Sunday, November 28, 2021

My December 2021 Reads

I was looking at Sam Sattler's excellent book blog Book Chase (please see the link under blogs I follow) and I noticed that Sam lays out at the end of each month the list of books he plans to read for the following month.  I thought I'd like to try that too, make it a regular feature here at Reading Matters.  Now I may not finish all of the books I set out to read but it will give me a goal to shoot for and so here is the list of books I plan to read in December (some of which I have already started):

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

7 Best Short Stories by George Gissing

Becoming by Michelle Obama

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskya

Three of the above (George Gissing's short stories, House Made of Dawn and City Folk and Country Folk) fulfill three categories for the 2021 Back to the Classics Challenge.  Becoming is Michelle Obama's bestselling memoir which I am really enjoying.  The Children's Blizzard is a novel recommended by my friend Iris who also introduced me to Louise Penny's wonderful mystery series and so I definitely plan to read the Cruelest Month in December.  

So, that's my reading schedule for December and I am looking forward to it! 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde

For the 2021 Back to the Classics Category - choose a classic play I had planned to go with Macbeth by William Shakespeare.  But with the year drawing to a close I didn't feel I had enough time to give Macbeth the attention it deserves.  Maybe next year.

So if not Shakespeare what play to choose for this year's challenge?  I was considering a number of options and then a few weeks ago I clicked open Book Bub, a daily book service I subscribe to and saw Lady Windermere's Fan (1893) by Oscar Wilde, an author I have been meaning to read and here was my opportunity.

And I have to say, I enjoyed Lady Windermere's Fan a good deal.  It's a witty comedy set in late Victorian England among the British upper classes.  And when the play begins we are introduced to Lady Margaret Windermere who is in her drawing room getting ready for the evening's birthday festivities.  It is Lady Windermere's 21st birthday and she is showing her guest Lord Darlington the beautiful fan her husband Lord Arthur Windermere has given her.  Lady Windermere and Lord Darlington soon get to talking about life and it's clear they see the world differently.  Lady Windermere is much more prim and proper:

Lady Windermere  "You look on me as being behind the age - Well, I am!  I should be sorry to be on the same level as an age like this

Lord Darlington:  "Do you think seriously that women who have committed what the world calls a fault should never be forgiven?

Lady Windermere: "I think they should never be forgiven".

Lord Darlington:  "I think life too complex to be settled by these hard and fast rules".

After Lord Darlington departs the Dutchess of Berwick arrives. The Dutchess is also a friend of Lady  Windermere but an insincere friend who loves nothing more than to spread rumor and gossip.  She seems to get a particular kick out of letting the injured party know what is being said about them.  And she has news for Lady Windermere.  

Lady Windermere's husband has been seen as of late visiting the home of Mrs. Erlynn a woman with a scandalous reputation who arrived in London six months ago without much money and now has a lovely townhouse, a carriage and visits from Lord Windermere at least three or four times a week.  No this can't be true, Lady Windermere tells the Dutchess.  Her huband would never do such a thing but later Lady Windermere finds her husband's bank book listing the money he has been giving to Mrs Erlynn. 

She confronts Lord Windermere.  He denies vehemently that there is anything going on between him and Mrs. Erlynn.  His explanation is that Mrs. Erlynn is a woman who made a mistake years ago and is now trying to get back into society and deserves that chance.  He asks his wife to invite Mrs. Erlynn to her birthday party.  Lady Windermere is adamant.  No way this scandalous woman is setting foot in her home.  Lord Windermere pleads with his wife to be reasonable and then tells her that he will extend an invitation to Mrs. Erlynn if she won't.  Lady Windemere tells her husband that  when Mrs Erlynn arrives she will be horrid to her in front of all their guests.

And then we come to the night of the party  and I can't go any further regarding what happens without spoiling the play.  Those who have read Lady Windermere's Fan will know what I mean.  Suffice it to say that it will upend everything Lady Windermere thought she understood about good women and bad women and how they are not distinct and totally separate categories.  Life to quote Lord Darlingon is much too complex.

As to why the play is titled Lady Windermere's Fan and not simply Lady Windermere. I will say that the fan has an important role in this story. This is a play with wit and sparkle but there is alot of heart here and the ending is quite satisfying.  I would really love to see a live production 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Haunting of Ashburn House by Darcy Coates

For some time now I have been meaning to read a novel by Darcy Coates.  She's a bestselling author who writes in the gothic horror genre and has about twenty novels to her credit.  I decided to go with The Haunting of Ashburn House since I am a pushover for books in which a young woman inherits an old house and moves in hoping for a fresh start.  Such is the case with Adrienne our young heroine:

"She had a house.  It was old and smelled funny and was a long way from town, but holy heck, she had her own house.  As long as the Wi-Fi worked well enough that she was able to submit her freelance articles on time she could end up being very happy here.  She thought she could grow fond of the town, too, and maybe even make some friends"

But then Adrienne begins to hear disturbing things about the house she has inherited from her great Aunt Edith.  The Ashburn family was murdered in this house almost a century ago  The only Ashburn to survive was Aunt Edith who was eight years old at the time.  Oddly, Edith moved back into Ashburn House when she reached adulthood and she was quite the eccentric figure to the townspeople.  She lived at Ashburn House until her death and then left it to Adrienne which comes as a shock since Adrienne never even knew she had an Aunt Edith.  Her mother never talked about any of their relatives.   

Things start going awry. Edith had all the mirrors in the house removed.  She also etched weird notes on the tables reminding herself to "Light the Candle. Your Family is Still Dead".  The electricity goes out and each night birds come out of the trees in the nearby woods creating a terrible racket.  There is a grave near the Ashburn House but why has it been dug up and  why is it empty?  Adrienne considers leaving but how can she since taking care of her Mom through her long illness wiped out her savings. and Ashburn House is all she has? 

I really felt bad for Adrienne.  She is a kind, strong and optimistic young woman who despite the disappointments life has thrown her is determined to have her happy future.  Now, towards the end there are some gory scenes but I didn't mind because I liked and identified with Adrienne and I liked her cat Wolfgang as well.  He's a demanding little fellow who expects his cat food to arrive on time.  But at the end of the book he proves himself to be a loyal friend and protector to Adrienne.  It's no wonder she cares about him so much.  

So the bottom line is that if you don't mind some blood and guts this is a book you might want to try out, particularly on a cold winter's night with a cup of tea nearby.