When I put my list together for the latest Classics Club Spin I was hoping it would land on Anthony Trollope or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. But it was not to be.
Spin #22 landed on the number 13 which means I am to read Never No More: The Story Of A Lost Village by the Irish born broadcaster, scriptwriter and cookery book writer Maura Laverty.
Published in 1942, it proved popular around the world, though not in Ireland. In fact the novel created huge controversy in her home town of Rathangan, Co. Kildare, where some residents were upset by descriptions of people they believed to be their relatives.
The novel was re-issued as a Virago Modern Classic in the early 1980s. This is the edition that I found in a second hand bookshop in Cardiff .
Never No More was Maura Laverty’s first novel and was based on her own experience of growing up in early-20th-century rural Ireland and her subsequent life in Spain.
The synopsis reads:
When Delia’s family moves away, Delia goes to live with her grandmother in a farmhouse in the Irish countryside. Here, she experiences the happiest years of her life as she watches the seasons come and go until, one November day, she stands poised for independence – and Spain.
Laverty followed Never No More with another semi-autobiographical novel featuring Delia Sculley, No More than Human. It apparently offended the censor because of its frankness about the female body. The subject matter and the local reaction to her novel reminds me of another Irish author, Edna O’ Brien’s The Country Girls which sent shock waves through rural Ireland when it was published in 1960. If Never No More is only half as good as The Country Girls it will be a delight to read.
There’s an interesting article about Maura Laverty in the Irish Times, which indicates that she was better known for her work on an Irish soap opera called Tolka Row that was broadcast on the RTE television station for four years in the 1960s.
I completely forgot the second round of the popular Classics Club spin and never managed to fit in the book I ended up with in round 3 (Anna Karenina). So I’m hoping that this time around will be more successful.
Here’s how it works…
From our Classics Club list we have to choose 20 titles spread across categories of those:
- Five books we really really want to read
- Five we are hesitant or nervous about reading
- Five we are neutral about
- Five free choice ( favourite author for example)
The choices need to be numbered 1-20. On Monday we get to know which number turned up in the spin and we have to read book corresponding book by January.
So here is my list…
- Evelina by Frances Burney
- Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
- Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith
- The invisible Man by H G Wells
- Scoop by Evelyn Waug
- Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
- L’Assommoire by Emile Zola
- The Power and the Glory by Grahame Greene
- Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Infinite Plan by Isabel Allende
- Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
- Candide by Voltaire
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
- Old Gariot by Honore Balzac
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
- The Pursuit Of Love by Nancy Mitford
I suppose out of all of them the one that I would least like to have selected is Robinson Crusoe. I’m told my Mr BookerTalk that its a fantastic story but I’m just not convinced. Still, it’s a very important novel in the history of the genre so one I feel I really should tackle. But I’m really hoping to get Gaskell or Adichie.
Digging deep into the memory banks for instances where I’ve read the same book multiple times, I came up with Jane Eyre and Middlemarch. And in both cases I can say without question that with each reading I discovered aspects of the novel I had not previously noticed.
I first met dear Jane when I was about ten. I was totally oblivious to the romance element of the book. Instead what stuck in my memory was that it was a sad story about a young girl who had a horrible time in school. The episodes that had the most effect on me were the ones where Jane has to stand on the stool all day because she is accused of being a liar and then the death of her close friend Helen.
Fast forward to my mid teens and reading it again it was now the love interest that grabbed my attention. I shed tears for poor Jane, destined it seemed never to wed the love of her life, and then more tears when she is reunited with him. It was all So Romantic! So Dramatic!
Not until I started studying English literature in earnest in the late 1970s did I begin to think more about the craft of the novel than the plot. There are so many genres and sub genres melded into this novel and so many different issues. We get a taste of gothic horror and Bildungsroman, of romance and realism along with the exploration of themes like the Woman Question, social class and moral responsibility. But what made the novel even more powerful was the way Charlotte Bronte used the idea of a physical journey to explore Jane’s identity and reveal her inner consciousness.
Each time I read this novel now it’s that issue of Jane’s identity that keeps me intrigued. Bronte varies the narrative voice so much that it’s often not clear which Jane is telling the story – the young girl, the governess or the married Jane. Depending on which voice you hear, the story takes on a different dimension. Not many books can withstand multiple readings but for me, Jane Eyre is so richly textured and has so many different layers of meaning that re-reading it continues to be a rewarding experience.