Now that I’ve read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen I can finally state that I’ve read all of the full-length Jane Austen novels. Initially I avoided this particular Austen novel because of the cousin factor. First cousins Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram, who grow up together in the same household, fall in love with each other. I know it used to be a social norm to marry your first cousin, but I still couldn’t get past it. While I enjoyed reading Fanny’s journey, she is very sweet and dear, I didn’t enjoy this story as much as the other Austen novels. But don’t let me put you off, it’s truly an excellent book that touches upon several of society’s dark undertones. I don’t regret reading it, but it won’t be a re-read for me. Have you read it?
A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer is a Christmas-themed, cozy murder mystery. The setting is a Tudor-era estate in the English countryside. In the beginning of the novel I was overwhelmed by the numerous character introductions, but once I got past the initial chapters I enjoyed reading this mystery. The owner of the Tudor estate is killed while in his bedroom, but the issue is that the door is locked from the inside and presumably none of the guests were able to enter the room to commit the murder. I thought I had the murder solved, but I was wrong and taken by surprise by the actual murderer. If you like murder mysteries set in the English countryside this book might be your cup of tea.
Last but not least, I read Jane Austen: An Illustrated Biography (Library of Luminaries). It’s a whimsically illustrated biography and the perfect introduction to Jane Austen for the toddler in your life.
Another week is drawing to a close, though each week seems to melt into the next. This weekend is the official start of summer and I plan to celebrate it. I don’t know how quite yet (maybe a scenic drive) but I will do something to commemorate it. Also, I have a new thing I’m doing. I listen to the ocean sounds while I work. Sometimes it’s the rainforest or a waterfall. It helps with stress and makes for a nicer work day.
I have been enjoying Belgravia very much. No surprise there. It’s the highlight of my week. (Sad, but we are living through some intense days.) The Armchair Anglophile published recaps of each episode. They are funny, insightful and snarky. Highly recommended. Just don’t read ahead to the recaps you haven’t seen the episodes for. (Unless you don’t mind spoilers.)
If you’d like to burn hours on the internet, may I recommend the military maps of George III? Happy browsing.
I thought it was so nice of Andrea Bocelli to do this concert for the world. It really brought me hope and made me feel like we really are in this together. I also found the cathedral stunning. Andrea Bocelli has the voice of an angel.
Like most of us (I know that readers of this blog are like-minded individuals) I find comfort in books. I mentioned earlier on the blog that I signed up for the Audible membership. I’m really pleased with it. It comes with one credit per month towards a free audiobook, no matter the length or cost. After that, the audiobooks are discounted for Audible members. It also comes with several free monthly Audible Originals. So far, most of April’s Audible Originals weren’t my cup of tea, but I’m hoping May will have a few that are more my style. Before I signed up for Audible, I used my library for digital audiobooks (which I will continue to use for when I don’t want to purchase audiobooks). I would start with your library before committing to a paid membership.
The Great Courses
I listened to a Great Course via my library’s digital collection. If you need an educational diversion, then I recommend The Great Courses. They have courses on literally every subject on the planet. My course was about espionage which I highly enjoyed.
TV adaptation of Belgravia
I’ve already mentioned this on the blog, but period dramas are seeing me through this pandemic. Belgravia is doing a nice job of keeping me going. I also watched Doctor Thorne (Anthony Trollope adaptation) on Amazon Prime. Loved it.
I bought three new books from my local independent bookstore. (Curbside, contactless pick-up!) Did I need new books? No, I did not. Did I need newer editions of three of the Austens? No. But in my bid to support and shop local (so I keep telling myself) I thought I’d treat myself to these new editions.
I bought the annotated Northanger Abbey. I loved this story and I wanted to better appreciate and understand the background, the fashion and the era. Also, it contains maps, illustrations, literary comments, analysis and more. I want to reread this novel so I can fully enjoy the annotations and illustrations for my own education before rewatching the 2007 film. If I enjoy reading it as much as I think I will, I’ll buy an annotated version of my favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion.
I recently finished Emma. While she is not my favorite heroine (not even in the top three, I’m afraid), I couldn’t resist this gorgeous Penguin Classics edition for my library.
Last but not least, I also treated myself to the Penguin Classics edition of Mansfield Park. This is the only full-length Jane Austen novel I haven’t read yet.
I’ve been making an effort to read more short stories. They pack a punch in just a few short pages. I’m left thinking and rethinking about the plot for days after I finish the story. Tea with Mr. Rochester is one such short story collection.
When I think of Mr. Rochester, I think of the character from Jane Eyre. If that’s who you thought of too, then you can probably guess the common theme of each story in this collection: love. Most of the stories don’t necessarily end happily. Or maybe they do, depending on your view. The beauty of a short story is that it doesn’t tell you how or what to think. You are left thinking and analyzing for days afterwards.
Take for example, the sixth story in this collection, Spade Man from over the Water. It takes place inside the drawing room of a married woman, Mrs. Penny, who is entertaining her new neighbor. The new neighbor, Mrs. Asher, hopes she can become good friends with Mrs. Penny. All we know at this point is that Mrs. Penny has a husband who travels often. He seems to never be in the picture. Her husband discourages Mrs. Penny from having friends, but she yearns for the friendship of women. Mrs. Asher and her children move into the cottage near Mrs. Penny. She too has a husband who travels a lot. When Mrs. Asher sees a picture of Mrs. Penny’s husband she grows quiet and mysterious. They end the evening proclaiming they will become good friends. But that never happens, much to the disappointment of Mrs. Penny. The cottage is emptied virtually overnight. Mrs. Asher and her children disappear, never to be heard of again.
This ending left me stumped. The only solution that I can come up with is that Mrs. Penny’s husband leads a double life with Mrs. Asher. This might be why Mrs. Asher disappears after seeing the photograph of Mrs. Penny’s husband.
For this short story collection, I’d pair Fortnum’s Fortmason tea. The tea is black, strong and heavily infused with orange blossoms. You’ll need a strong tea to get through some of these (very excellent, some sweet, some bizarre) short stories.
On Saturday I went to my local Trader Joe’s to buy bunches of flowers (and one orchid). I was inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show to create my own little flower haven inside the house.
If I can’t be in London for the flower show, then at least I can have the scent of flowers wafting through my house. I placed vases of flowers throughout the house (bear in mind this was easy and cheap to do because my house is a very small house) and I can’t tell you how happy they make me when I see them.
Normally, I just keep one vase of flowers on the dining table, but I’m going to keep flowers all over the house going forward.