Moody Autumn Mountain View at Home

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Secret Garden, Illustrated by Inga Moore

I've been promising that I would identify the illustrated edition of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which has had me captivated. This edition was published by Candlewick, originally in 2008 and reprinted in 2010. Inga Moore is the illustrator. I am so fond of the illustrations in this edition that I am going to purchase a copy. I must have it in my library for those early days of spring. Or those days in April when it is still winter here and one is longing so.

The novel-writing class that I am taking is offered via Grub Street, a wonderful institution in the Boston area, which has recently added lots of online writing classes to its vast offerings. I'm very pleased with all the class is offering, but this class is even more demanding than the one I took this summer. I need to set my alarm to a much earlier hour because I can't get all the work and writing done in a regular day.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Reading in Bed Day--Sunday!

I'm proclaiming that tomorrow, Sunday, November 10th, will be READ-IN-BED DAY. Granted, Sandy will need a good walk. But other than that, my bed is where you'll find me.
I spent the last two days hiking and trying to clear snowshoe trails of fallen branches, trees, and debris. Ken and I have noted that the past two years, trail maintenance has become a much more arduous task. More trees are falling, due to storms of greater magnitude than in years past. I can't get over how bad it has become. Every muscle and bone in my body aches.

So what shall I read? From the library I have an exquisitely illustrated edition of The Secret Garden. It's pure enchantment. (Details about the edition to come) Also from the library I have Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald, about radio announcers in London during the Blitz.  I have Anne Perry's 2019 Christmas novel, A Christmas Gathering , which is set in England during the late 19th century. And I guess I must spend a few moments digging up where I placed the fifth Maisie Dobbs novel, An Incomplete RevengeCath of readwarbler (see sidebar) says that it's one of her faves in the Maisie Dobbs series. So I'm very keen to get immersed. I'm so looking forward to this! Ken says he'll help with the dog walking, an acknowledgment that I could use a break. Thanks!   And wouldn't it be great to knit while listening to Homework by Julie Andrews. (Still working on that one.)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

New Year's Eve: 8 Weeks From Tonight

That's a wake-up call for me. I'd like to read a few really good books before 2020 comes around.
And yes, yes, I'm still bemoaning the sub-par, barely mediocre Christmas novel offerings this year, whether mystery or otherwise.
I haven't wasted my time on the chaff. But I am reading Sarah Morgan's offering from 2018, Christmas Sisters, which is set in the Scottish Highlands. I'm reading this before falling asleep. It's decent.. Key word: I found one decent Christmas read. Yay, me.

Reading Plans: I want to read the 5th Maisie Dobbs novel I bought to read for 2019, An Incomplete Revenge. I'm also thinking seriously about reading Snow by the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, which I planned to read this year. On the agenda.

I'm including an excerpt from a NYT review of Snow by Margaret Atwood:

"This seventh novel from the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk is not only an engrossing feat of tale-spinning, but essential reading for our times.
In Turkey, Pamuk is the equivalent of rock star, guru, diagnostic specialist and political pundit: the Turkish public reads his novels as if taking its own pulse. He is also highly esteemed in Europe: his sixth novel, the lush and intriguing ''My Name Is Red,'' carried off the 2003 Impac Dublin Literary Award, adding to his long list of prizes.
He deserves to be better known in North America, and no doubt he will be, as his fictions turn on the conflict between the forces of ''Westernization'' and those of the Islamists. Although it's set in the 1990's and was begun before Sept. 11, ''Snow'' is eerily prescient, both in its analyses of fundamentalist attitudes and in the nature of the repression and rage and conspiracies and violence it depicts.
Like Pamuk's other novels, ''Snow'' is an in-depth tour of the divided, hopeful, desolate, mystifying Turkish soul. It's the story of Ka, a gloomy but appealing poet who hasn't written anything in years. But Ka is not his own narrator: by the time of the telling he has been assassinated, and his tale is pieced together by an ''old friend'' of his who just happens to be named Orhan."

We have been winterizing like crazy the past few days, to the point of exhaustion. Why, oh why, was October much warmer than last year, much warmer than normal, and now, HELTER SKELTER, the very next week we are crashing into deep solid winter? Temps will drop into the low teens F overnight. Madly washing hats and gloves and winter jackets and coats, priming the snow blower, sending the snow blower to be repaired (oh, no), washing super-warm winter bedding, and the other preps are endless. We were living in a fool's paradise this October. Snow Thursday night followed by daytime temps in the 20s on Friday with lake-effect snow. Now that sounds wonderful for woodland hikes with Sandy.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Listening to Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews

I've been thoroughly enjoying listening to this brand new memoir by Julie Andrews. In Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, Andrews gives a heartfelt summary of her life and her family before her Hollywood years, including a brief summary of her years on Broadway. Then she pitches in to tell lots of stories about the filming of Mary Poppins, and her fond reminiscences of Walt Disney and her cast members in that film.

Then Andrews spends an entire hour detailing everything about the filming of The Sound of Music, which was so incredibly fascinating! Loads of surprises there--and I will not reveal a single one. I just don't want to spoil it for you. The filming of The Americanization of Emily opposite her love interest James Garner and her work on Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain opposite Paul Newman comes next, and then the filming of James Michener's Hawaii onsite in the islands opposite the Swedish superstar Max Von Sydow. So much, and I'm only 39 percent of the way in! Details about her personal life, too. Very much a worthwhile listening experience, and of course Julie Andrews narrates.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

October and November Engagements

I have several projects ongoing. One is a genealogical project--Pushing and endlessly researching the origins of a number of my Irish immigrant ancestors,  mostly on my father's side of the family.  Researching ancestors in Ireland is much, much more difficult than researching English ancestors, and the former requires a completely different skill set.

