Tag Archive | Books

2018 Book 1: Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

 

51a00fea23e922cf227b03116753aaa7--pirate-art-black-sails I’m rather certain I’d never read a novel about pirates until now. Not having seen the old ‘Treasure Island’ movie since I was very young, I didn’t actually remember any of the story. I only knew there was a scary pirate villain with a peg leg whom I was terrified of as a kid. But that’s rather obvious for, possibly, the most well-known pirate tale of all time.

Young Jim Hawkins is thrust into an adventure of a lifetime when old pirate Captain Flint dies in the Hawkins family inn/tavern. Brought on board the Hispaniola as cabin boy, he and three other respectable men, Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney, and Captain Smollett, set out with a new crew, including ship’s cook Long John Silver, to find buried treasure, following the map of the infamous and deceased Captain Flint. Some time into their journey, Jim happens to overhear a conversation between Long John Silver and another hand, understanding their plot of mutiny and murder once they reach the treasure. Bringing this to his friends attention, all four, together with a very few other faithful crew members, begin a long and treacherous adventure, fighting for their lives. We also meet Ben Gunn, a marooned crew member from Captain Flint’s crew, who joins Jim and his friends in their quest for treasure, safety, and out-smarting the mutineers.

The rest I’ll leave to you to find out, if you are like me and hadn’t read this young reader’s classic. Reading pirate lingo conversation was a new experience for me, but it was fun, and a few times I put the book down smiling with anticipation over what the next chapter would bring.

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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 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.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Cranford

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pretty much exactly what I imagined while reading the book

If you’re looking for a witty English novel to read, Cranford is your book. It is the simple telling of all the goings-on in a mid 19th century small English rural town. It is narrated by a frequent visitor and friend of a main character, Miss Mary Smith, who, when she is not in the town, is kept up to date about it’s happenings by letters. The town is want of men, and is primarily composed of hoity-toity elderly ladies of “position”, whose prime interest is keeping Cranford free of all change, and keeping all those they admire out of the terrible plight of marriage. Different events take place, characters are introduced into the town, and the whole place buzzes with excitement from it’s own small events.

Each chapter is a different little event that goes on, so to give any more detailed plot would give too much away. The main characters are rather silly (in the old British sense of politeness and snobbery), but their vices are redeemed by their virtue. If you’re looking for a chuckle, or even a “laugh-out-loud” funny, pick up a copy of Cranford – granted you understand and appreciate British humour, because this book is certainly full of it!

Don’t side-step away from “Unconventional Behaviour”

“…There are occasions when girls like Bathsheba will put up with a great deal of unconventional behaviour. When they want to be praised, which is often; when they want to be mastered, which is sometimes; and when they want no nonsense, which is seldom… Moreover, by chance or by devilry, the ministrant was antecedently made interesting by being a handsome stranger who had evidently seen better days. So she could not clearly decide whether it was her opinion that he had insulted her or not.” – Chapter 24, Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

As I read this, it struck me as an accurate observation on Hardy’s part. Why do we girls do this?

Women – particularly teens and twenty-somethings-will very often put up with “unconventional behaviour” from others. Why? What is in our psyche that prevents us from drawing the line, calling people out, demanding proper virtuous behaviour towards our person? Mulling it over, I conclude that it is:

A) Insecurities: Often we grow up with insecurities for various reasons. Not being shown the correct form of love from our family (particularly a father/father figure) leads to being insecure in who we are as a woman, and lacking self-worth in the true and beautiful sense. Will I be loved simply for being me? Because of these insecurities, we’ll put up with treatment unfitting of a young woman, because we aren’t secure in our own worth to demand the proper respect due to us as daughters of the King.

