domingo, 31 de agosto de 2014

Wigs on the Green - Nancy Mitford

Summary (from Goodreads):

Nancy Mitford’s most controversial novel, unavailable for decades, is a hilarious satirical send-up of the political enthusiasms of her notorious sisters, Unity and Diana.

Written in 1934, early in Hitler’s rise, Wigs on the Green lightheartedly skewers the devoted followers of British fascism. The sheltered and unworldy Eugenia Malmain is one of the richest girls in England and an ardent supporter of General Jack and his Union Jackshirts. World-weary Noel Foster and his scheming friend Jasper Aspect are in search of wealthy heiresses to marry; Lady Marjorie, disguised as a commoner, is on the run from the Duke she has just jilted at the altar; and her friend Poppy is considering whether to divorce her rich husband. When these characters converge with the colorful locals at a grandly misconceived costume pageant that turns into a brawl between Pacifists and Jackshirts, madcap farce ensues. Long suppressed by the author out of sensitivity to family feelings, Wigs on the Green can now be enjoyed by fans of Mitford’s superbly comic novels.


Once more, I found myself enjoying one of Nancy Mitford's comedy of manners. While I don't think Wigs on the Green is her best novel, this Mitford sister always succeeds at engaging and entertaining the reader with the convoluted to-ing and fro-ing and the witty banter between characters. Here she might have gone a little bit over the top with romantic tangles, but her acid humor makes up for it:
She listened calmly while the suggestion was being made, and then said that it was too unlucky, but Queen Charlotte's dress was now finished, and could never be altered to fit Lady Marjorie, as there were no means of letting out the seams on the hips and round the waist.[...] Poppy said at the time to Mrs Lace that as she looked exactly like Queen Charlotte, she was quite right to keep the part. Unfortunately, owing to its target's total ignorance of English history, this Parthian shaft went wide of the mark.
One thing I love is that her set of main characters is usually more or less small, and thus a manageable one, but she finds the way to sneak in other characters from previous novels as secondary characters, as is the case with MP Captain Chadlington and Lady Brenda. Isn't it great to get updates on the lives of characters you cared about before? I get giddy when I spot the references.

The best part of Wigs on the Green is that it serves as a small window to the past, to a pre-WWII UK, when Nazis weren't yet a threat. I have to say I cringed at some of the statements making light-hearted fun of Hitler, but I live in a post-WWII world. And it is surprising how easily the British nobility accepted and even welcomed fascism. Of course, the Mitford family is a good example as any, and Nancy Mitford didn't even try to disguise she was using her own sisters as characters. The young Eugenia Malmains is a slightly more histrionic version of Unity Mitford, while Diana might have inspired Poppy. I wonder whether the pacifist artists had traces of Jessica. It is no wonder that the publication of this novel caused a riot inside the Mitford family. While it is generally accepted that Nancy was making fun of her sisters, I don't think she was really aiming at hurting them. Strained as their relationship was, they still were the Mitford sisters, in unison. After all, the divorce of Poppy/Diana doesn't have bad consequences, and the Union Jackshirts/fascist triumph in a way. In the end, Nancy retired Wigs on the Green from the market, and it hasn't been republished until recently.

Have you read this book? Please, leave a link to your review in the comments and I will link you here!

miércoles, 20 de agosto de 2014

The Classics Spin #7 Winner

The spin number is 17! That means the winner is The 19th of March and the 2nd of May by Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós! 


The Third of May 1808 - Francisco Goya
Source: Wikipedia Commons

I'm really happy about this result, since it is one of the books I most wanted to read. It is the third novel on the National Episodes saga. I've reviewed the first two this year (here and here, in case you are interested). Unfortunately, they aren't translated into English (yet?), so I don't think many of you classics clubbers will have read this one. And that is a shame!

lunes, 18 de agosto de 2014

Bout of Books 11: Goals & Updates

Bout of Books

It is my first Bout of Books readathon, so I will concentrate on reading and reviewing and won't be too hard on challenges. I know my goals are unrealistic, but I want to push myself. If I don't complete them, it will still be a better week than usual.

