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February Wrap-up:


Today, I’m bringing you my February Wrap-up!

Despite having two essays in, the bulk of my dissertation to write/edit, and a Masters course in Victorian Literature to apply for, February has been a lovely reading month. It’s the first February in years (I do not exaggerate) that I haven’t had to read any assigned books; I am completely free of university reading. I took advantage of this newfound freedom by picking up all the books I’ve been dying to read.

As I read so much, I’ve my mini-reviews super short. I hope you don’t mind. A lot of them have full length reviews already published, whilst some are still yet to come. Enjoy:

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman | 3.5 out of 5 stars:

Full review here. I’ve been meaning to pick up Mary Wollstonecraft’s plea for female liberation for quite some time now. Wollstonecraft radically calls for an end to inequality amongst the sexes by wishing for equal education, for women to be defined by their profession, not their husbands, and to end the prejudice against women.

On the whole, I enjoyed this. Wollstonecraft was not only passionate, but extremely convincing. She demonstrated brilliantly what a proper education can do for women through her sophisticated tone and reliance on early literature. However, the writing style was not accessible. As something open to the public, it needed that accessibility.  Secondly, Wollstonecraft relied on traditional notions of womanhood by suggesting women need an education to perform their domestic duties to the best of their abilities – a little contradictory, right?

‘Pallinghurst Barrow’ | 1.5 out of 5 stars:

I had to read this short fin-de-siècle story for my Gothic module. It’s a short story that explores the conflict between science and the supernatural, in addition to exploring anxieties of the new century. If you like H.G Well’s The Time Machine, then you’ll probably enjoy this.

Grant Allen provided a natural and supernatural reading of the text which was extremely engaging. The incorporation of fin-de-siècle anxieties, such as degeneration and the fall of the Empire, were really interesting.  However, I felt the story was a little rushed. As a short story, Allen wasn’t given much room to explore anything further. As a piece of Gothic literature, it definitely fell short for me.

The Bear and the Nightingale | 2.5 out of 5 stars:

Full review here. I’d been dying to Katherine Arden’s novel for so long, but I was so disappointed by it. Set in a medieval Russia, a family is gathered around the oven telling stories of the Winer King. To Vasya, however, these are more than just stories. Only she can see the demonic spirits guarding her house from the growing force in the forest; it’s only she who can potentially save them.

I’ve managed to narrow my dislike down to two reasons: A) too high of expectations, or B) I am growing out of YA fiction. It’s strange because I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the plot and the writing style, but something didn’t connect with me. I think it was a case of “it’s me, not you”.

Matilda | 2.5 out of 5 stars:

Full review here. This controversial story, which didn’t see the light of day until 1959, details the incestuous feelings a father possesses for his daughter. Intermingled with this is suicide, Romantic tropes and a framed narration. It was disturbing, but really enjoyable!

It was an eventful plot that had a seemingly linear narrative. I thought it demonstrated Shelley’s writing ability brilliantly; she composed the most beautiful descriptions of the most mundane things. My favourite was her depiction of Nature; the way she described the scenery was utterly mesmerising. I’d definitely recommend this to those of you who are looking to read more Shelley!

The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne | 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Full review here. I hadn’t read a Brontë biography in a while and I was needing my fix. This was the only unread biography on my shelf, so it had to do. I ended up absolutely loving it.

As the title suggests, it is an extremely brief narration of their lives. Reef covers all the basics, so it’s perfect for those of you wanting to read more about their lives. However, if you’re already familiar with the family, then you won’t learn anything new. Nevertheless, it was still a fun read. I had a few minor issues, mainly to do with the writing style and lack of footnotes, but they didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all. I think I’ll definitely re-read this at some point!

The Penguin Book of Norse Myths | 2.5 out of 5 stars:

Full review here. Norse mythology has interested me for a while now, but my interest peaked when watching History Channel’s Vikings. This collection, written by Kevin Crossley-Holland, includes a re-telling of 32 myths from ‘Edda Prose’.

Whereas I enjoyed the first half immensely, I found the last half a little boring. After a while, the melodrama and sheer ridiculousness of the tales started to irritate me. Not only this, but I felt the stories really lacked. KCH didn’t make the stories engaging, so I lost interest pretty quickly. I’m not sure if that’s his fault or the actual myths themselves, but I couldn’t connect to them.

