Comfort Books (that I actually finished!)

Look, I am blogging again! Maybe a week since last time instead of two months later! I am proud of my accomplishments.

Blogging here last time seems to have helped me get out of my leaving-books-unfinished-left-and-right slump, so now I am returning to blog about my victory. I managed to finish two books in the past week (and for me that’s a big deal, ok): The Mirror Crack’d by Agatha Christie and Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Hooray for cosy early 20th century books! I haven’t read any in a while, since I’ve been busy experimenting with many other types of books like kids and teen fiction and fantasy and whatever else. (Side note: three good teen fantasy books I read last year are Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, and The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges. The last one is set in 19th century Russia with necromancy and zombie armies and a werewolf and magic and it might not be as popular as the Laini Taylor, but check it out, it’s glamorous and exciting!)

I used to take out piles of Agatha Christie (mostly featuring Poirot) from the library as a teenager, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started reading (and loving) the Miss Marple books in my earlier book blogging days (here’s my appreciation of The Body in the Library at my old book blog). Except after my husband’s stressful surgeries that year (where he got a huge infection and ended up having about four surgeries in total when it should have been only one and we had to move back to my parents’ for a bit because he couldn’t work, etc), I stopped reading mystery novels because the death and violence in them, even in cosy mysteries, had begun to upset me too much. In retrospect, I think it was because I was very scared of my husband dying and I just didn’t want to read anything that made me think about that at all. (And also when we moved out of my parents’ place my mom got rid of all the mysteries I’d left there for safe keeping until I could come back for them. So annoying to lose my small collection of Louise Penny and Agatha Christie books!) But now my husband’s doing better and we are back on our feet again mostly (at least we have our own apartment again!) and so now at last I can enjoy a lovely little cosy mystery again courtesy of Agatha Christie and Miss Marple. The ending of The Mirror Crack’d still managed to be a surprise to me, even though I was sure Christie didn’t have me fooled this time. I was suspicious of the murderer at one point, but didn’t have enough clues to figure out exactly what he/she was up to. I also recently bought the complete short stories of Miss Marple and I’ll either buy or borrow the rest of her books in time. I love Miss Marple so much more than Poirot — I can pretend she’s my cosy and smart little grandma! — but eventually I’m sure I’ll reread the Poirot books as well. Years of reading pleasure await!

Yesterday I was wanting to finish one more book at the end of April and as I was reorganizing my books (something I just have to do from time to time), I picked up my copy of Cold Comfort Farm. I’d read it years before and enjoyed it enough to buy my own copy of it, but I’d never gotten past the first few chapters when I tried to reread it before. But this time I just flipped it open to the middle, meaning only to glance at it in passing, and before I knew it, I was completely sucked into the hilarious story once again. I read it all the way through to the end and then flipped to the beginning and read that all the way to the middle. 🙂 Unconventional, but highly entertaining nevertheless. I also have a great Penguin Deluxe edition of it with funny drawings all over the cover and flaps, so that added to my enjoyment.

I’ve been feeling a bit down lately (that is what happens with depression most of the time) and Cold Comfort Farm helped me to laugh my blues away for a few hours. In some ways, Flora Poste’s meddling in the lives of her pathetic farming relatives in Sussex reminded me of Emma’s meddling in Harriet’s love life (and then there’s the fact that Kate Beckinsale has played both Flora and Emma), but Flora is much more successful at it than Emma and all of her clever plans for improving the lives of those around her succeed brilliantly, perhaps because she relies on ‘the higher common sense’ rather than sheer imagination as Emma does. How she succeeds in gently persuading her bizarre relatives into sensible happiness is where the fun lies. A lot of the humour also comes from Stella Gibbons taking the piss out of writers who glamorize the ‘earthy soul’ of the poor working class by out-purple-prosing them all in hilarious asterisk marked passages. Altogether a very lovely book and I’m sure I’ll be rereading it again someday when I need to be reminded to forget my troubles for a little while and just look on the bright side of life!

Today when I started to feel down again, I constructed a blanket fort under my desk and read some Anne of Green Gables down there for a while. These books are balm for the soul.

Books I Haven’t Finished Lately

So here I am again, haphazardly writing about random books that I haven’t quite finished yet… As I said in my last post (months ago!), I have problems finishing books. Well, I still do. I finished more books when I blogged about them regularly, so maybe I will try that again and see how it goes down….

(As a sidenote, I am such an INFP in the Myers-Briggs personality thing. My feelings and my thoughts about those feelings are ALL OVER THE PLACE but only inside my head. Also I have a lot of grand plans for the writing down of feelings and thoughts and the reading and writing of stories, but I don’t always achieve those goals. Don’t judge me! I am still a nice person even if I am not a finisher of everything!)

So these are the books that I haven’t finished recently:

Mansfield Park: yes I blogged about it last time and then I never finished it — I just hate it when everyone tries to force Fanny to marry Henry! Plus also her going back to her family in Portsmouth isn’t really fun times either.

Pride & Prejudice: I’ve already reread this once this year but The Lizzie Bennet Diaries had me on a big P&P high and it is so funny, I just started it as a comfort thing one evening and then I couldn’t stop… until Elizabeth gets to Pemberley and Darcy is all nice. The jokes stop there! (And then Lydia gets a load of slut-shaming and I now think, post LBD, that maybe that’s not such a good thing. She’s just a kid, right? Wickham is the true villain.) And then I lost interest. And I finished rereading Emma instead because 1. Emma never stops being funny, and 2. the worst thing that ever happens is a bad picnic and since I hate horrible things happening to the characters I love, this is good for me, and actually pretty funny in and of itself.

Les Miserables: I haven’t seen the movie yet (don’t judge me! I was going to and then my husband hates musicals and then I thought maybe it would be too sad and then… I just bought the book instead because it looked pretty), but I did really like the first 100 pages of the book. Victor Hugo is definitely an idealist and I love his complex view of French history that goes into how the French Revolution affected everything that happened in the 19th century there and I love how he just made me care so much about two characters, the priest and Jean Valjean, through so much layering on of details about them. I’ve read other classic French authors (Proust, Zola, Flaubert, as well as attempts at Balzac and Stendhal and Laclos) and they’re usually always so pessimistic and cynical and everyone is horrible (Proust is the exception, but then I think part of why I love his meandering, long-drawn out, huge book of memories is because he must be an INFP like me) but then! I discovered Victor Hugo and he’s trying to write to better society, not just to mock it and for me at least one section of French literature was redeemed. So far as I can tell, he seems like a blend of Tolstoy and Dickens and that’s pretty alright by me. So I was really liking it, but then I got stuck on this one part that has all this history thrown at my face and endless explanatory notes and it seemed like too much work to keep going. :/ I wish I could just skip that part; my book says Hugo added it on later and I wish he hadn’t. Or I could skim it? Anyways.

Sense & Sensibility: I was trying to enjoy a different Austen and trying to like Elinor more instead of Marianne for once. My new fun literary game is to try and guess the personality of every Austen character, so I think Elinor is an ISFJ (they’re called the protectors, so yeah, just try to prove me wrong) and Marianne is probably an ENFP (called the champions and come on, when is she not championing her favourite romantic ideals? I didn’t think she’d be an extrovert at first, but then I decided that no introvert would be that annoying about forcing everyone to listen to all of her melodramatic notions All The Time). My personality is closer to Marianne’s (I’m just more introverted and therefore less obnoxious) but ugh I have complicated feelings about her. Sometimes I like that she’s true to her feelings and other times she drives me crazy. Also she’s too much like my overly emotional, overly childish mom and that’s not entirely a good thing… So I know Elinor is the more admirable sister of the two, but I also know that I’m just not exactly like her and never will be (although a beloved aunt of mine is and I’m so glad to have someone like her in my life) and ughh I keep rereading this book trying to solve this conundrum for myself of sense vs. sensibility and where I stand on that and how it’s best to live and maybe I overthink it but I do come back to this book often so it seems to have some deep meaning for me, but I’m always torn when I read it over which sister holds my allegiance or which way of life I think is better to follow or something. It’s hard to put into words even. But right now I am taking a break from that because it’s emotionally tiring and also I wanted to read something newer for a change!

(Side note: if anyone wants me to go into more detail about my opinions on other Austen characters’ personalities, just let me know! I have made lists about this and I keep randomly thinking about it at odd moments and having mental debates with myself.)

Also I am slowly rereading Jane Eyre right now (partly because of The Autobiography of Jane Eyre on youtube right now, which I am enjoying!) and I looove it more than ever, partly because I now think Jane is another INFP like me! Yays.

And I’ve also recently decided to read some mystery novels again, after giving them a break for a few years for being too disturbing. But then this year I’ve gotten really into the tv show Elementary (are there fans out there? It is such a lovely show, don’t be a Sherlock snob and avoid it! Jonny Lee Miller is my current British actor crush because oh he’s just a doll on this show) and then my husband got me watching Hannibal (scary! But also there is Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen and pretty, gothic imagery, so sort of okay…) and other mystery shows and then we watched LUTHER on Netflix (oh my goodness Idris Elba! and Ruth Wilson!! I am taking a break from it because the first season was so intense but oh that’s a really good BBC show, guys) and then I just wanted to read a mystery and not just watch one. So I picked up In the Woods by Tana French because I remember hearing good things about it around the book blogosphere and I’d always been curious about it. So as of this morning I’ve read half of it and was really liking it (I’ve also experienced childhood trauma that I couldn’t remember, so I liked that being in a book) but then I had an unavoidably strong urge to read the end and then that made me sad. I had my suspicions about the killer all along, so that wasn’t it, but oh why Rob and Cassie why? (I’m being deliberately cryptic here so as not to spoil it but if you’ve read it, please come and talk to me!) Anyways, so now I’m not sure about finishing it either.

And now I’m going to end this post before I ramble any further. Thank you for joining in. (Also in my personal life, I’m now finished my medical transcriptionist course and will hopefully soon have a job at a hospital! So I’m pleased on that front. And I continue to buy too many books that I then don’t read right away, so what else is new.)