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Showing posts from March, 2015

Dombey and Domber

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Yes, I've finally finished 'Dombey and Son'. About bloody time too. Have to say, while I enjoyed the bulk of the book, the final double instalment (as it would have been in its original serialised form) left a lot to be desired. I know that Victorian novels have to end with marriages but, yikes, just how many?

There were some nice touches. It would take a harder heart than mine not to find the final couple of pages truly touching, but my 21st-century feminist leanings meant that the portrayal of matrimonial 'bliss' felt uncomfortable. I've mentioned before the pros and cons of cultural relativism and this book is a reminder that these issues can occur across the years as well as across the seas. I understand what the social situation was like in Victorian England for women but that doesn't mean that I can applaud this vision of it. 

I also found it hard to really believe some of the key motivations behind the actions of a few of the main characters. There is …

My continuing progress with 'Dombey and Son'

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Arbitrary reading is still on the back-burner, I'm afraid, but I'm making steady progress with 'Dombey and Son'.  I'm at about page 500 and am still enjoying it immensely, although I've moved beyond that honeymoon period that we saw with my last post.  I was gushing, I know.

At this point in the book, the cast of characters has grown somewhat and the links between the different storylines are starting to show themselves.  There are still some key secrets and motives waiting to be revealed but the build towards the climax has definitely begun.  I have a sense of how a few of the storylines will be resolved, based on convention and character development, but some are still eluding me.  A good thing too.  There's intrigue to go.

The key themes are also much clearer.  Family seems to be the main topic, particularly related to the damage it can do, both deliberately and inadvertently.  “They fuck you up, your mum and dad”, as Pip Larkin said.  I mentioned before t…

A brief interlude from arbitrariness: Dombey and Son

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I'm not entirely sure why I picked up 'Dombey and Son' before 'The Mortimer Seal'.  Probably because it's been sat on my shelf for a substantial length of time and that always makes me feel sad.  As I'm only a third of the way through this 800+ page opus, it might delay my arbitrary progress for a few more weeks, but I can promise that it is worth the detour.

Charles Dickens occupies a slightly odd position within the English literary canon.  Although a prolific writer, many readers can only name a few of his works and can honestly claim to have read even fewer.  A couple of texts - notably 'A Christmas Carol' and 'Great Expectations' - are standard fodder in English lessons, and Oliver Twist is well-known as a screen and stage character, yet Dickens is often dismissed as too cumbersome and difficult for 21st-century readers.

It's not an entirely unfair claim.  As with many Victorian writers, a certain amount of social and historical knowl…

Ooh, another historical arbitrary read...

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This time in the form of 'The Mortimer Seal' by Bill Bailey.

Yeah, not that Bill Bailey.


Instead, this seems to be a book where two timelines become intertwined.  We have the current day, where a man called Eddie is looking to sell a heirloom, the Mortimer Seal of the title; we also have the story of Owain Glyn Dŵr, the Welsh revolutionary, at the very time that this heirloom was first produced.  How the stories intertwine and to what purpose I'm sure will be revealed.

While a little disappointed that this book isn't by comedian Bill Bailey, I can at least claim a geographical interest in this story.  It looks like much of it takes place in areas around Herefordshire and the Welsh border, where I grew up.  In fact, I have family who lived near Mortimer's Cross, which I'm assuming shares its roots with the titular seal.  My mum will watch a TV show just because she knows a location that features in it, even briefly; I think I feel the same sort of hometown loyalty …