Top Five Wednesday: Emerald [green dress] Covers

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I love to do copy cat cover posts. The green dress started appearing everywhere! I did an update on my green dress cover post [updated again in today’s post] to show the trend in real life at Prince Harry’s wedding. All kinds of green dresses!  While I cannot swear any of these are the color emerald, especially since one is nearly blue and another is a very pale green, but they form a nice coherent set of green dress covers, don’t they?

I think it is a crying shame that publishers think we are so stupid we will accidentally buy the wrong book! That’s what copy cat covers are all about, right? Yes, imitation is the highest form of flattery, but can’t cover designers have more originality? For the record, I’m also against “branded” covers–where all of an author’s books look alike. Are their stories that boring that they inspire no differences for the covers?

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Top 5 Wednesday is a group you can join on Goodreads.com. Each week participants write a blog post or make a Yutube video post to share their take on the week’s topic. Why not join in?

 

Top Ten [five]Tuesday: Royal Books That I all but Refuse to Let Anyone Touch

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Confession

I have a confession to make: I do not loan print books except to my college best friend and my Mom. That’s it. Sorry. I was burned too many times when young. I will loan Kindle books that are able to be loaned. There. Got that off my chest.

Do Not Touch

I own a few books that I’d rather no one touch. Oh, I will let you. But if you drag page corners to turn pages or something horrible like that, I’ll throw myself on the book to save it.

Once again, I’ve failed to come up with ten. This week I’ve got only the Top Five. But, today’s release of the Downton Abbey movie trailer will make a few people take an interest in these–The Duke of Windsor and his sister and brothers are contemporaries of Ladies Mary, Edith, and Sybil Crawley. Queen Mary and George V are of Robert and Cora’s generation, and their grandchildren Sybie, George and Marigold are the agemates of Queen Elizabeth! In the movie, George V and Queen Mary are visiting Downton Abbey.

The Books

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This book isn’t “rare” it’s merely rare–as in it was mass produced but not in enormous quantities.  It is Hugo Vicker’s most beautiful book and shows the completely over-the-top homelife of the ex-King Edward VIII and “the woman he loved,” Wallis Simpson, at their Paris home which was later taken over by Dodi Fayad’s father.  The Private World of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

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I hope I live long enough that Queen Mary’s diaries will be available online. She is perhaps the most fascinating of royals. Fiance of two heirs to the throne, wife of a King, mother of two other sovereigns, she saw it for what it was: the best career going for a woman of her time and class. She saw all sorts of changes in the royal world in addition to the world at large. She was an odd bird, but interesting. These are all pages from her personal photo albums. Family photos are the most interesting and tell so much of the story. These were taken by her or by others in the family or the “suite” (ladies in waiting, equerries, etc.). All are annotated in her own hand. Queen Mary’s Photo Albums.

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Louisa served the first royal Gan-gan, Queen Victoria, and then served her daughter-in-law Queen Alexandra–who was mother-in-law to Queen Mary. This is a fascinating book with pages of photos, scrapbook memories and other images.  Louisa, lady in waiting : the personal diaries and albums of Louisa, Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra.

While his mother, Queen Mary, was one of the most interesting royals, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was one of the most boring. He did collect sporting prints and antique sporrans, but that’s about as exciting as it gets. The treasure is finding out that the used copy of his equally dull authorized biography I bought online was signed by his widow. The now later Dowager Duchess of Gloucester is the only wife officially allowed to call herself Princess. In widowhood she was known as Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. Prince Henry by Nobel Frankland.

Alice lived so long she produced two memoirs. Both are enjoyable, but the Ninety Years volume has a scrapbook feel and features her watercolors and photographs–one of which won a major award back in the day. Her brother was a big shot in Colonial Kenya–of the Happy Valley set and she, like her future royal husband, spent a lot of time in that beautiful country (or colony as it was then). She and her “Harry,” were both keen horse people–they hunted (fox hunting) throughout the season. They sadly lost their eldest son, Prince William, in an air crash–he was a daredevil and raced planes.  Memories of Princess Alices, Duchess of Gloucester.

