Certain Favorites: ONCE UPON A RIVER

Trying hard to keep this post spoiler-free. Don’t worry, she’s only a third of the way through this novel. She’s not giving away any big secrets or anything.

We are at a Vaughan chapter. Self has to admit, this character is one of her favorites. (How lucky is she that she just finished Northanger Abbey and then stumbled into another great novel. This doesn’t happen often. That is why she appreciated discovering Phillip Pullman and reading His Dark Materials all in one go.)

Setterfield is really good at describing sows, pet pigs, etc First there was Maud the Sow, who was kidnapped (Who kidnaps a sow? a character asks. Yeah, WHO?). Martha, a pig, Maud’s daughter, becomes a replacement confidant for one of the characters (There are so many pigs on farms in the Philippines and no one’s ever written about them. Or turned them into characters. Why not give it a try, self?)

Vaughan had a disorienting encounter several chapters ago with Mrs. Constantine. He lost his daughter — “taken” — when she was four. He’s just been going through the motions ever since. Then someone rescues a man and a four-year-old girl from the river. A servant tells his wife the news before Vaughan gets a chance to tell her himself, and then his wife takes off, just like that, to the inn where the drowned/rescued girl has been taken.

These actions, while thrilling, are so perfectly in character. Self finds herself nodding over the pages, saying “Yes, yes. Go on.”

As for Vaughan, he couldn’t go on. He went on.

As for the man who was rescued with the little girl, he has remained unconscious for all these pages. He made a big, dramatic entrance in Chapter 1, lost consciousness, and has been lying flat on his back on a table at an inn since forever. All self knows about him is that a nurse practitioner (or whatever you called healers in that time, in England) came and examined his entire naked body very thoroughly, and deduced that his injuries were survivable, and also that he was a photographer.

She only heard of Diane Setterfield at the Fowey Festival of the Arts. She went to Bookends of Fowey and asked if they could recommend a book by Setterfield “to start with.” Once Upon a River was out of the question because it was hardcover and very thick, and self had still weeks of travel to go. She bought it, though, just before leaving London.

In another piece of luck, self has been back from London for two whole days, and her weirdo neighbor has not made a peep (until this afternoon, when she heard muffled stirrings from the other side of the fence. UGH. She’s confident he’ll never discover this blog, because he doesn’t seem to do anything all day, and has no friends. He has stuffed animals lined up in his living room window, and seems to think self has a crush on him. She’ll be really distressed if he shows himself, frankly. It will ruin her plans for the summer, which are: to remain entirely, unreservedly, stress-free. One day when she was running out of conversational topics with Dearest Mum, resident of Manila, she told Dearest Mum about this neighbor. True to form, Dearest Mum giggled and said she was so happy to know that self had an admirer!!!)

Something is going to happen. Stay tuned.

Gulls and Humans: LANDFILL, pp. 17 – 18

This is a gorgeous book. Stunning. A learning to see.

Self heard about it at last year’s Cambridge Literary Festival (which featured a number of panels on the environment)

pp. 17 – 18:

In my lifetime gulls have come toward us. Most other birds have gone in the opposite direction, but the gulls have bucked the trend. In part we made them do so; in part the birds elected to fly that way. And they continue to tell something of how the once-wild can share our present world. Calling them seagulls is wrong — that was one of the first things I learned as a novice bird-boy. They are as much inland among us as they are far out over the waves. Yet, in fact, this state of life for them is far from new. Over the past hundred years, human modernity has brought gulls ashore.

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This gull took off from the balcony of self’s room in Fowey Hall.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

 

 

Reading in Fowey

Finished Persuasion, on to Northanger Abbey:

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It’s been a very stimulating week at the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature. Hopefully self can do this again.

She bought her copy of Northanger Abbey from Bookends, which is a sweet, sweet corner bookstore in Fowey.

From the Introduction is by P. D. James:

  • Catherine’s days are spent in thinking about Henry Tilney, when and how they may next meet, and looking out eagerly for any glimpses of him. She is deeply in love, a love which is reciprocated, though more mildly, by Henry, whose affection is based on her obvious love for him. He introduces her to his sister Eleanor and the two young women immediately like each other and become friends.

