Kathy's (kac522) 2019 Reading, Book by Book
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Welcome to my reading for 2019.
My goal will be 75 books, with at least 40 of these to be books that are on my shelves as of Jan 1, 2019, or "Roots." I'll be keeping track of these TBRs here:
This year I'm embarking on a number of personal "projects", which include reading books of favorite authors and series. I'll be reading Austen, Brookner, Christie, Dickens, Eliot, Miss Read, D. E. Stevenson, among others. My progress on these projects are tracked on my Challenge Thread:
On this 75 Challenge thread I'll be numbering my books as I go along, to keep track of the total, and hopefully get a bit closer to 75 than I did in 2018.
Happy reading, and thanks for stopping by.
Here are my final 2018 reading stats, favorites and thoughts:
Total books read: 60
Female authors: 31
Male authors: 29
Most memorable reads:
O Pioneers, Willa Cather
Mrs Tim books, D. E. Stevenson
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
A Month In the Country, J. L. Carr
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
The Newcomers, Helen Thorpe
Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pushing Time Away, Peter Singer
Surprisingly good read: 41 Stories, O. Henry--I was only going to read "The Gift of the Magi" from this collection, but sat down to read a few more as an afterthought. A bit inconsistent in quality, but always clever and entertaining.
Well worth the re-read: audiobook of Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens
Well worth the group read of lesser known works with lyzard (thank you, Liz):
Camilla and The Wanderer, Fanny Burney
The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House, Emily Eden
R=ROOT--a book languishing on my shelves since before January 2019; when available, I'll list the year ("R from ") it walked into this house, with publication year in parentheses.
♥ -- loved it.
1. The Secret Adversary, Agatha Christie (1921)
2. Village Christmas and The Christmas Mouse, Miss Read (1966, 1973)
3. Good-bye To All That, Robert Graves (1929); R from 2016
4. ♥ The Chosen, Chaim Potok (1967); R from 2018
5. The Shape of Water, Andrea Camillieri (1994); R from 2016
6. Undue Influence, Anita Brookner (1999)
7. ♥ The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990); R from before 2009
8. A Rogue's Life, Wilkie Collins (1879); R from 2017
9. Belinda, Maria Edgeworth (1802); R from 2018
10. ♥ So Big, Edna Ferber (1924); R from 2018
11. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, Ken Krimstein (2018)
12. Miss Buncle's Book, D. E. Stevenson (1934); R from 2017
13. Pansies and Water-Lilies, Louisa May Alcott (1887); R from before 2009
14. ♥ The Best We Could Do, Thi Bui (2017)
15. Reading Art, David Trigg (2018)
16. The Art of Reading, Camplin and Ranauro (2018)
17. ♥ The Kellys and the O'Kellys, Anthony Trollope (1848), R re-read
18. Mr Skeffington, Elizabeth von Arnim (1940); R from 2018
19. The Doctors' Plague, Sherwin Nuland (2003); R from 2016
20. The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse, Alexander McCall Smith (2017)
Happy New Year, Kathy and Happy New Thread. I will have to stop y more often in 2019. Go Bears! What a great season it turned out to be.
>8 msf59: I plan to do both...by "next month" do you mean February for both? I just found a used copy of Belinda (99 cents!), and I have the Trollope as an ebook, but it was kind of mangled. I was planning on getting a library copy, but need to work out the timing. The only library around here that has it is my university library, and I don't think they allow renewals for alumni.
I do: we were going to read TKATO this month until I realised it was going to fall out better for me in February, and Heather didn't mind so it got pushed back. As it is a shared read rather than a group read I hoped that would still be okay.
That's a tough restriction at your university library: I'm not even an alumnus at the academic library I use ('community borrower') and I get unlimited renewals, only restricted if someone else wants the book.
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised
I look forward to keeping up with you, Kathy, this year.
>12 lyzard: OK, that works fine for me, Liz. I did read TKATO a couple of years ago, but I'm interested to see how it compares with the MacDermotts; I remember TKATO being a much kinder, gentler sort of story.