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl--here’s a link to the rules. Why not join in the fun next week?

 

 

Review: Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinor Pruitt Stewart

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The Story

Back in the early part of the last century, around 1909, Elinor Rupert was a single mom working as a washer woman. Like many young woman she had found life in the city (Denver) to be harder than life needed to be. She also had a spirit of adventure and so the presence of her young daughter as nothing to stand in the way of that spirit. So, she took out a homestead claim in Wyoming. While working to “prove up” her homestead and gain full title to the land, she worked for a neighbor as a housekeeper and helper.  While doing so she wrote these entertaining and educational letters back to the lady for whom she used to do wash (laundry).

 

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Wyoming

What I Loved

I loved that while allowing that a person’s temperment had a lot to do with things, Elinor believed homesteading to be a much better and, frankly, easier (in spirt and mostly in body) option than the sort of work women had to take in cities to support their children. The lost of washer women, hired girls, cleaners and the like, was very hard. Missing a day’s work almost surely meant missing a day’s wages. I liked her moxie–both in asserting this and seeing women’s work for the drudgery it was and often still is.

What Bothererd Me

Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House fame, was seen as a self-taught “natural” with a pen, when in fact her daughter Rose edited, re-wrote or coaxed from her mother most of the prose. I was left thinking–wow, for someone with no formal education, no real teaching she certainly came away able to write very, very well. In a day when libraries were just starting to take hold, she must have really gotten her hands on a lot of fine books to get such a consistent voice to her writing. I was especially perplexed when her young daughter (admittedly very young) wrote a letter and used incorrect grammar and the like freely. I admire the educator Charlotte Mason, so I want to believe all her reading let Elinor write so beautifully, but I have to suspect an editor was heavily involved. Like the Little House books, though, the “back story” of the writing really doesn’t matter that much. The stories are perfectly told in the letters.

I also found it odd that she neglected to mention a couple of important life changes–one of which tempered my view of her as a lone woman homesteader [no spoilers!]. My mind was soothed some by her complete determination to learn and master all the skills necessary and to do all of the labor for proving up her homestead. This she truley did.

My Verdict

If you enjoyed the Little House books, you will also enjoy this book very much. You can read more about the author, Elinor Pruitt Rupert Stewart in this article from the Wyoming State Historical Society.

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinor Pruitt Stewart

I listened to the audio version.

 

If you enjoy this era of history then try this book as well:

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This book is a MARVEL! What an unexpected gem of a book! I loved every word of it. Society girls, sick of the round of parties and good works while waiting for husbands to arrive on the scene take a bold step and change lives. Like modern day Peace Corps Volunteers they journeyed to a remote part of early-20th Century Colorado to teach school. Just read this one–you won’t regret it. A definite possibility for my “Must Read Book of the Year.” Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden. (9/27/2011 from my old blog).

 

Review: Meet Me In Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

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Note: This book will be published on July 23, 2019. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review. I do not make any money off of this blog. Even the links provided to Amazon are merely a courtesy for readers.

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The Story

While covering the Cannes Film Festival, photographer James Henderson and perfumer Sophie Duval, meet when Duval hides film star Grace Kelly in her shop. Soon Henderson is covering Grace’s introduction to Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Sophie is given a unique opportunity [no spoilers!]. Oh, and there’s conflict! And romance! And an ocean voyage! And a darn cute poodle!

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My Thoughts

My Mom was and is a huge Grace Kelly fan. Grace was everything today’s Hollywood stars are not: Ladylike, gentile, cultured, sophisticated. This book depicted Grace exactly as my Mom taught me to imagine her. Jim Henderson, a British war vet, and businesswoman Sophie add the right “base notes” for the story, while Grace was the headnote (to use the lingo in the book).

The stories of Grace, Jim, Sophie and the rest intertwine with the story told in alternating chapters in Jim or Sophie’s voice. Interspersed are news stories detailing more of Grace’s story–a storytelling device that, in this instance, worked very well. I truly felt like I was reading the real news as the story was unfolding. I found myself rooting for Sophie and anguished at one [no spoilers!] event in her story.

