Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2018 Reading - Part 3
This is a continuation of the topic Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2018 Reading - Part 2.
This topic was continued by Laura (lauralkeet)'s 2018 Reading - Part 4.
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Pigeon Mural on the Kensington-Fishtown Border
The story of the mural
Photo credit: me
Continuing my 2018 theme highlighting Philadelphia’s public art.
2018 is my 10th (!!) year in the 75 Books Challenge. Despite being a highly structured, hyper-planner type of person, I try to keep my reading flexible and read what I want, when I want. Still, it wouldn’t be a new year without a few goals, so here are some things I’m planning for 2018:
* Strike a balance between newly-published books, author backlists and classics
* Dip into the 75 Books author challenges if something strikes my fancy
* Participate in monthly author reads in the Virago Modern Classics group
* Continue the Virago Chronological Read project, to read VMCs in order of original publication date
* Make progress on my active series, and no doubt start some new ones :)
* Knitting! This is one of my other major hobbies, and I have a thread in the Needlearts group for anyone interested
My 2018 threads can be found here:
Part 1 (books 1-15) | Part 2 (books 16-29)
Books completed ("details" jumps to my comments on this thread)
30. The Cat's Table - details
31. Glass Houses - details
32. Loving and Giving - details
33. The Stone Angel - details
34. Circe: A Novel - details
35. Clear Light of Day - details
36. Educated - details
37. Prairie Fires - details
38. The Headmistress - details
39. Paris in the Present Tense - details
40. Jenny and the Cat Club - details
41. Paris in the Present Tense - details
42. The Other Side of the Bridge - details
43. Novel on Yellow Paper - details
44. Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel - details
45. The Fire-Dwellers - details
46. Transcription - details
Active series as of July 1:
My series list is courtesy of FictFact, which allows you to select the series you wish to track. They do a reasonable job of maintaining current series, although in some cases they have added books that I don't consider a legitimate part of the series (e.g., the Harry Potter prequel). The above snapshot is a view of my active series sorted on the "progress" column.
Series completed/current in 2018:
* Inspector Gamache (July)
Series started in 2018:
* Sandhamn Murders
Series abandoned in 2018:
* None yet
Love that pigeon. Are these murals signed? I'm so fascinated by street art, and the mental exercise of getting something right on such a large scale.
>3 laytonwoman3rd: I think the artists usually identify themselves in some way, Linda. There are many who do this as individuals, and then there are organizations like Mural Arts Philadelphia, a nonprofit that aims to use art to effect change. They have sponsored a number of works over the years. The art itself is typically created elsewhere and then applied to the exterior surface. I'm pretty fascinated by all of this as well!
>4 drneutron: Hi Jim! Thanks for stopping by!
Daughters of the Winter Queen sounds very good Laura. Great review.
I wish I’d remember to update my FictFact account....
I stopped by earlier but I wasn't sure I should say Hi! yet. Now I know I can, soooo...
Happy new thread!
>7 laytonwoman3rd: I'm a compulsive record-keeper so I actually enjoy keeping my "things" up-to-date (LT, FictFact, Ravelry ...), but I understand the effort required to do so and it's not for everyone. Where FictFact is concerned, I track only series I am reading (or current on), and compared to some LTers that's a short list. I only add series when I feel pretty confident I'll actually start reading it in the coming months.
>8 jnwelch: Hi Joe!!
>9 Berly: Hey Kim! I'm a "top-of-thread minimalist" -- just 2 posts -- so my new threads open for business very quickly. But it would have been totally fine for you to barge in!
I'm usually good about keeping FictFact current, but I had forgotten to add the recent Sharyn McCrumb ballad reads. I was so excited about drawing in new fans that I guess I just overlooked it!
30. The Cat’s Table ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: Husband’s
Three 11-year-old boys meet up on a ship from Sri Lanka to England; each will be met by relatives on arrival, but on ship they are pretty much on their own with only the most cursory guardians looking after them. Michael (the narrator), Cassius, and Rhamadhin spend their days exploring the ship, with particular attention to areas they are not allowed to be in. At dinner, they are seated at “the cat’s table,” far away from the prestigious Captain’s Table. Their dining companions are single adult travelers, each with their own story (which the boys only partially understand).
Michael relates their three weeks on board, and occasionally the story shifts into the future where we see the characters as adults. This, in turn, informs our interpretation of the sea voyage. There are some touching moments, and some difficult ones too. And of course children are not always the most reliable narrators. But when Michael finally disembarks in England, you know some of what lies ahead for him, both good and bad.
I don’t know how I overlooked this book when it was published, but I loved it, devouring it in just a few days. Highly recommended.
>12 lauralkeet: Dang you and your
>12 lauralkeet: - I've had this one on my shelves for several years *shame-faced*
Will get to it sooner rather than later, thanks to your excellent review!
>12 lauralkeet: You’ve hooked me too, Laura. I haven’t read anything by Ondaatje, although I have a couple on my shelf.
>16 NanaCC: Colleen, perhaps Ondaatje's most recognizable book is The English Patient, which won the Man Booker Prize and was made into a film. Until now, that's the only book I'd read, and that was after seeing the movie so I had mental pictures of each character from that.
>17 kidzdoc: *high five* Darryl! Chris is currently reading Anil's Ghost, and says The Cat's Table is better. And then Ondaatje also has a new book out that is receiving critical acclaim.
>18 lauralkeet: Ha! I gave Anil's Ghost four stars, so I would agree with Chris's assessment. (I think I need to meet this guy.)
Warlight is in the middle of my radar screen, and I'm hopeful that it, and Circe by Madeline Miller, are chosen for this year's Booker Prize longlist, which will be announced in three weeks.
>12 lauralkeet: Oh, boy....you got me. I haven't read Ondaatje before either, and this seems to be the one I should start with.
>19 kidzdoc: OMG yes, you and Chris can talk for hours about Ondaatje, and Karl Ove Knaussgaard among another things ...
>23 touché 😀
I just read the new Ondaatje Warlight and really enjoyed it Laura.
I loved The Cat's Table. I first learned about him in a book of essays by Annie Dillard yonks ago -- he wrote a short novella-ish thing about Billy the Kid The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. Got me hooked on him. I really liked the autobiographical-family history-ish book as well Running in the Family. I seem to be a fan although I have not read everything of his.
>21 lauralkeet: Sweet. Maybe we could meet this month, when I visit my parents, or sometime later this year. I'll see Knausgaard speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival next month, and I attended his talk there last year as well.
ETA: I'll be in the Delaware Valley from July 23-30. Other than the 29th I haven't made any plans yet.
>23 sibyx: I'll be on the lookout for those Ondaatje books, Lucy. Maybe next time I'm lured into a used bookshop. My weekly knitting group meets at Old City Coffee, and I walk by Book Trader on my way to/from the El. So far I have resisted the temptation ...
>24 kidzdoc: That's good to know, Darryl! We're in town that week so just holler.
>25 brenzi: The Cat's Table is pretty easy reading, Bonnie. An engaging story, well told, with interesting characters. I think you'd like it.
Happy 4th, Laura! Happy New Thread! Love the Pigeon Mural topper!
Good review of The Cat's Table. I remember enjoying this one, as well. I am interested in his latest too.
Hi Laura, I think you liked The Cat's Table a bit more than I did but he is still an author I will continue to follow.
I love the public art all around Philly ~~ hopefully I can make another trip to that city before too long! One of my conferences just needs to be there....
Love the thread topper, Laura. I know pigeons can be problem birds in cities but old folks like me seem to get a kick out of feeding them. Lol. We have mourning doves that pay us an occasional visit. I enjoy their gentle cooing.
I am a big fan of FictFact as it helps me keep track of my husband’s series. As the library groupie in the house he depends on me to check out his books. Just call me a BookPimp! I’m just glad he is a reader.
>33 Donna828: Hi Donna! I really like mourning doves, too. But I'm a sucker for all birds, to be honest. And you are a saint for keeping track of your husband's series!
Thanks, Laura. I’ll be sure to pass that sentiment along. Actually, I have selfish motives. If I can get him hooked on reading, he can’t complain about all the time I spend immersed in books. ;-)
31. Glass Houses ()
Source: On my Kindle
Why I read this now: I’ve been devouring this series and wanted to be current on it before the next book is released in November.
