Monthly Archives: August 2010

Nostalgia

I have two tubs of books that I brought up from my mother’s house. Though I’ve gone through them many times before, sifting through the tub always takes me back to a great place; that of my childhood and reading voraciously. What is most satisfying is that for most of the books just looking at the cover recalls only bits and pieces about the story but even more about what was happening in my life then. I can tell what grade I was in, I can remember my room exactly as it was and being sprawled on the carpet in front of the bookshelf that also doubled as a toy chest. Thinking about little me and myself today, many things are still the same. I still like to sprawl out amongst my books, I still devour them, and I must have many to choose from even if that means stacks of unread books.

Many of these I have not re-read as an adult and honestly it’s because I’m afraid of ruining a wonderful perception and partly because there are so many books I haven’t yet read. At times this seems silly and others I’m not so sure that a book I loved as a girl I would enjoy today. But that may not be the point and lately I’ve wanted to do just that, re-read the books that I loved and often read several times. I smile when I pick up the worn copies and see my name written inside, sometimes with stickers and stamps. Or in the case with Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew mysteries, my guesses and sketches (yes, literal drawings!) about what will happen. I am even glad to find that I was a fan of science-fiction then which up until a few years ago I wouldn’t touch because I was sure I didn’t enjoy the genre.

A few that I have selected to read are:

  • The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery (I think I only read the first 2)
  • Beatrix Potter
  • The Baby-Sitters Club Series by Ann M. Martin (Verity is also reading these!)
  • Jane Erye
  • The House of The Spirits by Isabel Allende
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    No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West

    “And now see how I stand, as sentimental and sensitive as any old maid doing water-colours of sunsets! I once flattered myself that I was an adult man; I now perceive that I am gloriously and adolescently silly. A new Clovis, loving what I have despised, and suffering from calf-love into the bargain, I want my fill of beauty before I go. Geographically I do not care and scarcely know where I am. There are no signposts in the sea.”

    I read this one a few months ago, sitting in my Boston hotel room overlooking the city lights and a slight view of the harbor. Very fitting I think for this sort of tale. Edmund Carr is a journalist who has just learned that he has little time left to live. He leaves his job and buys passage on a ship to a destination that is not disclosed to the reader. Really, this does not matter to Edmund because a woman whom he secretly adores will be on the ship.

    Though Edmund is determined to hide his feelings, the two spend time together walking about the ship. As the sea infinitely stretches before Edmund he constantly grapples with his impending death and his growing love for Laura.


    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

    “Hold up your books, prop them up in your hands, in case of intruders. If there are any intruders, we are doing our history lesson…our poetry…English grammar.”

    Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at a school for girls in 1930s Edinburg, Scotland. Though she has in the past and continuously runs into problems with the headmistress concerning her unorthodox teaching methods she insists that her instruction is supreme. Miss Brodie is in her prime you see, and one’s prime must never be wasted. And Miss Brodie does not intend to; she selects a particular group of girls to train up-called the Brodie set – and she expertly engages in affairs and various events and relates her experiences so that the girls may have the very best instruction.

    “If only you small girls would listen to me I would make of you the crème de la crème.”

    Each of the 6 members is of course devoted to Miss Brodie and each is known throughout the school for different abilities or lack thereof. She wants them to be independent, passionate, and worldly and she loads them with advice.

    “Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth, and Beauty come first. Follow me.”

    And as the story proceeds more about Miss Brodie is revealed particularly a window into her psyche and the reasons for her teachings. It is not certain if every single girl is devoted to Miss Brodie but it is certain what happens to each in the future and that each of them has received a valuable lesson.


    The Quickening by Michelle Hoover

    The Quickening tells the story of two very different women living in the Iowa plains from the early 1900’s through the Depression. Enidina and Mary are forced together simply by being neighbors in a time when the closest neighbors are miles away. Farming the land is difficult but Enidina enjoys the work. Mary dislikes the hardship of the farm and desires something more. They rely on and hurt each other constantly and their relationship is strained. Since Mary cannot recognize her dream of a better life or escape the abuse of her husband she turns to her religion and the direction of her soft-spoken pastor. The story is told alternately from the perspective of both women. It unfolds slowly and is beautiful yet dark and ultimately tragic. There are many things about each of the women to be discovered in the shadows of this tale. Alternating between their points of view allows the reader to experience both sides. As betrayal and loss become more apparent I found that bits of each woman began to become overshadowed by the magnitude of the storytelling. Exploring the women’s personalities and the dynamic of their relationship amidst their environment and overwhelming isolation was the most engaging part of this book. The writing is wonderful but at times the story got in the way of the characters or the characters got in the way of the story.

    I received this book for review via the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.LibraryThing Early Reviewers


    The Long Song by Andrea Levy


    “This tale is of my making. This story is told for my amusement. What befalls July is for me to devise.”


    I bought this book for my mom but couldn’t resist reading it first. I am familiar with Andrea Levy because I watched the PBS adaptation of Small Island, which I enjoyed. Even though it has been a few months since I read it, The Long Song still sticks out as a wonderful story.

