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1001 Books November 2022 Round-Up

This month’s winners and losers

Quartet by Jean Rhys. BOTM. What GR Says: Aperitifs in smoky Montparnasse cafes, cheap hotel rooms, and Marya Zelli, trying to make of her life something substantial to withstand the unreality which surrounds her. Alone, stranded in Paris after her Polish husband is jailed, Marya is befriended by an English couple who take her home with them. Slowly they overwhelm her with their passions as Marya drifts into an affair with the husband, an affair the wife seems strangely eager to promote. The husband demands, the wife fosters, and Marya is left – as always – to comfort herself.  Ugh

My Thoughts:  This is a short but depressing little story of love and betrayal. None of the characters are particularly good people and all of them seem out for themselves.

In a few sparse pages the story manages to capture the hope of new love, the unsettledness of realising you don’t really know someone and the dependence fostered by being at a disadvantage. It also captures the intricacies of married life and what it means to give yourself to another.

3 Stars – This is a short interesting exploration of how easy it is for a woman to fall.

 

Evelina by Frances Burney. Tackle the TBR. What GR says: Frances Burney’s first and most enduringly popular novel is a vivid, satirical, and seductive account of the pleasures and dangers of fashionable life in late eighteenth-century London.

As she describes her heroine’s entry into society, womanhood and, inevitably, love, Burney exposes the vulnerability of female innocence in an image-conscious and often cruel world where social snobbery and sexual aggression are played out in the public arenas of pleasure-gardens, theatre visits, and balls. But Evelina’s innocence also makes her a shrewd commentator on the excesses and absurdities of manners and social ambitions—as well as attracting the attention of the eminently eligible Lord Orville.

Evelina, comic and shrewd, is at once a guide to fashionable London, a satirical attack on the new consumerism, an investigation of women’s position in the late eighteenth century, and a love story. And actually a fun story…

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed Evelina and particularly appreciated the epistolary nature of the story telling. The letters from Evelina allow the reason access to her innermost thoughts and hopes and the delay in letters arriving allows for comic misunderstandings and for the story to move while at least one principal character is unaware of what is going on.

Evelina herself is a very sweet character but not too sugary she has moments of anger, frustration and embarrassment which show her to be a real person and not a caricature. The gentlemen who surround her are not so well rounded in fact they are deliberate caricatures of the indolent life left by those in town compared to country. With the exception of Lord Orville the men are little better than overgrown children who delight in nothing more than pranks and betting, indeed they are willing to pledge love and devotion to a different woman at the drop of the hat.

I liked the rags to riches element of the story and the questions of paternity and how they are handled by a Lord who suddenly has more children than he knows what to do with. I also enjoyed the slow burn romance played out over letters and through various misunderstandings.

3 Stars – Read this one for some escapism to a simpler time where romance, good manners and dancing are all that really matters.

Have you read any of these? Let us know your thoughts.

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