I liked what wasn’t covered nearly as much as the actual story. We were spared potentially cringe-inducing love scenes between Miss Kelly and His Serene Highness, for which I am glad. The story is as much about the making of the princess of our imaginations as it is about the real Grace Kelly. I loved too that there were surprises–twists and turns as unexpected as the curves on that mountain road on which Grace and Cary Grant drove in To Catch a Thief and which would later end Grace’s life.

Final Thoughts

I would love a sequel–but to tell a different story. How is THAT for confusing? I’d love to hear the story of journalist Angeline West, whose byline heads the news stories throughout the book. As a “gal” who has always been the “buddy” to the leading man, I’d love to see Ms. West in a book of her own–a book in which she finally gets the man, but keeps her byline! Kind of like a grown-up Julie Murphy novel, but told by two authors whose talent for historical fiction has few equals today.

This book is the perfect way to remember Grace. Put on your sunglasses, wear a classic maillot swimsuit and read this gem with your favorite cold beverage. It is just made for reading on a sunny day either poolside or on the beach. Read it with your Mom (as I did) or with your daughter. There is nothing in it that is inappropriate for a young girl who needs someone to idolize once she outgrows the pretend Disney princesses and is ready for a real princess.

Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

If you enjoy this book, here are some other reading suggestions:

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Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, my review is here.

My Grace Kelly Posts:

Luck Be a Lady! The Classiest Ladies–Grace Kelly, the Early Years

Luck Be a Lady! Grace Kelly: The Monaco Years

My Green Dress Cover Art post:

Green Dress book covers post

Top Ten Tuesday: Page to Screen Freebie

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I just learned that Kristen Scott Thomas is to star as the dreaded Mrs. Danvers in a remake of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca! I think she’ll be awesome in the part, even though I am very partial to the original movie version staring Laurence Olivier as Maxim De Winter.

I don’t know about you, but I love to “cast” the movie as I read the book. Here are a few examples of my chocices from past blog post. Once again I have failed to come up with the full ten.

 

Books to Movie Casting Choices

 

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My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

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This stand-alone first novel in a new series from multi-series write McCall Smith is a perfect set-up for an older audience rom-com to star Huge Bonneville and his Downtown Abbey “wife,” Elizabeth McGovern. You can read my review of the book here.

 

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News of The World by Paulette Jiles

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This story just demands Sam Elliott as the Colonel! That voice, the face, the emotions–Sam! You can read my review of the book here.

 

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Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pierce

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Jessica Brown Findlay would shine in the role of Emmeline Lake. You can read my review of the book here.

 

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The Heirs: A Novel by Susan Reiger

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Wealthy Manhattan attorney Rupert Falkes dies and leaves a mess of secrets for his family to discover. As I listened to this novel, Nigel Havers face came to mind every time Rupert was “on.” I’ve loved this guy since he was Lindsay in Chariots of Fire. You can read my review of the book here.

 

 

 

The Music Shop: A Novel by Rachel Joyce

Us: A Novel by David Nichols

 

The Music Shop: I pick Bill for Frank, Julie as Maude and Lily as the stranger. You can read my review of the book hereUs: I pick two of them again! I just think Bill and Julie play such diverent types that they’d make a great ‘opposites attract‘ couple.

 

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The Trophy Child: A Novel by Paula Daly

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Laura Carmichael would be the best choice for obsessive mother Karen. And, could Robert Bathurst have a cameo as the Headmaster, please? You all know I love these two! You can read my review of the book here.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl--here’s a link to the rules. Why not join in the fun next week?

Review: A Woman is no Man: A Novel by Etaf Rum

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The Story

Three generations of women in a family of Palestinian immigrants to Brooklyn try to keep their culture in America. Mother-in-law Fareeda, her daughter-in-law Isra and Isra’s eldest daughter Deya all chafe at the demands of their Muslim faith and strict Arab culture. Fareeda also remembers the expulsion of her family from her childhood home and being forced into a squalid refugee camp. Isra comes to America to marry Adam and then endures the trauma of birthing only daughters. The pressure for a son is almost too much. Meanwhile, the men of the family seem to have freedom. But do they? American born Deya has reached the age for an arranged marriage, but she wants to go to college. Her desire for an education will uncover many secrets.

