The Lost Traveller by Antonia White is a follow up novel to Frost in May. White changed her heroine’s name from Nanda to Clara and this odd quirk annoys me more than it should. The Lost Traveller follows Nanda/Clara’s life after leaving her Catholic school for financial reasons.
Throughout the novel Clara wishes for love, wrestles with religion, makes friends in her new school, forges an identity, tolerates her mother (she is awesome) and desperately tries to please her father (he’s an asshole). In short she is a teenager. The reader follows Clara on her search for meaning and purpose and eventually Clara settles on becoming a governess to a ten-year-old boy, Charles. Clara adores Charles and becomes friends with a soldier, Alfie, on leave.
Clara alternates between moodiness and elation, clear purpose and floundering for meaning. Her anxious self-analysis and yearning seem typical for a teenager. Also trapped in an adolescent-like reality are Clara’s parents. The Lost Traveller exposes the internal struggle each parent feels as they work through resolving their own identity and place in the world.
Writing about this novel is difficult. As far as subject matter and characters it was very much like an Elizabeth Taylor or Anita Brookner (dark, the internal struggle greater than outward strife, female characters, etc), BUT, the writing just falls a little flat for me. It took eons (hyperbole, duh) to make it through this book. I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading and I wasn’t invested in the characters. I felt as if White were telling me what was going on rather than experiencing it myself. Towards the end of the novel the writing feels stronger, but there are expanses of the story that feel like filler. I don’t mind if a writer puts in “extra stuff” for several pages to express mood and setting, but I’m going to need some beautiful writing. The writing was meh and made descriptions of farmhouses and dressing for dinner boring. Of course boredom means that shocking and exciting elements get a half-disinterested yawn. The poor writing and lack of a real build are most evident in both the mother and father’s various urges towards infidelity. It came out of nowhere, climaxed quickly and dissipated (and I am completely aware of the “that’s what she said-ness” of that description).
I’ll continue int he series, but this book was underwhelming and could have been effective in the hands of a better writer.
~~~ Stats ~~~
Started: 27 April 2015
Finished: 9 May 2015
Challenges: Virago Project, Classics Club Spin
Stars: 3 out of 5 stars
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one of the best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. My favorite thing about this short story is that one *can* read it many different ways. In some respects it reminds me of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. While James intended for that story to be a ghost story many people have read it to be about insanity, female sexual oppression, or really evil little children.
In the same vein most reader’s see “The Yellow Wallpaper” as representative of female oppression during the author’s time. I suppose you could make a case for something paranormal to be happening, but I really feel that the figure in the yellow wallpaper is allegorical. I, however, have read this story two completely different ways.
Postpartum Depression: The narrator expresses that she misses her baby and that the baby is being cared for my someone else. She is also trapped in a nursery. In fact, in the Victorian era childbirth was thought to often be a “trigger” for insanity and some women were even institutionalized for insanity after giving birth.
This last reading of “The Yellow Wallpaper” has me thinking that this short story is really about domestic violence. The narrator’s husband keeps her child away from her, bars visitors, is away all the time yet monitors her every move, keeps her in an isolated area of the house, forbids her to write, tells others that she is insane, and gaslights her by repeatedly telling her she is ill. She must even keep the “freeing and escape” of the figure in the yellow wallpaper a secret. The most telling sentence for me that this is a thinly veiled story of domestic violence occurs after the narrator refuses for her to have guests because of her illness, “there is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.” A page later, in talking about the wallpaper, “and it sticketh closer than a brother – they must have had perseverance as well as hatred.” The narrator feels trapped and sees everything around her as threatening violence. Only when “she” is nearly “free” does she feel in control. If you are doubtful that this story could be read as a tale of domestic violence, then read this about the signs of an abusive relationship. John has many of the traits of a abuser and our narrator has many traits of a victim.
(Note: If you enjoyed this story then I think you’d like The Victorian Chaise-Longue; it reminded me very much of “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Here is a link to my review.)
~~~ Stats ~~~
Started: 21 April 2015
Finished: 22 April 2015
Challenges: Virago Project, Read-a-thon Read-along
Owned/Borrowed/Library: library copy
Stars: 5 out of 5 stars
Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 16. I finally had to go to sleep for a few hours. I woke five hours later and finished strong.
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Peter and Max by Bill Willingham was great! Easy to read but with fantastic characters and a thrilling plot.
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I think Read-a-thon is managed extremely well, but I feel like if Read-a-thon keeps growing there will be some real problems (like the lovely Andi and Heather feeling like they are in The Yellow Wallpaper). I don’t really have a suggestion for accomodating that growth, except I worry that spreading Read-a-thon over so many social media channels could stretch volunteers and lines of communication too thin.
