View of Heart Lake and an Adirondack "High Peak" in Mid-May












Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Books in the Mail! And Memorial Day Readathon

I will be in the MOOD to read for hours and hours starting Thursday.
I can feel the compulsion coming over me, which will likely last all weekend.
We will also dine at The Inn on Gore Mountain. Susan Minucci is hands-down the best chef in Warren and Essex Counties. And I will do a few walk-abouts, but due to our super-rainy spring, we're having the worst black fly season in years and years, so I must choose very windy places to gaze at nature.  I will also plant my horde of violas and pansies, finally, into pots.
House-cleaning is out of the question until next week, or the week after, maybe.

My priority is to  finish The House of Mirth for the Classics Club Spin by May 29th. And how I will enjoy being able to concentrate on it! I can already see that I am waiting to read it again. There's so much in it.

Two new, new books arrived in the mail today. You may have heard news about them or seen the excellent reviews.

The first has received the most praise thus far.
 

Follow this link for all the praise from reviewers:
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/537667/furious-hours-by-casey-cep/9781101947869/
Be sure to click the "Read More" prompt to get a taste of what reviewers all over the US are saying.

I'm so happy to have this book in my house this weekend.
Who would have known that Harper Lee started this book project? It's so interesting, because, in part Harper Lee had been so burned by Truman Capote's eager and whole-hearted acceptance of all of her research and help with the organization and writing of  In Cold Blood, and then he never once, not ever, acknowledged her contribution. No acknowledgement, no payment, nothing. What a tragedy, followed by the complete breakdown of a relationship that dated back to childhood.

So now today--what we, the public, didn't know until the publication of this book is that Harper Lee decided in the early 1970s to try to write her own "nonfiction novel" of a true crime case, this one in Alabama. I only wish that she had had a few older mentors and contemporaries to support her through the process.  A community of writing colleagues. As far as I know, she didn't have them--not close ones anyway, as far as I know. Perhaps this book will enlighten this part of her life.

My other hardcover book in the mail today:
The Guest Book, which is receiving rave reviews all over. I've provided a link to Maureen Corrigan of NPR's brief thoughts, but many more are all around. It is the type of book I'm yearning for.

https://www.npr.org/2019/05/03/719964856/from-family-drama-to-global-apocalypse-these-two-novels-keep-you-riveted
 And a happy long weekend to all of you!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Catch-Up, in a Wickedly Busy Month

I lament that I haven't posted in ten days, and I'm sorry I've had zero time to visit everyone's blogs, which I enjoy doing so much.

I'm in a time snarl right now, and all I can say is that it will be ending eventually, and things will be much better by the very end of May and certainly by June.

And do I ever loathe preparing for public speaking! I loved teaching students, but in this case the audience will be people my age primarily. Peers. All my life I've found speaking to an audience of peers to be much more difficult.  I was asked to do this, and I complied, but what was I thinking?
On the other hand, I enjoyed the research for the project tremendously. I learned a great deal more about early New England history, which is my specialty, so why the angst? Just get over it, I tell myself.
The event will be this Wednesday evening at the Chestertown Historical Society. (If I can survive until then.) Ken will be on hand to project the digital images for the presentation. I have been very thankful to have his technical help and support. Life-saving.

NOW to Books!!  I am still reading The House of Mirth for the Classics Club Spin, although very, very slowly at this moment. I am reading about 12 pages per day right now. Things will pick up! By the way, I finished Avalon by Anya Seton early this past week.

I had been zooming along in The Man in the Brown Suit, by Agatha Christie, but I ran into memory-retention problems when I could only read before falling asleep and no longer during the day. Deadly combination. So I'm laying it aside momentarily--I've lost a few of the important details, but I will  definitely go back and pick up all the slipped stitches as soon as Wed. May 22nd is over.

In the meantime, I had to have something to read before bed that wasn't too taxing mentally and for those rare moments when I take a break from work. I started reading a book by Dinah Jeffries that is set in Ceylon (today's Sri Lanka), in 1935, entitled The Sapphire Widow. It's a little more than romantic suspense. Perhaps romantic suspense with just a dash of thriller and a dash of mystery. A very fragrant setting! It's wonderful for those few moments when I can read.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Pre-Weekend Note about My Books & Thanks to Cleo!