Fortunately loads of people have done all of this before me, so there are lots of books and articles and websites to point the way. During the month of October I have learned so much that I am amazed. (Note: I have been researching these relatives since the late 1980s, but due to great advances in digitized records, I've been able to move forward this past month by leaps and bounds.)

My other project is novel writing. I'm taking another novel-writing class which will take me through December 11th. I love the pressure and camaraderie of good online writing classes. It keeps me from frittering my writing time going nowhere.

Sandy is my other project. She's been  needing to walk 3 to 4 miles a day, which takes  a while because she needs to sniff everything and listen to the wildlife--those saucy chipmunks, pesky red  squirrels, and  leaping deer! I grant her the permission to do this because all that sniffing tires her out!! (Thank goodness!)While she sniffs, I meander in my mind about my novel, for example.

OKAY--So as you can imagine I've been devouring books of more recent historiography about the Great Famine in Ireland, AND I've been reading Christmas novels.
I am more at peace moving forward with Nancy Thayer's Nantucket Island Christmas novel, Let It Snow.  And I will be finishing it in a day or two. It picked up the pace, but you know what the real problem is with this book?  Christina the  protagonist is a gutsy, yet  lovely person, but her romantic partner is a ZERO. He is so shallowly portrayed. He has no faults!!  A huge flaw in this type of book.  Yet I am enjoying Christina's relationship with young Wink, a nine-year-old girl who helps Christina in her toy shop.

I need some Christmas mysteries. Do you know of any good ones, or any new ones appearing on the scene? Do tell!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Late October Book Lore--Christmas Preview Not So Hot

Tess Gerritsen's The Shape of Night was  a rewarding read for me. I do love it when suspense writers try their hand at a gothic novel. (Remember Elly Griffiths' achievement published early in 2019--see my "Books Read in 2019" booklist in the sidebar.)
And, you know, even though I guessed early on who the murderer was, (NOT because of any sleuthish abilities on my part), I enjoyed the ride just as much because it was so wonderful watching it all come together, or to put it another way, to watch it all fall out.
Dyed-in-the-wool mystery hounds may well disagree with me on this, and I value their opinions. And I suppose I do wish it had been a bit harder to guess, but that doesn't take away from what I loved about the book. The old Maine house on the coast. The ghost who promised to protect, but who also promised pleasure and pain. And the characters who seemed culpable but were heroic.  

Late this afternoon I finished Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman, which was published in 1964. It was very good, largely because it was so different from the standard mystery. I appreciated learning more about the unique role of a rabbi in a Jewish congregation, as opposed to a Protestant minister or a Catholic priest in their congregations. The early 1960s setting reminded me of what might be incorrectly called "a simpler time." And as this book proves, and as a close examination of the times and my life as a youngster proves, there was absolutely nothing simple about the early 1960s, nor the 1950s. I am sure I will read another in the series. Probably the Saturday volume.

And in seasonal news, I have started reading a Christmas novel or two or three,  and so far they are not hitting the mark, not by a long shot. They have been downright DULLSVILLE as compared to previous years.
So I sample a book, sigh a lot, and toss it aside.
Then sample another and toss aside again, extremely disappointed.
(Lots have come from the library, so I am thankful I didn't invest in them.)

Then I started reading my very first Nancy Thayer novel of all time--her Christmas title for 2019, set on Nantucket Island, entitled Let It Snow. I've managed to get to the one-third mark and it is SO BORING. I keep thinking the excitement is starting to get off the ground, but it's a tepid glow, like sitting in lukewarm bath water in a frigid bathroom.
And now this passage has made for some very dull reading indeed. I tell you what--When I find a really good one, I'll let you know. Until then, just picture me frisbeeing Christmas titles across the reading loft! Fetch, Sandy!


Friday, October 11, 2019

An Uptick in My Reading Life--Tess Gerritsen's Latest Rules!

I really hate to use the word "UPTICK," because our tick population and tick diseases are escalating hugely. For the first time, Lyme Disease has been frequently diagnosed in people and animals suffering from all sorts of ailments this year. So sorry about the uptick, but tick-tock, I am glad to say that I'm reading much, much more than I have been compared to July, August and midway through September.

Sandy actually let me finish P is for Peril by Sue Grafton very early one morning this week. Monday it poured rain all day, and she was subdued by the weather. This morning, though, she acted as if she had been shot out of a cannon.  Lots of tennis ball retrieving and frisbee helped to settle her a bit. But it is her third birthday today after all. I sang "Happy Birthday" to her on our LONG walk, and,  do you know, when I finished singing, she sat down directly  in front of me, and smiled happily in response! What a dog!

I have never read Tess Gerritsen's novels before, but news of her latest, The Shape of Night, got me clamoring for it, and I was so lucky to get a library copy quickly. It's set on the coast of Maine, and is Gothicky, and is incredibly good. What a writer she is! The novel is incredibly well-written and  downright HOT, although I wasn't expecting it to be (though it's very welcome). Where has Tess Gerritsen been all my life? She lives in Maine now and was trained as a physician, though she's not practicing now. I do think I must check out more of her books. She has several series, but this one is a standalone novel. And do I ever recommend it!