And Then There Were None | 4 out of 5 stars:

A full review to come! This was my third Agatha Christie novel, and definitely my favourite. Ten guests are invited to stay at an island mansion, but are killed off one by one. We follow the characters in their quest to solve the mystery.

I enjoyed working alongside all the characters, instead of just one detective. Despite not knowing who the murderer was, I was constantly putting my trust into each character. I loved the idea of this story; Christie weaved an intricate plot into a simple narrative. I’d definitely recommend.

A Memoir of Jane Austen & Other Family Recollections | 4 out of 5 stars:

Again, a full review to come! I’ve been meaning to read a biography on Austen for a while now, and I thought James Edward Austen-Leigh’s memoir would be the best place to start. Inside this is not only his memory of Jane, but her brother Henry’s, and her niece Caroline’s.

This painted a lovely picture of Jane, and explored her through a predominantly domesticated space. It seems her whole life orientated around the home, specifically her family. However, I had two issues. Firstly, the memoir repeated everything the recollections said, so it became a little repetitive. Secondly, the reliability. This is an exaggerated account of Jane in order to martyr her. She is described as the ideal and conventional 19th century woman: moral, quiet, angelic, religious, and so on. This was not Jane Austen, but an Austen Victorian readers could get on board with.

The Woman in White | 5 out of 5 stars:

Full review to come! This sensation novel opens with a chilling encounter with a ghostly female on a moonlit road. This, ultimately, drives all other plot points. The novel is concerned with insanity, crime, disguise, intrigue and deception.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did. I was completely drawn in to the story from the start. Not a lot happened for the first four hundred pages or so, but Wilkie Collins managed to create something out of nothing. His writing style, his imagery, and language all mesmerised me. The crime narrative was extremely intricate. I never expected the novel to take such a turn, but it did, and it caught me completely off guard. Definitely a new favourite!

‘Tyger, Tyger’ | 4 out of 5 stars:

I was first introduced to William Blake in 2015, and I haven’t read any of his poetry since 2016, so I was desperately needing my fill. I ended up reading this Penguin Little Black Classic.

Blake is such a radical poet. He takes Milton’s concepts of Paradise and the Fall from Grace to examine the two different states of human nature. He does this through companion poems, and uses children to really hit home on his explorations. I much prefer his full collection, Songs of Innocence and Experience, as it has the entirety of his collection (and allows you to read the parallel poems – some are missing in this). Overall, an enjoyable and deep read.

Fragment of a Novel | 2.5 out of 5 stars:

It’s no surprise that I love Lord Byron, so it was only a matter of time before I got round to reading his unfinished story. This was one of the four horror stories Byron, Polidori and the two Shelleys wrote. Annoyingly, Byron never finished his.

I listened to this via audio and I hated the narrator. I’d definitely recommend actually reading it. The story, though, was interesting, and definitely had potential. Polidori, in a letter to his publisher, said this would’ve been a vampire story. I could imagine this whilst reading the fragment. Additionally, as usual, I loved how Byron made mundane things sound exquisite, particularly Nature and emotion. It’s good for an unfinished story!

The Song of Achilles | 4 out of 5 stars:

Full review to come! I’ve seen this floating around the book community for quite a while now, and seen as I want to read more mythology I finally picked it up. Patroclus tells the story of his exile to the court of King Peleus. Whilst here, he forms an intense bond with Achilles. However, the latter must travel to Troy to fulfil his prophecy. What will become of them?

This book has everything, really. It had an LGBTQ+ romance, beautiful prose, wonderful imagery, accuracy, battles, and a bittersweet ending. On the whole, I really enjoyed it. The only reason it didn’t receive 5 stars is because of the battle narrative. I find these quite tedious and dull, and this was no different. However, I loved the first 2/3 of the novel!

…and you’ve finally made it to the end of my February Wrap-up. In future, I’ll split these posts up if I’ve read a mountain of books, but I have a lot to post at the start of March.

I enjoyed reading all these books but, unfortunately, some didn’t live up the expectations I had. My favourites were The Woman in WhiteThe Brontë Sisters & And Then There Were None.

What was your favourite read of February? 

See you on Friday for another Brontë post, Lauren X

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