goodreads: 2018 Reading Challenge

For 2018 i joined in the reading challenge at goodreads, and i think i did rather well.

A few of those books that only counted as one were far more than one book.

Magnificent Devices was 4 books.   So that’s plus 3 on the total.

Big Sigma was 3 books and 3 shorts, but i’d already done Bypass Gemini.   So counting the 3 shorts as 1 book, that’s plus 2 on the total.

Free Wrench was 3 books.   So that’s plus 2 on the total.

So add those 8 and i get a grand total of 70 books in one year — which looks a little better than 62.

Plus there were a few random shorts that never made it to goodreads, but i won’t be too pedantic about it and leave them out.

Or, maybe i am already being too pedantic about it?   But hey, in my defence, if i’d added and reviewed each of those books seperately that’s where it would have been.   So think me a pedant if you like, i don’t care, so there!

Anyways, while you’re here, why not have a quick look at my page about goodreads for my thoughts about them and maybe sign up yourself for the 2019 challenge.

As for myself, for 2019 i’m gonna go with this years revised total of 70 and make sure i review any collections independently.

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Margaret Ogilvy — J.M.Barrie

Having just read The Little White Bird and Peter Pan, it struck me that there may have been a little more to the characters than at first appears.

The character of Peter Pan was based on James’ brother, David, who died aged 13 (so never grew up), leaving the 6 year old James having to try and fill his shoes for his mother.   So it made me wonder who Hook was based on.   At first i thought Hook represented the parents but having read this book i’ve totally had a change of mind.

I suppose the clue is in Hook’s first name, also James.   The hand that gets cut off by Peter, a metaphor for the part of James’ childhood, and life, that was taken from him the day his brother died.   The hand is then fed to the ticking crocodile that follows Hook around wanting to consume the rest of him because it likes the taste — so is this another metaphor concerning the inevitable ticking clock of life, and that James felt the loss of his brother was continuously haunting and wanting to consume more of him and his family?

Then there’s Wendy, which having read this book cannot be based upon anyone other than Margaret Ogilvy herself.   He mentions in the book how after his brother died, other local women who lost children would come to her to talk.   Again, Wendy and the lost boys — the lost boys representing the children of the other women who went to join his brother David in heaven (Neverland).

But all that aside, this book was a heartfelt view into James’ home life and very much his relationship with his mother — who he obviously cared about immensely — and is an absolute must read for all fans of J.M. Barrie’s writing.   The book also covers James’ early literary career and what made him want to become a writer.   So a very worth while read.

So what’s next?   After 3 books in a row, i’ll be taking a literary break away from Peter Pan, Neverland and J.M. Barrie as i’ve got a load of books on “The Pile” nagging to get read.   But i’ll definitely be coming back to these three topics in my reading in the not too distant future.

Some more “Peter Pan and Neverland” books.

J. M. Barrie’s Page

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Peter Pan — J.M. Barrie

I’m quite confused by this story.

At 54 years old i really don’t remember Peter Pan from my childhood days, but i admit that i had the impression from films and things that he was quite a nice character — as was Tinkerbell.   However, in this, the real story behind it all, Peter Pan isn’t really a nice character at all — and Tinkerbell certainly isn’t either.

Most of the time, Peter is nothing but a gloating little spoiled brat who always has to have his way else he spits his dummy out of his pram.   And Tinkerbell, it has to be said, is a complete little bitch.   But then you get moments in the story, in complete contrast, where the 2 of them are bestowed with all manner of wonderful virtues.

Who i did find interesting, however, was the character of James Hook, who was far more complex than the films, etc., would have us believe — frightened and out of his depth, yet somehow always managing to survive — until the end.

Apparently, the character of Peter Pan was based on Barrie’s older brother who died as a child, and therefore never grew up.   So it does make one wonder just what Barrie thought about his older brother and how he was affected by his death and his parent’s attitude to it.   He was 6 when his brother died and then sent away, from home to school, at 8.   Barrie did write a biographical piece about his mother, Margaret Ogilvy, which maybe would unearth some clues, so i’m going to read that next to find out.

