I'm feeling just the tiniest bit bogged down at the moment with Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. I'm slowly nearing the end of the second section, but he does tend to go off on these tangents. Now I like details, and I love losing myself in the story, and no doubt this is all going to be tied together at some point, but really, do I need to know so much about French convents? Things were moving along quickly, Jean Valjean made a narrow escape with little Cosette, as Javert was hot on their trail. He scaled a wall, managing to bring Cosette with him and he landed in the garden of a convent. And what happens? Things come to an abrupt standstill as he spends the next 40 or so pages talking about the convent. It makes me a little leery when I read:
"Since we are engaged in giving details as to what the convent of the Petit-Picpus was in former times, and since we have ventured to open a window on that discreet retreat, the reader will permit us one other little digression, utterly foreign to this book, but characteristic and useful, since it shows that the cloister even has its original figures."
Okay, I will indeed permit you these little digressions, but please can I find out what happens to Cosette soon?
I decided to start with Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility for my 1% Challenge. I know for many Austen fans this is not their favorite book of hers, but so far I am enjoying it. Certainly that sparkling Austen wit is present. No doubt you already know the story of Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters who lose their home when Mr. Dashwood dies leaving nearly everything to John Dashwood, their half-brother. John's wife is that certain Austen type--greedy and unfriendly behind that genteel facade. She manages to talk her husband down from giving the Dashwood girls three thousand pounds to just the china, and then nothing at all. The whole scene is just wonderful, but here's the tail end.
"That is a material consideration undoubtedly. A valuable legacy indeed! And yet some of the plate would have been a very pleasant addition to our own stock here."
"Yes; and the set of breakfast china is twice as handsome as what belongs to this house. A great deal too handsome, in my opinion, for any place THEY can ever afford to live in. But, however, so it is. Your father thought only of THEM. And I must say this: that you owe no particular gratitude to him, nor attention to his wishes; for we very well know that if he could, he would have left almost everything in the world to THEM."
This argument was irresistible. It gave to his intentions whatever of decision was wanting before; and he finally resolved, that it would be absolutely unnecessary, if not highly indecorous, to do more for the widow and children of his father, than such kind of neighbourly acts as his own wife pointed out.
She's quite the dissembler! I don't think anyone does a scene like this better than Jane Austen!
And for something completely different I've been reading Michelle Moran's Nefertiti. It is coming out in paperback later this month, and she has a new book, The Heretic Queen, coming out in the Fall. Although I love historical fiction, I don't read many books set so far back in history. The only book I can think of is Anita Diamont's biblically set The Red Tent, which I was very hesitant to read (it was for a book club), but surprised myself by enjoying much more than I expected. I guess this period is outside my comfort zone, since I know so little about the time. I've been enjoying the book, however. I love the the descriptions--like how they used gold dust to powder over their bodies. Or the beaded wigs that the women wore. It's so hard to imagine the people and how they lived or what they thought and dreamed. Perhaps I need to find some other book about Nefertiti to get more of a mental imange. Of course this tast of another culture is why I love historical fiction so much!