This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is: Books You’ve Removed From Your TBR. I did this not too long ago as a Top Ten Tuesday topic so this week I taking a break and reposting that list.
You can participate in Top 5 Wednesday by joining the group at Goodreads com and then postimg a video on youtube or a blog post with your list. You can read all of the great lists this week from the links posted on Goodreads in the group. Or find them on Twitter!
I suppose the short answer to this would be: sci-fi, fantasy, 50 shades of anything, stuff written by Ann Voskamp, the Elsie Dinsmore saga, books featuring the words “dystopian” or “paranormal, ” or having werewolves or zombies in the story. Finally, I won’t be reading [most] Oprah’s Bookclub of Depressing Human Experience selections. But that’s oversimplifying this week’s list! So, here are some of the specific books I’ve supposedly wanted to read that I no longer plan to bother with as well as a few more general classes of materials I will skip. Sorry if any of your favoirtes on here. Remember, too, I’m free to change my mind at anytime.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Done. Just done with trying to get to it. The same friend led me to believe I would “enjoy” the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because I enjoy British humor. He…
This week’s topic, Favorite Novellas/Short Stories, is a difficult one for me. I’m not a reader of short stories. They’re either too short or too long! But I do know a few that I’ve enjoyed. Novellas are a different thing. I read those. So, here goes!
Note: If you are curious about the short stories, I’ve linked to the full text when possible.
The Rocking Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence
Back in the 1970’s, students read excerpts from literature more often than reading an entire book. The Rocking Horse Winneris a short story and I loved it then and now. While I have not even yet read all of D.H. Lawrence’s work, I’ve enjoyed each of his books that I have read.
A Good Man is Hard to Findby Flannery O’Connor
I read this a few years ago, out of guilt at having never read Flannery O’Connor. It was well worth it. A Good Man is Hard To Find.
The Snows of Kilinanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
In Peace Corps many, many people planned to go on and climb Kimimanjaro. It held no appeal for me. But copies of the book with the short story in it were everywhere in Malawi at that time–it seems every Peace Corps volunteer of my era brought it and/or Out of Africa with them. The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway.
Good-bye Columbus by Philip Roth
I read this in college in the early 80s. I still think about it from time-to-time. Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth.
Novellas or Really Short Novels
The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark
This one gripped me tight from the start. Then the end….! The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark.
Mr. Chartwellby Rebecca Hurt
This little story is the best picture of depression I’ve ever read. Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hurt.
Since it was announced months ago that this book was to appear, I’ve been counting the days till I got my hands on it. I’ve put it on several lists and in many blog posts. More to the point, ever since fictional, working mother Kate Reddy appeared in the now-classic I Don’t Know How She Does Itand struck a blow with her rolling pin for guilt-ridden working moms everywhere, I’ve been a fan of this author. Then I found I Think I Love Youand fell in love with her writing all over again. Now, this long-awaited sequel that hits me squarely where I live–albeit with early 20-something kids. It’s still the fabled sandwich life though–my Mom aging and needing more help, kids not being independent enough or motivated enough to live independently without me forcing it.
It’s seven years since Kate left her high-powered job in the City [That’s the British version of Wall Street] and a lot has changed. The kids are now teenagers. Kate and Richard, once so happy, have drifted apart. Kate is in the 5th circle of female hell known as peri-menopause. Richard has lost his job, is retraining to be a therapist, and won’t have a paying job for at least two years. So, it’s back to work for Kate.
Apparently she totally dropped the face of the working Earth into motherhood. In seven years she managed to do only the sort of consulting jobs a Junior Achievement-Prize-Winner could handle. She didn’t even start a blog! So, she spends time at a Women’s Support Group where she makes a good friend but learns of no job leads. Finally the right conversation with the right old colleague and Bam! she’s back at her old firm as a junior on the team managing the fund she created. All is well but she lied about her age to get the job.
Meanwhile the kids are doing predictable things like posting a zillion duck-face selfies (Emily) on social media and being addicted to video games (Ben). Then worse happens. And both sets of aging parents need a lot of help. They’re high maintenance and up in Yorkshire where she and Richard are from. Naturally, there’s a sister on the Dole [welfare] of course to provide class-based humor.
