under the red robe

Booking Through Thursday: School Books

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks two questions:

“We all had to read things in school that we didn’t like … but what about something you read for a class that you ended up liking (or loving)? An author you discovered that you might not have found? A genre you hadn’t thought about?”

Well, I would really like take a different route about this. I am not going to talk about a book but an essay that I loved. While at school I read an essay called Reading for Pleasure by English author L.A.G.Strong. The essay was basically about why people should read what they like and only what they like. No one should force anyone to read anything. He then goes on to illustrate the point by recounting his own experiences with books while growing up. Strong’s language was so simple yet pleasant. I remember being so surprised to find that a grown up was telling us to read for our own pleasure and that too on a school textbook! I took Strong’s lesson to heart that reading should be a passion, not a chore. Also, I have been tracking down all the authors and books mentioned in the essay as being his favourites. It is through this essay that I came to know of W.W.Jacobs and of Under the Red Robe by Stanley J. Weyman, one of my favourite reads from 2009. Strong’s views helped shape my attitude towards reading. It also introduced me to authors I would have otherwise known nothing about. So, I can say the essay Reading for Pleasure is something I read for school but ended up loving.

Victorian Literature Challenge 2011 – Completion

For the past six or so months I haver been slowly inching towards finishing the Victorian Literature Challenge 2011. I was participating under the “Great Expectations” participation level of  where the challenge was to read five-nine books from the Victorian era. The first six books I finished with extreme swiftness but the last three took more time than I had anticipated because of my new job and everything else.

Anyhow, I have finally managed to finish the challenge. Thanks to Bethany of Subtle Melodrama for hosting this challenge! I enjoyed participating in it very much!

Books Completed:

1. Under the Red Robe. Stanley J. Weyman.

2.  The Diary of a Nobody. George Grossmith.

3. The Country of the Pointed Firs. Sarah Orne Jewett.

4. Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings. Charles Dickens.

5.  Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy. Charles Dickens.

6. Sailors Knots. W. W. Jacobs.

7. The Phantom Coach and Other Stories. Amelia B. Edwards.

8. Spinning-Wheel Stories. Louisa May Alcott. 

9. Barchester Towers. Anthony Trollope.

Under the Red Robe by Stanley J. Weyman

Under the Red Robe is a historical fiction/swashbuckler/romance written in late 19th century.

Published in 1894, it was written by Stanley J. Weyman. Weyman was an English novelist who wrote mostly historical romances set in 16th and 17th century France. Weyman was a popular author in his day. Robert Louis Stevenson and Oscar Wilde were said to have been admires of his work. But it doesn’t his works are not very well known today. If it hadn’t been for an article I read some years ago, I don’t think I would have ever heard of him.

Under the Red Robe is the story of a gentleman rogue, M. de Berault. It’s set in France around the time of Cardinal Richelieu, who appears as a character in the book. In fact the book’s last scene is set amidst the turmoil of the Day of Dupes, which turned out to be the most crucial day of the Cardinal’s life and the ultimate test of his power.

The book is full of intrigue, adventure, treachery, spying and of course sword fights. It kind of reminded me of  The Three Musketeers, which I read years ago and have mostly forgotten.

What I really liked about this book was that all the characters seemed very ‘human’. For a historical fiction/ romance that is a big thing. Most of them are so unreal that it just gets nauseating. But in this book even the heroes are shown to have human weaknesses. What makes them wonderful is their ability to rise above such weaknesses and do the right thing.

The female protagonist, Mademoiselle de Cocheforet, is a fine example of a strong independent woman. Her valour matches up with that of the men in the story. Not for once does she come across as a weepy, whiny woman who needs to be saved all the time! Yet it doesn’t reduce her femininity even one bit. The tenderness she shows for her brother and the courage she shows at the final scene are a proof of that.

I mostly feel annoyed with the way romance is portrayed in books but in Under the Red Robe the romance is so undemonstrative and yet passionate that I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of  A Tale of Two Cities, another wonderful historical fiction with an amazing romantic story to tell.

I admired Stanley J. Weyman’s writing immensely. The plot is strong and the narrative is lucid and crisp.

Under the Red Robe  proves that even with a light, entertaining plot and without any heavy duty high brow views, a good book is a good book. It is well edited with no unnecessary vulgarity and with equally strong male and female characters. I’d read this book over some cheap, over written, over publicized modern one any day.

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