Books set in Australia

Wow, I hadn’t realized until recently just how many books I’ve read that are set in Australia! Here’s what I’ve read. Can you add to this list?

Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean – Brett Archibald

The Dry by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty


Check out these lists for additional books set in Australia:

Goodreads – Best Books Set in Australia

Tale_Away – Books Set In Australia: Australian Novels

Crime Reads – 10 Essential Australian Novels


For even more, visit my post More books set in Australia here.

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Book review: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

The Thorn Birds
by
Colleen McCullough

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

How do you review a 700-page book that many people have already read? I’m not really sure, but I’m going to give it a try. I’m very late in the game in reading The Thorn Birds, so if you haven’t read it yet (or watched the miniseries-next up for me) and are interested, I’ll try not to give too much away.

Wow, you can’t really tear through a book as big as this, but I have to say, I enjoyed every word of it and looked forward to reading it every chance I got. So in that sense, I did tear through it, but it took about two weeks. Reading this big book reminded me of how satisfying it is to really dig into a story and feel invested in the characters and the plot. So yay for big books and too bad we’re so afraid of them these days.

The Thorn Birds is mostly set in the outback of New South Wales, Australia, but includes storylines in North Queensland, New Zealand, Italy, and England. I very much enjoyed McCullough’s descriptions of the story’s main setting, the fictional area of Gillanbone and the family’s sheep farm called Drogheda. To give you perspective, this is not a small sheep farm. It encompasses a massive amount of land, two hundred and fifty thousand acres, and carries about one hundred and twenty-five thousand merino sheep, whose wool is the finest wool out there.

The story begins in 1915, spans fifty years and follows three generations of the Cleary family. Early in the story, Fee Cleary, whose great grandfather had come to New Zealand from England as a prisoner, and her husband, Paddy Cleary, an Irish immigrant, move from New Zealand to Australia where Paddy will have a job working on the farm owned by his older sister, Mary Carson. The Clearys have five sons and one daughter, Meggie, who becomes one of the main characters in the story. More children follow but Meggie is the only girl. And already at four years old, she’s remarkably pretty, with golden red hair and beautiful eyes.

Another central character is Father Ralph de Bricassart, a young priest who has been assigned to Gillanbone after insulting a bishop. When Father Ralph meets the Cleary family, he’s particularly drawn to young Meggie and, without understanding it, takes her under his wing.

Something important to note: Father Ralph is tall, dashing, athletic and a gorgeous human specimen. These features are also his private curse as he tries to keep his vocation as a priest in front of his earthly existence as a man, particularly as Meggie grows into a young woman. Meggie, too, has developed strong feelings for Ralph.

The Clearys endure many struggles during the Depression and World War II, and emerge from them changed. What’s curious is how none of the Cleary children feel a need to leave Drogheda, and those who do suffer greatly. It takes the third generation to branch out beyond the farm.

Building romantic tension and Ralph’s inner conflict make this story a hot page-turner and the storyline kept me interested from beginning to end. I won’t give the ending away, which surprised me, but when I think back, I see a few hints at the way things develop.

I highly recommend The Thorn Birds  for readers who enjoy family sagas and stories about relationships and conflict. It’s worth the effort and in my mind, is one of those books that younger readers should take a look at, even though it was popular decades ago.

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Book Review: Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Rabbit, Run
by
John Updike

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rabbit, Run is the first of John Updike’s novels about Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a 26-year-old former high school basketball star who leaves his pregnant wife and young son and spends three aimless months trying to either get away from his life or find a way back to it. Set in the fictional Pennsylvania town of Mt. Judge during the late 1950s, Harry and the people around him face individual disappointments and struggle to understand their purpose in life.

The thing that set Harry off was coming home from work and finding his wife, Janice, drinking, again. That and their dreary apartment, his job selling a fancy vegetable peeler and a greater wondering of how he went from being a celebrated high school athlete to a trapped man.

