Fiction: “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

PersuasionSo right off the bat – yes, Pride and Prejudice is great. And sure, Mr. Darcy is swoon-worthy (to a point – especially when portrayed by Colin Firth). And I know there are a lot of people out there who would die for Colonel Brandon. But for my money, Persuasion is the best love story Jane Austen ever wrote.

Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, the middle sister between Elizabeth and Mary. Their mother died, leaving their father, Sir Walter Elliot, in charge of their fortunes. Sir Walter Elliot is – to put it lightly – a vain narcissistic idiot. He doesn’t understand that when you purchase things on credit, eventually the credit gots to be paid. He also cares very very much about what others think of him, and he strives to be thought of in only the best of terms. (Spoiler Alert!: He’s not.)

At the beginning of the novel, Sir Walter is arranging Kellynch Hall, the family estate, to be let. He and Elizabeth and Anne will temporarily relocate to Bath while they earn income on the rented house and land. Anne is not interested in going to Bath and ends up staying with her younger sister Mary, who is a right pain in the ass. But Anne is happy to be in the country instead of Bath, and she is glad to be “of use”, so she stays behind. She and her surrogate mother figure, Lady Russell, will both go to Bath nearer to Christmas.

While taking care of Mary, Anne meets the renters of Kellynch Hall – Admiral Croft and his wife Sophia, who is the sister of Captain Frederick Wentworth.

And here’s where it gets good.

See – seven years ago, when Anne was 19, she was engaged to Captain Wentworth! Except he wasn’t a captain back then – he was a perfectly nice young man, clever and sure of himself, and he had just enlisted with the Navy. But Sir Walter – and Lady Russell and Elizabeth as well – were of the opinion that a Navy man was just not important enough for an Elliot to marry. Wentworth didn’t have a family patronage in Debrett’s Peerage, nor was he wealthy.

In spite of her feelings, Anne let herself be persuaded by Lady Russell and her father to break off their engagement. Wentworth goes off to the Navy, sad to lose Anne, but understanding, and Anne stays home with her father and sisters. The former lovers haven’t seen each other since.

And maaaaan – did I realize a couple of things about myself while reading this for the second time.

First off, the last time I read this book was 2008. (Also, in 2008, I read all six Jane Austen novels. I used to be such a good reader!) Masterpiece Theatre was showing all Jane Austen adaptations for their Classics season that year, and I thought, “why not?” And I remember watching this version of Persuasion – starring a not-quite-famous Sally Hawkins and Anthony Stewart Fucking Head playing Sir Walter Elliot! – and I was more focused on watching the series and getting through all six novels for me to take away Important Life Lessons.

This year (or, last year, as of this writing), I read the majority of the novel on the day I took the train to Boston to see the Arctic Monkeys, and I had plenty of time to learn things about myself.

FOR INSTANCE: I still have a voice in the back of my head that occasionally makes me think people are talking about me. Or having opinions about me. And while I recognize that that voice exists, and yes, I do realize I have a maybe-not-so-healthy dose of paranoia*†, I am not always successful in ignoring the voice.

*Fun Fact!: When you rearrange the letters in ALAINA PATTERSON, you get PARANOIA’S TALENT.

†When I was 6 years old, I was playing upstairs and could swear I heard my parents talking about me. So I raced down and confronted them. “ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT ME?” “No, Alaina, we’re not,” said Dad. “Okay,” I replied, and went back upstairs. A few minutes later, I came downstairs again and again asked, “ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT ME?” “No, Alaina, we’re not,” Dad insisted. I made the ol’ squinty eyes at him –

buffy suspicious face

– and went upstairs once more. And because even at the tender age of 6, I was aware of the Comedic Rule of Three, a few minutes later –

*stomp stomp stomp*


And instead of a smart-ass retort (which I definitely deserved at that point), Dad instead asked me, “Alaina, do you know what the word ‘paranoid’ means?”

And instead of yelling, Margo Channing-style, “I don’t even know what that means,” I reply:

“YES. It’s when your PARENTS ANNOY YOU.”

hunchback take a bow

Anyways. The point is that Anne allowed herself to listen to other people instead of following her gut (or, heart, I guess), and I am so glad that I don’t do that (much) anymore.

Anne still loves Captain Wentworth, so seeing him in society is a little trying. They are friendly with each other, but reserved. It also helps Anne a bit by seeing him interact with other single ladies (sorry for the earworm) who are hoping to marry the young Captain.

Eventually, Anne rejoins Sir Walter Elliot and her sister and Lady Russell in Bath, and Captain Wentworth shows up too (with another family – Wikipedia says it’s the Musgroves, and if Wikipedia says it, it must be true), so Anne and Wentworth are still forced to be in each other’s company. The youngest Musgrove sister, Louisa, is unattached, and appears to have caught the eye of Captain Wentworth. One day, the entire company visits a neighboring town, and Anne runs into her cousin there, William Elliot. William had broken ties with the Kellynch Elliots the year before, but William is taken with Anne.

On the way back into Bath (or wherever – apparently I got confused about where all this is happening, but you know me – not fixing things!), Louisa is flirting with Wentworth and walking along the top of a wall that borders a cliff. Louisa loses her footing and falls to the beach below, and suffers a head injury. Anne takes control of the situation, ordering people to call for a doctor and to keep calm in general. Louisa is taken to the nearby home of a friend of Wentworth’s, Captain Benwick. Wentworth stays at Benwick’s to keep watch on Louisa because he feels guilty and partly responsible for her fall. Anne doesn’t realize this, and believes that Wentworth has developed an attraction to the younger Miss Musgrove.

Meanwhile, William Elliot starts hanging out with the other Elliots, to Sir Walter’s great delight. Anne gets along with him well enough, but she doesn’t completely fall under his spell.

Look, I’ve written a lot of words which is basically paraphrasing the plot regurgitation that Wikipedia usually goes into. At the end of the novel, Wentworth – who had never fallen in love with Louisa, he just felt guilty about his part in her accident; she ends up engaged to Captain Benwick – overhears Anne talking about how women hold on to feelings of love long after hope of having it requited:

“I believe you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as – if I may be allowed the expression, so long as you have an object. I mean, while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.” [p. 210]

And this is where Wentworth realizes that Anne still loves him, even after all those years.

dot heart eyes

So he writes her a letter. And lemme tell you, dear Reader(s), that letter is one of the most romantic things I’ve ever read:

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. [p. 211]

clueless swoon

Between “You pierce my soul”, “Peace – I will stop your mouth”, and taking me to museums on dates, this blog is turning into a step-by-step guide to Dating Alaina. (And Dudes, if you could also be Peter O’Toole, wearing this exact outfit –

peter o'toole smoking

– that would be greeeaaaat. Now tell me I pierce your soul. Thaaaaanks.)

