Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Adventure of the Gloria Scott, by Arthur Conan Doyle

noonlightreads is hosting a chronological Sherlock Holmes Challenge during 2017 and 2018. I've read a few Sherlock stories/novels and I've always been meaning to read more so I jumped at the chance to join this ambitious challenge. The first story on this massive list was the Adventure of the Gloria Scott and I have to say I loved it.

The Adventure of the Gloria Scott was published as part of the twelve story collection "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" in 1893 and is chronologically the earliest case in the Sherlock Holmes canon. Most of the Sherlock Holmes stories I've read in the past were during the mid period of his career and it was fascinating to see Sherlock Holmes before he became the Sherlock Holmes we all know and love/hate/admire. This case is narrated by Sherlock and is a mystery within a mystery and as far as I'm concerned it's a must read for anyone interested in Sherlock Holmes and what pushed him to dedicate his life to the art of deduction. 

The Adventure of the Gloria Scott opens with Sherlock Holmes telling Watson about one of his very first cases. During his time at university he befriended a fellow "outsider" named Victor Trevor and was invited to the home of Victor's father for a month during a break from their studies. It's here that the mystery really starts. During a conversation Holmes revealed his prowess at deduction and Victor's father, Mr. Trevor, was amazed at what Holmes could deduce from just a few details. When Sherlock mentioned that he deduced Mr Trevor was once connected to someone with the initials "J.A" due to the initials being tattooed on his arm Mr Trevor passed out and gave a false account of who J.A was. Sherlock thought he made Mr Trevor uncomfortable and decided to leave the next day but before he could take his leave a man, a former shipmate of Mr Trevor, turned up at the house looking for work. Later that evening Holmes and Victor found Mr Trevor passed out drunk on a lounge.

Sherlock took his leave the next day and spent the next seven weeks honing his skills and embarking on chemistry experiments until suddenly he received a telegram from Victor urging him to come back to Mr. Trevor's house. When he arrived Mr. Trevor had just passed away from complications relating to a stroke. During the seven weeks that Holmes was away he discovered the old shipmate, Hudson, was making life uncomfortable and impossible for both Victor and Mr Trevor. After clashing with Victor, Hudson left and announced he was going to see Beddoes, a fellow shipmate of both Mr Trevor and himself. A letter soon arrived for Mr Trevor from Fordingbridge where Beddoes lived. The letter itself was somewhat of a riddle and was intelligible to Victor but Holmes worked out that each third word made up a harrowing sentence "The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for your life." Clearly there was a terrible secret that all three had been hiding for decades.

Mr. Trevor had left a letter explaining that years before they had all been convicts sent on a voyage to
Australia. Once on the ship had set sail Mr. Trevor found out there was a conspiracy to take over the ship. I think you can all guess where this is heading. Basically everyone died except for Trevor, Beddoes and Hudson and a few other men. Trevor and Beddoes made fortunes when they eventually arrived in Australia and returned home as rich men. Soon after Mr. Trevor died in the present Beddoes and Hudson were never heard from again. The police assumed Hudson had killed Beddoes but Holmes was of the opinion that Beddoes had killed Hudson and had fled the country with as much money as he could take.

I really liked this story. It was a mystery within a mystery and gave the reader insight on Sherlock Holmes as a young man and as it was the first Sherlock Holmes case I think its required reading for every Holmes aficionado.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

January 2017;

It's the first second of the month where I live so I'd like to start this post wishing everyone a Happy New Year! I was going to start this post talking about 2016 but suffice to say it was a hard year for a lot of people and I'd rather look towards 2017.

I have some lofty aspirations for my 2017 reading year and I hope to achieve most of my reading goals but if I don't thats okay too. I'm a university student and have other commitments so I'm going to try and keep the challenges I take part in to a minimum so I can focus on completing them. I'm also going to rework my Classics Club list because there are a lot of novels on there from the 1900s that I just dont want to read. I'd rather replace them with older works that I know I'll love. The changes wont be too drastic though.

As you all know I'm hosting the Russian Literature Challenge for 2017 and I'm pleased with the amount of people who will be joining me. Along with that I'll be continuing my Turgenev Project and plan to finish that late this year or early next year. I'm also doing a Clarissa Project. As for challenges I plan to join the Deal Me in Challenge, Back to the Classics, a TBR challenge, a Sherlock Holmes challenge, a Lord of the Rings readalong and a Victorian Reading Challenge. So really I'm not keeping my challenges to a minimum. Oops!

All my lists for each challenge can be found here: xxxx (its a work in progress I'm a little bit slower this year)

As for January I'm currently reading Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev (will I ever finish this? stay tuned), Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (for my year long Clarissa Project) and I finished a Sherlock Holmes story last night for another challenge. I also have to draw out my first card for the Deal Me In Challenge. I'm trying not to plan to far ahead because plans change but this month I want to start the Oresteia by Aeschylus, another Russian work, Cicero's Letters and possibly Mansfield Park. Other than that I'm just going to keep my options open.

I hope everyone has a great start of year!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Russian Literature Reading Challenge 2017

*** At the end of this post I've included a very long list of Russian texts from the 12th Century onwards. 

Since my 2016 Ancient Greek Challenge was a success (both personally and for others - but more on that later) I've been thinking about what challenge I want to host in 2017. Ever since I first picked up One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich many years ago I've been charmed by Russian Literature and I've been reading A LOT of Russian Literature lately so it was a pretty easy decision. I'm currently making my way through Ivan Turgenev's works so this challenge will collide with that project nicely.

I have many, many Russian Lit novels, short stories and plays I want to read in 2017. I want to continue with my Turgenev Project by reading a few of his novels and most of his short stories. I also want to read War and Peace (I've had an eleven month break from Tolstoy and I think that's long enough), the Brothers Karamazov and maybe another Dostoevsky, Demons by Gogol, Chekov's short story collection, some medieval Russian texts and Pushkin's Fairy Tales. I'm sure I'll think of more as it gets closer to 2017. As I said I'm really into Russian Literature at the moment (always).

I'll just be reading Classic Russian Literature (mostly the 19th Century) but I welcome anyone that participates to read 20th century or contemporary Russian Literature and Non Fiction. I'll be listing the books I want to read on my 2017 Challenges Page.

Like with many challenges there will be four levels (going to make it interesting and name them after my favourite Russian writers):

  • Level One (Tolstoy): 1-3 books 
  • Level Two (Chekov): 4-6 books 
  • Level Three (Dostoevsky): 7-11 books
  • Level Four (Turgenev): 12+ books

You can count short stories, poetry, novels, novellas and plays in your book count. I don't really mind.

If you are going to join me just leave a comment under this post. I made a couple of buttons which you can use to show you're participating if you so desire:

Russian Literature List:
**this is a constant work in progress but if you have suggestions send them my way
*** this is a rough list that obviously doesn't cover every Russian text but I've done my best to include as many as I can
**** works from the 12th-18th centuries are mostly travelogues/religious texts and hard to locate in English but I've included them mostly for my own interest
****** each category and sub category are in chronological order to the best of my ability

Friday, 2 December 2016

Clarissa; a year long project

There is one novel that has been staring or glaring at me for years. It sits lonely at the bottom of my shelves gathering dust. Occasionally I look at it and avert my eyes instantly because I feel guilty. Why do I feel guilty? I know I will love this novel. I knew I would from the moment I picked it up in a bookstore all those years ago but for some reason I just couldn't pick it up. It's MASSIVE but the size isn't what intimidates me. It's the words; the density; the feeling that to read it and understand it and love it I would have to take it slow and let the words seep into my veins. 

What is this novel? It's Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. No book intimidates me more than this one but when I looked at the novel this morning I felt something new: I know I need to read it and if I don't do it now I never will. I have thought long and hard about how I want to read it and I've decided to do a year long read. It's an epistolary novel and the letters inside correspond to dates of the year. The first entry is January 10th and the last is December 18th. The challenge is going to be sticking to the dates. I know at one point or another I will want to leave it be for a while or read fast but I will do my best to stick to the timeline I've set out for myself. 

So this is the schedule I'm aiming for: 

  • Vol. 1: Letters 1-6

  • Vol. 1 - Letters 7-10 

  • Vol. 1 - Letters 11-44 
  • Vol. 2 - Letters 1-28

  • Vol. 2 - Letters 29-48
  • Vol. 3 - Letters 1-62
  • Vol. 4 - Letters 1-6

  • Vol. 4 - Letters 7-55
  • Vol. 5 - Letters 1-9

  • Vol. 5 - Letters 10-36
  • Vol. 6 - Letters 1-51

  • Vol. 6 - Letters 52-73
  • Vol. 7 - Letters 1-63
  • Vol. 7 - Letters 63-84
  • Vol. 8 - Letters 1-47

  • Vol. 8 - Letters 48-71
  • Vol. 9 - Letters 1-48

  • Vol 9 - Letters 49-59

  • Vol 9 - Letters 60-62

  • Vol. 9 - Letters 62-64
  • Conclusion
  • Postscript 

If you've never read Clarissa before or feel like reading it again at a slower pace you are welcome to join me. I'll be writing monthly posts (if all goes to plan which if you've been following me for a while you'll know this is less than probable) and tagging my updates on twitter with #clarissaRA.

I'm also doing a RUSSIAN LITERATURE CHALLENGE which I'm working on now and the post should be up tomorrow or later today. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

December, and other things

Two. Zero. One. Six. 

This year has been a monster. It's been chaotic and painful and long and stagnant and I, for one, am glad it's the last month of this tumultuous year. I honestly can't remember a year other than this one where I can't really find one good thing to say about it. Personally, it was a year of great change and upheaval. I left the place I had always known and it was a mistake but I learned from it. I've always been of the opinion that change is better than continuity but I couldn't have been more wrong. Both have their merits. This was the year that I realised I didn't want to have a career in the area that I've been working towards for my entire life. But that's okay - it's all part of growing up and finding yourself. This year was terrible but I think I needed this year to shake me out of the drifting I was doing - to remind me that I'm okay and that I'll be okay. 

This year has also been a nightmare of a year for reading. I've spoken about it before but I just lost the ability to concentrate on anything for a long periods of time. I have been reading though - just in small amounts. I've read a LOT of poetry and short stories this year. I finished Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which is one of the greatest texts I've ever read. I've read a few more texts written by Ivan Turgenev - he's now firmly in place as my favourite Russian writer. I've read Greek plays. It doesn't amount to much but for how intense this year has been it's good enough for me. 

Now for what I want to achieve in December... 

I'm currently reading a bunch of books. They include the Decameron (I will finish this by the end of the year - I will not accept failure), the House of Mirth, Spring Torrents (another Turgenev that I recently bought), a collection of Chekov short stories, a Shakespeare play and a Sophocles play. I want to finish them all by the end of the year but if I don't that's okay. I'm really in love with reading again so it's okay to take it slow. I also want to read A Christmas Carol. Dickens is my nemesis (I just can never settle with him) so I'll start small. I have been reading a bit of the Pickwick Papers and I love it so...

I have some great plans for next years reading which I'll post about at the end of December but I'm really looking forward to 2017 and the books I want to read. I think I'll take a turn at hosting another event next year - personally I achieved my Ancient Greek and Roman challenge goal - and if I do it will be a Russian Literature Challenge. 80% of my reading list is Russian Literature and I recently bought a bunch of new Russian Lit books so that challenge should help me out.

For now I'm going to finish writing a review of two Turgenev novellas I read this year and then read some more of Spring Torrents. There's nothing like Turgenev's prose. 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight [FIT II]


It's been a long time since I published my review/summary of Fit I of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight but I didn't want to continue reading this beautiful poem if I didn't have the time and passion to dedicate to it. As stated in my first post last November (what? has it really been that long?) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a 14th Century alliterative poem written by an unknown writer. Fit I ended with Sir Gawain giving his word that he would find the Green Knight in a years time so he could be dealt a return blow and Fit II picks up with an extremely beautiful description of the parting seasons:

Wrathful winds in raging skies wrestle with the sun;
Leaves are lashed loose from the trees and lie on the ground
And the grass becomes grey which was green before.
What rose from root at first now ripens and rots;
So the year in passing yields its many yesterdays,
And winter returns, as the way of the world is...

After seasons and Michaelmas passes Sir Gawain readies himself to leave for his quest on All Saints Day. Lords, ladies and Knights alike grieve for Gawain and offer him advice. Sir Gawain, optimistic about the road ahead, simply says:

"Whether fate be foul or fair,
Why falter I or fear?
What should man do but dare?"

The narrator then describes the rich clothes, saddle and weapons Sir Gawain is given for his quest which speaks to how rich and noble Camelot is. In other Arthurian literature I've noticed that Camelot isn't like a lot of Medieval cities or seats of power. It's far richer and advanced in almost every way. It's kind of like a dream city, something that could never exist in reality. The narrator then goes on to talk about the significance of the Pentangle on Sir Gawain's garments which shows just how noble and good Sir Gawain is. 

"Why the pentangle is proper to the prince of knights...
For, ever faithful in five things, each in fivefold manner,
Gawain was reputed good and, like gold well refined,
He was devoid of all villainy, every virtue displaying
In the field." 

Sir Gawain then leaves Camelot and travels across Britain. The narrator describes the days that turn into weeks that turn into months and the loneliness that Sir Gawain feels as the traipses on his journey through what is modern Britain and Wales. Sir Gawain scales the mountains and comes face to face with many a man and beast and besting them all. He continues on his journey until Christmas Eve where suddenly he comes across a castle "the comeliest castle that ever a knight owned." Sir Gawain enters the castle and is granted lodging after trudging across Britain for months on end. The narrator then embarks on a long description of the castle, the Lord who lives there and the rich food that Sir Gawain is given. Again, Sir Gawain is marvelled over by the inhabitants of this castle as he is wherever he goes. You really can't help feeling attached to Sir Gawain and the kind of person he is. Sir Gawain then meets the Lady of the castle and instantly takes a liking to her:

Most beautiful of body and bright of complexion,
Most winsome in ways of all women alive, 

She seemed to Sir Gawain, excelling Guinevere. 

The narrator then goes on to describe three long days full of merriment and feasting and details how rich the food is and how rich the company is. You are constantly reminded that this castle is fit for a knight like Sir Gawain to inhabit. As Sir Gawain prepares to leave the next day the Lord of the castle asks him to detail exactly what his quest is. The Lord of the castle tells him that the place Sir Gawain is looking for is only two miles from his castle and Sir Gawain is overjoyed and stays at the castle until the morning of New Year's Day. Fit II ends with the Lord of the castle giving Sir Gawain a deed: while the Lord goes out hunting Sir Gawain must stay and doze until late morning after which the Lady will accompany him until the Lord comes back. The Lord also says that whatever he wins on the hunt will be Sir Gawain's for the keeping and whatever achievement Sir Gawain chance's on in the castle, he exchange's for what ever the Lord brings back from the hunt.

And that's it for Fit II. Let's hope I manage to post the next Fit before next year (I joke, I joke).

Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Song of Love Triumphant by Ivan Turgenev

Ivan Turgenev towards the end of his life
It's not much of a secret that Ivan Turgenev is one of my favourite writers. I decided late last year that I would make my way through his novels, short stories and plays. I chose to start with one of his short stories, The Song of Love Triumphant, because I read somewhere he dedicated it to his dear friend (and another favourite writer of mine) Gustave Flaubert and it did not disappoint. It's quite a different piece of writing compared to Turgenev's other short stories, very experimental, but it's a really fascinating insight into Turgenev's state of mind later in his life.

The Song of Love Triumphant (sometimes referred to as the Song of Triumphant Love) was written in 1881 which was two years before he died. It's a work that splits critics and the general reading public alike. Some think it's a creative masterpiece and some dismiss it as a purely imaginative story with no real substance. I saw it as somewhere in between those two extremes. It's not Turgenev's best work but it is very moving and creative and different. The story is heavily based on his life long love for Pauline Vardot, an opera singer and their unique connection that spurned decades. Pauline was married at the time they met but it seems they all come to some arrangement as Turgenev followed them around Europe and lived close to them for a very long time. At one point he lived in a room in their house and at another point built a chalet in their garden and lived there for a while. It was even said Pauline's two children were Turgenev's children - a popular public theory that was never proved.
Louis Viardot after reading The Song of Love Triumphant

The Song of Love Triumphant is set in Ferrara during the Renaissance and is both a look into Renaissance Italy and the fascination in the West with Oriental culture. It follows the story of two friends, Fabio and Muzzio, who were a painter and a musician respectively and their love for the same woman, Valeria. Valeria eventually chooses Fabio and Muzzio travels around the East for five years to recover from the disappointment. When he returns he stays with Valeria and Fabio which is really where the story starts. Muzzio has aquired 'supernatural' instruments while he has been in the East and at night he plays a tune on his new violin 'The Song of Triumphant Love' which mesmerisies Valeria and she has an erotic dream which Muzzio has as well. The next night Muzzio plays the tune again but this time Fabio follows the tune and 'fatal' events ensue. Muzzio somehow survives the attack (its implied he was brought back to life by his attendant) and they quickly leave Fabio and Valeria to live their life peacefully. The story ends with Valeria feeling the "stirring of life" in her womb and the narrator ends the story with an unfinished question.

The Song of Love Triumphant is a funny little tale. It's very experimental and not like Turgenev's usual stories which is why I found it so compelling. As with all of Turgenev's stories and novels I've read so far this story was exceptionally well written and the writing evokes emotion in you in a way that takes you back to a time or a person or a place in your own life. Turgenev was said to be a very gentle person, someone who was attached to nature and light, and you can really feel that in this story.