I also read my very first Fern Michaels's Christmas romance novel, Spirit of the Season. You may want to go online to read the premise of this one--it is so unusual, I'd say. The most entertaining aspect was that Joy, a young businesswoman and owner of a very successful nail-polish company in Denver learns that her grandmother in Spruce City, North Carolina, has died, leaving her to run the grandmother's business for 6 months OR the business will be turned over to the State of North Carolina. Her grandmother's business???  A large, profitable Bed and Breakfast that is devoted to the celebration of holidays. Like Christmas. This specific aspect of the book is entertaining, and yes, CRAZY,  but the business aspect is not boring in the slightest, though  the romantic aspects are a bit dull in comparison. It's a cozy first and foremost. Kisses are all you get. Very traditional. But it was an incredibly FAST read and parts of it amused me mightily, though I must confess I SKIMMED through a lot of the boring parts. Yes, indeed, my first and LAST Fern Michaels novel!! Actually this one got very high ratings on Goodreads. Go figure.

Friday, October 4, 2019

What's Up Next: The Rabbi--Sleeping Late, on a Friday No Less!

I've always wanted to read Friday the Rabbi Sleeps Late, by Harry Kemelman (1964). As soon as I finish P is for Peril by Sue Grafton, I'll be all over it. When I was a very young teen, and  just embarking on my babysitting career, it seemed to me that every young mother had this book on their nightstand or by their rocking chair. It won the Edgar, for one thing. The only reason my mother didn't read it was because she was working and also getting her masters degree in library science, with a specialty in children's and young adult literature, so she had no time whatsoever to read adult books.  In any case, I know the book was super hot among all the adults I engaged with. And, of course, naturally, I was living in the Boston suburbs, which is the setting of this book and others in the series. So I can't wait to get started on it. It's still being read and is still widely available, and I must say it must be in demand because it's not available at a giveaway price, as are many other first books in a series. I was surprised at that.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Kinsey Milhone Pulls Me Back to the Reading Life

As everyone knows by now, I have had an extended reading hiatus--not one that I planned for or one that I wanted. I have read several books over the past two months, but I don't feel fully engaged in the world of books. And I miss it. And I want to immerse myself in reading again, though it's been a struggle.

Sandy, our new golden retriever, is doing very well, but I must say that she has had a marked (negative) impact on my reading life, and it has been exactly the same for Ken. Our reading time took a hit--bigtime! She requires lots of attention as she continues to settle in, and lots of walks, and obedience training. She's so good-natured--we love playing and spending time with her.

I have had a lot of acute back pain recently, which is, yes, related to our new beloved, but today I made myself read something, and finally, finally, I turned to a book that allowed me to become totally re-engaged in one of my favorite series. I picked up P is for Peril by Sue Grafton, a Kinsey Milhone mystery. And I was so thankful. For the first time in three weeks a book reeled me in. Thank you to Sue Grafton, and a thank you to her spunky creation, Kinsey, who is unlike any other female private detective. The mysteries are serious, yes, but Kinsey is a hoot, and she's not trying to be funny. She just can't help herself. She is a very serious private investigator. But with a unique sensibility. And I felt so happy again.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Lake Placid Notes

Current book news note:  I am more than halfway through The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. It has some novel twists and turns, it takes place in the Scottish Highlands, and is very creepy. Good for RIP, if you are doing that.
Now for Lake Placid Adventures:
I have taken getaways to Lake Placid at least five times since we moved to the Adirondacks in 2005. As I see it, it's a way to stay in the Adirondacks and do Adirondacky things (hiking, birding, skiing, snowshoeing, paddling) while having a taste of big-city life at the same time. That's its attraction for me.
When considering Lake Placid, it is crucial to note that it is unlike any other Adirondack village or town or locale. Lake Placid has an abundance of very wealthy residents (understatement), and that is probably the single factor that allows this place to be the unique Adirondack destination it is. This area is able to support one of the best independent bookstores I have ever had the pleasure of splurging in. I become literally insane when I visit and always spend more than $100 when I am there. This bookstore is well worth its own blog entry, and I will have to do that.  And to think I didn't take a photo while I was in the store!

The above photo is a view of Mirror Lake taken from the area near the Mirror Lake Inn, a very short walk from Main Street, Lake Placid. I arrived Monday morning and left Thursday morning. Monday, when this photo was taken, was a beautiful day, as was Tuesday, which I spent in Saranac Lake.

So what I've been trying to say is that Lake Placid is in no way representative of what the Adirondacks, that 6 plus million acre state park is really like. For fun, and for an expensive splurge, I recommend Lake Placid, but if you can visit the less posh, and much wilder and just as beautiful areas of the Adirondacks, please do.
While hiking up and down Lake Placid roads, I will confess that I did just a wee bit of trespassing to take a few shots of beautiful Lake Placid. Taking photos of Lake Placid is immensely difficult, I can tell you from my experience. If I may be blunt, the public is not supposed to take photos of Lake Placid, because ALL of its immense shoreline is privately owned. Although I'm grateful that many,  many Adirondack lakes are within the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and are all publicly owned New York State lands and open to everyone, I am bothered that Lake Placid and all of the immense shorelines of the various Saranac Lakes

are not among them. It is a shame that New York State, when it set aside lands for the Adirondack State Park and Forest Preserve, could not claim even a section of these absolutely gorgeous lakes.
 Mirror Lake Inn has luscious gardens.  In this one, I captured a photo of a frittilary butterfly on zinnias. We have had a monarch butterfly explosion here this late summer and September, but this is not one of those. I have misspelled frittilary,  sorry.  There were  loads of these in Lake Placid last sunny Monday.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Brief Update before Lake Placid/Saranac Lake Photos

I thoroughly enjoyed a trip to Lake Placid earlier this week. Lake Placid in the summer is horrendously overcrowded. Why ever do people go there? So I went Monday, the week after Labor Day, and the area was still extremely busy, loads of people, but I was able to get a great off-season, mid-week rate on a great hotel, and had a lot of fun.