Does Darcy tell Elizabeth that she pierces his soul? NO. And it’s been too long since I’ve read Sense and Sensibility, but does soul-piercing happen in that book? I DON’T THINK SO.

Thus, I have proven my thesis: Persuasion is the best love story Jane Austen ever wrote.

Grade for Persuasion: 5 stars

Fiction: “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell

north & southOkay – six books (including this one) till the end of 2016. I can do this. Hopefully before the end of 2017. But hey, good news – looks like the Maine government’s going to shut down for a few days over budget talks, so I may be able to wrap this backlog up wicked quick!

My glee is sarcastic, be tee dubs. You do NOT want to get me started about the stupid antics over the budget up in here. Ridiculous.

Anyways … I had originally read this book as part of my 19th Century British Novel class in college. It was kind of a topics course, but not really? It was offered every semester, but depending on the professor it covered different aspects. It certainly wasn’t offered as a topics course – you could only take it once, for example. I don’t know, it was eons ago. But in my class, we read Jane Eyre (the second time in college for me), North and SouthDracula, and Bleak House. I think we were also supposed to read The Mill on the Floss and there were some essays in there as well, but I remember we skipped The Mill on the Floss because we were getting behind.

That was also the semester I was taking like, four English courses? I want to say that was the semester I decided to cram in 19th Century Brit Lit, Shakespeare (the Histories, that semester), Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales, and was that the semester I also took the topics course in Women in Detective Fiction? It may have been. So, with all the reading I decided to do, guess how many of those novels above I actually finished?

Jane Eyre and North and South. I didn’t bother to tackle Dracula again, because I felt I had parts of it memorized; Bleak House I got through half (and then ended up watching most of the BBC miniseries starring Gillian Anderson as Lady Deadlock, but stopped watching before Jarndyce proposed to Esther and I was so sad knowing that she’d eventually leave him that I didn’t want to see that).

Oh – we also had Jude the Obscure that semester, and I read like, three pages. I WAS BUSY.

We focused on the difference between “beauty” and “the sublime”. I am dialing it down to what I remember – which is probably incorrect, but guess what, I think I’ve finally paid that semester off, I ain’t going back – but “the sublime” is what people should strive for, because being “sublime” is being better than beautiful. Like, “beauty” is just “pretty”, there’s no substance beneath it. “Sublime” has power and a different energy.

Look, read this Wikipedia article if you’re interested. There’s definitely more to it than what I just said; you can also read the article that I just remember reading (thanks, Wikipedia!), A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful if you’re still intrigued. We spent a lot of time discussing descriptions of rooms and landscapes and trying to figure out if they were “beautiful” or “sublime”, and whether that informed our interpretation of the scene.

Before picking North and South again, I could tell you that it was about a girl whose family moved from the South of England to a manufacturing town in North England, and the culture shock of both the town and the people there that she deals with. Luckily, I was not misremembering the plot. I know we made a big deal about the descriptions of the town (whose name I will look up shortly – the book is in another room and I’m comfortable and on a roll) versus those of the South. But I also remember that I enjoyed the main romance in the novel.

So in keeping with a) the fact that I was still neck-deep in silly little romance novels I was reading through the year and b) it was October, and therefore, time for The Fall Classic (AND BOY OH BOY DO I HAVE STORIES ABOUT THE OTHER, REAL, FALL CLASSIC I LIVED WITH – STAY TUNED FOR A REREAD OF Moneyball WHICH WILL BE ALL IN CAPSLOCK ABOUT THE CHICAGO CUBS), I dragged North and South out of my Classics bookcase and dug in.

The main character is Margaret Hale, who grew up in Helstone with her family; her father was a pastor (or, English version of pastor). At the beginning of the novel, Margaret returns to Helstone after spending some time in London. Her father has had a crisis of conscience, and is leaving the Church of England as a dissenter. Additionally, as there is no place for him in society now, he is moving his family (save Margaret’s brother, Frederick, who has his own shit, being wanted for mutiny) to the industrial town of Milton-Northern, where he will be a tutor and intellectual cornerstone of that town. Margaret accompanies her parents on their trip to the north, as she is unwed and that is literally her only option.

She is struck by the dirtiness of the town – which it would be, because this novel is set in the thick of the Industrial Revolution, and worker’s rights isn’t a thing; neither is being environmentally-conscious. (It’s apparently not a thing now either UNLESS YOU LIVE ANY-THE-FUCK-WHERE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE GODDAMNED WORLD take a breath alaina you’ll be okay YEAH BUT MY HYPOTHETICAL CHILDREN WON’T BUT WHY SHOULD WE CARE WE ELECTED A FUCKING SENTIENT CHEETO DIPPED IN NAPALM WHY WOULD WE take a FUCKING BREATH, ALAINA)

bella slap

thanks – I needed that.

Anyhoodle. One of Margaret’s father’s first students is John Thornton, manager of one of the textile mills in Milton-Northern. He lives with his mother and sister, and takes Greek lessons from Margaret’s father after hours.

(I feel like I should mention: I’m currently watching the BBC version of North and South on Netflix, because it’s been so long since I read yada yada you all know the words by now. I can’t imagine there’s not a lot of difference between this and the book; plus, Thornton is played by Richard Armitage, who played the Great Red Dragon in Hannibal – so, yay!)

The biggest part of the novel is a subtle-at-times social commentary on the different societal norms Margaret has to maneuver through. Not just the different, northern accent and words, but how to act. In Helstone, Margaret would bring baskets of food to new neighbors to get to know them; here, in Milton, her new friend Bess wonders, “why would you bring a basket? We’ve got nothing to put in it!”

(That may not have been in the book. Also, I seriously can’t get over how the actress playing Mrs. Thornton looks a lot like Ian McShane in a dress. So. Weird.)

