willoyd

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About willoyd

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  • Reading now?:
    The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett
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  • Location:
    Wharfedale, Yorkshire
  • Interests
    cycling (mainly touring), running, walking, bird watching, family history.

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  1. Yes, that makes complete sense: a truly great book may require a lot of input, but if it does, it should commensurately reward you. If it doesn't, then it surely can't be great. (That's not to say that a great book needs to require a lot of work, or that a book that requires a lot of work has to be great.....!). I don't know about it being more rewarding than Middlemarch - that would make for a really interesting discussion. I think for me to make that judgement, I'll need to give Mill on the Floss another go, without those inhibitions I talked about. Also, I really only started to rate Middlemarch so highly after a second read (even if those reads were almost forty years apart! - although that might be because they were so far apart, as I wonder how much I was ready to take in when I first read it for A-levels). Whatever, I do rank Middlemarch as one of my all time favourites, whilst I'm not quite ready to do so with Mill on the Floss. Having said that, I'm definitely getting rid of the brackets, and rating TMOTF as 5 stars - 4 really does seem a bit mean in hindsight. In the meantime, I've almost immediately followed TMOTF with another doorstopper - The Old Wives' Tale, which I'm likely to finish either today or tomorrow at the rate I'm now getting through it. Another outstanding novel on the English Counties list, and one that suggests that Arnold Bennett may well be one of the most underrated writers I've read in a while.
  2. Like you, I really couldn't get on with Lawrence Durrell at all. I tried the first book in the Alexandria Quartet, and gave it up fairly soon - took itself far too seriously. The words used in my notes was 'pompous'!
  3. Good luck with this. I have to admit that I found it tough going, not least because of its size, although I did get a bit more into it as the story progressed. I also have to admit that I never use the time feature on the Kindle - it's often all too depressing! (And, actually, not that accurate - at least when I've tested it).
  4. Looks like we're pretty much in agreement on this one. Certainly, I found myself nodding at your review Claire.
  5. Having to listen to children's voices all day long (I'm a primary teacher, although finishing classroom teaching for good in a few weeks time), I can only concur that they are incredibly tiring to have to listen to over any length of time! I'll be reading other Eliot before going back to The Mill on the Floss, so it'll probably be a while before I give it another go, but I just feel that by only reading in short bursts to start with (not intended, but that's how it happened) I really didn't do the book justice.
  6. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot ****(*) (Copied from the English Counties challenge thread) I've read just two of George Eliot's books before, Silas Marner and Middlemarch. I rated both, and whilst I had a few minor reservations about the former, Middlemarch was an easy 6-stars, and probably amongst my top dozen books ever. However, knowing a little about the nature of The Mill on the Floss, I didn't approach it with quite the sense of anticipation that I would have done otherwise. Reading it confirmed some of my uncertainties, or rather this knowledge definitely inhibited my appreciation of what is, I am sure of, an outstanding classic. Claire (chesilbeach) wrote in her review about the differing feelings she had towards the two sections - childhood and adulthood - and I can only concur. One introduction I read (Bel Mooney?) talked of how Eliot felt obliged to rein back the second part because she she wanted to put so much into the first half. Ironically, that reining in, for me at least, made for a much more engaging narrative. Maybe because it was a bit leaner and perhaps less self-indulgent?? The childhood section did, after all, closely follow Eliot's own, and maybe she was a mite too close to it to know where to draw the line? I don't know, but whilst I stuttered for almost three weeks through the first three hundred pages, the last third or so flowed beautifully, and I read it in just two sittings, completely wrapped up in it all. In that time, Maggie Tulliver proved her position as one of the great heroines in fiction - at least in my eyes! Funnily enough, now I know precisely what happens at the end, I feel I can read the book again in the future in a much more 'liberated' way. I do intend to, as even when struggling, I absolutely loved Eliot's writing. Whilst she does on occasions go off on a typically Victorian philosophical ramble (Middlemarch is peppered with these!), her writing is otherwise a model of clarity and descriptive precision. Her characters are some of the most vividly drawn and real to life that I have enjoyed, and they are thoroughly human in their contradictions and foibles. One chapter in particular, when we see a completely different side to Mrs Glegg, after all that had gone before, summed up for me perfectly the strength of Eliot's understanding of human character. Equally so, when she writes about people as a mass - the chapter where Mr Kenn struggles against the tide of St Ogg's opinion is absolutely spot on. I find it really hard to give The Mill on the Floss a rating. I know that I have read a genuinely great book: whilst I can't say, at least on a first reading, that I truly enjoyed it, I don't think it an exaggeration to say that I feel as if I've undergone one of my strongest reading experiences for some time. One part of me wants to say 3*, but I really do feel that would be a disservice. On the other hand, I don't yet feel ready to rate it at 5* or 6*. 4* is a compromise, but still doesn't feel worthy enough. Hmmmm. Well, for the moment, call it 4*, and put a fifth in brackets. When I come back to it, who knows? but I'll certainly need plenty of time as this is not a book that lends itself to a quick or superficial read, rather the complete opposite; it pays to really take this one steadily and chew it over. There is much to think about and much to absorb. Aside from its length, it would be a brilliant book for a reading group, but even better to study in depth.
  7. Copied from my own English Counties challenge thead: I've read just two of George Eliot's books before, Silas Marner and Middlemarch. I rated both, and whilst I had a few minor reservations about the former, Middlemarch was an easy 6-stars, and probably amongst my top dozen books ever. However, knowing a little about the nature of The Mill on the Floss, I didn't approach it with quite the sense of anticipation that I would have done otherwise. Reading it confirmed some of my uncertainties, or rather this knowledge definitely inhibited my appreciation of what is, I am sure of, an outstanding classic. Claire (chesilbeach) wrote in her review about the differing feelings she had towards the two sections - childhood and adulthood - and I can only concur. One introduction I read (Bel Mooney?) talked of how Eliot felt obliged to rein back the second part because she she wanted to put so much into the first half. Ironically, that reining in, for me at least, made for a much more engaging narrative. Maybe because it was a bit leaner and perhaps less self-indulgent?? The childhood section did, after all, closely follow Eliot's own, and maybe she was a mite too close to it to know where to draw the line? I don't know, but whilst I stuttered for almost three weeks through the first three hundred pages, the last third or so flowed beautifully, and I read it in just two sittings, completely wrapped up in it all. In that time, Maggie Tulliver proved her position as one of the great heroines in fiction - at least in my eyes! Funnily enough, now I know precisely what happens at the end, I feel I can read the book again in the future in a much more 'liberated' way. I do intend to, as even when struggling, I absolutely loved Eliot's writing. Whilst she does on occasions go off on a typically Victorian philosophical ramble (Middlemarch is peppered with these!), her writing is otherwise a model of clarity and descriptive precision. Her characters are some of the most vividly drawn and real to life that I have enjoyed, and they are thoroughly human in their contradictions and foibles. One chapter in particular, when we see a completely different side to Mrs Glegg, after all that had gone before, summed up for me perfectly the strength of Eliot's understanding of human character. Equally so, when she writes about people as a mass - the chapter where Mr Kenn struggles against the tide of St Ogg's opinion is absolutely spot on. I find it really hard to give The Mill on the Floss a rating. I know that I have read a genuinely great book: whilst I can't say, at least on a first reading, that I truly enjoyed it, I don't think it an exaggeration to say that I feel as if I've undergone one of my strongest reading experiences for some time. One part of me wants to say 3*, but I really do feel that would be a disservice. On the other hand, I don't yet feel ready to rate it at 5* or 6*. 4* is a compromise, but still doesn't feel worthy enough. Hmmmm. Well, for the moment, call it 4*, and put a fifth in brackets. When I come back to it, who knows? but I'll certainly need plenty of time as this is not a book that lends itself to a quick or superficial read, rather the complete opposite; it pays to really take this one steadily and chew it over. There is much to think about and much to absorb. Aside from its length, it would be a brilliant book for a reading group, but even better to study in depth.
