Monday, October 31, 2016

Classics Club 33: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

I read and enjoyed Les Miserables several years ago, so was looking forward to The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. This sprawling story is set in and around Notre-Dame Cathedral (in fact the French title is Notre-Dame de Paris, and many claim the cathedral itself is actually the central character). I found it a little slow to get going initially. Partly this is because of Hugo's lengthy descriptions and discursions, which the sewers of Les Miserables had at least prepared me. Visualization is not my strength so the chapters giving detailed descriptions of Notre-Dame and it's surrounds detracted rather than enhanced my reading experience. The other reason was that, thanks to popular culture I was expecting a story about a hunchback and a gypsy. Of course this novel is so much more than that but the fact that these well-known  characters did not initially feature significantly led to some initial confusion on my part.

Once I read a little further  the complex, complicated relationship between Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Count Frollo (surely one of the most evil characters I've encountered this year), complicated even more by the priest's brother Jehan, Esmeralda's husband, her love interest, and her (unknown) mother began to be revealed.I found this was when the novel really hummed and was at it's strongest and most compelling . Some of the more minor characters and sub-plots were an unnecessary distractions.

While Hugo's writing style can be a little wordy at time, I do enjoy his wit and sarcasm  which is often at it's finest when pointing out the flaws and hypocrisies of those in power.

The ending was another highlight. After the epic battle over entry to the cathedral, the ultimate ending was understated and arguably all the more heart-rending for it.

This novel, provided me with much food for thought around issues such as love vs lust, justice, suffering and the way in which we judge others based on their outward appearance. While not as strong as Les Miserables it was well worth my while to read, and is one classic I would consider rereading in future years.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fortnight Ending 30 October 2016

The past fortnight has been very quiet, low-key and mainly spent at home. Miss 15 and I did manage one birding trip though. The highlight was a Grey Teal duckling. We've seen plenty of  adult Grey Teal before, but neither one of us could recall previously seeing a duckling.

There's been plenty of game playing with multiple games of  Bohnanza most days.

At home there has been lots of reading and plenty of driver's ed. It's less than three weeks until she can book to sit the test and she' s got most of the material mastered. Just a few curly sections that will need to be memorized. We re-watched The Philadelphia Story and discussed many of the questions in the Movies as Literature guide. We also watched The Maltese Falcon (we'll re-watch it and tackle the questions this week) and Jane Eyre. That was just for fun, although we did  chat about how the film compared to the novel and what we thought about Mr Rochester and Jane's relationship with him. Miss 15 has also been busy preparing to publish our birding group's newsletter - the final edition for the year. There has also been plenty of trampolining - more coaching and less training than normal since her coach and many of her clubmates were at an international competition. Lots of time was also spent watching the livestream from the competition. Finally there's been life skills. She made delicious gingersnaps one day and on another planned the menu for the forthcoming week and then did all the supermarket shopping since I was indisposed.

Rolling the gingersnaps in sugar makes them delicious, if  not healthy!

So nothing very inspiring but we are in a low-tide period after all.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Classics Club 32: The Woman in White

I really enjoyed reading this novel by Wilkie Collins. Among the reasons -

1. Plot - There was always something intriguing going on - bigamy, kidnap, asylums committals, forged documents, murder, stolen identities, madness, to name just a few. Collins revealed the details in a way that maintained the intrigue and suspense, yet wasn't frustrating. A real page turner, that justifies its classification as a sensation novel. It was originally published in serial form and I can well imagine the original readers eagerly awaiting the next installment.

2. Characters - There were so many to love, from the strong, resourceful intelligent Marian who wasn't  afraid to take action and didn't conform to the Victorian stereotype, to the self-centred hypochondriac Mr Fairlie, to the eccentric, charming (when he chose)  devious villain Count Fosco. Many I wouldn't like to meet in real life but they were fun to read. All except the vapid, child-like Laura Fairlie. Her I didn't like and was frustrated when Walter Hartright preferred her over her half-sister Marian just because Laura was pretty.

3. Theme - The relationship between Laura Fairlie and Sir Percival Glyde is based solely on his desire to obtain her inheritance. Much harm comes to her as a result. Obviously women's legal rights, especially within marriage, is one of this novel's central themes.

4. Structure - The Woman in White is an early detective novel. In fact it is my pick for  the detective novel category in the Back to the Classics 2016 challenge. Walter Hartright utilizes many sleuthing techniques and the novel unfolds as a series of "evidence" from various characters that was obtained after the events themselves. I felt this structure suited the story.