Once lovely Richard spends his time training for bike races and can’t stop talking about his therapy colleague Jody/Joelee [I had the audio] who has gotten him into healthy everything including tofurky–that vegan turkey substitute, and teas that taste like old grass. He never seems to be around–always working on a retreat or something with Jody/Jolee, but Oxbridge educated, super Hedge-Hogger Kate does not see the obvious. Well, they do say the wife is always the last….
With her hormones going crazy Kate can’t stop thinking about the super-charged American business guy (from the first book) whom she met but didn’t sleep with and subsequently changed her email address to avoid all these years.
What I Loved
I absolutely HOWLED reading about the “event” at her first client meeting. Oh my! Oh my been there!! Oh my, my, my, my, my. That is the rolling pin moment of this time of life!!!! It is the moments like this one that makes me love Allison Pearson’s books.
Kate is every mom as she has to find soccer gear and make dinner and re-write her daughter’s essay and clean up after the dog because somehow, no one else noticed a Labrador’s pile at the back door. Reading how Kate copes with the daily stuff reassured me that I was just like her and she could run a hedge fund for heaven’s sake!
What I Didn’t Like
While even the happiest of marriages can and do implode I thought marital problems as a story line was simply an easy way to work some silly stuff into the book with Richard’s therapy course, his cycling obsession and Jolee/Jody’s herbal everything. Yes, people get tired and quit caring, but this was a cliche.
Kate’s motherly devotion makes her miss another crisis, this time with Emily. But this story line was also too easy, too cliched too easy of a story line–too cliched for the socioeconomic class of this family. And then, just as suddenly as it started, it was totally fixed. Right.
I thoroughly enjoyed most of this book so much, but the end turned into an upper-class Sactimommy sermonizing on all the bad stuff (video games, social media, unrealistic body images) before boarding the plane for Fantasy Island. A good editor would have dealt with this.
So, there you have it. A review as long as the book!
In spite of this–a MUST READ for Moms of a certain age. You’ll be glad you did. Book clubs should actually have a few people read the book when this one is assigned. Be sure to serve wine and ghastly herbal teas.
Fredrik Backman’s Beartownwas the hockey book that wasn’t really about hockey. It was about US. About dealing with sexism and outrageous behavior by athletes and how things are perceived. Now, in book 2 of this 2 book sereis, he shows us the after effects of such events.
Once “the event” [trying not to spoil the story for those who are still waiting to read Beartown] has occurred changes–ugly changes hit Beartown. People become fractious. Politicians sieze the day and pit “us” against “them” and the citizens buy into it. As the citizens are exploited by the bottom feeds pols, the young people of Beartown hockey and their friends must cope with what has happened to their friends.
What I love about Backman’s writing is that the characters are REAL. They feel things the way I would feel them. In this book the emotions are raw, the consequences sharp and biting. The spite, the wounding, the intentional slights and the mass cruelty are exactly what would happen in just about any town. In short, Backman is a writer who ‘gets it.” Forget that the story is set in Sweden. Forget that it’s ice hockey. It’s basketball in my town, it’s lacrosse in your suburub, it’s whatever sport in your Borough, it’s football in your county, it’s life in your apartment building. It’s our world today.
Students of late Colonialism and African Independence will read this for generations. I hope students in seminaries and Bible Colleges aiming for Missionary work will, too, if only to remember how badly done it used to be.
This month’s Six Degree’s of Separation features a book and author I’ve never encountered before! So, I had to start at Amazon and read the blurb:
“The first novel in the beloved Tales of the City series, Armistead Maupin’s best-selling San Francisco saga, soon to return to television as a Netflix original series once again starring Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis.
For almost four decades Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of nine novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a sparkling comedy of manners and an indelible portrait of an era that changed forever the way we live.”
San Francisco? Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney–well I’ve at least heard of these!