My Thoughts

This is at once a typical rags-to-riches American immigrant story just without the cultural assimilation of the old fashioned ones, while also being a coming-of-age story of each of the women as she comes to terms with her life (no spoilers).  In the 1980s I knew several Palestinians and other refugees. This story rings true to their experiences. That validation helped me to really lose myself in the stories of each woman.

I’m not always a fan of non-linear storytelling, but oh my did it work well here! I admit, listening to the audio and driving I occasionally had to run it back to see what year we were in, but I really liked it. The punch! [No spoilers].

I enjoyed getting to know these women. I could just imagine how overwhelming it was having to live only for the men, almost exclusively in the house, never fulfilling and dreams or goals beyond finishing the laundry or going to bed with no dirty dishes in the sink while outside your front door women are living independent, free lives, with no worries of family honor or reputation holding them back. That had to be suffocating.

The story was yet another family story so real I had to remind myself I was reading a novel. That it was another debut that seemed to come from a very seasoned author was another nice surprise.

I look forward to more books from this author.

My Verdict

4 full stars

A Woman is No Man: A Novel by Etaf Rum

Thank you to blogger Sarah’s Bookshelves for making me aware of this book.

Shared Royal Birthdays and More Interesting Royal Dates, Part II, Archie Harrison M-W Birthday Edition!

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Newly born Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, aka “Baby Sussex,” at his first photo op at Gan-Gan’s place, aka Windsor Castle.

A Note on That Name

Many American’s are aghast at the choice of “Archie” for it instantly brings to mind t.v.’s most celebrated bigot, Archie Bunker. Across the pond, however, Archie is one of the most popular boy’s names right now, hitting the same demographic of parents that would choose “Liam” or “Noah” here in the U.S.A. Something tells me Archie will soon break into the Social Security Administration’s Top 1000 names–even top 100 names, for boys in 2018/19.

First, a bit of royal trivia:

“Gan-gan” is not a name little Prince George thought up. The Queen referred to her Grandmother, Queen Mary– that is her children’s Great-Grandmother, as such in her televised Christmas speech one year with Andrew and Edward as they looked at old photo albums. It is the royal family’s name for their Great-Grandmother. Harry also used it to refer to the Queen Mother in a fairly recent documentary that included home movies.

You can read my previous Royal Shared Days post HERE if you’d like.

The Birthdays

Archie shares his May 6th birthday with a few higher-ranking royals of the past.

Tzar Nicholas II

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Under the old Russian calendar, the last Tzar of All the Russians, the murdered Nicholas II, was born on May 6, 1868. Under the modern calendar the date was May 18. Nicholas, left, is shown here with his look-a-like first cousin [the future] George V. George V was Gan-gan’s Grandpapa England. Baby Sussex has Grandpapa Wales (i.e., Prince Charles).

Crown Prince Wilhelm

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It’s easy today to forget how inter-related royal families used to be. Prince Philip and the Queen are BOTH descendants of Queen Victoria and of Christian IX of Denmark! Elizabeth’s uncle, Prince George, Duke of Kent, married Philip’s first cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark! All but two of Queen Victoria’s nine children married other royals. Her eldest daughter, also named Victoria (aka Vicky) became Empress of Germany and was the mother of World War I’s Kaiser Wilhelm. Baby Sussex shares his birthday with the last-born heir to the German throne, Crown Prince Wilhem (aka Willie), who was born May 6, 1882.

The Death

Edward VII

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Edward VII, Gan-gan’s (Queen Elizabeth II) Great-Grandfather, died on May 6, 1910.

The Wedding

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon

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Late, great-great Aunt Margot, aka Princess Margaret, Gan-gan’s sister, married Anthony Armstong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowden on May 6, 1960. He would be the last royal spouse (to date) given a peerage.  Baby’s Great-Aunt Anne (the Princess Royal) is the eldest bridesmaid, standing in front of best man (he was a last-minute replacement).

