The UK charity The Reading Agency recently commissioned a poll to discover the nation’s reading habits, as one way of marking World Book Night which took place on Monday April 23rd. One of the things which the poll found out was that more than a fifth of British readers refuse to give up on a book, no matter how much they are struggling, while some will wait weeks or months before calling time on the unsatisfying book. In school the general message was to read on and get to the end of the book, but The Reading Agency is going against the trend and advising readers to give up on books they do not enjoy.
The poll, of 2,000 people, found that 15% would give up if struggling with a book after 1-3 weeks, 11% saying they’d stop after 4-6 days of struggles, 13% after 2-3 days, and 6% would stop the day after. On the other hand, 22% thought that readers should always finish books they’ve started.
However, Sue Wilkinson, chief executive of The Reading Agency, said that;
At a time when one in five of us will experience anxiety or depression, and world events can leave people feeling confused or scared, reading has never been more important.
At a time when so many brilliant books are being written and published, you should never force yourself to read something you’re not enjoying. World Book Night is the chance to find a book that works for you.
The Top Five Unfinished Books
1. Fifty Shades Of Grey by EL James
2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring by JRR Tolkien
3. Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix by JK Rowling
4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The renowned State Theatre Company will be returning to Canberra Theatre Centre with New York-based playwright Kate Hamill’s comedy adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. It will be in the Playhouse from May 29th until June 2nd.
The adaptation has been described as “the greatest stage adaptation of this novel in history” and is “gloriously oddball and a fun whirlwind of words”.
Artistic director Geordie Brookman says, “In the collision of Jane Austen and American actor/playwright Kate Hamill, we’ve found a piece that provides a limitless landscape for comedic invention while digging into the heart and soul of one of the Western canon’s great works.”
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is Imogen Hermes Gowar’s first novel, and it’s one which has been garnering high praise from readers, publishers and critics. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is a historical novel which is set in the world of Georgian London. The novel was shortlisted for the inaugural Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award, and was also a finalist in the Mslexia First Novel Competition, and is said to potentially be featuring on the Women’s Prize long-list (the list will be announced on 6 June).
We loved the premise of the book when we first read about it (see below synopsis), but we didn’t realise that one of Imogen’s inspirations was the work of Austen. In a recent interview Imogen explained what she loves about Austen:
Q. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock seems to have an aura of Jane Austen around it.
A. I like Jane Austen’s novels for their intelligence and keen observation: she is very smart about how pragmatically young women had to think about their marital prospects, and that’s certainly something that informed my own writing. But I I think I got more from her letters and juvenilia. Her teenage works (like Lesley Castle or Jack and Alice) are full of wit and exuberance and respond to the frank and even bawdy 18th-century literature contemporary with the period in which The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is set. We think of Austen as very decorous and proper, but she was still a product of the 18th century, and she knew what was what. Her letters can be very wicked, and I found her humour, voice and observations very useful in my research.
It’s so nice to read that more people are enjoying Austen’s less well-known early works, as well as her famous novels.
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock Synopsis:
This voyage is special. It will change everything….
One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.
As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on…and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course – one on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.
What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?
This April BBC Culture asked writers from around the world to name up to five fictional stories that they feel have endured across time and cultural borders, and which have gone on to change society and history. Answers came back from 108 experts, authors, academics, journalists, critics and translators, from a total of thirty-five different countries, which meant that the nominations spanned not only novels, but poems, folk tales and dramas. This range of countries responding also meant that works selected weren’t only English-language works, but the nominations spanned thirty-three different languages.
Picking the top 100 is certainly not a job we’d want to undertake (just imagine the responsibility!) but we’re delighted to say that Jane Austen featured on the list, coming in at number 24 with Pride and Prejudice.
In case you wondered how the final list from the 108 respondents was finally decided on – the list was determined via ranked ballots. These were first placed into descending order by number of critic votes, then into descending order by total critic points, then alphabetically (for 73 to 100, the titles listed are tied).