I will be updating this master post every day with the number of pages read and the number of books and reviews I complete. Let's go!

Read:

1. Finish Night Film
2. Finish The Arachnids
3. Read from one or more of the following: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The Age of Miracles, Kraken, Like Water for Chocolate, or any other from my TBR.

Review:

1. Any books finished within Bout of Books
2. Second batch of mini-reviews
3. Wigs on the Green, by Nancy Mitford
4. Nada, by Carmen Laforet
5. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
6. The Pillow Book, by Sei Shōnagon


Day One - Monday

Number of pages I've read today: 22
Total pages I've read: 22 
Number of books I've read today: I've read from Night Film
Total number of books I've read: 0

Other: Listed and linked my goals

Day Two - Tuesday

Number of pages I've read today: 58
Total pages I've read: 80 
Number of books I've read today: Once again, I've read only from Night Film
Total number of books I've read: 0

Other: I'm realizing Night Film isn't such a page turner as I thought it was. It isn't a thriller, exactly. I want to know what happened to that Ashley Cordova girl and unravel the mystery surrounding Stanislas Cordova, but I'm in no hurry to do so. Bad readathon material. Boo. I think I'm changing my goals to 1) Make a dent in Night Film and 2) Finish The Arachnids.

Day Three - Wednesday

Number of pages I've read today: 30
Total pages I've read: 110 
Number of books I've read today: Just Night Film
Total number of books I've read: 0

Other: I'm more interested in Night Film every day, but it is definitely a slow book - not good readathon material.


Day Four - Thursday

Number of pages I've read today: 68
Total pages I've read: 178 
Number of books I've read today: 48 from Night Film and 20 from The Arachnids
Total number of books I've read: 0

Other: Tried to read more of The Arachnids today. Problem is I'm reading it with the BF, and we take frequent breaks. I've also started organizing my reviews.

It is time to admit that it is me who is not good readathon material this week. I quit readathoning, and will be reading at my own pace. Maybe I will be better off next Bout of Books!

sábado, 9 de agosto de 2014

Currently | On Holiday

shamelessly stole got this idea from Kim, who blogs at Sophisticated Dorkiness. She reviews the most amazing books, so go read her blog!



Alice in Wonderland pop-up book, by Robert Sabuda.
Source [x]

So I've had quite a busy week at work and at home. I had a good reason to procrastinate on the blogging front though - I'm going on an impromptu holiday starting today! It was rushed, thus the lack of reading, blogging and commenting, and the surge of work to leave everything in perfect condition until I'm back. Unfortunately, I fantastically failed The Monster Thons. I had so many plans. Boo. It also means I won't be around for the next week or so, since I plan on not having access to any kind of Internet connection. I will tweet if I find wifi, and will try to get up-to-date with comments and your blogs as soon as I'm back.

Time: 9:23

Place: Breakfast table at home

Eating & Drinking: Japanese green tea and white chocolate cookies

Reading: I have just finished Nada. I was glued to the book! Loved it! Although love might not be quite the right word. The review will be up in a couple of weeks. I'm now starting Gone Girl, which is kind of the perfect holiday reading material. I know I am a year behind the hype. I tell myself it helps me choose which books are worth my time. In reality, I'm just a sucker who can't read as fast as I'd like.

Writing: Zilch! I should have written some reviews, but oh well. Who cares when it is August!

Watching: Misfits, Misfits, Misfits. Why didn't I get to watch that show before? It's so good.

Listening: Nothing. The headphones stopped working and I lost my little earpiece. Bummer.

Loving: The holiday rush. That feeling of an upcoming adventure, the planning, the reading time, I mean, traveling time.

