Sunday, 22 February 2009

Yesterday I declined an invitation to see myself naked

You would think, based on the hilarious quotation from this book which is standing in for a proper post title here, that Jon Stewart's Naked Pictures of Famous People is hilarious. I would think so too, if all I had to go on was said quotation, which is funny regardless of context.

Friends, you'd be wrong. I laughed out loud when I read the line "Yesterday I declined an invitation to see myself naked." But that was the only time I actually laughed while reading this book! I chuckled a few times as well, but very quietly and without much energy. Most of the time, reading Naked Pictures of Famous People just made me bored.

I'm still in shock and a little bit of despair over this one. How could Jon Stewart, one of my most favourite funny guys in the world, write this mush? How is it possible? That guy lives and breathes funny now - I thought this would be a sure thing.

Jon, I feel let down. I don't know if we can date anymore. I'm sorry - you just don't seem to be the man I thought you were. My girlfriends keep telling me to give you another chance, that you're rich and have a full head of hair, which isn't something that can be counted on with a man your age - and there is a copy of America lying around here - but I just don't know if I can open myself up to being hurt that way again. You understand; I've just had my heart broken too many times before. Maybe when I've healed a little bit...

Friday, 20 February 2009

Since the beginning of time...

This here photograph is of kimchi jigae, one of my favourite Korean dishes. It looks delicious, doesn't it? Even so, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that you're wondering what it's doing here, on a book blog.

The sad fact is, I couldn't find any photos of the book I just finished reading, The Waves by Kang Shin-jae, on the interwebs. I also couldn't find a larger than hyper-minuscule photo of the author and the Korean flag .jpg I tried to download crashed my computer so kimchi jigae it is for this post's pretty picture.

I lived in South Korea for a year and I'm ashamed to admit how little Korean lit I read in that time. I read one of the modern classics, Yi Munyol's Our Twisted Hero, but couldn't get past the terrible translating to decide whether or not I thought it was a good book. I also had a book of Korean short stories that I really enjoyed and which I made the mistake of lending to someone and therefore never saw again. (Damn you, you know who you are!)

When I happened upon Kang Shin-jae's The Waves I was really pleased and it's taken me only about 2 months to get to it - which constitutes lightning speed in my book queue. This novel covers a year in the life of Young-sil, a gossipy teenage harridan, in rural Korea; the narrative is linear but more episodic than sustained story-telling, which isn't a bad thing, although I do love me sustained story-telling.

Overall I enjoyed this book, but that's because some sections were really good; and yet, as a counterbalance to the good bits there were parts that were about as subtle as a 2x4 to the kneecap. This may be a translating problem or it may be that Kang's novel is just uneven. Who knows? I do know that passages like the following made me want to tear my hair and gnash my teeth:

Death is an unavoidable and universal phenomenon. No one can control, plan for, or compensate for it; it is an understood, expected event of life, yet, it is never fully welcomed or accepted. From the beginning it has been a mystery, and as long as humanity endures, the mystery of death will remain. (p. 96)

Dear lord, who wrote this? This is the kind of thing that, especially that final sentence, I had to continually remind my uni students not to begin their essays with, you know, the "Since the beginning of time..." opener. "Since the beginning of time, love has been confusing and difficult. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet and Ophelia share a set of confusing and difficult emotions which only they understand, which leads to their downfall." No, that's not a real essay introduction - I wrote it myself and it made me sad because I've read too many things too similar to it.

Anyway, The Waves, besides being uneven was plagued with a bevy, a horde, an embarrassment of typos - which I find distracting beyond description. Verdict: this book was uneven, as symbolized by waves, as they crest and then crash, always going up in great power and then breaking apart in defeat. Damn you, Kang, and your too frequent explanations of your own elementary school symbolism!!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Books for childers: Real rabbits/Sammich!/So THAT's why that...

Having moved downtown where pretty much everything that's important to me is within walking distance, I fear that my Curious/Creepy feature, young as it was, has already become extinct. I'm just not finding myself in situations where my peering over other readers' shoulders is possible. Be assured, that if I am, I will; I kind of like Curious/Creepy, if only as a sort of sociological look into others' book choices. We'll see, but I don't think I'll be on a subway, a streetcar, a train, or a plane in the near future. But I was wrong once - in 1983 - so you never know.

