I have been reading several books at the same time. I decided to re-read Mansfield Park which by the way is a great book to read if you have any trouble falling asleep:) There is absolutely no violence of any sort, and the most shocking thing which happens is the adultery committed by Maria and Henry Crawford. It's quite soothing for one's nerves, and Heaven knows, I needed it badly.
Another book I want to talk about is Friendly Brook which is a collection of short stories by R. Kipling. I decided I wanted to read something more sophisticated than Agatha Christie and was lucky to find this book in a second-hand book store in Delft. So far I have read all the stories but the last one, as here I got distracted by rereading the Narnia books (more about them later).
Well, what should I say? Kipling's stories are sophisticated. In fact, I had difficulty with understanding some of them, and once I only got it, after my husband explained it to me. The language is also quite difficult at times for someone who is not a native speaker, especially when the author is copying some local dialect.
The first interesting thing I learned from that book is that Kipling, just like Mozart, had connections with Masons. In two of the stories, In the Interests of the Brethren, and A Madonna of the Trenches, the action, at least partly, takes place inside a Masonic Lodge, and Masonic traditions and rituals are described. It seems like everybody was a Mason in those times.
Second, women don't come off too nicely in his stories. They are either adulterous wives (A Madonna of the Trenches, Dayspring Mishandled) or display cruelty and meanness above of that of an average man. In Mary Postgate, a woman lets a wounded German soldier die a slow painful death and observes his agony with satisfaction, while a man, according to the author's own words, would rush to help, bring the doctor and try to save the wounded enemy's life.
I probably shouldn't be surprised about these sentiments from a man who wrote a poem saying that a female of the species is more deadly than a male but still...My father told me that when men write books it's mostly to show women in the unfavourable light, and vice versa, and he is probably right, though in my own book I tried to be fair to both sexes:)
Some of the stories had a mystic component to them. In Madonna of the Trenches, a soldier commits suicide to join his mistress who died a day before, and another soldier observes the ghost of the dead woman as she is calling the man she loved. In The Wish House, a woman enlists help of an evil spirit, so-called Token and sacrifices her health and life to save her lover. That last one was quite scary, I even dreamed of it next night.
Madonna of the Trenches, by the way, has lovely descriptions of soldiers crawling over half frozen, decomposing corpses of their slain comrades, as a daily occurance. It was part of their patriarchal privilege, apparently, but if feminists have their way, women will be able to share in the experience during the next war.
In general, Kipling's stories kill all one's illusions about the moral state of the Victorian and post-Victorian English society, as they show adultery, illegitimate children and similar things were hardly an exception in those days, though illegitimate kids were mostly passed off as nephews and people seldom bothered to divorce officially.
Some stories deal with the topic of revenge, like Dayspring Mishandled. In Sea Constables, a man lets his enemy die from pneumonia even though he has the means to help him, but not a legal obligation to do so. It makes one wonder what one would do in his place. Regulus is a story about the boys' school and The Eye of Allah is a story about medieval monks.
I'm not going to write a thesis about Kipling's prose though, so I'd better stop, but if you ever come across a book with his stories, keep in mind they are well worth reading.
Now finally a couple of words about Narnia series. They certainly will always stay ones of my favourite children's books, but there is something interesting I noticed about them. If you read the books in the order in which they were written, instead of in chronological order, starting with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, then Prince Caspian etc you will see that the girls first don't participate in battles. "Wars are ugly when women fight", says Father Christmas in the first book, and Lucy is given only a dagger, though Susan has a bow.
In Prince Caspian Susan uses her bow a couple of times, but doesn't kill anyone, and during the final battle, the girls stay with Aslan. In Silver Chair, Jill isn't given any weapons at all, except a knife; doesn't take any part in fighting. Then in The Horse and his Boy, it's suddenly Lucy who becomes a valiant warrior and goes to battle with her brothers, while Susan stays at home. Looks like Lewis changed his views on women in combat half way down the series, which is, in my opinion, quite disappointing.
Well, this post is already kilometers long, so I'd better stop right here and do some shopping. Have a great day, all of you!