Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

One of the earlier novels, Jane Austen is poking gentle fun at contemporary novelists and their overblown plots and narrative.  She matches her plot and the reactions of her characters against those of other authors.   This would be dangerous and almost formulaic if it were not for some of the brilliant characterisations encountered along the way.  John Thorpe, for instance, made me so angry.  He is insensitive, acquisitive, possessive and careless of the way he damages the chance of happiness for others.  On the other hand Henry Tilney, the romantic hero is a little disappointing.  Can't quite understand what he's about and there is a rush at the end of the book to wrap it all up happily.  While not my favourite Austen novel, it's still wonderful stuff.

The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver

Crime thriller in the usual Deaver mould.  I've read several now and usually find them a good page turner, but this one dragged a bit.  I think I just wasn't in the mood.

A Gambling Man by Jenny Uglow

About the return of Charles II to his kingdom and how he lived the balancing act between all the various factions, some of whom had  been instrumental in the execution of his father and his own exile.  I didn't know very much about the Restoration, I'd read a few of the plays of the time and some of the poetry, but for me there was a big gap between the English Civil War and the Industrial Revolution.  This book joined up so many things for me - the background to the plays and poetry, the way the gentry reclaimed their lands after they had been confiscated by Cromwell and allowed to fall into ruin, how they set about 'improvement' and sowed the seeds of the agrarian revolution experimenting with new methods of cultivation, and new crops like turnips and potatoes.  How they were keen to re-establish the unity of High Anglican church and state as they had understood it, how they acted harshly against non-conformists - Puritans, Quakers and Baptists included.  And how their violent backlash caused many of those groups to emigrate to America, eventually contributing to the shape of our modern world.  This is a book that makes you think.