Re: books to read on an airplane…
Thomas Hardy can lay down a description of his heroine when he wants to:
Eustacia Vye was the raw material of a divinity. On Olympus she would have done well with a little preparation. She had the passions and instincts which make a model goddess, that is, those which make not quite a model woman. Had it been possible for the earth and mankind to be entirely in her grasp for a while, she had handled the distaff, the spindle, and the shears at her own free will, few in the world would have noticed the change of government. There would have been the same inequality of lot, the same heaping up of favours here, of contumely there…
…To see her hair was to fancy that a whole winter did not contain darkness enough to form its shadow—it closed over her forehead like nightfall extinguishing the western glow…
She had pagan eyes, full of nocturnal mysteries… Assuming that the souls of men and women were visible essences, you could fancy the colour of Eustacia’s soul to be flamelike. The sparks from it that rose into her dark pupils gave the same impression…
Her presence brought memories of such things as Bourbon roses, rubies, and tropical midnight; her moods recalled lotus-eaters and the march in Athalie; her motions, the ebb and flow of the sea; her voice, the viola. In a dim light, and with a slight rearrangement of her hair, her general figure might have stood for that of either of the higher female deities. The new moon behind her head, an old helmet upon it, a diadem of accidental dewdrops round her brow, would have been adjuncts sufficient to strike the note of Artemis, Athena, or Hera respectively, with as close an approximation to the antique as that which passes muster on many respected canvases.
…the shady splendour of her beauty was the real surface of the sad and stifled warmth within her. A true Tartarean dignity sat upon her brow, and not factitiously or with marks of constraint, for it had grown in her with years.
But The Return of the Native does not deliver on the the promise of these paragraphs. A grim business all around, this novel. Don’t bother.
Instead take a romp with Graham Greene. (Who knew he could make you laugh out loud?)
Before she was Violet, Maggie Smith played Aunt Augusta in the movie version of Travels with My Aunt.
People in the airport looked at me funny as I read this passage of Travels with My Aunt:
My aunt took another sausage and ordered another Guinness. ‘They all wanted to know about the church in Potters Bar. “And to think,” one said, “we have to leave our doggies at home when we go to St Ethelburga’s. My dog is as good a Christian as the vicar is with his raffles and his tea-fights.”‘
…My aunt put down her glass and asked the woman behind the bar, ‘Did you ever hear of the doggies’ church?’
…‘Didn’t the police interfere or something?’
‘They tried to make out that he had no right to the title of Rev. But we pointed out that it stood for Revered and not Reverend in our church, and we didn’t belong to the established. They couldn’t touch us, we were breakaways like Wesley, and we had all the dog-owners of Brighton and Hove behind us–they even came over from as far as Hastings. The police tried to get us once under the Blasphemy Act, but nobody could find any blasphemy in our services. They were very, very solemn. Curran wanted to start the churching of bitches after the puppies came, but I said that was going too far–even the Church of England had abandoned churching. Then there was the question of marrying divorced couples–I thought it would treble our income, but there it was Curran who stood firm. “We don’t recognize divorce,” he said, and he was quite right–it would have sullied the sentiment.’