Another solid entry in the Inspector Gamache series. Yes, there’s a certain formula to these mysteries but they are never simplistic or boring and Louise Penny continues to develop her “cast of characters” from Three Pines and the Sûreté du Québec. Glass Houses takes on a very modern problem: drug trafficking and the opioid epidemic. Penny deftly weaves together Gamache’s testimony at a murder trial, the events that led to that trial, and a related investigation that reaches its thrilling conclusion during the trial itself. I’m caught up on this series, for now -- until the next book is released in November. I can’t wait.
Hi Laura - I think I came our meet-up bearing a dud, so my apologies! I just finished (and regret doing so) The Immortalists and did not enjoy it in the least. Next time I'll read before I pick!!!
Oh no really? It’s funny because it has worked its way almost to the top of my tbr pile. And I recently read an article that described it as a book you could recommend or give to just about anyone. Now I’m intrigued!
>39 NanaCC: I am so invested in these characters now, Colleen. I was shocked when a tragic event occurred a couple of books back. I just didn’t think Penny would do something like that and since then I’ve been a nervous wreck about what might happen to my favorites.
I’ve read a lot of reviews of Penny’s books where the reviewer complains about her choppy and often incomplete sentences and I do see that but somehow I’m able to overlook what would stop me dead in other books. I don’t really know why this is. But I have felt, almost from the start, a particular bond and love for these characters. They seem to have become my friends.
>12 lauralkeet: Good good good. Having been pushed into reading Ondaatje's The English Patient by its choice as the Golden Man-Booker Prize winner (best of the best), I'm looking at The Cat's Table. The latter is foundational to my TBR. You've given me permission to read it when I finish the former.
Have you gotten a look at mural Haring painted in Phildelphia? I recall showing you a photo of it at the meetup when Ellen was in town.
32. Loving and Giving ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics Collection
Why I read this now: Molly Keane is the Virago author for July
When Nicandra is eight years old, she witnesses and is party to an escalating series of events that cause her mother to leave home for good. Nicrandra is raised by her maternal Aunt Tossie, who forges an unlikely and completely platonic partnership with Nicandra’s father. While she wants for nothing, Nicandra keenly feels her mother’s abandonment and, as an adult, runs quickly into the arms of the first man who shows any care for her. Andrew turns out to be a poor choice, using and betraying Nicandra in myriad ways, but she is so starved for love she cannot see what’s really happening.
Meanwhile, Aunt Tossie and Dada’s health and fortunes are in decline and the family home proves increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain. With Nicandra largely absent, one of the servants gradually assumes a caregiving role. William suffers from unexplained developmental disabilities which earned him the nickname “Silly Willy” in childhood. He has never forgiven Nicandra for bullying him when they were young, and now uses his position to exercise power over her.
Molly Keane does “declining Irish society” extremely well, showing both a house and a lifestyle in its waning years. Her characters are complex, interesting, and true to life, and the interpersonal dynamics in this story are fascinating. The ending, while somewhat too tidy, still packs an emotional punch that has me contemplating some of the deeper themes of this novel.
Hmm, I had that out of the library for a while, and didn't get to it. I have her daughters memoir of her in the tbr mountain too Laura.
>45 Caroline_McElwee: I didn't realize there was a memoir, Caro. That would be an interesting read.
33. The Stone Angel (Re-read, original rating )
Source: My Virago Modern Classics Collection
Why I read this now: Lifelong Learning Institute course
This summer I enrolled in a short course on Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel, described in the syllabus as “a narrative of time and place, memory, and personal identity as well as a tale of character, freedom, and survival.” I first read this book in 2012 and loved it, rating it 4.5 stars. Here’s my original review:
Above the town, on the hill brow, the stone angel used to stand. I wonder if she stands there yet, in memory of her who relinquished her feeble ghost as I gained my stubborn one, my mother's angel that my father bought in pride to mark her bones and proclaim his dynasty, as he fancied, forever and a day. (p. 1)
Hagar Shipley has been through a lot, as you'd expect from anyone who has lived 90 years. Born in a small Manitoba town, she grew up the daughter of a shopkeeper. Her mother died in childbirth, and one of her two brothers also died young. Hagar grew up a strong, independent woman. She did not distinguish herself in any way that was unusual for her time, but her fierce independence and ability to stand up for her rights set her apart from most early 20th-century women. Now nearing the end of her life, Hagar lives with her son Marvin and daughter-in-law Doris, and is rapidly losing the independence she values so highly.
Hagar has lived with Marvin and Doris for several years, but recently her needs have become more acute. She needs professional care, but actively resists any proposed change in living arrangements. She spends a lot of time inside her head, reflecting on life's highs and lows: the man she married, the sons she raised, the son she lost, and the townspeople who came and went over the years. A portrait emerges that provides tremendous insight to Hagar's character. The flashbacks are interspersed with present-day events: a visit from the minister, arguments with Marvin and Doris, and various evidence of Hagar's decline, which she often fails to recognize or acknowledge. Eventually Marvin and Doris convince Hagar to go on an outing, and they visit a care facility. It appears Hagar might actually accept the possibility of living there, and then a startling event dramatically alters the course of the story, and Hagar's life.
I found this novel very realistic and moving. Despite Hagar's intense stubbornness and insensitivity, I liked her very much, and I felt very sorry for her as she lost the ability to do things on her own. Marvin and Doris' characters were less well developed, and they sometimes seemed a bit callous, but I also sympathized with them as they took on responsibility they probably never anticipated. The last chapters were difficult to read, because you knew where the story had to lead, and I was sorry to say good-bye to such a memorable character as Hagar Shipley.
When I first read this book, I had no direct experience with the aging process, but that was about to change. That same year my father experienced a significant health event, requiring my parents to move to a care community and exposing my mother’s cognitive impairment. Both of my parents passed away in 2016. Re-reading The Stone Angel, I had even more sympathy for Hagar Shipley and was able to see, in Marvin and Doris, feelings I had experienced myself.
I have also really enjoyed the course, which began with an overview of Margaret Laurence’s life and work. The instructor also cited Margaret Atwood’s Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature to illustrate Canadian literature’s typical portrayal of families: “If in England the family is a mansion you live in, and if in America it’s a skin you shed, then in Canada it’s a trap in which you’re caught.”
Each class session covers 2-3 chapters (there are 10 chapters in all). Instructor handouts provide a plot summary and analysis of plot, characters, and themes. The instructor leads us through the handout and offers up questions for discussion. We have also watched videos of an author interview, clips from the film based on the book, and a montage of clips from a stage production. We are about halfway through the book with two class sessions remaining. I'll post any additional insights here later.
Morning, Laura. Happy Sunday. I was fortunate to add 2 birds to my life list this week, with the blue grosbeak and the orchard oriole. I hope to add a few more in the coming weeks and months. Mostly just the usual suspects at the feeders, which, of course I have no problem with.
I hope everything is going well with you.
I remember loving The Stone Angel as well, and Hagar was very memorable! The course sounds great - an extended book club as it were.
Have you read any other of Laurence's books? I have A Jest of God out from library to read when I finish the mystery I'm reading right now. I enjoyed The Fire-Dwellers when I read it, and plan to read the whole 'series', ending with The Diviners.
Enjoy the course! I enjoy how you share them here as well.
Your review made me think of The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (also Canadian). I loved TSD and have a copy of the Laurence, so...... :-)
>48 msf59: Hiya Mark! I'm impressed with your birding! I enjoy following your adventures on your thread, especially now that you have that snazzy new camera. I've been lurking there more than posting, I guess.
>49 raidergirl3: Thanks Elizabeth. I read A Jest of God and really liked that one as well. Our instructor waffles between The Fire-Dwellers and The Diviners as his favorite. Both are available on Abe books as VMC editions, so I will probably buy them both. I can't help myself.
>50 katiekrug:, >51 japaul22:, >52 katiekrug: oh, I loved The Stone Diaries. I think that was my first Carol Shields and it sent me on quite a jag, reading everything I could find. And yes, I think if you liked The Stone Diaries, you'd like Margaret Laurence too. Three great minds!
