Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

Books of 2014!

Sometimes I wish I could read everything under the sun. It’s just too impossible. There are millions of books out there. But the stuff you read can influence you in the future and I like the idea of being thoughtful, mindful even, of what I read. There’s just not enough time in the world to read garbage, so why waste it? Okay, sometimes I like garbage too. Smutty, dirty, sweaty garbage. Somehow I managed to read quality stuff this year.

brain that heals itself norma doidgeI started the year off with Dr. Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself, a ground-breaking work on neuroplasticity—the brain’s capability to reroute and “fix” itself. The doctor likened my experience of acute depression to a heart attack inside my brain. Reading Dr. Doidge’s work gave me hope that I can overcome my diagnosis and live a normal life. This year Dr. Doidge is releasing The Brain’s Way of Healing. It’s definitely on my TBR pile.

I also picked up Mind Over Mood. If you have never heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy you should look into it. Many of us will experience a mental illness in our lifetime. And those who don’t will know someone affected by it. CBT is a method of self-help that teaches you to re-examine your thoughts. When you’re depressed your habits tend to veer towards black and white thinking, catastrophizing situations, creating worst-case scenarios in your mind. Then your mind begins to panic and you’re left feeling hopeless. It’s a vicious cycle that kicks a mean piece of ass when you’re stuck in it. Mind Over Mood teaches you to pick these thoughts apart to give yourself breathing room. Practicing it regularly can definitely help. I wish I could say that I’m always practicing this, but it can be hard when you get stuck in a cycle of depression and anxiety. Life—it’s a work in progress.

my life in france julia childOn the other side of the nonfic spectrum, I read Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France. Talk about a woman with passion and joie de vivre! She and her husband Paul lived a very blessed life in France. I truly admire Julia’s passion for learning as well. I picked up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in Paris’s Shakespeare and Co. book shop in 2010 and I love cooking from it. Creating the perfect roast chicken is akin to finding nirvana and I love, love, love when it comes out right. French cooking may be simple but it’s demand for good ingredients truly sets the bar for everything else.

I also read my fair share of fiction. I read Dickens, Austen, Herman Melville, Richard Aldington, and my first Dean Koontz novel (not memorable.) The Dickens and Austen were exceptional, though. I read two Dickens this year – A Tale of Two Cities at the beginning of the year and Hard Times this fall. Both were full of his wonderful wit and charm. It’s the mark of a great writer that you can read his work over a century after publication and the words stand the test of time.

jane austen persuasionI also learned that Austen is more than Pride and Prejudice! I picked up Emma and Persuasion. By far my favourite of the two was Persuasion. Emma was nice, but well, Emma’s a bit of a twit and I can’t abide girls like her. I’m more of a straight shooter, like Anne Elliot. Her character resonated with my soul on a familiar level.

Herman Melville. God almighty did I ever give up on Moby Dick. The fiction was wonderful. The extensive history of the whaling industry killed me dead. The language was dense, but readable until I got to the pages and pages of explanations of 19th century whaling practices. Forgive me, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

what makes olga run bruce griersonLast but not least, I read What Makes Olga Run? by Bruce Grierson. Yes, I read it because my name is Olga. I’m not ashamed of that. But I also read it because Olga is a 94 year old international track star and I wanted to know what insight she has on what the body can do. Turns out she’s just the sort of person who puts her mind to something and keeps working at it. Yes, there are genes involved and I have no misconceptions about my own longevity. None of my grandparents lived to see ninety, but a good number of them did see 80 so, if I play my cards right, I think I’ve got a good chance of getting up there. I was curious to know what to expect at that age and it turns out that, as long as you do the things you love, you’ll live quite happily. So here I am, doing what I love—writing–and I’ll continue to do the things I love until I can’t no more.

Thus concludes another year of books. This isn’t the comprehensive list of all twenty that I read. If you’re curious about that list, you can follow me on Goodreads. I post all of the books I read on there. I don’t really know what else Goodreads is for, but I’m sure I’ll figure something to do with it. If you have an account I’d love to know how you use your account. Leave a comment, tweet at me, or leave it on my Facebook wall.

 

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Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

charles dickensThis is the first Dickens novel I’ve read in its entirety. I’ve read parts of Hard Times in third year university.

