Monday, October 6, 2014

A fictionalized peek into the story of Charles Dickens' wife

I'm fascinated with Charles Dickens.  I have been for quite some time.  And while I enjoy his writing, and feel he was one of the most amazing storytellers of all time, I've always thought his treatment of his wife Catherine was shabby at best.

Girl in a Blue Dress, subtitled "A Novel of the Life & Marriage of Charles Dickens," did nothing to change my opinion of Dickens.  But it was a truly interesting read.

This is from;

At the end of her life, Catherine, the cast-off wife of Charles Dickens, gave the letters she had received from her husband to their daughter Kate, asking her to donate them to the British Museum, “so the world may know that he loved me once.” 

Author Gaynor Arnold changes some things.  For instance, Charles and Catherine Dickens become Alfred and Dorothea Gibson, and she changes the names and birth orders of their children.

  She also adds some key scenes which probably didn't happen in real allowing Dorothea to confront the young actress who destroyed her marriage.

Other than that, as far as I can ascertain, Arnold stuck fairly close to the facts.  Dorothea/Catherine is a sympathetic figure because after giving her husband the best years of her life, she is literally cast aside.  Oh, Charles Dickens made sure the mother of his children was well-cared for, but that's about it.

One can feel the heartache of this woman who apparently never stopped loving the man who threw her over.

Arnold paints Charles Dickens just as he seemed to be: larger than life, brilliant, selfish, a superstar in his time and a lasting literary legend.

If, like myself, you have an interest in Charles Dickens and would like to gain more insight into his marriage and how it ended up, this book is a must-read.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How can you love a book when you can't stand the characters? My review of "Flinder's Field" by D. M. Mitchell

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I read this book on my Kindle because I love psychological thrillers, and this had gotten a lot of five-star reviews.

Here's part of Amazon's summary:

In November 1974, a young woman called Sylvia Tredwin goes missing. Nobody has the faintest idea where she’s gone. She was wearing only a light skirt and T-shirt, didn’t take anything with her, no suitcase, nothing. Simply went out one dark evening and never returned. 

Some say she went off with another man, because there’d already been talk in the small Somerset village of Petheram that she’s that type of woman – attractive, flirty with it, dressed too provocatively. But her husband, Bruce Tredwin, doesn’t believe a word of the callous whisperings of the locals as they gossip about his outsider wife. So he never gives up searching for her. A fortnight later on a stormy winter’s night he finds her. She’s naked in a place called Flinder’s Field, wandering aimlessly, badly bruised and in total shock. But what she says to him will astound everyone. 

She says she’s been abducted by aliens, and she was never to be the same again, with tragic consequences…

While not badly written, I had two glaring problems with this book:

1) It took SO long to get going.  It was well into the book before anything really started happening.

2) And this one is a biggie:  I COULDN'T STAND THE CHARACTERS, especially the main character, George Lee!

George returns to Petheram, the village of his birth, and decides to try to find out exactly what happened to Sylvia Tredwin.

George was quite frankly a jerk, with no endearing qualities or anything that drew me to him.  Quite honestly, I didn't care if he lived or died.

None of the other characters were much better.

I stuck it out only because other readers had raved about the huge twist at the end, but even the twist failed to wow me.

The author has been touted as England's answer to Dean Koonce and Stephen King, but judging by this book, I'm not seeing it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"The Luminaries" didn't light up my world

The LuminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky."--Goodreads

I really wanted to like this critically acclaimed and highly-praised book. It had so many characteristics that I like in a book: it was lengthy, well-written, had interesting characters and story, even a Dickensian flair that I enjoyed.

Why, then, was it so hard for me to read this book? I literally had to force myself to read it. I only finished it because at some point, I figured I had invested too much time in it to just abandon it.

I ploughed doggedly through it as if it had been assigned to me in school and I was going to be tested on it.

But I feel no sense of accomplishment or satisfaction on completing it. Maybe it was because there was no one character I was really rooting for? I just don't know. I liked Moody, and Anna Wetherell was a solid character, but neither were developed enough to really care about.

All I know is, life is too short and there are too many amazing, page-turning books out there to spend time forcing myself to read a book.

View all my reviews


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