It's time for a new edition of "Packing for a Reading Retreat," where I imagine which books I would take with me if I were heading to a reading retreat, where there would be no distractions and I would be free to do nothing but read for a week. I might imagine packing two kinds of books: those that are "New to Me" (books I've never read before) and "Old Favorites" (past reads I'd like to revisit).
New to Me
Lord Byron's Novel, The Evening Land, John Crowley
I picked up Lord Byron's Novel at a used book sale in the fall, and until I saw it there, both this book and John Crowley himself were completely off my radar. Crowley's novel supposes that Byron finished a novel that was then lost and presents that novel within two frame stories: one of Byron's daughter Ada finding the manuscript and one of the manuscript later being rediscovered. I am intrigued, and it sounds like (from the poking around on the interwebs I've done) that maybe Crowley is someone I ought to know about.
Longbourn, Jo Baker
Longbourn takes as its setting the household of the Bennets from Pride and Prejudice and tells the story of the servants there. To which I say, "Oh, neat!" I love a retelling, and the story of characters who are almost completely invisible (but undeniably there) from P&P is irresistible. While I don't expect Baker to portray the Bennets as nicer towards their servants then they were historically likely to be, I do hope there's no Bennet-bashing, that the book doesn't take as one of its goals to show us that realistically we wouldn't have liked the Bennets so very much.
The Life of Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell
Somehow I managed to go through eleven years of formal study of English literature without knowing much about Elizabeth Gaskell. I'm a bit better acquainted with her now and am very excited to read her biography of Charlotte Bronte, surely a fascinating subject. The idea of a biography written by the subject's friend and contemporary also intrigues me.
Walking Home: A Poet's Journey, Simon Armitage
Poet Simon Armitage walked the Pennine Way, a trail through the Pennine Hills running from the Yorkshire Dales to just over the Scottish Border. Armitage did poetry readings along the way in exchange for room and board, and Walking Home is an account of his journey. I don't see how this could possibly be less than wonderful.