5. The Ending - This was  nice and satisfying. No loose ends, no wondering what exactly happened. The characters who deserved to live happily ever after seemed to; those that did  not got their just desserts!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Week Ending 16 October 2016

With this being the official first week of the last school term of the year most kids are back to their books. But Miss 15 is officially 'done' for the year. So what did she choose to do in this child-led, delight-directed, low-tide week?

She spent a lot of time on Drivers Education. She turns 16 next month and will then be able to sit the theory test for her learner's license, which will enable her to get behind the wheel so long as there is a qualified person in the passenger seat to supervise and give instruction and guidance. She was looking forward to Miss 21 taking on that role but since she is still in England Miss 15 will have to make do with me. Anyway she spent a lot of time reading the road code and taking quizzes. She's already pretty good at the practical, on-road things but will need put some effort into memorising the more abstract, less useful stuff eg the amount of alcohol adults can legally have in their blood while driving.

We watched The Philadelphia Story - perfect for livening up a grey day. One of the things Miss 15 said she wanted to do this summer was watch a lot of movies. Shortly after that I stumbled across the Movies as Literature curriculum. A perfect fit! The current, very loose, plan is to watch about half the movies over the summer and just discuss the questions. Then next year, once we are back in our academic high tide we'll watch the remaining movies and she'll write some essays and do some of the suggested extension projects. The Philadelphia Story was a good first pick since we could make links between it and the slapstick tradition which Miss 15 recently studied.

She fitted in one birding trip - a low key walk through the Botanic Gardens with members of our local birding group. Lots of nests, eggs and chicks. The weekend bush walk had to be cancelled since the track was very slippery and the stream they had to cross was running high - not so safe for older members of the group. Hopefully it can be rescheduled.

Mr 18 had an eventful week. His last week of lectures at university. Just final exams and then his first year is finished. Over the weekend he was busy with JOTI - Scouting's international  Jamboree on the Internet. He had to take some time out though to attend the official presentation of his Queens Scout Award. It's the highest award in Scouting and was presented by the Governor-General, so quite a big deal. Mr 18 ended up having to leave early and miss the refreshments and informal mingling at the end since there was a technical crisis back at JOTI and he was the only one who could fix it.

I was absolutely gutted to have to miss the ceremony entirely since I was felled by the worst of a health problem I've been suffering on and off (sadly a lot more on than off lately) since last year. I couldn't even sit up let alone get out of bed. Thankfully I've finally received an appointment for an MRI which I've been waiting for for nearly six months. It will be nice to hopefully have a definitive diagnosis (and a cure) - right now one doctor says its one thing and another says it isn't.

Linking up with Kris's Weekly Wrap-Up.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fortnight Ending 9 October 2016

Last week Miss 15 was out of town  competing at the national trampoline championship. It was great event for her. She won a gold medal in her individual event - her first-ever first placing at the national level! Two days after that she and her friend also won gold in the synchronised event.

These really are both gold! Obviously the lighting wasn't great.

I'm really proud of her and pleased for her - just disappointed I couldn't be there to share it with her. Some of the excitement had worn off by the time she got home. Below is one of her routines - sadly not the best one (her friend messed up the videoing of that one) and the quality isn't great. With any luck I'll get better videos and photos soon.

This week has been pretty low key, partly because she is recovering from last week and partly because she's got some bug which is sapping her energy. She did attend a  course for gymnastics coaches at her gym. She mainly coaches trampoline but also coaches one gymnastics class each week. The course was the first two days after nationals, so less than ideal timing. She considered not going but her natural diligence won out!

She's back into trampoline training and is delighted to have mastered one new skill already - on the first day her coach started teaching it. Since she is notoriously slow to gain new skills this was a major accomplishment and she was really buzzing when the session was over. It made the hefty training fees worthwhile!

We managed to finish the final two weeks of  Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies.  Luckily the final week was a short one so doing two weeks in one wasn't as much work as we'd feared.

After having to postpone twice (first I was sick, then it hailed) we managed a successful birding trip to a reserve on the outskirts of town. I say succesful since we did see the bird we were after but the views weren't great so we may go back in hopes of a better look. At least it wasn't too far to drive or too far to walk. Driving for a couple of hours, then walking for more than an hour and then missing the birds we were after or only getting unsatisfactory views is really frustrating. All part of birding though.

The rest of the time has been spent in the kitchen baking, relaxing with good books, and exercising her brain a little with some logic puzzles.

Linking with the Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.