Stay tuned.

 

Reading Jane in Fowey

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Up one flight of stairs in Fowey Hall there is a telescope. Self tried looking through the it but couldn’t see anything. Ah well.

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What synchronicity, though, with the cover of Persuasion (She bought her copy from the London Review Bookshop, a few weeks ago)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature, Day 3

Self took a walk to Bookends of Fowey, 4 South Street. And such a dear little bookshop it is. So many books, of so much variety, all found in one little corner of Fowey!

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4 South Street, Fowey: Bookends

Self never forgets, not for one moment, that she is here because of Daphne du Maurier:

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She’s made up her mind to buy one of the below. Not more than one because she is still traveling and it is a bear to tote books on/off buses and trains!

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In keeping with the spirit of du Maurier, she thinks her one precious book purchase should be a novel. A novel by a woman.

On her Festival Survey Form, she only made one comment: Points for including such a variety of women authors. Keep it that way!

Stay tuned.

Today Self Discovered

The harbor of Fowey:

WOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!

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And, just in case you didn’t get the point, there is a giant model of a sailboat on the first floor landing of the hotel and, at one end of the first floor corridor, a telescope pointed towards the sea.

Stay tuned.

Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature, Day 2

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Fowey: Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Have attended two talks, both of them brilliant. The one this morning was delivered by Kate Aspengren, an American playwright (from Iowa!): Where’s the Fire? A Playwright Considers the Plays of Daphne du Maurier.

Loved knowing about this other aspect of du Maurier. The woman tried her hand at everything: novels, short stories, plays — even poetry!

Aspengren talked about three du Maurier plays:

  • The Years Between (first staged 1944, in Manchester)
  • September Tide (first staged 1948, in Oxford)
  • her own adaptation of Rebecca

Because self has read Tatiana de Rosnay’s Manderley Forever (one of her favorite reads of 2018), she knows of Daphne’s fraught marriage. Her husband was General “Boy” Browning who was mentioned (not flatteringly lol) in the book self just finished reading, Antony Beevor’s Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944. It was a very strained marriage, exacerbated by long absences. And du Maurier seems to have drawn on that for The Years Between.

As for September Tide, trust du Maurier to come up with this wickedly entertaining plot: A woman falls in love with her daughter’s husband. According to Aspengren, “the mother and son-in-law have an instant attraction to each other” despite an age gap of seven years.

Daphne du Maurier brings it.

Stay tuned.

Good Morning to Fowey Only

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Captain Wentworth I

He swans into town, proud and unyielding, and makes mincemeat of Anne Elliott’s heart. While he is surrounded by eligible young ladies, Anne is called upon to play the music for the dancing, “though her eyes would sometimes fill with tears as she sat at the instrument . . .” Poor Anne!

Persuasion, pp. 69 – 70:

It was a merry, joyous party, and no one seemed in higher spirits than Captain Wentworth. She felt that he had every thing to elevate him, which general attention and deference, and especially the attention of all the young women could do.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Why du Maurier’s JAMAICA INN Is Epic

There’s a scene where Mary Yellan is trying to escape from . . . take self’s word for it, something evil.

Across her path, Harry the pedlar. A man seemingly mild, not too smart. He nods at her, “reassuring . . . smiling . . . smirking and sly . . . ” Then he lands a “furtive hand” on her. And her reaction?

She moves “swiftly, lashing out at him, and her fist caught him underneath the chin, shutting his mouth like a trap, with his tongue caught between his teeth. He squealed like a rabbit, and she struck him again, but this time he grabbed at her and lurched sideways upon her, all pretense of gentle persuasion gone, his strength horrible, his face drained of all colour. He was fighting now for possession, and she knew it . . . ”

du Maurier shows us how the man’s affect changes from moment to moment: first he is smiling, then he is sly, then he is furtive, and then he attacks.

But every step of his transformation, Mary Yellan meets fiercely.

This is a woman who has been raised on a farm, who has known only friendly neighbors. Having spent an entire quarter at Stanford reading Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, self was steeling herself for only one outcome. But du Maurier had something else in mind.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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