity. Darcy is in no way effeminate. It’s refreshing to read about male characters that possess such virtuous qualities in a time when women are wrapped up with effeminate, disturbing male characters in the latest “New York Times Best Sellers”. Darcy is a good brother, he loves and care for his younger sister with such attention, somewhat making up for the lack of their father’s presence. Despite being wrong in his judgement, I can’t fault him for persuading Charles away from Jane. He took care to observe Jane for the sake of his friends happiness, found her attachment lacking (as it appeared to him) and then took action to keep his friend from a match that Darcy was convinced would not bring Charles happiness. Of course we all know Darcy was wrong in his conclusion of Jane’s feelings, but the fact that he went through efforts to watch out for his friend in this way proves that he is a good and trustworthy friend to have. This is certainly one of the reasons Charles and he are such good friends. (More men could use friends like Darcy, in my opinion!) Jane is also not a very open person, and therefore the way she comes across to others can be vastly different then what goes on in her head. Ergo, Darcy wins, despite being wrong. I will admit he’s pretty arrogant once we come to Elizabeth, or rather, her family. But honestly, once he realizes he really does love her, and isn’t just infatuated with her, I respect the fact that he wanted to marry her despite her ridiculous relations – even if his wording and tactic weren’t stellar. But come on, what guy really does have perfect wording and tactics? Hallmark men are not real men. I much prefer the Darcy’s to the Hallmark men.

I will most likely not be waiting so long to read this book again.

Side note: I love that Mr. Bennett is so supportive of Lizzy’s wish to marry Darcy. Lizzy & her father have a great relationship. Lizzy is his sanity in a world of silly women. The fact that he trusts her judgement enough to give his blessing on a match he thought bizarre and out-of-the-blue to a man he thought wasn’t good enough for her, shows how strongly he trusts her judgement. A real tribute to their strong bond.

 

 

2017 Book 11: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

 

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I approve of J.J.Field’s Henry Tilney

 

Naturally S&S put me into an Austen kick, and I picked up the other Austen novel I had never read. I had heard years ago that Northanger Abbey was a ghost story, and quite different then Austen’s other novels. Well, reader, this is only true in part. It is not a ghost story, and it is quite different then her other novels.

Catherine is the oldest daughter of a parson’s large family, and receives the excitement of her life when asked to accompany her mother’s friend & husband to Bath for the season. She meets new friends – some unsavoury characters, others quite savoury – that shift her life and character for the better. Her explosive imagination leads her down some paths she should not have allowed her mind to wander down. But that’s as far as the “ghost” department goes

It’s not as widely a read novel as Austen’s others, so in the hope of avoiding spoilers for those who have yet to read it, I’ll end there with the plot outline.

But I must have an honourable mention for Henry Tilney. What a solid character with excellent male leadership. He is one of Austen’s good clergyman (not all of her clergymen are laughable characters). I love that, though Henry easily loves Catherine’s amiable, sweet and innocent nature, he is not afraid to correct her wrong doings (in all gentleness and charity) or show disappointment in her conduct when due. I also love that Catherine nearly worships the words he utters. She is very young and inexperienced, but there is a goodness in him that Catherine picks up on immediately, and his opinion becomes all that matters – none of her (worthless) friends opinions compare to Henry’s. Because he holds high standards for himself, those around him are also brought to hold higher standards for themselves. Catherine easily aspires to be that much better, that much more virtuous. And really, isn’t that what love should do?

The second preconceived notion I had about this novel turned out to be true. The tone of this novel is very different then Austen’s other main works. It has a constant comical oddness about it that differentiates it from her other novels – almost a slightly mocking story-tellers tone, as if telling a fairytale to young minds in need of learning what not to do. I find it hard to pinpoint exactly what is it, but the tone difference is apparent in even the first few paragraphs of the book, and I found myself laughing quite often over Austen’s narrative.

 

2017 Book 10: Sense & Sensibility, by Jane Austen

 

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2008 BBC version. Arguably the most beautiful “finally!” on screen love moment

Confession: I had never actually read S&S before now. Shocking, I know. But now I have.

Since I’ve seen both versions of the movie countless times, I initially visualized certain characters as the different actors portrayed (which is always a con of watching movies before reading the books – your imagination is stumped by the movie). But I found the further in I read, the more my own imagination took over the various characters and now it’s basically a separate story from the movie, which I am happy about.

Let’s talk characters, since we pretty much all know the story and I don’t feel the need to give a plot outline.

Miss Lucy Steele: Ugh. She’s awful. The movies portray her as a slyly friendly and somewhat bratty young woman. But she’s actually so much worse. She is manipulative and nasty, with the façade of being sweet and innocent. She is probably what many good men fear – a beautiful woman being more focused on his money and her own desires then truly loving him. Lucy uses Edward very badly – they rashly become engaged at a young age, and despite his obvious indifference now, she holds him to it, feigning ignorance to his indifference, and in fact playing up their “deep love”. She treats Elinor with contempt, layered in a thick coat of familiarity and friendship. Yet ever-good Elinor is nothing but patient and accepting of this.