In my next post, I'll share a few photos and stories of my travels. I especially enjoyed my visit to Saranac Lake, 11 miles to the west of Lake Placid. Saranac Lake is one of the most historic towns in the Adirondacks,  because in the late 19th century and the early 20th century it was a world-renown center for the treatment of tuberculosis. I walked all over SL photographing the Victorian houses that boarded tubercular patients. The entire history is fascinating. I will post some of the most illustrative photos. I walked so many miles! And Saranac Lake is so hilly, I went up and down, up and down over and over, photographing houses.  Need to research this all some more.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Early September Update and My Apologies

I'm so grateful and felt so happy reading the good wishes from everyone who responded to my post about our new addition to our household,  our very special Golden girl Sandy.
It's hard to explain, but I have been so exhausted,  so unbelievably worn out since we've had her, that I've not had the energy until today to respond to everyone who responded to my last post with best wishes. Sorry! I really am so sorry.
As wonderful a dog as she is, Sandy has never lived in a house before now. She lived in a show kennel with lots of other dogs, exercised with them in paddocks and had gay times, so I'm amazed in a way at how quickly she's adapted to our household, to being a "house dog." But the adjustment has required a great deal of dedicated dog time.

Reading stats:
When I hit my bed at night, I literally crash into oblivion. So my reading has been SPOTTY.
And, I did not mention that from July 22 until August 25 I was wholeheartedly  involved in an online fiction writing course via The Adirondack Center for Writing.  Yes, I am working on a novel, for the umpteenth time in my life. My desk is full of novels and half-completed novels.
Anyway, I focused my whole heart and soul into this writing course and it was a wonderful experience with a great mentor and teacher, who writes YA fantasy novels. Her name is A.C. Gaughen.  Her prompts and special "pushiness" forced me into all the right places to get something accomplished, which amounted to a promising start on a novel. Not my first, by any means! 

Still, despite everything, I have managed to finish reading a superb Gothic YA novel, Dreaming Darkly by Caitlyn Kittredge (2018). Set on an isolated, scarcely inhabited Maine island, this novel is the best Gothic I have read for this age group. No wonder, as Kittredge spent the summers of her childhood on a small, isolated, barely habited Maine island. I thought it was excellent. But, remember, I am a devotee of all books Gothic. Full of unexpected twists and turns and unbearable suspense.

I have been listening to Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, an excellent narrative by a therapist about what it is like to be in therapy and what it is like for her, the therapist, to be in therapy and to treat her clients in therapy. Acutely fascinating and well worthwhile. First class!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Welcome to Sandy! Woof!

Another quiet month from me. I find it unfathomable that I did not spend it reading much at all. Just bits here and there.
BUT I did spend time searching for a Golden Retriever to join us in our Adirondack home. Lots of time online, and several trips to New England were what it took. We enjoyed the travelling, but it had a nervous edge to it. Would we find a dog that would be the right fit for us?
And we did! Sandy is a two-and-a-half-year-old girl with plenty of spunk. She comes from the same breeder that Sasha and Sophie did. Sandy loves retrieving tennis balls at all hours of the day.  She is very affectionate and is calm (after exercise). She walks beautifully on the leash and doesn't pull! A key point in her favor. We love her to pieces after having her in our home just 8 days. When it's time to rest, she actually prefers to go to her crate for a nap and for overnights. So we are a happy home indeed. "A house is not a home without a Golden." (Little sign by our side door.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Re-Entering Earth's Orbit: Day One--A Brief Note

I'm finally coming down to Earth after a few unexpected weeks away from this blog.
I am so very sorry to say that I had a spin-and-crash event after reading the first 58 pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And to think that this happened when I vowed to read it with Katrina of Pining for the West--a terrible blunder.

It has only rarely happened that I've vowed to read a book and been unable to continue. I think this happens to everyone at some point or other. For reasons I do now understand, One Hundred Years was deeply disturbing to me--so unsettling that  I could not carry on. I am glad I had the sense to stop. So whither now?

My next few posts will cover my June and July reads, and it may take several to relay info about each one.

I picked up nearly 20 books at a summer library book sale. So interesting and some great finds. Will hope to report some more substantial book news. A dull post, this--but interesting stuff awaits!

Monday, July 1, 2019

A Dreadful Time of Year to Be Offline

Just a note to say that for the near future, Ken and I will not have internet access. We drove to a restaurant tonight, so I could check our weather, check email, and post this very brief entry. This is the worst week to be without internet, because it is the very busiest week in the tourist season, and wherever I go to find wifi, so will there be loads of tourists doing the same. I have nothing against our tourists--we desperately need them here, but we usually steer clear of busy places.
Wimbledon can occupy us--we don't need wifi for that, thank goodness!
I will be checking in, though.
Katrina and I have just started reading One Hundred Years of Solitude for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Hitching up with The Big Book Summer Challenge 2019

The Big Book Summer Challenge sounds perfect for my summer reading habits. I first learned about it from a post on Jane's blog, Reading, Writing, Working, Playing (See sidebar).

The host of The Big Book Summer Challenge is Sue who writes the blog Book by Book. The link will take you to the sign-up page where all the rules are explained, yet they are simple, and to participate you only need to read ONE big book (400 pages and up). The challenge started on May 24 and ends on September 3, the day after Labor Day.

Since May 24th, I've read two books that qualify:
Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George (412 pages) and
Last of the Mohicans (425 pages). My review of the latter is coming up in a day or two.