At the end of it, for now at least, i’m left thinking that this is nothing but a critique by Barrie of how his parents handled his brother’s death, and also parenting in general (as seems to be quite a bit of The Little White Bird).   Although Barrie became a ward of other children, he never had any children of his own, so there is this to factor into these stories.

One of the things that also stands out for me, is how Peter chops of Hook’s hand and feeds it to the crocodile that is always ticking and haunting Hook for the rest of his life.   Is this a metaphor concerning the death of his brother taking a piece of his parents with him and their inability to move on from the tragedy for the rest of their lives, forever ticking away reminding them of their own mortality?   And Hook’s view towards the children maybe adds more clues.

At the end of the day, you can read Peter Pan as a shallow, children’s, make believe, bedtime story book, or you can look deeper into what Barrie’s drive was to write these books in the first place.   It’s certainly very different to Lewis Carroll’s drive to write the “Alice and Wonderland” books — less said about that the better, i think.   But whichever way you decide to read Peter Pan i think you’ll certainly enjoy it.   It’s a beautifully written piece of Victorian literature that has stood the test of time and will undoubtedly stand up to a lot more time in the future.

As a bonus, this version of Peter Pan has a “Classic Literature, words and phrases” dictionary at the end (which is nearly as big as the book itself).   So a great help for anyone wanting to have a good Vic Lit adventure.

Some more “Peter Pan and Neverland” books.

J. M. Barrie’s Page

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After Alice — Gregory Maguire

Reading other reviews one finds a lot of complaining about Gregory’s lexicon.   While i can agree that Gregory does have a rather outdated lexicon, i think those who wrote those reviews are very much missing the point of Gregory’s writing.   The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were very much books of the Victorian age and Gregory’s writing in his spin offs from both simply tends to keep with the language of that age and the words used — he is, after all, a Victorian spin off specialist so why be surprised at the Victorian use of words in his writing?   I would definitely say that all the words i had to quickly look up on my Kindle were Victorian throw backs and to be quite honest they didn’t detract from Ada’s story at all for me.   If anything, they brought a genuineness to Ada’s story in that they kept it within the upper middle class Victorian world in which this is set.

And i also find it nice to learn a few new (old and forgotten) words to baffle people with: pompous as accused by curmudgeons or simply having fun with language?

There are certainly worse writers out there for using overblown language, and they have no excuse at all for doing so as they are writing contemporary fiction, not Victorian spin offs.

If you can’t be bothered with a little Victorian style language then maybe this book isn’t for you.   But if you can just accept it’s there for a valid reason and deal with it accordingly and enjoy expanding your vocabulary a little along the way then you’re in for a good yarn.

I read this immediately after reading the original 4 books on Wonderland and i felt it flowed really well from those.

Although, unlike the original Alice books, this book is certainly not for young children.   It’s definitely aimed at a more mature audience: those who enjoyed Alice in their childhood who would like to revisit Wonderland as late teens and adults.

The story does end with several loose ends, which i hope means Gregory will be coming back to Wonderland in the future to finish these loose ends off.

I for one enjoy Gregory’s writing and will always be a fan of his books.

Here be some more “Alice and Wonderland” books.

Gregory’s Page

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The Hunting of the Snark an Agony, in Eight Fits — Lewis Carroll

The last of the 4 books in the Alice series.   Although it’s not actually about Alice because Carroll had stopped chasing after Alice Lidell at this point in time because Alice had grown tall.   He had moved onto another young girl, i believe her name was Gertrude.   So one wonders what he alludes to with the word, “Snark”.

That aside, it’s a great poem, but the layout on this version leaves a lot to be desired.   But it is a free version so shouldn’t really complain.

Would recommend paying a few pence for a version with a better layout if you do wish to read it.

Here be some more “Alice and Wonderland” books.

