Jul 12, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Book Coveting: Victoriana

The Sunday Salon.com

So, just because I'm not buying any more books in the near future it doesn't mean I can't covet them, right? Today's book coveting post was brought on by the fact that last week I spotted a book called The Victorian Woman Question in Contemporary Feminist Fiction at the library. Since I seem to be obsessed with neo-Victorian novels lately, I went through the index and wrote down the titles of any books I wasn't familiar with. And then looking them up online led to yet more books, and...you know how it is. Before I knew it I had myself a reading list, and I thought I'd share it with you:

  • Electricity by Victoria Glendinning: set in the 1880s, at the time of rapid progress of what could be done with electricity, this is the story of Charlotte Mortimer, a young woman who escapes the confinement of her upbringing and leads an unconventional life.

  • The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett: The account of a fictional mission to discover the fate of the missing Franklin Expedition. I love stories about Arctic exploration, so I really think this one will be a winner.
  • The Observations by Jane Harris: This one is narrated by Bessy Buckley, a working class woman who recalls her time working as a maid at Castle Haivers in the 1860s. According to some reviews I've seen, what makes this novel stand out is the fact that Bessy's voice is so unique.

  • The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling: Also set in the 1860's, this is the story of a woman who takes over her husband's book binding business when he falls ill, and ends up entering the world of Victorian pornography.

  • Angelica by Arthur Phillips: This one seems difficult to summarize, so I'll just use the synopsis from Amazon - "Joseph Barton, a London biological researcher, orders his four-year-old daughter, Angelica, who's been sleeping in her parents' bedroom, to her own room. Joseph's wife, Constance, resists this separation from her child and the resumption of a marital intimacy that, given her history of miscarriage, may threaten her life. Soon Constance notices foul odors, furniture cracks and a blue spectre that appears to attack Angelica while she sleeps." I've seen it described as not-quite-a-ghost story, which makes me curious. Also, the story is told from four different points of view, each adding another layer until we get closer to the truth. If used well, this is a technique I really love.

  • The Wet Nurse's Tale by Erica Eisdorfer: I'm blaming Fyrefly and Carrie K for this one. As the title indicates, this is the story of a woman who "ends up wet-nursing after getting unexpectedly and illicitly pregnant, and her alcoholic and abusive father forces her to leave her child and take up the occupation."
Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? And if not, is there anything else along these lines you'd recommend?

Finally, I wanted to thank everyone who helped me pick a book last week. The winner was The True Story of Hansel and Gretel with 27% of the votes, followed by To Say Nothing of the Dog with 22%. That's not that big a difference, as you can see, which is understandable - they both sound so good! I'll read the winner for the challenge, but I do want to get to the others too at some point.


  1. I love the books that you find. They are so unusual. I now have writers cramp from scribbling down all these wonderful titles.

  2. Thanks for increasing my book list -- I needed that. harty har har...

  3. I have just started on my masters' thesis with the topic of 'Lesbianism in Neo-Victorian Literature', so I can totally understand your obsession with Neo-Victorian fiction. I haven't read either of those books, but they are all on the list of books to check out, whether they are relevant to my topic.

    Should you stumble upon any references to lesbianism in either of those books, would you mind dropping me a hint? That would be brilliant!

  4. I haven't heard of any of these but they all look good. I just found a book called The Victorian Internet. I can't remember all the details, but I will post about it soon. It's about the telegraph system and other instant communication in the Victorian era.

  5. Wow, I love the cover for Electricity! I mean, the plot sounds interesting too, but that cover is great.

  6. I haven't read any of them, but The Journal of Dora Damage really catches my eye.

  7. I haven't read any of these...but, wow, what a pretty array of covers in that lot!

  8. haha, Ana, do you read minds? I was just looking at your 'currently reading' and had to laugh because I am reading the Valente, too! Are you liking it so far? I should be reading her other book where it is a sequel to the only book I have read by her, but I have never been very good with series!

  9. Hmm, I need to try your method of coveting books as opposed to acquiring them. Just culled two boxes of books from my stacks and still feel overwhelmed and like I'm shoving books in every corner!

  10. I love that all of the writers are women. They have such a radically different way of writing about women during the Victorian era.

