Category Archives: British Lit

Inimitable Jeeves

0023a0b3_mediumI’d heard of P.G. Wodehouse and of his famed character the valet, Jeeves, but I’d never read these novels. Last week, I needed an audio book for what I rightly expected would be long drives in L.A. So I checked out the audio book, The Inimitable Jeeves.

I usually don’t listen to audio books, but in the case of The Inimitable Jeeves, the audio book is the way to go. The narrator Jonathon Cecil does a marvelous job reading with terrific voices for each character whether he speaks Etonian English, Cockney, American and all other accents.

The stories themselves delight. Bertie Wooster, Jeeves’ employer, gets himself into amazingly ridiculous situations. The more he tries to lay low, the more old goofy schoolmates, troublesome cousins or his matchmaking aunt get him tangled up into social seaweed, that only the wise Jeeves can get him out of.

I liked the stories so much, that I played it twice. I’m now off to the library to get another Jeeves book on tape.

Just a few wonderful quotations:

“We Woosters do not lightly forget. At least, we do – some things – appointments, and people’s birthdays, and letters to post, and all that – but not an absolutely bally insult like the above.”

“Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests!”

“How does he look, Jeeves?”
“What does Mr Bassington-Bassington look like?”
“It is hardly my place, sir, to criticize the facial peculiarities of your friends.”


Tags: , , , , ,

Red Velvet


Dion Johnstone as Ira Aldridge, CST

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presented an excellent production of Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti. The story of the first African American to play Othello on the London state in 1833, the story explores racism. As we know, abolition was a hot issue in the mid-1800s. In England there were protests against the slave trade.

When Ian Keen, who starred as Othello, fell ill the manager of the Covent Garden Theater chose Ira Aldridge, a black actor from America to play Othello. Some in the cast were excited and supportive, but Ian’s son and another actor were strongly opposed.

Aldridge was a fine, thoughtful actor, whose goal was to work in London. He takes his art seriously and gives a passionate performance the first night. However, the critics were shocked to see an actor of African heritage on stage and their reviews were venomous. The manager, Pierre LaPorte is a good friend of Aldridge and he counsels the actor to tone down his performance. Yet we can see that Aldridge can’t rein in his perfectionism. His desire to bring Othello to life as he reads the play leads to disaster. A consummate professional, Aldridge pushes the edges of his performance.

The performances were all pitch perfect and the play was compelling as it showed a chapter of theater history, I wasn’t aware of. The play has been produced in London and New York. If it comes to your hometown, I highly recommend you check it out.

Comments Off on Red Velvet

Posted by on January 22, 2018 in 19th Century, British Lit, British literature, drama, historical drama


Tags: , , , , , ,

2018 Reading Challenge


I’ve made up a reading challenge for myself. I have done‘s challenges where I read a certain number of books per month. This time I’m adding some themes and other specifics to spice things up.

Susan’s 2018 Reading Challenge

January – read a memoir and another book that’ll help me change my outlook (i.e. achieve a resolution)

February – read a 19th century novel and a religious book

March – read a book written by a Russian author

April – read a play by Shakespeare and commentary in a Norton Classic edition

May – read a detective story

June – read a book of historical fiction

July – read a travel book

August – read a humorous book

September – read a book by a Japanese author

October – read something scary

November – read a book a friend has recommended

December – read a children’s book and a story or book with a Christmas theme

Comments Off on 2018 Reading Challenge

Posted by on January 1, 2018 in book lovers, British Lit, British literature, Children's Lit, fiction, French Lit, humor, non-fiction, play, Travel Writing


