Happy midweek everyone! Wow. We are already halfway through the week. I hope your week is doing well.

As it is midweek, it is time for a fresh WWW Wednesday update, my first this year. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday are quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What have you finished reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What are you currently reading?

After spending the first month of the year catching up on books published in the previous year, I have been spending February reading works of British and Irish literature. It all began with two works by James Joyce; Dubliners and Ulysses. The latter was the 1,000th novel I read. I have since traveled across England, Scotland, and Ireland (sorry Wales). The book I am next going to read, however, will transport me to a place out of this world, quite literally. Nearly five years since I read the first book in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, I am now going to read the succeeding books. Mind you, reading the rest of the books has been part of my annual reading goal and, hopefully, I can make good on that promise. I am still to read the book so do look forward to more of my impressions on the book this Friday.

What have you finished reading?

The past week has certainly been very productive, both at work and in my readings. I managed to complete three books. The first of these three books was Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net. It was through must-read lists that I first encountered the British writer. Her novel, The Sea, The Sea immediately caught my fancy; apart from being one of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, the book won the Booker Prize. After years of longing for the book, I finally managed to read it back in 2018 and, no surprises there as I liked the book. It is honestly one of my best all-time reads. It made me want to read more of Murdoch’s works. However, it did take time before I was finally able to read my second novel by Murdoch.

Published in 1954, Under the Net is Murdoch’s first published novel. Set in London, it chronicled the story of Jake Donaghue, a struggling young writer who scrapes a living by translating mediocre French novels to English. When we first meet Jake, he just returned from a trip to France only to be informed that he and his cousin Finn were being thrown out by his friend, Magdalen, or Madge for short. Jake and Finn have been living rent-free for eighteen months at Madge’s house. Sammy Starfield, a rich bookmaker, is set to move in. Murdoch introduces an interesting and diverse set of characters. She also riddled her novel with philosophical intersections. The book reminded me of The Sea, The Sea although Under the Net’s wit and humor made it more of a lighthearted read. Under the Net underlined my interest in Murdoch’s oeuvre.

From London, my literary journey took me across the strait to Ireland with Emma Donoghue’s Room. My first encounter with the Irish Canadian writer and her book was through the poster of her book’s movie adaptation. It did initially pique my interest but I soon forgot about it. Its ubiquitous quality kept reminding me so I gave in and obtained a copy of the book during the first year of the pandemic. Two years later, I added the book to my 2023 Beat the Backlist challenge as I felt it was about time for me to read the book. I also listed it as part of my 2023 Top 23 Reading Lis, making it the third book from the list I read so far this year. I normally scramble to read the books on the list toward the end of the year.

I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that the primary narrator, Jack, was five years old. As such, I wasn’t surprised to encounter (deliberate) misspellings and erroneous past tenses of some verbs, adding authenticity to the text. Of course, there are several playful elements. Jakc was very imaginative. Jack and his mother were living in the titular Room. As the story advanced, Jack has no idea of the outside world; his idea of it was provided to him by his mother. This was enough to connect the dots and sure enough, the story reflected true stories. I must admit, I was surprised when I learned the book was tagged as a work of crime fiction. I had a different vision of the book in mind. Nevertheless, it was an engaging read. However, I felt that it was lacking in building the story of Jack’s mother. It would have bridged the gap between the past and the present.

From the contemporary, my next read transported me to Victorian England. Thomas Hardy published three novels prior to Far From the Madding Crowd. The first three books preceding Far from the Madding Crowd were met with a lukewarm reception. His fourth novel, however, would elevate Hardy to global prominence. The book’s critical success made it part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. The book was also adapted into a film. However, I was apprehensive about reading the book as I was not much of a fan of Hardy’s Tess of the d’urbervilles, the first novel written by Hardy that I read. However, I am always willing to make concessions.

I delved into Far from the Madding Crowd hoping that I will find some redeeming qualities in Hardy’s prose. Sure enough, I did. At the heart of the story was Bathsheba Everdene, a beautiful young lady who was living with her aunt. Falling in love with her was Gabriel Oak, an affluent farmer who was eight years her senior. She promptly rejected his offer of marriage before moving to Weatherbury. The book that leaped forward into the future. Bathsheba has become rich after she inherited her uncle’s wealth. Farmer Oak experienced a reversal in fortune. They remained good friends, however. Gabriel remained loyal to her despite her overtures with William Boldwood and Sergeant Francis “Frank” Troy; the latter she would even marry. I liked the story although Bathsheba’s portrayal was a little shallow. Overall, however, it was an engrossing read.

That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!