  8. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot ****(*) I've read just two of George Eliot's books before, Silas Marner and Middlemarch. I rated both, and whilst I had a few minor reservations about the former, Middlemarch was an easy 6-stars, and probably amongst my top dozen books ever. However, knowing a little about the nature of The Mill on the Floss, I didn't approach it with quite the sense of anticipation that I would have done otherwise. Reading it confirmed some of my uncertainties, or rather this knowledge definitely inhibited my appreciation of what is, I am sure of, an outstanding classic. Claire (chesilbeach) wrote in her review about the differing feelings she had towards the two sections - childhood and adulthood - and I can only concur. One introduction I read (Bel Mooney?) talked of how Eliot felt she had to rein back the second part because she had felt she needed to put so much into the first half. Ironically, that reining in, for me at least, made for a much more engaging narrative. Maybe because it was a bit leaner and perhaps less self-indulgent?? The childhood section did, after all, closely follow Eliot's own, and maybe she was a mite too close to it to know where to draw the line? I don't know, but whilst I stuttered for almost three weeks through the first three hundred pages, the last third or so flowed beautifully, and I read it in just two sittings, completely wrapped up in it all. In that time, Maggie Tulliver proved her position as one of the great heroines in fiction - at least in my eyes! Funnily enough, now I know precisely what happens at the end, I feel I can read the book again in the future in a much more 'liberated' way. I do intend to, as even when struggling, I absolutely loved Eliot's writing. Whilst she does on occasions go off on a typically Victorian philosophical ramble (Middlemarch is peppered with these!), her writing is otherwise a model of clarity and descriptive precision. Her characters are some of the most vividly drawn and real to life that I have enjoyed, and they are thoroughly human in their contradictions and foibles. One chapter in particular, when we see a completely different side to Mrs Glegg, after all that had gone before, summed up for me perfectly the strength of Eliot's understanding of human character. Equally so, when she writes about people as a mass - the chapter where Mr Kenn struggles against the tide of St Ogg's opinion is absolutely spot on. I find it really hard to give The Mill on the Floss a rating. I know that I have read a genuinely great book, but I can't say, at least on a first reading, that I truly enjoyed it, yet I do feel as if I've had one of my strongest reading experiences for some time. One part of me wants to say 3*, but I really do feel that would be a disservice. On the other hand, I don't yet feel ready to rate it a 5* or 6*. 4* is a compromise, but still doesn't feel worthy enough. Hmmmm. Well, for the moment, call it 4*, and put a fifth in brackets. When I come back to it, who knows, but I'll certainly need plenty of time! In the meantime, I don't feel I've written half as much about the book as I should or want to, but I'll call it a day for the moment! A brilliant book for discussion, indeed to study in depth but one would need more room than I've got here. So, one more book to go - for which I've saved The Old Wives' Tale for no particular reason other than everyboy I know who has read it says it's almost taken them by surprise in how good a read it's been, that it's apparently very much of its place, and I wanted to finish on a book and author I'd not read before.
  9. And finished it tonight. It definitely rewarded sustained reading, and I got much more out of it as a result. I knew I would, but found it hard to settle both because of the book itself and because of other circumstances. As a result, it's a very difficult book to rate. In terms of enjoyment, I would say the first two-thirds merited about 3/6. The last third kicked up to around 5/6. The writing is superb, so powerful - Eliot is one of THE greats. So how to rate it? Anything less than 5/6 strikes me as a disservice, but there was no doubt in my mind that I found prior knowledge of the book (even if scant) inhibiting, and I really didn't get into it until very late. Whatever I come up with though, there is no doubt in my mind that Maggie Tulliver is one of the great heroines in literary fiction.
  10. Still struggling with The Mill on the Floss. I've now reached the end of my third week, and am still just over 300 pages in, with another 180 to go. Admittedly, I've not been spending as much time reading lately as usual, as I've been taking advantage of the beautiful weather and time of year to get out birding a lot more, but I can't say I've been overly anxious to get back in when I do find time to read. A little bit of mojo loss, and a little bit to do with the book itself. Genuinely great writing, but depressing to read - maybe not the best choice at the moment (have recently had time off for work-related stress, and am still only on a part-time, phased return!). Will try and make an effort to get on with it over the next few days though.
