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Reading Life: 11th April 2018

A photograph of a stalked flower bed at Hever Castle

I’m preparing for my next Southampton event; having been to Cobbett Road Library – the one recently used for the Cheryl Butler talk I covered last month – and knowing now a fair bit about it, it seemed the right venue in which to go ahead. I’ve arranged for Claire Fuller to join us in May and whilst there won’t be a video recording to share, we will have photographs and I’m hoping I can get some notes down. I’m catching up on Fuller’s work and loving it; in Our Endless Numbered Days, which is about a young girl whose father takes her to a remote location to live for years in secret on the pretense that the world outside is gone, the writing is such that there’s a fantastical element to it; the shock isn’t contained by it, but the book is unique for it, almost at times evoking a children’s adventure story and very unlike other stories of the same type for it.

When you finish a book on a Kobo, you are taken back to the home screen where a selection of your newly-added books are shown, and if you turn off the device following this, the screen will often default to a picture of a book you’ve started sometime previously, whether one you’ve actively started to read or just taken a peak at. Prior to finishing Emmeline a few days ago, I’d had thoughts of beginning Aphra Behn’s work, but when the Kobo showed Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote I decided that maybe my plan wasn’t the best thing at that moment and decided to take the Kobo’s mechanical suggestion to continue reading works from the 1700s, particularly because it also meant continuing Project Charlotte – Lennox is number 4 of 5.

A picture of Charlotte Lennox

There is just one problem and I’m not sure yet what to do – it is entirely a parody of the Spanish book, where I had thought perhaps there would be a few references, and as such I wonder whether I ought to read Cervantes first. In another situation I might simply put the later book aside and read the first for context, but I remember the bookmark that remained stuck around 2/3s of the way through my father’s copy of Don Quixote for years and I know how big a book it is and… that’s one heck of a commitment to make. (I expect the bookmark is still there, but recently Dad culled his shelves of a lot of super classics and books that brought back fond memories and I’ve found it hard to look.)

I hope that simply by knowing the basics of the original – loss of sanity, chivalry, shooting at windmills… the 1980s Nik Kershaw song… this is the sort of book that might stand alone.

Aside from this, I’ve been reading about Lennox’s life. Well connected but yet incredibly unknown otherwise, she was friends with Samuel Johnson and Samuel Richardson, and likely knew, through the former, Frances Burney and other – now less well-known – female writers such as Elizabeth Carter and Hannah More, but her books were published without credit and she made little money, relying on money from the Royal Literary Fund after separating from her husband. The Female Quixote was fairly popular, and she created the first comparative study of Shakespeare’s work, but despite the fact information on her seems to eclipse that of the other female writers I’ve mentioned above (barring Burney), she’s very obscure today.

Away from literature, the defining moment of the last few weeks came last Friday when the England Ladies’ Football arrived in Southampton to play their World Cup qualifier against Wales. It was quite surreal – I’ve seen them play once before but having them in Southampton was incredible and the stadium was pretty packed. It was a 0-0 match that was surprisingly good to watch because England had 22 shots at the goal; the ball rarely passed over the halfway line. They are currently 2nd in the world.

Today’s question must be bookish:

How do you deal with reading around the subject and reading source material – do you cover the originals first?


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