 

Hollywood “Royalty”

There has been speculation that George and Amal Clooney, who attended Harry and Meghan’s wedding, might be chosen as Godparents. That speculation was ended today by Clooney himself–you can read about it here. Even so, what were the odds of baby Archie arriving on George Clooney’s own birthday?

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George Clooney was born May 6, 1961 in the lovey university and horse racing city of Lexington, Kentucky and is the nephew of singer Rosemary Clooney.

 

Top 5 Wednesday: Mothers Known or Remembered for Something Odd

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1. Queen Wilhelmenia of the Netherlands

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Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands is remembered for her heroic flight from the Nazis,  arriving in England in a nightgown, during World War II. But she may be remembered in a more cringe-worthy way for sending her daughter, Princess Juliana, to her wedding bed uneducated in the ways of that special night and wearing flannel underware! Source for the undies story: An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew.

2. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

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Mrs. Kennedy was looked on by many Americans as a sort of American Queen Mother. A three-time Gold Star mother, she lost one son in World War II, and two assassinated. Her fourth, Ted, was nearly killed in a plane crash. She also lost a daughter to an ill-advised lobotomy (about which she may not have been consulted) and another daughter died in a plane crash. She was and is revered. But she is also remembered for some interesting habits. First was her card file that recorded her 9 children’s illnesses and vaccinations. Second, was her habit of pinning notes to herself onto her clothes! These stories have been repeated in many Kennedy books and magazines.

3. Ruth Bell Graham

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Photo from https://billygraham.org/gallery/billy-and-ruth-graham-through-the-years/

Ruth, like Rose Kennedy, was long one of the most revered women in America as measured by various opinion polls. The wife of Evangelist Bill Graham, mother of Franklin, and Anne, and 3 others, she is perhaps best remembered for being able to wear her wedding gown on her 50th wedding anniversary, but also for keeping a wooden shoetree in her car to hit her son Franklin with when he mouthed off! See her wonderful memoir: Footprints of a Pilgrim.

4. Lucille O’Neal and 5. Deloris Jordan

 

Lucille O’Neal and her son Shaquille (left) Retrieved from here.
Deloris Jordan, mother of Michael Jordan, with Orpah Winfrey (right) retrieved from here.

Shaq’s Mom made quite an impression on me years ago on the Oprah Winfrey show. Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan’s mother, did, too.  Both were concerned with their sons running thru their MBA money.  When new NBA player, Shaq wanted a new stereo. His mother made him do lay-a-way to get it! She also turned down a Mercedes saying her van was running fine. I believe she did, eventually, accept the Merc though! Lay-a-way Lucille is a true inspiration!

Michael Jordan’s mother and father traveled on the road with their son his first few years and Michael had to have his financial adviser call his mom and assure her that Michael could truly afford the mink coat he wanted to give her! Mrs. Jordan also emphasized that she was proud of ALL of her children–one of whom spent 30 years as a top enlisted man in the U.S. Army.

The episode of the Oprah Winfrey show was titled “Li’l Penny Meets Supermodel Tyra Banks,” and aired in 1997.

Extra! 6. Barbara Bush

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In addition to riding herd over future President G.W. Bush, and future Governor Jeb Bush, Barbara was wife to a President, a director of the CIA, an Ambassador to the UN and envoy to China–all George H.W. Bush. They had 6 children, a daughter, Robin, died as a little girl, while the others have all been very visibile on the national scence. Mrs. Bush’s one great quirk was her love of wearing mis-matched pairs of Keds sneakers! You can read the story here. It was also in her memoir. Sadly, I couldn’t find a photo of her in such a pair! Here is a photo of some of her collection:

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I could not identify who owns this photo. I found it here.

comment. And to all mothers, Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday!

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Top SIX Tuesday: Characters that remind me of myself, etc.

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This week’s theme is: Characters That Remind Me of Myself. There aren’t many of those so, I’ve added “etc” to cover “or otherwise resonated with me, made me wish I could have X part of their life or whatever.”

