Full Hearts – #JNGReads

“Molly went upstairs very happy, very full and warm at her heart.”

Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell

Sometimes you encounter a book that makes your heart so full that you can’t help looking forward to encountering it throughout your day. This book leaves a sort of film over your eyes, so that even when you’re sitting at your desk at work, staring at an Excel spreadsheet, you’re still seeing the characters of the novel. Their voices still resonate in your ears, and you can still perfectly imagine what they are saying and doing, even when the book is not in front of you. The book is like that guy you have a crush on, the guy you realize at the end of the day that you’ve actually been thinking about constantly without even knowing it. And when you open it on the bus ride home after a long day or when you’re sitting in bed getting ready for a new day to start, it kind of feels like coming home, like peace and calm.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell is the latest book to leave me with that feeling. I’ve already spoken about the book here on the blog, but I finally finished it and I was left so satisfied and very sad. I knew that I would struggle to find another novel that would make me so eager to read each day (although I think I finally settled on a good contender with the novel I’m reading now – see my Goodreads page and the preview on the right side of this page for details!), and I immediately missed the characters. I missed Mrs. Gibson’s antics and ridiculousness, Cynthia’s drama but also her kind heart, and most of all I missed Molly’s strength and her ability to get through any obstacle with such levelheaded insight and perspective.

Upon finishing the novel, I encountered a review on Goodreads that revealed that the authoress decorously called Mrs. Gaskell in the 19th century passed away before completing Wives and Daughters. That fact is quite obvious from the abrupt ending – but rather than feeling as though this ending ruined the novel, made it less complete and profound, I felt as though the unfinished, open-ended conclusion left me wanting so much more and made the characters resonate and stick with me more profoundly. As a reader, I was called to come up with my own ending, to put together the pieces Mrs. Gaskell had left me and conjecture the most reasonable conclusions. I think I have a good idea of where Molly would’ve ended up, mistress of the Hall she loved so well. And I think I would’ve seen Cynthia happy, and maybe watched Mr. and Mrs. Gibson settle into a more amiable rapport. I think that, had Mrs. Gaskell finished her final novel, I would have been extremely pleased with the result because, let’s be honest, a Victorian novel can never let you down when it comes to romance.

Days are not always easy, weeks even less so when they’re the sum of very stressful and bizarre days, but if you have that special book that you carry in your bag with you, that you know will instantly whisk you a million miles away, then everything seems just a little bit easier and the sun shines down just a little bit brighter.

Have a happy week full of reading!

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

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Wives and Husbands – #JNGReads

Happy Sunday lovely readers!

Today’s #JNGReads blog post has been a looong time coming!

I started reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s *Victorian* novel Wives and Daughters before Christmas…and I am absolutely, unequivocally obsessed with it! What a perfect, delicious, gorgeously written novel! If you follow me over on Twitter, you’ll know how obsessed I am with this incredible work of fiction because I am constantly gushing about it and tweeting long, deep quotes. I actually encourage you to take a look at my Twitter page (you can see some of the feed over on your right) because I won’t be able to talk about every one of my favourite quotes in this post, but I do think it would be worth your while to go and check them out!

Wives and Daughters is another quintessential, word-perfect Victorian novel. Like the other Victorian novels I’ve raved about here on the blog, such as Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, Gaskell’s other famous work North and South and my beloved Jane Eyre (among many others), Wives and Daughters is full of so many of the classic tropes, themes and motifs that characterize the 19th century in literature. There is gossip, intrigue, misunderstanding and, most of all, romance. True love jumps out of almost every page, and it is the two main heroines, Molly Gibson and her stepsister Cynthia Kirkpatrick, who drive the plot and create all of the suspense and emotional interest. This novel is, quite remarkably for the time, heavily focused on women and their role in the lives of the men around them (hence the title). These women, particularly Molly and Cynthia but also Cynthia’s mother Mrs. Hyacinth Gibson, are strong and opinionated and their personalities are not diluted in the slightest by the male characters around them. Mrs. Gibson is absolutely ridiculous, Cynthia is a well-meaning coquette, and Molly is…well…Molly is perfect, the picture of goodness, kindness, pure love and loyalty. Molly Gibson is one of those genuine, truthful heroines that a female reader can easily look up to, and her adoration and acceptance of Cynthia makes her stepsister a better person and a more remarkable character as well. I am deeply attached to these young women, who I see as my peers, and I am eager to learn how their love stories will conclude. I am so very reluctant to finish the novel, but if I know anything about the Victorian novel, I know that true love and marital bliss will prevail above all else. Is it any wonder that I love this era so much? 😉

