Welcome to Smugglivus 2012! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2012, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2013.

Who: Karen Healey, a Smuggler favorite author of awesome Young Adult contemporary fantasy and speculative fiction.

Recent Work: We’ve read, reviewed and loved both of her novels to date – Guardian of the Dead and last year’s The Shattering. Her forthcoming novel is out early in 2013, the SF YA title When We Wake.

Give a warm hand to Karen, folks!

For my New Year’s Resolutions this year, I resolved to blog every day (nope!), read the 17 Shakespeare plays I hadn’t read yet (… there’s still time left in the year!) and read all the Brontes’ novels.

That last and most successful resolution started well. Early in the year, I ripped through Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey, adored Villette, hated The Professor… and crashed right into Wuthering Heights.

UGH. Wuthering Heights.

Undeniable work of genius. Amazing Gothic doubling. Incredible psychological portrait of torment and obsession.

I can’t stand it.

I started reading Wuthering Heights in May, and finished in October, and I only managed that because my friend Sarah Rees Brennan, of whom you have heard tell, released her much more likable modern Gothic romance Unspoken and I wanted to do a comparative review.


The essence of that review is “Unspoken rules; Heights drools.”

In the six months I was mostly not reading Wuthering Heights, I read a lot of other old books, out of a misplaced sense of virtue. If I couldn’t finish that one, at least I could read some other classics, right? And that leads me, Smugglivus celebrators, to my holiday list for you:

Karen’s Top Five Old Books Of The Year(all available for free at Project Gutenberg, forever bless its name!):

5. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins

Credited with being the first detective novel, the protagonists here are trying less to figure out whodunit, but to figure out what the heck was actually happening when it was dun. This is the story of a somewhat boring man and a totally great lady investigating what has happened to the lady’s sister. Is she dead? Is she imprisoned in an asylum? Has she swapped places with her spookily similar lookalike? What is going on?

The Woman In White is an epistolary novel, a narrative conceit I’ve always liked, and the best parts of it are Marian’s diary. MARIAN. Marian is a smart, tough, roof-clambering detective lady with a mustache. To know her is to love her.

4. The Custom of the Country, Edith Wharton

The most recently written book on this list, The Custom of the Country is a story about a totally amoral and very beautiful woman who blithely goes around causing havoc in the lives of all she meets through her avarice.

Wait! Wait! It’s better than it sounds, I promise. Sociopathic (though not malicious) Undine isn’t exactly a sympathetic character, but she is very interesting.


Undine was named after a destructive, seductive, heartless sea monster. You’d think people would get the hint.

Wharton’s pen is biting on the stupidity of an American society that equips women of the middle and upper classes with absolutely no business education and no practical method of acquiring an income except through marriage. It’s Wharton, so you know there are plenty of sly witticisms and satirical social portraits, as well as finely drawn characters with very human motivations for their errors and their triumphs.

3. Shirley, Charlotte Bronte

“Holy crap!” I declared when I’d got twenty pages into Shirley. “Charlotte Bronte has a sense of humor! Who knew?”

And so she does! There is some excellent snark in her character portraits here, almost worthy of Miss Jane Austen, a lady who takes the top three spots of my Best Old Books Of All Time.

Shirley also has a great plot, and some sterling commentary on the social issues of the time it describes, though coming from a very classist perspective, because Brontes. Cloth mill owner Robert Moore is having trouble with the workers he’s laid off breaking the machines he’s buying to replace them, and he is our hero. Despite this, he’s not a bad hero, except for the child labour, which was totally normal (and still is today, in much of the world) but still freaks me out.

His heroine is Caroline Helstone, his cousin (sort of? I think not by blood, not that this would disturb Charlotte, because Brontes) who is a very nice young lady with some decidedly passionate views. Her best friend is the eponymous Shirley Keeldar, who is GREAT. Swashbuckling Shirley, who’s all like, there’s an attack on the mill? We must run over hill and dale in the middle of the night to help out! Defiant Shirley, who’s all, Uncle, marry this dude just because you think I should? I think NOT! Brave Shirley, who’s all, a potentially rabid dog just bit me? I shall cauterize the wound with a laundry iron!

Then there’s her boyfriend, who I don’t like, whatever, SHIRLEY.

