Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge 2016

Kristen suggested this reading challenge for 2016 on facebook, which was timely as I had been considering how to extend my reading and not fall into the reading rut I’ve previously stumbled into.   It looked easy enough to be achievable yet contain a few categories which would require some thought.

I started by writing down all sorts of ideas and discussing over a new year trip to Wales with Suzy.  On my return not only did I have a copy of ‘Utz’ (Bruce Chatwin) in hand for reading on the train, I also had a preliminary list of reading for the year.  Discussion about the list at my book group were less successful and I didn’t manage to persuade the group to adopt anything from my list during this discussion, although sneaked ‘Shock of the Fall’ (Nathan Filer) in later on in the year.

From this list, the best category was the book which intimidates you.  I opted for Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), as I really don’t read gothic fantasy books, haven’t watch the film all the way through and really was quite frightened both by the horror aspect (a genre which holds no interest) and it sounded so dry.  It was useful to have read ‘The Castle of Otranto’ (Horace Walpole) so recently to get some insight into the gothic novel, but this as so much more than that.  The characters had real emotions and human failings; the imagination to come up with the story line was amazing for a woman in the Victorian era, along with the detail of all the exotic locations.

Complete list, along with reading dates and *’s (out of 5)

A book you can finish in a day (interpreted as not essential to actually finish in a day).  Bruce Chatwin – ‘Utz’ – 4th Jan – 3*.  Suggested by Suzy.  I probably didn’t relish the reading of this as much as a I should, the selection was too interesting at this point.

A book you should have read in school.  Alan Sillitoe – ‘The loneliness of a long distance runner’ 18th Jan – 4*. The 4* is for the title story, not the others in the book which all became a little repetitive.

A book you’ve been meaning to read.  Jessie Burton – ‘The Miniaturist’ 2nd Feb, 4*.  The problem with the book, in my opinion, was the 21st century attitudes of some of the characters which I felt was too improbable and accepting of what was risque behaviour in puritanical Amsterdam.

A book you own but have never read.  Horace Walpole – ‘The Castle of Otranto’ 3rd Mar, 2*.  This was given to me by Michelle after Suzy and I had been to see the exhibition on the gothic at the British Library a couple of years ago and had been sitting on my shelf for a while.

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child or BFF.  Cecilia Ekback – ‘Wolf Winter’ 9th April, 4*.  Given to me for Xmas by Rachel.  Suffered from the comparison with Burial Rite (Hannah Kent).

A book you previously abandoned.  Ben Okri – ‘The Famished Road’ 26th April, 3*.  I’d attempted to read this about 20 years ago and still found it too difficult.  The 3* is probably higher than I would have awarded if it hadn’t been awarded the Booker prize.

A book that was banned at some point – Ernest Hemmingway – ‘Farewell to Arms’ 16th May, 3*.  It was banned in Italy when first published, but doesn’t capture the category particularly well.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.  Nathan Filer – ‘Shock of the Fall’ 3rd June, 5*.  Read as a book group read and we mostly really rated it. It was read by Suzy’s book group on the instruction of the library who set their reading, which is pushing the category to the limits.

A book which intimidates you.  Mary Shelley – ‘Frankenstein’ 26th Sept, 3*.

A book published before you were born.  Virginia Wolfe – ‘Mrs Dalloway’ Nov, 3*. Our little facebook group discussing this challenge all warned me that Wolfe wasn’t a particularly satisfactory read, and I agree.

A book you’ve already read at least once.  Winifred Holtby – ‘South Riding’ Dec, 4*.  Had intended to re-read Vera Brittain’s ‘Testament of Youth’ but got distracted during the buying process.  It turned out to be a great choice as I first read as a student and really didn’t understand the politics in all senses described.

A book published this year.  Kit de Waal – ‘My name is Leon’ Dec 4*.  Selected from the Costa award nominees and turned out to be a good read from 1st time author, although rather too many similarities with Shock of the Fall.


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