Thursday, May 30, 2013

A long, long, long time ago...

It's been a slow reading year for me.  Something about the ages of my kids and the various activities and responsibilities that they and we are involved in makes it difficult to get reading time in.  (Or, it could be Plants vs. Zombies on my iPad.  But we'll go with the former.)

Chaireas and Kallirhoe was a short and relatively easy read.  I can't really explain why it took me so long to get into it.  The story is pretty formulaic.  Although I suppose that you can't really say a book written so many hundreds of years ago (in ancient Greece) is formulaic if it was one of the first of that style.  Basically - boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, he accidentally really hurts her and everyone thinks she is dead, she is buried, but alive and is saved by a bunch of grave robbers who carry her off to Persia and various shenanigans ensue.  But all works out in the end, thankfully.

One sad aspect of the story was that Kallirhoe had this baby (and it was Chaireas') and she basically abandons it with Dionysos, the dude who bought her as a slave and fell in love with her) to go back with Chaireas.  I don't think she ever told Chaireas about his son.  The son was like a plot point and then an afterthought.

All in all, I guess I am glad I read this, but it is not one that will leave long lasting memories with me.  It is definitely cool to read a novel written so many centuries ago, though.

Saturday, May 18, 2013're breakin' my heart.

Fanny Burney's novel Cecilia is over 1000 pages long.  The beginning was really interesting.  The main character, Cecilia, is a beautiful, smart, thoughtful girl with a huge fortune.  The only catch is that to retain her fortune, anyone she marries must take her last name rather than Cecilia change her name to match her husband's.  (Interesting twist for 1789.)   The first portion of the novel has her staying with a spendthrift couple who she lends money to and then loses as the husband kills himself to escape debts.

Then things get very slow.  Cecilia kind of decides that she likes this aristocrat, Delvile.  His parents, though they like the idea of Cecilia's fortune, are horrified by the idea that their only son would do anything other than carry on the family name.  Hundreds of pages go by and they go back and forth, nothing being resolved.  It struck me how the mutual interest between Cecilia and Delvile is downplayed.  Cecilia seems happy to be single and seems to sort of choose Delvile not out of any strong feelings but more because she doesn't like the alternative suitors and feels like a life with Delvile would not be too bad.  I am not sure whether this is because of the time at which Burney was writing where declarations of undying love would be seen as gauche or offensive, or we are supposed to consider Cecilia's character as kind of above romantic love.

Finally, 950 pages or so into the book, things get interesting again, and our heroine is able to be married to Delvile, and a Delvile relative leaves Cecilia some money because they like her so much and feel bad that she had to give up her fortune.  All's well that ends well in Cecilia-land.

I liked this book, though it was kind of slow in parts.  I like learning about upper class society from these times.  I can't believe how long it took me to read it though!