>47 lauralkeet: well Laura, that just goes to prove what I say to people who never reread, that you never read the same book twice. Your experience changes, enhances and informs what you have read before. Your class sounds very interesting. I look forward to the next episode. The Diviners nudges up the tbr mountain.
>54 Caroline_McElwee: well you're right about that, Caro. The main reason I don't usually reread is that there are so many unread books calling my name. But I definitely brought a different perspective to the book this time, and of course the instructor's approach has enhanced it quite a bit too.
>44 lauralkeet: I really enjoy Molly Keane, Laura. I should try to fit one of hers in this month.
>58 NanaCC: indeed you should, Colleen! 😀 I'm happy to have piqued your interest.
>47 lauralkeet: It's interesting, isn't it, as we here in the US tend to think of Canada as being benign and benevolent? "The trap you can't get out of" -- I was stunned by Alice Munro's writing and also Robertson Davies as well as Laurence's, for that reason. Carol Shields is much more positive than the others but the sense of suffocating in small town life and mores is always in the background. I bet you had some great discussions!
>60 sibyx: for some reason I had not allowed my mind to wander over to other Canadian authors I've read. But yes, I do see the theme in Munro and Shields (Davies is an author I still need to get to).
34. Circe: A Novel ()
Source: Borrowed from my daughter
Why I read this now: So many positive comments from trusted 75ers!
I am no expert in Greek mythology, but Madeline Miller is, and she can sure spin a tale. In Circe, she takes a lesser-known figure -- a witch, not a god -- and shows readers the formidable power of strong women. Circe is the daughter of the god Helios, the sun that sees all as it travels across the sky each day. After Helios exiles her to the island of Aiaia for all eternity, she must rely on spells and potions to ensure her safety. Having previously shown a talent for transforming her enemies into monsters (see also: Scylla), Circe doesn’t hesitate to turn seamen into pigs when they attempt to take advantage of her hospitality.
After Odysseus and his men land on Aiaia, he remains with Circe for several years despite the fate of his crew. I enjoyed this take on part of Odysseus’ famous journey and events that follow from it. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but I really came to love both Circe and Odysseus’ wife, Penelope. Their growth, both individually and together, is another demonstration of the power of strong women. While this novel didn’t capture my emotions like Miller’s prize-winning debut, Song of Achilles, it’s still a great story, well told.
Nice review of Circe, Laura. I almost bought a copy of it yesterday, but decided to wait for the present time. I'll definitely read it soon, though.
>62 lauralkeet: Oh, the pressure to read this one is coming from everywhere... soon, I tell myself... Great review, Laura.
>66 lauralkeet: me too! I also loved the way she portrayed Circe's relationship with her son, from infancy to adulthood.
35. Clear Light of Day ()
Source: On my Kindle
Why I read this now: Literary Book Group
This book was a struggle for me, and I have been unable to figure out why. I had a hard time getting started and set it aside for a couple days. When I returned I was able to engage with the story itself, but never became fully immersed in it. It has many elements that I typically enjoy: family drama, sibling relationships, setting (India/Pakistan during Partition). But I never fully identified with any of the characters, and finished it feeling ambivalent. My book group meets next week, and I'm hoping the discussion sheds new light no this book.
I can't seem to muster up a review, so will instead refer you to the late rebeccanyc's entry for this book, which offers both an excellent plot summary and an assessment of the book's strengths:
Hooray for Circe, Laura. I am glad you loved it. If you are looking for a solid historical novel, set in occupied France, give The Baker's Secret a shot.
Thanks for the rec, Mark! I'm up to my ears in TBRs at the moment but you never know.
Prairie Fires | Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel
Well, speaking of the TBR ... I was all set to start another book when I received a library hold notice for Prairie Fires, which I requested all the way back in April. Okay fine, but ... I also need to start reading the Golda Meir bio for my literary book club. We won't be discussing it until October 1, but it's a serious chunkster (800 pages, although 100 pages are devoted to index, notes, etc.). So I thought I'd read it slowly over two months. I kinda forgot that Prairie Fires is also a chunkster (500 pages not including the index and notes). So now I find myself reading two hefty nonfiction works at the same time. Eek!
I think we are all up to our ears in TBR books, Laura. I couldn't trust a reader, that wasn't. Grins...
Ooh, I want to read Prairie Fires. See?
>68 lauralkeet: - I've read one book by Anita Desai and also had trouble connecting with it. Glad I'm in good company!
I've had Lioness: Golda Meir on my TBR for a while and have to get to it. It had some great reviews. I'll look for your comments (no rush!!!).
>72 msf59: ha ha Mark ... and I haven't even started warbling yet!
>73 katiekrug: that's comforting, Katie. FWIW, rebeccanyc's taste was more sophisticated than mine; she often found goodness in books I felt I *should* read. Maybe Clear Light of Day falls into that category. Last week I ran into the woman who recommended it for our book group, and she was gushing over it. Now I feel a little bad for not appreciating it. But then, the theme of this group is "books that challenge us" so I guess it fits the category.
>74 vivians: Oh don't worry, I'm taking my time! I did the math and 10pp/day will have me finish by Sept 30, which sounds really manageable so who knows, maybe I'll move a little faster.
>75 lauralkeet: - Eh, we can't all like or even appreciate the same things... My book group has its best discussions when there are at least one or two people who didn't like our pick for that month.
Sigh. I miss Rebecca's insightful reviews, which she stopped writing after her illness made it impossible to read and write detailed reviews of books that were of interest to me. She influenced my reading as much as, and probably more than, any one else on LT, and I miss her presence amongst us.
I’ve only read Anita Desai’s Fasting Feasting and I liked it since I seem to have given it 4 stars. That was before LT so I have no memory of the book. At this stage of my life, Laura, I have no patience for any book that doesn’t appeal within several pages so I get your frustration as I probably would’ve dropped the book and picked up something else.. Too...many....books.
>77 kidzdoc: Darryl, despite Rebecca's taste in books being quite different from mine, she introduced me to Reading Globally which significantly influenced my reading for a couple of years. From her I also learned about the Pevear and Volohonsky Russian lit translations which I've recommended to others even though I haven't read them myself!
>78 brenzi: Bonnie, if I'd been reading the book on my own I probably wouldn't have persevered. But I do want to be able to have intelligent conversation about it with my book group, and at 185 pages it was pretty manageable, so I felt like I ought to finish it.
>79 lauralkeet: Yep. Rebecca influenced a lot of us, whether we shared tastes in books or not. She and I did, and the breadth of my reading has as much to do with her as anyone else within or outside of LT.
I had Prairie Fires on hold at the library, and it came in, and I read a bit of the introduction, but wasn't quite ready to dive into the book itself; time passed; I renewed it once; it came up for renewal again and I decided I just wouldn't get to it for a while so I returned it. I still want to read it, but I'll hope for a time when i don't have multiple other "ought-to's" competing for my time.
>81 laytonwoman3rd: I get that, Linda. When I put in my library hold request the queue for Kindle loans was already VERY long but I thought hey, I'm in no hurry, I'll read it whenever I get it. But there's something to be said for having more control over the timing, that's for sure. I'm enjoying it so far, though.
And wouldn't you know, another book I requested at about the same time is ALSO about to land on my Kindle. Sheesh!
Morning, Laura! How about that Pileated Woodpecker? I love this bird. It looks like you get them out east, as well.
>83 msf59: snap! I just commented about the Pileated Woodpecker on your thread!!
(for those who wonder what we are talking about, Mark and I both have the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bird a Day calendar, and the Pileated Woodpecker is today's bird.)
Currently Reading - Update
Prairie Fires | Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel | Educated
When it rains, it pours. Now another Kindle library loan has landed! Like Prairie Fires, I requested Educated several months ago. Unfortunately, unlike my previous library system, Philadelphia doesn't allow you to suspend a hold request (boo!).
So, for the time being I've set the Golda Meir bio aside to focus on the library books, which thankfully are both very good.
Ha, first world problems indeed Laura. We forget that too often, making note to self to remember.
>90 jnwelch: lol Joe, I think I understand your point about Rose Wilder. I read a section yesterday where Rose claimed to remember family events that took place when she was 2-4 years old. The memories attributed to a 2-year-old or, to be honest, even a 4-year-old, didn't ring true.