You’re not going to like Harry very much. He’s immature, rash and self-absorbed and he can’t see one minute into the future. And you might not like the people he moves around with, including Marty Tothero, his former coach and Jack Eccles, the Episcopal minister from Mt. Judge. He thinks he can fix Harry’s broken marriage, but Eccles is a complicated man, trapped in his own life in a job you’re not sure he likes. Maybe he thinks if he helps Harry and Janice, this success will justify his own confused faith.

Harry settles the first place he lands, with Ruth, a former prostitute from the neighboring city of Brewer. There’s something likable about Ruth. She’s both easy-going and confident and however things work out, you think she’ll be okay. Janice seems to be okay too. She’s stopped drinking and has moved back with her parents.

The story moves inevitably towards the birth of the Angstrom’s second child. The big question is whether Harry will return. Sometimes you think there’s hope because Harry steps up in small ways, especially with their son, Nelson. But while Harry is a work in progress, and their marriage might survive, it’s too early to know if any of it will stick.

Updike’s themes of marriage, responsibility, sexuality, and faith impact each character in different ways. Harry is on some kind of spiritual edge, believing in God, but not understanding how to apply his belief. He thinks (and so does Eccles) that he will find the answers in his friendship with the minister. But really, he wants to be told, instead of figuring it out himself. Irreversible events at the end of the story will test all faiths, however. Pain and loss cause each to say and do things they don’t understand and might not mean.

Rabbit, Run is a hard book to read. Updike’s writing style is dense and complex, but well worth the effort. I could not believe how I felt while reading the final pages. This is a book that makes you think, long after and I recommend it to readers who like this kind of reading challenge.

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Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye
by
J.D. Salinger

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mention The Catcher in the Rye and you’re likely to get one of two reactions: loved it or hated it. I’ve read this story three times now and each time, I’ve loved it. I know a lot of high school kids groan when you mention Holden Caulfield and I get that because, in some ways, I don’t think he’s relatable to modern teenagers. The boarding school and wealthy Manhattan experiences are not something typical high schoolers connect with. But I think his character’s troubled emotions and vulnerability evoke a sympathy that everyone can see.

The story takes place sometime after World War II at Pencey Prep, a boarding school in Pennsylvania. It is narrated by Holden Caufield, a troubled sixteen-year-old student who has flunked every class except English, and has just been kicked out of Pencey. The headmaster has mailed the letter, notifying his parents, but in the interim, Holden moves in a sort of limbo. Something has made him not care, on the surface, but as you get to know Holden, you realize the weight of his depression and how deeply he cares about people in his life, especially his siblings and a girl he knows from summers in Maine.

With a few days before his parents find out, Holden bounces between reckless impulses, and he’s on a dangerous spiral, all the while giving the reader glimpses of who he is and the relationships that are important to him. He’s a skilled liar, making things up, as a lark, or to avoid facing his reality.

Every time I read Holden’s story, I can see him unraveling, word by word, and I’m struck by how clearly he sees through the phoniness that surrounds him. He’s particularly bothered by his brother’s decision to become a Hollywood writer, something he sees as a sell-out. In addition, he seethes inwardly as his roommate, Stradlater, moves about their room in an air of conceit and privilege. When Stradlater talks about his date with a girl Holden knows, he can’t even bother to get her name right. “It’s Jane, not Jean,” Holden wants to tell Stradlater, but he knows his roommate won’t care.

Holden talks about his friendship with Jane, a girl he met in Maine and has comforted, held hands with and feels most himself around. “That doesn’t sound like much, I realize, but she was terrific to hold hands with.” Equally important is Holden’s relationship with his brother Allie, who died when they were kids, and his ten-year-old sister, Phoebe, who both needs Holden and props him up enough to give him hope.

It doesn’t seem as if anyone can see that Holden is headed for a crash, or it might be that they can do nothing to stop him. I don’t get mad at him for his reckless decisions. I only want someone to catch him.

