2019 Week Twenty-One

Origin of Species

Charles Darwin continues to annoy me, but the end is in sight. There are only two (long) chapters left to read. I can’t hope that Darwin’s thoughts will become any clearer, but I know now that I’ll finish the book. When I put it on my list for the Goodreads Reading the Classics Challenge back in December, I thought there was a good chance that I would give up after a few pages.

Most of my other reading at the moment is about marketing, and that’s too dull to write about.

In reading that isn’t Darwin or marketing, I’ve just started Mask of Duplicity by Julia Brannan. It’s set around the time of the Jacobite Rebellion in the 1740s. I’m not particularly interested in the rebellion, but it was recommended by Annie Whitehead, who writes fiction and non-fiction about the Anglo-Saxons. If you’re remotely interested in historical fiction, you should have a look at her weekly, alphabetical recommendations.  Beware, though. She’s only reached D and I’ve already bought five of the books she’s mentioned.

Although I’m not that familiar with this part of the eighteenth century, The History of Tom Jones was set and written in the same period as Mask of Duplicity and I read it earlier this year. The only character so far who feels as if he would fit into Tom Jones’ world is the heroine’s greedy and violent brother. The heroine herself feels more Victorian than Georgian. In truth, she’s very modern. So far, that’s not spoiling my enjoyment of her story.

Books read in challenge: 4

Books read in year: 21

 

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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2019 Week Six

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I’ve started, and finished, the second book on my reading the classics challenge list. It’s Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. There will be a review next week, but (spoiler alert) I didn’t get on with it terribly well.

Although the novel was written just over eighty years ago, it was much less accessible than the 270-year-old A History of Tom Jones, A Foundling. This is mainly because Hurston’s characters speak in a written representation of the way people spoke in the part of Florida in which the story takes place. I couldn’t get to grips with this at all.  I had the same difficulty in a couple of passages of Tom Jones in which Fielding wrote down the speech of someone from Somerset. Writing so that readers hear the exact way in which characters talk is not generally a good idea. The reader will spend too much time trying to work out what the character is saying to be able to work out what they mean, which is far more important.

In other reading I’ve been getting ready to sell some books. My large collection of Doctor Who books have been taking up a lot of space, and it’s time for them to go. Whilst I was sorting through the boxes, I realised that I haven’t read all of them, so I’m going to romp through as many as I can before I show them the door. This week I  read The Clockwise Man, which is a bit of a fusion of The Prisoner of Zenda and the film version of The Thity-Nine Steps starring Robert Powell. Throw in a couple of spaceships under the Thames and almost anything you might make from those ingredients would be just as good as this book.

It’s not been a terribly exciting week for reading I’m afraid. I might have to read another Shardlake to cheer myself up.

Books read in challenge: 2

Books read in year: 9

 

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding – a Review

tom jones

Published: 1749

Pages: 632

I have read few novels as satisfying as The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. It’s not for nothing that this is considered one of the greatest (as well as one of the first) novels written in English. Although the ending is exactly what the reader hoped for and expected almost from the beginning, the path followed to reach it is not without its twists and turns, and there were many times when I wondered how Tom was going to get out of his current difficulty, even as I was enjoying his predicament. In an amazingly complex tale, all the loose ends are tied up and I’m still wondering how Fielding managed to keep track of it all without a spreadsheet.

A summary of the story itself is short. Squire Allworthy adopts the baby found in his bed, calling him Tom Jones. Various assumptions are made about the child’s parentage, but those who know the truth say nothing. As a teenager, Tom falls in love with the girl next door, Sophia Western, but he has no expectation of any money and knows that he won’t be able to make enough to keep her if they marry. Having been brought up as a gentleman, he’s not really fit to be anything else. Besides which her father would never allow the marriage, having his hopes set on marrying his daughter to Squire Allworthy’s nephew, and Sophia wouldn’t disobey her father. Tom won’t even ask for her hand, since he can’t give her the life she deserves. For various reasons, he’s cast out by his adoptive father and sets off to join the navy so he can die at sea. By way of numerous adventures, the main participants in the story find themselves in London, where a series of discoveries are made which bring the tale to a happy conclusion.

