Monday, 30 November 2015

The Doctor's Wife by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

The Doctor's Wife is one of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's earlier novels published in 1864, two years after Lady Audley's Secret. I loved Lady Audley's Secret, but it did take a few chapters to get into it. So, when I struggled with The Doctor's Wife I stayed hopeful. But, tried though I did, I could not get into it. It was all rather disappointing - I really thought I'd love it. 

The Doctor's Wife is a re-telling of Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1857). Isabel Gilbert is our Emma Bovary, her husband George Gilbert our Charles Bovary. The premise is much the same - Isabel is a dreamer and a book lover, and she wants her life to be like the books she loves so much. Her marriage is disappointing; like Emma, she married only to relieve her boredom temporarily, she finds her husband tedious, and her eye is caught by the rich and handsome Roland Landsdell, a perfect hero for her ideal life. 

The book is full, full! of literary references. Isabel has Florence Dombey of Dombey and Son (Charles Dickens, 1848) through much of the novel, as well as Byron of course, Tennyson, Scott, Sterne, Thackeray, Shakespeare, Longfellow, King Arthur... It was, I think, rather overdone and for the bored reader it became more of a game to pick them out.

But sadly even that couldn't keep me engaged, and because I did such a bad job of reading it I'll demure from attempting to write about the subtleties in it. All is not lost, however - there was one element that I did find fascinating and that is the book's concern with the impact of reading on one's outlook. Isabel, like Emma, wanted an 'ideal', and that ideal was constructed out of Romantic narratives. Her 'failure' to achieve made her depressed, anxious, and generally discontent with her lot. As I was reading this novel I couldn't help but think of a studies published this year suggesting that Facebook and other forms of social media could lead to depression. The Huffington Post published an article quoting one of the study's co-authors:
"We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression... Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect."
The Daily Mail also covered this study and others, writing,
The Facebook test group said what riled them most were happy holiday snaps of 'Facebook friends' followed by gushing prose of fabulous lives, great jobs and cracking social diaries.
Facebook is not art (though it is not necessarily reality either!), but as reading may be a source of entertainment, so too is social media, and the universal concern is the effect of these forms of entertainment on the psyche. Some of us feel sad, sometimes even depressed because we're not 'measuring up'. In the 21st Century our measure is those we follow, in the 19th Century it could have been the books we read. Samuel Johnson wrote in 1750 that novels ought to depict morally good characters, and even earlier 335 B.C. Aristotle wrote "characters should be good"; both shared concerns that 'bad' characters were a bad influence, and good characters were a good influence. Either way, reading has an effect on the reader. If Emma Bovary and Isabel Gilbert were depressed at their lack of the passion, romance and grandeur they had read about, it's a good bet they'd be depressed on their daily checks of Facebook or Instagram. A superficial point, I know, but the concerns raised in A Doctor's Wife and Madame Bovary are similar, but the 'devil' today is another form of media. 

Back to the matter in hand, though - though at times irritating and dull, I do still think The Doctor's Wife is a worthwhile read, but I feel that perhaps those who have read Madame Bovary would get more out of it. It lacked subtlety and I suppose it goes without saying I found Flaubert's effort a great deal more admirable, but nonetheless the issues raised are very provoking.

Further Reading

Friday, 27 November 2015

Britannicus by Jean Racine.

Britannicus is a tragedy by Jean Racine, first performed in 1669. It's also the last Racine I have on my Classics Club list; the other two plays I read appeared later, Phèdre in 1677, and Athaliah in 1691.

The play is set during 1st Century Rome when Nero was emperor; he who was remembered as a tyrant, and was thought to have started the Great Fire of Rome in 64 A.D. ("Nero fiddled while Rome burned"). But this is set before all of this: in this we see his mother Agrippina (the Younger), who is the widow of the Emperor Claudius, and his half-brother Britannicus, the son of Claudius and Valeria Messalina (Nero was adopted by Claudius, his father by birth was Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus). The rightful heir was Britannicus, however Agrippa's scheming meant that Nero succeeded Claudius.

In Racine's play we see Nero's true nature in anticipation of what is to come. Britannicus is in love with Junia, who reciprocates, but Nero wants Junia for himself, partly because of his competitiveness, and partly because her high status may lead Britannicus to become a threat to him. So he tells Junia he will kill Britannicus if Junia does not reject him, and for the sake of his life she complies. As this unfolds, Nero is at the same time rejecting his mother's dominance over him.

