Tag Archives: the classics club

The Classics Spin #4

Riiiiggght! I think I’ve neglected my Classics project far too long this year so I’m jumping in with this spin though I’m not sure if I’d be able to read it before end of year as we’re supposed to do because…  I’ve committed to read Game of Thrones this year and guess what, it’s nearly December and I still I haven’t started yet, *GASP* so that’s what I’d be doing starting 1 Dec.  Hoping I can fit in my classic book somewhere 🙂

Here’s my list which I’ve just sort of pick in some random way… I filtered out the really thick ones as I don’t think I can handle it after GoT:

  1. Café Scheherazade by Arnold Zable
  2. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  3. Robbery Under Arms by Rolf Bolderwood
  4. The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
  5. The Shiralee by D’Arcy Niland
  6. The Boat by Nam Le
  7. 1788 by Watkin Tench
  8. An Iron Rose by Peter Temple
  9. The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd
  10. I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall
  11. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  12. Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
  13. The Lady of the Lake by Walter Scott
  14. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  15. The Moonstone   by Wilkie Collins
  16. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  17. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
  18. Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl
  19. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  20. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Feel free to join in, here.  The Classics Club will announce the number on Monday (tomorrow).

Review: The Women in Black

The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: My local library – get your own copy from The Book Depository OR direct from Text Classics.

This book tells the lives of the Sales Assistants in Ladies’ Cocktail Frocks of the posh F.G. Goode department store. There are Patty, Fay, and Magda (a Continental in charge of Model Gowns –one of a kind gown available in one size only). Lisa (aka Lesley) had just done her Leaving Certificate (ie. HSC) and is looking to earn some pocket money during the Christmas / New Year’s period. These ladies are required to dress in the uniform black dress (cut in 1930s style).

They are heart-warming stories that tickle with endings to melt your heart and make you smile in remembrance. From Patty’s cold & childless marriage, Fay’s failures for love, to Lisa’s yearning to be grown up, there are anecdotes there for readers to identify with and sympathise. The chapters are very short and made this book to be very quick read (only a couple of hours) but really enjoyable. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach read – I’d totes recommend this book.

‘I’ll see,’ she said. ‘But Lisa! Lisa! How could you such a thing? To change your name like that, and not a word to me. It’s so sly.’
‘Oh Mum,’ said Lisa. ‘I didn’t mean to be sly, I didn’t. I just wanted – I wanted a real girl’s name. Lesley is a boy’s name.’
‘It’s a girl’s name too,’ said her mother. ‘It’s spelt differently for a boy.’
‘But it sounds the same,’ said Lisa, ‘ that’s what counts. I wanted a proper girl’s name, for when I grew up. I’ve been a child for so long now; I want to be grown up.’
‘Oh Lesley—‘ said her mother, ‘Lisa. If you only knew what being grown up can be like, you wouldn’t want to do it any faster than you have to.’

View all my reviews

Review: Playing Beatie Bow

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It looks like I’ve got a really good start, this year, in catching up with the Aussie lits. This is another classic which pretty much everybody has read but me! Seriously, looking at the cover, I thought it’d be something creepy (a quote at the back of the book reads, “It’s Beatie Bow – risen from the dead!”) but it’s not at all creepy! It’s a time travel tale which I adore and I love this book!

Abigail Kirk is not perfect. She was hurt deeply years ago and has never let go. She felt that she should and she wanted to but she doesn’t know how. It took a trip in time for her to learn about love and what it means to love. The ending, whilst pretty predictable, also carried a twist which I didn’t expect.

The story is set in Sydney’s Rocks area and I had in my head through the book the images of cobblestones paths, sandstone buildings, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge… One of the loveliest places around! This is one of the factor of my loving this book because I can see it clearly in my head as I know the place well 🙂

View all my reviews

Review: Seven Little Australians

Seven Little Australians
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: Own a copy -get your own copy from The Book Depository OR a free electronic version from Project Gutenberg

I think I would have enjoyed this story a lot more if I read this at a much younger age. This is, of course, one of those classic books that everyone (or at least most Aussies) would have read in school that I have missed out on, being an immigrant. But I am catching up!