>91 lauralkeet: I also read Prairie Fires and was annoyed at times at how the author let Rose Wilder's life take over the biography. However, I came around in the end to realizing that it was probably realistic that Rose was a larger force in Laura's life than I might have wished and the biography just reflected that.
>92 japaul22: that's a good perspective. I'll try to keep that in mind since I still have quite a ways left to go. I've just started Part II, The Exile.
>91 lauralkeet: Just as a counterpoint: Charlie was 2.5 when we moved to Wisconsin, and he has memories from before then that are weirdly accurate and detailed. So, it *is* possible, I guess, for some folks to have memories from very early on (my own memories don't start until I was about 4, though).
>94 scaifea: wow, really? Okay then. I will try to be more tolerant of Rose's recollections!! Have a great day, Amber.
Morning, Laura! Happy Sunday. How are those current reads treating you? I loved Educated. I hope you are feeling the same way.
Looking forward to our trip to Colorado, in a week. Not only to attend a meet-up, see some gorgeous scenery, but to add a few birds to my list, as well.
>96 msf59: good morning Mark! Looks like we are both making the rounds this morning. The current reads are going well. Golda Meir is sitting quietly and I'm trying to suppress my anxiety about not reading the 10pp/day I intended before these two holds came through. Both Prairie Fires and Educated are excellent. Have you read Prairie Fires? Laura and Almanzo have just left the Dakotas for parts south. And in Educated, Tara just started at BYU. I'm probably devoting equal time to both books, with Prairie Fires a welcome relief from the intensity of Educated. There are some very difficult passages which can be difficult to absorb.
It is interesting that some people's memories go back to their early years. I wonder if they were reinforced somehow when they got bit older? I don't remember very far back myself.
>47 lauralkeet: Both the book and the course you've been taking sound really terrific.
Hmm, I don't yet know whether I can suspend holds in the Pullman library system. It was one of my favorite features of the Seattle Public Library system (which I am still using but only for eBooks).
I got a copy of Educated: A Memoir as a going away gift from a colleague back at UW. I want to read it soon!
Hi Ellen! The course wrapped up last week. The instructor was just terrific, and I'm not just saying that because he brought homemade butter tarts to the last class ha ha. He did a great job exploring the novel's themes with us, and using clips from the feature film to inspire further discussion. In some ways the film bears little resemblance to the book and we've enjoyed making those comparisons. But he began our last session with the final scene from the movie, which was actually more moving than in the book and I'm tearing up a bit just writing this paragraph!
Deep breath. Moving on ...
I read more from Educated than Prairie Fires this weekend. It's both horrific and fascinating.
On the question of early memories, I am quite sure I remember sitting on the floor, taking things (not my toys) out of the bottom drawer of a large bureau in the house we lived in when I was very small. I would guess I was no more than 2. We have some photos of the inside of the house, but none of that chest of drawers, and I've never heard anyone talk about me playing with things from it. I also remember sitting at my own little table eating my lunch on the porch of the next house we lived in, while my mother was up in the attic (the access to it being through the ceiling of the porch) singing "You are My Sunshine". I imagine I was about 4 then. I have mentioned this memory to my mother from time to time (starting back when her memory was still good), and although she has always said it's a very plausible thing to have happened, she didn't recall it specifically. My aunt had a glass wind chime outside her kitchen door, and I told her once "You had one of these at your apartment in South Carolina"---she was quite surprised, and agreed with me. We visited her once in South Carolina when I was four years old, and seeing that wind chime later reminded me of exactly where it had been on her back porch there. Experts might say these things are the product of mental processes other than actual memory, but to me it doesn't matter...they are "true" in the sense that they are based in reality and give me a grasp of my own childhood.
>104 laytonwoman3rd: that's very interesting, Linda. Thanks for sharing your experience.
36. Educated ()
Source: Kindle library loan
Why I read this now: I put my name on the holds list ages ago, so it was just a matter of time before I made it to the top of the list.
Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho with survivalist parents who sought to prepare for the “End Days” and live independent from government interference. The children did not attend public school, but weren’t consistently home-schooled either. They did not have birth certificates. Medical treatment was administered by the parents using various homemade herbal salves and remedies. And yet in 2014, Tara was awarded a PhD from Cambridge University. Educated is her memoir of that long, harrowing journey. And it is excellent.
Tara and her siblings faced so many obstacles, educational, financial, medical, and more. Let’s start with Tara’s father, a true patriarch whose word was law. He insisted Tara and her siblings work in the scrapyard he managed on their property, exposing them to all manner of occupational hazards and the inevitable injuries, some serious with long-lasting consequences. He enforced rigid rules governing gender roles and forms of dress. As they grew up, each of the children made some attempt at independence, with widely varying results. Those who were able to claim full adult independence started by surreptitiously studying during their spare time. It is difficult to grasp the persistence required to master secondary school concepts, gain admission to college, and progress through a post-secondary program with virtually no family support. For some of Tara’s siblings this proved impossible, in no small part due to the hold their father had on each of them and on their mother.
Tara’s impressive academic achievements are just part of her story. In Educated, she demonstrates a remarkable level of candor and self-awareness, describing how she had to shed the skin she grew up in to become a completely different person that could function in mainstream society. It took a long time for her to be able to take ibuprofen for pain, and to see a counselor who could help her work through a myriad of issues stemming from her upbringing. This memoir is an incredible story and highly recommended.
Prairie Fires | Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel
I got pretty caught up in Educated and at about the halfway point, started giving it priority over Prairie Fires. But now Prairie Fires is my primary read; I'm at 37% on my Kindle. I'm resuming my slowish pace through the Meir bio; I'm at 5% but have until an October 1 book group meeting to finish it. I'm a little behind my desired pace and hope I can catch up. I'd like to be halfway through (350pp) by the end of August.
>106 lauralkeet: I have that near the top of the pile Laura, after reading a couple of LT recommendations. I'll nudge up. Good review.
I really want to read Educated Laura. Excellent review which only served to entice me more😏
Educated is on my TBR pile, but I want to read it closer to when the author is coming to speak in Portland.
And I have several distinct memories from when I was really young: The curtains in my bedroom(pink and white with pom poms at the bottom); a bear that ambled around our house (we safely watched it from the windows); and playing hide and seek with my Grandma (I was hiding behind the big, green armchair); and I remember our garage to the left and our driveway which banked down and to the left and sliding down it in the snow, hoping I would stop before it curved and I went over the bank. We moved when I was three and a half, so the memories had to be from before that. That may be more than you wanted to know. : )
>114 Berly: Actually I find all this really interesting! I think I read somewhere that age 4 was typical of when memories began to form, but then that was also my experience so I may have generalized. I think my earliest memory is one of my first days at preschool, being fed something I'd never had before (an orange).
P has absconded with my copy of Educated: A Memoir but I'll read it when she finished with it. Your review is excellent.
We moved the same month I turned six so any memories I have from "the old house" are before that. There are not many of them. The house fire that occurred just months before we moved are the most vivid. Running from our house to the neighbors in the middle of a hurricane are another -- I think I was 4 at that time. I have other memories in that house and neighborhood but I don't actually know how old I was in each one.
>116 EBT1002: Hi Ellen! I wonder how family moves affect childhood memories? The memories I shared in >115 lauralkeet: directly followed a move, and I remember absolutely nothing about life before that.
A fire and a hurricane? Sheesh. That's a lot to deal with, and I can understand why events like that would stick with you.
Yes, well, it makes sense that dramatic experiences would be more likely to cement themselves as long-term memories, doesn't it?
>118 EBT1002: right you are, Ellen. You must be a psychologist or something! 😂
37. Prairie Fires ()
Source: Kindle library loan
Why I read this now: I put my name on the holds list ages ago, so it was just a matter of time before I made it to the top of the list.
It was impossible to grow up in the US in the 1970s and not be familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved Wilder’s Little House books, and the make-believe they inspired. So when I learned about this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, I knew I had to read it.
The Little House books presented a sanitized version of life on the American Prairie, glossing over a myriad of social, historic, and economic issues. Caroline Fraser sets the record straight, beginning with a land rush in the 1850s, the 1862 Homestead Act which promised 160 acres to each settler, and the resulting impact on Native American communities which led to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Wilder was born in 1867, to parents whose families were settlers during the mid-1800s.
