The Begum’s Fortune: Frankville vs. Stahlstadt

The Begum’s Fortune by Jules Verne

I am by no means a student of world history, but as far as I can make out, the Franco-Prussian War, which began in July 1870 and ended some 10 months later, had some fairly significant and long-lasting aftereffects. As a result of its surrender, France had to cede over to Germany the bulk of the Alsace-Lorraine territory, while Germany emerged a unified empire, effectively altering the balance of European power. For Frenchman Jules Verne, the Germans would never be regarded in the same way again, and his sentiments toward the former enemy would be abundantly displayed in his novel The Begum’s Fortune. This was to be the 18th novel for the so-called “Father of Science Fiction,” out of an eventual 54 to be published during his lifetime; eight more would be released posthumously.

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Flatland: Hard work, but immensely rewarding

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, published in 1884, is Edwin A. Abbott’s social satire and Christian apologetic. As a Cambridge mathematician, theologian, and schoolmaster, Abbott had a lot to say about his Victorian society and about being open-minded to the supernatural. He does this from the point of view of a humble square that lives in Flatland, a world of only two dimensions.

For the first half of the book (“This World”), the square explains the demography of Flatland, all the while offering hilarious social satire. He begins at the lowest social stratum (women, who are straight lines) and ends with the king, who has so many sides that he’s indistinguishable from a circle. Low-class men, such as soldiers, are isosceles triangles with sharp acute angles. Since the brain is the size of the smallest angle, these men are stupid, bu... Read More

The Princess and Curdie: Give it a miss

The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald

The Princess and the Goblin is one of the gems of children's literature that deserves to sit on any bookshelf. The same can not be said of its sequel The Princess and Curdie, which differs so much in tone and content from the original that it is sometimes difficult to remember it is in fact a sequel to the dreamy, beautiful The Princess and the Goblin. Don't get me wrong, I love George MacDonald's wonderful books, and although there are some nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout the book and Irene's grandmother is as fascinating as ever (as well as being one of the few feminine representations of Christian mysticism in children's literature) this particular MacDonald novel left me a little cold.

It begins extremely well: after the cataclysmic events at the conclusion of the previous book, the ... Read More