Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The 2022 Victober Challenge

October is a great month for book challenges but as a reader I feel torn about which challenge to take.  It's the month of Halloween and so should I read novels in the horror, gothic and paranormal genre?  But as anyone who follows some of the excellent and fun booktubers out there knows, October is also Victober where fans of all things Victorian devote the month to reading 19th century British literature.  

I love both genres, Victorian and Gothic horror, but for this October I have decided to go with Victorian literature.  Don't know how far I'll get and according to the five booktubers hosting Victober this year there is no pressure.  You only have to commit to reading one Victorian novel during the month of October.   But if you want to take the full challenge the booktubers have come up with five interesting categories to complete by October 31, 2022: 

1.  Choose a Victorian novel where chronic illness or disability is represented - I have decided to go with My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell 

2.  Choose a Victorian Coming of Age Story - My choice will be Love and Mr. Lewisham by H. G. Wells

3.  Choose a Victorian Short Story - A Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins

4.  Read a Victorian book and then watch a film adaptation - Washington Square by Henry James.  He became a British Citizen in 1915 so he qualifies for the Challenge.

5.  Choose to read a Victorian poem. - I am going with a poem by Ann Bronte

Also for Victober the read-a-long is the Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy where the goal is to read two chapters a night starting October 1st and since I have never read Hardy this is a good way to finally do so.

Alot of the fun of Victober is discovering how many really excellent booktubers are out there.  The five hosts running this year's challenge for example have very fine video blogs:  They are: 

Katie, Books and Things

Kate Howe

Marissa, Blatantly Bookish

Petra U

Ros, Scallydandling about the Books

If you type their names into the search engine their videoblogs will pop up and when it comes to Victorian literature Katie at Books and Things knows everything there is to know. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe

For the 2022 Back to the Classics category - Choose a Wild Card Classic I decided to go with Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe published 1958. I had heard about the novel and since it was published the year I was born I decided to give it a read.

The author, Alan Sillitoe, was part of the Angry Young Men literary movement that formed in the UK in the 1950’s. They were working class young men who had come of age during the post World War II era.  They were in rebellion against society and the British class system and they wrote gritty, sexually frank novels and plays featuring men like themselves. 

Such is the case with Arthur Seaton the main character in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Arthur is a young man who lives in Nottingham, England and works as a machinist in a bicycle factory.  Arthur works hard, spends his Saturday nights at the pub getting drunk and he is quite the ladies man.  When the novel begins Arthur is having an affair with Brenda the wife of one of his coworkers at the factory but Arthur doesn’t seem worried about the risk he is taking or even feels much guilt:

"Arthur classified husbands into two main categories: those that looked after their wives, and those that were slow.  Jack fell into the latter class, one that Arthur, from experience, knew to be more extensive than the first. Having realised this quickly he had been lucky in love, and had his fun accordingly, making hay while the sun shone, growing up from the age of seventeen with the idea that married women were certainly the best women to know. He had no pity for a “slow” husband“.

In reality Arthur is taking enormous risks not only by having an affair with a married woman but also with his drinking.  When the novel begins for example Arthur is at the pub having gotten wasted and fallen down a flight of stairs. He’s okay but it ‘s a metaphor for where Arthur’s life is headed if he doesn’t turn things around.  

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is a novel way ahead of its time in dealing with issues that weren't discussed in the 1950's.  There are parts of this novel that are shocking and disturbing.  I can't say I liked Arthur and the author is not romanticising the life he is leading.   But Arthur and the other characters in the novel are drawn from real life, not having enough money, hanging out at the bars, having affairs with other men's wives and no thought to the future.   The dialogue between the characters can be a little difficult to decipher at times but it gives the novel a realistic tone and this is a very well written book.

Regarding the author, Allan Sillitoe, he grew up poor in Nottingham and his home was a violent one.  He would go on to write novels, plays, children's literature, a memoir but he is best known for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and his collection of short stories The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.  Sillitoe though his childhood was tough went on to have a good life, married for fifty years to the accomplished poet and translater Ruth Fainlight. They had two children.  Alan Sillitoe passed away in 2010 but today he is considered one of the most important British writers of the post World War II era.  Not bad for a young boy who had to quit school at 14.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

The TBR File - Mrs Wiggs of The Cabbage Patch by Alice Hegan

Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch by Alice Hegan Rice published 1901 was a big bestseller in it’s day and that always interests me.  So many authors and novels from the early 20th century have been forgotten but thanks to kindle people are beginning to read these books again.

Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch is a sweet novel which gives us important advise about life. The main character is Mrs. Wiggs, a widow living with her children in a very poor part of Louisville, Kentucky called the Cabbage Patch. The people who live there have very little and yet despite this Mrs. Wiggs has an optimistic spirit. She tries to see the best in life, never gives up and she loves her children dearly. It’s not great literature but I enjoyed it. Here is Mrs Wiggs giving her philosophy of life:

“Lots of folks is walkin’ ’round jes’ as dead as they’ll ever be. I believe in gittin’ as much good outen life as you kin—not that I ever set out to look fer happiness; seems like the folks that does that never finds it. I jes’ do the best I kin where the good Lord put me at, an’ it looks like I got a happy feelin’ in me ‘most all the time.”

Who was the author Alice Hegan Rice? She was a prolific novelist born in 1870 in Shelbyville, Kentucky and she came from a privileged background. When she was a young woman she worked at a mission in a very poor part of Louisville, Kentucky. It was a life changing experience and she wrote Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch based on her work at the mission.  Alice Hagen Rice would later help found the Cabbage Patch Settlement House which exists to this day.