>13 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul, same to you....are you still in Yorkshire? My family arrived back in Sheffield on the 30th.
First book of 2019 completed:
1. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
Year Published: 1921
Acquired: Library ebook
My Project: Dame Agatha
This 1921 mystery introduces Tommy & Tuppence. It takes us from the Lusitania to the post-war revolutionary world, which I found intriguing. The ending was not a complete surprise for me (for once! I almost figured it out!), but I liked all the twists and turns and the characters zipping around London. And I really enjoyed the banter between T & T; it added some chemistry to the piece. A fun read.
>16 BLBera: Thanks. Overall I felt like it was an average reading year, but the best books really stood out.
Looks like you are off to a good start with Agatha Christie and Miss Read!
2. Village Christmas and Christmas Mouse, Miss Read
Year Published: 1966 and 1973
Acquired: Library book
My Project: Miss Read
These are two separate stories/novellas. The first one was typical Miss Read: a baby is born on Christmas day, and two sisters of different temperaments sort of even each other out. But I did not particularly like the second one (Christmas Mouse), in which a Mrs. Berry seems to get away with being rather judgmental and almost harsh to a wayward boy. There was no tempering to her blunt opinions in the story, and I wonder if it truly reflects the attitudes of Miss Read. If so, I was disappointed, especially for a Christmas story.
3. Good-Bye to All That, Robert Graves
Year Published: 1929
Acquired: Paperback Root since 2016
My Project: CATs and Challenges (Reading through Time--WWI); My Dewey (900s); 2019 Roots
Graves wrote this autobiography at age 34, before he left England (pretty much) for good. I didn't like the first third of the book about his torturous school years, but the war years kept my iņterest. Graves' detailed recall of the events during WWI make this a valuable document of trench war. However there was a lot of military jargon/slang that was lost on me, and there is a lot of unexplained jumping around from topic to topic. The last part of the book was less compelling, with some name-dropping. The little bits about visiting an elderly Thomas Hardy were amusing.
>23 jnwelch: Hey, Joe, thanks for stopping by. I finished The Chosen, and did enjoy it. Weirdo me, I especially liked the chapter where Reuven studies the Talmud in preparation for his class, and then spends 3 days explaining it to the class, and the rabbi is pleased. I'm still not sure what "pilpul" is, but that's OK.
Taking a break from reading the last few days to work on a jigsaw puzzle of Jane Austen book covers....I wanted to post it here, but I'm having trouble with images tonight. Anyway, it's fun!
4. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
Year Published: 1967
Acquired: Paperback Root since 2018
My Project: CATs and Challenges: January AAC; 2019 Roots
The Chosen portrays religious Jewish boys and their fathers in 1940s Brooklyn. One family is Hasidic; the other family is religious, but open to ideas and literature from the secular world. I loved how the boys were portrayed as they learn about each other and work to resolve their conflicts. I thought the Jewish history sections were well done, without being preachy. The theme of eyes and sight flows through the book. I especially enjoyed (nerd that I am) the chapter where Reuven works hard to prepare a specific Talmud passage, and all the commentary, and his teacher's response to it. That was the book's highlight for me--Mazel Tov, Reuven!
Knowing a few Orthodox families, this was very much in line with what I have experienced. I am only sorry it took me so long to finally read it. I have My Name is Asher Lev on the shelf, and I know I will get to it eventually.
5. The Shape of Water, Andrea Camilleri
Year Published: 1994
Acquired: Paperback Root since 2016
My Project: SeriesCAT for January--series in Translation; 2019 Roots
Meh. I'm probably in a tiny minority that didn't enjoy this book. Yes, it's well-written, and probably well-translated, but I got lost quickly. I just wasn't that interested in the characters, who seemed stereotypes to me, except perhaps for the poor couple with the sick baby. I've been to Milano multiple times, but never to Sicily. This just seemed to emphasize all the creepy parts of Italian life, when there are so many wonderful aspects. At least I finally learned the difference between the Carabinieri and the Polizia. This will probably be my first and last Camilleri.
