We finally have been given a break from the heat (which compared to what some of you have gone through doesn’t really count as all that bad) by a series of thunderstorms. We have had flash flooding on the freeway and some streets and everyone was woken up early by a loud boom and the house shaking followed by the gully washer of all gully washers. Needless to say, the dog is unhappy and the cat is complaining (which would happen irregardless of the weather). I have been a touch under the weather so have not been reading much other than Penelope Lively’s How it All Began. I have started the third Cazalet Chronicle, Confusion, but have only been dipping in and out of it. Himself is almost done with his rereading of Stranger in a Strange Land, eldest is ensconced in the first book of The Game of Thrones series and youngest is still wading through his Nixon biography, Arrogance of Power although he took a brief break to read The New Yorker political issue sent to him by his grandma.
Here is what caught my interest this week:
It is Read Canadian month on many blogs so there has been a wonderful number of Canadian books reviewed, listed, and discussed – many authors that I have not heard of including Quebec author Monique Proulx whose novel Wildlives is reviewed by Melwyk of The Indextrious Reader. The book follows a small group of people who are living around Goose Lake near a small town in the Laurentians. What caught my eye was how Melwyk spoke about the setting created by the author. I have a fondness for books where the setting is like a character from Justin Cronin’s The Summer Guest (which deserves far more notice) to the works of Mary Lawson (Crow Lake and The Other Side of the Bridge). I read an excerpt from the novel at the publisher’s website (Douglas & McIntyre) and truly the setting is the star as evidenced from the following quote:
The next morning she was on the dock, sprinkling herself with cool water, when the sun surprised her. It was June 10, and the June sun was a flaming arrow, and the forest had caught fire, along with the lake and every living thing around. In the light of the blaze it was impossible not to see. She saw yellow-tailed butterflies, symphonic birds, coupling fireflies, hovering dragonflies; she saw fresh spruce buds gleaming like jeweled rings, and so many colors, so much rustling in every direction, an orgy of triumphant lives. In the light of the blaze it was impossible to ignore that this bush-choked, elemental place was in fact a paradise, a sacred garden to which she had been mercifully granted the key. Moved by the sun, she stretched out on the dock on that June 10 and saw all that there was to see. She saw the track that, each morning, the moose followed to the shore to drink; the chanterelles and the boletuses mushrooming up through the moss, she saw the red rowboat that, each spring, they would surely patch up once more as if it were a part of themselves that leaked but stayed afloat, she saw all the cracks she might slip through to understand the world. She saw the old woman she would be one day, hopping light-footed from one slippery rock to another, surrounded by black flies that did not touch her.
Danielle of A Work in Progress mentioned that she had finished Hetty Dorval by Edith Wilson saying that it was “an outstanding read” and that she would be purchasing a copy since the library copy needed to be returned. I have never heard of Edith Wilson before and I found out that she is considered one of Canada’s foremost writers and an award for the best work of fiction by a British Colombian author was established in her name. Hetty Dorval was her second novel (but the first to be published in 1947) and is set in British Colombia. Mrs. Dorval has recently moved to the city and has a mysterious past and possibly immoral character. She befriends young Francis who learns about her mentor through different encounters over the years. I will have to get this through inter-library loan but it sounds worth the effort.
Often times I am iffy on a book – not sure if I will read it or it I will pass – often after reading several reviews I still haven’t made up my mind. And then you read just the right review or in this case, an interview. One of the books getting a lot of buzz out there on the different blogs is A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson. It is a book I was on the fence about until I read Cornflower Books’ amazing interview with the author. The novel is set in two different times and two different narratives: 1923 with Eva, her sister, and a third missionary on a mission trip to the northwest corner of China. Eva isn’t a true believer but she wanted to leave her small English town and has a contract to write a travel guide to the area. What follows are cultural clashes, deceptions, death, and at the center a baby. The second narrative takes place in present day London when Freida, a free-lance researcher who takes in a homeless man who has fled his home country of Yemen. She also finds out that she has inherited an estate from a dead woman she has never heard of. Eventually the author ties in two narratives together. I am thinking of making this my pick for book group. If you have read it, would it make for a good discussion?
I grew up in a Nancy Mitford family. Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love were always lying around the house and I read those original paperback’s of my mother (that have since so deteriorated she was forced to by a new edition). I have read her copies of Mitford letters, Mitford biographies, and works by other members of the Mitford family. So it was with some pleasure that I read about The Bolter by Francis Osbourne in a review by Mary of Seeing the World Through Books. The Bolter is the story of Osbourne’s great-grandmother, Idina Sackville (cousin of Vita Sackville-West). Idina was famous for her many marriages, her many liaisons and sexual to-dos, and for doing what she wanted when she wanted including suing one of her many husband’s for divorce and succeeding so that he could not longer have use of her money. Idina ended up in Kenya as part of the Happy Valley Set a group of well-to-do ex-patriots who seemed to drink, do drugs, and sleep with each other. Idina is said to be the inspiration for Mitford’s character “the Bolter” and, while not condoning all of her choices, Idina sounds like a independent woman in a world that does not value that trait in women. This sounds absolutely fascinating.
Finally, I have spent the last few weeks cleaning up my eating habits and moving more in order to lose a few pounds and get healthier. All in a household where I have to feed three adult men who need lots of filling food and leftovers for lunches not to mention ice cream. My journey has not been helped by Cokes being opened (himself says I can hear a can of Coke being opened in my dead sleep – I love the stuff), or there are boxes of Sugar Pops in the cupboard (eldest decided he needed to buy them and they were my breakfast of choice in college), or that youngest brought home three cans of Pringles so that he could make a tennis ball mortar (oh those days of summer). I have solved the ice cream issue by buying kinds I don’t like and I work around the filling food by watching my portions or having a salad on my own. But I can feel (and the family can attest to) a large martyr complex growing especially on days when everyone is home and I don’t feel well. So I think I need to get the book reviewed on JoAnn’s Blog Lakeside Musing – Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs had a bad bout of pneumonia and, at the urging of his wife, decided to become healthier. His aim was not to just lose a few pounds or run a 5k; his aim was to reach maximum healthiness which meant he explored a variety of diet plans, training regimes, and consulted with a very large number of experts. JoAnn’s daughter Carrie wrote in her review:
Overall, Drop Dead Healthy was an easy and entertaining read, great for a fitness and healthy living fiend (like me!). Not only did Jacobs employ a conversational tone, which helped him relay information in a lighthearted away, but he also let his voice and personality take center stage—there were several lines that had me laughing aloud!
Sounds just like what I need for a budding”woe is me” complex.