Tag Archives: classic

Review: The Daisy Chain, Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle

The Daisy Chain, Or, Aspirations: A Family Chronicle by Charlotte Mary Yonge
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: Project Gutenberg

The scene opens with a typical sort of day in a genteel rural family –a physician with a number of well-loved children. Children of all ages with their own strength and foibles –each and every one of them unique and yet traces of each parent are visible in each. I just started to settle down thinking of a leisurely read when disaster struck! The pillar on which their lives evolved around has been removed and all felt lost…

This story is told from the perspective of Etheldred. She is not the oldest or the youngest. She is not the most intelligent or the dullest. She is, however, possibly the second most intelligent child and yet, the most intelligent of female child. Along with her intelligence, she also has inherited most of her father’s characters and they were thought to be unseemly in a girl child. I understand certain things like tidiness of oneself needed to be ingrained in oneself by habit and Etheldred needed to pay more attention to things like that however, it was most interesting that her mind is the analytical sort which needed a reason as to why things are a certain way prior to being able to apply herself to do things correctly! And yet, despite her intelligence and her analytical mind, because of her sex (and therefore, her position in the family), she had to give up her studies to serve her family.

It certainly is a humbling experience to read of Ethel’s sacrifice. Whilst it was, at first, with a heavy heart that she gave up her time from studies to household & other duties, she loves her family in such a way that she was willing to do so. And at the end of the book, you do not see her only willing but to have been transformed to be a humble serving young woman (I don’t mean like a servant but one who serves others out of love) that even if it is not an ending I would have preferred, I do admire her for her character improving work to become who she is. Etheldred is a character to warm your heart.

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Anna Karenina Read Along Parts 7 & 8

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A comparably shorter read this week with mostly pleasant things with a horrendous event sandwiched in between.  So, I don’t patricularly have much to say except that the Drama Queen Act cannot have a more fitting end.  Remember how / where she met Vronsky?  How ironic!  At the same time, it really reinforces just how vulnerable women were back then.  Anna was obviously stretched taut and broke apart.  Nevertheless, there was that undercurrent that all she really cares for is being adored for her beauty – what rot!  Even though, I just didn’t like Anna right from the beginning, I actually pitied her and felt awfully sorry for her lonesomeness.  She has had no support network and she really needed professional help; she obviously wasn’t able to cope being ostracized by society and clung ever more tighter to Vronsky.

It was pleasant to have good and happy things happening before and after the horrid event.  It was kinda funny for me with the way Levin was acting during the birth – thank goodness, childbirth is not such a taboo topic these days!  I’m not quite sure what to make of the ending though… Did Levin find God or did he not find God?  I don’t really understand and I don’t think he understood it that much either except that it made him that much happier & more content with life as it is.  Even though he first sought to be better in his relationship with others, he ended just accepting that he won’t be able to change – errr… What?  I don’t get it, did he or did he not find that spiritual faith?

There will be a final review on Anna Karenina in a couple of days’ time however I’d like to end this post by thanking Steph @Five Alarm Book Reviews for hosting this read-along and all other participants for the rants & raves.  It’s the first one I’ve participated it and I’ve had sooo MUCH FUN!  I’m inspired to host me own read-along (scheduled to start in September).  I’m eye-ing that chunky and very dusty tome that’s been sitting on my shelf for *clears throat* *flushes* *mumbles* maybe nearly fifteen years…  Yes Yes *Shock* *Horror* but it’s so Big!  All will be revealed in due time and I hope to have some support then 😉  Sssshhh… they’re making a new adaptation for this too!

Anna Karenina Read Along Parts 5 & 6

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I was happy that these 2 parts were pretty easygoing, especially the beginning of part 5 when we see Levin with his head in the clouds – absolutely ecstatic that his love is being returned with a mixture of unbelief that he is marrying this heavenly creature.  Am I just too cynical to believe that it’s happy ever after?  Nonetheless, the first few months of marriage were filled with changes and tiffs but…  I remembered my own first year of marriage so this is truly not unexpected, Kitty & Levin, however, appeared to be managing finely.  Kitty seems to be a loving and understanding wife – so far, she is proving to be a well developed (matured) character and I’m really liking this.  Levin, on the other hand, is being shown for his shortcoming.  It was shown in the beginning (his conversation with Stiva about love & affairs) that he has his own good opinions (which we as readers usually share) however he doesn’t appear to think these thoughts through.  That is, if asked the reason behind his thoughts, he is either unable to articulate his thoughts or just never really thought it through to the end.  This really frustrates me as he was a character I really liked from the beginning.  Him being so amiable to his mother-in-law (weddings & birth) was also a source of angst with me – I mean, who wears the pants here?!?

On the other hand, I’m starting to like Vronsky.  Wow, I never thought I’d ever say that! [well, maybe except for the comb-over **shudders**] But he’s shown himself to be a man of sense especially shown in his management of business / estate.  He is more real to me in these 2 parts especially when he imparted his wishes for Anna’s wellbeing and their future together.  It all makes better sense.  Anna, of course, is still the paranoid Drama Queen trying to Not Be a Drama Queen, scared to let go of the past she’s shunned and yet, unable to be content with her current happiness.  I still can’t reconcile with the fact that she can be infatuated with her son but not her daughter.  Her son was from a man she does not like (that’s putting it mildly) and her daughter is by the love of her life (or so she says) – so what gives?!  I think this highlights that she just wanted something she can’t have – doesn’t she know the saying that you can’t have cake and eat it too?  I really didn’t think that they would be happy at all so I was actually pleasantly surprised although the undercurrents of the past and what may yet be are very strong.

Anna Karenina Read Along Parts 3 & 4

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I have had a pretty good break – 3 good books length (LOL) and was quite hesitant to dive back into AK.  Hence, I started reading parts 3&4 kinda late and stayed up last night to finish it off.  Thank goodness, these 2 parts are shorter than the first 2!

Of Levin:

I’m glad that Part 3 started with Konstantin Levin, it helped to get into the book when the first few chapters were on a character that I was liking (from 1&2) and I have to admit that I think I’m falling in love with this guy! Oh, and that discussion with Stiva about how fit Levin is… **drool**

“Why, have you been going in for gymnastics again?” he asked Levin, pinching his muscle with his left hand.  Levin smiled, bent his arm, and under Stephan Arkadeyvitch’s fingers the muscles swelled up like a sound cheese, hard as a knob of iron, through the fine cloth of the coat.

“What biceps! A perfect Samson!”

 LOL (the choice of words to describe his muscles were just hilarious)!!  I couldn’t help myself to just fall for this guy!  And then, the romantic scene with Kitty….  **heart melts…**

Unfortunately, noting all other relationships in the book, I have the feeling of impending doom 😦  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will not be the case because that will just completely totally ruin this book for me!

Of Karenin:

I’m feeling totally vindicated of my first thought of him that he really is emotionally crippled.  We see a lot more of Karenin here – in very pitiable state; experiencing myriad of strong feelings but unable to show them nor act upon them as people would normally do.  Whilst he mostly denies these feelings, in the end, there is no hiding it and whilst he tried to act decisively, in the end, he still bowed to the wish of others.  My heart goes to this poor cuckold – is he really shown as the better man or just plain weak?  Maybe a bit of both.

“This is my position: you can trample me in the mud, make me the laughing-stock of the world, I will not abandon her, and I will never utter a word of reproach to you,” Alexey Alexandrovith went on.  “My duty is clearly marked for me; I ought to be with her, and I will be.  If she wishes to see you, I will let you know, but now I suppose it would be better for you to go away.”

He got up, and sobs cut short his word.  Vronsky too was getting up, and in a stooping, not yet erect posture, looked up at him from under his brows.  He did not understand Alexey Alexandrovitch’s feeling, but he flet that it was something higher and even unattainable for him with his view of life.

Let’s not forget his attitude & feelings towards the new baby!  Just imagine who, in the same cuckolded shoes, would feel the same?!  Not many…

Of Anna:

My feelings towards Anna vacillates between pity, frustration, and annoyance.  I do feel sorry for her as she is stuck in the mire (of her own making!) and unable to free herself with dignity intact. The end of part 2 was a bit of a shock though I was happy that it happened even though its consequence was minimal (**ooh, how frustrating!**).  Well, okay, so Karenin was saving face and giving her another chance at it but then Vronsky didn’t do anything either!  Seriously, Anna – find a real guy!  I was just frustrated with this triangle as it seems no one is willing to break out of the mold!

At Anna’s “prediction” of death – I huffed and puffed at this obviously Drama Queen Act.  She is just mentally tired; burnt out and broken down.  I wished for her death too, of course, just like Karenin (easy way out!), even though I know that’s just not possible seeing that we’re not even halfway through the novel.  Just like I wished for Vronsky’s death (thwarted Twice! – ie. the race and the shooting), it did not come through.  All it did was to remind Karenin fully of his true feelings and so he bowed to the inevitable.  **Ggrrrr**

In the end:

I’m reminded of Lydia & Wickham from P&P and am wishing Anna & Vronsky the worst ever luck!  (Remember, Vronsky is currently living beyond his means)

I am hoping that the good with reap the blessings and the bad to reap all possible punishments – like how Dickens’ novels end (ones I’ve read anyway) or I’d be banging my head against the wall since I can’t burn the book (reading on Kobo)!

Anna Karenina Read Along Parts 1 & 2

I would not commit myself yet as to whether I enjoyed this book or not…  I have a feeling that at the end, I would be ready to commit murder of the highest scale (well, I might make an exception for Kitty, Levin, and Prince Shcherbatskaya… and maybe, even Karenin, for reasons I’ll explain below).

As this is Post #1 and we’ve only read the first quarter of the book, I’m going to try to limit my post here by highlighting 2-3 points on the uppermost of my mind after reading parts 1 & 2.

I don’t think I’ve included many spoilers here, if at all.  Maybe in my responses to the Discussion Qs but just beware there may be lots of hints, rather than actual spoilers.