Thornton feels himself drawn to Margaret, but can’t understand her ways. Margaret, meanwhile, can’t seem to fathom the customs of Thornton’s land.

When Mr Thornton rose up to go away, after shaking hands with Mr and Mrs Hale, he made an advance to Margaret to wish her good-bye in a similar manner. It was the frank familiar custom of the place; but Margaret was not prepared for it. She simply bowed her farewell; although the instant she saw the hand, half put out, quickly drawn back, she was sorry she had not been aware of the intention. Mr Thornton, however, knew nothing of her sorrow, and, drawing himself up to his full height, walked off, muttering as he left the house —

“A more proud, disagreeable girl I never saw. Even her great beauty is blotted out of one’s memory by her scornful ways.” [p. 86]

Look at that – classic miscommunication in action! Two people, having a conversation (this time, using body language) where each means something through their actions but their meaning is misheard by the other party, because the other party doesn’t have the appropriate context in which to place and interpret the message! And the omniscient narrator, right there in the middle of everything, can’t reach out to Thornton and Margaret and bop them on the head to get their shit together, because they’re not real, and also, it’s not the narrator’s job! Oh man – sometimes art imitates life imitates art, amiright?

North and South is a commentary on many different topics, masquerading as a romance between cultures. There’s the disparity between the north and the south, in appearance, in culture, in society, in knowledge; there’s the attempt at reconciling the two, and Margaret learning where she fits — at the end of the novel, Margaret returns to London and finds herself completely bored with her previous life. There are also discussion on labor laws, and labor strikes, and the ability for a worker to attempt to make a better life for himself, in spite of what he’s been given.

And how does this all tie into the discussion I had about “beauty” and “the sublime” up at the top? Well, in her travels and new knowledge, Margaret learns to find the beauty in Milton, where, ostensibly, there wouldn’t be any. The town is filthy, people die of fluff in their lungs left over from the textile mills, smokestacks are constantly belching smoke so much that she is continuously washing the walls of their apartment. But given the opportunity to return to her relatively hoity life in the South, Margaret finds her life lacking. Surrounded by traditional beauty – measured beauty, marked out in perfectly-tended gardens, greens and blues and other colors – she finds herself yearning for the sublime Milton – grey upon grey upon grey, and all shades with a dash of violence, whether it be actual fights between the strikers and the bosses, or just consider the violence found in a smokestack expelling smoke. That’s where she belongs – she prefers the sublime and the rough edges and the different beauty to a more traditional perception.

It’s so nice to see a college course I took didn’t go to waste.

Grade for North and South: 4 stars

Fiction: “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

pride & prejudice

So I have no idea what this review is going to look like. Dear High School Students Who Are Beginning to Write Their Essay on Pride and Prejudice Approximately Twelve Hours Before The Essay Is Due Who Happened to Find My Blog Via Google: I fucking feel for you. However, I must advise you: I’m writing this review four fucking months after I read it, and to make matters fucking worse, I’m smack-fucking-dab in the middle of my upty-ninth attempt to finish Deadwood, and Al Swearengen is not only at the top of his game, but also impacting my fucking words.

If there’s anyone out there who doesn’t already know the plot of Pride and Prejudice, raise your fucking hand.

Goddammit, E.B.

[[sidenote: I spend at least five minutes of every Deadwood episode cursing out E.B. Farnham and his goddamned jackassery.]]

Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s classic tale of classist marital strife. Mrs. Bennet wants to see her five daughters get married off, because their estate is entailed to a male cousin. Basically, when Mr. Bennet kicks the fucking bucket, the females of his family will be cast out upon their shapely rears without so much as a farthing to their fucking name.

Jane, the eldest Bennet, falls in love with Charles Bingley, new owner of Netherfield Hall. He falls in love with her likewise; but his love is curtailed by the misguided advice of his trusted friend, Mr. Darcy. Darcy doesn’t think that Jane truly loves Bingley, because she doesn’t swan about like any other fucking —

[[here’s where my writing exercise comes to blows with my actual feelings, re: Pride and Prejudice: my attempt to write in Al Swearengen’s voice wants to say “fucking whore” here, but my normal sensibilities wouldn’t allow that.]]

[[to be honest, I also don’t want anyone to think that I hate the book because of all the swearing – far from it. I love this book – having come to love it after a few years of detesting it, and then also being fairly meh about it. But Al Swearengen would be the first to fucking tell you that copious amounts of fucking profanity does not mean that the cocksucker using those terms hates the thing of which he’s fucking speaking.

so please note: I really do love Pride and Prejudice. But I also love exercising my creative writing skills, and “Al Swearengen reviewing Pride and Prejudice” is an excellent exercise, second only to “Addison De Witt reviews Hamilton“.]]

So Mr. Darcy not only turns Bingley away from Jane, but he dares insult Jane’s younger sister, Elizabeth, behind her fucking back. He almost goes out of his way to be fucking miserable to Elizabeth, and when Darcy and Bingley return to London, Elizabeth is glad to have seen the back of him.

Elizabeth goes to visit her friend, Charlotte, who married the male cousin who has the entail to the Bennet estate (it should be noted that the male cousin, Mr. Collins, a right fucking hooplehead if ever there was one, attempted to marry both Jane and Elizabeth first; when Elizabeth rightly turned his proposal down, he  moved on down the fucking lane to Charlotte). The hoopleheads live on the property of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who happens to be Mr. Darcy’s aunt. When Darcy also visits the estate, he gets Elizabeth alone at the parsonage and fucking proposes, completely blindsiding her. She rejects him, and he goes on his fucking way, the way a man should, because no means fucking ‘no.’

Later, Lydia runs off with Wickham, a right fucking cocksucker who shares a history with Darcy. Unbeknownst to Elizabeth (until nearly the end of the book), Darcy works behind the scenes to get Wickham to marry Lydia so that she is not “ruined,” but Lydia’s such a spoiled little brat that she would have deserved a good ruining. Anyway, Elizabeth finds out about Darcy’s involvement with the whole fucking situation, and when she thanks him for his efforts, he tells her he did it all for her.

[[Okay, I’ve finished watching this episode of Deadwood, so my exercise is over. I actually do want to point out a couple of things, and I need my Alaina-voice to do so.]]