B) Fear of Offending: So many of us are ever so concerned with offending others. While I agree that we must be conscious of how our words and actions will affect those around us, I most heartily believe that allowing your fear of offending others to rule over your dignity and self-respect is NOT a feminine virtue to be coveted. As the daughter of a King, you are to be treasured, loved, dignified, sought after, generous, kind, loving, courageous, strong. Do you think your father the King would stand by and watch his daughter treated with a lack of dignity and respect, either physically or verbally? He loves and treasures you too much to allow such a thing. And so, if we value our Father as well as ourselves, we must take care to also uphold ourselves to our station. That means not putting up with “unconventional behaviour” (ie. vulgarities in both physicality and speech, breaking of physical barriers, or any conduct unfit to a particular relationship). And this goes for men, too. Just because you’re a gentleman, does not mean you need to put up with any unorthodox behaviour from a young woman or another young man. Call them out. In all charity and humility, of course. But don’t be afraid of making a situation awkward or uncomfortable. If it becomes uncomfortable, the offending party will also sense it, and this will probably keep them from behaving so in future.

Hardy goes on to say that women will allow themselves to be treated this way when:

  1. They want to be praised (which is often)
  2. They want to be mastered (which is sometimes)
  3. They want no nonsense (which is seldom)

1. It is true, most women like to be praised every now and then, whether it be to our physical, emotional, or intellectual being. It affirms us. Whether you like it or not, women’s nature is to strive to be pleasing to man. This is the reason God made us – to be companion, helper, and comforter to man. He made us from man’s rib: not from the head, that we should rule over man; nor from the foot, that we should be beneath him; but from the side, that we should work alongside him, under his arm that he should protect us, and close to his heart that we should be cherished by him. To be praised by man (in the true sense of the word) is to receive confirmation that we are fulfilling our duty.

But, of course, with fallen human nature comes the lack of ability to seek and work for true praise. We are susceptible to flattery and unrighteous men who provide it (“…made interesting by being a handsome stranger…”) No, it’s not necessarily directly our fault, for the sin of Adam is unmistakably marked on our souls, and we suffer the consequences that come with it. But we do need to strive for virtue and perfection, which means putting aside the emotional delight in flattery from an undesirous source.

2. I have one word for you girls: Submit. Our Lord asks us to submit to His will, he asks us to submit to our husbands. If we don’t have one, we should submit to our spiritual director, our father, brothers, friends, etc. And before you loose your minds and start yelling at the computer screen, hear me out. “Submit” doesn’t mean “be walked on or below another”. It means to put our own wills aside and work for anothers good or desires. Obey without putting your two-cents in. If that goes completely against your nature, you will merit all the more graces for it. Don’t be like every other “modern woman” and scrunch your nose and puff your chest at the word “submit”. Instead, embrace the role God intended for you, and strive for that feminine virtue of docility, meekness, kindness, tenderness, generousity and courage (for indeed it does take courage to submit your will to that of another). Research true submission, as asked of us by God. A very good book I recommend is “The Mirror of True Womanhood” by Fr. Bernard O’Reilly.

Speaking as a strong-willed extrovert, it isn’t easy to submit. I fail at it very often. When I do succeed, I am always happier for it, I see and feel the spiritual benefits of t. It will be a life-long journey, but one I hope to find easier and easier as the years pass. And deep down, it is our God-given feminine nature that wants the man/men in our lives whom we love, to be the strong leader/s whom we can follow and aid and trust.

Is being submissive a new concept to you as a Catholic woman? Get used to it, embrace it, love it, and I promise you will be a more virtuous, happy, and love filled woman for it.

3. Hardy refers to his opinion that woman rarely want no-nonsense, that we enjoy foolishness and non-reality. He’s right about lots of women – the kind that live in an alternate reality without realizing it, who think they should be adored by all men for their mere existence. Or the kind that think men are somehow inferior because they used to “suppress women”.  As Catholics, we should be outside this class of women, striving for sainthood through virtue and prayer. Our head should be grounded in reality, while not being afraid to let our hearts dream and hope.

It is our duty and right to demand the respect owed to us as a woman and daughter of Christ (or a man & son of Christ). Don’t shy away, keep your mouth closed, or allow anyone (be he stranger, friend, significant other, cousin, etc.) to treat you with “unconventional behaviour”/anything in the least way that is unbecoming to yourself or him. By establishing those boundaries, and/or demanding proper behaviour of others, you are doing him, yourself, and Our Lord, justice.