I do, however, live/work in a bookstore that has a pretty good collection of kidlets' books (and literature, which I'm trying not to horde for myself), and perhaps this post will turn into another kind of feature for

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Okay, I didn't actually briefly borrow this from the shop's kids' section, I bought it for myself during a lovely walk with my hubby on the weekend. He'd been telling me for years that I needed to read this book AND that it would make me cry.

He was right on both counts. I loved this book and I cried as disconsolately as I imagine I would have had I read it when I was 7. One of my cats looked worried, which embarrassed me. But the point is, I wouldn't have cried that way if I hadn't first loved the book - it's so good! Margery Williams knew how to do a lot with a very few words.

This book is a classic and it deserves to be.

The Sandwich by Ian Wallace and Angela Wood. I don't know if this one's a classic or not; I do know, however, that someone ordered it today and I read it before packing it up because I realized that it was set in Toronto.

This is a weird one. It's cool insofar as it mentions specific Toronto-y things like the main kid's dad driving the St. Clair streetcar. It's also cool insofar as it was written in 1975 and it's all about cultural diversity and acceptance via food. (The main kid, whose name I've already forgotten, is of Italian extraction and he gets mocked for his stinky meat sammiches by all the other sprogs, who are eating pb&j sammiches.)

It's not cool insofar as I feel like the two authors didn't talk to each other or read one another's sections; the narrative changes without warning from 1st to 3rd and there are no transitions between scenes/places/times of day/etc. An unsatisfying read but an interesting archaeological artifact.

The Singing Shell and The Naughty Smoke Fairies by Enid Blyton. Another huge gap in my childhood reading: no Enid Blyton. TODAY is the first time I've ever read anything by Enid Blyton!!! Indeed, most of my knowledge of Enid Blyton comes from reading other books in which characters talk about reading Enid I knew she was formative and central and a sign of what a lame reader I was as a child (reading, as I did, one book over and over and over again instead of trying anything new).

So, this is actually two short, sweet books in one binding and both were pleasing in that way olde timey British children's books often are, emphasizing as they do words that one wouldn't necessarily expect to be emphasized, and because the world is kind and lovely and the danger minimal.

Also, I now know why you can hear the ocean in sea shells and why poppies are black in the centre.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

The opposite of Valentine's Day

I think it's pleasingly ironic that I'm blogging about Martin Amis's The Rachel Papers on Valentine's Day; really, nothing could be less sentimental and mushy than Amis's novel about precocious young sex fiend Charlie Highway and his pursuit of the mysterious Rachel.

Sentimentality is either entirely rejected or mercilessly mocked in this novel as Charlie minutely and meticulously dissects first his desire for Rachel and then their relationship. If you're looking for the novelistic prelude to a romantic comedy (the film version stars Ione Skye, that '80s ingenue who did so much for Say Anything, and therefore might make one think this is that kind of film and therefore book), do not read The Rachel Papers, for you will be disappointed and perhaps offended.

If, however, you're looking for a book that's relentlessly satirical (that is, funny and mean, two of my favourite things, especially when combined) about sex, love, intellectual pursuits, the human body, deep emotions - anything really important to most 19-year-olds - then you'll love this novel.

I loved The Rachel Papers. Besides being funny and mean, the writing was really damned good. I laughed a lot. I cringed. I was annoyed, but in a pleasurable way. Often, I stopped to notice the writing, which is something I don't do enough. There will be more Martin Amis in my reading future, count on it.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Two almost completely wasted hours

I'm sorry to do this, but I have to drop another negative book review on your head. I recently plowed through Lloyd Alexander's classic children's novel The Book of Three, on the excited and insistent advice of my dear husband.

This book has lots of things I like: a basis in olde mythes (in this case, Welsh), swords, bad guys (in this case, a bad guy wearing a skull with antlers for a mask), and animals that communicate with humans.