It was an easy story to read and enjoy on a fine weekend. In between, we went to a birthday picnic where children were indulged in sugar-y goodness and lots of play in the sun. So, I had the same sort of image in my head when I was reading this book. But… I have to say that those children were pretty tame in comparison to what these “Seven Little Australians” get up to!

The book was evenly spread out between all children; what they are like, why they are so, their own brand of mischiefs but all imbued with their own innate goodness. There were some shocking things that they do but as a reader, you can’t help but laugh –although, if my child did any of those things, I would’ve been so… angry and disappointed. The ending was really unexpected but I would love to continue and follow their stories.

Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are…. But in Australia a model child is – I say it not without thankfulness – an unknown quantity. It may be that the miasmas of naughtiness develop best in the sunny brilliancy of our atmosphere. It may be that the land and the people are young-hearted together,… There is a lurking sparkle of joyousness and rebellion and mischief in the nature here, and therefore in children.

If you enjoyed children classics such as What Katy Did / What Katy Did at School or even Little Women, I believe you may enjoy this tale too.

View all my reviews

Review: Careful, He Might Hear You

Careful, He Might Hear You by Sumner Locke Elliott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: My local library -get your own copy direct from Text Classics

This is actually my first read for 2013. We were going to the beach on New Year’s Day and I took the couple of days before to consider which book I’d like to start the year with. I still didn’t quite decide ‘til nearly the last minute. We went to Balmoral Beach and when I cracked this book open, by happy coincidence, it was set around that area (Balmoral Beach / Neutral Bay). I was stoked!
I made a mistake by reading the Introduction though for it told me more of the story that I’d like to know and I continued reading with a hesitant spirit. I wanted to get it over it but I kinda already knew that will happen and I hated that feeling! I resolve from now on to skip Introductions (maybe to save it til after the reading).

The Child and the Mother in me protest at calling a child PS (short for Postscript). Understandably, whilst it was the mother who began the nickname whilst bub is still peanut-size, I found it unbelievable that it would carry on for years! To read, in the Introduction, that “the painful struggles of PS…is based on his [the author’s] own experiences in childhood”, made this story especially painful knowing that it was partially, mostly true.

PS had 4 aunties (his mother’s sisters): one whom he lived with & mothers him so, one who adores him but only when convenient, one who believes the end of the world is coming in a few months’ time, and one who lives half a world away but is on her way to take charge of him. I did not find any of these aunties to be endearing and hence, my not liking this book so much.

Aunt Lila is basically the mother he knows but she is overly protective among other annoying habits. Spelling every inconvenient not-so-happy thing / someone or even disguising ‘unhappy’ bits to make them sound innocent and lovely was a bit much for me. Reading it was smothering and I can just imagine what effects it would have on a child who is now old enough to understand if some adult will take the time to explain things to him.

Aunt Vanessa wants him for reasons she herself doesn’t quite realise. She’s determined to change him, to mould him to what she wants him to be. PS is fascinated by her and at the same time, frightened of her and is disliked her for the changes she’s wrought in his life. Being pulled in 2 directions with family politics and machinations of which he isn’t aware of the details of but could understand enough from the moods of his aunties, that things aren’t well, distressed him. Aunt Vanessa’s silent treatment and moodiness upset him.

I’m not a perfect or the best mother around but the mothering in this book irks me so! It might have been typical of the time to assume that a child just will not understand many of the issues however it never does well to underestimate what a child will understand. In the end (as most of the book is told from PS’ perspective), it is PS who is empowered –who grasped the knowledge of self and grabbed hold of it, looking forward.

View all my reviews

Review: They’re A Weird Mob: A Novel

They’re A Weird Mob: A Novel by Nino Culotta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: My local library -get your own copy from The Book Depository OR direct from Text Classics

Most Australians speak English like I speak Hindustani, which I don’t. In general, they use English words, but in a way that makes no sense to anyone else. And they don’t use our European vowel sounds, so that even if they do construct a normal sentence, it doesn’t sound like one. This made it necessary for me, until I become accustomed to it, to translate everything that was said to me twice, first into English and then into Italian. So my replies were always slow, and those long pauses prompted many belligerent remarks, such as ‘Well don’t stand there like a dill; d’yer wanta beer or dontcha?’ Now that I have had five years of practice, I find that I am able to think in English, and often in the Australian kind of English, so that when some character picks me for a dill, he is likely to be told quick smart to suck his scone in!