    July is a former slave who is recounting the story of her life. We learn immediately her son, a printer, is encouraging her to write down the events of her life. July is not interested in reliving the horrors of the past. She would rather improve her story as a way to escape the pain. What follows throughout the story are her recollections and interruptions from her son when he believes the story has been exaggerated. The storytelling is lush and warm as if you were sitting with July and she is telling the story only to you. She even addresses the reader which in many stories can cause the tale to feel fragmented, but not here. It leaves me to wonder what it means to own your personal story and what are the real reasons we tell stories. Are they recounted for the storyteller or the listener?

    Andrea Levey’s website and NPR both offer discussion and excerpts. The Long Song was nominated for the Orange Prize.


    Blog birthdays and looking forward

    A year ago this month I started blogging. Actually my first post appeared on August 3. I only realized this recently and the milestone passed without a hooray. But really that’s okay, and it’s never too late to celebrate. I’ve been thinking a lot about the blog, particularly through the extended silence this summer and though it seemed like a bit of a chore at times I’ve done exactly what I originally wanted to do here and I enjoy it.

    I intentionally set out to blog about books I’d read and my pursuits on the balcony where I garden in containers. The blog has recently expanded to make room for my needlecraft hobby, some baking pursuits, and raised-bed gardening, pretty much any of my interests, though the main focus is always around books.

    Some things may change as I dive into a new pursuit which is my return to graduate school in 2 weeks to study epidemiology. Much of my time will be spent studying the who, what, where, and why of disease distribution among the masses. This will demand much of my time but in order to remain sane and pleasant I’ll continue to read, craft, and blog but at a slower pace. Well, because that’s what I want to do.

    I also have a backlog of books to chat about which I will get through in the next few posts.


    a finished crochet project


    Scarves in summer hardly seem right but here it is, a going-away gift for a friend at work. I am quite proud of it and the reception it received.


    A Blunt Instrument by Georgette Heyer

    One of blogging’s many benefits is the fact that I am constantly introduced to new authors, new books, and new genres. Many I may not have discovered and sampled had it not been for the wonderful advice of readers local and global. There are some that call for immediate exploration, some that I could pass on, and then there are those that linger; I hear about it on one blog, maybe see a table at the library, or receive a recommendation as a favorite book from an online friend. Georgette Heyer’s books fit those scenarios for me. After much nudging from the book universe I picked up one of her mysteries. A Blunt Instrument tells the story of Superintendent Hannasyde’s search to find an elusive killer. Ernie Fletcher is found in his home bludgeoned to death. There are few clues to guide Hannasyde’s investigation and every suspect has an alibi or two and even more versions to add to the story. Fletcher’s socially absurd nephew, a married woman who has IOUs in Fletcher’s desk, and the former lover of Fletcher’s now deceased mistress. After a second murder things become more obscure.

    This one didn’t bowl me over. I found that I enjoyed Heyer’s book more for the characters than the actual mystery. They are peculiar and entertaining characters. Heyer is most known for her Regency romances. From what I hear there are a lot of jewels in Heyer’s bibliography, it seems to be a matter of selecting the right one, and I just happen to have a few others on the shelf.


    Festivities

    Two weeks away from work couldn’t have been spent better. I spent the first week celebrating my birthday. I made an almond cake (a Nigella Lawson recipe) opened birthday gifts and took off to the mountains to visit historic Biltmore House and traipse through a lovely artsy town.


    The house and grounds at Biltmore are astonishing. We spent an entire day wandering through the gardens and conservatory, sampling wines, browsing through the gift shops, and of course taking in the mountain scenery.

    Of course I visited as many bookstores as I could find. And I lucked out. I figured a list would be dull so I give you the haul in table format…pretty spiffy.

    Title Author A Cover
    The Happy Foreigner Enid Bagnold The Land of Spices (Virago Modern Classics)
    The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rugen Elizabeth von Arnim The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rugen (Virago Modern Classics)l
    The Land of Spices Kate O’Brien The Land of Spices (Virago Modern Classics)
    Maurice Guest Henry Handel Richardson Maurice Guest (Capuchin Classics)
    A Little Love, A Little Learning Nina Bawden A Little Love, a Little Learning
    The Caravaners Elizabeth Von Arnim The Caravaners
    The Lying Days Nadine Gordimer The Lying Days
    Told by an Idiot Rose Macaulay Told by an Idiot
    The Solitary Summer Elizabeth von Arnim The Solitary Summer
    Beyond The Glass Antonia White Beyond the Glass (Virago Modern Classics)
    Armour Wherein He Trusted Mary Webb .
    The Three Sisters May Sinclair .
    Mary O’Grady Mary Lavin .
    The Getting of Wisdom Henry Handel Richardson The getting of wisdom (A Virago modern classic)
    The Golden Arrow Mary Gladys Meredith Webb .
    Seven for a Secret Mary Gladys Meredith Webb .
    The Misses Mallet: The Bridge Dividing E. H. Young .
    Lucy Gayheart Willa Cather Lucy Gayheart (Virago Modern Classics)

    HTML Tables

    And 3 that were not VMCs
    Death in the Stocks
    Georgette Heyer
    Death in the Stocks

    Undersong: Chosen Poems Old and New
    Audre Lorde
    Undersong: Chosen Poems Old and New

    Guests in the Body
    Michelene Wandor