That's all well and good, but The Book of Three was missing some other things I also really like and which are somewhat more crucial to my enjoyment: good writing, unstilted dialogue, good pacing, characters that don't seem like lame rip-offs of Tolkien characters (i.e., the embarrassingly Gollum-esque Gurgi), and un-sexist portrayals of female characters (please, if you're going to be sexist, at least make it interesting by coming up with some new way of being so instead of the usual chattery, vain, shrieky approach).

I'm sure I'm shitting on a lot of people's favourite childhood book here and I'm sorry for that; I'm even willing to admit that I probably would have really enjoyed this book had I read it before 1985 or so, but for me it didn't stand up to the adult read like so many children's books do (such as Skellig, The Mouse and His Child, The White Darkness, His Dark Materials, etc.).

Hubby insists that Alexander's series gets better but life is too short, thank you very much, for spending with books that might become simply less annoying than this one was.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

That was just too easy

I have to say that no Wodehouse novel I've read previously ever went down as smoothly as Galahad at Blandings did. That's not to say it's the best Wodehouse novel I've read, because it isn't - it was just the easiest.

As he always does, Wodehouse pleased me, but I have to say Galahad at Blandings lacked the charmingly civilized but also crucially anxious and frenetic energy of earlier Blandings stories (this being written quite late, in 1965, whereas most of the Blandings stories I've read previously were from the '20s or '30s).

Even though we all know the endings of Wodehouse books will be happy, it seems to me the tension is key and my pleasure in reading Wodehouse this time around was somewhat subdued; in Galahad at Blandings, the happy ending was never seriously threatened. It was too easy. Also, the plot wasn't convoluted enough for me - I like my Wodehouse novels to get my synapses firing just a little.

Ah well, not everything can be Leave it to Psmith or Uncle Fred in the Springtime. In any case, this book was a total success in one regard - it's helped get me one step closer to fulfilling my goal of reading 20 library books this year.

Living in the west, which I've always been told is best but never believed, my home library is now the d-gorgeous Lillian H. Smith branch, which besides having incredibly cool and rare collections of children's books and science fiction, also has GRYPHONS guarding the entrance. Rumour has it that said gryphons were snuck in by the architect at the last minute because he assumed they'd never be approved.

Going to this library makes me incredibly happy because it's just such a beautiful physical space. But it also has a pretty good selection of fiction I'll likely be reading over the next year. And it has GRYPHONS.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Someday, I'll lead the book the meantime, I've got some reading to do

I don't normally read books about what other people are reading, but I decided to give Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader a go because the awesome and eminently trustworthy Darren insisted I do so. Indeed, he was scandalized that I hadn't read it already.

The primary reason I tend to avoid books about books is that the topic continually reminds me that I'm reading, which I find distracting and irritating. This, of course, did happen somewhat with Ex Libris - it's just the inevitable result of trying to force my story-addicted brain to engage with reportage/memoir - but not so much that I didn't really enjoy this book.

Yes, I really enjoyed this book! It was incredibly funny and engaging and well-written and completely free of any kind of grammatical errors and typos. This book really made me want to sit down with Anne Fadiman over tea and food (lots of it) and talk about books for hours and hours. She gets people like me and our book-hoarding compulsions and need to always have a book on hand because she's the same! She's a gigantic nerd and she's not ashamed of it. She can definitely be part of my book revolution, a general even, whenever I figure out what a book revolution will look like.

In the meantime, I'm back to reading Henry James, alternating between lighter fare and his heavy meditations on being a social beast in 19th-century England and America. I'm on page 777 of 1200-and-something. I've read two stories (so 140 pages) in the past 2 days and really, really enjoyed them. I think I really will finish Vol. 1 of his short fiction before the end of the blog year, which is something I didn't feel very confident about a week or so ago. But I'm disappointed in myself for needing a whole year to do it - yes, I began this tome literally at the beginning of Blog Year 2 and the eve of Blog Year 3 is imminent! Ah well. I'm going to the gym now. For Vol. 2, I'll have gigantic heavy-book-carrying muscles and there will be no excuses.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snowy day meme thingy

In the blogosphere, people do these "meme" things all the time. I personally didn't have a very clear idea until just now what "meme" meant, when I looked it up in the OED: "A cultural element or behavioural trait whose transmission and consequent persistence in a population, although occurring by non-genetic means (esp. imitation), is considered as analogous to the inheritance of a gene." (I posted that for all of y'all who, like me, may have bandied the word about without knowing exactly what it meant.)