First of all, let’s talk about Mr. Darcy and how he is yet another fictional character who has ruined me for all non-fictional men. Sure, he starts off as an asshole, but through his conversations with Mr. Bingley’s sisters we the reader find out that his dickishness is brought on by an attempt to hide his feelings. And, to his point, Mrs. Bennet is an awful, embarrassing character; an opinion of Mrs. Bennet could indeed set someone off from one of her daughters.

And so Darcy wrestles with his feelings – he doesn’t understand why Elizabeth enchants him so, and he struggles to subdue how he feels because a) marrying into the Bennet family would be a step down from what he has, and b) who wants to marry into a family with such a shrewish mother-in-law? and c) I don’t think he knows what love was up until Elizabeth, so maybe he doesn’t know what he’s feeling.

His wrestling with himself, to Elizabeth, comes across as being an asshole. So when he visits her in the parsonage, and he starts pacing back and forth, she has no fucking idea that this is what he’s going to say:

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” [p. 213]

It’s not until the last four words of that paragraph that Elizabeth even knows how he’s feeling. For all she knows, up until “admire,” he could be gearing himself up to say “loath and detest you and your family.” She doesn’t know!

And people will say that Darcy is not romantic; that being so mean to Elizabeth and then coming into her guest room and basically saying, “I love you, and even though I hadn’t given you any inclination to that up until now, we should marry because I say so” isn’t romantic. But when you look at the literary definition of romantic, to mean “marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized” [Thanks, Merriam Webster!], then Mr. Darcy is the exact definition of romantic.

And speaking from the perspective of someone who never has any idea if someone is flirting with me (see this review for an entirely real conversation between myself and my Dear Friend Kerri; it’s below the quote from When Harry Met Sally…), this is what I expect to happen in my life. I’ll be dealing with someone – a stranger; the Aaron Burr to my Alexander Hamilton (“we keep meeting…”); and I don’t love him. He’s kind of a dick. But he’s the one to break the ice and tell me that he loves me, because I have not experienced what romantic love looks like outside of novels.

Want more proof that Mr. Darcy is romantic and, also, imaginary? When Elizabeth declines his proposal, he accepts it. He does write her a letter in an effort to explain his point of view in the whole Wickham mess; and at the beginning of the letter he tells her that he’s not writing her in an attempt to change her mind; he’s writing to give her the full view of the story. Do you hear that, Tinder Guys I’ve Heard So Much About But Never Interacted With Because Yick? No means no means no.

Mr. Collins, the Original Hooplehead, does not understand the basic concept of consent, as evidenced here:

“When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on this subject I shall hope to receive a more favourable answer than you have now given me; though I am far from accusing you of cruelty at present, because I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application, and perhaps you have even now said as much to encourage my suit as would be consistent with the true delicacy of the female character.”

“Really, Mr. Collins,” cried Elizabeth with some warmth, “you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as may convince you of its being one.” [p. 124]

It also doesn’t hurt my esteem of Pride and Prejudice that one of my favorite books and movies is based on it, to the point of a) naming its male romantic lead Mark Darcy, and, in an inspired twist, b) hiring Colin Firth to play Mark Darcy in the film, after playing the formative Mr. Darcy in the BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice; this would be Bridget Jones’s Diary.

I could go on about how Elizabeth is also one of the first feminist characters in literature – or, at least, more feminist than what we’ve seen for a couple of centuries; I’d wager that Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing was a feminist, but when centuries pass and we’re left with Emily from The Mysteries of Udolpho for a while, Elizabeth’s determination to marry for love seems downright earth-shattering – but I’m not going to. For two reasons: 1) I need to go the fuck to bed, and 2) I also won’t write the goddamned essay for the high schoolers; they should look shit up on Wikipedia, like I couldn’t, because it didn’t exist back then.

Also, if you haven’t watched Deadwood, you should get the fuck on that.

[[sorry i said ‘fuck’ so much.]]

Grade for Pride and Prejudice: 5 stars



Fiction: “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen

northangerWhen October rolled around, it was time to pick my next Fall Classic. And while my pick for the actual Fall Classic fell slightly short of the goal (IT WAS 2015, THE CUBBIES WERE FATED TO GO TO THE WORLD SERIES, MARTY MCFLY SAID IT WAS SO – why no, I’m not over it yet, why do you ask?), my literature Fall Classic was a poor attempt at trying to come full circle with my (admittedly, thanks to hindsight) poor choice for May Classic Literature Month.

Remember, for 2015’s selection, I elected to read The Mysteries of Udolpho. I am still kicking myself for that library choice. I mean, I just tallied up the books I read last year, and I’m two shy of 2014’s total, and I’m sorry, Ann Radcliffe, but I’m putting all that fault on your shoulders. If I wasn’t so busy reading about Lady Emily having hysterics I could have finished — who knows? Five more books? Seven? I could have hit forty, you bitch.


ANYWAY. When October came around, I realized it only made sense that I should read Northanger Abbey — after all, Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s open attempt at satirizing Ann Radcliffe’s master work.

Northanger Abbey was one of the first novels Ms. Austen wrote, but it was only published after her death. The heroine is Miss Catherine Morland, a charming yet naive country girl who gets the chance to experience a Bath season. She is introduced to society at the Pump Room (a Thing in Bath – where debutantes paraded around a fountain and gossiped about everyone else) and becomes friends with Isabella Thorpe, who appears to be a great role model of the upper class to which Catherine aspires. Spoiler alert!: she’s not.

Isabella’s kind of a bitch – she becomes fast friends with Catherine because Catherine’s too naive to see through her Regina George-esque facade. Well, she’s like Regina George only if Regina George was a manipulative husband-hunter.

Maybe she’s more like Karen:

“Very well, Catherine. […] I have not forgot your description of Mr. Tilney — ‘a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.’ Well, my taste is different. I prefer light eyes, and as to complexion — do you know — I like a sallow better than any other.” [p. 47]

So she likes sickly men that she can easily overpower; that’s how I’m interpreting that sentence.

Catherine’s afore-mentioned Mr. Tilney is Henry Tilney, a young parson who has accompanied his sister Eleanor to Bath for the season. (I should mention that in Jane Austen-land, a country parson is someone who can still marry and flirt with girls – we’re not talking a Catholic priest or a Jesuit monk, here.) They hit it off quickly, although Isabella’s brother John also develops an attraction to Catherine. Isabella, meanwhile, begins to fall for Catherine’s brother James. The Thorpes’s attraction is derived completely from a falsehood going through Bath that the Morlands are extremely rich, however.