Britannicus is so called because the plot centres around him, however the focus is on the effect of his presence, his existence on Nero and Agrippina. This is a very complex play and I admire it deeply, but I think I would benefit from a second read! Time is against me this week however, but I do hope to re-read it at some point if not before the year is out then next year. It was difficult for me because of the unfamiliarity of the subject matter, but I don't think Racine's audience would have had that problem. For that reason, this would have been a fascinating glimpse into the early years of Nero's reign, and Racine audience would have been well aware of Nero's reputation and later deeds. As my own knowledge is somewhat tenuous (to put it mildly!) it was a tricky one. Nevertheless it was worth it, and however difficult I've found Racine's plays I have enjoyed them.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore.

Gitanjali (গীতাঞ্জলি) is a collection of poems by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore (রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর) and it was first published on the 14th August 1910 - this Bengali edition contained 157 poems; the English edition (1912), translated by Tagore himself in prose, contains 103. 

Rabindranath Tagore.
The title, Gitanjali, literally means 'song offerings' ('Gita' meaning 'song' and 'anjali' meaning 'offerings'), and these short poems are offerings to God on the subjects of nature and humanity; for this he was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1913 (the first non-European to do so) and he was knighted in 1915 (he renounced this in 1919 however in response to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in which British Indian Army shot at those taking part in the Baisakhi celebrations. The British government stated 379 had been killed, the  Indian National Congress suggest it was 1,000).

Here's the 1ˢᵗ poem or song (translated in prose, as I say):
Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. 
This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life. 
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new. 
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable. 
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.
One of my favourites is the 19ᵗʰ -
If thou speakest not I will fill my heart with thy silence and endure it. I will keep still and wait like the night with starry vigil and its head bent low with patience. 
The morning will surely come, the darkness will vanish, and thy voice pour down in golden streams breaking through the sky. 
Then thy words will take wing in songs from every one of my birds' nests, and thy melodies will break forth in flowers in all my forest groves.
Another favourite - the 24ᵗʰ-
If the day is done, if birds sing no more, if the wind has flagged tired, then draw the veil of darkness thick upon me, even as thou hast wrapt the earth with the coverlet of sleep and tenderly closed the petals of the drooping lotus at dusk. 
From the traveller, whose sack of provisions is empty before the voyage is ended, whose garment is torn and dustladen, whose strength is exhausted, remove shame and poverty, and renew his life like a flower under the cover of thy kindly night. 
I also loved the 35ᵗʰ -
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; 
Where knowledge is free; 
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; 
Where words come out from the depth of truth; 
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; 
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; 
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action— 
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Finally, one more - the 81ˢᵗ -
On many an idle day have I grieved over lost time. But it is never lost, my lord. Thou hast taken every moment of my life in thine own hands. 
Hidden in the heart of things thou art nourishing seeds into sprouts, buds into blossoms, and ripening flowers into fruitfulness. 
I was tired and sleeping on my idle bed and imagined all work had ceased. In the morning I woke up and found my garden full with wonders of flowers. 
There is much joy and peace to be found in Tagore's Gitanjali; it is stirring, profound, and one read of it is not enough. I've already read it twice since the weekend, and I'm not alone - W. B. Yeats, in his introduction to the English version of the poems, quotes a Bengali Doctor as saying, "I read Rabindranath every day, to read one line of his is to forget all the troubles of the world." Many reviewers on Goodreads say the same - these poems are to be absorbed as well as simply read. I think this was an excellent introduction to Rabindranath Tagore, and I do plan on reading some of his other works as soon as I can!

To finish, three illustrations from the 1918 edition by Nandalal Bose and Abanindranath Tagore:

Further Reading

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A Love Episode by Émile Zola.

A Love Episode is Émile Zola's eighth novel of his 'Les Rougon Macquart' series in which he writes about the temperament and environment of the Rougon Macquart family during the Second French Empire (1852–1870). A Love Episode, or Une page d'amour (known too as A Page of Love and A Love Affair), was first published in 1878, following L'Assommoir (1877) and preceding Nana (1880). 

It is the novel which Zola hoped would "make all Paris weep", and unlike most of the Rougon Macquart novels (with the exception of The Dream, 1888) there is a dose of sentimentality that reminded me a little (only a little) of The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (1841). The main character is Hélène Grandjean, the daughter of Ursule Mouret (née Macquart, who is the illegitimate child of Adélaïde Rougon) and sister of François Mouret (The Conquest of Plassans, 1874) and Silvère Mouret (The Fortune of the Rougons, 1871). Before the novel starts Hélène moved to Paris with her husband Charles Grandjean and daughter Jeanne, however as they arrived Charles fell ill and died a week later. Hélène and Jeanne live an isolated life, looking at Paris only from the window, having only visited the city a few times. She is a beautiful woman and a little like Emma Bovary in her imaginative life which is inspired by reading, particularly Walter Scott, and like Emma she romanticises Paris and the notion of 'love': the advert for A Love Episode in 'Le Bien Public' in which the novel was first serialised claimed that it would "address, above all, the sensibility of women readers". 

From Adélaïde (known also as Aunt Dide, the matriarch as it were of the Rougons and the Macquarts) Jeanne has inherited her neuroses and seizures. She is insecure, obsessed with her mother (think along the lines of Marcel in Proust's Swann's Way), and is abnormally jealous of anyone who takes her mother's attention away from her. Some readers will find her a very sympathetic character, but I must admit I didn't, hard-hearted as that makes me sound! As the novel opens Jeanne has a seizure and Hélène runs out into the street to find a doctor. She finds Dr. Henri Deberle and he saves Jeanne's life. From here Hélène comes to be friends with Deberle, and his wife Juliette and her friends, but Hélène and the doctor begin to fall in love: the first time, in fact, that Hélène has truly been in love. Jeanne's jealousy, however, is a force to be reckoned with.

L'Assommoir was Zola's first great success, and for A Love Episode which immediately followed it he wanted to "astonish readers of L'Assommoir with a good natured book". Good natured? Perhaps - but only comparatively. A good natured Zola is, after all, a world apart from, say, a good natured Jane Austen. But Zola was never truly satisfied with A Love Episode. He told Marguerite Charpentier (the wife of his publisher Georges Charpentier), 
There are days when I'm worried about this work, when it seems very flat and gray... On other days I find it good-natured and easy to read.... it must be said that we won't repeat L'Assommoir's success. Une Page d'amour ... is too sweet to excite the public. No sense deluding oneself there. Let's sell the thousand and count ourselves lucky. 
Yet Flaubert, the creator of Emma Bovary, praised it, assuring Zola it didn't "mar the collection", and writing that he found it disturbing and exciting. Guy Maupassant, another of Zola's literary friends, expressed his admiration too. For me, it was an interesting read as Hélène is essentially the most 'normal' descendent of the Rougon Macquarts. Zola writes about the petit-bourgeoisie in his attention to Deberle, his wife, and their friends with Hélène as the outsider - a key feature of many of the Rougon Macquart novels, and as the title suggests he writes on love, passion, and jealousy, which makes this novel stand out somewhat - the primary focus is on a more universal subject. Because of that this novel did not require the level of research that went into the likes of Germinal, Money, or The Ladies Paradise; this has the effect of reading perhaps more like a traditional novel that the others, but also I felt it lacking in the Zola passion that I love so much. I think I have to agree with Zola - sometimes it falls a little flat, other times it's quite sweet. Though different, it's still a key part of the series with it's focus on heredity - the similarities between Hélène and her brother Silvère are apparent, as are the obvious comparisons with Jeanne, Adélaïde, and Hélène's brother François. 

So, for those who are reading the Rougon Macquart novels - it's certainly not one to dread and not as disappointing as I'm perhaps making out, but if you're new to Zola this isn't a novel I'd especially recommend.

To finish - three illustrations from the 1905 edition by Dantan:

Further Reading

Monday, 23 November 2015

Reading England 2016.

It's that time of year again! Challenges for 2016 are already appearing, and for 2016 I offer for the second year in a row Reading England (N.B. I'll be putting up a masterpost for the 2015 Challenge in December). This was inspired by the 50 States Reading Challenge, only for this one we would be reading books set in the various English counties. This year however there are two options (you can pick one or the other, or both):

Challenge #1

The Goal: To travel England by reading, and read at least one book per however many counties of England you decide to read.

Example: You aim to read three books set in three different counties, and you read Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, and The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates. Reading these means you have read a book from Dorset (Far From the Madding Crowd), London (Mrs Dalloway), and Kent (The Darling Buds of May).

The Rules
  • This challenge begins on the 1st January 2016 and ends on 31st December 2016.
  • You can sign up any time between now and the end of 2016. Only books read after 1st January 2016 count, though.
  • Choose a level (below), but do not feel obliged to pick your books or even your counties beforehand. 
  • Because this is a classics blog, I'd encourage people to read classic novels, but how you define classics is up to you.
  • You are not limited to English authors. Henry James, for example, is American but his novel The Turn of the Screw is set in Essex, and so he counts for the challenge.
  • Don't feel obligated to blog about each book if you don't want to, and if you do - don't feel you have to include general information about the county. You could also include a description of the landscape described from the book in your posts, but again you don't have to. This is purely for fun :)
  • You don't have to read the books in their original language, translations are of course accepted.
  • Audio books, Kindles, etc are accepted too.
  • Poetry, plays, biographies, and autobiographies count as well as novels. 
The Levels:
  • Level one: 1 - 3 counties
  • Level two: 4 - 6 counties
  • Level three: 7 - 12 counties
  • Level four: 12 + counties
At the end this post there's a list but before we get to that, here is.....

