POOR MISS FINCH by Wilkie Collins

POOR MISS FINCH by Wilkie Collins

26 June 2013

The Return of the Native #2 (book 1, chaps. 5-7, Belgravia Feb. 1878)

Dear Serial Readers,

It occurred to me that original readers might have needed to review an installment given the one month break in publishing this novel.  I reread this installment and enjoyed it so much more the second time around!  I love the gradual revelation of the monumental Eustacia Vye who communicates with her lapsed lover Damon Wildeve by bonfire and carries around a telescope and an hour glass (because she takes "a peculiar pleasure" in seeing time "glide away").  Hardy describes within Eustacia's brain "were juxtaposed the strangest assortment of ideas, from old and from new"--and he also compares her to various figures from the past, Marie Antoinette and Mrs. Siddons (which Hardy changed in a later edition of this novel to Sappho), the Witch of Endor, and the Sphinx.

Since the novel opens on Guy Fawkes' Night (with bonfire celebrations), I suppose we should expect the volatile treason of Damon throwing off Thomasin for Eustacia in the next installments.  But are we to see Eustacia as a revolutionary female Guy Fawkes?  I don't, and Hardy says as much-- how this environment "made a rebellious woman saturnine."  Still, I'm intrigued with her a heterogeneous character of diverse parts (like a serial, almost).

The way this installment ends makes me understand how some readers have linked Flaubert's Emma Bovary with Eustacia as a depressive type, languishing from boredom and half-baked romantic fantasies.  Like Emma, she's reduced to the meager materials in her world for giving life to those dreams--or "idealising Wildeve for want of a better object."

I promise to pick up the pace of our serial reading--next time the last four chapters (chaps. 8-11) of
this first book "The Three Women" (presumably Thomasina, her aunt Mrs. Yeobright, and Eustacia).
I'll post within a week!

Serially yours,

13 June 2013

Return of the Native #1 (book 1, chaps 1-4, Belgravia Jan. 1878)

Dear Serial Readers,

The last post shows all the serial installment divisions and reading schedule--but that schedule is clearly changing! I'll post at the end the estimated date for the next session on the next installment--and we'll try to finish up this novel in month's time!

The opening portion is rather lethargic--that pastoral air in decline! So much description of place rather than person is sometimes hard to engage with.  What do you notice about Hardy's Wessex?
Notice that place comes first and then the second chapter title announces: "Humanity Appears Upon the Scene, Hand in Hand with Trouble."  Sort of like a reworked Genesis story of creation with heaven and heath first and then "Humanity" with the "Trouble" that gives a hint of suspense.

Who is this "Humanity"?  First we have Diggory Venn, the reddleman with his "lurid red" van.  The reddleman sells reddle, or red ochre dye, to farmers who mark their rams in a way that it transfers to the ewes to show that there's been some conjugal action to lead to lambs.  Then various other local folks speak in dialect and we learn about Thomasin Yeobright (great name!) and Damon Wildeve (another great name!) who have gone off to marry--but apparently that didn't work out so well, since Thomasin is actually sleeping in Diggory's red van--are we supposed to think she's marked by the ram, symbolically speaking, and in the lambing way?  Hmmm.  The installment concludes with Mrs. Yeobright scolding her niece, "'Now Thomasin,' she said sternly, 'what's the meaning of this disgraceful performance?'"  Is this enough of a cliffhanger for you to return for the next installment?

One last observation--the bonfires in across the heath seem a form of communication, and one bonfire in particular is associated with the granddaughter of Capt. Drew (whoever he is)--and she's marked (not exactly with reddle) as "very strange in her ways, living up there by herself, and such things please her."  This strange woman is surely one of "The Three Women"--the title of this first Book (not installment).  Does the original portion in Belgravia include this Book First title? And who is the third woman, Mrs Yeobright, Tamsin's aunt?  We also learn that she has a beloved son Clym who's due home.  There's a tension between the Wessex country heath (and the old folk ways of the reddleman and other inhabitants) and town life.  What's that about?

Serial Readers, what are you noticing?  I'd love to know more about what else appeared in that issue of the magazine Belgravia. Although this beginning seems ploddingly slow, acts of creation can move along in surprising ways!

I'll plan to post on installment two (Book First, chaps. 5-7) by early next week (June 17th).

Serially starting again,

11 June 2013

THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE reading schedule

Dear Serial Readers,

After a long interval, we are embarking on a new serial reading adventure--Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native!  This novel was serialized in the magazine Belgravia in 12 monthly parts from January to December 1878.  We'll read and converse on this novel much more quickly than original readers: two installments (separately) this week, and then three installments over the next month with the plan to finish up July 8th.  Thanks to Brontë Mansfield for this reading schedule which I am posting here. The very first post on the very first serial installment follows later today or tomorrow: stay tuned!

For the week of 9-16 June 2013:
Installment 1 (book 1, chaps. 1-4) for June 11th
Installment 2 (book 1, chaps. 5-7) for June 13th

For the week of 17-23 June 2013:
Installment 3 (book 1, chaps. 8-11) for June 17th
Installment 4 (book 2, chap. 1-5) for June 19th
Installment 5 (book 2, chaps. 6-8) for June 21st

For the week of 24-30 June 2013:
Installment 6 (book 3, chaps. 1-4) for June 24th
Installment 7 (book 3, chaps. 5-8) for June 26th
Installment 8 (book 4, chaps. 1-4) for June 28th

For the week of 1-8 July (final week!)
Installment 9 (book 4, chaps. 5-8) for July 1st
Installment 10 (book 5, chaps. 1-4) for July 3rd
Installment 11 (book 5, chaps. 5-8) for July 5th
Installment 12 (book 5, chap. 9 and book 6, chaps. 1-4) for July 8th