The Sunday Salon

I’ve written before about the number of books I have on the go and today is no exception. Earlier this week I read Anita Shreve’s new novel Testimony, which I’ll write about in another post. Whenever I finish one book even though I’m in the middle of reading others an irrestible urge comes over me to start another. It was a bit difficult to decide but I settled on Wild Mary: the life of Mary Wesley by Patrick Marnham. I’d read and enjoyed Mary Wesley’s The Camomile Lawn many years ago and although I don’t think I’ve read anything else by her I thought this biography might be interesting. This morning’s reading took me nearly to the end of chapter 2. I stopped reading at an interesting point where Mary aged 6 refused to walk to the edge of a cliff with her mother to look down on the waves crashing over the rocks below – not because she was afraid of heights, but because she was frightened of her mother and didn’t trust her an inch. A real cliff-hanger!

Mary Wesley came from a privileged background with military connections on both sides of her family. The first chapter of the book is almost a history lesson informing me that Mary was descended from the Duke of Wellington’s older brother, Richard who became Governor-General of India and in 1797 when he was given an English barony chose the title ‘Baron Wellesley of Wellesley in Somerset’. A privileged background doesn’t always make a happy childhood and Mary, who had 16 governesses, was a “formidably obstructive child” who knew she was unwanted by her mother. From the acknowledgements and list of sources at the end of this book it  promises to be a detailed and well researched biography.

In contrast I’m also reading today Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I started it a few weeks ago and am enjoying it much more than ever I thought I would. I had no idea it was so amusing and I love the way Mark Twain interweaves commentary on racial and class prejudice with the mishaps and adventures of Huck and his companions as they make their way down the Mississippi. This morning’s reading included the wonderful mish-mash the ‘duke’ compiles of Hamlet’s soliloquy. His version mixes together quotes from Hamlet, Macbeth and Richard III and it becomes:

To be or not to be; that is the bare bodkin
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane,
But that the fear of something after death
Murders the innocent sleep,
Great nature’s second course,
And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune
Than fly to others that we know not of.

 I hope later on today to get back to Les Miserables as I haven’t made much progress with it for a while. The weather is helping me now as it’s so dark and dank outside with a steady drenching fine rain that looks as though it has settled in for the rest of the day. I was going to go outside and rake up some leaves but I think I’ll settle down with Les Miserables, maybe do some wii fit (I’m in danger of becoming a wii fit addict) and then watch the results show of Strictly Come Dancing – I can’t believe John Sergeant will survive another week, much as I like him!

12 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon

  1. I really enjoyed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when I read it. Tom Sawyer wasn’t quite as exciting, but I liked that one as well.

    You’ve got me thinking that I need to start Les Miserables up again. I had gotten about half way through about 15 years ago, but had to stop because the school season started up again and I made it a rule not to read for pleasure while college classes were in session–too much studying that would have been put off otherwise. I never managed to make it back to the novel.


  2. Wild Mary does sound suspenseful! So glad to collect another title for my to-read list.

    I enjoy Huck Finn, too. That’s always fun, when a book surpasses your expectations.


  3. I’ve heard good things about Testimony, so will be interested to hear what you thought.

    I’ve only discovered Mary Wesley for myself this year, and very much enjoyed An imaginative experience, Harnessing peacocks andThe vacillations of Poppy Carew. I’ve still got the The chamomile lawn and her bio to look forward to.

    I must also admit to being a bit of a Wii addict, although in my case (disturbingly) I like the shoot-em-up games!


  4. Huckleberry Finn is one of those deceptively good novels. You think it will be light fluff, but really, it’s very well-done. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it.

    I wish I had half the energy you do toward reading. Today here in Pennsylvania, in the U.S., it’s sort of dreary and not much motivation here.


  5. I too know the terrible temptation of starting another book halfway through another. Especially if I’ve just come back from the library with a new haul of books!

    Re: John Sergeant. My husband reckons he keeps being voted back because the judges are so horrible to him. His theory was that if they were nicer the public would see sense. Well, on Sunday he was proved wrong. I think he’s great but perhaps enough is enough now as good dancers are starting to be knocked out. My personal favourite is Tom something or other.


  6. Thanks everyone – Huck Finn is much better than I thought it would be, Testimony is good – but not my favourite Anita Shreve book and my wii addiction is tennis. I think it’s amazing you can do yoga with a wii fit board!

    Cath, my husband thinks people keep voting for him to keep Kristina in – she’s his favourite. I like Tom too and thought he deserved 10s on Saturday.


  7. Ooh, Huck Finn! I’d love to reread that sometime soon! And I’d like to read Testimony at some point as well.. though I’ve been thoroughly disappointed with Shreve’s recent novels.


  8. I really need to reread Huck Finn as an adult. I know most of it went over my head when I read it…

    And I’m really curious about wii fit–what do you like to do on it? Should I get one? We already have a wii that my boys play all the time…


  9. I have the Shreve book on my library list (am trying to hold off checking anything out until January when I join in their adult winter reading program), so I’m looking forward to hearing what you thought. I am exactly the same–always thinking ahead to what I want to read next! I went through a big Mary Wesley phase some years ago and read a slew of her books–really like her work! It was a pity when she passed away, though very cool that she didn’t even start writing until much later in life. I’d love to read that bio eventually, too! And glad to hear your still working on Les Mis! 🙂


  10. Michelle, I’ve found Anita Shreve’s recent books have not been as good for me as her earlier ones. Testimony made me uncomfortable to start with but I warmed to it by the end.

    Gentle Reader I like the wii sports particularly wii tennis and bowling. The wii fit is amazingly good – I like the aerobic exercises, the balance ones and yoga. It’s odd because I’m hopeless at the balance exercises but my balance in yoga is excellent – but then I used to go to yoga classes for years (not any more though). I can only say that I’m really glad we got it.

    Danielle, Mary Wesley’s life story is amazing and I really must read more of her books. I was going to wait for the paperback of Testimony but my husband bought it for me as a surprise present – lovely. I now have all her books.


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