    Let me know how you like them :)

  11. I haven't read any of those, but they all sound wonderful. I particularly like the look of THE JOURNAL OF DORA DAMAGE.

  12. Don't you just love reading tangents? I'm currently on a Central Asia/Middle East tangent (currently reading Shadow of the Silk Road and lined up for Three Cups of Tea) and I'm planning a "ghost" tanget, so maybe I'll put Angelica on my list. I've got Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death borrowed from the library and hope to read it soon!

  13. I haven't read any of these but I do have A Wet Nurse's Tale. Thanks for reminding me of it. Now I have to go and add the rest of the books to my TBR list. Have a great week.

  14. I did like Becky's voice in THE OBSERVATIONS, but I wasn't that impressed with the story. Of course I did read it right after FINGERSMITH - a tough act to follow.

  15. The Wet Nurse's Tale reminds me of a book I started reading before I started blogging that I wish everyone would read! It's called Mirabilis and it's by Susanna Cokal. It was such an amazing book. Go search for it and tell me if you like the way it sounds. If you do, I'll get it for you instead of A Monster's Notes!

  16. Ooo! I love reading lists! Thank you for compiling it for me. ;-) I haven't read any of the books on the list, but they all sound good.

    I look forward to reading your thoughts on The True Story of Hansel and Gretel!

  17. I loved The Voyage of the Narwhal but I am a huge fan of Andrea Barrett in general. You might also like her two collections of stories, Servants of the Map and Ship Fever (that one won the National Book Award. Anyway, enjoy!

  18. I have had to stay away from the library. Between the fines and the number of books, it just got plain ridiculous. Still, happy to hear you had a great time.

    By the way, I'm running a 9 book giveaway!

  19. I haven't read any of those, but you did pique my curiosity! :P

    Yay about The True Story of Hansel and Gretel!! I look forward to reading your review on it soon!!

  20. Okay, you and Eva are going to start me off on a fun new pursuit I really don't have time for...I LOVE these reading lists you guys put together!!! And of course, you also just added to my wish list...the last two especially caught my eye.

    I'm about to finish Nation, hopefully tonight. (I made myself work all weekend with no fun reading or computer stuff.) Anyway, I may never read another book...I mean, how do you top perfection?

  21. I read Dora Damage all in one sitting on my flight to Asia. It was a very engaging read. Hope you enjoy it! :)

  22. Isn't it fun making lists of books to read????!!! I will be eagerly waiting for your thoughts on this genre of books that you listed!!

  23. Oooh oooh.... I loved The Observations by Jane Harris! It's a great book. I'll be coveting books this month too because I bought a new camera lens and as part of the deal, promised myself not to buy books. But I'll probably buy some using my Borders Passport and then stop buying.

    The consolation: I've enough books in stock to last me years... (I've a couple of book shipments arriving soon, so YAY!)

  24. I don't know that I've ever read a book about a wet nurse. It does seem to be an interesting story to tell. Now I'm intrigued!

  25. Nice! I just bought Angelica a few months ago, but it's still sitting there unread...I must rectify that problem :)

  26. Great finds, they all look fab to me.

  27. I haven't read any of these! They look great to me and seem like a fun list. =)

  28. Scrap Girl: lol, sorry for giving you writers cramp :P

    Amanda: lol. I aim to please :P

    Susi: What a fascinating topic to write about!! I will let you know for sure!

    Nicole: Oooh, that sounds like it could be great!

    Fyrefly: I love it too!

    Bermudaonion: It does sound like a great one!

    Wendy: I know! I just had to make a collage and post them :P

    Kailana: lol! It seems that I do :P I read a bit more before bed last night. It keeps getting stranger, but good strange!

    Amy: I'm not actually sure my method is even going to work for me, but I thought it was worth a try :P

    Lena: The author of Angelica is the exception, but yes, all the others are!

    Memory: It does sound particularly good! I love me some trips into the Victorian underworld.

    Terri B: I do love them! I look forward to your thoughts on all of those :)

    Vasilly, I'm looking forward to your review!

    Lenore: Yes, after Fingersmith everything would pale in comparison!