Mrs. Jenkins & Sir John: Austen does love her ridiculous characters. But what I do appreciate in these two (along with Miss Bates in “Emma”) is their utter and complete desire to treat their friends kindly and do everything they can for said friends. Yes they try Elinor & Mariann’e patience at times, embarrass them, and have a jolly laugh at their expense when it comes to teasing about men. But they always mean well, even if they don’t perceive how they are trying their friends. There is no reason to dislike these two characters, save for their being overly accommodating to the point of frustration (which is in fact NOT a reason to dislike someone).

Mrs. Dashwood: Oh that more of the world had mothers like Mrs. Dashwood! She is all feminine tenderness, motherly affection, and earnest love for her family. She has her faults, which include allowing her sensibilities too much freedom. But she loved and relied on her husband, who, based on references toward him, I gather, was her counter-balance in that regard. She does all she can by her daughters in kindness, love and concern.

John Willoughby: Scoundrel. (Ever so slightly comforting that he did fall in love with Marianne during the time he was simply amusing himself with her, which he wasn’t expecting. It doesn’t change that he’s a scoundrel, but at least he is the worse off between the two, since he knew he would long for her years after she’d forgotten about him).

John Dashwood: Pathetic excuse for a brother and man. I’d sock him a good one if he were my brother. Thankfully my brothers are men. The only redeeming quality about him is that he has a genuine concern for his sister’s well-being – even if he’s incapable of doing anything worth while to make it come about, or man-up against his wife.

Fanny Farrars Dashwood: Worst sister-in-law ever. Selfish, snobby, the sister-in-law equivalent to an evil-stepmother.

Marianne: Sensibility. Marianne wears her heart on her sleeve, takes and gives everything as it is. She is innocent, if naïve, and assumes the world is the beautiful, perfect place she assumes it to be. She lacks prudence in discerning the characters of others, and follows Willoughby’s lead in being uncharitable in thought and word against Colonol Brandon, whom she finds boring and stiff. (I would note that Willoughby finds fault in Colonol Brandon only on account of Brandon’s over-all goodness and seeming severity. Hardly things to be considered faults in such a virtuous character – might Willoughby feel animosity towards Colonol Brandon because of the inferiority he feels when around the Colonol?). Marianne means well in all she does, though she lacks the sense and discernment that Elinor has.

As a side note, in Austen’s day, “sensibility” meant something quite different then it’s current meaning today. In Austen’s writings it refers to one being strongly affected or lead by one’s emotions, or one’s actions being emotionally influenced. “Sensitivity” would be the world we use nowadays in place of “sensibility”.

Colonol Brandon: Ahh, what a man. Perhaps he is seemingly severe in his quiet and strength. But his genuine care, attention, and kindness to his friends (and even friends of his friends he has never met) is an humble and unassuming virtue. He has loved and lost, but holds true to love as it expanded to a child in need of him. He is upright, thoughtful, generous, and unshakable in his character. Would that any Marianne’s of the world be given a man such as Brandon.

Edward Ferrars: Oh Edward, you dear, you. The poor man was badly done by, at the hand of everyone who should have been caring for him. The kind, genuine and uncomplicated young man spent so much time in Plymouth because he found a tutor and friends who appreciated him, and whose company he enjoyed more then his own dreadfully stuck-up family. Naturally, with a mother and sister such as his, he would be starved for female affection, and easily fell for the steely Lucy (please take a moment to appreciate my witty pun, for puns are not my forte). But alas, his young age quickly matured and he realized his mistake. For he had, in fact, engaged himself to a dame just as cold as his mother and sister. Elinor’s friendship is precisely the female companionship his gentle, honourable self was in need of. But, his honour, or rather, attention to Lucy’s honour, holds him to his engagement. As awful as Lucy is, it’s the same awful in her we dislike that brings her to transfer her “affection” from Edward to his brother Robert, and she breaks off the engagement with Edward herself. Bravo! Our hero will finally be free to marry the one woman he adores for her virtue. The two are so well suited.

Elinor: Sense. I gathered that Elinor’s character was similar to her deceased father. She was “her father’s daughter” it would seem. After his death, she is the strength of the family. She holds her mother and sisters up, she is the sense and leadership in a family of women desperately in need of their patriarchal leader. (That’s right, I just used the words ‘need’ and ‘patriarch’ in the same sentence.) Her wise, sensible, balanced, and kind approach to life helps her mother to make more balanced decisions, encourages her sister to higher virtue, is the draw of a friendship with kindred spirit Colonol Brandon. These are also the very virtues that enkindle such a true love from our virtuous hero Edward. I appreciated that the book contains a less perfect Elinor, we read her faults – her personal anxiety and frustration with Lucy Steele – but we also read her unshakable kindness and patience with Lucy in public and when speaking of her to others, even during the most trying social times. Elinor must be one of the most virtuous fictional female characters who’s story I’ve read.

And now that I’ve finally read Sense & Sensibility, my mind is slightly more at ease in the classic literature department. And doubtless, I’ll read it many more times in future. But seriously, Colonol Brandon though.