The novel isn’t just about Tom’s love for Sophia Western, nor is about uncovering the mystery of his birth, although both of these are important. The novel is full of secondary characters and their sub-plots, some of which are gone into in great detail. Some readers have accused Fielding of rambling, but there’s hardly a wasted word and no wasted character in over 600 pages. There are servants, landlords and landladies of inns, gamekeepers, highwaymen, landladies, hunting squires, soldiers, lords, ladies, uncles, cousins, fathers and sons. Fielding is wonderfully witty in the way he paints his characters. Even the uncle of Nightingale, Tom’s fellow lodger, who only appears on a couple of pages is carefully drawn, then the whole picture is subverted with the news of his daughter’s elopement, providing a rounded view of a man who thought he was in control of his small world, then discovers that he wasn’t.

The novel has everything: young love; deathbed confessions (at least two); mistaken identities (too many to count); misunderstandings (also too many to count); misleading and untimely letters; midnight flits; a highwayman; and a press gang. What it doesn’t have much of is mothers. Tom and Sophia both grow up without their mothers and the novel is almost over before a real mother-figure appears. Fortunately for Tom, she determines to mother him and plays a great part in sorting out his life.

One of my favourite things about the way in which the story is told is that Fielding often breaks into the narrative and talks directly to the reader, sometimes telling him that the story is about to go off on a tangent or that the reader will be surprised by what happens next. The most interesting of these interruptions is the last, in which he addresses someone who’s reading the novel after his death. Part of me thinks this is a case of immense pride – what made him think his novel was so good that people would be reading it in the future – and part of me thinks that Fielding was addressing me. I found this quite moving.

I regret immensely that this book has been on my bookshelf for more than thirty years and I’ve only just got round to reading it. I could have been reading it for the second or third time by now. I’ll probably laugh even more the next time I read it.

 

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon

2019 Week Five

tom jones

Things are moving on apace in Tom Jones. Our hero, as Fielding occasionally calls him, has arrived in London in pursuit of the woman he loves.

Mistaken identity and coincidence play a large part in the story. Tom Jones has been mistaken for his rival in love and important information has been withheld from him as a result. Worse, his beloved has been taken for the mistress of the Young Pretender, whose troops are rumoured to have arrived in England. This gives her another reason to keep running further away from home and, she assumes, from Tom. Tom comes across a man about to kill a woman, only to realise the same man tried to kill him two days before. A couple of days later, he stumbles across a man who has picked up something dropped by his beloved. It feels sometimes as if there are fewer than a hundred people in the whole of England.

Whilst I’m still enjoying reading the book a great deal, Tom’s character sinks ever lower in my eyes.  He’s now a kept man, mainly because he thinks it would be dishonourable to deny a woman what she wants. Fielding depicts Tom as an innocent being led astray by designing women when he’s too good-mannered to say no, although he also shows him acknowledging that his lifestyle is less than it should be. Tom is maturing and learning as the book goes on.

I’m finding society’s general attitude towards women as presented in the book rather distressing. Fielding makes it clear that his position is not the same, but one man refuses to marry the woman he loves and has impregnated on the basis that she’s a whore. Tom tells him not to refer to her in that way and points out that the reluctant husband is the one who debauched her. Another man, although against his better judgement, is persuaded to win the woman he loves by raping her and thereby forcing her father to allow him to marry her. He’s very relieved when he’s interrupted.  To be honest, I don’t know whether Fielding is commenting on his times, or the fiction of his time.

Books read in challenge: 0

Books read in year: 6

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon

2019 Week Four

tom jones

I was away for a few days this week and did very little reading. Tom Jones hasn’t progressed very far since he was forced to leave home last week. He’s still finding his way alone in the world and people are taking advantage of him as he carries on in his innocent way.

One of the aspects of Tom Jones that I’m not enjoying is his ability to profess his love for one woman whilst ‘taking his pleasure’ with other women. As you can see from the cover of a version I’m not reading, it’s a prominent aspect of the novel. My romantic novelist’s heart would rather have him faithful to his Sophia. Only two days after he last saw her, he’s been seduced by no more than a few glances and a smile.