6. Undue Influence, Anita Brookner
Year Published: 1999
Acquired: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library
My Project: Project Brookner
I love Anita Brookner, but I can only take her in small doses. It is intense reading, like Henry James, and I can only manage 30-40 pages at a time. We are always inside someone's head, as they go back and forth, analyzing and re-analyzing. In this book, twenty (or thirty?)-something Claire Pitt tells us up front that her memory and assessments may not necessarily be entirely correct or accurate. So we know we have an unreliable narrator from about page 2. Nothing much happens in a Brookner novel (this book is no exception), and many consider them depressing, but they don't depress me so much as sometimes overwhelm.
I think this review says it best--from the page of reviews on LT, attributed to Mark Thwaite:
An almost pathological writer, Brookner returns again and again to her notion of the inability of women to think of marriage as something that will rescue them--and yet they are pulled toward the ideal (one they easily deconstruct) of a romantic savior. A particular, melancholic despondence saturates her work, and disappointment dominates, despite the humor, erudition, and classical elegance of her prose. Brookner is a modern, bitter writer. Few novelists have the ability to create such complete characters and then dissect their motives so clearly.
I'll be thinking about Claire and how sometimes she was like me, and sometimes not like me, but I know this book won't stay with me. I have two more books to complete the reading of all of Brookner's novels; I'll be taking a long break before the next one.
>28 thornton37814: I really wanted to like Montalbano, but it just didn't happen for me. Oh well. I found Chaim Potok instead--not as many books, but that's OK.
>31 jnwelch: Great book, Joe. Among other things, I thought that the writing was excellent, without it feeling forced or like we had to notice it. Not sure I explained that correctly, but some writers are great, but you are acutely aware that they've worked hard to choose each word. This felt effortless. And I appreciated the way he tied the characters together from story to story, sometimes repeating the same stories, but in a different way--so much like life, when we tell the same story over and over, but in different ways to different listeners. In fact, I think the book was as much about story-telling as it was about war, which is what made it so great. Guess my review is ready now!
>32 kac522: Oh good, Kathy. I agree - the writing felt effortless, and I loved the way he tied the stories together. Ha! Yes, I think your review is ready. :-)
How did you like Miss Buncle's Book? I loved it. Lifeline Theater (in Evanston) did a nice production of it, last year, I think.
>37 jnwelch: I enjoyed it, but I have to say I liked her "Mrs. Tim" books a bit better. But I'm going to continue on with the series. And it was a nice break after Hannah Arendt...speaking of which:
Joe, I don't know how interested you are in philosophy, etc., but the graphic book The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt was outstanding. Ken Krimstein, author/illustrator, is a local Evanston guy. Not only does the book give a full history of Arendt's life and some of her philosophy, it also puts her in her time, highlighting all the various thinkers, artists, musicians, scientists, etc., who were in her "circles": Berlin, Paris, USA. Gave me a really good feel for the times she lived through and people who influenced her. Let's just say Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin don't come off so well, to say the least. I was familiar with Heidegger before this, but I only vaguely had heard of Benjamin.
Catching up with my January reads:
7. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
Year Published: 1990
Type: fiction--short stories
Acquired: paperback Root from before 2009
Type: fiction--short story collection
My Project: 1001 Books list; Random Cat: Jan--your name in print (character named Kathleen),
These are related short stories, centered around the narrator's experiences in VietNam, using many of the same characters in each story.
As I said above, I thought that the writing was excellent, without it feeling forced or like we had to notice it. Not sure I explained that correctly, but some writers are great, but you are acutely aware that they've worked hard to choose each word. This felt effortless.
And I appreciated the way he tied the characters together from story to story, sometimes repeating the same stories, but in a different way--so much like life, when we tell the same story over and over, but in different ways to different listeners. In fact, I think the book was as much about story-telling as it was about war.
For me this was a rare 5-star read.
8. A Rogue's Life, Wilkie Collins
Year Published: 1879
Type: fiction; novella/short fiction
Acquired: Paperback Root on my shelves since 2017
My Project: CalendarCAT: Jan--author's birthday in January
This was a short, clever and amusing work told by a "rogue" who eventually gets caught at his own game, but it all works out in the end. Perfect light follow-up after the war stories.