Challenge #2

The Goal: To read as many books as you wish from just one county. You can 'Read London', 'Read Dorset', 'Read Yorkshire', 'Read Cumbria' - any county you wish!

The Rules: As above :)

The Levels:
  • Level one: 1 - 3 books
  • Level two: 4 - 6 books
  • Level three: 7 - 12 books
  • Level four: 12 + books

The List

As I said last year, this list is not exhaustive, and there are no doubt many books that you may decide is more suitable for a particular county than the ones I've listed. You get to choose your books, I'm not asking you to pick from this list. Secondly. this isn't even an exhaustive list of counties! Odd as this perhaps might seem to someone not from England, listing English counties is a tricky business! What I have listed here is based on the 39 Historic Counties of England, although I've listed novels set in Middlesex as London, as Middlesex would have once contained the likes of Bloomsbury, Kensington, Hampstead and the like within its borough of Ossulstone. Rutland is now made up of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and finally Westmorelandshire is a part of Cumbria. It wasn't easy to get the information together for this list, so there may be errors, but I hope there aren't!

  • The Two Sisters by H. E. Bates
  • My Uncle Silas by H. E. Bates
  • Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan
  • The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford by William Hale White.
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy 
  • Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes
  • Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde
  • Evelina by Fanny Burney
  • Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
  • The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster
  • Maurice by E. M. Forster
  • Glory by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Basil by Wilkie Collins
  • Rambles Beyond Railways by Wilkie Collins
County Durham
  • Afternoon Off by Alan Bennett
  • Rokeby by Walter Scott
  • The Tennant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope
  • The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë [uncertain]
  • Adam Bede by George Eliot
  • Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
  • The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
  • He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
  • Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope
  • The Worm Forgives the Plough by John Stewart Collis
  • Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner
  • Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
  • Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
  • Thank you, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
  • Nightingale Woods by Stella Gibbons
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee
  • The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
  • The Diaries of Francis Kilvert by Rev. Francis Kilvert
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
  • Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
  • Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  • Surly Tim and other stories by Frances Hodgson Burnett 
  • Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  • Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Redburn by Herman Melville
  • The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
  • Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
  • The Right to an Answer by Anthony Burgess
  • John Marchmount's Legacy by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  • Pamela, or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
  • Fanny Hill by John Cleland
  • No Name by Wilkie Collins
  • Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
  • The Nether World by George Gissing
  • New Grub Street by George Gissing
  • The Diary of a Nobody by George and Wheedon Grossmith
  • Hanover Square by Patrick Hamilton
  • Esther Waters by George Moore
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys
  • Vanity Fairy by William Makepeace Thackerary
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
  • The Big Six by Arthur Ransome
  • Armadale by Wilkie Collins
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  • Doctor Wortle's School by Anthony Trollope 
  • Mistress Masham's Repose by T. H. White
  • 'The Man of Law's Tale' from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • The poetry of Wilfrid Gibson 
  • Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
  • Ruined City by Nevil Shute
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
  • The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence
  • Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
  • The White Peacock by D. H. Lawrence
  • A New Way to Pay Old Debts by Philip Massinger
  • Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  • The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
  • Howards End by E. M. Forster
  • A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • No Name by Wilkie Collins
  • The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding
  • Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
  • The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope
  • Aunts Aren't Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett
  • The Old Wives Tale by Arnold Bennett
  • Adam Bede by George Eliot
  • Celia by Fanny Burney
  • No Name by Wilkie Collins
  • We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome
  • The Watsons by Jane Austen
  • A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • Sanditon by Jane Austen
  • The Worm Forgives the Plough by John Stewart Collis
  • The Last Post by Ford Maddox Ford
  • The Collector by John Fowles
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
  • The History of Mr. Polly by H. G. Wells
  • The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
Tyne and Wear
  • The novels of Catherine Cookson
  • The Stars Look Down by A. J. Cronin
  • Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot
  • The Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
  • Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes
  • Kenilworth by Walter Scott
  • As You Like It by William Shakespeare
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Chronicles of Barset by Anthony Trollope
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • The Well of Loneliness by Radcyffe Hall
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë [uncertain]
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  • Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • 'The Summoner's Tale' from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • No Name by Wilkie Collins
  • Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  • The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
  • A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shady, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
As I've mentioned before, county boundaries do change, and the settings for books change too, so reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens would see a jump between London and Kent, and Dracula by Bram Stoker describes both Kent and Yorkshire (Whitby). On this basis, it's up to you how you would categorise the novels you read, but it would be nice if, for example, you read Great Expectations for Kent, and then a different London novel or vice versa.

So, all that's left is to leave me a comment if you're interested, and if you are here are your buttons! For the second challenge I've tried to anticipate which counties would be the most popular. If I don't include the county you want to focus on let me know and I'll make you a button :)

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