Shirley has some beautiful descriptive passages and a lot of quietly subversive things to say about the limited roles of women, and it is very funny, buuuut it’s kind of hard to forget that Caroline and Shirley are loosely based on Anne and Emily Bronte, respectively, and that they died during the writing of the book. I cannot imagine what finishing that manuscript must have been like. “Oh, well. Guess I’d better write a chapter from the perspective of my dead sister. And then maybe a passage from the point of view of my other dead sister!”

2. Daniel Deronda, George Eliot

One of the first novels in the classical English tradition to be, like, hey, maybe Jewish people can be pretty cool? Not all moneylending stereotypes who refuse Christianity out of spite? Who’da thunk! Daniel Deronda is the story of the titular Daniel, a young man struggling with his murky heritage and trying to realise his destiny, and that of Gwendolen, an uncommonly beautiful and spirited young woman who marries an emotionally abusive asshat and relies on Daniel for spiritual and emotional support. Travels by yacht! Archery competitions! Learning Hebrew!

It’s a beautiful novel, although I eyebrowed so hard at the ending for Gwendolen (it’s not unhappy, but it’s not as great as it should be!) that I had to invent a head canon of my own for what happens ten minutes after the book finishes.


Gwendolen: Deserves better.

1. Villette, Charlotte Bronte

Villette was the book written entirely after the deaths of Emily and Anne, and it’s an incredible study of grief and depression.

The plot, such as it is, is hardly relevant, because it’s the amazing psychological impact of Lucy, the narrator, that gives the book such appeal. But if you insist! Lucy goes to Europe, becomes a teacher at a girls’ school, is frenemies with the richest, most beautiful student there, has silent obsessive love for two men, makes friends with a little delicate lady, some other stuff – oh wait, the school play where she plays a male role! Can’t forget the play. And that time she wore the pink dress with the black shawl and it SCANDALISED one of her manly loves! And that time she wandered around a pseudo-Egyptian festival high on opiates.

That actually happens, I swear.

Lucy also has the occasional psychotic break and lies to the reader all the time and spends a lot of time railing about how AWFUL Catholicism is while being in love with an extremely Catholic man. She is fascinating and sharp and intense, and sort of frightening, really, in the strength of her suffering, in how strongly she attempts to smother her feelings under a heavy blanket of rationality, in how brightly her temper flashes out when sparked.

If you like Jane of Jane Eyre, you will love Lucy of Villette.

That was my year of Old Books, Smugglivus celebrators (which was also my year of Teen Movies – check out this blog post for more about my essays on those). This is ironic, in a Morissettean way, because my next book is very much concerned with the future.

When We Wake (Little, Brown, March 5th) is the story of Tegan Oglietti, who dies on the best day of her life in 2027, and wakes up a hundred years later into a very different future. Many things have changed for the better, and many… have really not. Tegan has to decide between keeping her head down and staying quiet, or standing up to speak.

Tegan is a fan of old things too – in her case, it’s the music of the Beatles, who were old well before her time, and are forgotten in the future.

I have an ARC of When We Wake to give away to Smugglivus readers. To enter, tell me which old cultural product you would choose to champion in the future. Pride and Prejudice? The rock art of Olary? The poetry of Imru’ al-Qais? Comment here and enter the draw!

Karen Healey writes books and lives in New Zealand. She’s the award-winning author of Guardian of the Dead and The Shattering, and she’d probably try to get the future enthused about Josie and the Pussycats. You can learn more about her at http://karenhealey.com or follow her twitter account at @kehealey

Thank you, Karen!

Now, you heard the lady, comment away to enter the giveaway of one ARC of When We Wake. The giveaway is open to ALL and will run till Saturday December 22 2012 11:59PM EST. Good luck!

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56 Responses to Smugglivus 2012 Guest Author (& Giveaway): Karen Healey

  1. JenP says:

    Veronica Mars!

  2. I love every book on this list! But I’d have to choose Pride and Prejudice, of course (or The Collected Works of Jane Austen, if I had some leeway – it counts if they’re all in one volume, right?).

  3. Vick says:

    I have to put in a vote for Dorothy L. Sayers – especially the Lord Peter stories. I want them to live on forever (and I want to be Harriet Vane!)

  4. Lexi says:

    Mine is sort of cheating but the collected oral stories from many areas (European fairy tales included but also say the folklore from Indonesia or Mongolia).

  5. I vote for the short stories of James Tiptree, Jr (aka Alice Walker). She was brilliant and terrifyingly prescient.

  6. Sandyg265 says:

    C.L. Moore

  7. Kate K.F. says:

    This is hard as a librarian and a Classicist. I think it would be the complete works of Shakespeare and if I could cheat, I’d add a collection of various interpretations of the plays.

