June 27, 2011

Spring Reading [Part 2]


So, I'm going to tell you about a book I didn't actually finish reading. I've always loved the story of Victoria and Albert (the A&E movie is fantastic). For me it is a beautiful picture of a women placed in an incredible position of power- and how she succeeded in balancing that legal role with her holy one of being her husband's help-meet. Yeah, ok. So then somebody gave me this book and at first I was enjoying it- the author's a good writer. I was fascinated to read of the generations leading up to Victoria (her father and his four brothers all had mistresses and illegitimate children and were an awful mix of madness and genius and all of them rogues- no wonder the people loved Victoria and Albert). However around the time Victoria meets Albert the whole book goes down-hill. The author is apparently a flaming feminist (and shows no knowledge of true piety) and chalks all righteous actions up to devious ulterior motives. Albert, for example, could not have been a virgin till his marriage at twenty-one because of his conviction on the subject- but because he must have had homosexual leanings. (Despite, like, Victoria and their nine kids and his life-long devotion to moral integrity. Yeah, right.) Gill admits there is no evidence- but the suggestion is there anyway. Furthermore, she described Victoria's eventual submission to her husband's headship and lead as resulting from Albert having some sort of physiological and sexual power over her. (Eww.) Gill ridiculed all sentiments pure or pious- and psycho (and psycho-sexually) analyzed everything. I'm convinced she studied Freud. I was disgusted. So I put the book down. Maybe it got better. But I'll never know. [NOT RECOMMENDED]


Great Scott, this was an interesting ride. I was poking through my shelves for something to read and found a book of short Russian novels. (When all else fails- you gotta love the Russian novel). First Love begins with a few gentlemen sitting around and deciding to tell the story of their fist love. Only one has anything interesting to tell (hence the resulting novel). And it was certainly interesting. The young laddie falls for the princess, Zinaida, next door who delights in collecting suitors and torturing them with her charm and unobtainable beauty. He and the other suitors alike are lead by a mad passion which allows the princess to make them suffer as much as she likes (they endure not just snubbing and false-leading, but hair-pullings and window-jumpings). The story culminates when the hero discovers his father has been lead into an affair with Zinaida- who has in turn discovered this possessive, permissive love (the young man witnesses the princess allowing his father to beat her). "That's true love," the character comments, "obviously one accepts anything if one really loves." Such was the message of the book. To love is to worship- idolize- and make the object of your devotion's desire your law (over God's), regardless of the moral consequence. How revolting. I have long been of a more Aristotelian mind when it comes to love- to love is to desire someone's highest good. -To desire their happiness (but not at the cost of their righteousness), to want them to have what is best (even if that means not you). I was, at the book's conclusion- reminded of those lovely words of the poet Richard Lovelace, "I could not love thee, dear, so much / Lov'd I not Honor more." [NOT RECOMMENDED]


Persuasion has long been one of my favorite books. It is, I believe, Austen's crowning achievement- and widely recognized as her most mature novel. In no other of her novels do we so fully get inside the heroines head- nor in any of her other works do we find so mature a love. This is due to the fact that the novel begins with love already being established (as opposed to, say, Pride and Prejudice, where I must admit that she never convinces me that Darcy and Lizzy really had a meeting-of-minds, hearts, souls, etc, in their constrained discussions over tea and the weather). Rather conveniently for Austen, we have in Persuasion a love already in full bloom at the beginning of the book (she  is thus spared writing how it happened)- but tortured and repressed. One of my favorite portions is where Anne laments her estrangement from Wentworth, " Once so much to each other! Now nothing! There had been a time, when (...) there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement." Austen does a masterful job of revealing the delicate intricacies of passion, misunderstanding, pride, even forgiveness- and best of all the kind of  biblical, never-failing love that "loves longest, even when all hope (...) is gone." [HIGHLY RECOMMENDED]


  1. Love Jane Austen! Although, my favorite is Sense and Sensibility =D And Albert and Victoria's love story is a great one too! Have you seen "The Young Victoria?"

  2. It seems like the author of "the first love" had just gone through a bad break up ;)

  3. Isn't she amazing? I've read S&S- and seen both the movies (the Emma Thompson version was a favorite of ours till the new one came out- have you seen it?). Yes, I've seen "The Young Victoria"- it was very good. More of a "kissing movie" than Victoria & Albert- and not as historically extensive- but quite delightful.

    HAH. Michael. That or he was trying to justify some scandalous indecencies he committed in the name of love. Actually, I read something or other about the shocking nature of the book's message- very unsettling for the literary world at the time or something. ;-) Now we're a bit more used to authors coming to devilish conclusions.

  4. Persuasion has always been my favorite J.A book and movie :)
    I believe Jane Eyre is a very close second.
    The writing and the stories are always such a delight to read. :)

  5. Ah, yes. I love Jane Eyre- but I am of the opinion that they have yet to make a truly good movie of it.