Gosh--I'm halfway through Avalon, having started it on Sunday. I've noted that many readers  have said it's not their favorite by Anya Seton, and I concur with that. I think in large part it's the broad scope of the book, covering many years, which seems to have led Seton to forego lots of scenes  and dialogue and replace them with straight narrative, which  is nowhere near as compelling. But! That said, I am fascinated by the history and the story of a particular era in English history (the mid-late 900s) that I don't know well.

I must express my thanks to Cleo for a marvelous review of Agatha Christie's The Man in the Brown Suit (1924). This is not a Hercule Poirot novel, and is Christie's 5th published novel. I refer you now to Cleo of Cleo's Classical Carousel review. I have started to gobble it up. I am not a Christie fan, primarily because I'm not fond of the character of Hercule Poirot. But this one is so compelling with its young female lead. I have already referred several friends to it and we're all hooked.

More news of literary doings at my house in the North Country this weekend coming up! A viewing of The Godfather #1--We have not seen it for eons, and it's time. Mother's Day Weekend--a total damper on music and art doings in the area. (Bleh!) It's as bad a weekend as Easter as far as events are concerned.
But this weekend is the best of times for birding! International Migratory Bird Day is Saturday, May 11th. Do get out with a pair of binocs! Or just get out, rain or shine.



Saturday, May 4, 2019

It's Saturday Night! And Rain, Clouds, and Books Continue

Despite and in spite of the GLOOM, I walked today and to my delight heard and saw many migrating birds. (There was a southerly wind flow overnight, so I had a hunch I might hear some migratory birds.) I heard a yellow-rumped warbler, an ovenbird (an early arrival), a yellow warbler, and saw a large flock of brown creepers undoubtedly making their way to Canada for the breeding season. Lots of fun. Standing stock still and listening, binocs in hand at the neighboring beaver bog/marsh. I saw a flycatcher through the binocs, but have no idea which variety. Off-and-on drizzle and spattering rain challenged me, but I felt better for being out and birding.

In book news, I did set The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton aside for several days, but I plan to get back to it tomorrow. I don't want to lose all those threads! And I was enjoying it, despite the dark clouds.
In its stead this week, I ended up reading and thoroughly enjoying a novel by Dorothy Eden (1912-1982), published in 1967--Winterwood. Her gothic/romantic suspense/historicals were popular in the 1960s and early 1970s, but at that time I read only one or two. I believe I read Ravenscroft. What I appreciated about Winterwood was the way the scenes seamlessly blend together, which makes for excellent pacing. I read it in just a few days. And the characters are well-portrayed, especially the spirited, spunky 12-year-old girl who is the responsibility of the main character.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think my next novel will be Avalon by Anya Seton (1904-1990). Seton's novels still enchant historical novel lovers today despite the fact that she wrote them in the 1960s and 1950s? I need to do a little research there. I adored Katherine, which is about the wife of John of Gaunt in England in the 1400s, I believe.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

My Mood is Dreadful--Is There a Book for This?

We had a few sunny, 60-70 degree days a week ago or more. I think. Today, like other days lately, it has been cold, barely hitting 42 degrees, a bit of snow in the mornings, and DARK. I think I have a sunlight deficiency. In fact I know I do. We are not scheduled to have sun for quite a few days. We need at least one leaf somewhere to make an appearance. Not yet.
The migratory birds are held back, because of the cold and the north winds, which makes me mopey. 

I have had a lot of business-type stuff to do, and I've been making good headway with The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, which is very, very interesting, but I see dark clouds on the horizon there, too.

I finished Jane and Prudence,   early Sunday morning, and I thought it was exceptionally well done, but it is not my favorite. Excellent Women is my Pym favorite thus far, though I did find Quartet in Autumn  to be quite amusing.

I've latched on to The House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. This novel was written by an English writer who is married to a Norwegian. It's set in 1946, the year after World War II ended, and is the story of a young English "war bride" who married a Norwegian pilot who flew for the RAF in WWII, but who died at the very end of the war.
A year after his death, she travels to Norway to become acquainted with her husband's homeland, and eventually, she meets his family and receives a house "by a fjord" as her husband's inheritance. Will she stay in Norway and accept the house? That's where I am now.  A brutal winter, the winter of 1946-47 is on its way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Classics Club Spin: The House of Mirth & Other Book News

The Classics Club Spin turned out to be very lucky for me because I'm so in the mood to read my #19, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.
In the late 1990s I read Wharton's The Age of Innocence and enjoyed that, and learned a great deal from it. At the time I was reading it partly to inform myself about upper-class society and manners in New York, because I was writing a novel set in Boston during the same time period--"The Gilded Age"--the late 1880s. The novel is still deeply buried in a drawer, but I have fond memories of writing it over a period of several years.
So The House of Mirth is now in transit to the wilderness, where I hope to begin reading it later this week. It's 400 pages, so I need to make it a priority.