    Also I need to catch up on Karen Healey’s books as I loved Guardian of the Dead and I lived in New Zealand and love being able to go, new, great books from and set in New Zealand about teenagers that feel real.

  8. Chenise Jones says:

    Harry Potter, hands down. Amazing books that shouldn’t be forgotten!

  9. I think I would champion fairy tales and folklore, and different versions of retellings, if I could find them. Some of the most powerful stories I’ve read are folklore thrown together, or retellings of fairy tales, and I wouldn’t want people to lose that. I’d be that annoying person who makes you read three versions of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and Cupid and Psyche, and Beauty and the Beast, and then makes you find the similarities and differences and what that says about the cultures who tell those stories.

  10. Aja says:

    I love your list! <3

    Jane Austen is my favorite and everyone's, but she doesn't need championing, so I have to go with my other favorite Old book, Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. It’s a slave narrative written under a pseudonym, and it tells the incredible true story of a woman who escaped from slavery and then hid in a crawlspace for years while she worked to free her daughter as well. Apart from being an incredible story, it’s wonderfully written and reads like a screenplay. Harriet Jacobs herself was an amazing woman who became a teacher after she gained her freedom, and returned to the South to advocate for and educate newly freed slaves.

    For over a century, “Incidents” was dismissed as a fake; since Lydia Maria Child edited it and wrote the preface, people assumed it was written by her. It wasn’t until the 1970′s that Jean Fagan Yellin disagreed with the commonly held academic understanding that the book was fiction, did some fabulous research, and verified that “Linda Brent” was a real woman named Harriet Jacobs, and that all of the events and people she wrote about were real.

    Incidents really changed my life when I read it. I think it’s a must-read for everybody.

  11. You’ve definitely inspired me to take on some of the Brontes’ work; I have only read adaptations of Jane Eyre and not the original, so I’ll add Shirley to the list. I all also add Unspoken–my interest is piqued! So many books, so little time :)

  12. Foz Meadows says:

    The Goon Show, because as glorious as absurdist humour can be on TV, exploring it in a medium where the visuals are solely imaginary and implied only by sound – i.e. radio – makes it even better. Plus, Minnie Bannister FTW!

  13. Yeti says:

    I would champion Tove Jansson’s work – she is awesome :) x

  14. Jacqueline P. says:

    The works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and all their media offshoots because the future needs some classic crime and science fiction.

  15. Ellie says:

    Definitely Pride and Prejudice. It’s my favorite classic novel.

  16. Rebecca I. says:

    Hard question, but…For passing on an appreciation of both story and language, the complete works of Shakespeare would be pretty hard to argue with.

  17. SueCCCP says:

    As a classicist, I would chose to champion Latin as a language. It is a great way to keep the history and the culture of the period alive, and is also useful when studying any of the languages derived from it.

    Io, Saturnalia! :)

  18. Gem says:

    Jane Eyre and The Count of Monte Cristo are close to my heart so I would definitely plug that whenever possible! Now that Ms. Healey’s mentioned it, The Beatles would be a musical choice to champion!

    .

  19. Anna says:

    Does Veronica Mars count as old? I’ll champion that now and in the future! (Also, when we wake sounds really really good!)

  20. Erika says:

    Does Harry Potter count? I would love to take that one:) Thanks for the giveaway! This looks great!

  21. mary anne says:

    I love Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche. When we were little we got a CLassic Book of the Month club sunscription, which we couldn’t afford for long, but “the swashbucklers” included that one, plus The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Three Musketeers. When I was younger and more blindly romantic I loved the Pimpernel, but Scaramouche has really stuck with me.

    Love your books, Ms Healey.

  22. jenmitch says:

    anna karenina. or maybe wuthering heights :)

  23. Christina K. says:

    I’d champion Harry Potter and Lola and the Boy Next Door:) One represents awesome fantasy with real-life themes, and the other is emblematic of our times and the problems faced.

    Thank you:)

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

  24. Lauren says:

    Maurice Sendak, and all the absurdity that follows.

  25. Megan S. says:

    I’d champion the works of Rainer Maria Rilke. No matter what the future is like, I bet we’ll still be grappling with matters of the infinite.