Of Stiva:

I just couldn’t believe that I was incited to violence right from the first page!  Even before I found out the full story, I wanted to slap him silly!  A few pages in, I could feel my fingers reaching towards his neck and squeeze…

 “Yes, she won’t forgive me, and she can’t forgive me.  And the most awful thing about it is that it’s all my fault – all my fault, though I’m not to blame.  That’s the point of the whole situation,” he reflected.

Of Anna:

Like everybody else (by this I meant, everybody in the book), in the beginning, I loved her.  She appears to be someone whom everyone would love.  However, the tide quickly turned as I just couldn’t understand the shape of her ‘love’.  To me, it sounded a lot more like obsession than love.

Of Karenin:

Ah, I’m not quite sure if this is right but I feel that most of the time we see him from Anna’s perspective and as Anna’s completely bias, I couldn’t trust her pictures of him. All right, so he may be a fool and most unattractive but, in any case, he is stil human.  He, like everyone else, has feelings.  Strong feelings which he denies & buries deep – emotionally crippled?  My heart goes out to him and my maternal instict is roused…  Does anyone feel this way at all?  Or am I the Fool?

Discussion Qs:

1. Have you ever read this book before? What did you think of it? What have you heard about it? Is there anything that you are especially eager or reluctant to encounter in Anna Karenina? What version of this book are you reading? Who is the translator?

I’ve never read this book before.  Have never been really interested in the story as I’m usually never interested in any infidelities in stories – this is a really big issue for me and therefore, I generally avoid it in my readings.  I’d only read it to tick the box off a list 😉  I’m reading a version downloaded off Project Gutenberg; it’s translated by Constance Garnett.

2. Have you encountered anything uniquely Russian about this novel or could it have taken place in America?

Um, this is a toughie as I’ve not read many Russian novels before, AK being only my second one.  My first one was Doctor Zhivago where I found dialogues to be of a certain cadence which is not quite true of AK.  The dialogues in AK seems to be more ‘normal’ to me than those in Zhivago.  I’m not sure if I’m explaning myself clearly but it’s the only thing I could think of.

3. What do you think of Stiva? What do you think of his relationship with Dolly? His attitude towards politics?

Excuse my French but he’s a dumb ass who cruises through life, ignoring life’s problems and with blinkers on, he squeezes all possible pleasures from life & others.  Wake up, man, and do the right thing!

4. The open quote of the book is “All happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Is this true?

Yes, it possibly is true.  A happy family means all are right with them but unhappy families may have different issues which drive their unhappiness.

5. Do you get the sense that Anna truly feels guilty about the actions she has taken with Vronsky? If not, why do you think?

I think at the beginning, she felt guilty for having this ‘special’ feelings but then she completely lost herself and swept aside / buried deeply this guilt.  She’s experienced this ‘joy’ and is not willing to lose it at all.

6. Vronsky is a Count with a military background—a very dashing figure of manhood. In what ways is he a worthy and appropriate lover for the passionate Anna Karenina? In what ways does he potentially fall short in this role?

I have to say that I just didn’t listen to anybody’s view of Vronsky but Prince Shcherbatskaya’s.  And Prince Shcherbatskaya called Vronsky, A Dandy (!), so I’ve never actually thought of him as dashing at all.  In fact, I’ve found him distasteful from near the beginning… In light of this, Anna, actually, fall short in my view. :p

7. Society—what it means to be a part of high society or operate successfully in society—is discussed at length in Part Two. What do you feel you have discovered about the way Russian society used to work. How does it seem different from your life today?

We have been blessed, these days, of being able to marry spouses of our own choosings.  To fall in love with whomever we wish (even though, at times, it mayn’t be wise) despite our fortunes!  Regardless of fortunes, most of society will not look kindly to infidelities even when it is discreet.

8. When Kitty tells Varenka at the end of Part Two that she will never marry, do you believe her?

Nope, I’m still hoping for her & Levin to get together :p  (See, I am a romantic after all!)

As it happened, I’ve convinced a few of my girlfriends to join the read along however as none of them blogs, we’re discussing it on FB (very slowly) and so far,

Robyn (AK being her annual re-reads, *shocking!*), in reference to A & V, stated, “i think the whole why / randomness of it is interesting – it is not as though she sacrifices her position for … someone ‘worthy’ or a ‘true love’…. ”

Annie (tried reading AK previously but gave up however is now further into the book than before!), began with a “I too would like a million names and titles to confuse people in my circle, something starting with Princess would be nice” before she started reading! Her post-reading comments;

“Having dutifully read parts 1 & 2 trying to be as unbiased as possible, I am now of stronger opinion that I cannot stand these people. Not any better than the last time although I have gotten further this time round. I feel a compulsion to slap all of them. Should a novel incite such violent tendencies?

Ok rant over. Robyn, i agree that the question of why is interesting. Given that this novel has often been called a great romantic tragedy, i was expecting the romantic leads to at least pull me into their passion, so i can understand, even while not entirely approving of their decisions. However, it seems more like Tolstoy has written a morality tale and shows all characters as despicable, except perhaps Levin and Kitty. I love flawed characters as much as the next reader but it’s gotta make sense and at the moment, almost all the other characters make more sense to me than Anna and Vronsky.”