It all sounds pretty sedate, right? Basically it’s what a modern-day take on a historical romance sounds like. Two fast friends find each other becoming nearly related and one of the girls has a secret admirer. It’s all very quaint. But here’s what Jane Austen’s doing – she’s satirizing the whole damn thing.

Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s treatise on what should happen to silly little girls who read too many novels. And in creating that treatise, she tried to put in as many “silly little novel” tropes as possible: the Naive Everygirl; the Love Triangle; the Lemony Narrator, even. And then she subverted them, or heightened them to the point of parody.

Catherine, who is such a fierce lover of literature – including The Mysteries of Udolpho, which, true confessions, I almost typed that just now as “The Musteries of Udolpho,” which implies that Udolpho smells really mildew-ey — automatically goes to the Most Dramatic Option when presented with something that could have even the slightest hint of mystery. When she visits with the Tilneys and finds a large wardrobe in her room, she doesn’t assume it’s a guest wardrobe; she believes she’s going to find something ghastly and suspenseful inside. She gets herself so worked up that when she finds a key in a keyhole and turns it to open it, she actually locks it on herself, and then takes about five minutes before she tries turning it the other way. And when she finally peers inside the drawer, what does she see? Not the desiccated hand of a long-lost Tilney ancestor, but an actual, honest-to-God laundry list. It is a list of laundry items.

That might not seem very funny to us as a modern-day reader; but to someone of Ms. Austen’s time, when The Mysteries of Udolpho and its ilk were the height of literature and there was nothing funny about them, the tricks Ms. Austen pulls on the reader becomes that much sharper and cleaner. General Tilney is oppressive and taciturn – maybe he’s a robber baron like Count Montoni! Oh no wait, he’s just a snob, who also heard the lie about the Morlands being rich. Wait, where does General Tilney go during the day – up to his dead wife’s room? Maybe she’s still alive! So then Catherine goes sneaking around to try and find a maybe-not-so-dead wife, only to be discovered in the act by Henry. But instead of cutting her out of his life for her crazy ideas – because General Tilney actually loved his wife and is still mourning the loss of her, that’s where he’s going, he’s leaving you for some goddamned peace and quiet, Miss Morland! (sorry) – instead, Henry gently mocks her and her propensity to turn the Drama Dial on everything up to 11. In Udolpho, Lady Emily cuts Vaillancourt out of her life when she hears about his gambling without giving him a chance to explain himself. Here, Henry actually listens to Catherine and finds her overactive imagination charming.

Ms. Austen, in her role as narrator, also takes stabs at the fact that Udolpho and its contemporaries are overly long. For instance, our introduction to Isabella Thorpe’s mother:

Mrs. Thorpe was a widow, and not a very rich one; she was a good-humored, well-meaning woman, and a very indulgent mother. Her eldest daughter had great personal beauty, and the younger ones, by pretending to be as handsome as their sister, imitating her air, and dressing in the same style, did very well.

This brief account of the family is intended to supersede the necessity of a long and minute detail from Mrs. Thorpe herself, of her past adventures and sufferings, which might otherwise be expected to occupy the three or four following chapters; in which the worthlessness of lords and attornies might be set forth, and conversations, which had passed twenty years before, be minutely repeated. [40]

Dear Mrs. Radcliffe: can I get you some ice for that BURN? (But it’s true, it’s totally, one million percent true.)

Finally, because this is Alaina’s blog called That’s What She Read, and I am the most twelve, you can only imagine how hard I laughed while I read this otherwise-innocuous paragraph about John Thorpe’s curricle:

“What do you think of my gig, Miss Morland? A neat one, is it not? Well hung; town built; I have not had it a month. It was built for a Christchurch man, a friend of mine, a very good sort of fellow; he ran it a few weeks, till, I believe, it was convenient to have done with it.” [p. 51]

The first time I read Northanger Abbey, I didn’t have the background of The Mysteries of Udolpho. I’m not sure I even knew it was a real book, to be honest. But now that I’ve read both, knowing Udolpho definitely strengthens Northanger Abbey for me. It’s funnier, smarter – knowing the past heightens the present.

That’s not to say that The Mysteries of Udolpho is a piece of shit that should be mocked; just because I didn’t like it and my opinion of the book closely paired with Miss Austen’s opinion of the book which in turn made me enjoy Northanger Abbey more doesn’t mean that someone else might have the opposite opinion. (Right? Right.) After all, I read new books for the adventure – I won’t really know if I’ll like it until I try. And even when I don’t have a favorable opinion of a book after reading it, the pleasure of reading is always present.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with this conversation between Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney:

“But you never read novels, I dare say?”

“Why not?”

“Because they are not clever enough for you — gentlemen read better books.”

“The person, be it a gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” [p. 107]

Well said, Mr. Tilney; well said.

Grade for Northanger Abbey: 4 stars

Fiction: “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

baskervillesAs I alluded in my round-up of the first three Mary Russell novels, I wasn’t planning on reading this classic at any point in the future, until I read the back of The Moor and realized that the fourth novel in the series returned Holmes to the location of his most famous tale, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”  So in the midst of all the house-sitting I was doing in August, I managed to make a trip back to my apartment for a day and found my copy of this novella, purchased years ago at Borders before it went out of business, and proceeded to finish reading it on August 18.

I am telling you all this so you can see how far behind I am in my reviews.  I have finished “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and The Moor, so I’m like a review and a half behind.  I’d say “Dang you, Once Upon a Time rewatch!,” but we all know that’s a lie.  (I mean, have you seen the guy who plays Captain Hook on that show?  With human eyes?  He’s Alaina’s Pretend Boyfriend Number 1, is what I’m trying to say.)

It was … not jarring, but different, to go back to a tale of Sherlock Holmes narrated by John Watson and not Mary Russell.  It’s been a few years since I read some of the original Holmes stories, and while Mary Russell does an excellent job narrating the future adventures of Holmes, I forgot how blind Watson can be sometimes to Holmes’ intricacies.  But more on those later.

For those of you whose only knowledge of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is from such classic episodes as “The Hounds of Baskerville” from Sherlock or “The Pound of the Baskervilles” from Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers, let’s go over the plot.

This Holmes tale starts as many do: someone shows up at 221B Baker Street and starts telling Holmes about their problem.  In this instance, a country doctor tells Holmes about the Curse on his friends, the Baskervilles: basically, this old dude, Hugo Baskerville, who lived in this old house on the Moor, was a jackass and a perv, and he kidnapped a woman to force her to be his wife.  When she ran away, he chased her out onto the Moor and then this big ol’ hound showed up and killed him.  The Curse has been handed down for centuries, and now, Sir Charles Baskerville, just died of a combination of heart failure and what appears to be fear, because …. (and get ready for one of the most classic lines in all of literature):

“There was certainly no physical injury of any kind.  But one false statement was made by Barrymore at the inquest.  He said that there were no traces upon the ground round the body.  He did not observe any.  But I did — some little distance off, but fresh and clear.”

“Footprints?” [asked Holmes.]


“A man’s or a woman’s?”

Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered:

“Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” [p. 32]

So Holmes gets all excited, because there’s no way it could be an actual ghostly hound – that’s unpossible!  Basically Dr. Mortimer has asked for Holmes’s help because the last remaining Baskerville heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, is returning to the homestead from Canada and he wants to make sure that he won’t die horribly.  So Holmes sends Watson to the Moor with Mortimer and Henry Baskerville, because he has more important blackmail-ey things to investigate in London, and he trusts Watson to be his eyes and ears upon the moor.

Watson watches while Henry Baskerville falls in love with the sister of a butterfly collector in town, and clearly I’ve watched too much Hannibal and Silence of the Lambs because if someone really likes butterflies and moths, THEN SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THEM.  Henry’s woman is shy, but warns Watson and Henry to return to London.  Her brother, Stapleton, mourns the death of Sir Charles but takes an interest in Sir Henry right away.  Also, there’s a subplot about an escaped criminal who’s living on the moor that may have connections to the Baskerville house.  Also, Watson finds out that another woman, Laura Lyons, had a connection to Sir Charles and sent him a letter on the day he died.  Watson investigates, and Charles Baskerville was helping Laura get enough money to earn a divorce so she could marry Stapleton, apparently.  In addition to all that, there’s also a hobo living on the moor who just showed up last week, and he hasn’t been seen but everyone in town knows he’s out there.

What we the reader learn too late (almost) is that the hobo is actually Holmes.  See, he never actually had any business in London; he just pretended to be away so that Watson could gather some evidence without the name of Holmes making everyone nervous.  But he didn’t trust Watson fully, so he hid out on the moor to observe the goings-on for himself.  This trait carries over into the Holmes/Russell novels, usually with Mary yelling at Holmes for pulling one of his tricks again.  Holmes has a need for control over all things (beautifully played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC version), and no matter how implicitly he does actually trust Watson (and Russell, in the Laurie R. King series), he still can’t just let someone else do the investigating for him.

What I appreciated about the fallout in this instance is that Watson is temporarily hurt by Holmes’s trickery, and calls him out on it:

“I thought that you were in Baker Street working out that case of blackmailing.”

“That was what I wished you to tohink.”

“Then you use me, and yet do not trust me!” I cried with some bitterness.  “I think that I have deserved better at your hands, Holmes.” [p. 179]

Unfortunately, Holmes then explains/rationalizes to Watson his need for secrecy, and Watson goes back to being all happy and puppy-eyed over Holmes again.  So, the more things change, yada yada.

I am not going to disclose the solution of the mystery here.  The book is really a novella, just about 200 pages, and if I can read it over six days, y’all can too.  Also, there’s this thing, called Wikipedia?  And that will tell you the solution just as well as I could.  I’m just trying very hard to not spoil things any more.

So let’s leave with a couple of things that made me laugh out loud.  First:

“There is Laura Lyons … but she lives in Coombe Tracey.”

“Who is she?” I asked.

“She is Frankland’s daughter.”

“What!  Old Frankland the crank?” [p. 154]

Someday, I am going to have a character named Frankland the Crank, and he’s going to be awesome.

And finally, this quote from Holmes’s explication of the story to Watson, which caused a reaction in me that I will do my best to explain:

“There seemed to be no alternative but to catch him red-handed…” [p. 237]

Now, if y’all know me in real life, y’all know how much I love the Muppets.  And my favorite Muppet movie of all time is The Great Muppet Caper.  And my favorite joke of all time – that NEVER CEASES TO BE FUNNY – is the following exchange between Kermit and Beauregard:

(Start at 0:20, unless you want to hear what Janice says to her mother, which is also classic.  Stop when the group groans at Beauregard’s answer.  I apologize for not figuring out how to edit the length of this video to suit my needs.)

WHAT COLOR ARE THEIR HANDS NOW.  I SWEAR TO GOD, I AM STILL LAUGHING AT THIS.  I give it an extra half-star for letting me make this reference.  Years from now, someone will mention something about catching someone red-handed, and I will ABSOLUTELY ASK, “What color are their hands now?”

Thank you, Jim Henson.  Thank you.

Grade for The Hound of the Baskervilles: 3.5 stars

Fiction: “Dracula” by Bram Stoker

draculaSo hey; I’ve been busy.  But now that I can see the light at the end of the Oh Shit It’s Christmas And I Have No Money So I Have to Crochet Presents For Everyone So Some People Might Get Christmas Presents From Alaina In March tunnel, I can take a moment and type up the review of Dracula that’s been fizzing around in my head for the past ten days.

See, I love Dracula.  Or, I did.  Or, rather, I am still sentimental towards it — y’know what?  Let me start at the beginning.

I first read Dracula as a freshman in college.  Actually, my friend Sarah (of My Friend Sarah Recommends fame over on Movies Alaina’s Never Seen) lent me my first copy of Dracula — and by ‘lent,’ I mean she said, “Here, I’m done reading it, you keep it and get it away from me.”

The reason I read it was because my high school Drama teacher had tasked me with writing an adaptation of Dracula for the stage.  So I took Sarah’s copy and attempted to write a true-to-the-book, sexy adaptation of Dracula that high school kids could perform.

I  … I failed.  Because I was nineteen, did no additional research, and I’m pretty sure I only got through to where Intermission was supposed to be.  But I was determined to learn more about Dracula so I could use it in that adaptation I was going to write.

So, over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of Dracula paraphernalia.  Including six copies of Dracula:

It's only a problem if you think it's a problem.

