MissWatson's BFBs in 2019


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MissWatson's BFBs in 2019

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Jan 3, 2019, 6:41am

Hello, I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season! I'm just back and full of enthusiasm to tackle the shelves, but I'm not setting goals. Just reading where my fancy takes me...

Jan 3, 2019, 8:12am


Jan 3, 2019, 10:54am

Thanks, Jean!

Jan 3, 2019, 1:25pm

Hi Birgit. Lovely to see you here too!

Jan 6, 2019, 3:18pm

Lovely to see you here again Birgit my dear.

Edited: Nov 24, 2019, 3:40am

So here's the list:

1. Son Excellence Eugène Rougon by Émile Zola, 620 pages
2. The Kellys and the O'Kellys by Anthony Trollope, 680 pages
3. Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas, 2048 pages
4. Empire of grass by Tad Williams, 668 pages
5. The three clerks by Anthony Trollope, 996 pages
6. Waverley by Walter Scott, 731 pages

Feb 5, 2019, 3:45am

My first BFB of the year is part of the Rougon-Macquart series, and I can well imagine reading the entire series over the next few years.
This one was surprisingly easy to read, although the topic was not very engaging: Eugène Rougon has reached the pinnacle of French politics as a minister of Napoléon III, after helping him win power, and enforces his authoritarian persecution of republicans. None of the characters are very likable, and I am still puzzled by Rougon's opponent, an Italian adventuress with some very disturbing habits. How did she manipulate men into doing her bidding? As a look at French society and history in this time it is very interesting.

Mar 22, 2019, 10:54am

The Kellys and the O'Kellys is one of Trollope's earliest novels, set in Ireland. Two young men want to get married to a woman with a fortune, and there's a lot to be learned about life in Ireland in 1844. Interesting, but I didn't love it as much as the Barsetshire novels.

Mar 31, 2019, 5:25am

And now for a really Big Fat Book: Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas, which in my edition (4 mass market paperbacks in French from 1967) runs to 2048 pages, including an introduction, an afterword and notes.

It is the first in a series of books about the time of Marie Antoinette who arrives in France at the beginning of the book. It ends with the death of Louis XV, and in between we meet an enormous number of real people, like Rousseau, La Dubarry and her clique, the duc de Richelieu, and of course Balsamo alias Cagliostro, and the fictional Taverneys. For three volumes, nothing much happens, just people scheming and playing intrigues by means of barbed conversations, and I was tempted to abandon it. Then, in the last, things pick up. Balsamo's plans fall apart with the death of his wife, Andrée Taverney becomes a victim of her father's ambition and becomes pregnant, and her adoring swain steals the child and places it with a farmer's family near Villers-Cotterets (which is Dumas' birthplace, by the way), thus setting the scene for more adventures in the next books.
This was written over two years and published as a newspaper serial, and it shows. People had more time and fewer other distractions in those days.

Edited: Apr 4, 2019, 9:59pm

There can't be many people willing to put in that much time and effort to read such as big book. I hope it was worthwhile and enjoyable.

Apr 7, 2019, 2:24pm

Thanks! The first part was a bit of a slog, but things started moving towards the finish, and although some of the events were not quite credible, Dumas has a way of making you experience history as they thought it happened. I was surprised to find an allusion to a trashy romance Marat wrote in his youth and which was only published in 1848 (1846?), but Dumas managed to work it in.

Apr 27, 2019, 7:02am

>9 MissWatson: Wow, Birgit. THAT really is a BFB!

Apr 27, 2019, 5:04pm

>12 connie53: Hi Connie! Yes, it is, and I'll consider carefully before I tackle the next in the series.

May 20, 2019, 8:08am

I have just acquired Empire of Grass which has 688 pages. Only waiting to finish my current read...

May 29, 2019, 6:58pm

>14 MissWatson: Actually, it's been 668 pages including the appendixes. A riveting story, but I do wish Simon and Miriamele wouldn't act quite so foolishly.

Aug 6, 2019, 5:58am

And I have finished another BFB, The three clerks by Anthony Trollope clocks in at 996 pages. But only because it is the original 1858 edition published in three volumes, as was usual at the time. It is wonderful how digitisation puts these books at one's fingertips, to enjoy the original layout and typeface. And in this case we can also see the first owner's corrections of the typos.
The story is a little uneven, three young men start their careers in the Civil Service at the same time and eventually get married to three sisters. In his later works he creates much more convincing female characters, these here are more wish fulfilment than real people.

Nov 24, 2019, 3:48am

Finally another BFB, most of my other books just made it over the 500 pages mark. But my copy of Waverley runs to 731 pages, including an essay by the editor, Andrew Land, Scott's preface for the 1829 edition and a few fragments he wrote before this novel. I also read my OUP in Parallel, which contains two more prefaces by Scott, plus an introductionand very copious notes. I think every single page of the book hat at least one note, so I was constantly flipping to the back. Most of them were helpful: translations of Latin quotes, identification of literary quotes ("Brush up your Shakespeare" comes to mind) and explanations about historical characters.
So, while it has been a slow read, it has also been a rewarding one and not nearly as stuffy in style as I expected.