Dunno what exactly I expected from this book… Mis-adventures of an immigrant with some humour involved at most. But, what I got was absolute hilarity –I was laughing so much and I just couldn’t put the book down. Most of the hilarity, of course, was due to misunderstanding the ‘Australian English’ and Australian ways.

If you’re Australian, you may enjoy this look at yerself form another’s point of view. Even though it’s stereotypical of the Aussie working class in mid 20th century, I found it wildly entertaining and made time flew by very quickly. It’s a pretty short read too. However, I have to confess that whilst I can see traces of these type of Australian-ess around me, my Aussie friends (born & bred) don’t speak like this (I’m not referring to the accents but rather to the specific lingo).

If you are not Australian, you may find this book a bit of a struggle as the writing takes into consideration the way the people speak (accents etc), for example ‘Owyagoin’ (How you going), Orrightmate (all right, mate), etc. In addition, of course, the Aussie slang gets more than a little confusing.

In my own experience as a migrant, I didn’t find it as much of a problem –I don’t recall of having to struggle with English (nor ‘Australian English’) too much. I probably didn’t get many of the jokes and I still have a bit of a problem with some sayings now and then but other than that, if you actually hear my speak, I sound mostly Australian (excepting some little nuisance of words). At the end of the book, the author was encouraging migrants to mix into the Australian cultures and not to cling tenaciously stubbornly to one’s original cultures. Indeed, Australia provides that opportunity for a better life but to build a country which supports better life, we would all need to work together wherever you’re from.

That episode of Friday night and yesterday illustrates the informality of the Australian way of life, and the Australian’s unquenchable energy and thirst. He works hard, with much cursing and swearing, and is most unhappy when he has no work to do. He loves beer and tobacco, and impassioned arguments. He is kind and generous and abusive. He will swear at you, and call you insulting names, and love you like a brother. He is without malice. He will fight you with skill and ferocity, and buy you a beer immediately afterwards. He is a man of many contradictions, but his confidence and self-sufficing are inspiring. If he is beaten in a fight or an argument, he laughs about it the next day, and tells his mates, ‘ The bastard was too good fer me.’ He doesn’t resent a defeat of ‘that bastard who done me over’. It takes a European a long time to begin to understand him.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

Review: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I gave up reading this when I first attempted it years ago and I can’t quite remember why anymore so I gave it another go. Within the first few chapters, I remembered that I just didn’t fancy Fanny as a heroine. My preferred heroine would be someone like Lizzie Bennett or Margaret Hale – healthy and a bit feisty 😉

When Fanny was having a near-fainting-spell, I nearly gave up! If I was reading a print edition, I would’ve chucked it across the table in disgust but I couldn’t do that to my PC. As it was the only Austen novel I’ve not read, I was determined to finish it and so persevered. And I’m actually (surprisingly) glad that I did.

Whilst Fanny hasn’t the constitution of Lizzie Bennett or Margaret Hale, she is not quite sickly. Whilst she is also ‘seen’ as a timid mouse or that quiet obedient pleasant nobody, she actually knows her own mind and will stick to it. Even though, I don’t quite agree to her sitting back whilst the love of her life is slowly being wooed away from her (she seemed quite placid on the outside and resigned to accept his choice in this matter rather than fighting for him in any way), I came to understand that with her position, it may just be inappropriate. In the end, though, with all that transpired, she became not only acceptable but is propriety herself.

I’m so very happy to have finished this novel. Fanny Price may not be my favourite character but I do admire her strength and courage in sticking up for what she knows to be right for her even when it was presented as her only option for a comfortable future.

View all my reviews

Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 5: Jean Valjean


Whoopee!!  Yipee!!  Horray!!  It is done!  It is finished!

The best volume in the whole novel, I believe.  Or at least, one that entertained me most.  The suspense of the barricade, Valjean’s roller coaster mood, and of course, it is when all converged into one glorious ending.

