I may not have studied much yogic philosophy lately, thought I’ve certainly made up for it with my Inquiry of some classic authors. First there was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, then an assortment of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte classics. This lead to a swift purchase of the Interweave Jane Austen Knits special released last week. What will come of that deserves it’s own post I think.
This was followed by Moby Dick, a true whale of a tome, pun intended. Then the audio book selection went a little more down the Victorian England garden path to Charles_Dickens‘ neck of the woods. I never read any of his works at school, not even A Christmas Carol properly, and the closest I’ve come to knowing them is via Black Adder’s versions and references. I thought I had a handle on what all those references to ‘Dickensian London’ meant and didn’t feel a need to delve deeper. In addition to sparking memories of working near Chancery Lane, the Old Bailey and Holborn many years ago, it made me realise there was a great deal more to it.
Continuing with the audio book theme – I find them great accompaniments to knitting, I searched on ‘most popular’ on the librivox.org selection. It can be a bit hit and miss with the narrators and once you find a couple you like, the experience is far more satisfying. Great Expectations was high on the list (and dickensmuseum.com reopens in November in London if you’re interested or nearby). This also fit nicely with my plan to continue trawling through the list of ‘100 books’ that was doing the rounds on Facebook about a year ago. I enjoyed the story, plot, wit and characters so much that after listening to over 40 hours of it, I went in search of more.
I found plenty to choose from and for all my preconceptions of A Tale of Two Cities, which I have no idea where they came from, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Apart from an education of the French Revolution, I was completely absorbed by the language, wit, characters – the whole package. There were plenty of times when I missed the point of a chapter entirely, due to some of the subtleties being drowned out by noisy train station atmosphere. It’s because I’ve reread/ listened to a few chapters that I’ve developed such an appreciation for their richness. One of the less than agreeable features of the Librivox app on the phone is that it sends you back to the beginning of a chapter at times, when you hit play again. It has surprised me greatly that I didn’t even realise I was rereading / listening to a chapter until half way through (20mins in on average). More often than not I’ve let it play through, discovering I’d missed quite a bit of the detail the first time around.
I ended up purchasing a reading of Bleak House since the free one was really not suited to my ears and now I’m onto Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty, that’s 1780 in case you were wondering.
So what? Well, I have a new appreciation for everything from the day to day hardships of the times to the dependency of women on whom they could marry for their livelihood (even those who could sell their knitted wares). I’m very appreciative of the fact that I’ve been able to choose my husband and my careers. I learned that Dickens was behind the establishment of Urania Cottage, a place where ‘fallen women’ could learn to read and write and become proficient in domestic household chores so as to re-integrate them into society. The alternative being an institution that would make ‘Prisononer’ look like a yoga retreat in Byron Bay. At times I wondered how anyone survived at all apart from the aristocracy, when they weren’t getting their heads seen to by ‘la guillotine’.
Furthermore I can’t believe more film and movie adaptations haven’t been made given the complexity of so many of the stories. For instance in Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities there are that many sub plots and minor characters that in today’s world of franchise films and tv we’d be up to a fifth spin off series of Dickens: .
Though I did see somewhere recently that Stephen Fry and the Peep Show crew are filming a 4 part comedy take of Dickensian England due to air in December. Perhaps the self depricating style of English humour that we know and love today is indeed how everyone survived!