Saturday, March 30, 2013

Three Free Books

Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments by Edmund Gosse (1907)
This is one of the books Nick Hornby writes about in The Polysyllabic Spree. This book is the story of Gosse's relationship with his marine biologist father, who was also a member of the Plymouth Brethren. Hornby writes that his "fierce, joyless evangelism crippled his son's childhood." Why am I so interested? I read Claire Tomalin's lovely biography of Jane Austen on Hornby's recommendation, and I hope he won't steer me wrong this time!

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)
I read Gaskell in college, and recently watched a BBC adaptation that reminded me how romantic this book is. I recently did a booktalk on this novel, and the best way to describe Gaskell is this: she is Jane Austen with a social conscience, like Charles Dickens without the rambling. Plot: A genteel country woman is uprooted to a grimy industrial town, completely alien to everything she knows and loves. Her ideals of what it means to be a good neighbor clash with the ideals of a local factory owner, Mr. Thornton, a self-made man who is her equal intellectually but not socially. If you love Austen, the Brontës, and Dickens--or pretty much any great Victorian author--do yourself a favor and try Gaskell.

A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird (1879)
Isabella L. Bird was a well-known Victorian travel writer, and this book is probably the best-known of her works. I came across a description of this particular book in Barbara Hodgson's No Place for a Lady, a book about fearless female travelers. Bird was a woman who couldn't stay at home, and so of course I put this on my list!

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