There were a couple of tangential thoughts but not as many as the previous volumes nor as ponderous.  The history of Parisian sewerage, whilst not to my taste, was interesting to note.

Marius, unable to secure his grandfather’s assistance for marriage, could not find Cosette.  She has gone away and life means nothing to him now.  He looks to his death at the barricade.  However, Fate conspires to prevent his death.  Firstly through Eponine (what a heroine!) then Valjean (with Titanian strength and courage).  Marius is definitely a product of the period so whilst I understood the reasoning behind his thoughts, that did not help me in liking him one little bit.  This was mostly due to his cold attitude towards Valjean after his confession.  I kept thinking of the good bishop (M.Myriel) and why Marius can’t be a little like him after all Valjean has done (even in secret) – is he blind as well as dense?!?! (okay, I admit being a little insensible with anger)

I found that I utterly dislike Cosette.  So she’s young (19).  So she’s led a very very sheltered life.  So both Marius and Valjean and everybody thinks she’s an angel.  From the little I’ve read (there really wasn’t much of her), she’s a silly little wench -superficial, easily distracted, timid, unthinking, etc (I think I had better stop now).

Valjean was heart broken to find out that Cosette’s heart no longer belongs to him only.  She loves another with the passion of a woman.  Despite his heartbreak, he wants only one thing: for Cosette to be happy.  With all the strength he has left, he made it all happen: rescued Marius from the barricade, arranged for the couple to marry (without any possible blemish to be found on the security of this institution), and ensuring the future financially.  His sacrifice was complete – he gave his all for the light of his life to continue to shine.

Javert  excites my pity, Thénardier makes me huffed with exasperation and I can only shake my head at the antics of M. Gillenormand.  Despite my disliking Marius and Cosette, Valjean’s light shone ever so brightly.  A beginning full of suspense and action, a middle thick with disappointment and angst, completed with an ending to beautifully crafted -everything packaged neatly into an un-labelled box.

Read Along: Les Misérables -Volume 4: Saint-Denis


Confession time: I’ve not finish this volume yet!  I’m 20 pages shy but am too tired to read (or to even write this post) but I should’ve done this so much earlier.  What can I say… quite a bit actually!  I have to apologise first though as this post may turn out to be a rant!

I was really disappointed with Cosette!  She SWOONED!  *AUGH!*

As it also happened I started reading Mansfield Park too the other week and erm, know I remember why I didn’t finish it – Fanny Price swooned!! *gagging noises*

So Cosette & Fanny swooned for different reasons and I have fainted before (sickness and too much sun) so I’m not dissing the fact that you can faint due to some real illness etc but Gah! I can’t stand my heroines to be weak & swoony!  I ilke them strong and totally kick-ass!  Like…

Eponine!  What a gutsy chick!  I had to take a point off of her for falling for Marius though. She followed him, she manouvered some moves to make him hers and as she died…

with that tragic joy of jealous heart that drag the being they love into death with them, saying, “Nobody shall have him.”

All right, if you’re only reading this then she doesn’t sound so impressive but what she did that caused her death is one of the most touching bit of this book!  Gutsy, indeed!

I was ranting to a friend yesterday who agreed with dislike at Cosette and Marius yet she loves this book for the values being put forth throughout this book, primarily through Valjean but also some via Javert and some others.  I wonder if Cosette and Marius are omitted from the whole novel, whether it’ll make much of a difference?  Well, it will probably not make such a popular musical / movie etc however, we’ll have to consider this further at the end of the novel (in 2 weeks’t time).

Oh, shall I mentioned also that my friend and I actually like Marius’ grandfather?  I’m not at all sure if we’re supposed to like him,  He definitely doesn’t sound like someone I’d like in real life but he’s sooo broken!

Father Mabeuf also touched my heart this week… especially that one time when he was looking for a book to carry under his arm only to realise that he has none left -he’s sold them all! I think if that ever happened to me, it certainly is time to leave this world, as Father Mabeuf did in style!

I’ve definitely enjoyed this volume most to date.  That’s mostly because all these characters are coming together for me and there are a lot of stuff happening in this volume.  I can’t wait for the end though!