  26. Hannah H says:

    The internet- not that it always deserves it

  27. Alex says:

    :mrgreen: I’m assuming most of the great books make it into the future, but maybe not in their original paper state. So I’m going to have to say I would have to take The Book of Kells. I think Illuminated Manuscripts are something that can never be replicated and they are something that should be preserved and honored. They are a beautiful combination of words and artwork. .

  28. Margaret S. says:

    The music of Bach, because… (for example).

  29. DebraG says:

    I did read Pride and Prejudice. I did enjoy it so I will vote for that one.

  30. erinf1 says:

    Thanks for the great giveaway! I’d also have to say Pride and Prejudice :)

  31. de Pizan says:

    Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, especially the Ode to Joy. It moves me to tears almost every time I hear it as it’s so beautiful and powerful (and I’m generally so not a crier at all).

  32. Andrea says:

    Calvin & Hobbes

  33. Avendya says:

    I would champion the Hagia Sophia. It’s so beautiful and deserves to stand for hundreds more years.

  34. Peter says:

    It’s not old yet, but I wonder if the absurdity of Dr. Seuss will help it stand the test of time.

  35. Rachel says:

    There are a lot of books I would champion, but I like to think they’ll hold out, so I would defend Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, because my childhood self could not forgive me if I didn’t.

  36. Kaethe says:

    I just finished and dearly loved Topper, so I’m going to champion Thorne Smith. He needs more attention, which I figure Jane Austen doesn’t.

    Terribly important question: is the character’s name pronounced teague-an or teh-gan or something else entirely? My daughter and I disagree.

  37. Matthew says:

    “On the Beach” by Nevil Shute — if ever there was a book to make people think about consequences and try to make better decisions, this is it!

  38. scribe k. says:

    calvin and hobbres <3

  39. Jennifer says:

    DOstoyevsky.

  40. Kelley B says:

    I would definitely champion Pride and Prejudice! And I would agree with your assessment of Wuthering Heights. Not my favorite to say the least.

  41. Mary Preston says:

    I’d have to champion some of Charles Dickens’ works. That man knew how to write the most memorable characters.

  42. Karen Healey says:

    I want to keep ALL OF THESE THINGS in the future!

    Mary Anne, thanks for the praise!

    Rachel, I share your early teen musical crush. My Catholic confirmation name is Christine, because of Phantom of the Opera.

    And Kaethe, it’s Teeg-an – emphasis on the first syllable, long e like that in “bee”, flattened vowel sound for the a that has a special linguistic name I can’t recall. Her nickname is Teeg – just the first syllable. Who was right, your teen or you?

  43. mclicious says:

    I used to answer that old time capsule question with Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff. So maybe still that one, though also, Peter Pan deserves never to die, since he’s never growing up, and all.

  44. The writings of Shakespeare!!! They contain so many sayings and references and universal themes still with us today!

  45. Nikki Egerton says:

    It’s really very old, but I would champion Anne Rice’s vampire books, so the future knows that Twilight wasn’t all we had to offer :)

  46. Mariska says:

    Pride and Prejudice

  47. lauredhel says:

    Many of mine have already been mentioned (Calvin & Hobbes and Dr Seuss especially), so I’m going to nominate the only one I’m dead surprised hasn’t been mentioned: Anne of Green Gables! She and her raspberry cordial and her organdy dress and her bosom friendships will ever hold a dear, dear place in my heart.

  48. Kirsten W says:

    Umm… Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz.

    Or maybe The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner.

  49. Shelver506 says:

    I’d either champion Agatha Christie or Howard Shore.

  50. sarac says:

    Pride and Prejudice, for sure.

  51. mary ann says:

    I think pride and prejudice I love the concept of the book. And somehow it doesn’t feel that old to me, so definitely it would be perfect for everyone’s taste :)

  52. Marie says:

    I love Guardian of the Dead and The Shattering, and can’t wait to read When We Wake.

  53. Kaethe says:

    Karen Healey, thank you so much! I win at pronunciation. And yes, I’m woman enough to rejoice in this minor victory.

  54. Anita Yancey says:

    I think it would have to be Pride and Prejudice. In some ways it seems old and in some it doesn’t. But I just love anything to do with that book. Thanks for the chance to win When We Wake.

  55. Rachael L says:

    I would choose Pride and Prejudice. Thank you for the giveaway!

  56. vitupera says:

    Definitely blacksmithing. It’s going to go the way of the dinosaur (already is, really) but it’s very soothing, and produces some beautiful work.

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