So, we have reached the end of 2011. Where has the year gone? I feel like this one has flown by. 

Looking back, it's been a mixed bag, overall, in terms of writing, blogging and reading - if I were to summarise this year in a sentence, it would be as 'the year in which I read a lot of books I didn't want to be reading'.


Review: 'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern

'The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.'

And so starts Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus', an epic tale of  a dark and magical travelling circus, and all the dark and magical people therein. The coming of Le Cirque des Reves (The Circus of Dreams), the Night Circus of the title, is a stylish and mystical event for the town it pitches up in during the night, enchanting nocturnal visitors with an elaborate series of spectacles and dreamy, game-like challenges and acts, before disappearing just as quickly just a few days later. Within this, Celia, the beautiful illusionist, whose illusions are more than a little bit real, and Marco, assistant to the circus' proprietor and more than a little magical himself, are locked within a predestined contest of magic, wits and eventual loss and sadness.


Is it Misogynistic if It's of Its Time?

You know, I'm a fairly modern girl, and, using fairly large strokes, take the equal stance of women in the Western world entirely for granted. I think most girls my age (I'm 26) would say the same: we believed without pause that we were entitled to education, to respect and to our own voices. The last one I especially accept without question, and set up my own platform (this one) without pause. So far, so fine.

Then, the other day, I caught myself singing and dancing along to this quite loudly whilst getting dressed one morning, and realised that I was quite happily singing along with surely one of the most misogynistic songs ever performed:


Wedding Poems

This is actually the sister post to something I posted in November about looking for wedding poems with a friend; this is the one where I describe those that were actually found. I didn't do the finding, the bride found them herself, but I always think that the poems read at weddings say quite a lot about the bride and groom, both as a couple and as individuals.

Here are the two chosen for the wedding a few weeks ago, in the venue that reminded me of Manderley in 'Rebecca':


The Christmas Gift Picker

Stuck for ideas for presents? I know, get them books! Seeing as that is not the kind of information you normally get from me (ha), you know to take it seriously and oblige.

How to Survive Christmas
And failing that, get them 'A Christmas Carol' (no-one can resist Tiny Tim - what a bummer that I didn't manage to get to that before Christmas. Look forward to an unseasonable review in February!) or Jilly Cooper's 'How to Survive Christmas'(I remember seeing this on my mum's bedstand when I was younger and being like 'Mum? Are you ok?')

I imagine most families fit into the mould of one or another or these.

My other contribution to Christmas this year is the addition of green to my usual red blog theme. I did doctor the Tolstoy is my Cat logo in Paint, adding a Christmas hat and some holly, but it looked so naff that I won't be uploading it here. I was also a little concerned that the logo designer, who's a friend on facebook, might see that I'd destroyed her logo with lame makeshiftness, so out of respect for her, I have abstained :)

I so wish it would snow! Snow always makes me want to take my delicious copy of Dr. Zhivago off the shelf and waft around looking pale in furs. Of course, in reality, it's exciting for a day or two, or for as long as you don't have to spend much time outdoors, and then it becomes the most annoying thing since unsliced bread. 

Some for Christmas would be nice though, wouldn't it? 


Dickens from the Start, No. 3 - The Pickwick Papers

Or, to give it its full title, 'The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club'.

This was the first book in my 'Dickens from the Start' challenge, and, well, there was a lot of it. A lot. 801 pages, to be exact, and I feel like I felt every single one.

The premise is pretty nice, if a little antiquated: a group of likely young men of a certain social standing traverse around the countryside, drinking like fishes and looking for girls and a good time. It was, of course, originally published in serialised form, with each edition as a stand alone but linked episode in the great collection of Pickwick Papers, which means that reading it as a complete collection is a bit like watching a box set of half hour episodes of a rogueish sitcom, where some storylines persist throughout (Ross and Rachel), but for the main part it is the characters repeating and then resolving mistakes (Joey and his dating, Chandler and the awkwardness) that make up the main narrative thrust. Pickwick's most capital chaps, Augustus Snodgrass, Tracy Tupman and Nathaniel Winkle, are a kind of amalgous mass of good humour and carpe diem recklessness, indistinguishable from each other as far as I could ascertain, but rather fond of the odd comely servant or marriagable middle-aged widow. There's also a lot of ghosts, goblins and ghouls, as well as a talking chair who dispenses romantic advice:

'Tom gazed at the chair; and, suddenly as he looked at it, a most extraordinary change seemed to come over it. The carving of the back gradually assumed the lineaments and expression of an old shrivelled human face; the damask cushions became an antique, flapped waistcoat; the round knobs grew into a couple of feet. encased in red cloth slippers; and the old chair looked like a very ugly old man..."Tom," said the old gentleman, "the widow's a fine woman - remarkable fine woman - eh, Tom?" Here the old fellow screwd up his eyes, cocked up one of his wasted little legs, and looked altogether so unpleasantly amorous that Tom was quite disgusted with the levity of his behaviour; - at his time of life, too!'

I thought that bit was actually quite funny.  


Last Night I Dreamt I Went to Manderley Again...

...when I arrived at my friend's beautiful wedding venue this weekend in Gartocharn, Scotland, and was reminded overwhelmingly of the iconic Manderley of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.

It was, of course, stunningly, starkly, beautiful, but it had that slightly eerie menace of wild places that could turn nasty as soon as the weather pulls in and someone malevolent steps out from behind that tree.

There was a long, straight, tree-lined driveway, a stark edifice of a Gothic mansion right next to a boatyard and a huge expanse of very cold water.

Yes, I might have been being a little dramatic, but see what you think:

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