 

Characters That Remind Me of Myself of That I Related To:

1. Katherine McConnell in The Confederate General Rides North by Amanda C. Gable.

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I was a child Civil War freak like Katherine. To read the full story, scroll down to “When a Book Validates Your Experience,” a post from my old blog that is part memoir, part review of the book.  The Confederate General Rides North: A Novel by Amanda C. Gable [is that last name a coincidence? Clark G-A-B-L-E aka Rhett Butler?]

 

2. Marjorie Morningstar in Herman Wouk’s book of the same name

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Marjorie was so appealing to me! As a teen I thought I’d live in New York or London-hahahah. I liked the whole city life idea. Add in writing and theater–I was hooked.  Herman Wouk is still on on of my favorite authors. Sad to think, today his books would all be published as series. No more 600–1000 page books. This is also where I came across the beautiful name “Marjorie”.

 

3. Diary of a Frantic Kid Sister by Hilda Colman

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My memories of reading this book can be found here.

 

4. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky

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You can read my experience with this book for the first time at age 54 here.

 

Books showing how I HOPE I’d react in the circumstances:

 

 

 

 

The Confederate General Rides North:

When a book validates your own experience

 

Growing up in the late 60s and 70s, in a home dominated by my father’s crippling depression I realized quickly that I was never going to “fit in” at school. Like in the musical “Chorus Line”–I was “different” which is “nice” but it “sure isn’t pretty–and pretty is what it’s about.” [And, I too “never met anyone who was different who couldn’t figure it out!”] I couldn’t care less about much of what other kids found exciting or fun. Don’t get me wrong–I loved to play baseball [we did this in an empty lot–there were no sports leagues] and watch reruns after school, but most of my life was lived in Walter Mitty-ish style inside my own imagination. I had a whole world–my doll house [built by my Grandfather] with it’s very odd little family, my Breyer horses and horse books, my basketball goal in the driveway, my clarinet and my 10 speed bike that took me so far from home that were it happening today the police would be summoned.

In her amazing debut novel, The Confederate General Rides North, Amanda Gable has recreated a part of my lost world–a girl in love with the Civil War! For several years I was a Gone With the Wind fanatic. I read nearly every word Bruce Catton ever wrote and was ecstatic to receive a subscription to a Civil War history magazine. I treasured [and still have] and fading and worn copy of the Ford Times [the company magazine of Ford Motor Company] that featured my great-uncle’s commissioned art work of a map of ALL the battles of the Civil War. I treasured the letters from my Uncle telling me about that project. Had there been re-enactments in East-Central Indiana at that time, I’d have been there! This book touched me in such a deep and validating way. Here is one passage that just leaped out at me–I totally share Katherine McConnell’s joy in this discovery:

In the next few rows of shoe boxes are football cards, which don’t interest me, but at the end of a sideboard, the boxes contain Civil War trading cards. I look at each one carefully. I have never seen this kind of card before, and for the first time I think that maybe there are other kids as interested in Civil War history as I am. (p. 65)

Had I ever discovered such a thing I might have needed sedation! The cards alone would have been overwhelming, but to make the connection that I wasn’t “the freak” or “the only one” who cared more about the long-ago Army of Northern Virginia than what high school boy would be Indiana’s Mr. Basketball would have given me lasting comfort and a much better sense of self-worth. The Confederate Flag hanging in my bedroom [to the acute embarrasment of my very liberal parents] would be something other kids could actually ENVY and not mock.

Had I been taken on Katherine McConnell’s “Ride North” I would happily have died and gone to heaven–or even have tried to learn math! Katherine finds some kindred spirits (all adults) on her ride, who validate HER experience:

I walk out of the relic shop [where the owner has shown her a Civil War soldier’s diary and an album of Civil War sketches] toward the gate to the Gettysburg cemetery. I like the way Darrell [shop owner] talked to me and showed me things, not because I could buy them but because I would appreciate them. It was the way Miss Jameson [an antique dealer who also shared Civil War treasures with her] acted toward me, as though we shared something significant—a love of stories about our families and the Civil War. (p. 243)

I remember reading with JOY about my Great Uncle’s collection of first day covers of Civil War related postage stamps. I remember my Mother introducing me to “real” history with a book on Lincoln’s funeral published soon after the event. Like Katherine, I was seeped in family history by older realtives who expected to hold sway at family dinners. Captain McKinney and Great-Great Grandfather Watson made the Union Army very real to me as my Mom’s Grandfather made the Spanish American War real and her cousin brought Vietnam home. My own Grandfather’s “Ike” jacket with the various campaign ribbon and Sergent’s stripes was one of my most treasured possessions–as is the picture of 6 year old me receiving it as a gift. History was, and is, very real to me.

