Stazjia’s Commentary

Posts Tagged ‘novels

The Way We Live Now - from the TV Series

The Way We Live Now - from the TV Series

The Way We Live Now was written by Anthony Trollope and it reads a lot like the script for a modern TV soap. Set in the 1870s, this is one of Trollope’s lesser known novels (he’s most famous for the Barchester Chronicles and The Pallisters).

It’s a satire on Victorian society, particularly the middle to upper classes. There is Melmotte, the Great Financier. Is he a swindler or an astute businessman with the Midas touch? Then there are the young men and women who are looking for a marriage partner. The men without money are only interested in young women who have a personal fortune or whose father is prepared to settle a great deal of money on them when they marry – remember, during this period, a woman usually had little or no control over her own money when she married.

There is one thoroughly decent man, Roger Carbury, although Trollope doesn’t shrink from showing his faults – minor in comparison to many of the other characters. The author’s favourite seems to be Mrs Hurtle, an American woman who comes to London in the hope of persuading her ex-fiance to renew their engagement. She is everything that English women aren’t: forthright, willing to fight for herself and to defy convention. She is also unexpectedly kind to other women when they need kindness.

The author shows how the titled men with few resources, gamble and fritter the little money they have. When they don’t have any, they issue IOUs with no idea how they can pay them.

Although a ‘classic’ Victorian novel, it is easy to read and Trollope does what all good authors should do – he makes you want to read yet another chapter to find out what happens next.

I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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I’ve just finished the latest novel by Alastair Reynolds, called The House of Suns. It was as good as all his other science fiction novels although it isn’t set in his Revelation Space Universe, like many of the others. Its big theme is morality and genocide, in particular as it relates to beings who are not organic but machine although with their own consciousness.

It sounds heavy but it is an exciting, interesting as well as a thoughtful book and I recommend it for anybody who enjoys science fiction.

Since I wrote about the Dickens novel, Bleak House, I’ve had an urge to re-read it. It doesn’t stop there, though. I’ve been compiling a list of books in my head that I’d like to read again. These are all books that I haven’t read for years. Most of them are classics that I read in my 20s and 30s. I had a period of reading all the classic novels that appealed to me – the ones I didn’t read then, I’ve never fancied reading at all.

The ones I’ve got on my mental list so far are: Little Dorritt and Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens and War and Peace by Tolstoy. I know that’s always given as an unreadable or immensely long book that takes ages to read but it really isn’t. I’m not sure if it’s longer than the Lord of the Rings or not but I found neither difficult or too long. The only thing about War and Peace is the detailed and wordy 19th century style of writing. Compare it to Les Miserables, though, and Tolstoy is a master of brevity. I’ve read Les Mis twice, once when I was about 20 and about 20 years later after I saw the musical. Both times I came away from the book with the impression that Victor Hugo never used one word when 50 or preferably 100 would do. Even so, I still enjoyed it. You just have to be in a relaxed and patient state of mind – kinda ‘get with the program’ – they’re 19th century writers and they like lots and lots of detail.

Speaking of The Lord of the Rings, I first read this in 1969. I got the first volume from the library and I read it compulsively. I finished it the following morning in bed before I got up. I then spent the morning going to all the local libraries to get the other two volumes which I also read virtually non-stop. I then bought the omnibus edition which I’ve re-read every few years. By the time the movies came out, I knew the book backwards. I was so impressed with how well the movies kept to the main story even though a lot had to be cut.

Two other books I’d like to read again are both by J.B. Priestley, once a well known English novelist but now sadly out of fashion and who died in 1984 at the age of 90. The two I’d like to re-read most are Angel Pavement and Good Companions. Priestley knew how to bring characters to life and also how to tell a good story. I think the Priestley books are out of print now so I can only buy them second hand – even libraries don’t have them now.

I also wrote a lens about Rudyard Kipling and talked in it about his novel Kim which I’ve read lots of times. When we moved in March, the book got lost so of course I want to read it again. I’ll just have to buy another copy. For some reason, it really appealed to me and touched a chord – maybe because I first read it when I was at school.

Rudyard KiplingI’ve been very busy over the last few days doing two news lens. The first one is on Rudyard Kipling, author of books like The Jungle Book and Kim and numerous poems. I know a lot of people think he was racist and jingoistic but I really don’t think he was. His language was definitely that of a Victorian or Edwardian upper class man but then he was a product of this time, just as we are.

If you read his novels and poems it quickly becomes obvious that he loved the East, particularly India where he was brought up until he was 5 years old. It’s also obvious that he loved and respected the people there. Another thing that shines through his work is his understanding of enlisted soldiers, often treated like the scum of the earth when they went home to Britain – see his poem Tommy.

I first read Kim when I was a child and loved it. I’ve re-read it several times since and it’s still pleased me as much as it did when I was young. I’m sure when Kipling was sent to England at the age of 5 to be educated while his parents remained in India, he must have hated being parted from his mother and father, his friends and all the familiar sights and sounds of India. Surely, as he served his sentence in England (it must have felt like a prison sentence), got a bit older and read adventure stories, he must fantasized about staying behind in India and living on the streets, pretending to be an Indian boy and having adventures of his own.

I don’t expect this lens to be particularly popular because, although Rudyard Kipling is less unfashionable than he was, he’s still not high on most people’s reading lists. They just don’t know what they’re missing.

The other lens I did is on The New City of Brighton & Hove in Sussex. Brighton is such a popular and fashionable seaside resort and, together with its neighbour Hove, was officially designated as a city in 2000. It’s most famous for its flamboyant Royal Pavilion built by the Prince Regent (later King George IV) in the late 18th century. It was the scene of the Brighton Bombing in 1984 which was meant to kill Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Although Mrs Thatcher survived uninjured, two people were killed and many others seriously injured and left with permanent disabilities.

Then there were the mystery fires that finally led to the end of Brighton’s West Pier – were they arson? The Police and Fire Brigade certainly classified them as ‘suspicious’. Even four years later, there are no answers.

Brighton is a most attractive place to live. It’s 60 miles from London and there is a good, fast rail service to the capital. It has an active nightlife, restaurants, clubs, entertainment and is close to beautiful countryside. It’s little wonder that it attracts a lot of famous people. Currently these include people as varied as Simon Cowell, Lord Richard Attenborough and Nigel Kennedy. In the past they have included Lord Laurence Olivier, Graham Greene, and the exiled Napoleon III.


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