The following is a list of SF and Fantasy books created by someone at The Guardian who thinks to be complete you must read all of the following. I picked this meme up at the Cornell Booksellers site. I'm not as well-read as the Voice of Cornell is but I'm highlighting what I've read just for fun. I'm meme-ing like crazy here - watch me!

1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

2. Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)
3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)
4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)
5. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
6. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
7. Iain M. Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)
8. Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)
9. Nicola Barker:
Darkmans (2007)
10. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
11. Greg Bear: Darwin’s Radio (1999)
12. Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)
13. Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)
14. Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
15. Mikhail Bulgakov:
The Master and Margarita (1966)
16. Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
17. Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork
Orange (1960)
18. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)

19. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)
20. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
21. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)
22. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
23. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
24. Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)
25. Lewis Carroll:
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
26. Lewis Carroll:
Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
27. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
28. Michael Chabon:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
29. Arthur C Clarke: Childhood’s End (1953)

30. GK Chesterton:
The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
31. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)
32. Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
33. Douglas
Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)
34. Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)
35. Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
36. Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
37. Philip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
38. Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)
39. Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)

40. Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)
41. John Fowles:
The Magus (1966)
42. Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)

43. Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
44. William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)
45. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
46. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)

47. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)

48. M John Harrison: Light (2002)
49. Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
50. Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)

51. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)
52. Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)
53. James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
54. Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)
55. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)

56. Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
57. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
58. Henry James:
The Turn of the Screw (1898)
59. PD James: The Children of Men (1992)
60. Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
61. Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
62. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)

63. Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)

64. Stephen King: The Shining (1977)

65. Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)
66. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
67. Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)

68. Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
69. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
70. Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)
71. Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)
72. Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
73. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)

74. Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
75. Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
76. Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)

77. Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
78. China Miéville: The Scar (2002)
79. Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
80. Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)

81. David Mitchell:
Cloud Atlas (2004)
82. Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)
83. William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)
84. Toni Morrison:
Beloved (1987)
85. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995) 86. Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
87. Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)
88. Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)

89. Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)
90. Flann O’Brien:
The Third Policeman (1967)
91. Ben Okri:
The Famished Road (1991) 92. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
93. Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)
94. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)

95. John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
96. Christopher Priest:
The Prestige (1995)
97. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
98. Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
99. Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
100. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
101. JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
102. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988)
103. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry:
The Little Prince (1943)
104. José Saramago:
Blindness (1995) 105. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
106. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)

107. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)

108. Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)
109. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)

110. Robert Louis Stevenson:
The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
111. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)

112. Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
113. Mark Twain: A
Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1889)
114. Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)
115. Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
116. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
117. Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)
118. HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
119. HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898)

120. TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938)
121. Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)

122. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)

123. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)

124. Yevgeny Zamyatin:
We (1924)

Having read a grand total of 27 of this list of 124, I have to conclude that I'm not extremely well read. I will defend myself by noting that SF and Fantasy are genres I'm only really coming to now.

I will also say that I would happily be less well read in exchange for having avoided the worst book on this list - not, I'm not going to disparage The Road - Flowers for Algernon is what I'm talking about. Flowers for Algernon was so bad it made me angry. I would read The Road 20 times in a row to have avoided ever reading Flowers for Algernon! Gah! Okay, maybe only 10 times in a row.

I'm happy to see We on this list for I think of all the dystopic novels it's still the best. And of course, Cloud Atlas had to be there. But I find it shocking and offensive that a Harry Potter with it's precious writing and sitcom pacing made it on to this list and none of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy did; indeed, this omission makes me wonder why I took this list seriously at all. Le sigh.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Questions, questions

When I said I was looking forward to reading really long books in my post-PhD life, I didn't imagine it would take me two weeks to read an example thereof. I used to be able to read a 900-page novel in 3-4 days...I must be getting slow in my old age.

It's true that there were times that I stopped reading Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend in order to make it last longer, and it's also true that there were points at which I took breaks because the promise of bad things to come was stressing me out too much. Still, I feel as though I've been neglecting my poor blog a little.

