Friday, March 30, 2012

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

Finished The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston. I found this on the new book table at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor and I'm so glad I did. The interior is a marvelous and literal collage of life in the 1920s with magazine clippings, photos, ticket stubs and want ads. Along her journey from Vassar to Paris, Frankie receives advice from Edna St. Vincent Millay and helps James Joyce to edit his new book. Finally, she ends up back in her small New Hampshire town, caring for her ailing mother. There she finds everything she ever wanted in her own back yard. A truly delightful and fun read.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty

Finished Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty by Charles Dickens.


I'll say from the outset that this is my least favorite Dickens novel to date. The story is ghastly and the characters are wretched. I'd almost say that this is horror literature, based on the events that take place, but really it's just historical fiction. Dickens based his story on the Gordon Riots that took place in London in 1780. His ability to portray the uncontrollable rage of a mob is so advanced that the reader is disturbed and terrified throughout the novel. There are many good natured and well meaning characters to counter those who are evil and treacherous, but the sheer horror of the tale was just too much for me. I'm glad it's finally over.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers

Finished I'm Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan. As a journalist, Madigan interviewed Fred Rogers for an article in 1995, and the two began a strong friendship that lasted until Fred's death in 2003. In many ways Fred served as a mentor as well as a friend to Madigan, ministering to him and always signing his letters and e-mails to Madigan with "IPOY" (I'm proud of you). While the book describes their friendship, it also tells the story of Madigan's brother Steve's battle with, and death from Cancer. This book is honest, frank and so chock-full of warmth, that I found myself crying all the way through it. Especially at the very end.

I met Fred Rogers when I was about 8 years old, at his summer home, The Crooked House, on Nantucket Island. My uncle insisted that we invade Fred's privacy so that my sister and I could meet him. He was so kind and so gracious. I had always felt drawn to his quiet, reassuring voice and manner when I watched his television show. He is one of my heros. I miss him every day.

Possession: A Romance

Finished Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt. I listened to this novel as an audiobook. I had attempted to read in years ago but was bored to tears by the academic tone of all the current date sections of the book. It is thorny, tangled bramble of historical romance, contemporary fiction, fairy tale, poetry, correspondence, journal entries and mystery. In the end I loved it, especially the fairy tale portions. What a wordsmith she is. The version I listened to was read by Virginia Leisham, whose voice (and voices) made the 26 plus hours of audiobook go by swiftly. I highly recommend it.

The Razor's Edge

Finished The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. It's been decades since I've read any Maugham. I've been meaning to read this novel since I enjoyed the 1946 film version, starring Ty Power, so very much. As far as I can tell that screenplay followed the novel very closely, until the end. Maugham placed himself in the book as a character and as the narrator. The juxtaposition of Larry Darrell's renunciation of conventional living bringing him peace and happiness, while the conventional, materialistic characters fall on hard times, makes the story very powerful.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Canterville Ghost

Finished The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde. It was difficult to find a suitable book cover to display here since this is usually published in a collection of stories, so I have chosen an illustration instead.

This is the story of the old world coming up against the new. An American family moves to England and purchases Canterville Chase, which has been haunted for centuries by the ghost of Sir Simon Canterville. He has plagued his family for so long that they are no longer able to live in the great house. The American family, however, is easily up to the task. When a terrible blood stain appears on the carpet, they employ Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent. When the ghost rattles his chains in the night he is offered Rising Sun Lubricator so that he can oil them. The younger sons of the family erect a fake ghost which scares the daylights out of Sir Simon. After this poor Sir Simon has no rest, until aided by the daughter of the American family, Virginia, who helps the ghost to find peace and thus eternal rest.

This was a fun and amusing read.