Hating: The A/C broke at work, and it won't be getting repaired for a while. It is So.Hot. I melt.

viernes, 8 de agosto de 2014

The Classics Spin #7

It is the seventh edition of the Classics Spin for the Classics Club! I almost didn't publish the list on time! As it is summer, I decided to indulge and listed the books I'm most intrigued about twice, to increase the chance of getting them in the spin. Don't judge me, my brain is too fuzzy to face the hardest classics on my list. Who wants to read Joyce in August? Not me.

5 classics I'm neutral about:
1. A selection of Anton Chekhov's Tales
2. The Call of the Wild - Jack London
3. The Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper
4. The Currents of Space - Isaac Asimov
5. Robot Dreams - Isaac Asimov

5 classics I'm intrigued about:
6. The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
7. The 19th of March and the 2nd of May - Benito Pérez Galdós
8. The One Thousand and One Nights - Anonymous
9. To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
10. The Guermantes Way - Marcel Proust

5 Persephone classics:
11. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Winifred Watson
12. Saplings - Noel Streatfield
13. The Victorian Chaise Longue - Marghanita Laski
14. Minnie's Room - Mollie Panter-Downes
15. Miss Ranskill Comes Home - Barbara Euphan Todd


5 classics I'm intrigued about x2:
16. The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
17. The 19th of March and the 2nd of May - Benito Pérez Galdós
18. The One Thousand and One Nights - Anonymous
19. To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
20. The Guermantes Way - Marcel Proust

Let it spin!

jueves, 7 de agosto de 2014

The Puppet Boy of Warsaw - Eva Weaver

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Puppet Boy of Warsaw is the story of Mika, a Jewish boy who inherits a coat from his grandfather and discovers a puppet in one of its many secret pockets. He becomes a puppeteer in the Warsaw ghetto, but when his talent is discovered, Mika is forced to entertain the occupying German troops instead of his countrymen.

It is also the story of Max, a German soldier stationed in Warsaw, whose experiences in Poland and later in Siberia's Gulag show a different side to the Second World War. As one of Mika's puppets is passed to the soldier, a war-torn legacy is handed from one generation to another.


Anyone who has read this blog for any period of time will know that I love WWII reads. So, when I heard of The Puppet Boy of Warsaw I immediately added it to my wishlist. A novel about the Warsaw ghetto and a Gulag is a winning combination in my book, since Gulags aren't discussed as much as the Holocaust in literature. A novel which tells the story from the point of view of both factions is a rare gem, and it could have been the perfect way to explore the feelings of Germans regarding the Holocaust.

Unfortunately, it was a disappointment. It started out great, with the childhood of Mika, the main character, but the author kept adding characters on top of characters, until it was obvious that the intended scope was too big for the meagre plot. From Mika's grandfather to Mika's grandson, and the muddled family history of a German soldier who was in the ghetto, The Puppet Boy of Warsaw spans six generations, four countries and roughly a century, in just 300 pages. While it could have worked in theory, it felt unfocused and all over the place.

On the other hand, the novel is extremely well-reserached. I learned a lot about the Warsaw -Ghetto Uprising of 1943, and the author weaved Mika into the revolution seamlessly. However, that was the only high point of the whole novel for me. The Puppet Boy of Warsaw was excessively simplistic, and the author took on a didactic and moralising tone that felt awfully patronising. Readers don't want to be told that war is bad, they need to be shown so. This is a recurring theme in the novel - we are always told how wonderful a puppeteer Mika is, but we are never shown any of his performances. The sequence would go something like this: someone is sad and needs some cheering, Mika does his thing, everyone who watches is awed and feels fantastic all of a sudden. What exactly Mika said or did, nobody knows. After countless repetitions of this nonsense, I couldn't help but feel that the puppeteering, which could have been very innovative, was just a boring gimmick.

The story had promise, but it fell short. Maybe in the hands of a more skilled author it could have been a good novel. And yet it will have a broad public, since it is one of those books that make you feel awful if you don't cry with its characters. I feel bad, because I really wanted to like this, but that was the last nail in the coffin. WWII was devastating enough as it was without the need to be emotionally manipulative with your readers.

Have you read this book? Please, leave a link to your review in the comments and I will link you here!