Lewis’ Page

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Through the Looking-Glass — Lewis Carroll

As much as these are wonderful stories, if we just take them as stories, the tale behind them is, i think, a rather dark and disturbing one.

Who is this written for?   Is it to confuse or calm the young girls that Carroll was chasing after?   Or is it Carroll dealing with his demons?   Or a bit of both?

Here be some more “Alice and Wonderland” books.

Lewis’ Page

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Alice’s Adventures Under Ground — Lewis Carroll

I’m having an Alice binge at the moment and decided i needed to go back to the very beginning of the story to see how it came about.

This book is great, not just having the original story, but also letters to and from the author at the time.   A very enlightening piece of literary history which puts the whole Alice and Wonderland thing into a somewhat disturbing perspective which i’ll let everyone else make their own minds up about.

Anyway, disturbance aside, i can’t change history, so i’m going to continue the journey and get straight into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which is the re-written and added to edition for public consumption of this original which was written purely for Alice Liddell by Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll).

Definitely something all adults should go back and read — and maybe learn not to take things too seriously, or at least, at face value.

Here be some more “Alice and Wonderland” books.

Lewis’ Page

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The Little White Bird; or, Adventures in Kensington Gardens — J.M. Barrie

I got this book as it is the very book wherein Peter Pan makes his first appearance.   The parts of this book that include Peter Pan were published later as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens which is not to be confused with the full Peter Pan story, which was subsequently published as Peter and Wendy or later, just simply, Peter Pan.

I know, it gets quite confusing tracking down the origins of these Vic Lit legends, you get the same shenanigans with Alice in Wonderland.   But, it does add a little challenge to your reading, which would normally just consist of buying a book you like the look of and reading it.

Anyways, i’ve read in some reviews people saying they couldn’t understand this book and they kept on getting confused.   Obviously they didn’t factor in that this is written in beautiful Victorian prose and is not some standard contemporary novel.   I do feel that in order to fully enjoy Vic Lit then you really need to read a few books to get up to speed on the use of the language by these writers.   Most of these books were written by very well educated Victorians, and not the lower classes, and they used the language quite differently to how we use it today with words that have completely escaped the lexicon altogether.

I do humbly believe, that anyone who will take a few books to adjust to Victorian prose will find the effort is well rewarded.   Victorian prose is, to my mind at least, the most delightful and eloquent English prose i’ve ever read.

I digress, tangents become me, let’s to the story: The Little White Bird is at it’s heart a strange, lost love, story, that gets played out and revealed through the book.   It has our ageing, bachelor protagonist getting caught up baby sitting a child that he never actually meant to get involved with, and having had no involvement with children and their ways can only cope with them by comparing them to his St Bernard dog, and at times seems to think the St Bernard is far superior in most respects.   His adventures with the child, David, are where this book gets it’s other title Adventures in Kensington Gardens, as they spend a lot of time there.

Throughout the beautiful Victorian prose there is an undoubted light heartedness and a certain tongue in cheekness to this book that is both captivating and enjoyable.   And it’s descriptiveness of the habits of Victorian upper class children and their wards within Kensington Gardens at that time is delightful — Barrie is a master wordsmith.

Oddly, although it was the reason for reading this book in the first place, i found the Peter Pan bit, and it is only a bit, to be a tiny bit annoying as i got so enthralled in the every day descriptions of Victorian life around Kensington Gardens and our protagonist’s story that i just wanted to get away from the habits of Peter Pan and the fairies and back to the habits of the humans.   At the same time, it is also something i wouldn’t have wanted left out, as it gives the full back story of Peter Pan, how he came to be and why he is like he is.

All in all, an absolute must for anyone who enjoys Victorian Literature, it really is an absolute gem.   And also an absolute must for anyone who loves Peter Pan and wants the full history of the character in the context from which he first flew.

And did i mention, this Kindle version is completely free — what’s not to like?

Some more “Peter Pan and Neverland” books.

J. M. Barrie’s Page

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