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A.E Cattley

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Helen
Helen
by Maria Edgeworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Helen, 16 July 2013
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This review is from: Helen (Paperback)
Firstly, I must point out that the 5 stars are for the story, not this edition. As another reviewer has pointed out, there are typos aplenty. Also, it would have been nice to have notes on the text throughout - while the French is translated, there are references to things which were unfamiliar to me as a modern reader. It would have been nice to have various things explained. On the other hand, kudos to them for bringing this wonderful novel back into print.

I cannot believe that this is the first 5* review - I thought this was a fascinating and beautifully written novel. Parts were literally laugh-out-loud hilarious (apologies for the cliché). The characters were well-drawn, all with believable faults but likeable nonetheless. The story itself is so original - far more sophisticated than the plots of various other novels of the era. It's quite psychological - I found myself wondering what on earth I would do if I were in the place of Helen, the protagonist. It's also fun to look for similarities to Jane Austen, whom Maria Edgeworth influenced heavily. I was interested to read the rather stern but kind-hearted Clarendon say that once his mind was made up, he rarely changed it; rather similar to Mr Darcy's claim that his good opinion once lost is lost forever, I thought!

I can't recommend this book highly enough - if you love Jane Austen, I'm almost certain you'll love this.


The Golden Bowl (Oxford World's Classics)
The Golden Bowl (Oxford World's Classics)
by Henry James
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.62

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Golden Bowl, 16 July 2013
If you have never read any of Henry James' work before, I would strongly discourage you from picking this as your starting point! I speak from experience, unfortunately - and it took me a long time to pick anything else of his up.

As somewhat of a literary snob, I am rather disappointed that I didn't like this more. I ploughed through this novel with good intentions, but I can't say that it wasn't a relief to reach the end. I found it rather convoluted and difficult to follow, and can honestly remember only several incidents that occur throughout. I feel that it's longer than it ought to be. The bowl is mentioned at the start of the novel and at the end - in the middle, I found myself rather lost.

Like many of James' novels, there's one rather simple idea or situation that is then drawn out for a novel-length story. In some cases, this is successful (in 'What Maisie Knew' for example, mainly because it's about half as long as 'The Golden Bowl') but not so much here, I don't think. The characters are not likeable and not particularly believable, and I found the relationships a little weird. Maggie and her father are astonishingly close and although it's not supposed to be incestuous you can't help but wonder. Then Maggie's father marries Maggie's best friend Charlotte. Maggie is delighted with the new arrangement and later calls Charlotte her 'step-mother'. Yuck.

There are, of course, some positives too. The writing is hard to follow but beautiful in places - it's not called his 'poetic masterpiece' for nothing. The symbolism and metaphors are interesting, and the introduction in this edition is very good. So all in all, I found this book hard-going when reading, but thought-provoking afterwards. I'm sure there must be many layers to this book - even though some of them seem to have been beyond me. I'm pleased to have read it, but have no intentions to re-read it in a hurry. I often found that I'd read a large chunk of text and have absolutely no idea what was going on.


A Fairly Honourable Defeat (Vintage Classics)
A Fairly Honourable Defeat (Vintage Classics)
by Iris Murdoch
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.09

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fairly Honourable Defeat, 14 July 2013
I've read many of Iris Murdoch's novels, and I have to say that this is one of my favourites (on a par with 'The Bell'). It contains a host of typical Murdoch characters (the wayward and quite frankly bonkers woman, the homosexual couple, the intellectuals) but is in parts ruder and more coarse than various of her other books. I frequently found myself with an overwhelming urge to interrupt whoever else was in the room in order to read sections aloud; parts are pretty amusing.

As with some of her other novels, there are bits which seem odd or rather implausible. Hardened Murdoch fans should not be put off! If you haven't read any Murdoch before, this may not be the place to start (I would recommend 'The Bell', personally) but having said that, the writing is absolutely incredible, so rich and original, and I'm sure you'd enjoy it regardless. It is not a short novel, but there is not necessarily a positive correlation between the number of pages and time taken to complete - I tore through it simply because it's so unbelievably engrossing.


A Girl in Winter
A Girl in Winter
by Philip Larkin
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Girl in Winter, 14 July 2013
This review is from: A Girl in Winter (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed Philip Larkin's 'A Girl in Winter' - I read it all in one go from beginning to end as I just couldn't put it down. As another reviewer has said, not much really happens, but that's part of the beauty of it. It's definitely a book to get you thinking - not much is given away (for example, the exact nationality of Katherine) but I think this is a nice touch; the title of the book is itself rather vague and undemonstrative. As you'd expect, the writing is superbly beautiful.

So, not for those who are looking for a fast-paced, plot-driven blockbuster - but if you like Larkin's poetry and want a thought-provoking and evocative read, I cannot recommend this highly enough!


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