In the meantime, I've been reading Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym. (This is a Goodreads link. Go directly to the reviews and NOT the horrible brief synopsis of the book--gads.) I must read a Pym novel at least once each year. I am purchasing them all in paperback because I want to go back and read each one again. Pym is so sharp, so witty, so adroit that I'm really a devotee of her work.

I'm also thoroughly deep into reading the memoir Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by the English writer Sarah Moss, about the years she, her husband, and children lived in Iceland just after the financial crash and after the failure of some of Iceland's banks in 2010. The memoir is all about an English family struggling to live in Iceland--physically, culturally, nutritionally. It is immensely fascinating. What an eye-opener-- What an extraordinary (and unusual!) culture.

I first read Sarah Moss in 2011 or so, when I read her novel Cold Earth, which is a mystery of six archaeologists in Greenland, who are excavating what they hope was once a Norse colony. I don't remember the details, but I do recall enjoying it and refusing to send my copy to the library book sale in case I want to read it again.

Moss has a new novel out this year, Ghost Wall. I took it out in late February and had to return it without reading it. So now I have it out again. It's a short novel about a family taking part in an archaeological dig in England, of an Iron Age site. They opt to live as Iron Age dwellers and so, the story. I think this one has some dark overtones.







Saturday, April 20, 2019

Classics Club Spin #20

It's been so long since I've participated in a Classics Club Spin that I'll bet  many of you didn't know I have a Classics Club List, which I began in 2016. Of course I'll never finish it by December 31, 2020. But I would like to join in for this Spin. A few of the listed books I'm reading for the Back to the Classics Challenge this year, which is hosted by Karen of Books and Chocolate (see sidebar). (This is acceptable for the BCC Challenge, but if it's not legal for The Classics Club, would you please give me a head's up?)

I'm going to be unusually busy in May, but I set aside time each day and in each week to read no matter what, so I hope I'll make it. Another of my concerns is that I think the Somerset Maugham books may be less than full novel length. If they are too, too short, I'll read both of them.

  1. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  3. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf
  4. Home of the Gentry by Ivan Turgenev
  5. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  6. The Things They Carried and Other Stories by Tim O’Brien
  7. Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden
  8. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  9. Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath (Book One) by Sigrid Undset (re-read)
  10. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
  11. The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham
  12. Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek by Annie Dillard
  13. The Emigrants (Book One) by Vilhelm Moberg (Swedish classic)
  14. The Professor’s House by Charlotte Bronte (re-read from 43 years ago)
  15. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  16. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  17. The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
  18. Snow by Orhan Pamuk
  19. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  20. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Radetsky March Readalong, Part 3

As I close the book on The Radetsky March, again I'd like to thank Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life and Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat for hosting this Spring Readalong. I'm so glad I had the chance to read The Radetsky March, and if it had not been for this Readalong, I would still be ignorant of the book's existence. And a hearty thank you to both of them for sponsoring the annual German Literary Month, which is scheduled each November.

Question: There seems to be only one true and honest relationship in this novel—the friendship between district administrator von Trotta and Doctor Skowronnek. Would you agree? What did you think of their relationship?

I definitely disagree, and I would add that the nature of relationships in The Radetsky March is very much restricted or constrainedaccording to the culture and societal norms of the Hapsburg Empire at the time. 

In the case of Baron Von Trotta and Dr. Skowronnek, the Baron's difficulties, including the tragedy of losing his only son and family member, is conveyed to the doctor, but from what the author Joseph Roth shows us, the relationship is very much one-sided. The Baron can "unload" his burden, so to speak, while maintaining gentlemanly conduct, but the doctor does not do the same. Roth never shows the Doctor sharing anything personal at all.  Is this because Baron Von Trotta is nobility (or gentry) and the doctor is not of that class? I think it is. The doctor is not the baron's personal physician. They pass afternoons companionably,  they play chess together daily and talk about lots of things, but it would not be "seemly" for the doctor to take his woes or his grief to Von Trotta. That was my impression. I do hope that if readers have alternative viewpoints that they feel free to comment and say how they view it.

