[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I settled on the Dickens book, but there's a problem. It's a big handsome hardback and an absolute bugger to read in bed. Worse even than the mammoth doorstopper that was Jonathan Strange for hurting my hands. So it'll probably have to be read in places other than bed, which limits its opportunities. A big thick book, too. Going to take time to get through it.

Meanwhile, I might find me a nice gentle paperback to read in bed.

I tripped yet again over what seems to be a mistake in the book, where Dickens is supposedly writing to a former sweetheart yet refers to her in the third person. Cannot decide whether it's a stylistic thing in his letter or if the wrong name's been put in somehow. Eh. A fascinating book, anyway, and Tomalin clearly has affection for her subject while not being indifferent to his faults. It's intriguing also to trace some of Dickens' characters through descriptions of his family and friends.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Last night, I finished the Wollstonecraft book. The ending is sad, of course, not only because of her early and painful death, but also because of the failure of everything she worked and hoped for. The forces of reaction triumphed and we're still fighting Mary's battles today, not to mention trying to put together the history of the struggle for rights and freedoms that has been largely suppressed right alongside them.

Olympe de Gouges did make an appearance, along with Manon Roland, and it's infuriating to read about major players in the French Revolution who have simply been airbrushed out of the curriculum. We can sneer at 'herstory' but it wouldn't be needed if women weren't simply ignored and pushed aside in favour of an all-male view of the past.

Wollstonecraft was trapped in France, and indeed in Paris, during the Terror, but doesn't seem to have feared much for her safety. Against the advice of her friends, she was even writing about the Revolution while there. Whether she really wasn't afraid or Tomalin simply doesn't address the issue isn't clear.

It's definitely tempting to read more about the French Revolution. After all, those off-putting lessons were, ahem, a long time ago.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
In and amongst preparations for the forthcoming Royal Visit, I've been reading more of the Mary Wollstonecraft book. It's a fascinating subject and Tomalin writes well, so there's much to enjoy. I think my only complaint would be that more of a familiarity with the period is assumed than I possess, despite studying the French Revolution for 'O' level*, and lots of names are thrown out in quick succession, leaving me with no idea who's who a lot of the time. Some background reading would probably repair much of this problem, which isn't really Tomalin's fault, except perhaps in the lack of a quick guide to who the hell is who. And perhaps in her using only first names at times instead of first name and surname, which would help me as I tend to latch onto the latter more than the former when remembering who someone is.

But that's a minor niggle, despite my whining about it at length. It's a great book. Am wondering a little if/when Olympe de Gouges is going to be mentioned, though.

*Where 'studying the French Revolution' consisted of copying from two textbooks (neither of which included any reference to Olympe de Gouges) into my notebook. I got a C in the exam. I think I'm glad that I persevered with History, which up until that class had been a favourite subject, and had my love for it completely repaired by my 'A' level teacher, Mr Greenleaf. For years, I used to pop back to my sixth form college to see him occasionally, and I use skills he taught me all the time.

I won't blame my 'O' level teacher for two years of dull grind that nearly destroyed my interest in the subject for good, as he died shortly afterwards, and was probably very ill at the time. So that's sad.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
The non-fiction continues with Claire Tomalin's book about Mary Wollstonecraft. I'm loving this book. Not only is it providing insights into Mary's struggle against the two choices offered to women of her time and class: marriage or looking after parents followed by a decline into respectable spinsterhood, but there are moments of irony almost worthy of Jane Austen. Tomalin pulls no punches and, although she's not uncritical of her subject, she is unashamedly on her side.

Great stuff. It's not often you get to curl up round a biography, feeling entertained and warmed.

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