If you’ve never read The Catcher in the Rye, I’d give it a try. And if you’ve already read it, leave a comment and tell me what you think!

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Short reviews from 2013: The Fault in Our Stars, The Silent Wife and Old School

In celebration of my 7-year blogging anniversary, here are three short reviews of books I read in 2013.


The Fault in Our Stars
by
John Green

This is the kind of book you are self-propelled to read non-stop until you finish. I loved it because of the many gem-like moments that give you a wonderful, emotional feeling. But this is also a sad story, with heart-breaking moments. Seventeen-year-old Hazel is dying. She meets Gus, a bone cancer survivor, and they fall in love. They have an intense courtship and they know they are short on time.

I think John Green does a great job portraying Hazel and Gus. I have heard others say their conversations are too intellectual for teenagers. I don’t think so and I think he really captures the teenage intensity along with their heightened sense of the loss of time.

Although the story is written through Hazel’s point of view, Green also shows us what it is like to be parents of cancer patients, and how they must prepare themselves for loss. And he shows how Gus and Hazel cling to each other and their friend Isaac, and try to have normal teenage lives.

There are unexpected plot turns and surprising characters, and the story is nicely tied together, with some open endings to keep the reader thinking. I think the ending is uplifting and makes the best of tough loss.


The Silent Wife
by
A. S. A. Harrison

What’s beneath the surface of a seemingly happy relationship? Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert have a smooth way of being together and it’s worked for twenty-some years. They’ve never officially married, but it doesn’t matter. This is a marriage and they have a nice rhythm, live a very nice life and have everything they want.

Then we get to know them a little better. Todd is a big person with a big personality. He’s made a success of himself in real estate, flipping office buildings in Chicago. He loves Jodi, but has other relationships. Jodi works part-time as a psychologist, seeing patients in their home. She loves Todd, likes taking care of him and making their life nice and comfortable.  She also likes the routine of their life and looks the other way because she’s settled.

Then things begin to happen and the balance is upset. What comes next is a look at how far a person will go to make things right and fair.

Harrison has written a great story and I enjoyed every word. Her characters are fun and, despite the dark side of the plot, strangely likable. The story unfolds in a comfortable and humorous way.  I liked their life, their condo, their conversations and what they ate.  I liked the nice way they had with each other. I think she does a terrific job introducing these characters.

I like the way Harrison builds suspense and then returns to the plot, giving the reader a taste of what’s to come. The story moves at a very good pace and still provides a solid background.

Through therapy sessions that are a required part of Jodi’s training, Harrison explores Jodi’s character, her childhood and the events that shape her. Harrison helps the reader understand these characters by applying psychological theory to their backgrounds. This element adds a nice layer to the story.

There are surprises and twists all the way to the end and that makes it work. I wish I could have read it in one sitting!


Old School
by
Tobias Wolff

I thought this was a very interesting premise for a book, in which actual authors become characters in the story. Wolff’s story takes place in 1960 at an elite Eastern prep school for boys, which takes pride in its literary connections and achievements. The plot revolves around the school’s literary contest, whose winners are given an audience with famous authors.

Robert Frost, Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway are featured and, at a reception in Rand’s honor, students and faculty participate in an extended discussion of her characters and philosophies in Rand’s novel The Fountainhead.

There are more complex parts of the story as well. The narrator, on scholarship to the school, is acutely aware of class distinction and privilege and keeps his modest background and Jewish heritage a secret. He struggles with his own self-image as he mirrors the looks and actions of his wealthy classmates, inviting the false assumption of wealth and class. The contest puts him at the center of a scandal that reveals deceptions and radiates to classmates and faculty. Its conclusion shows Wolff’s characters in their true form.

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Book Review: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front
by
Erich Maria Remarque

Rating:

On the cover of my copy of All Quiet on the Western Front, it also says “The Greatest War Novel of All Time.” I don’t know if I’ve read enough war novels to be an expert, but I can tell you it is one of the most powerful and moving books I’ve read.