And this leads me to a brief talk about the relevance of this particular Victorian novel to modern day life. Most of my friends, or at least the ones who didn’t study English literature as avidly as I did, would probably think that a lengthy, almost 800 page novel (I wish it were longer!) like Wives and Daughters that was written so long ago doesn’t have any relevance or significance to their 21st century lives. This may be true if one reads the novel on a surface level, but if a devoted reader chooses to dig deeper, he or she will find that many of the points about love and relationships can be adapted to the contemporary dating world. Take my two #JNGReads quotes for today, as an example:

“To him, she was the one, alone, peerless.”

“…a person in whose sight all her words were pearls or diamonds…”

– Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell

Without giving away too many spoilers (because I really want you all to read this novel for yourselves), at a certain point in the story, one of the main male characters falls in love with one of the main female characters. Pretty standard stuff…EXCEPT for the fact that this male character treats this female character like the respectable woman that she is. Meaning, that he treats her with the utmost respect at all times, and he idolizes and adores her without restraint. She is “the one” for him; he has no desire to look at, speak to, or entertain love for another, and he never compares her to anyone else. He is amazed and grateful for the beautiful woman he has found and his search for a life partner, a soul mate ends there.

How often does that happen nowadays? I’ve spoken about my disdain for dating services like Tinder before, but now more than ever, I see that dating sites like this one create too many options for a person. All too often, men and women are highly critical of people that they are dating, simply because they know that they have so many other options simultaneously. Instead of looking at the one person they are dating as “peerless”, as a person whose opinions and traits are as rare and wonderful and unique as “pearls or diamonds”, people today are quick to overanalyze, nitpick and reject based on tiny, inconsequential details. Of course, it is definitely important to be attracted, both physically and mentally, to a person, but I find that people today have become increasingly picky, specifically because so many other options for partners are right before their eyes. Sure, it’s possible that there is a man out there who is better for me, who would make me happier than my boyfriend (I think this unlikely, but let’s entertain the possibility for a second), but I don’t know this man; I haven’t met him, I don’t have his picture and profile in front of me, so I would never, ever dream of risking my happiness and the contentment I feel with my boyfriend for some hypothetical potential that might be out there. But on Tinder or other dating services, that man might be right in front of me, and so, if I were going on dates with him and my boyfriend at the same time, I might be more critical of the things that I now absolutely adore about my boyfriend because they are the traits that make him uniquely who he is.

Anyway, sorry to go on another rant – but I just do feel that, in the Victorian era, love was simpler and it was kinder and it was truer, if only because men and women were willing to give up their hearts and not keep searching endlessly for the next best thing. So, my parting words of wisdom: if you find someone that your heart desires and feels connected to, leave it at that for awhile, enjoy the ride with that person, and let your heart fully get to know them before moving on to the options that inevitably exist out there.

Wives and Daughters

xox,

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

How to Dress Like a Victorian Literary Hero…in honour of Queen Victoria

Happy Victoria Day lovely readers!