Sarah’s copy is the one on the bottom right.  And you’re probably worried about my ability to count, because I just said six copies of Dracula, and that is clearly only five.  I actually lent my copy of the Norton Critical Edition to my friend Kerri, who then moved to Alabama.  So yeah – lots of Draculas.

Aaaaaand then there are these:

2013-12-24 15.41.54

Yup – books about Dracula.  And vampires.  IT’S NOT A PROBLEM IF YOU DON’T THINK IT’S A PROBLEM.

Look, Dracula was kind of the gateway drug to a lot of things that I love: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The Vampire Diaries (although that’s more influenced by Ian Somerhalder than anything else).  The Anita Blake, Vampire Hunters series — but ten years later, I hate-read those to get enjoyment, but hate-reading is still a form of enjoyment.  So no matter what happens, Dracula will always hold a special place in my heart.

Which is good, because I did not enjoy Dracula as much as I thought I would.

Cuz here’s the thing (and I didn’t realize it until Sarah said something about it on Twitter, and, much like Professor Farnsworth’s future-seeing machine, once I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it) — not much happens in this book.

Jonathan Harker goes to Transylvania to do some real estate law for Count Dracula.  The locals are superstitious about the Count, but the language barrier doesn’t really let Harker know what they’re saying.  There’s a lot of hinky stuff that happens in the castle, including Dracula’s brides getting a combination of horny and hungry that Harker almost succumbed to, and Dracula lizard-crawling down the side of his castle.  It freaks Harker right the fuck out (AS IT SHOULD – I mean, imagine you’re visiting this old freaking guy in his castle.  He never eats in your presence, and then one night, you see him crawling down the side of the castle face-first like a lizard with suction cup feet and incredible balance. HOW WOULD YOU REACT), and the only way Harker is able to escape is to jump out of a window.

Then Dracula goes to England and starts drinking from Lucy Westenra, who happens to be the best friend of Mina Murray, fiancee of Jonathan.  When Jonathan is discovered alive back in Bulgaria, Mina leaves and then Lucy gets sick and then she gets anemic and no one can figure out the reason.  Then one of Lucy’s paramours, Dr. Seward, calls his mentor, Dr. Van Helsing, to come up and check Lucy out, and then Van Helsing diagnoses Lucy as having vampire sickness, except he does it too late, because she turned into a vampire and now they have to kill her.

Harker and Mina come back from Bulgaria, and then they search for Dracula so they can kill him, but not before Dracula starts drinking from Mina.  Eventually, Dracula makes Mina drink from him, which means that if Mina dies before they kill Dracula, Mina will turn into a vampire when she dies.

(That whole thing confused me a little bit, but that’s because I’m used to seeing vampires kill their victims to turn them into vampires immediately, rather than have them wait until they die of old age.  Because let’s say no one is able to kill Dracula, but doesn’t kill Mina, so she dies of old age.  Because she ate the vampire blood fifty years ago, she’s going to turn into a vampire.  So, does she turn into an old vampire?  I don’t get the biology of this!)

ANYWAY.  (Drink!)  The whole thing takes forever, and Van Helsing is written with a thick accent that sometimes sounds really stupid, and he tends to ramble.  And the research just took forever, and the times in-between the actual events took FOREVER, and it was very boring and forever-taking, and it broke my little heart, because I did not love Dracula as much this time around.

Let’s see, what else can I say in the next forty minutes — HOLY SHIT I BROUGHT MY HEADPHONES HOLD ON BRB — (I’m at my parents’ house, and apparently WBLM turns into all Christmas music, all the time on Christmas Eve, and I’ve made it this far without hearing “Wonderful Christmastime” by that rat bastard Paul McCartney, I’m not ruining my Christmas now – to Pandora!) — anyway, in now 36 minutes, I’ll be sitting down in front of the television for the annual watching of A Christmas Story, and this will be posted before then.

I guess, the other thing I wanted to talk about with regards to Dracula is how much of an idiot I was ten years ago.  Why would I have thought writing an accurate stage adaptation of Dracula would be a piece of cake?  You know what it would be?  BORING AS FUCK.  There’d be some atmospheric, horror-type stuff with sexy women and biting and blood in the first act, but then it’s all Lucy being flighty about marrying three different people, then her slowly becoming bedridden and even paler than most late-Victorian women, then Seward sitting around talking to Renfield about Renfield’s weird bug-eating habit, and then eventually Lucy would die and they’d have to kill her, so that’d wake the audience up, but by the time Harker and Mina come back from Bulgaria or wherever, nothing fucking happens until they all go to Transylvania to kill Dracula, and even the killing of Dracula is anticlimactic!  The whole third and fourth acts (I clearly imagine me writing it in the style of a Shakespearean tragedy) would take place in Seward’s drawing room while everyone talks about what everyone already knows, and if I were watching it (having had someone else write it), I would be whispering very vociferously from the balcony, wondering when Buffy was going to show up to put everyone out of their misery — but I’d only do that if it was a movie, because while you shouldn’t talk at a movie anyway, you definitely do NOT talk during a live theatre production.

In order to make an interesting adaptation of Draculaone must introduce some level of craziness.  I’ve heard rumors that Francis Ford Coppola insinuated that Mina was the reincarnated version of Count Dracula’s first wife, and somehow, that has weirdly become canon.  But Dracula’s motivations are never revealed within Bram Stoker’s novel.  He’s just this … thing that swoops into London to eat off of the only two women in the book, which makes it sound like Dracula had some sort of reason for attacking them, but he doesn’t.  He’s just hungry, and apparently they were close.

The reason Dracula’s motivations are never revealed is because Dracula is an epistolary novel – written as if compiled from journal entries, letters, and other forms of first-person narratives.  We hear directly from Harker, Mina, and Seward, with some cameos from newspaper articles and other letters.  We do not hear from Renfield or Van Helsing at all, except through the words of others.  The only time we hear Dracula is when Harker is talking about him.  Dracula is a cipher – a symbol on which we can put anything.  Fear of death, fear of sex, fear of the foreign; fear of whatever the fuck you want.

And that makes Dracula different from some modern-day villains: because we know so little about him, we’re not looking for the brief glimpse of humanity beneath the villainy; we’re taking his evilness at face value, because that’s all we have.  We can’t identify with him, so we rally behind the good guys.