Other BIG BOOKS I either plan or hope to read this summer:
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez  (also reading for the Back to the Classics Challenge)  417 pages  
Plan to start this  on July 1st. 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller  (BCC Challenge)   probably in August   453 pages.
Hope: I may have to put this one off until fall.

The Radiant Way by Margaret Drabble  408 pages.  
Plan to read

Winter of the World by Ken Follet, (Vol. 2 in The Century Trilogy), 940 pages.  I had a hankering to read this one this summer. And then I found out how long it is.  I read Vol. 1 a number of years ago. But it would be an entertaining immersion.
Hope to read

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Fun Books While in the Midst of The Last of the Mohicans

Fun Books--That's what's needed when slogging forward in a book that you're determined to read but which is fraught with forbidding challenges for the reader.

I very much enjoyed The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd (2014), which really surprised me by how much fun it was. Yes, at first glance, the description sounded as though I'd like it, GoodReads readers rated it a 3.9, with most readers rating it a "4," and the next most numerous group a "5." I believe the book can be categorized as an "historical romance," but really, truly, it is a cut above the norm of that genre. It's set on the "moors" in England, in what appears to be northern England, because it's a dark, snow-covered, wintry setting. The novel is a modest length and the action does not slacken its pace throughout. Original as well, I thought. But if Romance with a capital "R" is not your thing, then some of its pleasures may not find you.

My next FUN read is The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper. I've dug into this one already and again I like it immensely. The young, though experienced, nanny in question has by chance and by luck, been hired to be "under-nanny" to the young royals at Sandringham Estate  in Norfolk in 1897. Her young charges include David, oldest grandson of the Prince of Wales, and also heir to the throne after his father George, the Duke of York, as well as Bertie, the second son, and another child who is an infant. And thus her adventures begin.

Lest you think I have gone dotty for pablum reads, I am also beginning The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble, which was published in 2016, and which I started, but then had to return to the library. I am content to start the novel all over again because what I read two years ago was well worth rereading. Tales of those in their mid-seventies and hanging on with every breath. This one I'm reading for the TBR 2019 Challenge.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

More Elizabeth George Mysteries and The Last of the Mohicans

Because I posted last Thursday, I feel the need to note an update on my reading before I get down to a "proper post." That may happen Friday at the earliest.

With a flourish and a hurrah, I finished Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George this morning, the #3 novel in the Lynley/Havers mystery series. This third title was every bit as extraordinarily excellent as the first two, for those who are interested. I must say to you personally, if you only viewed these mysteries via PBS or BBC, you owe yourself something very, very special by reading the first three novels in the series in print. I declare that George's novels do not translate well to television, because so very much, yes, so very much of her novels are what goes on in the characters' heads. In their thinking, which never makes it way to film.  I think it's time for a revival of Elizabeth George's early novels because they are so special. No one I know is writing mystery or police procedurals of this caliber today. No one. If you believe that there are those who are, I beg you, do please let me know.  It's true that George's novels took a tumble--I believe the worst tumble came after the publication of What Came before He Shot Her. George's fans revolted, utterly revolted at that novel that resulted in the murder of Lady Helen. Personally, I thought that that novel was a brilliant departure--brilliant, but her long-time fans saw otherwise.
I believe that George lost her footing for a time after that novel. Careless in Red, the next novel, was a disappointment to all. George picked up the pace after that, but most will agree that her earliest novels are the best.

About me and The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper,  published in 1826. I am a third of the way through this novel. It is more than a bit of a slog--I don't mind saying. I am thrilled by the descriptions of wilderness landscape--whitewater rivers, thickly greened wilderness, etc., because the action of this novel took place within 35 miles of my home. But the language is difficult--it is turgid. I checked to see when Pride  and Prejudice was published (1815). And the language of that ever-so-readable English  novel is nowhere near as contrived, nowhere near as muck-mired as The Last of the Mohicans. That is my pronouncement. And of course I'll happily finish Cooper's book, but really his style has me gasping for air at times.  In addition, there are the constant Indian battles and killings as the party tries to make their way to the safety of Fort William Henry.

In my next post, I'll write about the new books that are helping me survive The Last of the Mohicans!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

June Reading and Other Books!

I must face facts. I am a person who cannot read 20 books between June 3 and September 3. For  some reason, during the summer I find myself  gravitating toward chunksters. I'm so interested in other people's plans, but I'd  never make the boat. 

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott was a delight from start to finish. And for those considering reading it in the near future, I will caution you that Alcott wrote it in 1874 and gender norms of the Victorian period are adhered to, despite Uncle Alec's revolutionary departures. I'm waiting for A Rose in Bloom, the sequel, to arrive. I think I might devour it upon its arrival, but I do have other literary fish to fry.

I'm also waiting for The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper  a Barnes and Noble paperback edition, which I'm reading for the Back to the Classics Challenge, which is hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate. I very much like these low-priced classics from Barnes and Noble. The type is legible, the books have an intro, a chronology of the author's life, and reviews from the time the book was published. I have the Barnes and Noble e-book edition of this title, but for a book that's 445 pages, I really want a hand-held, hard copy. I feel I get lost in e-books that are over 400 pages.

And, in the meantime, while I wait, I'm thoroughly enjoying Elizabeth George's third Lynley/Havers mystery novel, Well-Schooled in Murder (1990). If there is one cardinal strength in George's Lynley/Havers series, it is her superlative creation of scenes. Each scene is meticulously crafted. I can picture each telling detail in each and every scene with such clarity. George is a marvel, in this respect. I know that these were BBC mysteries years ago, but I wouldn't want to see them now. The book, the text, is so extraordinary.

