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Gin and Tolstoy (Summer 2018): Book 2(7 Posts)
Discussion thread for group 1, book 2
Here's what I wrote about this book on the 50 Books thread:
"Olivia is a fantastic character, her inner monologue is subtle and real. She puts her dress on backwards and hates it (and later realises that it's not a great success anyway). She feels bad for not dancing more with a lecherous old man, and worries about the feelings of an angry, drunk young man. She hides in the loos pretending to look in the mirrors, and imagines her sister and her cousin talking behind her back. The book is a lovely period piece but at the same time it reminded me of every night out I had as a teenager ."
I love books like this which are so strongly and evocatively set in a period in the past yet feel so timeless. Reminding us that human beings don't really change much even though the world does.
Ooh I feel quite honoured to be reading the book chosen by our 'leader' .
I was a little bit unsure if this would be my kind of book when I first opened it - I'd not heard of the author or the book and have to admit I've struggled to get 'hooked' onto any historical novels I've read before.
But I am really enjoying it now. It's a lovely, gentle and atmospheric book and very easy to read. I agree completely that although it's set in a very different time, Olivia's internal dialogue really resonates. I'm about two thirds of the way through now and will be sad to finish it. I will definitely be reading more from the author.
I agree with Badtasteflump - at first glance this was not my sort of book. In fact I started reading it several times and just couldn't get into it.
Then one return train journey from London to Sheffield later, and I've devoured the whole thing - it just needed an uninterrupted stretch to get involved in the story.
For me, it's the second half of the book where this really gets going. I felt so sorry for Olivia, but also that pang of recognition - let's face it, we've all hidden in the toilets to escape a party where nobody's talking to us. I thought both sisters were depicted really well, in a way that was completely believable, regardless of era.
And according to the bio, the authoress went to my Cambridge college, so extra points for that one! Will get it in the post tomorrow once I've acquired chocolate....
I was really happy to get this today. I have read it before (about fifteen years ago) when read most of her books. Think have the (auto?) biography somewhere too, which haven't read, and would follow this well. Really excited to see if it is as good as I remember!
Again this is a book by an author that I’ve not heard of before (and I consider myself to be quite well read )
I did enjoy the book, particularly the second part. I found it very atmospheric and enjoyed the descriptions of the other characters, the dancing and the outfits. It reminded me a bit of some of Jane Austen’s novels and A Room with a View - young females on the cusp of moving into a different phase of their lives.
The social awkwardness and worrying about wearing the right outfit and saying the right thing was also very well described.
All in all a good read
I've just finished this but I feel like I've cheated slightly. I already had it on audible to listen to. It's read by Joanna Lumley. So I listened.
Although it's nice to have a book read to you, the downside is you get more distracted (I do boring jobs around the house) when listening. I also found I got a bit mixed up trying to remember which of the men were which. If I'd actually read the paper copy I would have checked back.
I've read a few books set around this period by women and have noticed before the remarks about the "worst family in the village" etc. Uncle Oswald being a bit of a tragic weirdo, living with the family having no money. How amazing it is when the posh family take notice of one. How shameful to have a drunk son. At the beginning, before you get to grips with the story and characters, I found it a bit oppressive and made me feel a bit down. It seems the prospect for women hadn't changed much from Austen a hundred years before. And class structure rigidity exhausting because it's all pretty much unquestioned.
However, by the time I got back into the rhythm of reading early 20th century women's literature I did really enjoy it. So that, by the time it gets to the shameful drunk son, I found it quaintly amusing.
I did really like Olivia and found her relationship with her sister very believable. It was also so much better that it was about a young girl experiencing her first dance. Rather than an older girl and the denouement being who she gets married to. Which is the usual plot.
I did feel a bit sorry for poor old Olivia having to encounter so many ghastly or sad types before finding that Rollo was nice and normal (and, handily the highest class chap ) to restore her faith.
As others have said, it does still resonate across the decades despite some now dated ideals. I do find social history depicted in books written in the era interesting.
Overall I enjoyed the book and would look for more of her books.