German trench warfare. Image: Wikipedia

This is the story of World War I trench warfare and of Paul Baumer, a nineteen-year-old German soldier who has enlisted in the army. He and his schoolmates joined up at the recommendation of their schoolmaster and in short time must face the reality of a ruthless war. The novel mostly takes place on the front, where Paul and his comrades are fired upon and shelled and do the same to their French enemies in what becomes one of the most famous stalemates in history. Paul narrates his experiences and the deep bonds he develops with the men in his platoon, including the already close friendships with his boyhood friends and Albert Kropp, their superior.

One of the most intense times occurs after a brutal period when Paul returns home on leave. He describes his feelings of severe disconnection in seeing his family, whose lives, although by no means easy, are in stark contrast to what he has experienced. His father wants to know all the war stories, but Paul refuses, knowing that if he spoke about them, they’d be out there and would torment him forever. His mother, sick with cancer, wants reassurance that it’s not too bad on the front. Paul knows they will never understand what he and the other soldiers have gone through and so he lies to her, heart breaking at the pain of it.

On the night before leaving home again, Paul lies in his room,

I bite into my pillow. I grasp the iron rods of my bed with my fists. I ought never to have come here. Out there I was indifferent and often hopeless—I will never be able to be so again. I was a soldier, and now I am nothing but an agony for myself, for my mother, for everything that is so comfortless and without end.

I highly recommend All Quiet on the Western Front. Erich Maria Remarque was in combat during World War I and was wounded five times, the last time severely. You can read more about him on this Wikipedia link.

As you can see by the list below, there are many war novels out there and I have only read a fraction of them. Which ones have you read?

Great war novels, BCM links

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Read but not reviewed, Goodreads links

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

Other war novels with Goodreads links

Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Covenant with Death by John Harris
The Debacle by Émile Zola
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Empire of The Sun by J.G. Ballard
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
From Here to Eternity by James Jones
The Good Lieutenant by Whitney Terrell
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
The Hunters by James Salter
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Regeneration by Pat Barker
Restless by William Boyd
The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

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Short reviews from 2013: Rebecca, Little Bird of Heaven and The Sun Also Rises

As I approach my 7-year blogging anniversary, I’ve been looking at some of the old reviews I posted. A lot of them are pretty short, with limited plot descriptions, and mostly my opnions. I’d love to go back and beef them up a bit, but I think I’d have to re-read the books before I did that. So today I’m just going to share three short reviews of books I liked, but didn’t say too much about!


Rebecca
by
Daphne du Maurier

Rating:

Rebecca is a great example of excellent and timeless writing. Daphne du Maurier’s story is suspenseful with plenty of well-thought out characters who give us a look into the life of the old English elite. How does a young bride find her place at the Manderley mansion as the second Mrs. de Winter? We watch as she stumbles through her early weeks at Manderley and tries to acquire Rebecca’s grace, please her husband, and earn the respect of the household staff and Maxim’s friends and family. All the while staying far away from the menacing Mrs. Danvers. The plot develops into an exciting twist of events that keep you reading enthusiastically straight to the finish.

Mr. and Mrs. de Winter are very busy and keep to an active schedule, but it is all leisure. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the lavish tea-times. How funny to think of people living this way!


Little Bird of Heaven
by
Joyce Carol Oates

Rating:

Joyce Carol Oates is an excellent writer and does a great job pulling you into this story of a murdered woman and two families that fall apart. I think she shows just how complicated and destructive family relationships can be. What I think is most interesting is how Oates’ main characters still cling to the idea of family, despite their estrangement.

I have seen criticism of her writing style, saying it’s too repetitive and rambling. In this story, I think maybe she’s trying to show the way her characters are processing their thoughts and trying to cope by repeating themselves, a very human behavior.

I was a little frustrated with the ending, not quite believing that Krissy would be satisfied with what is revealed. I also did not fully buy into the attraction between Krissy and Aaron.