We are supposed to have three days in a row of sunny days starting tomorrow. Everyone is holding their breath, scarcely daring to believe it. We have had a very DIM, rainy spring. Think DARK.
Just leaves us wondering--what will our summer be like? Since last November, our weather has been out of the ordinary, so can't help trying to guess what's up next?

Friday, May 31, 2019

Classics Club Spin: The House of Mirth

I can only imagine how the publication of The House of Mirth must have struck the literary world of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia in 1905, a bit like a tsunami, perhaps. The novel was a huge bestseller, but who read it, and how did the upper-tier of society in the Northeast react to it?

I see the novel as totally exposing the super-wealthy elite of Newport and New York and Boston and Philadelphia, leaving them so open to the criticism that they so richly deserved. I would be very interested in reading every review of Wharton's novel in every major newspaper in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The intellectual class, the upper-middle-class, populating the professions including the law, journalism, and academia, must have had a field day with the novel, and the way in which Wharton exposed the shallowness and pettiness of the elite who had "old money" supporting them, with the "new-moneyed" class trying to nudge their way into their midst.

I can't help but see the novel in its historical context. This is partly due to my family history, which I'm not sure this entry has space for.
Laying that aside, which I scarcely can, I empathize with Lily Bart who, after the untimely death of her mother, never had a single person in her family to act as a sheltering mentor. Oh, yes, Mrs. Peniston reluctantly gave Lily a room in her home, but no woman relative took her under her wing when she was a teen or in her early twenties to give guidance, to love her, to nurture her, to question her actions as she emerged as a debutante to navigate the river rapids of the society she was dealing with, which is what all the other young woman had. This lack of a strong family behind her was really the key to her undoing, in my view.

The other aspect that paralyzed Lily's ability to secure her future was her inability to commit to anyone. The minute that affairs seemed to drift toward closure and securing her position as a wife, she flew. Over and over again. For some reason, she felt safest on her own, independent and admired by everyone. This, for a time, kept her on the pedestal she believed she could manage.

The House of Mirth is an absolutely brilliant work of art, in my opinion. It deserves a much, much, much higher place in American literature than it has been given. There are a virtually endless aspects of discussion that it provides to the reader.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Louisa May Alcott Strikes Home Again, and The House of Mirth Coming

Tomorrow, May 31st, I'll be posting my review of The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton for the May Classics Club Spin.
But I deviated from my plan on Memorial Day weekend. Somehow or other I allowed myself to get swept up in the very recently published  post-apocalyptic novel The Last by Hanna Jameson. Yes, I downloaded it onto my Nook and allowed it to consume me. It had some very interesting moments, but it was really just a smidgin above so-so, in my estimation. Of course I compare all of these post-apocalyptic novels to the stunner On the Beach by Nevil Shute. None can even come close to this masterpiece. Sounds like it won't be long before I reread it for the 4th time. (!)

This morning I picked up Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott and was delighted by it all over again. I think I read it when I was thirteen or fourteen. As I was reading the unabridged edition,  I can see why Puffin Classics have published an abridgement for younger readers (9-11).  That's because there is some really adult-world stuff going on in that book. At 13-14, I think that part of it really interested me. And it really intrigued me today.
Poor orphaned Rose, whose dear Papa died more than a year ago, has never really recovered from his loss. After spending a miserable year  at a boarding school, she is shipped off to live with her aunts and great-aunts on "Aunt Hill" in a coastal New England town. The six of them never stop arguing over how she is to be brought up, how to be treated, how to deal with her constant  illness, and so forth. She is very isolated living with these old ladies, becomes more sickly, and bored out of her mind.
Thank heavens, her Uncle Alec, the brother her Papa appointed as her one true guardian, finally arrives back from Calcutta to overtake his responsibility. And what a breath of fresh air! He encourages her to play with her 7 boy cousins, roughing and tumbling, he tosses all her get-well tonics out the window into the flower bed, replaces the "sickly person's diet" with good, wholesome food, gets her up and running around outdoors, and, of course, showers her with attention and loves her to pieces. And the aunts can't complain for Uncle Alec is a medical doctor. In a family conference, "adults only," he convinces them to stand aside, because he is the appointed guardian of Rose, and if after one year, she is not better off, then they are welcome to intervene. And so it is!   Loving it.
And Alcott has such a robust sense of humor in this one. Sheer delight!
I must read Rose in Bloom, the follow-up to this one, maybe later this summer. Have never read it.

By the way, the cover of Eight Cousins is one from a re-issuing of all of Alcott's novels in paperback by Little Brown in 1997. Little Brown was Louisa May Alcott's publisher originally.
There are really no good unabridged editions of some of her novels right now.
I happened to be working in a children's bookstore just outside of Boston in 1997 and these nice trade paperpacks, which came out just before Christmas, were immensely popular. I'd like to get (almost) a whole set. I say almost because I have a much-treasured edition of Little Women, published in 1966, given to me from my favorite "reading" aunt. I got this one through from a rare book seller. Got a good price for a "fine" copy.

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:
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.
 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.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Radetsky March Part Two by Joseph Roth

Warning: Lots of spoilers here...
Decay, dissolution, and a pervasive sense of imminent death infused nearly every scene in Part Two. These are the things that struck me most powerfully in this week's portion of The Radetsky March.