I’m also reading Story Genius by Lisa Cron. The aim of the book is to help authors write better stories. I’m still quite near the beginning of the book and I think I disagree with the author’s premise of what a story is, which probably means I’ll disagree with any ways she’s proposed to create stories. I’ll continue reading, though, as some of what she’s said so far is interesting and useful.

 

Books read in challenge: 0

Books read in year: 6

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon

2019 Week Three

fashion

When I wrote my end of year review post in December, I was surprised to realise that I only read one romance novel in 2018. Although I decided at the beginning of 2018 that I was going to read widely, one romance novel is on the low side for someone who writes romance novels. One of my goals for 2019 is to read more of them and I’m starting by completing Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series. By the end of 2017 I’d read all except the final two books, which I’ve borrowed from the library.

The Maiden Lane series consists of twelve novels and a few novellas. They initially centred around an orphanage in Maiden Lane in St. Giles, a very poor and dangerous part of London. The cast of characters has been wide, from Puritans to smugglers, spies to theatre managers, and street urchins to dukes. Some of the themes have been rather dark, mostly in the pasts of the male protagonists, who have suffered a great deal as a group. Far too many of them have been abused – emotionally, physically and sexually. Some of the novels are not as good as others, but I’ve mostly enjoyed them.

The last two books are Duke of Pleasure and Duke of  Desire. Both books are set in 1742, more or less the same time period in which Tom Jones is set. Despite this, there is no mention of the political upheaval going on at the time in England. Tom Jones is full of hints about what’s happening in the world beyond Somerset. Squire Western is a Jacobite, toasting the king over the water, while his sister is a Hanoverian.  Tom himself falls in with some soldiers fighting for the king’s cause. Hoyt’s books do, however, refer rather obliquely to the War of the Austrian Succession in which Great Britain participated.

Although the whole series is set between 1737 and 1742 these are the only two novels that have given me a sense of the period. Most of the others felt as if they were set in the Victorian or Regency periods. To be honest, this is partly due to the covers, which mostly depict nineteenth-century fashions. The cover designers should have had something like 18th-Century Fashion in Detail to hand. It’s a wonderful book and I’ve finished reading it. It’s not something I would have bought for myself, but I’m grateful that a member of my family knew that I would like it and gave it to me for Christmas. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a man wearing this?

Books read in challenge: 0

Books read in year: 6

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon

2019 Week Two

tom jones

I’m still enjoying The History of Tom Jones very much. Tom Jones himself is very engaging, even if he is a bit of a rascal with a roving eye. Even though he’s the hero of the tale, he’s the most distant character so far. The book is full of interesting characters who occasionally have illuminating names. Mr Thwackum, one of Tom’s tutors, is ever ready to beat his pupil. Squire Allworthy, Tom’s adoptive father, is kind and generous and sees only the best in everyone.

My edition doesn’t have notes, so I’m finding the internet quite helpful as I read. I’ve turned to YouTube to listen to one of  Squire Western’s favourite songs, only to realise that I have a recording of it. I’ve looked at pictures of the famous (in the mid-1740s) beauties to whom Sophia Western is compared. I’ve also had to look up a couple of words. In the first sentence in the book, Fielding uses the word ‘eleemosynary’, which means charitable. It’s not the last time he uses it.

Having finished a French novel, I’m now reading a German novel. The French novel was so disappointing that I’m hoping never to mention it again. The German novel is Die Chronistin (The Female Chronicler) by Julia Kröhn. It’s set in a convent in the early twelfth century.

Ten years ago, when I was living in Germany, there was a huge trend in German historical fiction of books whose titular heroines have unlikely trades or skills and this is one of them.  I’ve also got one about a physician in the Thirty Years War and one about a secret female pope set in the eleventh century. I bought them because I thought it would be easier to learn about German history through fiction than through history books, which didn’t quite prove to be the case.

German historical fiction books tend to be huge (Die Chronistin is over 600 pages) and I didn’t manage to get through all the ones I bought while I was there.  They’re sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Die Chronistin is another book that I started to read years ago and put down. My German isn’t bad, but I’m struggling with the vocabulary. I’m hoping that’s partly because Kröhn uses archaic words, but I don’t know.

