Britain

Northanger Abbey

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I’m very glad that I’ve decided to finally tackle the works of Jane Austen. The more I read of her, the more a fan I become.

Northanger Abbey started out kind of slow, which I expected when the introduction implied it was the first novel she’d written even though it was only published after her death. It starts out sounding very much like a rant against society, which I think is common amongst young writers. I know that my one attempt at writing a novel gets a C- from me simply because I spent too much time ranting. Of course, Ms. Austen had the skill that I lacked which is in her ability to reign it in, or at least when it’s viewed from 2015, these rants would have been shared by all of us modern women, so we sympathize instead of condemning her “youth”.

This is definitely a book that a lot of teenage girls today would still find relevant, especially when it comes to the “friends” who are self-centered and conniving. I could only groan at the comments that Catherine used to be so easy to persuade and that it’s her fault that their trip would be ruined because she has other plans. There are plenty of women in therapy now because of the guilt laid upon them by “friends” who are actually abusive users.

I also found the conversation between Catherine and Henry on the definition of matrimony as relative to a country dance. They end up with such a complex definition of what it means to be married, I’m surprised that just 2 weeks ago another debate was hashed out in our court system that a marriage can be so easily defined as “between a man and a woman”. Goodness: if that’s all it takes to make a marriage last, why on Earth does divorce exist?!? Of course, in today’s world, most people would agree that there is also more to a marriage than a man supporting his wife  and the wife making “an agreeable home”. ‘Course, I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable if they proscribed way to find a husband (a woman’s only duty, of course) was for her to hide every scrap of intelligence she has, or to not be intelligent to begin with.

“Yes, I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.” I’ve always been the “smart” one of the group, but I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve been appreciated for not being pretentious. I do not like people using a “5 dollar word” as a measure of intelligence especially since many who do use such words incorrectly. I have had to say on a few occasions: “I’m not sure the word you just used means what you think it means” and I admit it’s difficult to do with a straight face. Luckily, most don’t mean any harm by it, they’re simply trying to sound smart, but I like to think that smart is something you do, not something you say.

I was listening to an interview on NPR with researchers who want to promote physical intelligence instead of merely mental intelligence in US society (the action of creating something rather than the mental processes of thinking about stuff). I disagreed with the whole notion that a single individual can excel at both ways of learning because I don’t think it’s probable for all humans to be geared towards the exact same way of learning: kinetic vs. listening vs. optical. Yes, US society looks down upon the individuals who lack “book knowledge”, but watching my BF load and unload a car Friday night shows me that there is a considerable amount of intelligence that goes into physical labor! My brother would also tell you that it IS a skill to be able to load a trailer properly–he’d been the unfortunate victim of one such person too many times when he quit his job loading them because the other person’s “walls” kept falling on him.

My only complaint is that when Catherine realized the error of her ways in making assumptions about the General based on her experience with romantic novels, she was only able to extend her miss-assumptions to those who live within her general area (or at least this is how I read this passage)–people in the far east and west would still be like the villains and heroes of her novels: either good or evil and nothing in between.

On that note, I anxiously await my next Blogging for Books request: Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and as Warning. I’ve heard that it relates to the xenophobia we’re now seeing with the refugee crisis in Europe. Something doesn’t sit right with me when doctors, lawyers, and teachers are treated like vermin simply because they’ve been forced to take sketchy boats, trucks or just walk to cross borders  just to get away from oppression in their home countries.

P.S. Does anyone know why this book was originally called “Susan” by Ms. Austen? I’m pretty sure that there is no one called by that name in this novel!

The Strange Case of Hellish Nell

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On March 23, 1944, as the allied forces prepared for D-Day, Britain’s most famous psychic, Helen Duncan-“Nell” to her family-stood in the dock of Britain’s highest criminal court accused of…witchcraft. It was a trial so bizarre Winston Churchill grumbled, “Why all this tomfoolery?” But the Prime Minister was not privy to the Military Intelligence agenda fueling the prosecution: Duncan’s séances were accurately revealing top-secret British ship movements. The authorities wanted “Hellish Nell” silenced. Using diaries, personal papers, interviews, and declassified documents, Nina Shandler resurrects this strange courtroom episode and the shadowy world of wartime secrets and psychics. Sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, The Strange Case of Hellish Nell is a true crime tale laced with supernatural phenomena and wartime intrigue.”

“Loose Lips Sink Ships.” Did Helen Duncan really spill WWII secrets with help from the dead? If nothing else, an interesting case study on how far government is allowed to go to protect secrets during wartime.

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