Friday, 30 August 2019

Read in August

Daniel Deronda (1876) by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Kindle + Audio book narrated by Juliet Stevenson (2018) (36 h)

Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880), better known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist of the Victorian era. She wrote seven novels, of which I've read at least two before: Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss. Those two I have in paperback since decades ago; but Middlemarch is the one I know best, as I first read it for my C-course in English at university (back in the 1980s), but also reread it a couple of times since then + watched a TV-series based on it as well (years ago).

Daniel Deronda was her last novel, published in 1876 and set in the contemporary Victorian society of the author's own day. It is a long novel (36 hours as audio book) and I have to confess I found it hard to follow at times. For one thing, the narrative keeps shifting between following two different main characters (Daniel and Gwendolen), whose paths only cross now and then. (So it's easy to "lose the thread", almost forgetting about one while reading about the other.) Something else that I found interesting but at the same time confusing was how the 'Daniel' parts of the novel also came to focus more and more on Jewish Zionism (of that era in which the novel is set, and with which I'm not very familiar since before). 

There is an extensive Wikipedia article if anyone wants to get deeper into the story without actually reading the book. (For me, it was helpful to read it afterwards...)

As it is an old classic, it can be found as free e-book.

Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1862)
Kindle + Audio book narrated by Olivia Poulet (2019) (13:11 h)

Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835-1915) is another novelist of the Victorian era. Lady Audley's Secret (1862) is her most famous book and known as a "sensation novel". For its time, I can see why. Compared to Daniel Deronda (above), I found this novel a lot easier to read - even hard to put down (or turn off). It is well written, and really kept me wondering where all the twists and turns would lead in the end. At times it felt predictable - but (turning another page)... on the other hand, perhaps not?? ...

The set-up is that we have an older man (widow) recently married again to a young wife; a grown-up daughter from the father's first marriage, still living at home (and not fond of her new stepmother); an idle cousin/nephew, Robert (a barrister, but not practicing); an old friend of his from their school days, George, who upon his return from gold-digging in Australia finds his wife and son (who Robert never met) gone missing...  and then, George himself also suddenly disappears again! Robert is drawn out of his idleness, and soon finds himself fully occupied trying to solve a whole mess of intertwined mysteries... 

As it is an old classic, it can be found as free e-book.

Sonata for Miriam: A Novel by Linda Olsson (2009)
Read in Swedish 

Linda Olsson (born 1948) is Swedish-born author living in Auckland, New Zealand. After graduating in law from the University of Stockholm she worked in banking and finance, got married and had three sons. In 1986 they left Sweden, travelled the world and in 1990 ended up in New Zealand where she studied English and German literature at the University of Wellington. In 2005 she completed her first novel Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs (later reprinted as Astrid and Veronika) which was published in 25 countries. In Sweden, it became a winning best seller. (I read it some time back then.) Sonata for Miriam (2009) is her second novel and it has been sitting on my ToRead-shelf for years, until I picked it up just recently. A strange coincidence really, because this was while I was also reading Daniel Deronda, and there turned out to be a Jewish theme involved in this book as well. The novel takes us (along with the main character, a musician) from New Zealand to both Sweden and Poland, to reconnect with people and places and events from his past. It involves grief and loss and impossible choices, but also love, and new beginnings. I read it in Swedish, but it is available in English (also on Kindle).


  1. I think I would like "Lady Audley's Secret" the best.

  2. I must look for Lady Audley's Secret - it is just my kind of free ebook :-)

    1. Yes Meike, I suspect you might enjoy it too!


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