The sun is shining, the sheepdog is sitting on the deck surveying her non-existent flock, the older dog is snoozing by the window, and the cat is reminding me it is good stuff day and since I am the only one home I must be responsible for providing it. Himself is happily flying rockets in the middle of the state (although he is due home later today) and youngest is at the four day music festival known as Sasquatch. After a long day in the kitchen on Thursday, I have been enjoying my time alone (aside from the four legged members of the family) opening a bottle of white wine I have been saving for just such an occasion and having ice cream for lunch. The Thursday in the kitchen was spent prepping food for the crowd that went with youngest (he did not want to eat PB&J for four days) which was complicated by several things: no coolers are allowed in the festival site, going back to the campground is also not allowed, and 8 of the 11 kids going are vegetarians (there is no way youngest is ever going to give up his beef!). I have to say I did have fun finding and adapting recipes and there is one recipe that will become a household staple (40 clove roasted garlic tomato sauce). And in poking around the internet while everyone is gone, I also found some new blogs to read – total score!
Here is what caught my interest this week:
When I a teenager I remember escaping from my chores and burying my head in a book and being absolutely spellbound. Books like The Prisoner of Zenda and The Scarlet Pimpernel or if I was in a more modern mood – Victoria Holt or Mary Stewart. Reading Lyn’s (I prefer reading) review of Ellen Wood’s novel Anne Herford brought back those lazy weekend afternoon’s. As Lynn puts it, “… this is sensation fiction & Anne Hereford is a fine example of the genre. It has everything – a sinister uncle, suspicious deaths, a missing will, young lovers kept apart by a terrible secret; ghosts & a sleepwalker. It all adds up to an exciting, heart stopping read.” I remember hearing about East Lynne (wood’s more famous novel) but I have never read any of her works. Lucky for kindle users, Wood’s complete works are available for a very low price.
The Paperbark Shoe, a debut novel by Goldie Goldbloom has been getting a lot of notice but hasn’t quite made my radar until Caribousmom’s mom listed it in her top reads so far in 2011. The novel is set in rural Australia during the Second World War. Gin is an albino woman, Toad is her husband and their lives are complicated by the presence of Italian prisoners of war. Caribousmom writes, “Many readers will wonder where the beauty is in this novel among the scarred and damaged characters, and the dry and desolate countryside, but I think those most observant will discover that the beauty lies in how the story is told – its honesty and its acute examination of what it means to be different in a society where uniqueness is often perceived as negative.” Sounds like a winner.
Rhapsody in Books is a blog by a husband and wife team (one of the new blogs I have found) and I was entranced by their review of Alan Bennett’s novella, The Uncommon Reader which is about Queen Elizabeth II and her becoming a reader in her 80’s (after chasing her corgi’s into a mobile library). Who could resist a book about a monarch who begins to neglect her official duties because she is involved in the book she is reading. Wikipedia has a list of the books mentioned in the novella which ranges from Anita Brookner, to Henry James, to Nancy Mitford and even Lauren Bacall.
Buried in Print is another new blog and today I am drawn to her review of Samantha Hunt’s retelling of the mermaid or undine story – The Seas which was short listed for the orange Prize in 2009. Set in a bleak northern fishing town “built on a steep and rocky coast so that the weathered houses are stacked like shingles, or like the rows of razor wire in a prison, one on top of the other up the hill”. The narrator thinks she is a mermaid and she encounters a sailor (Jude) returning from service in Iraq. Here are two other quotes included in the review:
The narrator speaking about the stories Jude is telling her – “…those are all stories I like to hear. He tells them and he makes the world seem enormous, like the stories are a torch he is shoving into the dark corner pushing the perimeters back farther and farther.”
“There is little else to do here besides get drunk and it seems to make what is small, us, part of something that is drowned and large, something like the bottom of the sea, something like outer space. Drinking helps us continue living in remote places because, thankfully, here there is no one to tell us just how swallowed we are.”
Iris on Books raves about The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi – again saying it is one of the best books she has read so far this year. This novel is the story of an Indian young man who falls in love with a Welsh girl; they marry and move to India. The novel follows their lives, their children and the connections they make throughout the years. Iris writes, “Out of the other long listed Orange Prize books I have read, it might not be the book that is most experimental. No, it doesn’t tackle a grand subject like child abuse, or incest or anything like it. Nor is it especially experimental in style. But the prose is beautiful. And the world that is painted makes you feel you are there, watching the scenes between the family members, feeling their doubts and desires.” I like books that simply explore reality – its ups and downs, and as Iris so aptly states, “the inbetweens”.
Diane from Bibliophile by the Sea generally has the same tastes as I do so when she says a book is a solid read I am apt to put it on my list. The School of The Blind by Dennis Mcfarland is one of those books. Written in 1994, this book is called “affectingly oblique meditation on age and time and the long-term wages of denial” by the NY Times in its review. At the age of 73, bachelor Francis returns to the town of his childhood. His sister, Murial (also unmarried) still lives in their family home. Her brother’s return leads to an awaking of the past as well as the discovery of some bones buried near the town’s school for the blind. This novel seems to be more than just a mystery – but also about siblings, denial, and the ever nearing of mortality.
Finally, I am so excited because Danielle from A Work in Progress talks about Christopher Morley’s 1939 novel Kitty Foyle, the story of a white-collar girl who falls in love with a socialite (and whose family disapproves). I have never read the novel but I have seen the movie once long ago and my mom named her new cat Kitty Foyle. I love the serendipity that occurs in the reading world.