  11. Some short reviews to bring me back up to date, as I'm now getting a month or so behind: Polly, The True Story Behind Whisky Galore by Roger Hutchinson **** Does exactly what it says on the tin, proving to be a thoroughly interesting history of the sinking of the SS Politician and its aftermath, from which Compton Mackenzie drew the bulk of the material used in his novel Whisky Galore. We're off on holiday in the summer to the Outer Hebrides, and this was an essential read for someone who includes Whisky Galore amongst his favourite films. A shortish read, but plenty packed in. Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence **** Read as part of the English Counties Challenge. Having only Lady Chatterley's Lover to measure Lawrence by, I was very pleasantly surprised to find this such an involving novel to read. Whilst Paul, the 'son' (one of two) most focused on, proved an unsympathetic character, and the way he treated the women in his life horribly self-centred, the insight into his thought processes and character development provided by Lawrence proved insistently readable. I'd definitely read more of his work now. Mallard by Don Hale **** An easy and fascinating read, if slightly mistitled. This was much more the story of the influence of Sir Nigel Gresley on railway history than a book just about one of his most famous engines, although the focus is fairly tightly on the build up to the Mallard's world record breaking achievement. Indeed, the engine only features in the second half of the narrative. However, it proved all the better as a book for being written this way. Having said that, the account of the Mallard's record breaking run was gripping! Bird Watching With Your Eyes Closed by Simon Barnes *** Interesting enough book about bird song, and how to go about developing one's knowledge of it in order to improve one's enjoyment of bird watching (or just of being out of doors!). A bit too gushing for my taste on occasions, and rather too superficial than I had hoped, but then I should have been aware of this possibility given my previous experience of Simon Barnes's books. Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes *** Readable enough account of the eponymous boy's youth, focusing on his days at Rugby under Dr. Arnold, but including rather more of his pre-school days than I expected; indeed even when he gets to Rugby, it's more weighted to his earlier years there, and there are some significant jumps in the chronology later on. Equally unexpected was the small role played by Flashman, as I always thought his bullying of Tom Brown was the central action of the novel - far from it. Definitely improved in the second half, so worth perservering but I did find the Victorian moralising a little bit wearing on occasion. On the other hand, the account of Tom's coach journey to Rugby for the first time was so vivid as to bring the whole coaching period resoundingly to life - an episode that deserves a place in any anthology of travel writing or of pieces about the late Georgian period.
  12. It was my fiction book of the year last year, so I reckon it probably is. Obviously it depends on your reading preferences, but I already have an inclination towards historical fiction based on Georgian and Victorian times. Quite strongly character based too - there is a plot and I thought it a good one, but it's not the be all and end all. My review at the time is here if it helps - it wasn't very full as I only had time to write a set of mini-reviews at that time, but I think it's a fair summary of my thoughts as they still stand!
  13. Well, I got to the end of the third chapter, just over 100 pages and about one-third of the way through, and have thrown in the towel. I could possibly handle the lack of narrative development so far - each chapter has effectively been a separate short story, and I assume they will be all tied together later on, but only one of the chapters has interested me - but the punctuation is driving me bananas. In particular, her use of commas is hopelessly inconsistent, and horribly distracting. I appreciate that, in spite of what the powers have deemed for English language teaching in primary schools, comma useage is as much a matter of style as obeying certain rules, but whatever one does, it should at least be consistent. Instead, Enright seems to adopt one rule in one sentence, then promptly break it in the next. And some of the rules she adopts randomly are, IMO, horribly clumsy and disruptive to reading (for instance, splitting off a final adverbial phrase from the verb with a comma). The result is that I'm constantly having to go back and reread sentences to make sure I've understood what she's trying to say, which means thatI can't establish any sort of rhythm or subconscious understanding, essential to any reading. There is, I'm sure, a good story in here, and I did enjoy the content of one chapter, so I'll probably land up giving it 2 stars (it's one and a half!), but I really can't bring myself to read it to a conclusion in its current format.
  14. That's about as much as I know too. Took a break today to get going on my reading group book for May, Anne Enright's The Green Road - we meet next Monday. Am again about a quarter of the way through, and again I'm struggling. Her writing is neat and clever, but what story there appears to be is unattractive, and I feel almost completely unengaged.
  15. Have you thought of cycling? I love running, but have found that as I've got older, cycling is less physically stressful. Long walks are great (I'm doing loads at the moment), but even done briskly they aren't great at raising heart rate (and if I do them briskly, then I find I'm too busy concentrating on walking and not enough on the world around me!).