Fraser continues telling the story of Wilder’s life by placing events in historical context, and dispelling romantic notions of “pioneer life” evoked by the novels. Poverty, hunger, and poor living conditions were the norm. The land was poorly suited to farming; both government policy and farming methods were contributing factors to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. I also enjoyed reading about the adult Wilder: the ways she supplemented her family’s farming income, how she became a writer, and the long journey of writing and publishing a series of novels. Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was a writer in her own right and instrumental in helping her mother get published; she was also a problematic figure who did not engender any of my sympathies. But Wilder’s story cannot be told without Lane’s, and vice versa.
Towards the end of this book, Fraser turns her attention to contemporary issues surrounding Wilder’s books. Even during her lifetime (Wilder died in 1957), people were attempting discern fact from fiction in the novels, challenging the Wilder/Lane assertion of absolute truth. And then, as 20th-century American society began to grasp the nature of our treatment of Native American populations, some of the stories took on a new light. In 2018, just a few months after the release of Prairie Fires, the American Library Association removed Wilder’s name from its children’s literature award, stating that “her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.”
The Little House books remain tremendously popular works of children’s literature despite the dissonance with contemporary thought. It’s interesting to learn more about the woman who created this significant body of work.
The Headmistress | Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel
Whew, I am in desperate need of some fiction. And who better than Angela Thirkell, whose Barsetshire novels are good, light, fun? Besides, she's our author of the month over in the Virago Group. The Headmistress is next up in my journey through the Barsetshire series. I'm chugging along in the Meir bio; since I set it aside for a bit I need to pick up my pace a little (maybe 15pp/day instead of 10), in order to finish in time for my October 1 book group discussion.
I am such a hard core fan of Thirkell! I envy anyone reading her books for the first time. Although they do fine second (or third) time around!
Fascinating about the background and "reality" of the Little House books.
>121 lauralkeet: You’re making me anxious to get to my Thirkell book Laura😉
>122 sibyx: there are so many Barsetshire novels, Lucy, that it will take me some time to get through them all. As fun as they are, I find a little goes a long way so I don't usually read them in rapid succession. But they are a great palate cleanser, and also a good escape when life is difficult.
>123 brenzi: whatcha waiting for, Bonnie?! 😀
Hi Laura, I'm stopping by to say that I love your Google spreadsheet you posted on Katie's thread :-)
>125 norabelle414: why thank you, Nora! I've been using a spreadsheet for (*checks Google Drive*) 10 years, so ever since I became a 75er. At the beginning I did a lot of reading challenges, and used the spreadsheet to track my progress. I dropped challenges a couple years ago and refined the spreadsheet to focus on other goals, like reading from my tbr stack.
If this has piqued anyone else's curiosity, here's a link to the 2017 version of my handy spreadsheet. I'm sharing last year's edition because it shows a full year (with stats!), but of course I have one for 2018 also:
>129 sibyx: Why thank you, Lucy. As I commented over on Katie's thread, that's a vintage 1980s BS in Comp Sci and a 33-year IT career in action. 😀
Well I couldn’t help taking a peek Laura and I certainly am impressed. And here I sit with a black and white composition book, one of many, going back years. I’m such a dinosaur lol.
Hmm. I'm not familiar with Angela Thirkell. I'll see if the first Barsetshire novel is available via the library. I love your description of them as palate cleansers. :-)
Laurel-- Just popping in to stay current and say Hi! Have fun with that spreadsheet. ; )
38. The Headmistress ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Why I read this now: Angela Thirkell is the VMC group’s August author
Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels imagine Anthony Trollope’s Victorian-era Barsetshire, as it would have been in the early 20th century. They are light, fun chronicles of English country and village life, with considerable humor at the expense of certain English archetypes. The Headmistress is set during World War II, and the Belton family have turned over their large home and extensive grounds to be used as a school for girls. Mr and Mrs Belton have relocated to a smaller home nearby. Their three young adult children, all involved in some form of “war work,” no longer live at home but visit often. Miss Sparling is the eponymous heroine, newly arrived both at the school and in Barsetshire. The plot revolves primarily around the Beltons and Miss Sparling adjusting to their new circumstances. And of course there's romance. These novels always include a number of unattached men and women, and part of the fun for me is speculating on who will pair off with whom. Along the way there are subplots poking fun at the schoolgirls and various villagers. There's not a lot of “action.” The reader has to look past Thirkell’s classism and views that are of their time, but if that can be done these are pure and simple comfort reads.
Paris in the Present Tense | Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel
After a slowish start, I'm making good progress on the Meir bio and finding it pretty interesting reading. I should meet my goal to be halfway through by the end of the month. I might even be a little ahead of schedule which means I could give it a rest during my September vacation. Paris in the Present Tense is also for my literary book group, and we will discuss it on Sept 5. I just started it yesterday, so it's too soon to have any strong impressions.
>134 lauralkeet: - I have a few Thirkells on my shelf... But not this one.
>136 katiekrug: Katie, I was introduced to Thirkell in the Virago group, specifically when I received one of her Barsetshire novels in the Virago Secret Santa. After that I decided to start acquiring and reading the novels in order. There are 29, and The Headmistress is #13. I have #s 14, 15, 19, & 27 on my shelves. I can probably find the missing ones online but I enjoy hunting in used bookshops so I'm in no hurry.
Rant Alert: Kindle page numbers
I've been relying on the page numbers to mark my progress and set reading goals in the Meir bio. I knew I needed to reach page 350 to be at the halfway point in the text (not 50% through the entire book, which includes the notes and index). Two days ago I looked at the length of upcoming chapters and set myself some new targets.
And then: overnight, my page numbers disappeared. Yesterday I could only see "location" (which I find completely meaningless) and the reading time left in the chapter and book. WTF?
Certain I'd done something wrong, I contacted Amazon who informed me the book had been updated by the publisher, which sometimes results in "changes to features." Like whether the publisher wishes to provide real pagination.
I am so annoyed! I've downloaded books before that didn't have page numbers, but they are usually older works and I have come to expect page numbers in newer titles.
Has anyone else experienced this?
I haven't experienced the frustration of disappearing page numbers, Laura, just the case of some books not having them at all.
>137 lauralkeet: I have been caught out by odd page numbers before on e-books (especially the library's ones) but not disappearing page numbers - how frustrating!
>138 katiekrug:, >139 charl08: Hi Katie & Charlotte. Like you I have seen many books without page numbers, and while I don't like it I just kinda shrug and wish the publisher would have included them. I also assumed Kindle books, once published, remained the same unless of course an entirely new edition was released by the author. So the "news" to me is that publishers update ebooks, much the way iPhone apps get updated I guess. And I just don't get why they would take my beloved page numbers away. Waaaahhh! 😢
>140 lauralkeet: wow, I had no idea either! I rarely buy ebooks, instead I check them out from the library, and that news makes me even more hesitant to actually buy.
That is frustrating Laura. I have to say after an early enthusiasm for e-books, they have become a very tiny part in my reading pleasure for all sorts of reasons. But page numbering is certainly something I prefer, and is probably less than 50% available even in newly published books. Grrrr.
39. Paris in the Present Tense ()
Source: On my Kindle, a recent purchase
Why I read this now: Literary Book Group
Jules Lacour is 74 years old. He is incredibly fit for his age, spending considerable time running, swimming, and rowing on the Seine. A cellist, he composes music and teaches part-time. Widowed for many years, he deeply mourns the loss of his wife Jacqueline but finds solace in the company of his adult daughter Catherine and her family. Jules’ parents were killed during World War II, and Jules (irrationally) feels responsible for their deaths as well other losses in his life. He is determined to reverse this “trend” with his grandson Luc, recently diagnosed with leukemia.
Seemingly out of nowhere, three events dramatically change the course of Jules’ life: he receives a lucrative commission for an original composition, meets and experiences strong mutual attraction with a much younger woman, and is involved in a serious crime. What follows from these events inspires Jules to live increasingly in the moment, while also laying the groundwork to take care of those who will be left behind when he dies.