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Praise be to the hashtag! I was mostly on Twitter and Instagram and it was so easy to find everyone.
How many books did you read? Three completed and one short story collection in progress. I didn’t read as much this year. I had to take frequent breaks because my glasses haven’t arrived yet. Blurry vision and headaches are no good.
What were the names of the books you read? Peter and Max by Bill Willingham, The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, and Fairest,v. 1: Wide Awake by BIll Willingham
Which book did you enjoy most? Fairest! I love some girl power in my graphic novel!
Which did you enjoy least? Honestly I enjoyed all of them! #winning
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? Cheering on instagram was GREAT! So many young people participated! It was just the huge number of people made cheering feel a bit more like a chore. Not that I didn’t enjoy cheering, but I had to comment and go the next person. I didn’t have as much time to hang out and get to know new folks. That’s totally okay! One thing I DO NOT LIKE are the people who complain and are demanding. They whine about people not cheering them, or the number of cheers, and they are generally buzzkills. I honestly feel that folks honestly concerned with “where is my cheer” are there to gain clicks and visits. I love the idea of a more organic form of cheering. Like, pick a platform, look up the hashtag, and everyone cheer for each other. Pretty sure the cheer-haters didn’t volunteer in any capacity, so screw ’em. The more you put in to read-a-thon the more you get out of it.
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Duh. Read-a-thon or Die! I will always do read-a-thon work schedules and children allowing. Sign me up to participate in everything: mini-challenge, co-host, and cheering!
1. What are you reading right now? Peter and Max by Bill Willingham!
2. How many books have you read so far? one graphic novel. I’m also midway through a short story collection. I’ve done a ton of social media and cheering! The chat on “The Yellow Wallpaper” was awesome! I think read-a-thon gets better each time.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I actually have no idea. I might go with more graphic novels.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? YES. The two-year old was well-behaved and played quietly. One half-hour whine fest from the four-year old before bed and then one epic teen meltdown. All is well now. Let’s just say prom season can be rough.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That there are folks who complain about a free event that is run completely by volunteers. Let’s all be kind and patient, m’kay?
Pages Read: 324
Currently Reading: Dipping into Peter and Max
Books Finished: 1 (Fairest, v.1 – Wide Awake by Bill Willingham)
What’s Up Next: Hubs is making a frozen pizza since our kids ate ALL THE PASTA at dinner tonight. Reading, tweeting, cheering.
Snacks Eaten: Tofu stir-fry for lunch, chips and dip, coffee, water, a wee bit of pasta and green beans
Miscellaneous info and oddities: My mini-challenge!
Picture of the Hour:
First off, no… that is not my Read-a-thon stack, but it does contain my two favorite things: Coffee and Books (okay, three… I really like owls). Right now we are in the thick of Read-a-thon and I know you all are reaching for some sort of caffeinated goodness. If not, you’re a robot. I’m going to make this challenge really quick and easy:
-snap a picture of your current beverage of choice AND your current read
-post it to your platform of choice (Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, blog, etc)
-use the hashtags #bookishbrews AND #readathon
-leave a link to your picture post in the comments section
You must follow these instructions precisely to win!
At the end of the mini-challenge I will randomly pick a winner for a Starbucks gift card.
Get to percolatin’!
Pages Read: 178
Currently Reading: Dipping into The Virago Book of Fairy Tales
Books Finished: 1 (Fairest, v.1 – Wide Awake by Bill Willingham)
What’s Up Next: More fairy tales and starting Peter and Max
Snacks Eaten: Clif bar for breakfast, 3 cups of coffee, water, Mr. Goodbar
Miscellaneous info and oddities: I’m getting ready to co-host for a few hours, find me over at 24hourreadathon.com!
From the Virago Book of Fairy Tales, v.1
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Gainesville, Georgia! It is pouring rain and pretty icky out. HELLO, PERFECT READING WEATHER!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I’m really looking forward to Tanith Lee’s White as Snow.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Spinach Artichoke Dip and Multigrain chips,
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I actually leave my house for most of the day to do Read-a-Thon. I work at a library and i just come to my office and hang out. Being in a small apartment with three kids and a husband is not conducive to 24-hours of reading. Shout out to my husband, Sam, for letting me indulge my nerd-whims.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I’m going to make sure I take plenty of breaks for my eyes this Read-a-thon. My glasses still haven’t arrived and I don’t want to strain my eyes to the point they have to check into an L.A. rehab facility to recuperate from exhaustion.