Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jane Austen Tea Society Read For January - Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe

William Wordsworth from the poem, Michael

Mary Anne Evans was born November 22, 1819 at South Farm on the estate, Arbury Hall, in Warwickshire where her father worked as manager. An avid reader and an intelligent young girl, “Marian” was offered an education that - in combination with her access to the Arbury Hall library – laid a foundation of classical education that found its way into her writing, both in strength and theme.

The pen name, George Eliot, was adopted as a protection for her privacy. During the time that she began publishing, women had begun to write under their own names, but Marian wanted her private life separate and removed from her public life. And there were various personal reasons for that.

George Eliot - a novelist, journalist and translator - published seven novels, all set it provincial England and all deeply concerned with social issues, known for their realism and displaying acute psychological insight. A good example of all of these facets was her third work, Silas Marner.

Published in 1861, the dramatic novel Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe was published under the name of George Eliot and tells the story of a reclusive weaver. In its stark realism, it is thought to strongly represent Eliot’s attitude to religion of the day.

But the truth is, Silas Marner contains all of the makings of a Hollywood thriller – love lost, accusations of murder, robbery, treachery & lies… Or … maybe that is the makings of a film ABOUT Hollywood… Nonetheless, there are no time machines to go back and live life – basic and day-to-day - in a simple English village. But we have novels like Silas Marner to give us a glimpse into the way lives were lived before us.

Jane Austen Tea Society Members – dig up your own English Lit copy of Silas Marner or find a good readable edition in your local bookstore!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Landower Legacy by Victoria Holt

I have always trusted librarians when it came to book recommendations… Well, maybe that has been revised in recent years due to some sad experiences with disgruntled library staff persons at my local branch, but there is a part of me that still holds fast to the belief that these people are working where they do because they simply love books. I really want to believe that the lucky people - whose days are filled with shelving every sort of book - peep occasionally into their leaves as they place them in their proper place. That as they pull new copies from boxes straight from the publisher, they must savor each volume and long to suggest some of the editions that they’ve handled. It just has to heighten one’s sense of fine literature in a way that lends itself to conversation…. Doesn’t it?

I ‘m not sure. Really.

But I do know that when I was in Junior High School I walked into our school library, went straight up to the librarian ensconced within her tall checkout desk and asked “what she would recommend for a good read”. There are some tightly wound school librarians that might have snapped back; “Well, what are you supposed to be reading for your classes?!?” Or I might have received a huff and a “I don’t have time for this.”

What I did receive was a recommendation for a pure pleasure read. Victoria Holt.

You don’t hear that name very much now in the JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer age of younger readers. As a matter of fact, I don’t even find her books in many bookstores these days. But she had her day. Definitely. Often erroneously placed in the “Romance Section” of a bookstore, Victoria Holt was a true weaver of stories, of mysteries, of determined heroines struggling to find their place in this world. Her heroines stood on windblown Cornish cliffs, gazed off a crenellated castle walls, crossed wind-tossed seas and galloped their horses across heather-strewn moors. They went all of the places where I longed to be.

I don’t remember now which Victoria Holt book my school librarian recommended to me, but it made a loyal reader out of me and I remember eagerly awaiting each book that she released until she passed away at 86 years.

I recently had a chance to pick up a good deal at one of my favorite sites to order books - and I made the decision to pick a Victoria Holt book to reread after these many years. So ordered The Landower Legacy, published in 1984.

There are few books that I choose to reread. Any Jane Austen book is worth repeat action and that goes for Thomas Hardy and my old trusted copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But for contemporary novels, this has made an enjoyable second experience and I am once again caught up in the suspense, hope and atmospheric charm that lace each storyline that Ms. Holt produced.

Do you have a porch swing, a hammock under a tree or a comfy armchair beside a fire along with a little good book time on your hands? Reread - or maybe try for the first time - a Victoria Holt novel. And make sure you have a cup of Earl Grey nearby.