This is not a nice story. It’s often twisted, ugly, violent and depressing. But I liked it anyway because it made me think about and cheer for the characters, hoping they would find a way to happiness. It’s a hard read, though, and now I want to read something to make me laugh.

Oates can be difficult to read because of her intensity, but I appreciate the depth of her characters and I always come back for more.


The Sun Also Rises
by
Ernest Hemingway

Rating:

In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway describes aimless, jaded and wounded characters and their efforts to numb these feelings of emptiness by leading idle lives of excess. Hemingway’s great talent is that he shows these complicated emotions with his classic clean and simple writing style.

There are endless back and forth exchanges between the narrator Jake Barnes, Robert Cohn, Lady Brett Ashley, Mike Campbell and the people they meet in Paris and in Pamplona. Hemingway tells his story through these seemingly insignificant conversations and Jake’s narration where we discover important things about each character. We learn how Jake is still struggling to accept his war injury and understand his relationship with Brett. We see how Robert Cohn becomes more and more shunned as he pursues Brett. And with every one of Brett’s reckless relationships with the men who surround her, particularly Mike and the bullfighter Pedro Romero, we discover her own feelings of a lost life.

I particularly liked how Hemingway took his description of Cohn on the very first page of the book and directly tied it to Cohn’s exploding temper in Pamplona. I saw hope in Jake’s bitter-sweet relationship with Brett despite the overwhelmingly hopeless theme of the story.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

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Short reviews from 2013: Fahrenheit 451, The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Weird Sisters

As I approach my 7-year blogging anniversary, I’ve been looking at some of the old reviews I posted. A lot of them are pretty short and I’d love to go back and beef them up a bit, but I think I’d have to re-read the books before I did that. So today I’m just going to share three short reviews of books I liked, but didn’t say too much about!


Fahrenheit 451
by
Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is a very well written science fiction from 1950. Despite being written before the explosion of modern technology, Bradbury’s book-burning story makes many timeless observations about censorship and the suppression of original thought and personal interaction.

Bradbury’s seashells as earbuds and the parlors with surrounding interactive screens are hardly a stretch to imagine if you have ever competed with an iPhone, iPod or a flat screen for another person’s attention.

Despite many hopeless characters and some violent destruction, the ending is optimistic as Montag and his hideout professors devise a way to preserve the classics.


The Art of Racing in the Rain
by
Garth Stein

I loved this book. It’s a touching family story told from an original point of view.  Denny Swift is the main character, a husband and father – a family man. His dog, Enzo, tells Denny’s story and gives us simple insights into love, misunderstanding, pain, and loss. He cleverly narrates a sad story and leaves the reader feeling alright about the very difficult job of saying goodbye to the people (and pets) we love. Enzo is a true hero in the way he influences and communicates with Denny, Eve and his family.

You don’t have to know anything about driving a race car or even be a NASCAR fan to enjoy the connection Stein makes between being a champion behind the wheel and taking charge of your own destiny.

This is a fast read with a solid feel-good ending.


The Weird Sisters
by
Eleanor Brown

It is so nice to read book that is actually upbeat as it depicts characters who struggle and confront difficult problems. Eleanor Brown does just that in The Weird Sisters. This is a story about three sisters who face turning-points in their own lives. It is believable, interesting, funny and emotional as the three face their mother’s illness and their own relationships with their parents and themselves. Anyone who has siblings or children of their own will appreciate the dynamics that occur here.

Brown tells this story through what I guess you would call the plural first person, as she speaks as the collective sisters. In the beginning, I thought there was a fourth sister! It’s a little different and awkward at first, but I got used to it. I think she uses this format to show the unity between Cordy, Rose and Bean.

I thought the Shakespeare references might be overwhelming because it has been a long time since I picked up a Shakespeare play. But they weren’t. They are there because they help explain the way the family communicates with each other. You don’t have to remember exactly what happened in King Lear or Macbeth to get the point.

Other people might think this original style is quirky. I did not. It works and, like the Shakespeare references, the style helps you understand the sisters and their story.