But when the good guys are boring, it’s hard to buy in to the fight.

Anyway.  (Drink!)  That was Dracula.  Someday, I might not write that stage adaptation, but I know there’s more I can talk about the novel.  But tonight is Christmas Eve, and I have sixteen minutes to get some pie and sit in front of the TV and begin annoying my relatives with the fact that I know 75% of the words to A Christmas Story.

And I’m sure y’all have traditions that I think are weird, but that’s how we roll in the Patterson Family.

So to all my readers, far and near: thank you for reading, and may you and yours have a safe and merry Christmas, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Festivus, or whatever the hell y’all celebrate.  I’ll be back following the upcoming Tweetversation between me and Erica on William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, and I’ve got a couple other books up my sleeve before the 31st.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Fiction: “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens

So, I have a confession to make. I am very proud of the fact that, while I majored in Business Administration & Finance, I minored in 19th Century British Literature (a.k.a., English). And I’ve read a lot of 19th Century-era British novels – I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s novels, I’ve read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre multiple times, I … well, I have enjoyed Thomas Hardy in the past, Mayor of Casterbridge notwithstanding. And don’t get me started on the myriad of times I’ve read Dracula.

So here’s the thing — I have, somehow, managed to not have ever finished a Charles Dickens title before now.

How is that possible? Well, somehow, through high school and college, I always managed to … bypass it. We didn’t read A Tale of Two Cities in my freshman year at Brunswick High, I may have skimmed the majority of The Mystery of Edwin Drood (don’t tell Ms. Van Orden), I read three hundred pages of Bleak House (but then I watched five out of the six episodes of the BBC miniseries — I stopped watching after Esther agreed to marry Jarndyce, and I didn’t want to see her break his heart when she left him for her sea captain), and when we read Hard Times in that summer class I took, I literally couldn’t read the book because my glasses had broken. Like, lenses falling out of the frame. I literally could not read it. Last year I tried to read Oliver Twist, and I gave up forty pages in. Or was it David Copperfield

So. Congratulations, Great Expectations, for being the first Dickens novel I was able to finish! And thank you, Gillian Anderson, for making me want to read it so I could enjoy your portrayal of Miss Havisham.

The narrator of Great Expectations is Pip. He was raised by his older sister and her husband, Joe. He grew up in a poor blacksmith’s forge, and everything was going as well as could be expected until his fake uncle, Mr. Pumblechook (not making that up), visits the house and tells the family that Miss Havisham would like a boy.

What that means is that she would like a male companion to play with her adopted daughter, Estella. Because see, Miss Havisham was left at the altar, and ever since then, she has been alone. Well, except for when she adopted Estella, of course. Anyway, Pip comes over and immediately falls in love with Estella at the tender age of 10. And Estella is a right little bitch to Pip, but apparently, Pip likes that. And then Miss Havisham binds Pip to Joe as a blacksmith’s apprentice, and Pip gets sad.

Fast-forward a few years, Pip is about eighteen, I’d wager, when Mr. Jaggers, the attorney (yes, the attorney, shut up, this is my review) comes to tell Pip that he’s been given “expectations” — a large fortune with an allowance, in order to become a gentleman. But there’s one binding part to his contract: he cannot ask or learn who is benefactor is, until such a time as the benefactor decides to reveal himself. Or herself.

Because of course, Pip assumes that Miss Havisham set him up with money to make him a gentleman so he can marry Estella. Because Pip is, first and foremost, a romantic.

So Pip goes to London and becomes a gentleman, all the time trying to leave his poor past behind so he can become a gentleman so he can marry Estella, but —

OH SHIT I skipped something. Damn it! These whole expectations bit, I made a big deal, and then I totally forgot. Fuck, this is bad reviewing. Like me telling a joke: “Oh wait, back up, I forgot to tell you the cowboy rode a blue horse.” Fuck. Anyway, seeing as it’s really fucking important, I have to back up to the very beginning. Can I say ‘fuck’ more?!

So the first scene of the book is six-year-old Pip hanging out in the graveyard with his dead parents and this escaped criminal comes up and when he learns that Pip lives with a blacksmith, he wants Pip to bring him back some food and a file so he can get out of the leg manacle. Pip, being scared out of his wits, does so. And then the criminal gets captured again.

Okay. So, Pip goes along, gets into debt because that’s what young gentlemen of means did back then, collects his allowance, and pines after Estella. Around the time he learns that Estella is to be married to a real jackhole, he also learns who his benefactor is: that criminal he helped when he was a kid.

See how that all turned out? But wait — there’s more! He decides that he doesn’t want to have all that fortune (his expectations) because they were bestowed upon him by a hardened criminal, but he also doesn’t want to just cut the criminal out of his life. So he and his friend Herbert (not making it up!) come up with a plot to get the criminal out of the country, but the plot gets foiled and — spoiler alert! — the criminal dies in prison. Sorry.

Pip goes back home, finds Joe and rekindles their friendship, and then runs into a widowed Estella after Miss Havisham almost dies in a fire, and there’s a chance they could reconicle. So, not quite happily ever after, which I’ve heard is about par for the course with good ol’ Mr. Dickens.

Wow. I just realized that I totally did a shitty job of recapping this classic novel. I’m sorry — the fact is, it was really hard for me to finish this. Truth is, I started reading it back in January, but when I went to Annapolis, I left it behind because I was reading the cloth-covered hardback version, and I didn’t want my book to be the deciding factor on whether I checked my luggage or not. So I brought some paperbacks and called it good. When PBS finally aired the BBC miniseries with Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, I picked it up again. And then it took me an interminable five weeks to freaking finish it. Good lord, when I read Vanity Fair four years ago, I read that 900-page novel in three weeks while I was taking classes. Lousy Dickens.

I have to say that I think the BBC miniseries had the best death scene for Miss Havisham. She truly died in a fire, whereas in the book, she goes up in flames but then gets really badly burnt, but lingers for a bit. It’s more maudlin and not full of self-pity whatsoever.

Anyway. I liked it, I guess? For a book that I really wanted to finish so I could move on to something else, but didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to? And to be honest, I’m kind of speeding through this review because apparently, I am REQUIRED to watch a movie called Hobo With a Shotgun before I go to bed. So, check out the sister blog at for that particular review.

Grade for Great Expectations: 2.5 stars