Now, if you don’t reside in Canada like I do, I realize that you may not have any idea what Victoria Day is. It’s a federal holiday here, where most people get the Monday off work (except apparently for my boyfriend, who has to work…which I think is RIDICULOUS)…all in honour of QUEEN VICTORIA’S BIRTHDAY!!! So basically I should be saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY QUEEN V!!! 😀

A lot of people from my suburban town spend this weekend going up to their cottages, having BBQs and parties and what not. That all seems super fun to me…but what upsets me about it is that people seem to forget why we have the holiday to begin with…and most people don’t seem to know who Queen Victoria is at all (HORROR!). As a passionate Victorianist, I feel that it is my job to right this wrong, and so I am writing my second blog post in as many days for that reason. Now, I don’t know that I can say that Victorian literature wouldn’t exist without Queen Victoria, because I’m sure Charlotte Brontë and Charles Dickens would’ve still written if Victoria wasn’t their queen. But I do quite like calling myself a Victorianist, and I like what I’ve heard of Queen V’s history, so I really do quite admire her as a lady! In any case, today’s post is going to be fashion-inspired and Victorian-esque and I hope you will all love it.

In case you missed it, I wrote a post entitled How to Dress Like a Governess a little while ago, in which I dressed like my favourite literary character Miss Jane Eyre. I had such fun writing this post that I immediately came up with an idea to do a similar (but I guess, opposite) post about how to dress like a 19th century literary hero. Strangely enough perhaps, it was easy for me to find items in my wardrobe that a gentleman of the likes of Mr. Rochester would wear, so I took a couple pictures and they’ve been sitting in a folder on my computer for months now. I just couldn’t determine the best time to write the actual entry and make it live and then I thought, “Well, Victoria Day of course! It’s the most logical choice!”. So here we are!

This whole idea basically stemmed from a pair of shoes…or boots rather. I actually went to Target with the sole purpose of finding a pair of boots exactly like this because my mom bought a pair and when I saw them I instantly recognized them as almost exactly like a pair Mr. Rochester wears in the 2011 movie adaptation of Jane Eyre. I mean, on last Thursday’s season finale of the TV show Reign I saw Bash wearing the EXACT same ones, and although that’s set quite a bit earlier than the Victorian era, I know I’ve seen Michael Fassbender as Rochester wear these beauties! You know what, I’m going to find a picture right now and post it on my Instagram to prove it…so click the link and check over there in a little while and see if I’m right! (Sidenote: My Instagram is somehow always full of pictures of swoon-worthy actors in period pieces so you may enjoy it!)

Anyway, these boots are distinctly Victorian to me. Maybe it’s the two different coloured pieces of leather, maybe it’s the height of them, maybe it’s the more masculine square heel. I have no idea…but when I put them on for the first time, I totally felt like hopping on a horse and going for a ride in the countryside!

How To Dress Like Mr.Rochester

So once I had the boots, I wondered if I could make a full outfit of Victorian male items. And I think I accomplished this…

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I wore this outfit to work and I’m surprised I didn’t talk with a British accent the whole day. I’ve chosen a different pair of boots here, a lighter tan, suede pair with a bit of a heel that come up to only the ankle. Again, they felt like something heavier and sturdier, that a gentleman who’s used to travelling through the moors might wear. Then I chose a black pair of dress pants…classic and sophisticated if you ask me. And I paired it all with a long black cardigan that actually has arm patches and a white dress shirt, which seems to me to be the go-to outfit for the 19th century man. Now, the tricky part was finding something that could serve as a cravat, that all too important signature of the Victorian man’s wardrobe. I mean, you do not see Rochester or John Thornton (of Gaskell’s North and South) walking around town without a cravat tightly wrapped around his neck…it just doesn’t happen. Obviously I don’t own an actual cravat, but I do have this dark grey scarf that is long enough to tuck into the dress shirt/black cardigan combination. That’s what I did in this photo and I was so pleased with the result. I know the photo is a little grainy, but I think when you look at all the pieces together, I really do look quite a bit like I fit into a period drama.

So there you have it – a little tutorial on how to dress like your favourite Victorian leading man! I hope you all enjoyed this post…and I hope it will remind a few people to pay homage to the namesake of this lovely era on this important day honouring her.

The Forever Victorianist,

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart