Tag Archives: Victorian

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Omnibus Edition)

Author: Alan Moorethe league of extraordinary gentelmen omnibus

Illustrator: Kevin O’Neill

My Rating: DNF

Warning: Mature Audience

In England during the year 1898, a mysterious unnamed individual–going merely by M–has begun collecting a most unusual group of people together. Strayed to the outskirts of society and beyond by choice or chance, these individuals have both the will and the abilities to do what many might consider impossible. And perhaps, for the sake of their country, they might even be motivated to have the will to work together and accomplish the task.

First off, apologies to those who love this, admittedly classic, comic book–you should probably stop reading now. Actually, this particular review is for myself more than for anyone else, so that when I look back in 5 years and wonder whatever happened to the characters, I’ll be reminded of all the reasons I stopped reading to begin with. Because The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has the potential to be a wonderful story. The premise is intriguing, the blending of Victorian period literature and style with the superhero comic. I would even say that, at times, Moore and O’Neill manage to pull it off. Certainly, a familiarity with and appreciation of classic literature will certainly increase one’s appreciation of the comic–the incorporation of characters and stylistic elements was one of the things I appreciated the most. So if there’s that much good, why did I stop halfway through with no intention of ever picking this comic up again to finish it? Because I found this comic to also be racist, sexist, violent, bawdy, and offensive in the extreme. Is that seriously necessary?! So yes, I won’t elaborate further, but I can’t recommend The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, nor will I ever read any of it again.

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The Importance of Being Earnest

Author: Oscar Wildethe importance of being earnest

My rating: 5 of 5

As an excuse to leave the dullness and responsibility of country life, Jack Worthing has invented a troublesome brother named Ernest who lives in the city–naturally when his “brother” is in trouble, he has to go to town to take care of him. While in the city, he leaves his true identity behind, going instead by the name of Ernest himself. And it is by this name that he becomes betrothed to the lovely Gwendolyn; imagine his horror when he finds that she has sworn to only ever love someone named Ernest! Later when Jack has returned to his country house and his ward, the young Cecily, he finds that his friend Algernon is onto him and has the tables on him quite dramatically by coming to visit–as Jack’s wayward brother Ernest. Worse still, Algernon and Cecily proclaim their love for each other, or rather Cecily proclaims her love for someone named “Ernest” just as Gwendolyn did. As Gwendolyn arrives at Jack’s country house, the four are in a right proper stew of lies and confusions–but perhaps the most surprising thing is how much truth has been unwittingly told as lies.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of college literature classes (because I’d rather read stories than butcher them), but I’m ever grateful to my school for introducing me to this jewel of a Victorian play. It’s this satirical, hilariously funny representation of the excesses and the absurdities of the upper classes of Victorian England, and it’s a wonderful read. (Actually, it might be even better seen on stage, but it’s fantastic to read as well.) The wordplay in the drama is brilliantly executed–the sort of stuff that will be quoted probably hundreds of years from now. (River Song even quotes it in the most recent Doctor Who Christmas special!) Some of the ideas presented are quite cutting, but they’re also absurdly funny, perhaps even more so because of how awful they are at times. It’s a lot like Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors in the crazy confusion that the plot becomes. And the surprise ending is ironically perfect–just what the characters deserve. I think even if you’re not much into historical plays, The Importance of Being Earnest might be worth at least trying; it’s a lot of fun.

Note: This play is old enough to be public domain and can be found for free on Google Books and on Project Gutenberg.

 

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After Alice

Author: Gregory MaguireAfter Alice

My rating: 5 of 5

Have you ever wondered what happened back in Oxford after Alice disappeared down the rabbit hole? Perhaps her best friend Ada was coming over to visit her and happened to fall into the same (or another nearly identical) hole into Wonderland. Perhaps her older sister Lydia thought she was just being Alice, off on a lark again–or maybe she was just too distracted with the complications of being caught in the gap between girlhood and womanhood to worry about her sister. Perhaps the visit of the notorious Mr. Darwin had the household in too much of a stir to properly look for a wandering child. Perhaps there were more interconnected stories relating to Alice’s adventures than we have ever before imagined. . . .