Tags: ,

Poem of the Week

New Year’s Eve

A.E. Houseman

The end of the year fell chilly
    Between a moon and a moon;
Thorough the twilight shrilly
    The bells rang, ringing no tune.
The windows stained with story,
    The walls with miracle scored,
Were hidden for gloom and glory
    Filling the house of the Lord.
Arch and aisle and rafter
    And roof-tree dizzily high
Were full of weeping and laughter
    And song and saying good-bye.
There stood in the holy places
    A multitude none could name,
Ranks of dreadful faces
    Flaming, transfigured in flame.
Crown and tiar and mitre
    Were starry with gold and gem;
Christmas never was whiter
    Than fear on the face of them.
In aisles that emperors vaulted
    For a faith the world confessed,
Abasing the Host exalted,
    They worshipped towards the west.
They brought with laughter oblation;
    They prayed, not bowing the head;
They made without tear lamentation,
    And rendered me answer and said:
“0 thou that seest our sorrow,
    It fares with us even thus:
To-day we are gods, to-morrow
    Hell have mercy on us.
“Lo, morning over our border
    From out of the west comes cold;
Down ruins the ancient order
    And empire builded of old.
“Our house at even is queenly
    With psalm and censers alight:
Look thou never so keenly
    Thou shalt not find us to-night.
“We are come to the end appointed
    With sands not many to run:
Divinities disanointed
    And kings whose kingdom is done.
“The peoples knelt down at our portal,
    All kindreds under the sky;
We were gods and implored and immortal
    Once; and to-day we die.“
They turned them again to their praying,
    They worshipped and took no rest
Singing old tunes and saying
    “We have seen his star in the west,“
Old tunes of the sacred psalters,
    Set to wild farewells;
And I left them there at their altars
    Ringing their own dead knells.
Comments Off on Poem of the Week

Posted by on December 28, 2017 in British Lit, British literature, fiction, poetry


Tags: , , ,

Child in the Manger

child manger

By Liesbet Sleger, A Child in the Manger is a wonderful book to introduce young children (2 – 4 years old) to the story of Jesus’ birth. It’s a simple telling with few words that’ll need explanation.

The illustrations look almost like a child’s drawing with their bold outlines. The colors are cheerful as is the tone.

Comments Off on Child in the Manger

Posted by on December 10, 2017 in British Lit, Children's Lit, Religion, Spirituality


Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Book of Will


What a fun play! Written by Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will at the Northlight Theater till December 17th tells the story of how without the effort of his friends, we wouldn’t have an authentic collection of William Shakespeare’s plays. In 1620 after Will had passed on, his friends were fed up with bad Shakespearean plays. Some were bad versions patched up with garbled versions of the plays made from copyists in the audience who tried to take down everything that was said. Some were just plays written by hacks who tried to copy Shakespeare’s style.

The play begins in a pub near The Globe theater where three of Shakespeare’s friends Richard Burbage, John Heminges, Henry Condell, actors from the King’s Men’s troupe and Condell’s daughter Elizabeth bemoan the horrible fakery that passes for Shakespeare. When Burbage dies suddenly they realize the only chance for passing these masterpiece plays down to posterity is to collect and publish a folio. It’s an expensive undertaking that is complicated by the lack of a full set of originals. A few plays are here, another bunch are with a scrivener, most actors only got their part, not the full play so some had to be carefully put together. No respectable printer wanted to touch the project so Heminges and Condell had to settle for a slimy, greedy cheat.

The play is delightful as it weaves memorable passaged of the Bard’s work throughout the story, which is well paced. The characters include Shakespeare’s wife, daughter and mistress, and Heminges’ and Condell’s wives and and so there is some female influence supporting the impossible project. The Northlight’s set and costumes were perfect. I’m tempted to go again.

What’s great about the Northlight is free parking and every seat has a clear view.

Now I want to visit the Newberry Library and see the First Folio in person.

Comments Off on The Book of Will

Posted by on November 27, 2017 in book lovers, British Lit, British literature, drama, historical drama, postaweek, rare books


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Moonstone


Told by a several different narrators, all with different personalities and motives, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone entertains from start to finish. It begins with a family’s black sheep bequeathing a large, expensive jewel, the moonstone of the title, to his niece Rachel. The moonstone originally was a sacred jewel in India and three former Brahmans have come to England to get it back no matter what.

Rachel receives the moonstone on her 18th birthday when many have gathered for her party. She flaunts the stone all night and then puts it in a cabinet in her bedroom. During the night it’s stolen. Who did it? The Indian jugglers, who came by out of the blue? One of the servants–particularly the maid who had been caught stealing by her previous employer? Or a guest who’s in need of money? It could be anyone and Collins keeps the surprises coming chapter after chapter.

I enjoyed the humor and how the story was as much about the personalities of the characters and their relationships as it was about finding the culprit who took the cursed moonstone. I will soon read another Wilkie Collins’ story, that’s for sure.

Comments Off on The Moonstone

Posted by on October 11, 2016 in British Lit, British literature, fiction


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,