• The Trumpet Major, by Thomas Hardy — The author’s only historical novel. Like his earlier and better-known Far from the Madding Crowd, the story revolves around three men pursuing one woman. I did not find the characters in The Trumpet Major as interesting, however. Hardy wrote a preface giving the inspiration and sources for the details of his story. This made it a bit more interesting. The ending was not completely tragic, as is the case with many of Hardy’s novels. Surprisingly, the heroine actually married the man I wanted her to marry. I wasn’t at all sure she would, so the story managed to keep me in some suspense. It is set during the Napoleonic Wars and includes a dramatization of the horrible practice of “pressing” (kidnapping men in order to conscript them into the army or navy).
• Julius Cæsar, by William Shakespeare, read by a full cast (Arkangel, 2003) — A play full of splendid speeches. I am “teaching” it to a couple of students, and we are quite enjoying it. Trust Shakespeare to take a bunch of men making speeches and turn it into something so riveting.
Many familiar quotations come from Julius Cæsar: “Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world / Like a Colossus”; “Men at some time are masters of their fates: / The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings”; “Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; / He thinks too much: such men are dangerous”; “but for mine own part, it was Greek to me”; “Et tu, Brute? — Then fall, Caesar!”; “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war”; “Who is here so base that would be a bondman?”; “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”; “Now let it work. — Mischief, thou art afoot, / Take thou what course thou wilt!”; “There is a tide in the affairs of men / Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune”; and, of course, appropriately given the month, “Beware the Ides of March.”
• Alice Adams, by Booth Tarkington — This is an interesting story where, despite feeling sorry for the heroine, I was definitely rooting for her to not succeed. It certainly shows the detriment of not growing up with the assumption that one will have to make one’s own way in the world, and of trying to live beyond one’s means, pushing into a more luxurious, or grand, social sphere. Despite not being able to root for the heroine, or perhaps even because of it, Alice Adams was a fascinating read.
• The Ordinary Princess, written and illustrated by M. M. Kaye — An entertaining children’s story. It is the tale of a princess who is given the “gift” of being ordinary. The king was the favorite character of my youngest siblings, to whom I read the story. He was certainly the most comic.
• Conceived in Liberty, Volume 1 — A New Land, A New People: The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, by Murray Rothbard, read by Dr. Floy Lilley — Listening to this on audiobook, I was not able to keep track of the numerous persons mentioned. It was, nonetheless, an extremely interesting book about the early settlement of the American colonies. Murray Rothbard focuses on both the suppression and the growth of liberty in the colonies, and its effects. A major subject is religious persecution, especially that of Quakers.
Painting: The Reader (also known as Young Woman Reading a Book), by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).