And now on to February reads:
9. Belinda, Maria Edgeworth
Year Published: originally published 1801; read the 1802 edition with revisions by Edgeworth
Acquired: Paperback Root on my shelves since 2018
My Project: CalendarCAT: Feb: Valentine's Day; Virago Group Read with Liz
I enjoyed this book more than I expected. Having just read several books by Fanny Burney in the last year or so, I was surprised by how modern Edgeworth seemed in comparison, and how nuanced the characters were. This is a typical 18th century story of a woman contemplating marriage, and is mentioned in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.
Edgeworth gives us characters who aren't always perfectly good or perfectly horrid. They usually act in good faith; they make errors; they ponder; they change, a little. Belinda generally lets her conscience be her guide, as when she walks out on the woman who is her employer. Her admirer was not always so fond of her; he comes to it in bits and spurts. And there are unusual circumstances for the time: a woman openly acknowledges having breast cancer; there are interracial relationships; a good man "keeps" a young woman, Pygmalion-style, to mold her into his perfect wife-to-be.
The book is quite the page-turner, although I found the end rather farcical and not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book. I think Henry Tilney would love this book--he probably read it, too!
10. So Big, Edna Ferber
Year Published: 1924
Acquired: Paperback Root on my shelves since 2018
My Project: Reading Through Time: March--Downtown
Ferber is a completely new author to me; I'd only heard of her via crossword puzzles. But she was prolific, writing many novels (most turned into movies), plays, screenplays and short stories. She is probably best known for Show Boat, but she also wrote Giant and collaborated with George S. Kaufman on several plays. So Big won the Pulitzer Prize in 1925.
I enjoyed the book particularly because of the setting: Chicago and environs in the 1880s through early 1920s. The first half is about a strong woman, Selina, and the second half is about her son, nick-named "So Big." The writing is engaging, funny, and surprisingly modern for 1924. Lots of references to Chicago people and places, which I loved.
Ferber was born Jewish in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and suffered blatant daily anti-semitism growing up in Iowa. She champions the little guy and lets us see the contrasts: immigrant vs. native born; farm life vs. city life; poor vs. rich; back-breaking work vs. lives of indolence; hand-made plain and simple vs. the bought & polished.
I enjoyed the "Selina" first half of the book more than the "So Big" second half, but overall it was a great read. It generated lots of heated discussion in my RL book club, and since we're all from the Chicago area, we each had AHA! memory moments in different parts of the book...like window shopping downtown, but then buying discounted stuff in the basement of Marshall Field's..or..the Stockyards...or...I could go on, but I'll let you read it.
11. The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth, Ken Krimstein
Year Published: 2018
Type: nonfiction graphic book, biography
Acquired: Hardcover from the Chicago Public Library
My Project: Reading Through Time: Jan--I survived; Project Dewey--300s
As I wrote to Joe (above), this graphic biography of Hannah Arendt and her contemporaries was outstanding. Ken Krimstein, author/illustrator, is a local Evanston guy. Not only does the book give a full history of Arendt's life and some of her philosophy, it also puts her in her time, highlighting all the various thinkers, artists, musicians, scientists, etc., who were in her "circles": Berlin, Paris, USA. Gave me a really good feel for the times she lived through and people who influenced her. Let's just say Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin don't come off so well, to say the least. I was familiar with Heidegger before this, but I only vaguely had heard of Benjamin.
My only quibbles with the book are 1) I wish Krimstein had made it clear when he was paraphrasing Arendt, and when he was directly quoting her work, and 2) the footnotes were TINY. You'll need a magnifying glass. But it's clear he did mounds of research for this project.
And now for something completely different...
12. Miss Buncle's Book, D. E. Stevenson
Year Published: 1934
Acquired: Paperback Root from 2018
My Project: Project D. E. Stevenson
A comic novel about a book within a book within a book....or something like that, set in a small busy-body English village. I loved Stevenson's "Mrs Tim" series; Miss Buncle is clever and tongue-in-cheek, but it didn't quite come up to Mrs. Tim. I do plan to read the rest of the Miss Buncle books; they make a perfect change of tone from more serious books.
