Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Beginning

Since I’ve already started my journey before starting this blog, here are a few books I’ve read recently with just a little bit of info. I’ll try to write meatier summaries starting with the first book I finish this week.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – Wow we read very little of this in civ! (That would be Western Civilization, a 12 hour English/history combo course for you non-OBU grads.) There’s a lot more to this, and it’s not even finished! Chaucer didn’t complete it, so imagine how long it would be if he had. It is great to read in its entirety though. You miss all of the back and forth snipping at each other the pilgrims were doing and the fact that they’re insulting each other in their tales in the excerpts in the Norton anthology. We’re definitely going to be making the pilgrimage from London to Canterbury on our trip. I can’t wait to see Canterbury Cathedral.

The Canterbury Papers by Judith Koll Healey – Speaking of Canterbury Cathedral, most of this novel takes place there back in the thirteenth century. It provides a lot of fictionalized but based in fact information on Thomas Becket’s unfortunate demise in the cathedral. It’s also a good mystery and historical fiction piece.

Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding – I hated the movie (which was odd because I love Colin Firth!), so I’m not sure why I picked this up at a library book sale. I’m glad I did though, because I loved the book! Maybe I just hadn’t had enough life experience (i.e. dealt with weight gain/loss/gain) when I watched the movie. And Renee Zellweger with a British accent wasn’t helping anything.

Duchess of Aquitaine by Margaret Ball – I was disappointed by this one. Eleanor of Aquitaine seems like an intriguing character from the history books I’m reading, but this novel just didn’t do her justice. It started off okay with the death of her father and showed her managing to navigate the difficult circumstance and put herself in a position where the prince of France would marry her. But everything after that happens very, very slowly, and just isn’t told very well. It seems like the author was more concerned with trying to throw out a bunch of facts to show she’d researched the topic extensively rather than focusing on just telling the story. And then she did things like spend 100 pages detailing their journey to the middle east for a crusade, but then as soon as they got there to fight, she skipped over what happens and jumps back to France months later and just gives the climax of that part of the story in a recap! Irritating. I know there are a lot of other books on Eleanor out there so I will try to squeeze in one later. Oh, in case you’re wondering why she’s even on my list since she’s French, she married Henry II of England and gives birth to King Richard the Lionhearted and King John. (Which wasn’t covered in the book!)

The Norton Anthology of English Literature – Middle Ages – I read back through the historical information, skimmed items I’d read before like Beowulf, and discovered a few new items such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Le Morte D’Arthur – This was been difficult for me to get through, and I catch myself skimming a lot. There are too many battles and damsels in distress and not enough of Merlin and magic. I’ve just never been that into the whole King Arthur thing for some reason, unless you count Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The movie’s even funnier now though because I can tell they are specifically mocking parts of this book.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Literary Journey

One of my goals this year is to read two books each week. I’ve hit that goal so far, but feel like I’m flying through books and not savoring them before jumping into the next one. To help retain more of what I read and get more out of each book, I’ve decided to start this blog to force myself to slow down and reflect before moving on. This will also help give me a record of what I’ve read, and since my reading plan for the year follows along with my travel plans, I can use it as a travel journal too. I’m going to England in October and am determined to read as much English history and literature before then. Since I have my Master’s in English focusing in traditional studies, which was primarily English literature before 1900, I’ve read a lot of the literature already, but I want to go back and re-read items we might have rushed through in class or just read excerpts in an anthology, read new books by authors I like, and fill in a few blanks. I’m also reading with a different point of view, making notes of places I’d like to make sure to visit while on my trip. I know that’s really nerdy, but I’m okay with that. :) After all, my love of English literature is why I want to visit England so much anyway. So, here’s my literary journey.