    Chris: Oooh, that does sound good! And I really love books set in the medieval period. If it's not a bother to replace it and if you think I'd like it, that'd be great :D

  29. Wendy: lol, you're welcome :P

    ds: I have never read her before, but she sounds like an author I'd really like. Thank you for the recommendation :)

    Susan: I'm not in North American and so can't enter, but it's a great giveaway!

    Melody: And I look forward to reading it :)

    Debi: I KNOW! I felt the same way. There really is no topping it.

    Matt, I think I will! It's good to hear it's so engaging :)

    Staci: It is a lot of fun! Almost as satisfying as buying books :P

    Alice: lol, good luck keeping your promise :P Not to sound discouraging or anything :P But yes, at least we have enough books to last us for ages!

    Becky: I never have either, and I don't actually know much about them. This book sound like a good way to remedy that.

    Bibliolatrist: Yes you must, and then you should tell me if I should make it more of a priority :P

    Violet and Meghan: They all around great, don't they? I really want them all.

  30. I love your choices and have written a couple of them down in my reading log.

    By the way, I'm reading The True Story of Hansel and Gretel now. I will hold off telling you my opinion until my review. I forgot who told me about this book, as I forgot to note it in my reading log. I love WWII stories and it fit with the WWII challenge theme.

    Enjoy the read. :) Wisteria

  31. I love novels set in the Victorian era but haven't read one in quite a while. I actually have some of these books on my shelves and of course the one that I keep meaning to get to is the Journal of Dora Damage.

  32. I just finished "THe Perfect Poison" by Amanda Quick -- I THINK that's set in your time period. It's long-ago England, that's for sure. It was fun -- has paranormal elements in it.

    I've not heard of any of the rest of those, but your current bent reminds me of when I get in one of those modes where I stay with the same genre. It can be lots of fun! I'm currently reading something set in the past but not that far back! It's "Shooting an Albatross," and captures the Army's 1943 occupation of El Rancho Golf Course in Hollywood. (I find it so interesting that this even happened!) It's a page-turner that anyone who likes an exciting read will enjoy. (And don't forget those who like a great round of golf, for that matter!)

  33. Haven't read any of them, but The Voyage of the Narwhal is on my list. I still need to get around to that one, but the others all sound interesting, too!

  34. OMG Dora Damage- I have that one too. it's been in my tbr pile since it came out in hardcover! :-) I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

  35. Voyage of the Narwhal was one of my favorites the year I read it.

  36. I loved Electricity, although be warned that there is at least one intensely disturbing moment in it. (I read this book quite a while ago and that one moment really stuck in my mind.)

  37. I'm going to have to add several of these to my library list--as though I don't have enough to read as it is!

  38. I am dying to read The Wet Nurse's Tale. If you get your hands on a copy, I will be interested in hearing what you think of it.

  39. Gorgeous book covers. They are all different but all have such great design elements. I love seeing them all posted together like that.

  40. wisteria - loved your review of Hansel & Gretel! I'm looking forward to it more than ever now.

    Iliana: You need to get to it soon and tell me if it's as good as it sounds :P

    Liz, thanks for the recommendation.

    jenclair: They do! I want them all.

    Marie: I'm not sure how soon I'll get to it as I'm really not supposed to get more books. If you beat me, I look forward to yours :P

    JoAnn: It really sounds amazing!

    avisannschild: Thank you for the warning! It sounds like something I'll love too.

    Schatzi: heh, I know the feeling :P

    Zibilee: It'll probably be a long while before I do, as I rarely read new books!

    Carl: I know! I really like how the collage turned out :D

  41. I find i pretty much impossible to covet without buying. What is your secret to resisting spending?

  42. Hmmm--I've been skipping around my reader a bit since I got behind. Does this post come before or after that big ole stack of books you just got? :) I like the idea of Neo-Victorian. I haven't read a ton of Victorian novels but I have enjoyed what I did read (and of course I adore Collins and Dickens). Haven't heard of these titles--how is that possible with as much time as I spend blogging?? Sheesh.

  43. Rhinoa: ha, I wish I had a secret :P

    Trish: It came after. I've been good so far, sort of :P I hadn't heard of most of these either for some reason!


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