Scenes From Clerical Life, George Eliot, in my quest to finish reading all of Eliot's major works in 2019, which is the 200th anniversary of her birth. Besides "Scenes" (which are 3 novella-length stories with related characters and setting), I have Romola and Felix Holt left to read of her major works.
>46 PaulCranswick: I'm not a huge fan of graphic books, but what I really appreciated about this book was the way that all of those others in her circle, each brilliant in his/her own right, were brought out in this work. She was not alone; her ideas were part of a larger movement, and that's clear from this book.
Kevin & family will be in Chicago for the first 2 weeks of April (school holidays); haven't seen them since 2017, so we are looking forward to amazingly grown-up grandchildren. Apparently they are seeing some signs of Spring, but we still have snow & ice, which I hope will be gone by the time they arrive.
I hope you do get a chance to meet-up when you are there.
>38 kac522: I'm surprisingly not much of a western philosophy buff, Kathy. Eastern philosophy interests me more, as you probably can tell from my Buddhist leanings.
However, our DIL is quite interested in Hannah Arendt, which piques my own interest (our DIL is a smartie), as does your endorsement. This graphic work, The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, might be just the ticket to get some foundation with HA's life and thinking. Thank you for mentioning it. I'll put it on the WL.
13. Pansies and Water-Lilies, Louisa May Alcott
Year Published: 1887
Type: fiction, 2 short stories
Acquired: Hardcover Root from before 2009; published in 1902
My Project: AAC Challenge February: Louisa May Alcott
This little volume contains two longish stories. The very old book I have was printed in 1902, and the publication page gives the original date as 1887, which was the year before Alcott died. The first story provides discussions of what a young girl should read. And the second is the tale of a hard-working girl of very humble roots who captures the heart of a very eligible sea captain.
They are for young people, most probably aimed at teenaged girls. They do have morals and it's pretty plain to see who a young person of that Victorian era was supposed to admire.
I enjoyed the first story more than the second; three teen-aged girls discuss what they are reading. One girl is reading a "trashy" novel purely for pleasure; a second is reading Eliot's "Romola" to improve her mind; and a third is reading a travelogue from Italy. An elderly lady joins the discussion and we hear mentions of authors and books that would be considered correct reading for a young woman of the era: George Eliot, Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Sir Walter Scott.
Quote from "Pansies", in which the elderly lady gives advice to the girl who wants to "improve her mind":
"It is a very sensible desire, and I wish more girls had it. Only don't be greedy, and read too much; cramming and smattering is as bad as promiscuous novel-reading, or no reading at all."
Sounds like perhaps a young lady can be _too_ smart in this woman's (Alcott's?) mind.
14. The Best We Could Do, Thi Bui
Year Published: 2017
Type: nonfiction, graphic memoir
Acquired: Hardcover from the Evanston Public Library
My Project: My Dewey--900s
Thi Bui came to the US from VietNam as a 3 year old with her refugee family. Through research and her family's memories, in this graphic book memoir she tells her parents' stories before the war, during the war and their dangerous escape; their lives in their new country; and Bui's anxiety about the future for herself and her own child.
As much as this is a refugee story, it's also a universal story of families. Bui begins her book with the birth of her first child, and the memories and fears that come out with that birth. This is a memoir about children and parents: what we give, what we demand, what we resent, what we take for granted. And what is the legacy from our parents, and what is the legacy we give our children. Sometimes, as the title suggests, it's the best we could do. Powerful stuff.
I found these two books on the library's "New Books" shelf, sitting side-by-side. Since they are very nearly about the same topic, I thought I'd see how they compared:
15. Reading Art: Art for Book Lovers, David Trigg
Year Published: 2018
Type: nonfiction, Books in Art
Acquired: Hardcover from the Evanston Public Library
My Project: My Dewey--700s
16. The Art of Reading, Jamie Camplin and Maria Ranauro
Year Published: 2018
Type: nonfiction, Books in Art
Acquired: Hardcover from the Evanston Public Library
My Project: My Dewey--700s
Both books were originally published in the UK in 2018, and both include works of art throughout the ages that feature the image of a book or of someone reading. There is some overlap of works featured between the two books.
