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!