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Blog category: British Literature

Review: "Night and Day" by Virginia Woolf


Originally published in 1919, Night and Day contrasts the daily lives of four major characters while examining the relationships between love, marriage, happiness, and success. Like Virginia Woolf’s first novel The Voyage Out, Night and Day is a more traditional narrative than her later novels. Unlike her first novel, however, Night and Day relies much more on its characters’ internal struggles to push the its plot forward. Continue reading .

Review: "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell


First published as a serial from August 1864 to January 1866 in the Cornhill Magazine, the story revolves around Molly Gibson, the only daughter of a widowed doctor living in a provincial English town in the 1830s. When Gaskell died suddenly in 1865, it was not quite complete, and the last section was written by Frederick Greenwood. Continue reading .

Review: "The Mill on the Floss" by George Eliot

First published in 1860, The Mill on the Floss is George Eliot’s second full length novel. Considered the most autobiographical of her work, it is the story of free-spirited Maggie Tulliver and her stern brother Tom. Eliot details poignantly their childhood growing up at Dorlcote Mill on the River Floss and later their turbulent young adulthood. Continue reading .

Review: "The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Baroness Orczy


Based on the 1903 play of the same name, the novel was published shortly thereafter and was an immediate success. The Scarlet Pimpernel follows the story of Marguerite Blakeney–a beautiful French actress–and the anonymous hero who rescues condemned aristocrats out of France during the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution. The book’s anonymous hero of dual identity is a precursor to latter heros and superheros such as Superman, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, and Batman. Continue reading .

Review: "The Voyage Out" by Virginia Woolf


While Woolf can easily be criticized for neglecting to research the technical details and for writing only about the upper classes and their manias, to dwell on these issues would be entirely beside the point. E. M. Forster put it best when he described The Voyage Out as “…a strange, tragic, inspired book whose scene is a South America not found on any map and reached by a boat which would not float on any sea, an America whose spiritual boundaries touch Xanadu and Atlantis.” Continue reading .

Review: "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" by Agatha Christie


In this first novel by Agatha Christie, published in 1920, she introduces the inimitable Poirot, who would go on to appear in 33 Christie novels and 54 short stories. The plot of The Mysterious Affair at Styles deals with a straightforward case of an old woman poisoned with strychnine for the obvious reason: her money. The way Christie handles a plot, however, nothing is ever straightforward. The story spirals round and round, leading the reader in one direction, then another, convincing the reader that first one character, then another is the guilty party. Continue reading .

Review: "The Solitary Summer" by Elizabeth von Arnim


First published in 1899, The Solitary Summer picks up where Elizabeth and Her German Garden left off. Instead of a year’s diary of the previous book, this sequel relates a summer in the life of Elizabeth in her patterings about the garden, care of her “babies” and various escapades with servants and towns-folk. The book starts with a premise–Elizabeth is to have a summer free of guests, all to herself and her family and her beloved garden. Elizabeth’s love of nature and solitude wins in the end, and anyone with a love of the same will love this book in turn. Continue reading .

Review: "The Hawaiian Archipelago" by Isabella L Bird


Published in 1875, The Hawaiian Archipelago depicts a far different Hawaii than the one we see in travelogues or the one made famous by Pearl Harbor. Ms. Bird’s work is significant because of the historical as well as personal perspective she offers. During Bird’s time, one primary concern about Hawaii was its dwindling population and abandonment of once-thriving communities. Her love for the islands and the personal healing she experiences, both physically and psychologically, leaves her in its thrall. Continue reading .

Review: "Villette" by Charlotte Brontë


Published in 1853, Villette is the story of the famously passive and secretive Lucy Snowe. After an unspecified family disaster, she travels to the fictional city of Villette to teach at an all-girls school where she is unwillingly pulled into both adventure and romance. If you’re expecting something similar to Charlotte Brontë’s more famous novel Jane Eyre, you will most likely be disillusioned with Villette–but that’s not to say you won’t like it. While both novels enjoy similar craftsmanship, the tone could not be more different. Continue reading .

Review: "The Mysteries of Udolpho" by Ann Radcliffe


First published in 1794 in four volumes, The Mysteries of Udolpho is a Gothic Romance set in the 16th century. The novel is unique in this genre in that its many mysterious and supernatural events are eventually given a rational explanation. While most famous today for being referenced in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, The Mysteries of Udolpho was wildly popular on its own account upon initial publication and in subsequent decades.Central to the plot is our beloved heroine, Emily St. Aubert. She is a young French woman who bears a striking resemblance to the heroine of Fanny Burney’s Cecila. She is an orphan, naive, innately good, yet preyed upon and at the mercy of many shady characters, many who are her own relatives. Like Cecilia’s favorite suitor Mortimer Delville, Emily’s true love, Valencourt, has the same emotional (some would say whiny) character and true heart. And like Cecilia, Emily’s story is long. Continue reading .

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