Friday, January 29, 2010

Betsy in Spite of Herself

Finished Betsy in Spite of Herself, the sixth book in Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy series. Betsy and Tacy are now sophomores at Deep Valley High School. Betsy is invited by their old friend Tib to spend Christmas with her and her family in Milwaukee. Betsy has not seen Tib since she moved away several books ago. At first the girls are shy with each other, but after the first night their shyness disolves.

While Betsy is visiting Tib she decides to reinvent herself. She changes the spelling of her name and takes on airs and mannerisms that surprise her friends when she returns home. While acting the part of the newly invented Betsye, she attracts the attention of Phil, a boy outside of The Crowd. They begin to date. While The Crowd is polite to Phil, they don't care for him very much. Eventually many of Betsy's friends stop dropping by for Sunday Night Lunch. Phil does not want to do things with The Crowd and he resents Betsye spending time working on her entry for the essay competition. This is where Betsy finally realizes that maybe Phil is not the boy for her. Nothing should interfere with her writing. Eventually the two part ways and Betsy goes back to being her garrulous, high spirited self.

I find it interesting the number of books written by female writers that are about girls who grow up to be writers: Lousia May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucy Maude Montgomery and Maude Hart Lovelace. They all have three names too. Hmmm.....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits

Finished The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford. I am always and forever interested in anything to do with A Christmas Carol, so I was very pleased to receive a copy of this book for Christmas in 2008. Having read many Dickens novels and assorted scholarly takes on them, this book was surprisingly light. It is not meant to be academic and it took me a few days to come to grips with that. It is a light retelling of Dickens' life leading up to the publication of A Christmas Carol, a book that he published on his own, choosing the fabric and lettering for the cover and which illustrations to include. It was something that he took tremendous pride in.

I learned a number of interesting tidbits from this book. One which particularly struck me is the fact that Disraeli was a novelist. Who knew? Disraeli is another Victorian who interests me greatly. I might have to track down a good biography of him as well.

A Tale of Two Cities

Finished A Tale of Two Cities, my 2009 Dickens read. This is a book I should have read in high school. How did I miss it? Bleak and intense, though not entirely humorless, it's by far the most gripping Dickens I've ever read. It was interesting to see him lay out the case for both sides in the French Revolution without always sitting clearly on one side of the fence. Dickens abhorred violence. I think writing this book must have been very taxing for him. History repeats itself over and over. This book should be read as a perpetual warning.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Provincial Lady in London

Finished The Provincial Lady in London (a.k.a. The Provincial Lady Goes Further) by E. M. Delafield. It's the second book in the series. Life continues to be recorded in diary format beginning with the arrival of a royalty check for the previous volume. Cooks, parlor maids, governesses, tutors and house guests all continue to come and go. The Provincial Lady takes a flat in London to have have a place to write uninterrupted. Just as funny as the first book, but noticeable lack of bowls with bulbs.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Th Bishop's Wife

Finished The Bishop's Wife by Robert Nathan. It's a small book, written in the 1920s. There is something distant and whispery about it. For those who are familiar with the film version, the book is somewhat different. A bishop wishes to build a new cathedral but is having difficulty raising the necessary funds. Michael arrives to assist the bishop with this task. Michael is an angel. He is very open about being an angel, except with the bishop's wife Julia. Neither Michael nor the bishop actually tell her. Julia often misinterprets the meaning of what Michael says because of her ignorance. The book focuses on Michael and his struggle with obligation vs his love for Julia. While in the film version all the fun has gone out of Julia and Henry's marriage, the book is frank about the fact that there was little of that to begin with. Henry seems almost asexual, especially compared to Michael who has a very passionate nature. The book is quiet and rather sad. Nathan also wrote Portrait of Jennie which was made into a strange and beautiful film. If you have not seen the film I highly recommend it.