Happy Birthday Jane Austen 16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817



To celebrate what would have been Jane Austen’s 240th birthday on 16th December, I thought I’d do the Jane Austen Tag. This originated on Booktube by Thoughts from Nowhere which can be seen here. There are six questions, one for each of Jane Austen's books. 




 
1) Sense & Sensibility - a book with a dynamic sibling relationship
2) Pride & Prejudice - a book that at first did not seem interesting but after reading it you found it very much enjoyable
3) Emma - a book in which two close friends fall in love
4) Mansfield Park - a book with a “rags to riches” story plot
5) Persuasion - a book involving second chances
6) Northanger Abbey - a book with an almost overly imaginative character


So here we go:

1)Mill on the Floss, George Eliot

 First published in 1860 , the Mill on the Floss tells the story of Tom and Maggie Tulliver who grew up in Lincolnshire, at  Dornicote Mill on the River Floss. Maggie is the central character but her complex relationship with her brother runs throughout the book. They are very different in character.Tom is practical and leaves school to help to restore the family's fortunes, through business. Maggie has intellectual curiosity and a desire for learning, which is never fulfilled. They become estranged as Maggie tries to experience the cultured life she yearns for but are reconciled. 

Without putting in a huge spoiler, I cannot really comment on the ending of the book except to say that it is powerful and moving. George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) drew on her own life for inspiration in this book. Maggie's story captures your sympathy and admiration.


And here's a quote:  Life did change for Tom and Maggie; and yet they were not wrong in believing that the thought and loves of these first years would always make part of their lives. We could never have loved the earth so well if we had no childhood in it

2) The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

Published in 1940, this novel centres on a 'whisky priest' who travels through Mexico despite the Catholic Church being outlawed. He is riven with human frailty but tries to minister to the people he meets. A police lieutenant who despises the Church is tasked with finding him and we know that if he catches him, the priest will be killed. 

I first read this book at school and it was my first encounter with Graham Greene's work. I can definitely say that the subject matter and the characters did not appeal to me but by the end of the book, I had been sucked into the priest's struggle to survive. It was unlike anything else that I had read up to that point and paved the way for me to read several other of Greene's works.

 I must also say that thinking back to the theme of the tag, I did not feel this way about Pride and Prejudice- I loved it from the very first witty and deeply ironic sentence.

And here's a quote:  One mustn't have human affections—or rather one must love every soul as if it were one's own child. The passion to protect must extend itself over a world—but he felt it tethered and aching like a hobbling animal to the tree trunk. He turned his mule south.
 
3) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The love story between Patroclus and Achilles is central to the story and makes this a good fit for this category. I have reviewed this book and my thoughts can be found here

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the growing love between the two men. They were such different characters and although Achilles was the great warrior, I felt that Patroclus was shown to be the true 'hero' in the end. 

And here's a quote:  I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world

4) Silas Marner by George Eliot 

The story of Silas Marner, a poor weaver, who hoards his gold, only to lose it, then regain it, is in true rags to riches fashion. What sets this book apart is the moral which lies beneath the text: that Silas is transformed through the power of love for a child, who becomes his true treasure. I have reviewed the book here

This is one of my favourite stories, a real gem.  Although we might suspect how the story will end and know that the truth behind Eppie's birth and abandonment will come to light, the simplicity of the central tenet is uplifting and inspiring.

And here's a quote: So, year after year, Silas Marner had lived in this solitude, his guineas rising in the iron pot, and his life narrowing and hardening itself more and more into a mere pulsation of desire and satisfaction that had no relation to any other being. 

5) The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy

Whilst at a country fair. Michael Henchard, in a fit of drunken pique, sells his young wife and daughter to a sailor. He regrets this, but it is too late. He changes his ways and swears off drink. When they return eighteen years later, they find him an apparently reformed character, in fact the Mayor. He has reformed his life and appears to be an upright, publicly minded citizen. Hardy's favourite themes of fate and retribution of the past abound as the consequences of the shameful sale come back to haunt Henchard. 

This is one of my favourite Thomas Hardy novels. As the story unfolds, you can sense how Henchard cannot escape his past. Although he has reinvented his life, the shame of the sale of his family is still there, seeping through the fabric of everyday life.  

 And here's a quote: When I was a young man I went in for that sort of thing too strong--far too strong--and was well-nigh ruined by it! I did a deed on account of it which I shall be ashamed of to my dying day. It made such an impression on me that I swore, there and then, that I'd drink nothing stronger than tea for as many years as I was old that day. I have kept my oath; and though, Farfrae, I am sometimes that dry in the dog days that I could drink a quarter-barrel to the pitching, I think o' my oath, and touch no strong drink at all.

6)The Secret History by Donna Tartt

It seems to me that this book has not one, but several characters who could be described as 'overly imaginative'.   A group of eccentric classics students are drawn into a strange world of self absorption and separation from their fellow students. Fuelled by their difference to others, they try to recreate a Bacchanalian rite which ends with them killing a man. As a result, they are forced to cover their tracks, which leads them further into evil in order to cover up the truth.The subsequent murder of one of their group is revealed near the start. Its consequences split apart the group as they try to keep the murders secret and the group disintegrates.

This is an intriguing book which starts with a murder and works backwards to explain its cause. Set in a university campus, the group appear isolated even within this discrete society. The narrator, Richard Pappin, is drawn to the group of classicists and longs to belong. The beauty he senses in the greek civilisation he studies is nullified by the depravity of the acts the group go on to act out.

And a final quote: I hope we're all ready to leave the phenomenal world, and enter into the sublime?

So these are my choices. Let me know what you would choose. 

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