18th Century Fashion in Detail continues to delight. It’s making me look at pictures of eighteenth-century clothing in a different way. I’m also imagining Tom Jones and Sophia Western in the kind of clothes that Fielding saw around him all the time. One of the things that I’m really enjoying is seeing how bright men’s clothing was in the eighteenth century. There are banyans and waistcoats embroidered with colourful flowers and animals. One even has ballons on it.

 

Books read in challenge: 0

Books read in year: 3

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

tom jones

The first book I’m reading in this year’s reading the classics challenge is The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling. It was published in 1749 and has, in my version at least, over 600 closely-printed pages.

Fielding was a remarkable man in different fields.  He was born in 1707 and died only forty-seven years later. After a rather scandalous attempt to abduct his cousin, presumably with the aim of marrying her, he studied the law … abroad. When the money ran out, he started writing for the theatre, where he was critical of the government. That wasn’t a desperately sensible thing to be in the early eighteenth century and he returned to the law as a barrister.

He wrote his first novel in 1741 and continued writing until the end of the decade. His legal career was as successful as his literary one and he was appointed chief magistrate for London. He was one of the founders of the predecessors to the Bow Street Runners. As a result of ill health, he went to Lisbon in search of a cure, but died there a few weeks after his arrival.

Now that I’m reading Tom Jones, I wonder why I’ve left it this long. It’s very funny, in a sly way. Fielding can tell you everything you need to know about a character in a few words and I want to copy whole paragraphs of his wit into my notebook. Fifty pages in, there have already been so many digressions that it’s a wonder Tom himself hasn’t been forgotten. He hasn’t been, of course, and I’m enjoying getting to know the people around him.

 

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon

2019 Week One

fashion

I’m reading quite a few books at the moment, but the one I’m thinking about the most is 18th-Century Fashion in Detail by Susan North. It does exactly what its title says. On every page there are close-up photographs of parts of fashionable eighteenth-century clothes.  I’ve drooled over delicate lace and intricate embroidery. I’ve sighed over silks and woollens. It’s a beautiful book and I’m considering writing some stories about people who would have worn clothes like these. They’re far more elegant and vibrant than they appear to be in the contemporary fashion prints.

Keeping to the eighteenth-century theme, I’m also reading The Georgian Seaside by Louise Allen. It’s full of interesting details about why people went to the seaside in the eighteenth century and why they didn’t necessarily go in the summer. I was surprised to discover that my hometown was, very briefly, a seaside resort.

I’ve finished Dark Fire, the second book in the Matthew Shardlake series. I’ll be reviewing it in a few weeks.

In the Goodreads challenge I’ve started reading The History of Tom Jones. Fielding’s style is very florid and it will take me a while to get used to it. He has a wonderful turn of phrase, though, and I suspect many of his sentences will find their way into my notebook for future enjoyment.

Books read in challenge: 0

Books read in year: 1

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon

Goodreads Challenge 2019 Part 4

Pre-1900 3

My final three books for the 2019 reading the classics challenge are:

  • The Confessions of Saint Augustine
  • The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  • The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding

Of these three books, the one that I’m most likely to have problems with is Darwin. I don’t have a scientific mind and reading books about science, no matter how dumbed down they might be, is hard. The Origin of Species isn’t dumbed down at all, so it will be a struggle. I’m probably going to leave it until the second half of the year.

Having worked my way through City of God, I think St. Augustine’s Confessions will be an easier read. It’s certainly a much shorter book and it’s also more pesonal. Considered to be the first autobiography written in the West, it should be interesting and I’m looking forward to it.

Tom Jones was published in 1749 and is the best-known of Fielding’s works. It has been on my bookshelf for at least 30 years. It’s not that I’ve tried it and not got on with it, I’m afraid I’ve never even started it. I’m hoping to be entertained. This might be the first book I read in 2019. I was given a book about eighteenth-century fashions for Christmas and the gorgeous fabrics and embroidery worn by the upper classes are very much in my head at the moment. I shall enjoy imagining a few of the characters dressed in those kinds of clothes.

 

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

Available now:

TheHeirsTale-WEB

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon