Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Adventure of the Copper Beeches – a Sherlock Holmes short story

"The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" is a Sherlock Holmes short story from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection. According to The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, it was Holmes 21st case chronologically.


I haven’t read Holmes in quite a while, and was excited to get back to the intrepid detective. Holmes seldom disappoints, but in this instance, he did.


Violet Hunter is a governess, and paid well above the going rate as long as she satisfies the seemingly harmless, but eccentric, wishes of her employer: cut her hair very short, wear a certain dress, sit at times in a certain spot. She becomes aware of a mysterious secret in a closed off section of the house and enlists Holmes to solve the mystery. 


He does of course, simply by investigating the house, when the master is away. There is very little of the amusing banter between Holmes and Watson, and little of Holmes legendary power of observation and deduction.


Nothing worth quoting; the illustrations by Sidney Paget fail to excite, and even
the title lacks creativity; it references copper colored beeches that adorn the lawn, but have no other significance. 


I must have been an off-day for Sir Arthur.


In a word…meh.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (novel #171)

…he had got an idea that all young men were wolves in chase of his one ewe-lamb. ~ Mr. Gibson, Molly’s father


I did not know until I finished the last chapter, that this is an Unfinished Novel. That turned out to be a happy oversight. I might not have read it, had I known, but I ended up liking it in spite of the lack of complete closure. 


Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly when the novel was nearly complete; some speculate there was but one chapter remaining. My disappointment at the “unfinished” aspect was minimal for two factors: Gaskell’s publisher revealed the intended ending that she had apparently confided to him; and more importantly, Gaskell had already tied off the minor loose ends, and only the major dilemma remained. It was clear where Gaskell was heading, so all that is missing is her artful narrative of the happy outcome the reader is hoping for (confirmed by the publisher).


Wives and Daughters is a Victorian era novel about Molly Gibson, the only daughter of a widowed country doctor. In many ways, it is a typical of Victorian Romance with gossip, intrigue, misalliances, jilted lovers, hopeless love, heroes and villains. But Gaskell sets her story apart with characters who are just a half shade off what we might expect. The villain, is himself a wronged man, the fickle, beautiful flirt has a heart of gold, the stepmother has genuine affection for her stepdaughter, and the nobility are indeed, at times, noble. Even the Whigs of Cumnor Towers, and the Tories of Hamley Hall, manage to find common ground (impossible today, I know). 


As example: One of my favorite characters, though a minor role, Lady Harriet, daughter of Lord and Lady Cumnor – the ranking family of the county. Lady Harriet seems to wink at her family’s airs, playfully provokes her kind but officious mother, takes a liking to Molly and champions her cause when occasion arises without destroying anyone in the process.


This was my first time reading Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ll definitely read more, and of course since this was her final work, anything else I read should be finished. What did you think? Do you find Gaskell more or less, like Austen, Brontës, Thackeray, Eliot, etc?


My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This novel satisfies A 19thCentury classic for the Back to the Classics 2021 Challenge.





Friday, January 1, 2021

2021 Reading Challenges

The standard challenge I do every year – Back to the Classics 2021, hosted by Books and Chocolate


1. A 19th century classic:

Wives and Daughters (1866)

by Elizabeth Gaskell



2. A 20th century classic:

Herzog (1964)

by Saul Bellow



3. A classic by a woman author:

The Country of the Pointed Firs

by Sarah Orne Jewett



4. A classic in translation:

Voyage au bout de la nuit (French)

Journey to the End of the Night

by Louis-Ferdinand Céline



5. A classic by BIPOC author:

Journey to the West

by Wu Cheng’en (China)



6. A classic by a new-to-me author:

Sybil, or The Two Nations

by Benjamin Disraeli



7. New-to-me classic by a favorite author:

Hard Times

by Charles Dickens



8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title:

Ratman’s Notebooks

by Stephen Gilbert



9. A children's classic:

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils

by Selma Lagerlöf



10. A humorous or satirical classic:

The Loved One

by Evelyn Waugh



11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction):

Murder on the Orient Express

by Agatha Christie



12. A classic play:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

by Tennessee Williams



A new challenge for me - What’s in a Name? 2021, hosted by Carolina Book Nook, though I first saw it at Care’s Books and Pie


The titles must contain the key word, type of word, or reference



The Loved One

by Evelyn Waugh



Repeated word

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

by Roddy Doyle



Reference to outer space

Northern Lights

by Philip Pullman



Possessive noun

Ratman’s Notebooks

by Stephen Gilbert



Botanical word

The Country of the Pointed Firs

by Sarah Orne Jewett



An article of clothing

Devil in a Blue Dress

by Walter Mosley

I’m still working on The Classics Club Round III, certain NOT to finish this year.



And, a bit later in the year, I’ll probably participate in Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P) in October, and A Literary Christmas in December.