I am reading Wives and Daughters again. I am just easing my way into it, still in the midst of the preparations for young Molly’s visit to the Towers. It is such a familiar book that I am always torn between savouring each line and rushing ahead to greet my favourite characters, relive my favourite scenes. As much as I enjoy the Miss Brownings, their flutterings remind me how long I have to wait to see the magnificent Cynthia in action. As much as I revel in that first glimpse of Clare’s self-centeredness, I love her so much more a few years later when she becomes Hyacinth Gibson and her true character is exposed to her new family. I missed my annual rereading of this book last year (having been caught up in the Twentieth Century with A Century of Books) and it is a delight to return to it.
To me, Wives and Daughters is the ideal summer book. I always feel the urge to turn to it when the weather turns hot and there is nothing more satisfying than sitting in a cool place on a hot summer afternoon, getting caught up in Molly’s story. The first time I read it was in summer, probably a decade ago now, but I did not have the privilege of reading it in such leisurely conditions as I now enjoy. Or perhaps I merely lacked the patience to wait until I could arrange myself in such comfort. Instead, I read it hungrily, gulping down a few pages anytime I had a few free minutes. I remember finishing it on the bus coming home from my summer job, missing my stop because I was so caught up in the ending. Or, more importantly, the lack of an ending.
Last week, Hayley described her perfect summer reading as “something Victorian suitable for use as a doorstop when it’s not being read.” I feel the same way and Wives and Daughters fits the bill exactly. Trollope might be the only author more suitable for summer reading and, based on reviews that have been popping up recently, I know I am not the only blogger who has turned to him in recent weeks. I read his The Three Clerks last week and really enjoyed it (and will hopefully manage to review it in the next few days). Once I’m done Wives and Daughters, I am already planning my return to Trollope’s Barsetshire with The Small House at Allington.
We had a long weekend here and before starting Wives and Daughters I made the most of it in terms of reading. I’ve picked up a bit of a head cold – a most unpleasant thing to have at any time but especially when it is warm and lovely outside – but that does mean that I’ve had more time for reading. I’ve begun my acquaintance with Margery Sharp, reading first Cluny Brown and then The Eye of Love. Sharp lives up to her name in both but I found myself rather underwhelmed by The Eye of Love. The story focuses on a pair of plain, middle-aged lovers whose ten year affair is disrupted when he – Harry – is forced to engage himself to the daughter of a business associate in order to keep his own business afloat. Harry and Dolores are a touching and absurdly romantic pair, desperately in love and ignorant of how ridiculous their adoration appears to the outside world, but still their story failed to touch me. Martha, Dolores’ stolid and self-sufficient nine year old niece is the star of the book but even so it felt a bit of a chore to work through to the finish. I had checked the sequel – Martha in Paris – out from the library already but I am not sure if I shall read it. Sharp is quite funny in Cluny Brown, less so in The Eye of Love, but in both books she simply takes far too long to tell the story and ties in characters and storylines that are of no interest. I can understand why she appeals to others but she wears my patience.
More satisfyingly, I also reread The Best Man by Kristan Higgins this weekend. It came out this past February and I read it for the first time on the day of release; it was in fact the novel that, after almost a year of Kobo ownership, made me break down and buy my first ebook, having until then relied on library ebooks. And now I’ve read it again and I haven’t entirely ruled out the possibility of reading it at least once more before 2013 is done. I love Higgins’ contemporary romances (she has written ten to date) and this one, the story of a young woman who returns to her hometown after having been jilted in the most embarrassing fashion at the altar several years before, is one of my favourites (Just One of the Guys and All I Ever Wanted being my other favs). I love the quirky and outspoken families and communities that are so central to Higgins’ characters’ lives and just the general sense of humour and warmth that sustains all of her books. She has a new book coming out at the end of October (The Perfect Match) and you just know I am going to be reading that the day it’s released.
But for now, back to Molly.