I understand why Dickens is still considered one of the greatest and most popular fiction writers ever. Although his work was published in the 19th century, the language he used was plain enough that he’s still readable today.

I’ve experienced other novels written around the same time period and they’ve been harder to slog through. Most recently I abandoned ship on Moby Dick. Pardon the pun. Once Ishmael started expounding on the history of whaling, I went cross-eyed and I reached for something more riveting.

Two Cities is not like that, though. Dickens never wavers from the story. Even though its based on an historical event, the French Revolution, there are no moments where Dickens begins to lecture. He assumes everyone knows what’s happening in France. And even if you don’t, you soon learn through his story.

It was first published in 1859 and set in England and France. The book was published first in installments in Dickens’ magazine All the Year Round [1]. It quickly became a bestselling novel. With over 200 million copies sold worldwide, it’s one of the most popular books of fiction of all time[2].

A Tale of Two Cities illustration by Hablot Brown. Source: http://charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-cities.html

A Tale of Two Cities illustration by Hablot Brown.
Source: http://charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-cities.html

If you ever wanted to learn more about the French Revolution, this would be the book I recommend you read. Dickens captured the brutality, anger and horror of the citizens uprising with beautiful prose, excellent characters (The Vengeance! What a name!) and graceful story-telling.

Recently I won a copy of The Other Woman and passes to see the movie, both based on the real-life relationship Dickens had with 18 year-old actress Ellen Ternan. I haven’t gone to see the film yet, but I’ll definitely share how it goes. Some believe that the character Lucie Manette in Two Cities was drawn from Ellen Ternan[3].

There have been seven film adaptations of A Tale of Two Cities, four of which were silent films released between 1911 and 1927[4].

I think I need to go back to Hard Times and give it another go. Along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, Dickens is fast becoming one of my favourite English writers.

Footnotes:

1. David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page. A Tale of Two Cities Illustrations. http://charlesdickenspage.com/illustrations-cities.html

2. Wikipedia.org. A Tale of Two Cities. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Tale_of_Two_Cities

3. Wikipedia.org. A Tale of Two Cities: Relation to Dickens’ personal life. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Tale_of_Two_Cities

3. Wikipedia.org. A Tale of Two Cities: Adaptations. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Tale_of_Two_Cities

I won!

Remember when I posted about Charles Dickens? Well, that day, as I was looking up The Invisible Woman, I noticed the publisher Penguin Canada had a contest to win tickets to the film and a copy of the book.

Today I got an email from Penguin Canada that I won!

I’m looking forward to seeing the film and reading the book. Look out for a review of either/or in the near future.

Thanks, Penguin Canada!

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

I’m reading Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities right now so I thought I would look into his poetry.

It’s coincidental that I’ve picked up Dickens for the first time since university this year because there’s a new film about Dickens’ mistress out called The Invisible Woman. I’m curious to find out who the mysterious younger woman was and how her relationship with the prolific writer affected his writing.

invisible-woman

Of note about this particular poem, I could definitely see this being put to song. What do you think?

The Song Of The Wreck

The wind blew high, the waters raved,
A ship drove on the land,
A hundred human creatures saved
Kneel’d down upon the sand.
Threescore were drown’d, threescore were thrown
Upon the black rocks wild,
And thus among them, left alone,
They found one helpless child.

A seaman rough, to shipwreck bred,
Stood out from all the rest,
And gently laid the lonely head
Upon his honest breast.
And travelling o’er the desert wide
It was a solemn joy,
To see them, ever side by side,
The sailor and the boy.

In famine, sickness, hunger, thirst,
The two were still but one,
Until the strong man droop’d the first
And felt his labors done.
Then to a trusty friend he spake,
‘Across the desert wide,
Oh, take this poor boy for my sake!’
And kiss’d the child and died.

Toiling along in weary plight
Through heavy jungle, mire,
These two came later every night
To warm them at the fire.
Until the captain said one day
‘O seaman, good and kind,
To save thyself now come away,
And leave the boy behind!’

The child was slumbering near the blaze:
‘O captain, let him rest
Until it sinks, when God’s own ways
Shall teach us what is best!’
They watch’d the whiten’d, ashy heap,
They touch’d the child in vain;
They did not leave him there asleep,
He never woke again.