Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What I Read in October Part VIII

What I Read in October Part VIII . . .
Persuasion: An Annotated EditionPersuasion: An Annotated Edition by Jane Austen

A wonderful annotated edition of my favorite Austen novel. This book is filled with notations in the margins gathered from various literary critics. It also contains full-color images showing Austen's world, illustrating scenes from the story, other books/pamphlets and items of note mentioned in the novel. This book is worth looking at for any devoted Janeite.

Penelope's Experiences in ScotlandPenelope's Experiences in Scotland by Kate Douglas Wiggin -- Historical romance

Penelope, Selemina and Francesca are in Scotland, taking Edinborough by storm. There's plenty of scope for their romatic imaginations, new people to meet and new places to explore. Penelope's fiance will follow as soon as he can from Paris to visit with his beloved Penelope. Francesca continues to incur the enmity of a clergyman named Ronald MacDonald. She's so patriotic that his bias against America gets her goat every time.

This story starts off very amusing. Penelope's antics made me cringe a bit. She tries too hard to be a local but it's all in good fun. This section is followed by several chapters on religion which I found boring. I skipped a lot of that part. The story really picks up once they get to the country. There are plenty of quirky characters in Scotland to make the story amusing. I did not like the excessive quoting of Scottish ballads. I also didn't like all the dialect in the story. It made the dialogue hard to follow at times. I would recommend this book to fans of Anne Shirley. It reminded me a lot of one of Maud's books with all the local color and poetry. Not surprising, since PEI was home to many people of Scottish heritage including Maud Montgomery and her husband Ewan McDonald. I think Anne would recognize Penelope as a kindred spirit.

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to CubaThe Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle--Young Adult Historical Fiction

In this verse novel, Swedish women's rights pioneer Fredrika Bremer travels to Cuba in the 1850s and changes the lives of those around here. There's Cecilia, whose own father sold her into slavery to this distant land. She's expecting her first child, knowing that he or she will never see her homeland because they will belong to someone for the rest of their lives just as she and her husband Beni do. There's also Elena, the daughter of Fredrika's wealthy host. Elena feels like a slave cooped up in her room sewing for her hope chest. She's never allowed outdoors except in the courtyard. She's 12 years old and in a few years her father will arrange her marriage to a business partner or some other acquaintance and she'll move from her father's house to her husband's. Such is the sum total of her life and she finds it very confining but not knowing how to break free, she must put up with it. She envies Cecilia who is allowed to show Fredrika around and who can travel through the streets at night rescuing fireflies.

This novel is short but it packs a punch. Verse is the only way to tell the story. The descriptions of Cuba are so amazing and detailed that it needed the poetry to describe this land. I especially liked the beautiful descriptions of Cuba and how this Eden was juxtaposed with the evils of slavery. I know very little about the history of Cuba and this story was a real eye opener. I kept thinking "how sad" at the end of each chapter and teared up a little at the end. My heart breaks for Cecilia who will likely not live past the birth of her child. She's a wonderful character who showcases the reality of slavery. I also felt bad for Elena, but at least she has a bit of freedom. She may not know how to obtain it yet but she might some day. I have studied this time period and American reformers but never encountered Fredrika before. I really liked her and how she had the courage to leave her father's money behind and do what she felt in her heart was right. I want to know more about her and this novel has inspired me to look her up.

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