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
The first book to come to mind is another set in a great city about the “denizens of the mythic apartment house” this time in Edinburgh at, you guessed it, 44 Scotland Street. I am devoted to this series–especially to Bertie, the boy forever 7 and forever stuck wearing crushed strawberry dungarees, forever the project of his Melanie Kline-worshipping mother. I love his poor, patient father Stuart, too. And dear Cyril with his gold tooth. And Big Lou and all the others. I look forward to each new installment. I listen to them happily on my long commute to and from work. 44 Scotland Street[series] by Alexander McCall Smith.
Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy
Another great city, Dublin, and another address. This time they are houses, but the same idea. Meave Binchy’s neighborhood of Chestnut Street is full of all sorts of characters with intersecting lives, secrets, sorrows and hidden passions. Chestnut Streetby Maeve Binchy.
The Avenue by R.F.Delderfield
In high school in the 1970s I fell in love with this author. Big, sprawling family sagas I could spend all my out-of-school time with. My mom read them, too. Today his books would be chopped up into many volumes–a shame, but big books have all but gone away in favor of series. This two volume series tells of the families in this neighborhood between the wars. Like all of his books, it is excellent. The Avenue[series] by R.F. Delderfield.
Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark
I honestly haven’t read this one yet, but it fits the chain so well. The lives of the women in a “ladies’ hostel” in post-war London. Sounds very intriguing! Plus, few tell a story as well as Muriel Spark–she can turn creepy, too! I have requrested it from the library so I’ll be reviewing it soon. The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark.
Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson
Yes, the upper and lower classes have a lot in common. Notting Hill, in London, is one of the world’s most fashionable neighborhoods, but in this version it is riven with the strife of fights over planning permits for 6-story basements and the swapping of wives, Yummy-Mummies fighting over au pairs and one-upping each other on whose sprog is best at whatever. Notting Hell goes on into a series that includes Shire Hell and Fresh Hell. Notting Hellby Rachel Johnson. (For the record I gave up on Shire Hell.)
The Address and The Dollhouse both by Fiona Davis
Both of these novels are on my To Read list. What wouldn’t be fascinating aboutthe residents of New York’s famed Dakota apartments or of it’s fabled ladies hotel, the Barbizon? I hope to get to these soon. The Address and The Dollhouse both by Fiona Davis.
Why not read the rules above and play along next month? You can read all the chains each month on the first Saturday at Books Are My Favorite and Best.
Courtiers, those nameless officers, gentlemen and ladies who serve the royal family in a very personal way–accompanying them on the royal rounds (equerries and ladies-in-waiting), run the professional side of their “household” (plan the tours, pay the bills, arrange the meetings with celebrities, do-gooders and others) and, at least until William and Harry seem to have stopped it, pretty much shared their day-to-day lives. In the days of King George VI (the Queen’s father) and before, “the Suite” as these folks were known lived in. Oh, not 24/7/365–they took turns. Someone was said to be “in waiting” for a period of weeks or a few months then he/she would return home for a brief visit until it was time to be in waiting again.
Sarah Shaugnessy met and married Piers “Joey” Legh and equerry to the then Prince of Wales who would later be Edward VIII and after abdicating to marry the “woman he loved,” Duke of Windsor. Sarah was a well-placed American (a descendant of President James Knox Polk) and a Canadian officer, heir to the Baron Shaugnessy, a Canadian peer.
Joey Legh is perhaps best remembered for accompanying the newly abdicated King into the first days of his exhile. He returned to serve the new King, George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth. But first he had to survive long, boring tours of the empire with man when he was the wildly popular, golden-haired Prince of Wales.
Sarah’s letters and diaries tell us nothing much! Had her second son, Alfred Shaughnessy, not been the creator of the 1970’s tv show Upstairs, Downstairs, I doubt this would have been published! Like Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey (or Lady Georgina Worsley of Upstairs, Downstairs) Sarah did little but change clothes, dance, dine, lunch and watch men shoot birds out of the sky. Here are the few remarks that caught my eye–the first in horrible contradiction of today’s political correctness!!