On the surface, this novel takes the form of a “caper” as Jules works feverishly to ensure his schemes come to fruition. There’s a bit of suspense and I couldn’t help cheering for the underdog. But the writing is sublime, and there’s something deeper going on here, from Jules’ experiences as a French Jew from the war to the present, to his ruminations on aging and a life well lived: “You learn to see with your emotions and feel with your reason. If at its end the life you’re living takes on the attributes of art, it doesn’t matter if you’ve forgotten where you put your reading glasses.” Highly recommended.
Warlight | Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel
I started Warlight yesterday, so I'm not too far along but it seems enjoyable so far. In the Meir bio, I'm on Chapter 22 of 30, and by the next chapter Golda will become the Prime Minister of Israel. I might put it on hold at that point and finish after my vacation.
Ah Mark Helprin - he tries new things and while I haven't cared for some of this books, this one looks worthwhile.
Mark Helprin is new to me (although I've heard of him for sure). Lucy, I'd be interested to know which ones worked for you, and which ones didn't.
Wow! It looks like I have been neglecting my bird pal from PA! Happy Labor Day, Laura. I hope you are having a nice holiday weekend.
It looks like you have some interesting books going, as usual. I particularly want to read Warlight in the coming weeks.
>143 lauralkeet: Nice writeup!! Wishing you fun on vacation. : ) I plan on watching tennis and reading today. Perfect!
>148 msf59: that's okay, Mark, no hard feelings! It's been a decent, if hot, weekend here. We went to the zoo yesterday, which was fun. Today we're just hanging out in the AC.
>149 Berly: Thanks Kim! Have you read the Helprin? It's a good one. I'm looking forward to vacation for sure. And we'll be watching the tennis too, if not this afternoon then at least tonight when our man Roger plays.
>150 lauralkeet: I have not read any Helprin...yet! And I am a day behind watching tennis. I just finished Sunday's round of 16.
40. Jenny and the Cat Club ()
Source: A recent addition to our library
For years my husband has talked about a favorite children's book about a cat named Jenny. He finally went off in search of a copy and, inexplicably, gave it to me as an anniversary gift. But you know what? It's adorable. Jenny Linsky is a sweet, shy little black cat who wears a red scarf made by her owner, The Captain. The Captain convinces her to venture out and join her neighborhood Cat Club, where she meets an array of other felines who could be featured in the next Wes Anderson film. She makes friends, gets up to adventures, and recruits new Cat Club members all while being very sweet and cute. What's not to like?
41. Warlight ()
Source: On my shelves, a recent purchase
Why I read this now: It was nominated for the Booker Prize.
Nathaniel and Rachel’s parents suddenly announce they are leaving post-World War II London for Asia, ostensibly due to the father’s business. Their father leaves right away, their mother follows a month later, and the children are left in the care of a friend they barely know, whom they dub “The Moth.” The children are supposed to go to boarding school, but Nathaniel runs away and returns to live at home. The Moth is caring and kind, albeit very hands-off in his guardianship. And his life is filled with a rich cast of characters, who simultaneously fascinate and mystify Nathaniel. One, known as The Darter, invites Nathaniel to accompany him on nighttime transport of racing greyhounds. There’s a lot else going on, but since events are told from a child’s perspective, reality is not apparent to the reader.
Then, after a very dramatic sequence, the plot moves forward about ten years. Nathaniel is now an adult and his job allows him access to records that help him piece together long-ago events. The narrative moves back and forth in time, revealing small details from that post-war period and then returning to Nathaniel’s early adulthood. The reader’s fog begins to lift, but not entirely.
I’m not sure what to make of this book. The writing was evocative, and the characters -- especially The Darter -- were memorable. But the pace and suspense did not match the plot developments, and at the end I was left with a feeling of “is that all there is?”
Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel
I'm up to Part III now, when Golda is Prime Minister. I'll continue reading this week, set it aside when we leave on vacation Friday night, and then finish when we get back.
The Other Side of the Bridge | Novel on Yellow Paper
These two slim paperbacks will fit nicely in my luggage and they suit my reading mood. Also, Novel on Yellow Paper is by Stevie Smith, September's Virago Group author.
>155 katiekrug: whoops, have I not mentioned that here? Silly me. We leave Friday night for a week in France. First a couple of days in Paris, which we haven't visited in ~15 years. Then we'll take the train to Narbonne (in the Languedoc region in the southwest, near Spain), where friends of ours own a B&B steps away from the Canal du Midi. We stayed there a couple of years ago and not only was it fun catching up with our friends, but it was a lovely place to relax. We'll only be gone a week, returning Saturday 9/15.
Lovely! That sounds like a nice getaway.
I'm scheduled to be in Paris next June for work and will take a few extra days to see it a bit (I've been once before - in 2008 but didn't get to do much). I'm hoping the timing lines up right so I can get to the Yankees-Red Sox game in London the last weekend of June and then go to Wimbledon, which starts 1 July. Seems sad to be this excited about something almost a year away!
>157 katiekrug: ooh, it would be great if all those events lined up for you, Katie. I don't blame you for being excited already.
>143 lauralkeet: my book group met today to discuss Paris in the Present Tense. We were evenly divided on it, with 3 of us liking it a lot and 3 who didn't. This made for excellent discussion, and this group is really good at respectfully disagreeing and even appreciating others' points of view.
I was also super glad I didn't know much about the author before reading (or, in fact, before today's discussion). Let's just say he and I are at very different points of an ideological / political spectrum, in fact his world view strikes me as rather extreme. Had I known this it would have influenced my reading experience. That's kind of a shame and a sad commentary on American society, but there it is.
Hi, Laura. Good review of Warlight. This seems to be pretty consistent with my other LT pals. I will still give it a go.
Hey, are you planning on going to the American Birding Expo, at the end of the month? It really sounds awesome and they are hosting free bird walks each day too. If they hold it in Philly each September, I would honestly think about coming in for it.
>160 msf59: You're right Mark. I read Ellen's thoughts when I was just over halfway through, and they echoed what I was feeling. There was someone else too, can't remember who, there are lots of us reading this book. I did enjoy it, but it lacked a certain something.
>161 msf59: Hey, I'm glad you mentioned this, Mark. The other day I was looking at a calendar of events at the John Heinz Center and noticed walks scheduled that weekend, with mention of the Expo. For some reason I didn't follow up to see what it was all about. I'll take a closer look at the expo program after we're back from France.
>162 Berly: Yes! It should be!! But at the moment I'm in a common (for me) pre-travel stage where I wake up in the middle of the night with my mind spinning about what to pack or other logistics. This will pass, and then we'll be in the fun stage.
Your trip to France sounds great, Laura! I look forward to hearing more about it, and seeing photos.
Nice review of Warlight. My opinion and rating of it closely matches yours. It might make the Booker Prize longlist, but I would be quite surprised if it won the award.
I read Mark Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War long before LT and loved it Laura. So I may have to try Paris in the Present Tense.
You and I will have to disagree about Warlight which I loved. I especially was struck by the sacrifice of so many Brits during the war, just regular people, that Ondaatje brought out and of course his gob smacking prose. Just gorgeous.
>164 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl! We're in the countdown to takeoff now (our flight leaves at 9:15pm Eastern time). There will be photos!
>165 brenzi: It's so unusual for us to disagree on a book, Bonnie! I have had similar reactions to the impact of the war on regular people, just not in this book. And I do like his writing quite a bit.
I was chatting with my husband about Mark Helprin and he, too, highly recommended A Soldier of the Great War. I'll be interested in your thoughts on *Paris*, if you read it -- my book group had such wide, varied reactions.
I saw on Vivian's thread that you and Chris are in Paris. I SO want to return to that city! I've been there once, for four days back in 2007. I hope you're having a wonderful time.
>153 lauralkeet: Excellent review (partly because we are in agreement!). I liked it and I agree with Brenda in >165 brenzi: that the prose was gorgeous but I don't think it's the Booker winner (at least, not if I'm on the panel of judges - ha!).
Hi Ellen and yes, we are in Paris now! It’s been about 15 years since our last visit and back then we had young kids in tow. We arrived Saturday morning. The weather was beautiful and after checking into our hotel we spent the afternoon walking about, getting lunch and visiting the Jardin du Luxembourg. After a short nap we went out again to stop by Shakespeare & Co, but we were really losing steam so we just had a quick dinner in a Chinese restaurant and went to bed.