This book is also a testament to children who grow up with mentally ill parents. My Dad’s depression, which was finally “managed” with Valium rocked our family. My mother, who had married to spite her parents at 18, had to cope with her husband’s illness, me a sickly kid who barely survived a very premature birth and the challenges of raising my brother who was pretty much a normal 60s kid. She clung to her sanity like Katherine McConnell’s mother–by painting and also by sewing us beautiful, perfectly fitting clothes. As life began to spin out of control she tried to keep sane through the other love she shared with Katherine’s mom–swimming. Like Katherine, I swam like a rock. My brother brought home the swim meet ribbons in our family. He inherited her artistic talent. Sadly, we both received the family tendency toward depression and bi-polar illness.

Thank you, Amanda C. Gable, for such a theraputic book!

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl--here’s a link to the rules. Why not join in the fun next week?

 

Review: Girlchild: A Novel by Tupelo Hassman

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What Attracted Me To The Book

I rarely browse the library shelves–wood or electronic, but the other day I needed an audiobook for my long commute and none of the audios I’d requested were in. I had also recently noticed that my list of books by state was missing Nevada. I saw this cover, read the blurb about a girl in a dysfunctional life in Nevada who learns from the Girl Scout Handbook, and knew I’d found a gem. For the record, I taught myself to make a bed properly, with hospital corners, from my own Girl Scout Handbook that I still own.

 

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The Story

Rory Dean Hendrix, born ten years after me in 1972, is growing up as the “Feeble minded daughter of a feeble minded mother,” growing up on the Callie, a trailer park, in Reno, Nevada, with a mother who serves at the truck stop bar or lives off the county, depending on the moment.  Hers is a story teachers and social workers alike can recite all too well. It is the white, rural story told in The Hillbilly Elegy and currently labeled systemic, multigenerational  poverty. Never enough of anything–food, attention, oversight, even when the parent genuinely loves the child, which isn’t a given. Abuse is common.

What I Loved

I loved the “anthropological” aspects of the story best–the commentary on the manners and mores of the trailer park. Those who still have cigarettes when the welfare check and food stamps run out will share with those going without. At a funeral, the bottle opener will be tied to a string on one of the ice chests. Have refreshment first, even if you don’t pass out. Funerals are often a time for rites of passage for teenagers–loss of %irgin!ty or first drink are common.

Then there are the word problems: If a pickup truck being driven thru the [trailer park] by a man at .02% under the legal limit…show all your work (paraphrase). These are the most illuminating passages in the book. Superb.

“No making college plans when you can’t make breakfast plans.” (Girlchild)

Finally, there is the moment in elementary school when avid-reader Rory defies the odds and shows “promise,” and represents her school in the spelling bee. I ached for her. This is a scene I see all the time in my first generation college students and in my own kids’ high school friends. She cannot believe she earns this so screws it up. The teachers and administrators then forget about her, nodding their heads.  I was pleased that the librarian was a defender of Rory’s, but wich the author had spared us all the predictable librarian cliches even though they were meant to be cliches.

Final Thoughts

This book is a masterpiece of social commentary. A class on systemic poverty in rural America could use this and The Hillbilly Elegy and pretty much cover it all. Through in Nickled and Dimed in AmericaHeartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth and a playlist of hardluck Country Western songs.

I listened to the audio version of this book beautifully read by the author.

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Girlchild: A Novel by Tupelo Hassman

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As Hot As It Is You Ought To Thank Me by Nanci Kincaid