Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car

Finished Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming. Growing up, the film version of this novel was a favorite that was shown on TV at Thanksgiving. While Fleming's original text is odd, the film adaptation is much stranger, but having just learned that the screenplay was written by Roald Dahl explains that. Fleming wrote the novel for his son Casper. The bad guy is a gangster and while he kidnaps Jeremy and Jemima, he is not primarily a child-snatcher. In the novel their mother is alive and the whole family has adventures together in Chitty.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Finished Dobry by Monica Shannon. It won the Newbery Medal in 1935. Dobry is a boy who lives on the family farm with his mother and grandfather in Bulgaria. As he grows older he develops and interest and a talent for art. He begins by drawing in the dirt of the kitchen floor. Later he uses clay from the river and snow as mediums for sculpting. His mother wants him to take over the farm when he grows up, but his grandfather helps to pave the way for him to attend art school in a large city. This book is filled with folktales and customs that make it a fresh and interesting read. It features illustrations by Bulgarian artist Atanas Katchamakoff.

The Cutters

Finished The Cutters by Bess Streeter Aldrich. This is Aldrich's third novel published in 1926. It is the story of a large family living in a small, country community. They are boisterous and busy and often not aware of their apparent contentment. There are several grass-is-always-greener vignettes. Too many I felt. While the rest of the book was charming, this theme became a bit redundant.

The Secret Life of Bees

Finished The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I loved this book. I could not put it down. It's historical fiction intertwined with a fair bit of mystery. The characters are very original and vivid. The science and lore of beekeeping are both fascinating. I have now developed quite a taste for honey.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

Finished Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey. This brief and zany book tells the story of Dolly and the hours leading up to her wedding on a bright but blustery day in March. Dolly's mother is perhaps the most absent minded mother of the bride ever written. She's dotty, like the mother in the film My Man Godfrey. Dolly does her best to avoid an ardent admirer who insists on speaking to her before the wedding. She hides upstairs drinking rum. A breezy and amusing book, it was first published in 1932 by the Woolfs' Hogarth Press. Julia Strachey is the niece of writer and critic Lytton Strachey.

The Wedding Group

Finished The Wedding Group by Elizabeth Taylor (British novelist, not Liz). This was a quick and odd read. The main character Cressie has grown up in a commune-like environment. She longs to break free of it and finally does by moving into town and taking a job at an antique shop. She's a pretty pathetic person. People often feel sorry for her, including David, who eventually marries her. David's mother lives nearby and is very lonely and needy. So is Cressie. The two form a friendship which at times enables David five seconds of freedom. I guess I did not like any of these characters. They were all selfish and damaged. Cressie reminded me a bit of Martha in Margery Sharpe's Martha series.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

All This and Heaven Too

Finished All This and Heaven Too by Rachel Field. Based on a true story, this novel outlines the events in the life of French governess Henriette Deluzy-Desportes, her supposed involvement in a scandal that lead to the French Revolution of 1848, and her life after emigrating to the United States. This is an exciting and at times depressing novel. It was made into a film starring Bette Davis and Charles Boyer in 1948. Henriette was Rachel Field's great aunt. Field won the Newbery Award in 1930 for Hitty Her First Hundred Years.