Of course I bought a couple things at Shakespeare & Co. First, Transcription, the new Kate Atkinson which I learned of recently from Vivian’s thread. It’s not available in the US yet. And then, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast because, well, Paris.
It’s now 9:45 Sunday morning and we’ve hopefully slept off our jet lag. Coffee and croissants sound pretty good right now...
You traveled all the way to Paris to get the new Kate Atkinson? Nicely done! LOL I haven't been to Paris in years and I miss it. I know you will have lots of fun there. : )
We've had a lovely time in France, first in Paris and then in Languedoc, in the southwest. We're now back in Paris for an overnight stay before flying home on Saturday. I've been posting photos on Facebook, and will try to write/post more here over the weekend.
Meanwhile ... there was vacation reading. No reviews, just a few comments.
42. The Other Side of the Bridge ()
Source: On my shelves
Why I read this now: I picked it up earlier this year at the March LT Philly meetup, based on LTer Bonnie (brenzi)’s recommendation. It was the perfect size to fit into my vacation luggage.
This was a very good story of two brothers, told in chapters that alternate between their childhood years and their lives as adults, with the latter seen primarily through the eyes of a teenage boy who in turn has his own story. These all weave together and drive towards the inevitable conflict and dramatic resolution. I actually found the epilogue one of the most moving parts of the book.
43. Novel on Yellow Paper (DNF)
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Why I read this now: Stevie Smith is the Virago Group author for September
I'm sorry to say I just couldn't get into this one, so I Pearl-ruled it. It's written in the first person, in a stream of consciousness style. Imagine a flighty young woman breathlessly telling you a story, but one that zigs and zags all over the place, and you have this novel. Probably beloved by many, but just not my thing. Funny though, the narrator gives readers permission to abandon the book early on, saying there is a certain type of person who will get on with this story and another type that won't, and if you're struggling you might as well stop now. And for that paragraph, I am eternally grateful.
Fortunately I have the Kindle app on my iPad so I can read the Golda Meir bio on the plane.
Happy Friday, Laura. Enjoy your last night in Paris and have a safe flight home tomorrow. Glad to see you managed to get some reading in too.
We spent a couple days in Paris and, having seen many of the major sites on previous visits, we went in search of new experiences. Paris is also just a beautiful city for walking, and we covered a lot of ground.
The Promenade Plantee in Paris
This is a former railway line, now public garden, similar to the High Line in New York City. The gardens are mature and there's little evidence of the railway. It's beautiful and not touristy.
More Paris Sights
Notre Dame and one of many "bateaux mouches" on the Seine | Classic architecture | Canal Saint-Martin Pont d'Amélie (featured in the film, Amélie)
We also visited Saint-Chappelle, which was really impressive with its ornate stained glass. And we popped into the Musee Cluny, a medieval museum that had an interesting exhibit of The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.
On Monday we traveled via the TGV (high-speed train) from Paris to Narbonne, to stay at La Souqueto, a chambres d'hotes (B&B) owned by our English friends Jon & Mel. It's in a small, quiet village near a river and a canal, and the Mediterranean climate is delightful.
On Tuesday, we had breakfast with a French couple who did not speak English. We muddled through! Jon suggested a sightseeing itinerary so after picking up our rental car we headed out into the countryside to visit a couple of villages and an abbey which is now a vineyard. We bought a couple bottles for our hosts. What I love about staying here is that besides providing a nice room and breakfast, they want to be sure you have a nice time so are full of recommendations for things to do. And not just for us because we are friends, but for all their guests.
Photos from our visit to the Abbey de Fontfroide
Wednesday the French couple checked out and we were the only guests that night. This allowed Jon & Mel to have a day out with us. We went to Perpignan, a town a bit south of near the border with Spain. There was a photojournalist exposition underway in venues all over the city, each exhibit highlighting a social justice issue and some of them quite intense or difficult to take in. We went to one of the larger venues and viewed exhibits on the effects of "Big Food" on the environment, a Bolivian mining community, African migrants in Johannesburg, and the "Red Ants" who are charged with evicting the poor (mostly migrants) from South African settlements. These were all topics I knew little or nothing about, and it was both enlightening and harrowing. We then took a break for lunch and went to a museum to see an exhibit of paintings by Raoul Dufy, who lived & worked in Perpignan from 1940-1950. This was a new-to-me artist and I enjoyed seeing his work, which was very bright and colorful. We returned to the B&B and had a nice home-cooked meal together with lots of great conversation.
Thursday, still taking advantage of being the only guests, we all went to a nearby village for breakfast and a wander. On our way back we stopped at a small market to get cheese and veggies, and then at a boulangerie for bread, all of which was used to make a nice lunch. Jon & Mel had to get rooms ready for arriving guests, so Chris and I went for a nice walk to the canal near the B&B, accompanied by Jon & Mel's lovely dogs. Then we had a short nap, and eventually dinner time rolled around and the four of us went to a really wonderful small restaurant. It was in an former school in a small village, just a few tables, and the food was absolutely delicious. Chris and I both had the cassoulet. So good.
A relaxing day in Languedoc
Friday we had breakfast with two couples from New Zealand, who were very friendly and eager to make conversation. They left shortly after breakfast for a week-long boat trip on the canal, and we just hung out at the B&B chatting with Jon & Mel on all manner of topics. Lots of reminiscing about the years we lived in England, which is when we met them (and our kids went to school together). In the mid-afternoon, we drove to Narbonne to return our rental car and catch the TGV back to Paris. We stayed there overnight on Friday and flew home on Saturday.
Two visits to Languedoc have made this our favorite part of France. The climate is similar to Provence, but without the tourists. We are already thinking about our next trip ...
What a beautiful vacation - thanks for sharing the memories! The photos of the Promenade are lovely. I was last in Paris in 1998 and would love to return. My parents used to travel to Languedoc every year to visit a tannery (they were in the leather business) so it was nice to see photos of the area.
>172 lauralkeet: Beautiful, Laura! Thanks for sharing. I was in Europe from the 6th to the 14th, we just missed each other! Usually I fly from National Airport in DC to JFK when flying to Europe, but this time I connected in PHL instead and I liked it a lot better.
>173 vivians: Vivian, our last visit to Paris was about 15 years ago, so not far off your 1998. It hasn't changed dramatically, but it has been subject to all the same forces of globalization seen in other large cities. In 2003, American tourists who were crazy enough to want McDonald's had to look pretty hard to find one. Now they are everywhere along with Starbucks, Chipotle, the Apple Store, etc. Too bad.
>174 norabelle414: Well I'll be darned. Wouldn't it have been funny to be in the airport at the same time and not even know it? PHL has become a significant international hub for American Airlines, so there are several nonstop routes to Europe. That said, sometimes we tire of American Airlines and consider flying out of Newark (EWR) which we could get to easily by train. I think we'd try that if we couldn't get to our destination non-stop from PHL.
44. Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel ()
Source: On my Kindle, a recent purchase
Why I read this now: Literary Book Group
Golda Meir served as Prime Minister of Israel from 1969-1974, and is the only woman to have held that position. Born in Kiev and raised in the United States, Meir was a visible and popular figure both with the American Jewish community and the United States government. This book is a comprehensive biography of a dynamic leader who was influential in the formation of Israel, and whose legacy is still felt today.
Since I was a child when Meir held office, I knew nothing of her life history and how she rose to the highest levels of Israel’s government. My knowledge of Israel’s history was also pretty sketchy. Lioness addressed both of these gaps, helping me better appreciate the formation of the State of Israel, Israel-Arab relations from that point forward, and the key political figures involved. And of course I know a great deal more about Golda Meir, who showed herself as a leader early in life and went to Israel not to escape hardship or persecution, but because she identified so strongly with being part of the newly-forming state.
But oh my, it’s a tome. I don’t usually shy away from long books, but I have my limits. The hardcover edition comes in at 848 pages, although well over 100 pages are devoted to notes and indices. I read the Kindle edition simply so I wouldn’t have to tote the book around. Even though Meir’s life is a fascinating story, the text can be dry at times. This book is best suited to someone who already has a strong interest in the subject, and will find it easier to persevere to the end.
