In 1906 Lucy Maud Montgomery sat down to write a story. The idea came from a jotting in one of her notebooks: “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By a mistake a girl is sent them.” It was a slight plot, but she turned it into magic by creating such a vivid girl – one who talked and talked, whose imagination was so intense, who responded so sensitively to the world of nature and who would enchant generations of readers for the next century. The book, Anne of Green Gables, was published in 1908 and astonished its creator by becoming a best-seller. Read more
Companion Guide – L.M. Montgomery May 16th, 2017Susannah
Mothers in Literature – A Reflection on Fictional Mothers
There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
If you want to assist someone planning to write a novel, the best piece of advice you can give them is “Kill off the mother!” That way, you can put your hero or heroine through all sorts of trials and tests of character.
But not every literary mother is dead. This special Mothers Day inspired guide discusses a great variety of mothers in fiction. Learn about the exceptional, the good, the mediocre, the bad, the nasty, and even the dead mothers of the literary world. Read more
“Where is human nature so weak as in the book store?” asked Henry Ward Beecher (preacher, religious writer and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe). He’s quite right. No matter how strong the resolution not to buy more books until the pile by the bed is drastically reduced, somehow I find it very hard to leave a bookshop without making a purchase. Read more
A Wall of Promise and Treasures April 30th, 2017Susannah
The Historic Houses Association in the UK has recently launched a new ‘Literary Trail‘. If you are lucky you can do it in person, visiting wonderful homes in Britain that have interesting literary connections, such as Madresfield, the home that inspired Waugh’s Brideshead, or Renishaw, home of the eccentric Sitwell family. Some are the homes of living authors, so you might even get a book signed, or be shown round by its author / owner; others belonged to authors long gone, but excellent guides will show you the property. You can find details at Historic Houses Association Literary Trail. Read more
2017 has been named the ‘Year of Literary Heroes‘ and British Tourism is encouraging literary-themed events. You can enjoy a ‘Literary Break’, download literary maps and take walks through literary landscapes, go to talks, bookshop events, and stay in hotels that have associations with authors.
Even if you are not planning a visit to England, it’s still a good time to give thought to ‘literary heroes’. What makes a ‘hero’? Read more
Have you ever read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins? It is often regarded as the first detective novel in English, and it was published in 1868. The image above is an 1874 illustration from the book. There are several narrators of the plot, so you get many points of view and get to know some interesting characters. My favourite is the servant Gabriel Betteredge who adores Robinson Crusoe and re-reads it constantly. The novel was praised by Dorothy L. Sayers as “probably the very finest detective story ever written”. Read more
Susannah Fullerton is President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia and one of the foremost experts on her work. She provides the list below as a resource for those wishing to learn more about this remarkable writer.
On 18th July, 1817, Jane Austen died in the arms of her sister Cassandra. “I have lost such a treasure”, Cassandra wrote of her loss, “such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed.” Cassandra had lost a sister and friend, but the world had lost its greatest novelist – far, far too early! Read more
Recommended Reading – Jane Austen April 30th, 2017Susannah
Kipling has always been a controversial figure. Henry James called him “the most complete man of genius I have ever known”, but George Orwell dubbed him “a jingo-imperialist” and “disgusting”. He has gone in and out of fashion, and yet has never ceased to delight a vast readership with his brilliant verse and prose. His stories for children are some of the finest ever written, while Kim is the best novel about India written by an Englishman.
“Lest we forget” are words strongly associated with Anzac Day. They come from the poem Recessional by Rudyard Kipling. The poem was written in 1897 for the occasion of Queen Victoria‘s Diamond Jubilee.
Kipling refused to accept any payment for the poem, as he was so keen to get its message across. Read more
MOTHERS IN LITERATURE — A reflection on fictional mothers
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Some authors have written very memorably of their own mothers. J.M. Barrie published Margaret Ogilvy in 1896. His mother lost her eldest and favourite son, and poor James spent his life trying to make up for the lost boy who was his brother.
The fabulous comic writer E.F. Benson, author of the hilarious Lucia novels, wrote a book about his gay mother who was miserably married to Benson’s father, who was also Archbishop of Canterbury. His book is Mother and it was published in 1925.
A wonderful biography has been written of Mary Benson, that same mother – As Good as God, As Clever as the Devil: The Impossible Life of Mary Benson by Rodney Bolt (published 2011). And there is Colm Toibín’s new collection of essays, New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and their Families.
Other ‘mother memoirs’ include The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr, The Good Daughter: A Memoir of my Mother’s Hidden Life by Jasmin Darznik (about an Iranian woman’s search for her mother’s story), Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son’s Memoir by David Rieff (who is Susan Sontag’s son), and The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls. Margaret Drabble waited until her mother had died before she published a thinly disguised fictional portrait of her in The Peppered Moth, while Jeanette Winterson gave a devastating depiction of her evangelical mother in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and in her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?
From the feedback I have received from my previous post, it sounds as if there have been librocubicularists popping up all over the place! It is a word I’ve been trying to introduce into the conversation whenever possible, as I think it is so wonderful, and I have also been trying to put it into practice as much as possible. In my view, reading in bed is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
The BBC is making a new 4-part adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End. It stars Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen and is being filmed at the moment. It will be hard to better the 1992 film version with Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins etc, but a longer version will hopefully do full justice to the novel.
100 years ago the world was at war. In April 1917 America declared war on Germany, the Battle of Vimy Ridge took place (many Canadians were killed there), and also the Battle of Chemin des Dames. In Russia the Tsar had just abdicated and the country was engulfed in revolution, Germany was being squeezed by the British naval blockade, while in the Middle East the Ottoman Empire was losing ground to British-led forces.