Lieutenant Carl Joseph Von Trotta cares a great deal for his military servant Onufri, just as Onufri is willing to part with his life savings to help Carl Joseph. But, because of the military hierarchy and strict code of conduct, they are so constrained that they cannot express their thoughts about their emotional attachment. Anything that is communicated is heavily draped by military propriety and is an expression of rank.

Carl Joseph and Dr. Max Demant appear to be on a more equal footing. They do care about each other, but the tragedy is Carl Joseph is powerless to prevent or to change the course of action when  the duel with (so sorry--can't remember  his name) becomes an inevitable destination in time. Carl Joseph played a part in it, but he can do nothing except finally to sputter to Dr. Demant, "I do not want you to die!"  Yet again, Carl Joseph and Dr. Demant are not military or social equals, and I wonder, and others may disagree, but is that why Carl Joseph felt he could visit Dr. Demant's wife when he was not at home. Did he feel some sense of entitlement, perhaps? I think this was the case with Sergeant Slama, who, of course, was no friend of Carl Joseph, and was of a lower class than Dr. Demant. But did CJ feel emboldened to freely visit Katherina, Slama's wife, because there could be no really, really serious or dangerous consequences?

I think Chojnicki feels for or cares about what happens to Carl Joseph. He acts in such a way and helps him as an older brother would a younger brother, or so it seems to me. And they are on approximately the same social footing, though the Count definitely outranks the son of a baron.

What do you think about Carl Joseph's death?
I did not view his death as pointless at all. His men were suffering, really suffering from thirst. And because of Carl Joseph's state of mind (not firmly rooted to the present or to self-preservation) he decides, or says to himself (perhaps), "To hell with it! I'll get the water! I will at least preserve my men!" And I think that was a noble thing to sacrifice your life for, in a metaphoric way. For water, aqua vitae, to sustain life. Nobody anywhere was making sustaining life a priority at this time. So I think that "people," perhaps his father, the army, the newspapers (if any recounted his death) would see it as pointless, but I don't think JosephRoth was saying it was. Just my take.




Monday, April 15, 2019

Nectar in a Sieve and Lucky Me--I Discover Dr. Ruth Galloway!

Readers of this blog may recall that I had a bit of a mix-up with my 2019 Back to the Classics Challenge choice of book for Asia, Africa, Australia.
All is well now, because I am deep into my reading of Nectar in a Sieve and I see now why it was such a popular book in the 1960s and 1970s. It was published in 1954, and is the story of a poor farming family who must struggle and live by their wits to survive in a village in India.
It is a first-person narrative, told from the point of view of the fourth (and last) daughter of a middling family. A huge wedding and dowry for the oldest daughter, then a good match and smaller wedding for the second daughter, followed by an even smaller village wedding and a marginal match for the third daughter. By the time the narrator is to wed, there is no money and no prestige to be gained from having her marry well. Moreover, she is no beauty. So she must marry a poor tenant farmer. And given this fate, she discovers, at age 12, how very lucky she is to have a kind, honorable man like Nathan who deeply cares for her and values her.
This novel is fascinating and the prose is simply written but lyrical. I'm loving it.

So change of scene:
I wonder, where has Ruth Galloway been all my life?
Yesterday I started the first book of the Ruth Galloway mysteries, The Crossing Places (2009), by Elly Griffiths. (For those who don't know Elly Griffiths, she is the author of The Stranger Diaries, a standalone mystery/crime/suspense/thriller, which I recently lauded to the heights.)

I love Ruth Galloway the same way that I love Kinsey Milhone of the Alphabet mystery series by Sue Grafton. (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc.)  Both Kinsey and Ruth do not care one iota for what other people think about them. They are both as quirky as hell, both live alone by choice, and both have fascinating careers. Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist, a subject that greatly interests me. I have read only 50 pages, but I've been researching The Bronze Age in Britain, The Iron Age, henges and torques--oh, I am in rapture! Thank you, thank you, whoever pushed the Ruth Galloway series my way--I think that's Katrina of Pining for the West and Cath of readwarbler.