Notes on various things

I began Anne Brontë’s novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a week or so ago, and so far it’s been great. I do love nineteenth-century novels, and I miss them if I go too long without reading one.  I love their length and the way the best authors can string a story out so it lasts a long time but never feels slow or dull. I’m having an experience with this book that I used to have all the time, which is that it’s the main book I’m reading (I dip into The Recognitions now and then, but mostly it’s Brontë), so I find myself absorbed in it at various points in the day and I feel like I’m immersed in its world. I like reading multiple books at once, but it does diffuse that feeling of absorption.

The story so far is good — it’s got all the typical elements of a 19C novel, a frame narrative, stories within stories, women of uncertain reputation, a marriage plot, intrigues about money. It also has an amusingly unreliable narrator, one who strikes me as silly and petty and foolish but who is absolutely convinced of his own rectitude and wisdom. And now I’m in a section with another narrator entirely, one who strikes me as much more reliable, but about whom I still have some doubts. I like unreliable narrators very much, if only because they offer a reader so much food for thought.

And yes, I’m still plugging away at The Recognitions, at least now and then. I have about 110 pages left to go, and yes, I’m counting. I admire the book and I’ve enjoyed reading at least parts of its, but at this point I have to admit I’m ready for it to be over. I might have fared better with it if I’d read it faster in order to stay immersed in its world, but I’ve put it aside now and then, which has meant I’ve forgotten some of the characters and plot events, and this really isn’t a book where things are easy to keep track of even in the best of circumstances. There’s even a website that offers a plot summary, and yet it’s still hard going. But I will persevere. There’s no way I’m quitting this 950-page book with only a little bit left to go!

And now for a cycling update. Things were going very well right up until about 1 1/2 weeks ago; up until that point, I was riding hard, doing fine in races, and having lots of fun. But then I caught a cold and missed a race because of it. I was hoping to recover quickly, but I spent a week feeling tired and achy. I’m back on the bike now, but I’m not sure how much fitness I’ve lost, and I still haven’t quite shaken the cold.

What interests me about this is how much my feelings shift over time. At the end of March I was completely and utterly enthralled with the riding I was doing. I was determined to find time for it no matter what the cost. After I got sick, that feeling evaporated, and I found myself grateful I couldn’t ride, so I had the chance to get a little more work done. I was grateful I could use the cold as an excuse to sleep in and spend more time lounging around. Now that I’m back on the bike, I’m enjoying riding, but also not quite feeling my former enthrallment. I expect, however, that the enthrallment will return soon enough. Isn’t it odd the way, over the course of a short week and a half, so much can change? I feel like I don’t recognize myself half the time.


Filed under Books, Fiction

9 responses to “Notes on various things

  1. You are so good to have almost made it through The Recognitions. I feel very badly about the blog because so many books leapfrogged this one that I haven’t posted there this year. That’s awful. But I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall years ago and absolutely loved it. I know just what you mean about having your feelings go up and down. For me, it’s a question of confidence. If I feel confident, I’m up for my challenges. But lots of things dent my confidence which is always fragile – illness, fatigue, trouble in other areas of my life, or just a mood. It’s amazing I ever have a handle on it, really!


  2. I seem to consistently be in the minority with regards to TofWH. I liked about half of it, and then I found that it got repetitive (we pretty much witnessed the same scenes repeatedly without anything fresh to hold my interest) and so I started skimming it to get to the end. It might have been a mood, and I will probably reread it at some point. I’ll be interested to hear how you like it as you go along.

    >After I got sick, that feeling evaporated, and I found myself grateful I couldn’t ride…

    I can so resonate with this–I walk every morning, but a cold in the winter will cause me to skip one day and that simple change in routine upsets the mind/body balance to the point where I am looking forward to skipping more days.


  3. The Bronte sounds like wonderful fun. And you have been so good about The Recognitions! I am still stuck in the same place I was in January when the winter quarter started. I had good intentions to get back into it during my quarter break but it didn’t happen. If only the book weren’t so huge I could take it on the bus with me. That’s where most of me reading happens these days.

    You’ll get back in the swing again with the cycling. It always surprises me how easy it is for a short interruption to completely ruin all forms of motivation.


  4. I’d like to read Anne Bronte sometime. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall sounds like something I would like. And I like unreliable narrators, too, they always add a nice dimension to the story. You know I am a more than one book at a time reader, but when I really click with a book or get to a part where I can’t put it down, I will usually give it all my attention, so I know what you mean about being really absorbed in the story. I hope you’re feeling better–I can understand how it might be hard to be consistent in your feelings when it comes to races depending on your health or how busy you are with work!


  5. I think I just gave up on Gaddis…


  6. Mr W

    Tenant of WH sounds great! I will be interested to read your final report on it. As for Gaddis – only 150 pages to go? You can do it, Dorothy! I promise you, there’s a big finish. You’ll be glad you persevered 🙂


  7. Sarah

    I love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, so am glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I agree one of the pleasures of a good 19th-century novel is being long but not slow or dull.

    Sorry to hear The Recognitions has lost its appeal, although it’s not a book I’ve read or immediately plan to.


  8. verbivore

    I am incredibly impressed with your perserverance with The Recognitions. I have let allowed it to remain in limbo while I focus on other projects.

    I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall last year and enjoyed it – I’ll be curious to see what you think of the ending. I remember being surprised, then a little angry and then everything was okay and I was happy with how things wrapped up.


  9. Litlove — I feel badly about not posting on the Gaddis blog too, but I just haven’t had the mental energy to do it, and I may not even do a wrap-up post when I do finish the book. I feel like I’ve failed the book, but that will just have to be. Losing energy may be a function of confidence for me too — the riding was going great, but now I’m worried I may have lost fitness because of my cold, and I’m uncertain about racing again. And I start to feel like a crappy teacher, and that makes it harder to do my work … yes, I suspect you’re right.

    JaneGS — I’m continuing to enjoy the Bronte book, but I can see what you mean about the repetition. The scenes in the middle of the book are pretty similar. I can’t say I’m bothered by it, but I do see that the wrong mood might make them hard going. The book may well be worth another try, though. And yes, breaking up the routine can be deadly. The hardest part of a lot of activities is getting started — it’s no fun to have to get started again after a break!

    Stefanie — if I were as busy as you, I’m sure I wouldn’t be as far as I am in the Gaddis book either. Putting that book down for a long time is hard — I mean, it’s hard to pick it back up again. It takes a certain momentum to get through it, I think. And you’re right that I’ll get back into the cycling again — these things are definitely cyclical, so I just have to wait!

    Danielle — I definitely think you’d like the Bronte book. It has lots of interesting things to say about women and marriage. It has surprised me quite a bit, in fact, as I thought the tenant was male, but I was wrong! Yes, I am feeling better, thank you. Now if only school would end …

    Emily — I don’t blame you in the least. I’m glad I stuck with it, but it is a LOT of hard work!

    Mr. W. — oh, I’m glad to hear about the finish. That gives me some much-needed motivation! And you’ll definitely get a report on the Bronte book, never fear! 🙂

    Sarah — another person who loved The Tenant of WH — very cool! I didn’t know so many of my readers had already read the book. I think the Gaddis book is well worth reading, but you do need some serious motivation!

    Verbivore — thank you! I’ve sort of allowed it to remain in limbo too, at least for short periods of time, but remaining in the middle of books nags at me, and that keeps me going. Very interesting about the ending — I’m especially intrigued now. I will be sure to report on my response, even if I don’t give away any details.


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