Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (dysfunction is us)

Title: The Dutch House
Author:  Ann Patchett
Publication:  HarperCollins Hardcover, 2019
Genre: Fiction
Plot: After World War II, when he was trying to establish his career Cyril Conway became obsessed with the Dutch House, an unusual residential house in the Philadelphia suburbs.  He purchased it to live in with his wife and daughter, Maeve, and soon they had added a son, Danny.  However, his wife was never happy in the house and abandons it (as well as her husband and children).  This results in a close bond between Danny and Maeve, which intensifies when their father marries someone unsuitable who resents his children.  When Cyril dies without a will, the stepmother inherits everything except an educational trust, which fortunately pays for Danny to go to Choate, Columbia, and medical school.  Over several decades, the story is told by Danny, who is only really comfortable when he is with his beloved sister.  All her ambitions are wrapped up in him but the fact that, when together, they seem constantly to be looking backward prevents them from completely moving forward.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - July 25

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books.   
After traveling with Eva Ibbotson last week, I reread her Magic Flutes and then decided I had never read The Star of Kazan so began that one.  Do you know sometimes you are so familiar with an author or genre so well that you recognize what is going to happen and then you think, wait, have I already read this?   It happens to me with Elizabeth Cadell and D.E. Stevenson’s books, most but not all of which I read years ago, and is definitely happening with The Star of Kazan.   We’ll see if I am right.  As it is an audiobook, I now realize I should have been pronouncing Eva as “Ava.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A few hours in Concord . . . a glimpse of Little Women

On my vacation day, I wanted to visit the Concord Bookshop, one of my favorites, and you can't go to Concord without visiting Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) wrote Little Women!   Although Orchard House is currently closed to the public, the parking lot was busy with literary pilgrims pulling up and strolling around the grounds (avoiding a distinctly non-19th century landscaping company removing a tree).
LMA wrote Little Women here in 1868 

Currently closed to the public
Cucumber plant decor at Main Streets
Market & Cafe, where we had
a yummy lunch!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Chapter 12

Three phone calls take over the Ray household in this chapter!   First, Jerry who does not spend enough time at Cox Military to justify all that private school tuition, calls Julia to tell her a play of Rip Van Winkle is coming to town and he would like to take her.   Mrs. Ray gives permission, having seen a production herself once.   Betsy, not wanting to be left out, says she should go ask Winona immediately if she can get comps again.  Mrs. Ray starts telling everyone the Rip Van Winkle story and I am sure I am not alone in wishing it were something more fun like Peter Pan or Gilbert & Sullivan.  However, it is 1905 and most of our favorites haven’t been written yet!   Next, Winona calls, having also heard the news, and invites Betsy, Tacy and Tib to go with.   Betsy rushes across the street to tell Tacy, and they both run to Tib’s to tell her, and then all three rush to Winona’s because they are so excited.  It makes one wish all one's friends lived nearby!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - July 17

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books. 
This shelf holds most of my Eva Ibbotson collection, a Viennese-born author (1925-2010) who spent most of her life in England.  I don’t recall if my mother or I first found Ibbotson but we became fans in the 80s after her first two books were published, A Countess Below Stairs and Magic Flutes.  Her seven adult novels are charming, light historical novels with romantic elements about resolute heroines with an oversized sense of responsibility for others, no matter how dire their own straits.  Ibbotson’s books display a sensitivity toward refugees and displaced people that likely resulted from her own experience.  They are real comfort books!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling to India - July 11

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books. 
Judith mentioned M.M. Kaye’s mysteries recently and that sent me to my India bookshelf. In the early days of HBO, coverage included Wimbledon and my family subscribed because we were big tennis fans.  HBO also aired its first miniseries, The Far Pavilions, based on Kaye’s 1978 novel and starring Ben Cross, Amy Irving, and Omar Sharif (when I checked the cast, I saw there is talk of a remake). The cinematography would have made it worth watching even if the story and acting hadn’t been very compelling!  The next day I went to the library to get a copy of the book, set in the 19th century Raj about a young Englishman born in India but raised in England; when he returns to India as an officer he falls in love with an Indian princess and struggles with cultural divides.  Kaye also wrote a well-reviewed three-book memoir, beginning with The Sun in the Morning (1990) about her childhood in India.  One critic wrote, "No romance in the novels of M.M. Kaye... could equal her love for India."   Shadow of the Moon, one of her other historicals, is just as good or better than The Far Pavilions, however.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: from What I Loved to the Joys of Love

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where one ends up.   This month’s starting point is What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (2018).  It is written from the point of view of Leo Hertzberg, an art historian living in New York and focuses on themes of love and loss, so I decided to do likewise.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - July 3

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books.   And hooray for a vacation day because that means lots of time for reading!
Someone in my Betsy-Tacy discussion group mentioned Elizabeth Janet Gray the other day, which sent me straight to this shelf.  Gray is one of many authors I came to through my mother.  Gray was a distinguished writer of children's and adult books and is best known for Adam of the Road, which won the Newbery Medal in 1943 and was illustrated by Robert Lawson (the only person to have ever won both a Newbery Award and a Caldecott Medal).  Set in the 13th century, it is the story of Adam’s life with his minstrel father and how Adam copes when they are separated, learning how to survive on the road alone through a series of adventures.   Perhaps I can inspire my youngest nephew to read it this summer.