Carl Joseph's face (sometimes appearing yellow, at other times, gray or sallow), his overall lassitude, his deeper descent into anesthetizing himself by consuming "ninety-proof" alcohol throughout the day,  and the increasing sense that although he is not dead, he is certainly not alive--all underscore this impression of decay.  His trip with a rapturous older woman, Frau Taussig, to Vienna provides a glorious, but brief respite. Upon their return to the borderlands of the Empire, he finds himself cast aside and he returns to feeling purposeless and empty.

Roth's description of the Empire's extravaganza in Vienna that Carl Joseph and Frau von Taussig attend, displays in full relief the glories of the Empire, and is a moving, colorful scene. One can imagine the spectators thinking, "How can this Empire ever die? Why, just look at how vital and how exuberant it is--all sectors of the military in full regalia, the martial music, the Lipizzaner horses, the sumptuous food!"  But, as mentioned previously, Carl Joseph returns to his regiment on the border of the Empire, where gambling has been established in the tavern.  More decay and desperation ensues, especially among Carl Joseph's fellow officers. Carl Joseph doesn't seem to gamble--largely because it seems he is past caring about entertainment. He thinks about getting out of the military, but he is paralyzed by inaction.

The section portraying the Emperor Franz Joseph depicts, in extraordinary detail, his decrepitude. Yes, he has brief snippet-reflections of his former glory, but now he is a man in his eighties who is trying very hard not to let anyone guess that his mind and his body have left him. 
In contrast, Roth could have chosen to show us glimpses of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Emperor's heir. He was indeed vital, an excellent marksman and hunter. However, Roth chose to focus on the decay of the Emperor--very telling.
(I found out the fact about the Archduke  by coincidence  yesterday, and it is totally unrelated to my reading of The Radetsky March. I picked up the novel Trieste by Dasa Drndic, a Croatian author, at the library. The first chapter or two has a bit of background information about the Archduke. Aside from what I read yesterday, I know nothing about him other than that he was assassinated in late June 2014, which sparked World War I. But until yesterday, I had never heard that his wife was also killed.)

The soldiers and officers are past hoping for real military action--there hasn't been any during most of their lifetimes. They do maneuvers, and march around, but generally morale, from a military readiness aspect, is low. They're purposeless, and they're in a state of decay. When the workers at the bristle factory go on strike and openly protest their grievances, Carl Joseph is ordered to lead a group of men to stand by, because of the fear of armed revolt by the workers.  He doesn't want this task but has no choice. A confrontation ensues when some of the workers start to attack the soldiers. Carl Joseph gets whacked on the head and shoulder, and other soldiers decide to fire, and the whole thing gets blamed on Carl Joseph. He develops a "brain fever" after his injury and is hospitalized for weeks.

Please do respond if you notice I've misstated fact, or if you have a different viewpoint, or if you want to comment in any way.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Radetsky March A Bit Postponed and Other Book News

I will be posting my Part Two of Radetsky March comments on Friday morning EST. Physically speaking, I couldn't get to it today. I hope to post on time for Part 3 next Thursday, April 18th.

I'm  nearing the end of Julia Spencer-Fleming's novel published in 2013 and most recently completed novel to date, Through the Evil Days. I'm very sorry to say that I did not enjoy it as much as all the previous novels in the series. I have loved them all, but this one did not predominantly profile Claire and Russ, the usual key characters and the characters with the most interest, in my opinion. To be honest, there was more of a focus on police officer Hadley Knox and her partner Kyle Flynn.
A brutal, paralyzing, and unprecedented ice  storm has crippled upstate eastern New York from Albany to Plattsburgh. The Northway, Route 87, has been shut down (something I find unimaginable), because everything is covered in inches and inches of solid ice. And huge crimes and a child at risk, who all are determined to save.

I really like Hadley and Kyle, it's not that,  but I was sorely disappointed that Claire and Russ are in deadly dire straits of their own deep in the Adirondack Mountains, though very few chapters are devoted to them. Alas!

More News:
The 2019 Booker International shortlist is as follows:

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Oman) and translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth (Sandstone Press)
  • The Years by Annie Ernaux (France) and translated from the French by Alison L. Strayer (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
  • The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann (Germany) and translated from the German by Jen Calleja (Profile Books, Serpent's Tail)
  • Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (Poland) and translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Fitzcarraldo Editions) 
  • The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombia) and translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
  • The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán (Chile) and translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (And Other Stories)
Do any of these titles interest you? I'm curious about Olga Tokarczuk--she won the  Prize in  2018, and now here she is with another book that sounds interesting. I must look them all up. Maybe reading one or two of these will help with my European Challenge 2019.

Tomorrow I must MOVE FORWARD with books for my various challenges. I need to read another book for the 2019 TBR Challenge. I also must write a review for The Woman in White for the Back to the Classics Challenge. 
I am anticipating a nice, peaceful, very quiet day (oh, please!) with reading. And moving forward with a genealogy project that I will be presenting to a local historical society in late May. This project has been fun and rewarding.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

This Week's Stunner of a Book--The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

The big surprise in my reading life this week has been the new, highly acclaimed, stand-alone novel by Elly Griffiths, The Stranger Diaries. Griffiths is the author of the Ruth Galloway mysteries, which I have never read. Have you by any chance? I wonder if I should try them now.

