Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Glass of Blessings

Finished A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym. A wonderfully funny book with Pym's usual cast of clergy, archaeologists and old maids. However, this one is told from the perspective of a married woman. Cameo appearances by characters from her previous novels take place, including one by Prudence from Jane and Prudence. I always look forward to my next Pym read.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Finished Tiding of Comfort and Joy, this year's Christmas read, by Davis Bunn. It consists of two plot lines, one set in the U.S. in the present, the other set in an English village just after the end of World War II. In the present, fourteen year old Marissa is left with her grandmother to recuperate from a serious illness while the rest of her family vacations in Hawaii. Marissa is resentful of the situation and begins her visit on a very negative note. Her grandmother understands her completely though, and to help cheer her up she begins to tell her the story of the Christmas she lost just after the war. This is the English story line, where her grandmother, Emily, is a young woman who travels to London to marry her dashing fiancee, who sadly leaves her in the lurch. While trying to recover from this disappointment, Emily becomes involved in the village's effort to house and feed three hundred war orphans from all over Europe. This effort takes Emily out of her sorrow and helps her to form some of the most important relationships of her life. The English story line is by far the most interesting one. This was a cozy, comfortable holiday read.

The Language of Light

Finished The Language of Light by Meg Waite Clayton. Young widow and mother of two young sons, Nelly Grace, moves to the Maryland countryside into her father's family's former farm. A lost and disillusioned person, Nelly tries to rebuild her life in this new setting. She attempts to rekindle her dreams of being a photo journalist, like her father. She is influenced by her older, daring and beautiful neighbor Emma. As the story unfolds, Nelly discovers that her father and Emma were once lovers. While her friendships with Emma and Emma's son Dac grow, she fails to realize how controlling and manipulative Emma is of those around her. Vague references to infidelity and possible incest haunt Nelly and the reader as well. Some of these seem never to be quite proved or disproved. This was a good read with credible characters.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Five Children and It

Finished Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit. Originally published in 1902, it is the story of five children in England who find a sand fairy in a gravel pit who will grant them one wish a day. Each thing that they wish for somehow goes awry. Luckily the effects of these wishes only last until sundown. While perhaps charming in it's day, I found this book a bit tiresome. It has taken me quite a while to finish it. This was a surprise to me since I enjoyed Nesbit's The Railway Children so much when I read it.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Finished The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. I've wanted to begin reading Russian literature, so starting with this novella seemed like a good idea. As the title suggests it's the story of a man's journey towards his own death. It begins with a simple physical accident and ends with an epiphany. Tolstoy's examination of this journey and it's stages is genuine and methodical. At times it reminded me of the film version of Wit, based on a play by Margaret Edson.

A Foreign Affair

Finished A Foreign Affair by Caro Peacock. I picked this up last month at Aunt Agatha's. It's the first book in a series based around the character of Liberty Lane. Set in Victorian England, this book was fun and fast paced. Liberty goes undercover as a governess in the house of a tyrant to help solve the mystery of her beloved father's death and uncovers a plot to unseat Young Queen Victoria from the throne. I very much look forward to reading more books in this series.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ella Minnow Pea

Finished Ella Minnow Pea: A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable by Mark Dunn. The island of Nollop is named for Nevin Nollop, the creator of the phrase "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," which employs all 26 letters of the alphabet. It's inhabitants are devoted to a love of language. Theirs is a quaint and peaceful world until one day when one of the letters of this famous phrase falls off of the statute of Nollop. Community leaders puzzle over the meaning of this occurrence and decide that it is a sign from Nollop himself that the letter should be omitted from daily use. The rule is strict and penalties are harsh. As more letters fall and a totalitarian government emerges, the novel becomes tense and even terrifying. Not only are these letters banned from use, they also disappear from the novel itself. There were moments when I was reminded of 1984 and Brave New World. A quick and deliciously clever read.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Finished The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. Was there ever a cartoon that scared the pants off you more when you were a kid than Disney's version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? My nineteen year old daughter still grabs my arm when we watch it every Halloween. Surprisingly enough, Disney stayed pretty close to the text. The version I read was illustrated by Arthur Rackham which was of course, an added treat. The story originally appears in a collection entitled, The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, as did Rip Van Winkle