David Trigg's Reading Art includes all types of art forms, including sculpture and large format conceptual art installations. The book is a smaller format, but features glossy pages so that the pictures are clear and colors vivid, but the book is very heavy. It has a brief introduction (9 pages); a handful of the works have additional detail or comment, but most just list the title, artist, year, and where held. There are over 300 plates; they seem to be organized, but it's not clear how; there are quotes about reading scattered throughout the book. This is a wonderful book for just browsing, and indeed I finished it two evenings.
In The Art of Reading Jamie Camplin and Maria Ranauro have provided a book focused just on the portrayal of books and reading in paintings only, so there are about 170 pictures. The book format is a bit larger; the pages are heavy paper, but the images are larger and show more detail than in Trigg's book. Camplin & Ranauro have provided almost 70 pages of introductory information about books and printing throughout history, and how that is reflected in paintings of each age. Each painting includes commentary, putting the image and artist in context. The book is organized into several themes, and the works of art are generally chronological in each section. This took several days to finish, and I learned much more about books and painting and artists from this book.
17. The Kellys and the O'Kellys: Or Landlords and Tenants, Anthony Trollope
Year Published: 1848
Acquired: Hardcover from the NEIU library
My Project: Project Trollope, R from 2012
I enjoyed this re-read more than the first reading. This is Trollope's second novel, but at age 33 Trollope could already write a good story, with interweaving plot lines. The book is set in pre-famine Ireland during the Daniel O'Connell trial (1844). But the story centers around two young men, a lord and a tenant farmer, who cross paths and are probably related. I was still in terror near the end of the book when the Doctor must confront the evil Barry Lynch. There are good guys and bad guys, lords and farmers, lovers and a happy ending with weddings.
However, my take-away this time is that the characters of the main males are well-done; the older women (Mrs Kelly and Lady Cashel) are delightful and real; but I was disappointed in the two young heroines. Perhaps Trollope hadn't fully understood young women at this point, but Anty and Fanny seem to lack "agency", for lack of a better word. After reading "Belinda" by Maria Edgeworth, I was expecting more from them. Still, each young woman does have her shining moments, but it's a long way from Lady Glencora and Madame Max of Trollope's "Pallisers."
Although I have an ebook version of this novel, I borrowed the Oxford World's Classics edition from the library, and the introduction & endnotes were extremely helpful. I'm still considering this a "root", since I own the book in another format.
18. Mr Skeffington, Elizabeth von Arnim
Year Published: 1940
Acquired: paperback from my shelf; LOVE the cover!
My Project: Project Virago, R from 2018
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD, INCLUDING THE ENDING
Although we're not told the exact year, it is around 1939 in Britain. Fanny Skeffington is seeing the image of her wealthy Jewish ex-husband, Job Skeffington, everywhere. Fanny, always beautiful, has recently had a devastating illness, approaching 50 with great anxiety, and has lost much of her good looks. During the 20+ years since her divorce, Fanny has had many relationships, but never re-married, as her husband has left her a substantial legacy. In a series of events to combat her feelings that she is no longer attractive, Fanny meets her ex-lovers and admirers, but none seem to her satisfaction, and none can stop the images of Mr. Skeffington. In the end, her cousin George (also a sometime admirer), re-unites Fanny with her ex-husband, who has suffered at the hands of the Nazis, and is now old, penniless and blind. Like Jane Eyre, Fanny 's "Mr. Rochester" Job (dog and all) can only recognize Fanny by her voice, and cannot be disappointed in her looks. We feel that Fanny has been "saved" by being able to "save" Job.
The book was written in 1940, and the "European situation" is a sometime background noise to Fanny's life, which most of her set are trying to avoid. Von Arnim is witty and fun most of the time; the middle sections somewhat dragged for me and seemed repetitious, but the end brought tears, albeit a bit over-dramatic. I didn't really like Fanny all that much, but von Arnim made me care (a little) about what happened to her.