The Stranger Diaries is a tour de force--thriller, suspense, mystery, and deliciously gothic! Not a single dull second in the book. It has kept me guessing from the first, and now that I have just 50 pages to go, I am still at my wit's end, nail-biting all the way, trying to figure out the puzzle. This was the  London Times Crime Book of the Year for 2018, and was published in the U.S. in March 2019. It earned a starred review from Booklist and Library Journal. Is it my best book of the year so far? Well, it's hands-down the best thriller, definitely the best mystery. Griffiths has hit one out of the park, in my opinion. Deep, deep characters, prejudiced cops, intense. Griffiths has superseded all the genres with  this book.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Radetsky March Readalong--Part One

I'm very glad I learned of the Spring (April) Readalong of The Radetsky March by Joseph Roth (1894-1939), hosted by Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life and Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. Both Caroline and Lizzy host the annual November "German Literary Month," which focuses on literature written in the German language (including works by writers living in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and German-language writers living in other countries. (For example, Franz Kafka was a Czech writer, but he wrote his masterpieces in German.)
 Last year Lizzy and Caroline hosted a spring readalong, and they're repeating it this spring 2019. Thank you, Caroline and Lizzy!

So what exactly prompted me to set aside time to read Joseph Roth's critically acclaimed masterpiece?
I believe I mentioned in a post in February that I had read a Joseph Roth novel  years ago for German Literary Month, but I had absolutely no idea that he wrote a sweeping novel about the final years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (The Habsburg Empire), right up to World War I.
After the defeat of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in WWI, the Habsburg Empire dissolved and the lands were carved up into small nations according to the provisions of the Versailles Treaty.

In any case, I have read so many novels, and so many historical novels about the UK's involvement in WWI, the U.S. involvement, the French involvement, the German, and the Russian, and the fact that I have never read anything in fiction (or non-fiction) about the Austro-Hungarian Empire's participation was a primary motivator for me.
Thus, the fact that The Radetsky March, published in 1932, was declared a masterpiece by so many writers and critics, coupled with my eagerness to know something more about "the other empire," are what motivated me to tackle this novel. And it is indeed a fascinating novel.

So which translation did I choose?
I am pleased to say that I'm very happy with the Michael Hofmann translation. To get the Hofmann translation in the edition I wanted, I had to order from the Book Depository, which is no hardship at all financially, but is a constraint if you have time pressure. Thankfully I had plenty of time, so a 2-week wait was no problem. (The Book Depository states that they deliver to New York State in 5-8 business days once a book is shipped, but this is not true, never true. It always takes a minimum of 10 business days.)
The other translator for many U.S. editions is the esteemed Joachim Neugroschel (1938-2011). Born in 1938 to Jewish parents in Vienna, the entire family escaped to Brazil in 1939. From there, they migrated to Brooklyn in 1941, where Neugroschel eventually received an excellent education at Columbia, majoring in English and Comparative Literature.  He went on to become a foremost translator of over 200 works into English from the French, Italian, Russian, German, and Yiddish. In an interview, he admitted, "I never read a book before translating it. No reason to. I do not translate the words literally. Only a bad translator would translate literally."
I did not choose his translation,  not on account  of the quotation,  but because the Hofmann translation is that  of a German-language specialist. It would be interesting to read the Neugroschel translation. He seems to have been a polyglot, which is always fascinating.

What particularly struck me in Part One of The Radetsky March:
I was particularly struck by the repeated image of the very young Carl Von Trotta, during his summer vacations, standing upon a chair to view the portrait of his famous grandfather, who was the "Hero of the Battle at Solferino." This grandfather had been the son of a Slovenian peasant, yet he saved the Emperor's life in battle at Solferino. Although the rescue had been a spur-of-the-moment, knee-jerk reaction to save the Emperor's life, this act went on  through the generations and hovered like an anvil over his descendants' lives, something to be forever lived up to.

I think of the very young Carl Von Trotta, the grandson of the Hero of Solferino, whose mother died very young and was not present for his upbringing, so that Carl desperately needed love and  affection and sought it during his teen-aged years from a lower-class woman, Katharina, in a pattern that would afterward be repeated.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The London Train by Tessa Hadley, for a TBR Challenge

In mid-March I read The London Train by Tessa Hadley for the 2019 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Alex at Roofbeam Reader . I thoroughly enjoyed this read yet was equally perplexed by it.

Well over half of The London Train is devoted to the story of Paul, a writer and father of two young girls with his second wife. They live in a country setting about 20 miles from Cardiff, Wales. Paul is in his mid-40s, and is definitely restless at this point in his life. His mother died not long ago. He seems rootless, as if he's searching for a purpose or a passion to anchor him. He soon discovers that his oldest daughter Pia, a university student, the only child he had with his first wife, has gone missing. His mission to re-establish a relationship with her, by joining her in London, leads him to try on a some new roles and new ways of being with himself.

I was stunned when the novel abruptly shifted to the story of Cora, a married woman in her mid-30s, who is in a desperate and painfully rootless place herself. In my estimation, the Cora chapters were brilliantly (please let me say that again), brilliantly crafted. I think I nearly held my breath throughout the few chapters that told her story. I was so swept up that I lost all sense of myself. I cried, with the keenest sense of empathy and recognition. The reader enters Cora's world, fast discovering that she recently nursed both of her parents to their deaths, one after the other. (Cora is an only child.) It's obvious that her rootlessness is grief-related. Then two paths cross for a brief time.

Most Goodreads reviewers of this book gave it a "3." Because I like Hadley's work, and because I love what she's able to do with minor characters, not to mention her in-depth characterizations of houses and landscapes, I would have given it a "4." It is not her finest book perhaps, but that makes no difference to me because I really admire her as an artist and I'll end up reading everything she's written.

Sometimes I find myself "playing editor" with a novel, and in the case of The London Train, I wondered if it might have been more powerful, and if it might have "jelled" to a greater extent, if the story had been focused around Cora, with Paul playing the lesser role.