“Met two horribly masculine women today. Motor convoy drivers, hair short etc. Made me all creepy.” This the year bobbed hair started in Paris!
“Lady [T]’s conversation isn’t fit for the drawing room. I was disgusted and shocked.” Well, 1919 was a simpler time. [Well, best not say it in the street and frighten the horses I always say.]
My favorite moments came from Joey–not Sarah. His letters home from royal tours and when away on duty provided a few fun glimpses of what the staff really thought. First though, is a tiny little aside that endeared him to me:
“Philip Sassoon arrived with Austen Chamberlain in the Rolls-Royce, which we both know so well….”
I do wonder how much “woo” Captain Legh pitched in that Rolls to make it so memorable! Quite an omission for a man who was the dictionary definition of the stiff upper-lip.
Joey and Sarah later in life.
It is Joey’s very frank remarks on his boss–the future Edward VIII–that make it worth reading thru all the vapid diary entries on which of the many men in love with her Sarah should accept. He also has absolutely no love what-so-ever for Lord Louis Mountbatten (as he was back then) better known to viewers of Netflix The Crown as Prince Philip’s maternal Uncle Dickie:
“Mountbatten is distinctly on the fresh side. He is very noisy and, although a good fellow at heart, is very youn g[twenty] and will have to be kept in his place.”
Few, if any, managed the feat of keeping Dickie “in his place.” His “fresh” conduct became so bad that both he and the Prince of Wales had to have a telling off by the staff to return them to conduct becoming of gentlemen. I’ve read Dickie’s laborously boring diaries of those tours. How Joey and the other members of the Suite kept themselves from homicide, suicide or alcoholism is beyond me.
Lord Louis Mountbatten and the Prince of Wales in a canvans swimming pool on board their ship on a royal tour.
By far the most interesting part of this story is that Sarah’s sons by her first marriage, Tom and Freddy, failed to produce sufficient male heirs to the Shaughnessy Barony. So, in a Downton Abbey-like scene, The Nanny star, actor Charles Shaugnessy, succeeded to the title well after this book was published. Yes, “Mr. Sheffield” became a real Lord and finally outranked Lord Lloyd-Webber!
In honor of the 4th of July, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about Red, White, and Blue Book Covers!
Although I absolutely HATE this cover for the book, it is the write color combination. I love the book (Yes, I am aware and do not support, the horrific way the slaves dialect was written. No, I don’t believe Rhett committed marital rape–jeesh, she woke up singing, remember?)
Oh, the irony! A book by a British author. Let’s not forget the Union Jack has the same colors and that they’re national anthem, God Save the Queen, shares its tune with out My Country ‘Tis of Thee.
I remember trying 2 or 3 times to watch this movie when it made it to HBO or some cable channel years ago. I never finished it. So, when I saw it was on that 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list I thought it was worth a second look, but in book form this time. Well, I made it!
My Version of the Story
Very damaged people come together at the end of World War II in a villa in Tuscanny over a badly burned pilot who could not be moved when the Allies moved out. Two have known each other before. Hana, the nurse who stayed with the patient, and Caravaggio, a theif, knew each other back home in Toronto. The Indian (British) Royal Engineers sapper (defuses bombs) trained under the guy who was likely the inspiration for “Q” in the James Bond books and movies.
Through flashbacks the story is told in halting bursts. Just as soon as I’d get ahold of the story in my mind, it would slip away. “Elusive” is not the half of it! Spies, a love affair, and an unconventional bomb expert’s training methods are among the rabbit trails this story goes down. I honestly sorted it all out by reading the Wikipedia account when I was finished listening to the book!
Like with Remains of the Day, it is hard to criticize a book that won so many awards. But reading a book and critiquing it are different things. I found this unnecessarily confusing. Call me a dullard. Call me stupid even. I needed a to make a map to get the story of the mapmaker (the very English patient–except he wasn’t) back on course.
This is the second of Ondaatje’s books I’ve read. It’s probably the last. He’s just not my cup of tea, no matter how much talent he obviously has. I pretty much hated The Cat’s Table and The English Patient left me exhausted from trying to keep it all straight.