Weekly Reading Round-Up

I’ve been going full steam ahead on research for the next stand alone novel, so all of my leisure reading has been focused around the late 1840s. Luckily for me, it was a particularly fertile literary period.

— Anne Bronte, Agnes Grey.

You know my thing for governess books, right? I’ve heard Agnes Grey referred to as the less appealing younger sister of Jane Eyre and I’m forced to admit that I agree. Jane might be principled, but she was seldom this prim; of firm morals, but not moralizing. What the book does do splendidly is convey vivid visual images of small town life in the period, from the great estate into which Agnes’s former charge, Rosalie marries (but which, of course, fails to make her happy), to the long and muddy walk back from church along country lanes.

— Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton.

This book was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t expected to enjoy something that was billed as a “State of England” novel, a rumination on the plight of the poor mill workers in Manchester, but Gaskell’s engaging prose and vividly drawn characters carry it along. I will admit, I had some thoughts of North and South while reading it, because you can very much see where the later book came from while reading Gaskell’s earlier novel.

Next up? I’m choosing between Jane Eyre, Thackeray’s The Newcomes (which is a few years too late for me, but possibly more in the milieu of the people I’m writing about), and Anne Bronte’s more controversial work, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Once I’m done with my early Victorian reading orgy, I’m going to treat myself to some new releases. And by new, I mean post-1848. Possibly even 2012.

What have you been reading?


  1. Karen H on September 7, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber. It’s sort of a mini-biography of her time a Versailles focusing around her fashion choices.

  2. Céline on September 7, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I do agree, Lauren, Agnes Grey wasn’t as good as Jane Eyre (to be honnest, I disliked the book pretty much…).
    And I count among the readers that have loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall… 🙂
    Gaskell has also written Cranford, which you might want to read. Not sure if it’s the right period for you, but it depicts the day-to-day life of people in a country village. Maybe you’ll find interesting things in it!

    Concerning my readings, I made my way through Eloisa James’ The Ugly Duchess and now am reading Emily Giffin’s latest, Where we belong, which is sooo good! 🙂

  3. Joanne M. on September 7, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Loving Joan Wolf’s Born of the Sun, a novel of the star-crossed love story between a beautiful Celtic princess and a Saxon prince. I just treated myself to a whole collection of Joan Wolf novels.

  4. Kristen A. on September 7, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I reread some Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 and Graveyard for Lunatics. Now I’m reading Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell.

  5. Christine on September 7, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Juliana Gray’s “A Lady Never Lies” and the ARC of the second in the trilogy, “A Gentleman Never Tells.” Both are fantastic! I can’t decide which I liked better.

  6. Alison on September 7, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Read “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” that is my favorite Bronte novel.

  7. AngelB on September 7, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Agens Grey was a hard to get into a first, but overall, I do love the subtle romance of it. His declaration at the end was, to me, heartfelt and deep. True, not passionate and overwhelming like Rochester, but it fit with the entire book. Their love was something that definitely was subtle and grew..not uber passionate.

    That’s why I’m enjoying A Civil Contract right now (I jumped ahead in my Heyer reading after last weeks discussions). I relate to the concept of not falling in love right away with the one you are meant to be with, but that it grows with time and getting to know each other.

  8. Liz on September 7, 2012 at 10:00 am

    I’m reading The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons for my book club. I haven’t entirely made up my mind about it…the writing is lovely and very descriptive (and I love a WWII story) but I haven’t really connected with the characters yet.

  9. Ashley on September 7, 2012 at 10:10 am

    On the theme of governess novels, I just read “Nine Coaches Waiting.” I really enjoyed it! I also read my first Adriana Trigiani book, “Very Valentine.” It was fun, and incredibly descriptive, and reminded me a bit of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Now I’m reading “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” which is a pretty big leap from my usual favorites, but it is intriguing so far.

  10. Katie on September 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I read A Lady Never Lies by Juliana Gray and Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase. I enjoyed them both very much! This is only the second book I have ever read by Loretta Chase and I can’t wait to read the rest of her books! I love the current series she is writing and am a but devastated that it will be several months before the next book is released!

    • Leslie on September 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Read Lord Perfect by Chase, it’s hilarious and romantic all at the same time.

      • Katie on September 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm

        Thanks :)I will!

  11. Joanna on September 7, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I have a bit of a problem with Jane Eyre as we studied it in depth at school when I was about 14. I am currently reading The Firebringers by Max Adams. I am especially enjoying it as it is centred around the arist John Martin who originated from my local area (I live in Newcastle upon Tyne).

  12. Heather on September 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I have been reading since July all of Jan Austen’s Novels and I have finished Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and last night I finished Emma, and started Northanger Abbey!

  13. Leslie on September 7, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I read all of Elly Griffiths’ mysteries this week. I liked them, they have an interesting setting and an unusual cast of reoccuring characters.
    Also read Emily March’s latest, Nightingale Way. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, the H/H really rubbed me the wrong way. I really enjoyed reading her earlier books in the Eternity Springs series and was looking forward to this one. Too bad.
    Started Code Veriity, but it was so intense I had to set it aside for awhile.
    Eloisa James, Jayne Castle and Louise Penny for the weekend.

  14. Pat on September 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I finished Heyer’s A Convenient Marriage earlier this week. Now into Murder at Mansfield Park. Who knew Fanny Price was such a pill! Next up is the next book in the Jamie/Claire Fraser saga: The Fiery Cross. Also have a Lord John Grey book to read and a Walt Longmire mystery. A bit of variety there.

  15. Stef on September 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    All I want in life is to be able to spend significant portions of it reading awesome fiction and be able to call it work.

    • Leslie on September 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      Preaching to the choir!

  16. Elizabeth (aka Miss Eliza) on September 7, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Oh, I agree Stef!

    I just finished my re-read of The Night Circus and adored it just as much as the first time, if not more.

    Now I’m starting the Steampunk series by George Mann, Newbury and Hobbes, which starts with The Affinity Bridge. Wish I could be reading instead of doing homework right now!

  17. Gina on September 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Persuasion! I’m loving it so far.

    I always wish Anne would shut Mary up though, when she gets into complain-mode.

  18. jeffrey on September 7, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Hi Celine: Although I enjoyed Agnes Grey, it was a bit predictable. The Tenant of wildfell Hall is quite another work indeed. I LOVED the sometimes brutal reality of it but Anne Bronte bravely challenged the mistreatment of women when it was quite unfashionable.

    I’m reading Daughter of Joy, an 1890’s high plains faith-based romance by Kathleen Morgan. I know I know….What is a 66 year old man doing reading something like that? I’m an unashamed incurable romantic and this one (gush)is a winner.

  19. Amy N. on September 7, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Finally wrapping up a book about Marquis de la Fayette which is truly interesting. I would really like to read Wildfeld Hall after I finish reading Flatland as the Science Friday September Book Club selection. I did read Villette which took some determination but in the end I’m glad I stuck with it. Still haven’t read Jane Eyre. Have “The Emperor’s Last Island” by Julia Blackburn.

  20. Pam on September 8, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I read Bride of Pendorric by Victoria Holt (oh such fun, though I guessed part of the “twist” early on). I’d definitely recommend it to those looking to give Holt a try!

    Since I’m jetting out of here for my research year in less than a week (ack!) I’m just doing quick reads that I can finish before then, so I picked up Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels from the public library. It’s my first Michaels book, though I’ve read a few by her alter ego Elizabeth Peters, and so far I’m really liking it.

  21. Jenn on September 10, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Just finished reading your Silver Orchid pink book (I’m behind bc I love paperbacks) and now I’m on Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon.

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