In any case, it doesn't get much longer than Our Mutual Friend unless it's another Dickens novel, such as Nicholas Nickleby, or Samuel Richardson's Clarissa (the latter of which I have coming in the mail. Woot!). But what I love about Dickens is that no matter how long his books are, they never feel too long when I'm reading them; no matter how verbose he is, I never feel like anything he writes is unnecessary.

There are some spoilers from here on in
Clearly, Dickens is still my boyfriend. But I have to say that at times, Our Mutual Friend disturbed me enough to actually get me thinking critically about him and that's about as difficult to imagine as Bella having doubts about John once they've married and built their love nest. Yes, dear readers, the impossible has happened: reading a Dickens novel, instead of simply putting me into ecstasies of admiration, has forced my sleepy critical mind to grouchily open one eyelid and look around a little.

I don't think my thoughts will get much further than questions but before now I've been pretty much incapable of questioning Dickens (although, of course, his character Fagin made me squirm. A lot. But see below.)

First of all, I'm somewhat confused by Mr. Riah. I feel as though Dickens may have been simply trying to counter the intensely negative portrayal of Judaism he presented to the world through the character of the evil Fagin in Oliver Twist.

As well, Mr. Riah's meditation on how bad individual Jews are seen as representative of the best of their race made me wonder if Dickens was trying simply to explain why Fledgeby is so easily able to use Mr. Riah as his mask, but also perhaps asking readers to consider what it means to use literature to understand reality. For the generalizations many of the other characters in the book so un-self consciously make about Mr. Riah were, I suspect, mirrored in the everyday world about which Dickens wrote. (Admittedly, I know very little about Victorian England, what with my education therein in being thus far limited to novels and a few poems here and there.)

My question, however, isn't so much what Dickens was doing in regards to gently nudging readers and characters to consider their assumptions about Mr. Riah, but about why Mr. Riah was so servile to Fledgeby when his own moral code had continuously to be compromised in order to carry out the latter's orders. I found his subservience especially baffling once it was revealed he could join the Jewish community on the river where Lizzie took refuge in the second half of the book. I found it baffling that in the face of losing his friendship with Jenny, Mr. Riah didn't try to explain to her why he continued to work for the parasitic Fledgeby.

I found Mr. Riah's servility and long suffering especially confusing given that no characters except Fledgeby expressed any real scorn for him as a Jew. Was Dickens trying to consider what the consequences might be of, to use a completely anachronistic phrase, internalized racism both for individuals and for society? If that's so, then why have every character save those clearly degenerate or malicious or dangerously self-absorbed treat his faith as unimportant in the face of his kindness and gentleness?

I don't know how to answer my questions about Mr. Riah and to add to my discomfort with this book is the way that Bella is set up and taught a lesson to in a way disturbingly similar to how Silas Wegg is set up and taught a lesson to. The moral unease both cases caused in me was similar to what I've always felt reading Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, in which all apparent expressions of free will are both under surveillance by the Duke and, in fact, ultimately used to contribute to the fulfillment of his plans.

The way in which individual autonomy is abused and disposed of in that play is not reimagined in nearly such an extreme fashion in Our Mutual Friend. Yet, I nonetheless found one aspect of the novel more disturbing than the play: that is, how neither Bella nor Wegg questioned the propriety of their lessons. Certainly, Wegg was put out and demoralized, but he didn't express a sense of the unfairness of it all - which may be accounted for in his awareness of having tried to accomplish something equally underhanded.

Bella's completely happy acceptance of having been elaborately duped by both her husband and her friends strikes me as discordant, however. True, she has promised to trust her husband completely but he and the Boffins caused her a lot of pain in their machinations to turn her into a more heart-driven rather than money-driven woman. I wonder if her easy acceptance of John Rokesmith as the resurrected John Harmon is meant to make us question, maybe just a little, her complete conversion into a woman who cares nothing about money, given how she was initially presented to us.

Questions and discomfort aside, I still adored this book the way I tend to adore Dickens novels and I WILL read them all before I shuffle off this mortal coil. But reading Our Mutual Friend was not, if I'm honest, the complete love fest that reading A Tale of Two Cities was. But then again, what could be?