And here is where my thinking went way off the rails, so bear with me. Would appreciate feedback, if you've read this book:
After I closed the book, I started wondering if Von Arnim had a larger perspective in mind. This was her last published work; she died a year later in 1941. Was Fanny representative of Britain, or perhaps the powerful European monarchies of the time: long held as the ruler of Europe, they had been largely financed by wealthy Jewish bankers.
Fanny's divorce comes just at the beginning of WWI--which coincides with a change in the axis of power in Europe for Britain and the other major powers. Fanny has a devastating illness--perhaps representative of the Great Depression/Great Slump--which changed the country's position and Europe's financial strength. Despite youth, religion, title, and some of the other aspects of life in Britain (represented by Fanny's ex-lovers), there is a growing "European situation."
And finally the Jews of Europe: the wealthy and intellectual elite (especially in Austria and Germany) who made Britain's and Europe's wealth possible (as Job made Fanny's), used as a scapegoat by the Nazis and are now left penniless and ghosts of their former selves. I think Von Arnim in 1940 might have been trying to warn Britain and western Europe that in order to save themselves, they will need to save the Jews. Not heeded in time to save millions.
This may all be a bunch of gobbledy-gook, but looking at it this way makes the book a lot more meaningful than just a selfish woman worried about losing her looks at 50.
Hey Kathy - I saw the Bette Davis movie of this book first. It was basically just a superficial woman who loses her looks and is forced to then be nice to the man she abandoned many years before. So I am thinking I approached the book from that perspective and enjoyed it as such. But I have often put my own spin on books I've read. I see all sorts of things that others don't or can't and - equally - can't see things that scholars tell me I should be seeing.
My favorite book of all time is the deeply symbolic Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary. I use his name as my name on this site, because that book changed my life. In my opinion, word after word, page after page, drips with greater meaning. And yet, this is what Gary himself wrote about it.
Let's speak a little about symbols. We may as well, as there has hardly been a critic who has not referred to The Roots of Heaven as a symbolic novel. I can only state firmly and rather hopelessly that it is nothing of the sort. It has been said that my elephants are really symbols of freedom, of African independence. Or that they are the last individuals threatened with extinction in our collective, mechanized, totalitarian society. Or that these almost mythical beasts evoke in this atheistical age an infinitely bigger and more powerful Presence. Or, then again, that they are an allegory of mankind itself menaced with nuclear extinction. There is almost no limit to what you can make an elephant stand for, but if the image of this lovable pachyderm thus becomes for each of us a sort of Rorschach test--which was exactly my intention--this does not make him in the least symbolic. It only goes to prove that each of us carries in his soul and mind a different notion of what is essential to our survival, a different longing and a personal interpretation, in the largest sense, of what life preservation is about.
-Romain Gary, Author's Introduction to the 1964 Time-Life Books version of The Roots of Heaven
So perhaps Gary is right and that each book IS a Rorschach test for the individual reader. :)))))
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Barbara. I probably am reading way too much into it, but at least it does make me feel like I'm entitled to my own "interpretation", whatever that may be. I'd like to think that von Arnim saw it all coming, but if she didn't, she certainly wasn't alone.
Also thanks for the BB for Roots of Heaven, which I have now added to the Wishlist.
19. The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis, Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D.
Year Published: 2003
Type: nonfiction, medical history
Acquired: hardcover from my shelf
My Project: My Dewey 600s, R from 2016
Short (190 pages) look at the life and work of Ignac Semmelweis in his quest to rid the world of puerperal fever (childbed fever and death). Semmelweis discovered in the late 1840s that women were dying in childbirth due to the germs of doctors and medical students with unclean hands, usually having just completed autopsies on patients who had died from the same fever. Unfortunately, Semmelweis was unable to convince others of the benefits of this practice. Nuland goes into some depth explaining how Semmelweis at times was his own worst enemy, since he did not do controlled experiments or publish his findings in a manner to convince others in the profession. Very interesting, and it boggles the mind to think that doctors went directly from dead bodies reeking of illness to delivering babies, without a thought to cleanliness.
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