Your photos of Paris and Languedoc almost made me cry, silly of me! We just can't seem to get it together to travel! One reason (among many) I wanted another dog, a selfish one, is so that they can be together at a kennel if we travel somewhere.
I've wl'd the Atkinson. Can't wait.
Ondaatje is an other one who hits or misses.
Re Helprin -- yeah -- a bit of a "disguised" snob/entitled/conservative type. A Winter's Tale is a wonderful novel. His first, his best. I haven't really cared for the others all that much.
Your Paris trip sounded (and looked) like a wonderful time, Laura. It has been 49 years since I was there! I’m glad my LT friends are well-traveled so I can live vicariously through them.
Like Lucy, I have fond memories of Winter’s Tale. I am not a big fan of fantasy, but I remember being enchanted by Helprin’s marvelous prose. The book lives in the reread section of my library. It’s been almost a decade since I read it and I still hold some of the scenes in my mind. Who can forget a flying horse?
Oh, Laura, I can't catch up, but I have loved your travels this summer and am glad to have you home. I confess that I've started Winter's Tale a couple of times and put it down for something more immediately accessible. I'll certainly pick it up again because of all the love here. Like you, I haven't been able to read the S. Smith. Oh well.
As to childhood memories, I have some clear snatches from at least age 2 and maybe before - of my grandmama's house at Christmas with interior doors with small panes of glass and a fish pond (that's the before/maybe) and clearly of the apartment we lived in before moving into our little house in the country at 2+. Lots of memories from then on.
Good morning Donna and Peggy! I'm so glad you both stopped by. Maybe I'll get hold of Winter's Tale one of these days, especially now my interest has been piqued by a flying horse!
Peggy, it's also nice to see I'm not the only one who has trouble with Stevie Smith. The funny thing is, she's getting very little love over in the Virago group, where she's our monthly author. She was chosen through a group vote but few seem to be reading and those who have are lukewarm at best.
45. The Fire-Dwellers ()
Source: My Virago Modern Classics Collection
Why I read this now: After taking a summer course on The Stone Angel, I wanted to read the rest of the books in Margaret Laurence’s Manawaka Series
Stacey Cameron is a 39-year-old mother of four, married to Mac, a salesman. Their marriage is okay-not-great, and while Stacey deeply loves her children she also feels trapped in her homemaking role. She sees and feels her body changing with age and is intimidated by her slim and fashionable neighbor Tess, but cannot see how Tess longs for Stacey’s stable and relatively loving home life. When Mac changes jobs, he works long hours trying to prove himself. Stacey is thrust into the role of “corporate wife” at parties hosted by Mac’s boss. Self-conscious and awkward, Stacey drinks too much and becomes even more outspoken than usual, causing tensions with Mac.
Craving excitement, Stacey begins finding ways to get out on her own, each time pushing the boundaries a bit more while worrying she will be caught. She goes out with her husband’s friend, a truck-driver, only to be repulsed by his advances. She then has a brief affair with a much younger man, and while this meets both physical and emotional needs, Stacey quickly realizes there is no future in the relationship.
Stacey’s life is filled with metaphorical fires that need to be dealt with (hence the title), and some have serious consequences for the family. Despite being a tremendously flawed character (but aren't we all?) she gets by, and manages to steer her family through difficult times. And yet at the end of the book, the reader sees more fires ahead and recognizes Stacey’s life will always be that way.
Love all your pictures of France!! And The Other Side of the Bridge sounds intriguing....
>184 lauralkeet: Great review. I finished A Bird in the House this summer, and Stacy is the sister of that main character. I read The Fire-Dwellers a year or two ago, and couldn't remember the details, only that I liked it. Thanks for the refresher of The Fire-Dwellers. The Manawaka series is like the Tana French mysteries - each is a stand alone, but there is a character connection between the books.
Your France trip sounds wonderful!
>185 Berly: Kim, have you read Crow Lake? I think I enjoyed it a little more than TOSotB but both are very good.
>186 raidergirl3: I haven't read that book, Elizabeth, but I've read A Jest of God, another of Laurence's Manawaka novels. There's a brief allusion to Stacey's sister near the end of the book, and the Afterword confirmed that sister is also the main character in A Jest of God. It almost makes me want to re-read it, but I also recently bought the fourth Manawaka novel, The Diviners, so I'll read that before any re-reads.
>187 lauralkeet: No, but it is on my WL. Maybe I should get that instead. Thanks!
You’re making me wish I’d read the Margaret Laurence books close together Laura. I read the first two a few years ago and don’t remember too much except I really liked them.
That sounds and looks like a great vacation, Laura. Thanks for posting the beautiful photos.
>188 Berly: Enjoy, Kim!
>189 brenzi: I know what you mean, Bonnie. The Stone Angel was a re-read for me this summer, and I was surprised how little I remembered of it even though I gave it 4.5 stars.
>190 jnwelch: It was wonderful, Joe. Glad you liked the photos!
In other news, I finished Kate Atkinson's Transcription today. What a fun book! I hope to post a review this weekend.
Hi, Laura. I see that I liked *FDs* a lot more than you did. That was my last Laurence though. I really need to get back to her.
I'm eager to see exactly what you think about K. Atkinson's latest. Keep reading and reviewing!
I thought my LT friends would be interested in an event I attended yesterday, a "hands on tour" focused on women novelists at the Rosenbach Library. While the Rosenbach is affiliated with the Free Philadelphia of Philadelphia, it is more of a museum, founded by two brothers who collected books, music, and fine art. The Rosenbach's building is the house the brothers lived in and the adjacent house which was purchased later. The house is decorated with furniture, rugs, and art the brothers collected and various rooms are lined with shelves of rare books.
Our tour group of 8 people were able to see and touch a galley manuscript of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, and first editions of Evelina,Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Silas Marner, and Pride and Prejudice. The guide asked one visitor to read the opening of P&P; her voice broke as she did so. We were all in awe. I took some pix:
Note the title page. In most cases the book did not identify the author by name.
>194 PaulCranswick: thank you Paul, it's nice to see you among us!
46. Transcription ()
Source: On my shelves, a recent purchase
Why I read this now: I was excited to be able to get my hands on a new release from a favorite author.
In 1940 Juliette Armstrong is recruited into MI5, the British intelligence service, to transcribe recorded meetings between an agent, Godfrey Toby, and seemingly ordinary citizens who are believed to be working for the German government. Toby pretends to be one of them, when in reality he hopes to use information obtained from these meetings to thwart the Germans. Juliette proves herself as a transcriber, and is then asked to assume a fake identity and mingle among German sympathizers.
Fast forward to 1950, when Juliette is a producer of children’s programming for BBC radio. After a chance encounter with Godfrey Toby, she begins to realize her wartime activities are not fully behind her. The novel shifts between these two time periods, dropping hints and details as dots for the reader to connect. A classic spy caper ensues, where Juliette -- and the reader -- are never quite sure whether people are who they say they are, and begin to question the loyalty of key figures in the drama.
Kate Atkinson brings a unique talent to this genre. There’s plenty of mystery and intrigue, as well as a great deal of humor. Juliette becomes a savvy and effective spy, and she is also an ordinary human being who loves, hopes, and fears. Atkinson also employs a very brief prologue and epilogue, set in 1981, as bookends to Juliette’s story. I found the author’s note at the end of the book very interesting, as it described how Atkinson blended discrete factual elements into a plausible story that was great fun to read.
Happy Sunday, Laura. I hope everything is going well. Good review of Transcription. Big Thumb! I am a big fan of Atkinson, so I am pumped about this one.
>197 msf59:, >198 NanaCC: Hi Mark & Colleen. I think you'll both enjoy the Atkinson. I was struck by how different it was from traditional spy novels, and I think it's because it's written by a woman. For one thing, the protagonist is female and not just a sidekick or love interest. And the style and tone are completely different from, say, John LeCarre.
Hi Laura! Thanks for sharing some about your vacation, including some photos. I have been talking about Provence for my next significant birthday (in 2020) but now I'm thinking about Languedoc!
I must get a copy of Transcription.
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