Gregory Maguire’s treatment of the tale Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in his book After Alice is absolutely brilliant. He takes the classic and focuses on people who were barely mentioned in passing in the original, people who were side characters, and others who were never even pictured at all. And in doing so, he creates a vivid picture, not only of Wonderland, but of 1860’s Oxford as well. The imagery of his phrases is elegant and subtle such that each sentence is a delight to read–this is one of those books that makes me aware afresh how much I love language, words themselves. Moreover, his characters are a delight–conflicted, changing, sometimes morally ambiguous, but always so very human. And the way in which Maguire captures Victorian mores and opinions through his characters is not only enjoyable but educational. I will say that I would recommend this for an adult audience, not really because there’s anything inappropriate (or rather, anything inappropriate is couched in such Victorian propriety that it would go right over a child’s head) but because the story is rather complex and meant to be thought-provoking to adults, so kids might get bored–although there are probably also children who would adore this. (Okay, I would have loved this book if I had read it as a child.) In any case, After Alice comes with high recommendations, especially for those who liked the Carroll or who enjoy retellings or Victorian era literature.

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The Professor’s Daughter

Author: Joann Sfar

Illustrator: Emmanuel Guibert

In Victorian England, the daughter of a professor of archaeology has found herself in some rather unusual company. Her name is Lillian, and her companion is none other than Imhotep IV–one of her father’s mummies now up walking and talking, still wearing his grave wrappings underneath the dashing tailcoat and top hat. Remarkably, the two fall in love, although it seems their romance is fated for difficulty as one thing after another seems determined to tear them apart.

What a remarkable and unusual graphic novel! The Professor’s Daughter is truly rather absurd, jumping into the story with a walking, talking mummy (actually more than one) with no explanation–and perhaps even more absurd, featuring a young woman who would love said mummy. And yet there is something quite charming about this spunky, daring couple. Their hijinks, while ridiculous from one perspective, are also rather romantic and exciting. In a sense, the feel of the story is reminiscent of some of Elizabeth Peters’ books, what with the Egyptology and the strong, extraordinary heroine and such. Guibert’s art is truly enchanting with subtle tones and great facial expressions. I think it’s also nice that this is such a short graphic novel (only 64 pages for the actual story) that it could easily be read in one sitting. So, if you’re able to just go with the oddness of the unexplained walking mummies, I think The Professor’s Daughter is a particularly charming graphic novel–definitely recommended.

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The Deeds of the Disturber

Author: Elizabeth Peters

Amelia Peabody Emerson and her small but eccentric family are home in England for the summer. It should be a nice break from their work in Egypt–shopping, socializing, writing various professional works. And it might have been, if that dratted mummy at the British Museum and all the rumors of ancient curses arising about it. And of course the ubiquitous reporters stirring up said story and making claims that the Emersons are going to track down the truth behind the rumors (which of course they will, but without the reporters’ help, thank you very much). Not to mention the two rather detestable children of Amelia’s brother that the Emersons have promised to look after for the summer. But really, none of these extrinsic issues can really be blamed, right? I mean, Amelia draws such problems to herself as naturally as honey draws flies.

As always, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody stories are a stirring mixture of romance, adventure, Egyptology, mystery, and a feminist rebellion again the Victorian norm. The Deeds of the Disturber is set, unlike most of her books, in England itself rather than in Egypt. This gives it a different feel for sure–more like Sherlock Holmes, but with a female perspective and an Egyptian influence. What I love about this volume the most is probably, well, Ramses. To be honest, from the time he’s old enough to have any influence on happenings (which is a lot younger than you’d expect), he is the life of this series in my mind. And from mummification experiments to unusually astute observations, from clever disguises to saving the day in the end, Ramses is a delight–albeit a sometimes pedantic delight. Amelia and Emerson are, of course, also quite enjoyable to read; however, I find their part in this particular volume  somewhat less enjoyable because of the amount of time spent questioning marital fidelity instead of teaming up against the forces of evil and all that. Soap-ish and dull in the extreme to my mind. Still, for those who enjoy Victorian mysteries (and especially those who have appreciated other of Amelia’s stories), The Deeds of the Disturber is likely to be an enjoyable read.

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