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 pile of books on the floor that you keep meaning to read or at least make space for in a bookcase.
I have a small office off my living room that is very cozy in the winter but at the moment is full of books on the floor, on the chairs, on the radiator, filing cabinet, desk, and windowsills (that sounds like the beginning of Millions of Cats). Instead of putting 50 books on hold at the library, I should read the books in this room. I chose one of these piles today.
Most of these books came from library book sales and include books I knew would be interesting or entertaining such as The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (I liked The Secret History, although recall being disappointed by the ending), The Engagements by Courtney Sullivan, and The Last Waltz, set in Boston and Newport by Massachusetts author Nancy Zaroulis.
The Great Hunger by Cecil Woodham-Smith belonged to my grandmother and was one of her favorite books. It is considered the definitive work about one of the worst disasters in world history: the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. About seven years ago, she invited a neighbor and her doctor son over for a drink. The son, who lived in Tennessee, apparently admired my grandmother’s books and expressed interest in this one. She insisted on lending it to him. Knowing my grandmother, it is possible he didn’t really want it and was just being polite but that would never have occurred to her. Not long afterward his mother died and my grandmother was very perturbed and phoned me, asking if I could write to him, express her condolences and delicately request her book be returned. I offered to buy her another copy but she said this one had sentimental value. The doctor responded very coldly and said he had no idea what had happened to the book but would order her a replacement, which eventually appeared. Awkward! When she died two months before her 100th birthday, after all that, I decided I should read the book in her honor and in support of those who starved to death. I just haven’t got to it yet.
At least two other books were also Granny’s. The worn hardcover is The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, another of her favorite authors, and I kept Blenheim, Biography of a Palace, as I was planning a visit to Blenheim in 2017. I loved it, especially a Winston Churchill exhibit. This is the room where he was born.
Do you remember a couple years ago there were quite a few novels about knitting? They all seemed to be about young widows coming back to life as they clicked their needles (not to trivialize grief but it was quite the niche topic!). The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club is one such: “When a man enters [widowed] Jo’s life, the knitting club has even more trouble confining the conversation to knit one, purl two.” It's actually a three-book series and it turns out I did read it in 2012 (apparently not very memorable)! Knitting books always have pretty covers.
My book group liked Allegra Goodman’s Kaaterskill Falls several years ago so when I knew she was speaking at an All-of-a-Kind Family event (which, weirdly, took place on the street I grew up on), I brought The Cookbook Collector for her to sign. It is supposed to be a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility. Goodman is a Radcliffe graduate.
It never occurred to me to read James Michener but someone said my brother should read Poland when he was working in Warsaw so I sent him a copy, then picked one up for myself.
When I was in London my friend Nicky gave me Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson. There is a certain type of person (and I am one of them) who enjoys reading about the famous sisters.
The new Blogger is really cumbersome and annoying! I hate the extra spaces it adds that I can't get rid of and it wouldn't let me put my Blenheim pictures next to each other. I think it took twice as long as usual to draft this post.