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New York Public Library’s Top 10 Checkouts of All Time

Image: Pixabay

Did you see the New York Public Library’s Top 10 Checkouts of All Time? They published the list this month to mark their 125th anniversary. I bet you know all ten of these books. Six of them are children’s books, but what about Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown? It didn’t make the list, but it made Honorable Mention and here is how the library explains it:

By all measures, this book should be a top checkout (in fact, it might be the top checkout) if not for an odd piece of history: extremely influential New York Public Library children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore hated Goodnight Moon when it first came out. As a result, the Library didn’t carry it until 1972. That lost time bumped the book off the top 10 list for now. But give it time.

Years ago, libraries weren’t even open to children and, as explained in this recent Washington Post article, Anne Carroll is credited with “introducing an entire generation of children to libraries in the early 20th century.” She just wasn’t a fan of Goodnight Moon and a couple others.

Here are the Top 10 Checkouts:

  1. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  2. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  3. 1984 by George Orwell
  4. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  6. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  8. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Thanks very much to K. for sending me this article!

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Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair
by
William Makepeace Thackeray

Rating: 4.5

Lately I’ve been trying to balance my reading with some of the classics I haven’t read. (See my Classic TBR list here). I was between books a few weeks ago and decided to read Vanity Fair. It’s been waiting patiently on my Kindle for years, one of those free, public domain books that are so easy to download. Until I started, I didn’t realize how substantial the book was. It’s a whopping 834 pages! For me, the only way to get through a book this long was to put the rest of my blogging and social media to the side. Reading Vanity Fair was definitely work, but well worth the effort!

The book is a satire about 19th century British society and takes place during and after the Napoleonic Wars. It follows the lives of about a dozen characters from various stations in society. The main story is about the naïve and sheltered Amelia Sedley, raised in riches and betrothed to George Osborne, spoiled son of the wealthy Mr. Osborne. Rebecca Sharp is Amelia’s orphan friend, a manipulator and social climber. And then there’s George’s awkward friend, William Dobbin, an honorable captain in the British army. Dobbin is secretly in love with Amelia and vows to protect her, even if he can’t win her heart. The second story is about Sir Pitt Crawley, his lineage and all the players who are positioning themselves to inherit a great sum from the Baronet’s half-sister. Captain Rawdon Crawley is the favorite nephew, and when Aunt Matilda’s health begins to fail, the dirty business of money begins.

Thackeray’s seemingly upper class characters, in an effort to match the truly wealthy and titled, live extravagant lives, traveling, gambling, and hosting lavish parties, but paying no bills. They skillfully avert their creditors by playing one off the other and sometimes leaving the country. Some of his characters change for the better during the period’s booms and the busts, but others do not. Of course, there’s also the war, which changes some lives, but doesn’t stop the posturing. Among all classes, there is no guarantee of happiness.

Thackeray also shows the timeless appeal of a story about two people who are meant to be together, but miss their chance and make other decisions that force their separation. Who doesn’t want to see how that works out?

Something should be said about the often forgotten appeal of a very long book. When you read a story in which characters come together and then are apart for many pages, you have time to think about them while other things happen. You can’t get that in a shorter book. Vanity Fair and other long books are big picture stories, showing how all the pieces eventually come together, over lots of pages. I like that.

I enjoyed Vanity Fair very much, but it was hard work to read. Thackeray’s sentences are long and convoluted and there are many, many characters to keep track of. For me, it was impossible to whip through and hard to read more than 50 – 75 pages a day without feeling wiped out.

Vanity Fair was first published as a 19-volume monthly serial from 1847 – 1848 and was originally titled, Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society and included Thackeray’s original illustrations. The title comes from the 1678 Christian allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyon, and refers to the pilgrim’s stop at a town called Vanity where there is a never-ending fair.

Have you read this classic? Have you seen the 2004 movie starring Reese Witherspoon? I’m going to watch that soon!

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