Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The 100 Greatest British Novels and Boning up on Canadian History

Hmm. I don't usually get views from those countries: I wonder who is boning up on Canadian history by reading about the Nicholson Family of Richmond, Quebec in the Edwardian Era and during WWI.

My recent posts have been about my e-book, Service and Disservice, about the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragists in the 1917 Conscription Crisis.

As it happens, I'm having a lot of  trouble writing, with flow and style, my chapter on Mrs. Constance Hamilton, the Toronto social reformer and soft suffragist.

Usually, when I can't write, it means I need to read. I need to water the plants, as it were.

So, yesterday, I downloaded a few prize-winning novels from recent lists. One from the Man-Booker shortlist, one from the Giller shortlist and one recommended by the NY Times Review of Books.

All short novels, apparently. I read a few chapters of each and got about 25 percent of the way through each of them.

Which brings me to Middlemarch. Not a short novel.

Well, this morning the Guardian has published yet another list of the 100 Greatest British Books- this time compiled by 'book-writers' from around the world - and Middlemarch is No. 1.

Edith Nicholson, circa 1910 and her copy of Middlemarch in my house. Green book at left.


Middlemarch was Edith Nicholson's favorite book. I have her copy (in two volumes) from 1880 ish, I think.

She was given the book in the 1930's. There's an inscription.

Middlemarch is NOT my favorite book, even if the lead character and I share the same name.

I have tried, but I have never been able to finish the thing. This past summer I listened to a  French audio version on litteratureaudio.com and, once again, only got half through.

No. 2 on the list is, perhaps, my favorite novel, To the Lighthouse. (It was turned into a fairly lousy film, though, with Kenneth Branagh.)

Atonement is on the list, but the novel it pays homage to, the Go-Between, isn't. I love the Go-Between, almost as much as To the Lighthouse.

The Go-Between was made into a superb film, with Julie Christie.

Atonement was made into a good film, too.

Bleak House in on the list at number 6. I had to read it in high school. A previous student had written Bleak Book on my copy, over the what'sitcalled, the scrunched pages of the closed book.

I'm happy to see Small Island on the list. That novel is one of my favorite reads of the past decade. I haven't yet seen the TV serial with Benedict Cumberbatch. I can't find it on Youtube :)

NW, Zadie Smith's newer novel, is also on the list and also on my old-style 400 dollar Kindle. I debated whether to read it first before downloading the other 3 ebooks yesterday.

(One of these e-books has typo issues. I don't have to feel so bad about my ebooks on Amazon then. Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Furies Cross the Mersey, all about Canada in 1910, the Laurier Era, where we were debating the immigration issue.)

Waugh's Scoop is on the list, but not Brideshead Revisited. Iris Murdoch's the Sea the Sea is on the list. I was reading that novel and really enjoying it while watching Brideshead on the TV, years ago in the 1980's.


I recall that the sumptuous, seductive TV production of Brideshead Revisited made the Sea the Sea seem less compelling in comparison.  What a TV show! (It's usually the other way around, right? Great books usually outshine television and movie versions.)

 I read Brideshead Revisited for the first time shortly thereafter and have read it a number of times since.

I even recommended it to my book club, with the Go-Between and Small Island.

And, I watched the entire show on DVD just a few months ago.