1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)
2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)
3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)
7. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)
8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)
10. The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)
11. Beloved (Toni Morrison, 1987)
12. The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri, 1308-1320)
13. Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare, 1597)
14. The Epic of Gilgamesh (author unknown, circa 22nd-10th Centuries BC)
15. Harry Potter Series (JK Rowling, 1997-2007)
16. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood, 1985)
17. Ulysses (James Joyce, 1922)
18. Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945)
19. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)
20. Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert, 1856)
21. Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Luo Guanzhong, 1321-1323)
22. Journey to the West (Wu Cheng’en, circa 1592)
23. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevksy, 1866)
24. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)
25. Water Margin (attributed to Shi Nai’an, 1589)
26. War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy, 1865-1867)
27. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee, 1960)
28. Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys, 1966)
29. Aesop’s Fables (Aesop, circa 620 to 560 BC)
30. Candide (Voltaire, 1759)
31. Medea (Euripides, 431 BC)
32. The Mahabharata (attributed to Vyasa, 4th Century BC)
33. King Lear (William Shakespeare, 1608)
34. The Tale of Genji (Murasaki Shikibu, before 1021)
35. The Sorrows of Young Werther (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1774)
36. The Trial (Franz Kafka, 1925)
37. Remembrance of Things Past (Marcel Proust, 1913-1927)
38. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë, 1847)
39. Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison, 1952)
40. Moby-Dick (Herman Melville, 1851)
41. Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston, 1937)
42. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf, 1927)
43. The True Story of Ah Q (Lu Xun, 1921-1922)
44. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)
45. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy, 1873-1877)
46. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 1899)
47. Monkey Grip (Helen Garner, 1977)
48. Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf, 1925)
49. Oedipus the King (Sophocles, 429 BC)
50. The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka, 1915)
51. The Oresteia (Aeschylus, 5th Century BC)
52. Cinderella (unknown author and date)
53. Howl (Allen Ginsberg, 1956)
54. Les Misérables (Victor Hugo, 1862)
55. Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1871-1872)
56. Pedro Páramo (Juan Rulfo, 1955)
57. The Butterfly Lovers (folk story, various versions)
58. The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer, 1387)
59. The Panchatantra (attributed to Vishnu Sharma, circa 300 BC)
60. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, 1881)
61. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark, 1961)
62. The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (Robert Tressell, 1914)
63. Song of Lawino (Okot p’Bitek, 1966)
64. The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing, 1962)
65. Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie, 1981)
66. Nervous Conditions (Tsitsi Dangarembga, 1988)
67. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943)
68. The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov, 1967)
69. The Ramayana (attributed to Valmiki, 11th Century BC)
70. Antigone (Sophocles, c 441 BC)
71. Dracula (Bram Stoker, 1897)
72. The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K Le Guin, 1969)
73. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens, 1843)
74. América (Raúl Otero Reiche, 1980)
75. Before the Law (Franz Kafka, 1915)
76. Children of Gebelawi (Naguib Mahfouz, 1967)
77. Il Canzoniere (Petrarch, 1374)
78. Kebra Nagast (various authors, 1322)
79. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott, 1868-1869)
80. Metamorphoses (Ovid, 8 AD)
81. Omeros (Derek Walcott, 1990)
82. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1962)
83. Orlando (Virginia Woolf, 1928)
84. Rainbow Serpent (Aboriginal Australian story cycle, date unknown)
85. Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates, 1961)
86. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe, 1719)
87. Song of Myself (Walt Whitman, 1855)
88. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain, 1884)
89. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain, 1876)
90. The Aleph (Jorge Luis Borges, 1945)
91. The Eloquent Peasant (ancient Egyptian folk story, circa 2000 BC)
92. The Emperor’s New Clothes (Hans Christian Andersen, 1837)
93. The Jungle (Upton Sinclair, 1906)
94. The Khamriyyat (Abu Nuwas, late 8th-early 9th Century)
95. The Radetzky March (Joseph Roth, 1932)
96. The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)
97. The Satanic Verses (Salman Rushdie, 1988)
98. The Secret History (Donna Tartt, 1992)
99. The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats, 1962)
100. Toba Tek Singh (Saadat Hasan Manto, 1955)
The aim of the list is not to be the be-all and end-all definitive list, but rather its aim is to get discussions going. Why do some stories endure and some do not? Why and how do these stories on the list continue to resonate with modern societies living hundreds, even thousands, of years after they were created? And finally, why it is that sharing stories is “a fundamental human impulse: one that can overcome division, inspire change, and even spark revolutions”.
If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Kitty Bennet then you might like to read the new book by Carrie Kablean. Carrie has always felt that Kitty was overlooked in the Bennet household, and that she should be ameliorated, so she wrote her story.
I loved writing and researching it, and I can only hope people will love reading it!Carrie Kablean
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