Readharder

4
Feb 18

Read Harder Challenge (3 of 24): DATURA

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 96 views

Datura, or a Delusion We All SeeDatura, or a Delusion We All See by Leena Krohn

(Read as part of the Book Riot Readharder challenge 2018. Category: A single-sitting book.)

An anonymous woman in an anonymous (though clearly Nordic) city receives a flower for her birthday. She begins dosing herself with its seeds, to help her asthma. At the same time, she takes a job working for The New Anomalist, a magazine devoted to the uncanny and paranormal, whose publisher is always looking for a fresh (and profitable) angle. Datura is told as a series of vignettes – disordered notes, according to the narrator – of encounters with the uncanny. Some are under the aegis of the magazine – but others, increasingly, seem to be spontaneous, and the notes grow less and less reliable…

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31
Jan 18

Read Harder Challenge (2 of 24): HORTUS VITAE

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Hortus Vitae: Essays On The Gardening Of LifeHortus Vitae: Essays On The Gardening Of Life by Vernon Lee

(Read as part of the 2018 Read Harder challenge. Category: A book of essays.)

Vernon Lee, pseudonym of Violet Paget, was an essayist, story writer, and aesthete active in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. She’s not quite forgotten now – there’s a Vernon Lee society with its own journal – but her essays come quite low down the list of things people remember about her. She’s better known for her supernatural fiction, her feminism and pacifism, and her theories of psychology and aesthetics – she was one of the first people in English to use the word “empathy”.

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15
Jan 18

Read Harder Challenge (1 of 24): SIX TO SIXTEEN

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Six to Sixteen: A Story for GirlsSix to Sixteen: A Story for Girls by Juliana Horatia Ewing

Read as part of the Book Riot Read Harder 2018 Challenge (Category: “A children’s classic published before 1980”)

She’s no relation, but I’ve always had a curiosity about the work of my mid-Victorian namesake Mrs Ewing, author of dozens of books and short stories for children. In her time a bestseller – enough that her early death sparked an 18-volume memorial edition of her collected works – hardly anyone reads her now, but there’s a chain of admiration linking her to the present day. There’s something of Mrs.Ewing’s unpatronising interest in childhood concerns in the work of E. Nesbit, for instance (who is not much read herself but whose flame is kept alive by Pullman and others).

Even so I was a bit scared to approach Six To Sixteen – I had the idea Mrs Ewing’s books might be rather dry and improving, since she was keen for them to lead her child-readers along virtuous paths. But I was wrong. If there’s a central message of Six To Sixteen, it’s one that’s orthodox today but I suspect was a good deal less widely agreed in the 1860s – the need for girls to have an education and lifestyle that strongly emphasises curiosity and “intellectual pursuits” (everything from art to naturalism to languages) over the traditional domestic and social spheres of the Victorian feminine.

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