My reading thus far in 2010 has been placed squarely in the 19th century: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Anthony Trollope and now Anton Chekhov. Over the weekend I finished Trollope's "Can You Forgive Her?" and also read "The Three Sisters," from a collection of Chekhov plays translated by Michael Henry Heim.
I like it in the 19th century. The books have words in them that are not bleep-y.
Of course they have their drawbacks, as well. In Trollope's world, a woman's career is all about marriage. And I would not recommend the life of Chekhov's Russian heroines either. But any text can give us a chance to think about our world, how we live and the meaning of life in general. And I like going to these places from the past and dwelling in them. In "The Three Sisters," Chekhov's characters think about little else. Work, work, work, some of them believe, will solve everything. Being well-educated seems to prepare one for little. The character my son played, Solyony, suffers from PTSD, believing he can still smell corpses on his hands, constantly sprinkling scent on them as a distraction.
Trollope writes, of Alice Vavasor, that what really matters is not who we marry but how we decide to live. Will we be good, or not? Of course there's a good deal of variety in what we might understand good to mean, but that is the essential question, whether it's an era of young ladies being married off as Lady Glencora was or an era of young people not enthused about getting married at all.
Reading the first of the Palliser novels also brought back fond memories of watching "The Pallisers" on PBS with my parents. My father loved the series, which has equal parts romance and politics, or perhaps even more politics than romance.
More 19th century reading awaits me. I've started the second Sherlock Holmes novel (which begins with cocaine!injected!), and I am planning to read the other Chekhov plays. I have the collected works of Trollope on my Kindle and I had thought I would read the rest of the Palliser novels, but I may read the Barchester Chronicles instead. I suspect I'll be just as interested in village clergy as in the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "Planty Pal."