Monday, January 2, 2017

New Wine Into Old Bottles

Looking at my list of books I've read in 2016, one can see that two writers have tied for first place in number of books listed by author - Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes and E. Phillips Oppenheim. In the past year, I've read four books each written by those two particular writers.

I discovered Lowndes in April and enjoyed the novels I read written by her, but I can't recall why I stopped at four. There are, certainly more of her novels for download at Project Gutenberg.

When I discovered Oppenheim, the problem was were to begin. He had written more than 100 books, with most (if not all) available for download at Free Read Australia. I finally decided on his first two novels, Expiation and A Monk of Cruta, followed by his most successful work, The Great Impersonation and his memoir, The Pool of Memory. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it was his memoir that introduced me to Elizabeth von Arnim. With von Arnim, I began with her most critically acclaimed work, Vera. As I also wrote in a previous post, Vera may very well be the best novel I've read in 2016. If not the best, it would certainly rank in the top five.

As soon as I finished with Vera I downloaded Arnim's first novel, Elizabeth and Her German Garden. The difference in tone between the two works is striking. Arnim's first novel is so "light" compared to the later Vera that it's hard to believe the books were written by the same writer. I absolutely loved both.

It looked as if I might be able to finish reading Elizabeth and Her German Garden before the year ended, but a bit of side work prevented me from reading the entire book until New Year's Day. Immediately upon finishing the novel, I went to Project Gutenberg to download 3 additional books by von Arnim.

I want to end this post with a quote from Elizabeth and Her German Garden. When I began reading the book during the New Year's holiday, I had no idea that the main character, Elizabeth would include an anecdote about a New Year's holiday of her own. Like me, she had gone to church New Year's Eve.

If it had not been so dark, and if the wind had not howled so despairingly, I should have paid little attention to the threats issuing from the pulpit; but, as it was, I fell to making good resolutions. This is always a bad sign,—only those who break them make them; and if you simply do as a matter of course that which is right as it comes, any preparatory resolving to do so becomes completely superfluous. I have for some years past left off making them on New Year’s Eve, and only the gale happening as it did reduced me to doing so last night; for I have long since discovered that, though the year and the resolutions may be new, I myself am not, and it is worse than useless putting new wine into old bottles.

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